Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the Hit List: Philly Stations

I suspect most of these won't come to fruition, but a huge slew of post offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia [scroll down] are being studied for potential closure. Obviously they won't close anywhere near to all of them. Nevertheless I thought I'd highlight a couple of Philadelphia stations I've visited.

One, the 30th Street Station Post Office of Philadelphia was highlighted in this GP entry. Analysis: Possible. While it's a busy location, it's also two blocks from the Philadelphia Main Post Office, and that's an excuse that USPS has used a lot of late to shut places down. Airport post offices have been easy closure targets, and transit centers may follow. That's because none of these represent specific communities, and the customers might just be passers-through; so there's little resistance to their closure. In a future post I'll present another train station post office, near Philadelphia, that's recently been discontinued.

Philadelphia: Fairmount Station

Analysis: Possible; could be re-combined into the Fairmount Carrier Annex from which it split, about an eight-minute walk away.

(Fairmount Carrier Annex)

Philadelphia: Schyulkill Station

Analysis: Not on your life. The only reason the office is on the list is because the community is poorer than average; but it's the only one accessible to a large community of people. This one's staying open.

Philadelphia: Kingsessing Station

Philadelphia: Overbrook Station

Analysis: Not on your life. See above. (If any of these get discontinued, I'll personally lead the PRC filing to keep them open.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beautiful Post Office: Burnt Cabins, PA

Here's a beautiful post office from rural PA that's actually not on the possible discontinuance list! This was taken Saturday afternoon, so I couldn't ask the Postmaster (or find anyone else to tell me) the history of the office or the town. But just look at it!

Burnt Cabins, PA:

I'm not going to say anything more, since I think the office speaks for itself. Hope you enjoyed!

Monday, August 29, 2011

On the Hit List

Here are four post offices from southwestern Pennsylvania that are on the block for potential closure. I visited all four of these yesterday, so they were all closed and I don't have any stories. What I can say is these post offices represent the primary meeting points of their respective communities. I did not see any businesses in ANY of these communities, so there would not be any locations for a potential VPO.

Lake Lynn is a 3.4-mile drive from the Point Marian post office, across a river. New Geneva and Martin are relatively close together, but both represent independent communities. Ronco is 2.7 miles from the Masontown post office.

Lake Lynn, PA:

New Geneva, PA:

Martin, PA: (Look at the great old mailbox!)

Ronco, PA:

Been quiet... perhaps too quiet.

The author spent a pre-school weekend — 3 days, 38 hours on the road, and 990 miles driven — exploring south central and western Pennsylvania, stopping at and photographing 86 post offices, 25 of which are on the current USPS Reduced Expanded Access "study" list. Unfortunately I couldn't collect postmarks at the majority of them since they're all closed Saturday afternoons and Sunday! (Or heck, even the weekday lunch break.)

I'm going to sleep now, but soon I'll present photographs of, and stories from, some very small post offices and places. Or as I like to think of them, the fabric of rural America.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Really Small Post Office?

This will be a simple post. (The author has to prepare for classes, which start this week!)

A few miles down the road from Woodstown, NJ (subject of my previous post) is Harrisonville. I think every community has something to offer if you visit it. In this case, it's a spot of humor.

The Harrisonville Post Office has a nice hand-painted sign across the top of its 'porch': red, white, and blue:

But that's not the funny one. When a local, walking down the street, saw me documenting the post office and a farm scene down the road, she directed me to the Harrisonville welcome sign, which leads one to believe that the town is very small, indeed:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Need a Lift?

The post office in Woodstown, New Jersey [or perhaps the Southern New Jersey District Office?] takes the Americans with Disabilities Act very seriously. There wasn't enough physical space to place an appropriately pitched ramp, so instead they installed a lift! There's a side door into the retail lobby just for the lift. Even better, there's an awning covering it all in case of rain!

Woodstown, NJ Post Office:

Only postal employees can operate the lift. Customers in need can summon a clerk with a bell / buzzer at the base. The clerk comes out and assists, and also helps them back down once they've completed their business.

I heard the lift gets used about once every two weeks. When the lift was out of commission, a temporary postal trailer was placed in a nearby parking lot to assist these users. Talk about dedication!

1. I thought it would be fun to buzz someone so I could ride the lift myself and see just how it works, but then thought better of it.

2. Just did more research, apparently an interesting incident occurred at this facility back in January.

3. If you've had the desire to live above a post office, this could be your chance! Looks like there are three apartments upstairs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Postal Headquarters

The decisions being made by the U.S. Postal Service these days are all coming from the top. Namely, from the insular Postal Headquarters at L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C. I figured you might at least like to see it.

