Thursday, April 20, 2017

A 420 Road Trip? Visiting Weed, New Mexico and more

It struck me that, should the laws of the land ever change, and should the U.S. Post Office ever become the U.S. Pot Office, it would have a couple of great names to start with. Basically, yes, here is a post about post offices whose sole connection is they have 420-friendly names! Let's start in New Mexico.

Weed, New Mexico
Weed is located in the middle of nowhere. Located east of Alamogordo in the hills of southern New Mexico, it's a community of 20 people. Nevertheless it, and the neighboring post office of Sacramento, is able to sustain a four-hour post office. Get your bearings with this Google Map; Weed is on the right side:

Name aside, Weed, New Mexico has some of the best welcome and post office signage around. Check 'em out!

Welcome to Weed, New Mexico sign
Weed, NM post office sign

The building that houses the post office also houses the Weed Café.
Weed, NM Cafe and Post Office

Love the cowboy minding the entrance!
Weed, NM Cafe and Post Office porch

Inside the front door is the community bulletin board and some additional directions:
Weed, NM Cafe and Post Office

The actual postal part of the building has been standardized re: the counter and P.O. Box section.
Weed, NM post office

I visited the site in 2012, during my second large cross-country road trip. A few weeks later I visited another Weed, this time in sight of Mount Shasta in far northern California.

Weed, California

Weed has a mid-century Federal Building, which unfortunately was backlit (and doesn't have very unobstructed views in general).

Weed, CA post office and federal building

Weed was the site of a massive fire in 2014, which destroyed several institutions—including churches and a library—though not the Federal Building.

Finally, let's head up to rural South Dakota, where two small towns (also visited on that road trip in 2012) east of Pierre on U.S. 14 round out our 420 tour.

Blunt, South Dakota has a population of about 350, and the post office has been at 301 North Main Street for nearly 50 years, since 1968. The current lease, as per USPS's Leased Facilities Report, is for a modest $4.99 per square foot.

Blunt, SD post office

And, of course, once you've driven through Blunt it's pretty easy to achieve Highmore. Population-800 Highmore has had its post office located at 111 Commercial Avenue SE since its building's construction in 1961.

Highmore, SD post office

'Til next time!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Number of Post Offices by State (2017)

Which state has the most post offices, and how many post offices are there? For those curious souls, here is a ranking of states by number of active U.S. Post Offices by state (and territory) as of early 2017. Facilities include all USPS retail facilities: independent post offices (including APOs, RMPOs, and PTPOs), classified [USPS-staffed] stations and branches, and the handful of Post Office Express locations. Excluded are carrier-only facilities, specialized mail processing facilities, Contract Postal Units (CPUs) and Community Post Offices (CPOs), and Village Post Offices (VPOs). Postlandia obtained a complete list of active postal facilities via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Enjoy!

Total: 30,606 post offices

Rank State
# P.O.s
1 NY New York 1826
2 PA Pennsylvania 1805
3 TX Texas 1655
4 CA California 1634
5 IL Illinois 1315
6 OH Ohio 1117
7 MO Missouri 904
8 MI Michigan 894
9 VA Virginia 888
10 IA Iowa 830
11 NC North Carolina 822
12 MN Minnesota 777
13 FL Florida 750
14 WI Wisconsin 740
15 IN Indiana 715
16 GA Georgia 706
17 NJ New Jersey 692
18 KY Kentucky 676
19 WV West Virginia 655
20 AR Arkansas 616
21 MA Massachusetts 588
22 KS Kansas 586
23 AL Alabama 583
24 OK Oklahoma 582
25 TN Tennessee 582
26 WA Washington 519
27 LA Louisiana 507
28 NE Nebraska 479
29 MD Maryland 457
30 CO Colorado 437
31 ME Maine 428
32 MS Mississippi 421
33 SC South Carolina 398
34 OR Oregon 362
35 MT Montana 314
36 NM New Mexico 314
37 SD South Dakota 314
38 CT Connecticut 303
39 ND North Dakota 295
40 VT Vermont 266
41 AZ Arizona 265
42 ID Idaho 236
43 NH New Hampshire 232
44 AK Alaska 206
45 UT Utah 197
46 WY Wyoming  142
47 NV Nevada 130
48 HI Hawaii 105
49 RI Rhode Island 80
50 DE Delaware 63

