Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why, oh Iowa

The Des Moines Register and the Iowa Backroads blog both have very thorough lists of post offices in Iowa that have already been closed, or which are being slated for potential closure this year. The latter link features a gallery of many of these post offices!

In 2008 I passed through the town of Thayer, Iowa and stopped by the post office. I found it undergoing what appeared to be rather extensive renovations. It was 4 p.m. Below, a USPS employee who trucked in to pick up the day's mail:

The post office of the town of 59 people is presently open three hours a day: 10:30 to 1:30 weekdays. It features two Saturday hours as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

DPO'd: Trenton Edition

Two Trenton post offices have officially hit the chopping block. Anticipating this I took a trip down to visit both of them last week. (I had a couple of days off work, so why not?)

The Yardville Branch post office will close May 20. This is disappointing because the clerk there is appreciative of philately and had plenty of commemorative stamps on-hand. She was proud of her assortment. My apologies to the next customer who might have wanted the new Civil War stamp issue -- I bought her out.

The Mercerville post office, which is listed as an alternate location to Yardville and which I also visited, had DISGRACEFULLY long lines. Other customers during my 20-minute wait informed me that such was commonplace. At the very least it could use that clerk from Yardville for reinforcement.

Here is the Yardville post office:

Trenton's Chambersburg Station, which will close July 1, is located in a low-wealth neighborhood though it appeared to be well used. The clerk there was very nice and even had a brand new postmark dater. Ultimately it's just another one-person post office that seems to be seen as "disposable".

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Swapped: Westport, CT

When my father began collecting postmarks in the early 1960s, one of the first post offices whose cancel he mailed out for was Westport, Connecticut's Saugatuck Rural Station. I visited the office (now just Saugatuck Station) in person in mid-2009. A CPU opened up about a half-mile away, and several months later little Saugatuck was closed. In doing this USPS is saving money by not paying for the building or staff to provide the services that the CPU now conducts. (That's why CPUs are replacing many classified stations and branches in many places around the country.)

I re-visited the site of Saugatuck yesterday (I wasn't in the habit of taking photographs of local offices I visited back in '09), and found that some of the signage is still on the building. The building is vacant and the owners are seeking new tenants.

Westport, CT: Saugatuck Station

Here is a photo of its very friendly contracted replacement:

Westport, CT: Fast Stop CPU

Meanwhile, it appears as though the main Westport post office might try to downsize, possibly moving from its stately 1930s New Deal building, seen in this photo from July of last year:

P.S. As a follow-up to my note in this post about the postal-themed crossword puzzle, here is a write-up of said.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two-for-one Post Offices

In my travels I've come across a couple of facilities that serve as the home to more than one post office. I'll explain. Ordinarily, a post office is an independent building in its own community. Sometimes a post office is outside its community: Trenton, NJ's MPO is technically in "Hamilton Township", though it serves Trenton.

A bit north of Princeton, NJ, there is one building that hosts the post offices for two communities. They used to lie in two separate buildings, about a mile apart, but they've since learned to share. Kendall Park and Franklin Park are two independent post offices possessing different Postmasters, distinct PO box sections, and two different postmarks, though it has only one retail counter. The Franklin Park PM works in a different building and you have to ask the clerk for its postmark from the back. Here's a picture of the building:

I came across a similar, but by no means identical, situation in Westchester County, New York: the Hartsdale post office shares a facility with the Carriers of the Scarsdale post office. The Hartsdale Postmaster has no authority in the Scarsdale half of the building (which is under the jurisdiction of the Scarsdale Postmaster, who works at their main office). Again, each has its own postmark dater.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

DPO'd: The Bronx, NY

The Oak Point and Crotona Park Stations in the Bronx were discontinued yesterday. I visited and documented both post offices in December 2009.

The Bronx: Oak Point Station:

The Bronx: Crotona Park Station:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DPO'd: Scranton, PA Edition II

USPS just announced the impending closure of yet another 'Hit List' [consolidation] post office: the Dickson City Branch of Scranton, PA. The closing date is May 27, 2011. I visited the picturesque facility last month during my Scranton tour:

Nearest post offices: the Throop CPU [1 mile]; and Olyphant, PA [1.6 miles].

