Monday, December 31, 2012

Death in Venice

If not Death, at least Major Reconstructive Surgery in Venice. Much has been written about the sale of the Venice, California post office. I'll leave you with these two articles at Save the Post Office for more information about the progression of this story.

Today I thought I'd leave you with a couple of photos of this stately building taken early September 2012. The Venice post office was consolidated into its carrier annex -- only several hundred feet away in this instance, but quite far in others.

From a distance the building looks alright. You've got two distinct (white atop yellow) colors of paint, red Spanish tile roof. The entire property is surrounded by a covered fence that's slightly more than six feet tall. NO TRESPASSING, signs declare.
Former Venice, CA post office construction

If you can peek your way through a gap in the fence, you can bear witness to the fact that the entire landscaping being torn up.
Former Venice, CA post office construction

The stairway at the front of the building has been stripped away, and the lighting fixtures have been removed. One guesses they'll be back in the future. Read the sign closely on the door, and it declares -- to no one, now -- "Customers pleased be advised that you can pick up your new PO Box and new keys at our new location ..."

And, here's a wider look.
Former Venice, CA post office construction

The new location is the former carrier annex at 313 Grand Avenue. While not far from the old Venice post office, it is further from the commercial district than its predecessor. A sign at the back entrance to the building declares THIS FACILITY IS NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. The front, fortunately, is more customer-friendly, if nearly completely devoid of character.

New Venice, CA post office

Inside one is greeted with new POS layouts, with rounded blue counters atop "naturally colored" plywood -- more inviting than the blue-atop-white layouts at most offices. Still, I'd have preferred the site with character.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Postal Summary

In keeping with the 2010 and 2011 Going Postal tradition of tabulating postal experiences for the year, let's see what 2012 had to offer: This year I visited an insane 2,097 [new-to-me, active] post offices across 31 states and the District of Columbia -- or about 5.7 per day. The highlight of the year was my 102-day, 17,600-mile, 1,406-post office road trip that spanned July to October. If you'd like a general sense of where I've been, you can see my counties visited map -- counties first visited in 2012 are colored yellow:

That statistic does not include well more than 150 discontinued post offices / contract locations, nor previous sites for post offices, such as WPA offices that have been sold by USPS and consolidated into other facilities. This year I made special efforts to find those locations, photos of many of which have been presented to you on this blog. For example...

Below: Denton, Texas's former early-century post office lies across the street from its present site:
Old Denton, TX post office

Below: Cleveland's Brook Park Branch post office was discontinued as part of the 2009-2011 SBOC initiative. Photographed in October, the building is now home to The Post Office Café.
Cleveland, Ohio: discontinued Brook Park Branch post office

I also made special efforts to visit freestanding processing facilities, like the Seattle P&DC (which is way too big for one photo), partly seen here:
Seattle Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) view

State by state, counting only distinct active postal locations:

Pennsylvania: 268 post offices
Focus/Foci: Northern Philadelphia Metro area; east-central PA.

Texas: 231.5*
Dallas-Fort Worth metro area; Austin; El Paso; Big Bend National Park
* Texarkana's Downtown Station lies square on the Texas/Arkansas border.

New Jersey: 212
West-central New Jersey and central coast

California: 167
Los Angeles and the Central Valley (e.g. Bakersfield, Merced, Sacramento)

Washington: 115
Olympia, Tacoma, central Washington (e.g. Yakima), Columbia River Gorge, Tri-Cities

Arkansas: 108.5*
Northeast (e.g. Jonesboro), northwest (Fayetteville), southwestern I-30 corridor

Oregon: 99
South central (Crater Lake), Eugene, Portland, Columbia River Gorge

Virginia: 92
Suburban D.C. (Arlington and Alexandria), I-81 corridor

North Carolina: 89
Western: Winston-Salem, Hickory, Asheville, mountains

South Dakota: 72
Central east-west corridor; Rapid City, Pierre, all of Sioux Falls

New York: 68
Southern tier; Ithaca, Binghamton

Minnesota: 67
Southwest Minnesota (New Ulm, Mankato) and Twin Cities

Nevada: 57
Las Vegas metro area. All of it.