PR Puerto Rico 118

DC District of Columbia 51

VI Virgin Islands 12

GU Guam 6

FM Federated States
of Micronesia

MH Marshall Islands 3

MP Northern Mariana Islands 2

AS American Samoa 1

PW Palau 1

Monday, April 10, 2017

Adamant About Vermont

Oh, Vermont. The state that's so beautiful that it banned billboards in 1968 to keep its natural scenery "free of visual clutter." Vermont is one of only four states (the others being Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine) to enact such policies. Exploring Vermont by post office is a truly enjoyable experience; historic general stores abound, old-style P.O. Boxes lurk in dozens of small towns, and the postal signage is much less homogenized than in other parts of the country. Many Vermont post offices bear wonderfully unique hand-painted signs; meaning few "Retail Standardization" blue-and-white Sonic Eagle signs, thank you very much.

Seriously, isn't this sign awesome?

One great post office—a contracted Community Post Office (CPO), to be precise—a village so small it barely registers on Google Maps. Located amid two lakes (Sodom Lake and Adamant Lake) and a State Forest, Adamant's population is perhaps a couple hundred people. The town centers around a crossroads: the four-way intersection of Center Rd., Adamant Rd., Quarry Rd., and Haggett Rd. The roads are so minor that the otherwise pervasive Google Street View has never gotten within two miles of the village (and seriously, it's 2017). Martin Road and Sodom Pond Road round out the routes in and out of the villages.

Here's a brief map, with which you can zoom out, to get yourself acquainted with this corner of Vermont. Given how remote the area feels, Adamant is but seven miles northeast of the state capital, Montpelier.

The names Sodom and Quarry pertain to the history of the town, as described on the website of the historic Adamant Co-op (which we'll see more about shortly):
In 1858 a crossroads appeared on an old Washington County map complete with a sawmill and six houses but no name. Granite quarries opened there in 1880, bringing workers from Scotland and Canada. A boarding house built near the quarry along with several other houses warranted a Post Office, which was called Sodom. ...

Albert Bliss, who refused to receive mail with the unsavory postmark of Sodom, petitioned the Post Office to change its name. Permission was given on the condition that the chosen name be unlike any other post office in the state. In 1905 Sodom was renamed Adamant, chosen for the granite quarries and the hardness of their stone, reportedly "A name perhaps as hard but not as wicked."

Adamant, Vermont Co-op and Community Post Office (CPO)

To those hard-headed enough to drive out to Adamant after a snowstorm, the visit is worth it. At the northern corner of the crossroads is the Adamant Co-op, a historic structure featuring wood-shingle siding, sun-worn signage, and an antique wall-mounted mail collection box. All of this is part of the oldest still-active cooperative store in the state. Again, from the co-op's website:
During the winter of 1934-1935, a local pastor gathered a group of neighbors to discuss starting a co-operative to buy groceries and create a market for local produce. In August of 1935, after eleven families each contributed five dollars to provide working capital, the Adamant Cooperative was incorporated. The Co-op rented space from Minnie Horr, who operated both the store and the post office out of her house, and purchased the building in 1940 for $600.

Sun-bleached signage at the Adamant post office

The wall-mounted mail collection box outside dates to 1922. How can you tell? Peek underneath and you'll often find the date of manufacture. This is among the oldest such boxes I've encountered.

Inside the co-op you'll find an iron heater, some welcoming women, and a warmly painted post office with antique brass P.O. Boxes. Love that cat up there!

Adamant, Vermont Community Post Office (CPO)

The Adamant post office was formally discontinued October 23, 1993, at which point the operation became a contracted Community Post Office (CPO) under the neighboring East Calais postmaster. The parent post office for Adamant has since changed as a result of POStPlan. Per Postmaster Finder: "On June 1, 2013, [East Calais was] converted to a Level 6 (6-hour) Remotely Managed Post Office under the direction of the Postmaster of the Plainfield Post Office."

There are plenty of fantastic postal operations all across Vermont. Hope to bring you some more stories from the area soon!

Utah CPUs: University Edition

Several university campuses in Utah maintain postal operations in the form of Contract Postal Units (CPUs). I was able to visit four such operations last November. These operations, as they are in other parts of the country, tend to reside in campus student centers and campus stores. Here's a quick tour, and a map:

Salt Lake City: University of Utah
The University of Utah, established in 1850, maintains a sizable campus east of downtown Salt Lake City. Its post office (Contract Postal Unit) is located in the University of Utah Campus Store. There is clear exterior signage (rarely a given), and the operation blends into the store with great paneling.