In any case, I had the privilege of visiting Postal HQ last summer, back when the Postmaster General was Jack Potter. Here's the building:

You can read more about the L'Enfant Plaza complex here.

L'Enfant Plaza hosts a Post Office station of its own, which answers to the Washington, D.C. Main Post Office on Brentwood Ave., northeast of downtown. Ironically, while the fine folks who write the Postal Service's regulations work just upstairs from the L'Enfant Plaza Station post office, the clerks and supervisor I dealt with were inadequately informed as to said regulations. I had to wait 45 minutes to get a postmark from them, despite the myriad of other samples I had on me.

Here's the station in question, just off from the main underground mall, and near the entrance to Postal HQ:
(There's another photo of the underground mall, as well as a full architectural detailing of the whole plaza here.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day in Philly

For my first day in Philadelphia I unpacked, and then managed to visit 18 post offices after starting at 11 a.m. Here are two architectural notes of interest:

1. Glenolden, PA:

Look at the font. This has got to be '60s, because the signage was created after the advent of ZIP codes, and there was a sign in the building that still referred to the "Post Office Department" (so the latest it could be is '71). It's unbelievably garish, but fantastic all the same. It looks more at home on a car dealership than a post office, but it's the uniqueness of individual offices that makes USPS's infrastructure wonderful.

The main signage, closer up:

And have a closer look at the ZIP code. It's just too cool:

2. Ridley Park, PA:

A good example of when chatting with clerks in a non-busy office yields neat information. The post office might not look too interesting, but back when the building was completed in 1976, the office was heralded for its use of solar panels. Here a clerk directed me to a photograph on the wall -- an aerial shot of the new post office, complete with six rows of solar panels, angled diagonally on the roof. This was told to me by Clerk #2, at the right window of the office.

According to Kaiman Lee's Encyclopedia of energy-efficient building design: 391 practical case studies, the solar panels provided 20% of the post office's heating and cooling energy needs. The 6,000-sq.-ft. building, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, not only featured 2,500 sq. ft. of solar panels on the roof, but utilized other energy-saving materials in its construction as well. These included "insulated porcelain metal panels" as well as insulated glass windows.

(The solar panels were removed ca. 1990.)

I got to talking with Clerk #1, at the left window, about First-Day Ceremonies, to which he said that he'd only been to one, and it was held at that very Ridley Park office. The year after the Ridley Park P.O. was completed, USPS chose to inaugurate its 13-cent Energy Development stamp at Ridley Park.

Here's a First-Day Cover featuring a silk cachet; it's an item currently being offered for sale on eBay for $1.25:

Revisiting: Trenton Edition

The author just moved to Philadelphia yesterday. I visited a few new POs along the way and revisited two facilities that have been covered in this blog and recently discontinued: Trenton's Yardville Branch and Chambersburg Station. Thought there might be some nice new urban renewal projects or delis opening up in these shuttered POs. Let's see what we found:

Yardville; three months after discontinuance: Nothing. In fact, its lease expires March 31, 2013, so this spot will be doing absolutely nothing for the community other than looking abandoned for some time to come. The sign on the door defers people to Trenton's Main Post Office. Driving distance: 2.5 miles.
Chambersburg; 1.5 months after discontinuance: Nothing. Guess when their lease expires: 9/30/2018. In essence, a poor community that has been told they're not worth USPS's while, and they'll probably have to sit with this empty lot for seven long years. They have to find transportation to the Independence Station P.O., 2.1 miles away. There are two other, busier offices, at a similar proximity.

Friday, August 12, 2011

It begins.

Unfortunately I've been too busy to post much original material. In any case, the shift to a new postal paradigm has begun: the post office of Malone, Washington was closed August 10, replaced with a VPO August 11. Here's the full story from American Public Media.

This is among 3,600 post offices USPS would like to close by the end of this year, further advancing its own perceived social irrelevance. Or as I call it, "Death by 3.6 Thousand Cuts". Save the Post Office demonstrates USPS's doctoring of numbers and data to further its aims of postal discontinuances in this fantastic entry.

Meanwhile, the sign designating "United States Post Office // Malone WA 98559" should really be preserved as a historic item, but common postal protocol is to throw it into the wood-chipper. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Save the Postal Service from Itself

Edit: 10/14/11 @ 8:43AM
Welcome, Washington Post readers! Below is a good introduction to my postal thoughts. You can return to the blog's main page and see my most recent P.O. adventures, complete with photos, and analysis, here.

