Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Curious Case of Mahanoy Plane, PA

I feel fortunate that I was able to visit the Mahanoy Plane Post Office before it closed, likely for all time. It has not been officially closed -- discontinued -- by the U.S. Postal Service, but the facility was one of 203 in the state of Pennsylvania being studied for closure as part of its Expanded Reduced Access initiative back in July. The landlords of 312 Main Street, Jack and Rose McCarthy, are said to have decided not to have extended their lease to the post office, according to the Pottsville Republican-Herald in an article dated Tuesday, November 29.

"The building is in need of repairs and winterization and it was more feasible to close it at this time instead of spending time and money for repairs when it is scheduled to close anyway," McCarthy said. Seems that the mere threat of closure might have doomed this small-town post office. (Could you say the post office got scared to death?)

The Mahanoy Plane post office was suspended November 30, at the expiration of the lease. While it's possible that USPS will look for an alternative site for the post office, history has shown that this is rarely the case. Residents, who must presently pick up their mail at the neighboring Frackville, PA post office, have been seeking to get home delivery of mail at mailboxes at the front of their house. USPS would rather the townspeople find a site for one or more cluster boxes, so that the postal service only needs to deliver to a handful of sites, while Mahanoy Plane residents would have to walk to pick up their mail.

Here is the link to the full Republican-Herald article.

Earlier this semester, back before the sun set at 4:30, I'd taken a weekend to explore this slice of coal country about 40 miles WNW of Allentown. What I found were some small towns, some surprisingly large communities, and a few quaint post offices. I think some further photos of this trip -- featuring the towns of Mahanoy City, Shenandoah, and Lost Creek -- are worth a post.

In Mahanoy Plane, I momentarily startled the family whose children were playing ball in front of the post office. But we got to talking, and eventually everyone started sharing their local stories and the kids posed in front -- they were excited at the prospect of their small-town post office being photographed for a museum. [Remember, I volunteer for -- and donate all my photos to -- the Post Mark Collectors Club (PMCC) Museum in Bellevue, Ohio.]

Here they all are:

Mahanoy Plane lies in a valley between two mountain ridges (see Google Maps terrain map, below). According to the kids, one of their summer joys is the overflow of the creek that runs by town -- if it rains. They say it's possible to swim in the waist-deep water that runs down Main Street (which is adjacent to, but separated from, the main drag that runs by the town. I can't verify that it's indeed true, but it's a great story nonetheless.

Here's the metal sign in front of the now-former post office:

The Mahanoy Plane Post Office was established September 20, 1864 with Charles E. Byers as its first Postmaster. The office was staffed with an Officer-in-Charge at the end; that honor has been Carol A. Kowker's since last April.

Bonus Section: Incorrect USPS map placement of the Mahanoy Plane post office. (Maybe the office didn't make enough revenue because no one could find it!)

While researching the location of the Mahanoy Plane post office using nearly any USPS tool, you might be led to the grossly inaccurate conclusion that it is located in Mahanoy City, PA, which is 5.5 miles away. I found the same shoddy information was on the USPS WhitePages Locator tool and USPS's Mobile App, though the office was well placed with the USPS Everywhere Locator.

Here's a screenshot demonstrating the incorrect placement in action:

USPS's current official Locator tool splits the difference and places the post office near Mahanoy Plane, but just over the other side of the mountain ridge. (The new tool's placement quirks can be bizarre at times. They should hire me to do get their locations right.)


  1. My aunt, Ella Thomas, was postmistress, in a converted garage nmext to her house on Railroad st. in the early 50's. This was located from Main st., over the bridge and right pon railroad st. The people used to pick up their mail in the P.O., garage by going over the bridge on bridge st, or the small bridge west of Rose Crosbys. She retired later from USPS, and I believe the Post Office moved back to Main st.

  2. My mother was born in Mahanoy Plane in 1927. I wonder if it possible to find out what house she was born in.

    1. My father was born in Mahanoy Plane in 1922. I have a photo of what is believed to be the house where he was born, but I can’t be certain of that. Also don’t know if the place is still standing (was already boarded up when the photo was taken perhaps 25 years ago).

  3. My Father was born in Mahanoy Plane ( The Foot) in 1927 and attended Gilberton High School. Was there an elementary school in Gilberton or Mahanoy Plane. Trying to find out where he attended grade school.

  4. Interesting. I am currently filling in for the regular carrier.