University of Utah post office/CPU

Orem: Utah Valley University CPU
40 minutes south of Salt Lake City is the city of Orem. It and Provo make for a sizable metro area unto themselves, so much so that Provo had (and still has!) a mail processing center. What is now Utah Valley University, in Orem, was founded in 1941 and is now the largest public college in the state. Its enrollment exceeds 33,000! The post office (CPU) for UVU is located in the Sorensen Student Center. There's no exterior signage but the CPU itself is photogenic. I was in and out quickly enough that parking in... let's just say a no-parking zone... at the entrance by the Outdoor Adventure Center wasn't an issue.

University Valley University post office/CPU

Provo: Brigham Young University CPU
Brigham Young University is a private university operated by the [Mormon] Church of Latter Day Saints. It is located just four miles southeast of UVU, and like UVU, BYU has an enrollment in excess of 33,000. BYU's Contract Postal Unit resides in the Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center:

Wilkinson Student Center, BYU
Brigham Young University post office/CPU

BYU Print and Mail operates the CPU at the Wilkinson Center, and also has an operation a half-mile north on East University Parkway. Photos of the Mail Services operation there were taken by Postlandia friend John Gallagher, and they can be found here (ext.) and here (int.).

Price: Utah State University Eastern CPU
Head from the developed regions of the Wasatch Front, which includes all the places we've seen thus far, toward the stunning vistas of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in eastern Utah, and you're likely to take the road through Helper and Price in Utah's Carbon County. The county is so-named for its coal deposits, though the area is also a sizable producer of natural gas. Utah State University Eastern is located in Price, and maintains an enrollment of 2,000. USU Eastern's Contract Postal Unit is informally known as "Eagle Station," and it is located just inside the N 300 E [street] entrance to the Purchasing/Police building. USU Eastern Purchasing/Police building
USU Eastern post office/CPU

Bonus—Logan: Utah State University
Postlandia friend Jimmy Emerson took a photo of the CPU at the Taggart Student Center at Utah State University's primary campus in Logan, Utah, back in 2009.

Utah State University post office/CPU

See you next time!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Generations of Post Offices in Elkhart, Indiana

In the far north of central Indiana, 15 miles east of South Bend, lies the city of Elkhart. With a population of 50,000 the city's roots lie with the Village of Pulaski; established in 1829, Pulaski consisted of "a Post Office, mill, and a few houses on the north side of the St. Joseph River." (Wikipedia)

George Crawford was the first Postmaster of Pulaski, serving from June 6, 1829 to January 1839, at which point he was succeeded by Nathan Helmick. After a rival town named Elkhart was established by Dr. Havilah Beardsley next to Pulaski, the post office was renamed Elkhart on March 14, 1839, with Nathan continuing to serve as Postmaster. Paul Petosky, in February 2017's PMCC Bulletin, presented this historic photo of Mr. Helmick and his wife, Susannah Ross; it was supplied by Steve Squier, their great-great-great grandson.

Nathan Helmick, first Postmaster of Elkhart, Indiana

The first building erected for postal use was located on West Jackson Blvd., a half block west of Main Street. Built in 1868, the building served for about two decades before being relocated. The building has been recently restored and is part of a private business today. Here is a view of the old building taken in 2012.

Elkhart, IN: Old, old post office

A sizable federal building was constructed just down the block from the historic 1868 post office. Several stores adjacent to the 1868 building, including "a bicycle shop, a fish market, and a shooting gallery," were demolished to make way for the new facility, which opened in 1905 (Elkhart Public Library). A National Register of Historic Places documentation form details the 1905 federal building further:

"The [historic] district boasts some especially fine Neoclassical Revival buildings from the early twentieth century. Outstanding is the former post office, since rehabilitated into a bank, completed in 1905 on the northwest corner of Main and Jackson, the northernmost point of the district. Solid and substantial, of limestone with a granite foundation, its restrained exterior exhibits a dentilled cornice and pediment over the main entrance, which is flanked by Ionic columns."

Below are a National Archives photo of the newly completed post office taken in 1905; and a photo of the building from 2012, in use as a PNC Bank.