You've probably heard about the Postal Service's Wish List: 3,600 post offices that it desires to shutter. That's 10% of ALL post offices in America. In decimating [literally, reducing by 1/10th] its nationwide network USPS might save $200 million a year -- which would shave its current annual deficit by 2.5% and save a whopping 0.3% of its operating budget.

The fact is the Postal Service will not save itself by making it less relevant to the communities that use and need it most. Rural post offices are the centers of their respective towns; post offices serve as meeting points and help maintain these communities' social fabrics. Without the post office, many of these towns will wither and lose their points on the map. Post offices contribute to the fabric of America and make the country richer. Let's save as many as we can!

-- Going Postal Author Evan K., New York City

A fantastic blog can be found here: Save the Post Office.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Postmark Adventures: Fire Island, NY; Part III

Now for the third of three entries about the post offices of Fire Island. [Here are the links for Parts I and II.] Part of the enjoyment of making this postal run is that I doubt there's such a high concentration of CPOs, or otherwise unique and tricky-to-reach post offices, anywhere in the country.

Day 2 – August 31, 2010
August 31 was the last day all Fire Island post offices would be open during the summer season. It was most efficient to visit the final three offices as follows: (1) Take the Sayville—Fire Island Pines ferry in early in the morning; (2) visit the extreme, earliest-closing post office (Davis Park) first; (3) take the water taxi back to Fire Island Pines and visit that office; (4) walk to Cherry Grove, visit that CPO, and take the other Sayville ferry back.

The distance from Fire Island Pines to Davis Park is 4.5 miles, but the water taxi wasn’t running that morning. Thus, I had to start the day by walking, in 95° heat, on a bright and sunny day, 4.5 miles – on the beach. (At least it wasn’t uphill, both ways.) After 2.5 miles I came across a house-cleaner who'd just finished a job and had a boat. She took pity and piloted me the rest of the distance to Davis Park.

Davis Park’s CPO was a couple hundred feet along the main north-south road from the ferry terminal. A hand-painted wood sign with blue-and-yellow lettering adorned the front of the building, which also serves as the community's ‘free lending library’. There are filled bookshelves in the customer area of the building. Above the front door, inside, there are photographs of the prior buildings that have housed the Davis Park CPO. There are also Fire Island postcards for sale inside.

Davis Park Post Office [CPO]:

Postcards showing photos of the office:

The only official postmark was a "Patchogue, NY" cancel; I was told they'd have a Davis Park dater this year.

I bought a Pepsi at the general store across the street, refilled my canteen with water, and began the 4.5-mile trudge pack to Fire Island Pines. By the time I'd arrived at the Fire Island Pines office, a beautiful and seemingly new wooden structure with a green Post Office sign, it was just past closing time (1 pm). Fortunately a bit of pleading got me some cards canceled for my collection before they headed off for the day.

Fire Island Pines Post Office [CPO]:

The Cherry Grove CPO is closed from 12:45 to 2:45 for lunch. I opted to take my lunch at a pizza shop in Fire Island Pines.

Cherry Grove's post office is in a blue building that appeared to house residents on the upper floor. It had a couple hundred old PO boxes. I got some photos for the museum but didn't feel like staying for postmarks; it was 1:55, and after 2:00 the next ferry left at 4:00.

Cherry Grove Post Office [CPO]:

Fortunately there was some more post office time left in the day, so I stopped at Cherry Grove's Sayville parent office and met the Postmaster. He said he could either forward the requests to the CPO, or personally cancel some cards once he got the daters back for the season. True to his word, I mailed for and got the cards later.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Postmark Adventures: Fire Island, NY; Part II

It's Going Postal's 100th entry! My blog stats show the popularity of the blog increasing quite nicely over the past month; thanks to all my readers! Feel free to comment! It's always nice to see feedback.

This is a continuation of yesterday's entry; the series will finish up tomorrow.

Leaving Saltaire...

One mile later, I found the Fair Harbor CPO shielded by trees, with one small sign directing one toward the yellow house up the boardwalk. Once again, the contractor had never seen a postmark collector before but was willing to provide cancels since I was already carrying a couple hundred from my past travels.

Fair Harbor Post Office [CPO]:

The road to Ocean Beach was long and arduous. The post office-to-post office distance is 2.2 miles, but several factors were working against general movement: (1) the “roads” between the towns on Fire Island are actually soft, deep, winding sand paths; (2) where there was pavement in Ocean Beach, there was also an inch of rain on the ground. Smart residents who needed to move about were transporting items (such as groceries) in wagons hitched to the backs of their bicycles.

