Monday, December 19, 2011

Behind the BBC: Ladiesburg, MD

Welcome, BBC viewers / web-watchers!

When my NPR radio segment aired a month ago, I was approached by the BBC and challenged to find them a quaint little post office in the general D.C. area. They would interview me there, show me getting a local postmark, and film a bit of bantering with the Postmaster. I chose Ladiesburg, Maryland, a town NNE of Frederick and an hour and a half outside D.C. Its post office is one of 42 in Maryland that could be closed in the near future as part of the RAOI "Expanded Access" initiative. While I hadn't been inside, I had passed by the building late on a Saturday so I knew it was quaint, and I also knew the Postmaster was friendly and familiar with the history of the town.

Fortunately, permission to film was granted and we were set for a Tuesday. I drove down from Philly to Silver Spring and stayed with family friends the night before.

Let's get a geographic fix; you can pan and zoom out within this map to get a better sense of scale for the area:

In the corner of a house, the Ladiesburg post office represents the last business in this small Maryland town. There are tracks behind the building and the town used to have a station, a general store, and several other goodies. Now, the post office is all that's standing between Ladiesburg's present stature as a community and a happenstance cluster of houses.

The official local story has it that the first eight residents of the town included seven women alongside one man. Hence, Ladiesburg! I love origin stories such as this, and if you don't know a local historian, the Postmaster can be your best bet to discover how a town got its name.

Let's look at some pictures!

Ladiesburg, MD post office

The hand-stenciled sign:

Yours truly having the honors of postmarking my cards (and thus making USPS some free revenue) -- technically, and this is in the Postal Operations Manual, one can be allowed to handle a postmarking device if it's under the supervision of authorized personnel:

A slightly disheveled me with Postmaster John T. ("Tom") Chuvala. This was at the end of the media session, which lasted two hours. Somehow I was still energetic after four hours' sleep, though I think here I was too exhausted to smile fully!

The Ladiesburg post office is open 8 - 12 Monday through Saturday. Postmaster Tom has headed the office since 2006. On Saturdays his Postmaster Relief (PMR) fills in. Both are veterans; as Postmasters they are continuing their service to their communities and toward binding the country together.

Two miles down the road lies the town of New Midway, another morning-only office that's under study for closure as part of RAOI. Here I found another photogenic office along with a wonderful Postmaster and some unique P.O. Boxes whose manufacturer I have never seen before.

New Midway, MD post office; taken on a sunnier day:

New Midway featured a train station as well, and this office is right alongside the tracks. Across the street is, of all things, a piano shop. [Link: Kramer's Piano Shop.] How cool is that? It's something I definitely hadn't expected to see in such a small town. The local elementary school is here as well.

Hope you enjoyed this small slice of America.


  1. Hi Evan. I saw the spot on BBC TV here in England. I love your blog and the idea behind it. We here in England have lost so many rural Post Offices and our communities are the poorer for it.

  2. Paul, thank you for the feedback. I hope your lesson isn't one that the U.S. discovers only after it's too late.

  3. Absolutely Brilliant! Post Office is part of America, and we are connected with them in many ways we don't realize, it is indeed very sad times for the USPS, but hopefully they can adapt and survive in the future. Thanks for this amazing Blog! Saw your story over at BBC.

  4. Evan,
    I enjoyed this post and hearing about the Ladiesburg post office. This is great. Its nice to connect with someone else interested in our Nations Post offices.


  5. Evan,

    Greetings from Ireland. Well done on an excellent and really interesting blog. Keep up the good work.

    Neil, Dublin

  6. i got a link to your blog via postcrossing and i have to say, i'm jealous! What you're doing is so interesting to me because i have a thing for real mail and we have the same problem here in the uk - postoffices always closing. your blog makes me want to take pictures of the ones i visit from now on!


  7. This is great! I happen to live in Ladiesburg. Local post offices like this have been a part of my whole life....over half a century...I would hate to see them go in the way of progress....thanks for this great story

  8. We used to get our mail at the ladiesburg post office- Mrs sharer was the post mistress- because she was always there we did not have to open our post box because she just handed our mail to us. What wonderful service- we truly miss having our local friend and post office. We also got the news of the day from Francis.

    1. Hi Dudley, I am doing research on the history of Ladiesburg for a blog. Do you know the year that they man and 7 ladies lived here that the town is named after?