New Hampshire: 57
Southern N.H.

Oklahoma: 57
Tulsa metro area

Montana: 43
Missoula, Helena, Billings

Arizona: 39

Tennessee: 57
Knoxville, Cookeville, Murfreesboro

Ohio: 37
Cleveland suburbs

Vermont: 35
Connecticut River valley

New Mexico: 30
Southwestern; Las Cruces, Alamogordo

Missouri: 28
Branson area for PMCC Convention

Iowa: 25
Iowa City

Louisiana: 13
Shreveport / Bossier City

West Virginia: 12

Maryland: 11

Massachusetts: 10

Idaho: 8

District of Columbia: 7

Illinois: 7

Indiana: 2

Wyoming: 2

2012 also noted the following threshold post office visits:
#3,000: Riverside, NJ: Delanco Branch
#3,500: Timberville, VA
Timberville, VA post office

#4,000: Killeen, Texas: Harker Heights Branch
Killeen, TX: Harker Heights Branch post office

#4,500: Bingen, Washington
Bingen, WA post office

Hope everyone has a great 2013!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Season for Friendship

Believe it or not, Friendship is not that uncommon a town name around this fair land.

Casper, of the Friendly Ghost fame, was set in Friendship, Maine, a town so named despite various battles among the British, French, and Native Americans back in the 1750s. Located at the end of a peninsula on the Atlantic, the town was well-suited for shipbuilding. The town even has the Friendship Museum! I and two postmark collecting friends visited the town back in mid-2011.

Friendship, Maine post office:
Friendship, Maine post office

Friendship, Arkansas is a tiny town off I-30 toward the southwest part of the state. The population lies at about 200. I dropped by late one weekend afternoon this August and can't speak for the character of the residents because no one was around.

Friendship, AR post office
Friendship, AR post office

The town of Friendship, New York stretches along the southern edge of I-86 in the western part of New York's Southern Tier. It possesses a cut-of-the-mill office built in 2000, but the clerk and a couple of customers made for a pleasant chat one rainy afternoon this October. Again, Friendship belies its initial nickname, "Fighting Corners"; once the local settlers quit quarreling, the present town name was adopted.

Friendship, New York post office
Friendship, NY post office

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 Postmarks

Howdy, folks! It's the last triple-date of the century here on Earth, and the U.S. Postal Service has made available a handful of "12-12-12" pictorial cancellations for those interested in obtaining one. (Of course, you could always get a "DEC 12 2012" postmark anywhere today, but that's not quite the same, is it?) If you're interested in any of these special cancels, please mail the postal card / envelope with the stamp to be cancelled, along with a request to the appropriate postal official, to the address shown at the right. Requests must be received within 30 days. The following information about these commemorative cancels was made available in the most recent Postal Bulletin.

The first commemorative cancels comes courtesy of (what appears to be) the Western Pennsylvania District office, located with the Pittsburgh Main Post Office.
12-12-12 pictorial postmark: Pittsburgh

Several post offices in South Dakota are offering 12-12-12 cancels of their own. They're particularly nice as the pictorials present a map of the state with the towns accurately located therein. The instructions for obtaining any of these cancels is the same as above.

12-12-12 pictorial postmarks: South Dakota

I visited one of these offices, that in Buffalo, back in 2008, while heading toward the Geographic Center of the 50 States.

Buffalo, SD post office
Buffalo, SD post office

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alamogordo Past and Present

Happy 200th Going Postal post! Let's visit some new territory -- namely New Mexico!

Alamogordo, New Mexico is a county seat and city of 41,000. Here's a map of the region:

A prime attraction in town is the highly regarded New Mexico Museum of of Space History. Nearby there's the 30-foot-tall world's largest pistachio nut! Not to mention the must-see White Sands National Monument and Missile Range.