Elkhart, IN: 1905 post office Elkhart, IN: 1905 post office, now PNC Bank

Five blocks south on Main Street a new post office was constructed during the mid-'60s. Occupied in April 1965, USPS pays $7.00 per square foot rent for this 31,000-square-foot facility.

Elkhart, Indiana post office

We end our Elkhart tour with a visit to Heart's Desire, an antique / collectible / arts and crafts store in which lies a friendly Contract Postal Unit (CPU).

Heart's Desire, Elkhart, Indiana

The store gets a Nice Touch Award for having multiple guidance lines on the floor to lead you from the front to your destination within the complex. Here's the point at which the yellow line delivers you to the restroom (let's not pause to consider how apt that might or might not be); the blue line brings you to the CPU.

Elkhart, Indiana: Heart's Desire CPU


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Heart of the White Mountains: Bretton Woods, NH

In the shadow of Mount Washington, at the start of the road to the famous Cog Railway, lies a historic resort that's more than a century old. In 1902 The Mount Washington Hotel opened its doors, and this corner of New England continues to serve as a winter sports destination. I got to visit the site on a wintry February day.

The building houses quite a bit of history.
In 1944, The Mount Washington hosted the Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference. Delegates from 44 nations convened, establishing the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, setting the gold standard at $35 an ounce and designating the United States dollar as the backbone of international exchange. The signing of the formal documents took place in the Gold Room, located off the Hotel Lobby and now preserved as an historic site.

For our purposes, the hotel is also home to a friendly and photogenic post office in the form of a Community Post Office (CPO), a subset of Contract Postal Unit (CPU). This means it's operated by a contractor, but offers most standard postal services at the same prices as an official Post Office.

You can read a bit more about the history of mail services here to the right of the window.

Bretton Woods, N. H. Post Office.

SEASON 1903.

Arrival and Departure of Mails.
• Close 7.00 a. m., 12.30 and 10.00 p. m., via B. & M. All mountain houses (except Crawfords, Boston and way stations, New England States, New York, Middle and Western States.
• Close 8.00 a. m., 4.00 and 10.15 p. m., via Maine Central railroad. Crawfords, Bartlett, Glen, Jackson, Intervale, North Conway, all Maine, Nova Scotia and Boston.
• Close 9.00 a. m. and 4.30 p. m. Summit Mount Washington, N. H.
• Close 12.00 m., via Maine Central Railroad. Direct Western and Canadian, Twin Mountain, Whitefield, Jefferson, Lancaster, Colebrook, N. H., St. Johnsbury and Burlington, Vt.
• Close 8.00 p. m., Direct New York, Middle, Western and Southern States and foreign.

• 9.00 a. m., 4.00, 6.00, 8.00 and 9.00 p. m., from Boston and New England States.
• 9.00 a. m., 4.45 and 7.45 p. m., from New York, Middle, Western and Southern States and foreign.
• 9.00 a. m., 12.30 and 5.30 p. m., from all Maine, Nova Scotia, Intervale, North Conway and Crawfo rds.
• 12.00 m., from Burlington, Montpelier, Concord, and local New Hampshire.
• 5.00 p. m., from the West and Canada.
• 9.00 a. m. and 4.00 p. m., Summit Mt. Washington, N. H.
What service!

The history of the Bretton Woods post office is complicated, as detailed on USPS's Postmaster Finder. Originally established as the Mount Pleasant House post office in Grafton County on July 24, 1884, the operation was iscontinued on October 1, 1887. The operation was reestablished on July 10, 1888, in Coos County ("CO-aahs" -- imagine the word cooperate); renamed Bretton Woods in October 31, 1902; discontinued March 31, 1943 and once again reestablished July 6, 1944. The official United States Post Office was discontinued on February 11, 1966, but was finally reestablished as a contract facility in the form of a Rural Branch with the parent post office of Twin Mountain. Postlandia friend Kelvin Kindahl sheds further light on more recent developments: Rural branches were designated as Community Post Offices (CPOs) in 1977; and with the advent of POStPlan the administrative office for Bretton Woods was changed to Whitefield as of Feb. 23, 2013."

I love the classic wall-mounted blue collection box.

A really cool piece of the operation's history can be found in the 1943 postal scale. It has multiple 20-pound weights you can apply to weigh even rather heavy packages.

'Til next time!