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:

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