Sunday, February 28, 2016

Let's Go: Durango!

Frankly, I first knew of the name Durango by the Dodge SUV that used to have terrible advertisements ca. 2000. My, how we've grown.

So: Durango. The name means "water town" in Spanish, a name chosen by the dominant railway in the area during the late 1800s: the Denver & Rio Grande Railway. Previously the town had been known as Animas City, and its post office was established the year Colorado became a state: 1876. Durango's post office was established 1880. (Animas City's post office was discontinued 1885.) Durango presently has a population of ~17,000, and it's the largest city in southwest Colorado. Tourism is heavy during the summer and hotels are cheaper during the winter.

One early location for the post office was 975 Main Ave. Quote Durango's Historic Walking Tour:
Built in 1892, the four-story French Second Empire Structure characterized by the mansard roof has a varied history as a saloon, post office, bank and hotel. References to French culture were often included in the Victorian commercial architecture as an allusion to the continental sophistication associated with the French. El Rancho. In 1915 at 10th and Main, Colorado native Jack Dempsey “The Manassa Mauler” knocks down Andy Maller in 10 rounds and won $50. In 1919 Dempsey becomes World Heavy Weight Champion.
Here's a Google Street View image of the building from 2012:

Between 1928 and 1929 a sizable Federal Building was built one block north of the private 1892 site. This building served as the post office for 49 years until construction of the present post office site. It is known as the Old Main Post Office / Professional Building. The building bears a 1928 cornerstone and historic plaque.

Here is a photo of the building upon its completion in 1929 (courtesy National Archives) and a photo taken from a similar location by yours truly in 2016.

Durango, CO: Newly completed [Old Main] post office (1929):

Durango, CO: Old Main Post Office (2016):

Durango, CO: Old Main Post Office sign:

Durango, CO: Old Main Post Office cornerstone:

Durango, CO: Old Main Post Office (recent) plaque:

Which leads us to today. Durango's current main post office was constructed in 1979. USPS's Owned Facilities Report actually lists the building three times: as an Administrative Post Office (APO) [meaning its Postmaster also manages surrounding post offices], as a Processing and Distribution Center/Facility (PDC/PDF) [it used to process mail], and as a Service Hub Facility (SHF) [a place where mail gets transferred from trucks to other trucks to go somewhere else]. Mail gets trucked to Durango from other locations in southwest Colorado and then actually brought to [Santa Fe and then to?] Albuquerque—215 miles away—for actual processing. And then vice versa. No wonder the mail is so damned slow these days.

The 14,000-square-foot facility is located on a much larger plot of land. The operation is located adjacent to the train tracks for the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The building is standard-issue long-and-low for this era of postal facility, but it retains some character. There is a hand-carved/painted sign out front and a neo-post office mural spanning the area above the counter inside. (Alas, I showed up for my postmark at 5:29 PM and the post office closes at 5:30; I figured I wouldn't throw too many requests their way at the time. If anyone knows of a photo please send it my way!)

Durango, CO post office

Durango, CO post office sign

Finally, the present postal footprint in Durango includes a Contract Postal Unit (CPU) at Fort Lewis College. Located, as nearly always, in the basement of the college's Student Union, this trip was more treacherous than most given the fresh-falling snow and the author's amateur footwear at the time.

Durango, CO: Fort Lewis College CPU [ext.; Student Union entrance]

Durango, CO: Fort Lewis College CPU ['post office']

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Postal Summary

Welcome to Going Postal's sixth annual year-end summary. During 2015 I visited 179 new active postal facilities across four states, bringing my grand total to 6,595. Actually, it's by far and away my lowest yearly count since we started ... what having a full-time job and doing work for multiple other organizations does to you. As always, for the active and curious follower, here are the summaries for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Woot!

I visited as many as 39 post offices in one day. State by state, counting only new, distinct active postal locations (including CPUs) for the year:

Pennsylvania: 74 post offices
Focus/Foci: Rural corners of northern PA

Ohio: 46
North-central Ohio and Cleveland suburbs

Connecticut: 38
Northeast and south-central CT

New York: 21
Southern Tier

In addition to these I also visited discontinued / suspended post offices for documentation purposes as well as historic former post office buildings.

Among privately-operated Contract Postal Units was the operation at the student center at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio:

Kent, OH: Kent State University CPU:
Kent State University Contract Postal Unit, 2015

Former sites visited this year include the grand old post office of Hornell, New York, which celebrates its centennial in 2016. Well, I suppose it would be celebrated were the structure not presently relegated to the municipal equivalent of a paperweight.

Hornell, NY: former post office:
Hornell, NY: former post office

Hornell, NY: former post office cornerstone

There had been a post office in Barton, New York until it was washed away by flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and never replaced. It was around here somewhere:

Barton, NY:
Barton, NY

Despite some yearning for what we've lost I did find several wonderfully photogenic post offices this year, including that in Milan, Pennsylvania, made all the more stunning during the peak of an August sunset:

Milan, Pennsylvania post office:
Milan, PA post office, 2015

Count-wise, I reached a modest milestone this year. My 6,500th post office was New Riegel, Ohio.