Here are a couple of deer I met along the sandy path:

A standard Ocean Beach transport vehicle:

The Ocean Beach post office was in a two-story wood-shingled building along the main walk. The postmaster was very friendly and provided me with a handsome four-bar. (She knew I was coming; I’d called to ask her questions about neighboring offices two weeks prior.) I eventually ate at a place she recommended and trudged the 4.5 miles back to my car, stopping at the grand Fire Island Lighthouse back near the State Park.

Post office: Ocean Beach, NY:

Lunch at Ocean Beach; bay view and the food:

The Fire Island Lighthouse:

^ That's right, folks -- I don't just collect postmarks! I collect National Park Service stamps as well!

Next time on Going Postal: Fire Island, Day 2! Visiting Davis Park, Fire Island Pines, and Cherry Grove.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Postmark Adventures: Fire Island, NY; Part I

For my 99th, 100th, and 101st posts, I thought I'd present to the general public my grand tale of exploring the post offices of Long Island's Fire Island. This was a three-page article published in the Post Mark Collectors Club (PMCC) Bulletin July 2011. Here I'll present more visuals, including photos of the offices and of the island itself.

[Reference: A CPO – Community Post Office – is a post office that is run under contract, usually in a store, and which comprises the sole postal operations for a small town. All CPOs are technically CPUs (Contract Postal Units), but not all CPUs are CPOs. A CPO's parent office is the independent U.S. Post Office that is responsible for, and lends administrative support to, the CPO.]

I’ve visited as many as 28 post offices in one day. That includes driving to each office, taking photographs, waiting in line, negotiating / chatting with clerks, and obtaining each postmark. Visiting the seven post offices on Fire Island, however, took two [mostly-]full days.

Part of the postmarking difficulty is that no cars are allowed on the island, except for critical maintenance vehicles. For intra-town trips, the locals’ primary mode of transportation, aside from their legs, is the bicycle. Many houses sport multiple-bike racks in place of garages! A water taxi operates between Fire Island towns; fares range from $7 to $30. I opted to walk.

Ferries are crucial to the transport of people, goods, and mail to and from Fire Island. (And as such, every Fire Island post office is located by its town’s ferry terminal.) Ferries operate from Bay Shore [link to a Going Postal entry about Bay Shore and its Pantatquit Station here], Sayville, or Patchogue; Fire Island’s six CPOs are assigned to the town whose ferry services that CPO. Bay Shore is the parent office of the Kismet, Saltaire, and Fair Harbor CPOs; Sayville is in charge of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines; and Davis Park is assigned to Patchogue.

Here is a map of said ferries that operate to and from Fire Island:

(The map is pretty much to scale; within each axis, anyway.)

Ocean Beach is the only independent post office on Fire Island, and it is also the only one that operates all year. Fire Island boasts thousands of summer residents and annual visitors, though only 500 people live on the island year-round. The CPOs operate only during the summer and most close prior to Labor Day, though Cherry Grove’s operates through mid-October.

Most of the CPOs are open for three hours a day, and two operate only Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. With August nearing its close, I chose to attempt all seven post offices on Tuesday the 24th – leaving one more week to finish the rest, if necessary. (Which it was.)

Day 1: August 24, 2010:
Parking was free at Robert Moses State Park that morning since it was raining. The 1.6-mile walk to the Kismet post office took 35 minutes and I arrived 20 minutes after opening. Two people couldn’t tell me where the post office was, but I found it in the only store in town (even though there was no signage). There was no official postal counter – just a giant sack up front for outgoing mail. The manager took care of my cards for me in the back, at a table behind the deli counter.

Kismet Post Office [CPO]:

Saltaire is adjacent to Kismet, and their post offices are separated by about 1,500 feet apart spatially. But as the only road that connects the towns follows the southern shore of the island, actual walking distance is nearly a mile.

The roads (rather, walks) in Saltaire are actually raised boardwalk, which lends the town a wonderful and unique character. Just past the town playground and park, the post office shares a building with the Village Hall and Courthouse. I arrived just after opening, and the contractor was happy to cancel my cards and pose for a photo with the post office sign.

Saltaire Post Office [CPO]:

Here are a couple of other scenes from Saltaire:

I swear it's got to be one of the fittest communities in America, given how much exercise these folks get.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Taste of Portland [Oregon]

For inspiration for a new entry, I looked to my previous post. Aren't I just clever like that?

Both Portlands are lovely cities. I've spent a few days in the Pacific one, once during my first cross-country road trip and once on the way to Hawai'i, as per my entry about Salem [Oregon].

Like Portland [Maine], Portland [Oregon]'s Main Post Office is adjacent to its respective District Office:

Unfortunately I've got no grand tales of adventure, but here are some photos of some of Portland's classified branches and stations:

Portland, OR: Central Station