The Throop [pronounced "Troop"] CPU has been in the same location for over 50 years. It, too, is photogenic:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Spence-ial Office

I visited this quaint little post office in northern Kentucky [Cincinnati District] last fall. Called the Spence Station of Newport, the post office is only open 8:30 to noon, and by my suspicions it will not be around for too much longer. I found it photogenic enough to warrant a brief post.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stamp Issue: New River Gorge Bridge

(Click for larger view. Copyright USPS, of course.)

On April 11, USPS introduces a new Priority Mail stamp commemorating the New River Gorge Bridge in rural West Virginia. If it weren't for the recent completion of the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (that bypasses the Hoover Dam connecting Nevada and Arizona), this would still be the highest vehicular bridge in the hemisphere. (It crosses at 876 feet above gorge level.)

I came across the site while randomly exploring rural West Virginia (... for its many small post offices) during my first cross-country road trip in 2008. How could one resist stopping and taking in the sights when the sign says "Western Hemisphere's Longest Arch Bridge"?

I explored for a couple of hours, visiting the NPS's New River Gorge Visitors Center, and driving the old route across the gorge, which the Bridge then bypassed. (See below.)

The closest post office to the bridge is that of the small town of Lansing. Its USPS Locator Tool listing is by no means accurate; it's helpful to either ask for directions, or, read this blog! This map is a result of Google Maps satellite view and my memory of my visit to the office:

A is the location of the post office, and B represents the NPS Visitor Center.

View Larger Map

Here are two photos of the Lansing office:
Lansing, WV post office; generic signage
The First-Day ceremony of the stamp will actually be held in Fayetteville, across the bridge from Lansing. Yes, I visited that, too:

P.S. Here is one of my own photographs from the bridge:

Friday, April 8, 2011

DPO'd: Savannah, GA Edition

Across the street from a church in the small Savannah, Georgia suburb of Port Wentworth lies its recently discontinued branch post office. The post office closed at the end of February; customers had the option of keeping their P.O. box numbers and ZIP code as their boxes were moved to the Garden City post office, three miles away.

Here is the Port Wentworth post office, as documented at the end of August 2009:

I don't think it's a post office that deserved discontinuance, but I suspect its fate was sealed by its persistence on the Consolidation "Hit List".

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taste of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg is a quaint historic town featuring an authentic mid-1800s main street and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. I spent an afternoon there and visited three local post offices including two CPUs, one of which has since been discontinued:

Fredericksburg, VA Main Post Office

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My, Oh Meijer

Meijer, pronounced à la Oscar Mayer [NOT "major" or "Meejer"], is a 'hypermarket' (think Target) chain of 195 stores located in the upper Midwest. The plurality of their stores are in Michigan, though stores are located in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. I've visited 14 Meijer locations.

A typical distribution of Meijer stores involves a "ring" along the circumferential highways around major cities. For example, here's their coverage of the Columbus, OH area:

No, this isn't meant as free advertising. Of interest to GP readers, each and every Meijer store has a Contract Postal Unit (CPU) at the customer service counter in the front of the store. It constitutes the largest CPU operation in the country. Most Meijer CPUs are open Sundays and many, like most of their parent stores, are operable 24 hours a day.

Most Meijer stores look the same; this is one of their stores outside Columbus, Ohio:
Each Meijer has a store number, and that store is #104. Here is a slightly older store design, outside Toledo.

In terms of postmark collecting: All Meijer CPUs have, at minimum, round daters akin to postmarks used at standard post offices around the country. They also are not obligated to assist philatelists in terms of postmarks as are classified POs. Results are mixed, ranging from friendly to highly restrictive. In some places the dater is locked away in the Store Director's office / vault due to security concerns, which to my knowledge should not be the case. Of the daters I have seen, some are the same as their local parent offices, and some are wonderful and unique.