Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ch-Ch-Changes: Silver Spring and Bethesda, MD

Last week I got to document nearly 100 post offices in and around the D.C. area. Among the finds were several old, new, and recently consolidated facilities.

Silver Spring, MD

Silver Spring, which wraps around the northern corner of Washington, D.C., would be the fourth-largest city in Maryland if it were incorporated. (Although, since hardly anything large besides Baltimore is incorporated in Maryland, it's difficult to make such claims to begin with.)

Here's a map of the postal situation:

I first visited the unincorporated landmass back in 2010 and documented two post offices near its downtown, which includes, among other things, the headquarters for the Discovery Channel. (A massive, multi-story, 3-D shark adorns the building during Shark Week.) The first building served as the Main Post Office although the Postmaster has operated out of a separate carrier facility for some time. The second operation, a finance unit, was rather close by, near the primary Metro stop...

Silver Spring, MD: Main Post Office [now former site]

Silver Spring, MD: Centre Finance Station [now discontinued // former site]

In what was undoubtedly a cost-saving measure, USPS just consolidated both operations into a new "Retail Center" in the corner of a strip mall just a few weeks ago. The location features more parking, but less accessibility to downtown Silver Spring. There goes your lunch break! One would hope that service would be improved by the new modern location, which features four clerk stations. When I had visited them in 2010, there was a long line at the MPO, served by two clerks, and modest lines at the finance station (served by one clerk). Logically, when two postal facilities get consolidated, 2 clerks + 1 clerk = 3 clerks, but that was not the case at the new, pleasantly designed post office, which featured four window stations and -- you guessed it -- two clerks.

(In case you're wondering, this is precisely why I don't trust postal consolidations. Silly math.)

In any case, this is what the new Silver Spring 'Main Post Office' (Retail Center) looks like:

So, that's the story of Silver Spring. Now, let's check out the former former site of the Main Post Office, a stately 1936 WPA design.

Just look at that lovely font!

Bethesda, MD

Bethesda lies just west of Silver Spring, and it too was served by two postal locations. As of the end of May 19th, the Main Post Office was moved and a nearby location discontinued as part of a consolidation into a newer retail facility -- one which, interestingly enough, is smaller than either other facility to begin with. The Bethesda Main Post Office had served since 1937. The WPA structure, replete with fantastic masonry, will now be sold.

Let's have a look at a map and some photos of this now-former site.

Bethesda, MD: Main Post Office [former site]

It was photographing this building when a woman I'd never met came up to me and correctly identified me, making me wonder whether I had some Inspectors on my case. "Yep, that's me. What gave it away?" In actuality it was a friend of my mother's, who knew of my work. That was loads of fun.

Bethesda, MD: Arlington Road Station [now discontinued]

Primarily a carrier facility, this location had a small retail section. A local site reports that the building will be torn down and the site re-developed into a 145-unit mixed-use apartment building.

As of May 21, 2012, this is the new Bethesda, MD Main Post Office:

It was fun to see crews working on freshening up the front of the building. One concern of residents is that parking is highly limited nearby this location.


  1. And in both cases, carriers have moved to carrier annex buildings further away from downtown.

  2. That Bethesda site had a great mural inside. I wonder what will happen to it.