(Look, I made a White Sands Angel! It's the future with global warming.)
White Sands Angel

Postally, Alamogordo features one post office and formerly housed mail processing operations (which got moved to Las Cruces, NM; eventually they got consolidated into El Paso, TX). I was able to hunt down Alamogordo's present post office as well as two previous sites. Of course, the original is the most architecturally satisfying; but let's see what we're dealing with. First, a map:

Alamogordo post office map:
Alamogordo post office map

The current Alamogordo post office is located at 930 East 12th Street and, according to satellite views, covers an area of approximately 150 by 200 feet. It also appears large enough such that several outlying offices can now be DUOed into it given the loss of mail processing operations. This site has been owned by USPS since 1998, and as you can see the building is rather unremarkable:

Alamogordo, NM post office
Alamogordo post office

Prior to this location, the post office was several hundred feet away, a building that now houses The Olde Post Antique Mall. Its address is 900 Alaska Ave.

Former Alamogordo post office: Old Post Antique Mall

The cream of the postal crop here is the 1938 WPA Alamogordo federal building which, as you can read about at Living New Deal, also housed some murals. The building was closed when I visited it (over a weekend in late August), but Flickr user auvet presents some images of the artwork here.

WPA Alamogordo, NM post office
Old Alamogordo post office

Until 2008 the building had been used as the federal government's Lincoln National Forest Service Building; it now houses Otero County offices.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Architecturally Interesting Austin POs, Part 2

Goodness, it's been another long while since the last post. Since my last Austin entry I spent another two full months on the road, visiting POs as far as Los Angeles to Billings and Cleveland.

Let's update my previous post. Since reporting that the present Downtown Station Post Office building was sold, USPS has announced that operations will move a few blocks to Congress Ave. The sale of the building also allows USPS to 'DUO' operations (that is, engage in Delivery Unit Optimization, the movement of carriers to local hub offices instead of keeping them at each facility) to the South Congress and East Austin Stations. Presumably that saves the Postal Service money while making customers' lives somewhat more inconvenient if they have to pick up a package.

I'd neglected to present another former site of the Austin Main Post Office from the early 1900s, a federal building built across the street from the late-1800s site presented in the previous entry:
Old Austin post office

This building, like its other historic counterpart, is now owned by the University of Texas as a medical system office building.

The South Congress Station is (also) located on Congress Avenue, though this office lies south of the famous bat bridge. There was a man panhandling outside the building while I was there, though he ducked out when I took this photo:

Austin, TX: South Congress Station post office Austin, TX: South Congress Station post office

Here's another view:
Austin, TX: South Congress Station post office

As you can probably tell, this facility was crowded as heck that Saturday morning.

I've never seen a building quite like Austin's Southeast Station post office. It has... well, just look at it:
Austin, TX: Southeast Station post office

Austin, TX: South Congress Station post office

Opened in 1976, this building looks like it's building a web to trap unsuspecting flies or possibly FedEx delivery guys.

Hopefully there'll be some more entries up here soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Architecturally Interesting Austin POs: Downtown Station

Hey there, folks! It's been a while since I've updated the 'physical' blog. (Much more frequent updates occur on the Going Postal Facebook page, for the record.) Thus far in the trip I've been on the road for seven weeks; required oil changes twice; visited a couple of nice ballparks; savored some amazing barbecue; and, of course, have documented 700 post offices.

Austin, Texas is a cool city and features some architecturally unique post offices. I'd hope so -- their motto is "Keep Austin Weird," after all! Between the Cathedral of Junk, the Texas state capitol, and some excellent Mexican food came some interesting postal stories.

Austin, TX: Downtown Station
This location used to house a full philatelic center, and when I visited, was the home to the limited-edition First Day of Sale picture postmark for the newly issued Flags of Our Nation stamps, featuring Texas's.

The Downtown Station on Guadalupe St. was built in the mid-'90s, and is utterly unique (though it bears a resemblance to the Atlanta Main Post Office). The location is heavily used, and a couple of customers I chatted with have been picking up their mail there for the past 15 years.

Downtown Austin post office

The post office is photogenic, but has been the subject of urban planning scorn since its opening. Austin's downtown is dense with tall condos and historic buildings; plastering the majority of a city block with a heat sink / parking lot might not be the best use of the limited space available, critics claim.

The Downtown Station has since been sold, with carriers moving to nearby facilities. The question is, where will USPS move its retail unit? No one I've spoken with can say whether or not there will even be a USPS presence in downtown Austin once this building is demolished for a high-rise.

A friendly customer led me to one of the Austin Post Office's former sites, just nearby. This dates from the very early 20th century:
Old Austin post office

More from Austin coming soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Road Trip 2012, Chapter 4: Before and After, Part II

Howdy, folks. Joining you from the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex in Texas! It's been a while since my last entry, but I thought I'd continue with the theme of showing you some former, early 20th-century post offices along with their current counterparts. Here's the first part of this series in case you missed it.

Murfreesboro, TN post office
Murfreesboro, TN post office

I wasn't able to get any information from any local clerks or police offices about where the invariable former post office might be, but the design of what was now the arts center screamed "old post office":
Old Murfreesboro, TN post office

The cornerstone with "Secretary of the Treasury" confirmed this 1909 masterpiece as a P.O. I went inside and the folks allowed me to photograph. Here's the lobby:
Old Murfreesboro, TN post office lobby

When the post office moved out, the building became the town's main library. The children's reading room was in the basement, which I'm sure spooked them a bit. Now it's used as prop and other storage for the arts center. So ladies and gentlemen, something you've always wanted to see -- the basement of an old post office!
Old Murfreesboro, TN post office basement

No one could figure out what the ladder leading to the basement from the Postmaster's office was for. Any ideas?
Old Murfreesboro, TN post office basement ladder

The 1913 former site of the Lebanon, Tennessee post office is now a county building:
Old Lebanon, TN post office

The newer Lebanon post office is less glamorous.
Lebanon, TN post office

They even have a carrier annex now:
Lebanon, TN Carrier Annex

Dickson, Tennessee has a 1936 facility that's no longer in use. (I'm not sure what its present purpose is, actually.)
Old Dickson, TN post office

Here's the more modern, early-'90s edition Dickson post office:
Dickson, TN post office

Pocahontas, Arkansas's old [1936] post office is now the local newspaper, the Star Herald:
Old Pocahontas, AR post office; now Pocahontas Star Herald building

Here's the interior:
Old Pocahontas, AR post office lobby
Old Pocahontas, AR post office lobby

The newer Pocahontas post office is more on the outskirts of town.
Pocahontas, AR post office

Until next time..!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Road Trip 2012: Chapter 3; Old and New, Part I

I've made a point on this trip, for the first time, of visiting the center of all relatively large towns to find its former post office site, which is invariably from the early 20th century and likely constructed by the WPA. On several occasions I've gone in and analyzed how the building is used today.

So now, dear readers, for many cities around the southeast, I present to you Old and New:

Former site: Salem, Virginia post office
Old Salem, VA post office

Current Salem, Virginia post office:
Salem, VA post office

Former site: Roanoke, Virginia post office [and courthouse]
Old Roanoke, VA post office and courthouse

Current Roanoke, Virginia post office:
Roanoke, VA post office

This building is fantastic because it includes an apparently full reconstruction of the [very, very] old Roanoke window and Postmaster's office.

Old Roanoke, VA post office
Old Roanoke, VA post office

Former site: Winston-Salem, North Carolina post office
Old Winston-Salem, NC post office

Current Winston-Salem, North Carolina post office:
Winston-Salem, NC post office

This location was also a P&DC before operations were consolidated into neighboring Greensboro, NC.

Former site: Statesville, NC post office [and courthouse]:
Old Statesville, NC post office
Operations were moved to the outskirts of town:
Statesville, NC post office

Downtown operations were replaced with a CPU, which is reputedly the second highest-grossing such operation in the state:
Statesville, NC: downtown post office / CPU
They have room for two clerks inside and the largest set of P.O. Boxes you've ever seen outside of a classified location.

Former site: Newton, NC post office:
Old Newton, NC post office; now Old Post Office Playhouse

The location is now the town's "Old Post Office Playhouse". Current site: Newton, NC post office
Newton, NC post office

The former post office in Brevard, NC is now a library:
Old Brevard, NC post office; Brevard Library

The current Brevard post office is less glamorous:
Brevard, NC post office

And that's just the first set!