New Riegel, OH post office: New Riegel, OH post office

See y'all next year! Well, this year. Had a bit of a late start on this post, I suppose.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Postal Tour: Hoboken, NJ

Ah, Hoboken. In addition to being the worst-selling version of Barbie's beau in history (Hobo Ken), Hoboken is a bustling city that lies just across the river from lower Midtown Manhattan. The city is one of the densest in the country, with approximately 53,000 people crammed in its 1.28-square-mile land area (about 65 people per acre). The density of the city's post offices reflects its population: Hoboken houses a main post office, three classified (USPS-staffed) postal stations, and one Contract Postal Unit. No post office lies further than 0.7 miles from its nearest neighbor.

Here's an aerial view of the southern two-thirds of the city, with its post offices highlighted.
(Photo: D. Ramey Logan.)

Aerial view of Hoboken with post offices

And here's a map!

Hoboken Post Office Map

Hoboken's main post office, dedicated May 16, 2003 as the Frank Sinatra Post Office Building, was constructed during the early 1930s. This is not a New Deal post office, as it was constructed in 1931. All of Hoboken is covered by the 07030 ZIP code, and the author believes that all carriers for the city are based here. Address: 89 River St.

Hoboken Main Post Office

Hoboken Main Post Office

The land housing the 33,000-square-foot building has been owned by the U.S. since the late 1800s; Hoboken's former post office occupied the same plot of land as does its 1930s contemporary. The Hoboken Historical Museum has multiple great images of this old building, including this one, reproduced here:

Hoboken's three USPS-staffed (classified) post offices: Washington Street Station, Uptown Station, and West Side Station, are each small retail spaces, measuring 803, 1,101, and 1,018 square feet, respectively. Each has its own postmark / hand-cancellation.

Hoboken, NJ: Washington Street Station (734 Washington St.; since 1946)

Hoboken, NJ: Uptown Station (57 14th St.; since 1957)

Hoboken, NJ: West Side Station (502 Grand St.; since 1982)

(Did you notice the ADA handicapped lift to the left there?)

This brings us to the Castle Point Contract Postal Unit (CPU) at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, a campus atop a palisade with lovely views of New York. The CPU is located on the first floor of the Wesley J. Howe Center. It's by the entrance at the right side of this photo:

Wesley J. Howe Center

The postal window is at the end of a corridor surrounded by banks of P.O. Boxes.

Here's the view from back outside:

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hammond, Montana

In the Big Sky plains of southeastern Montana lie several post offices along a lonely artery: U.S. 212, which winds its way through hundreds of miles of rural landscape from the Little Bighorn Battlefield along I-90 through to Minneapolis, by way of Wyoming and the entire width of South Dakota. Along the 60-mile stretch of the road in Montana southeast of the town of Broadus, a county seat, lie three post offices: Boyes, Hammond, and Arzada. When I say post offices lie along the road I don't mean that you'll see towns; you may see three or four buildings along a road, one of which is a functioning post office. The speed limit doesn't even drop at these points. Blink and you will miss them.

This is not to say that these post offices are not worthwhile; au contraire, they serve ranchers living miles away along dirt back roads. This is why these post offices tend to be found at intersections of U.S. 212 with what would seem to be dusty trails to nowhere. Hammond's is found between Crow Creek Road and S Rd. Here's a map of the community:

Hammond, MT annotated map

Since there are no addresses in the community, USPS's Leased Facility Report states a rather unusual address for the post office: "S OF HIGHWAY 212". To be fair, this is actually the only structure on the south side of Highway 212 in Hammond. The post office was purpose-built (date unknown; missing from USPS Leased Facilities Report) on a 10,000-square-foot plot owned by a local landowner (address: a P.O. box) for the modest sum of $1,825 per year.

The Hammond and Boyes post offices are oddities: due to the fact that either a) their workload surpasses four hours a day or b) they happen to be far enough away from the nearest larger post office, each now rates as a six-hour facility under USPS's POStPlan. While thousands of post offices have had their hours reduced across the country, these two post office actually increased from four-hour-a-day to six-hour-a-day operations!

The design of the post office building itself is standard for a class of generic small post office buildings constructed several years back before the Big Sky District of USPS had been consolidated into the Dakotas District. Standard size, standard layout, standard colors, standard signage. Sadly, this means that the remote post offices in this corner of the country are not the most photogenic.

Hammond, MT post office

However, look across the street (i.e., to the north side of Highway 212) and you will see what I love to find: the former site of the post office, uninhabited but authentic through and through.

Former post office, Hammond, MT


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Eureka! [Springs, Arkansas]

One of the most interesting towns I've had the pleasure of visiting was way off the beaten path. Located about an hour's drive east of Bentonville, Arkansas and an hour southwest of Branson, Missouri, Eureka Springs is a most unexpected surprise if you're just passing through. The town has a population of 2,000 but the cozy-yet-bustling Main Street will have you thinking the community is much larger.

The highlight of the community is its vibrant commercial district but a large attraction is the Thorncrown Chapel, which has been noted as extraordinary in various travel guides. There's also a railway museum!

Eureka Springs railway museum train

I will be the first to admit that this place ain't too easy to navigate:

Eureka Springs map with post office

This is largely due to the fact that it is built on a unique swath of mountainous terrain, its roads winding around hills and cliffs, with some buildings having multiple entrances from different floors to different streets. All road intersections occur at bizarre oblique angles. The town was, of course, built around springs that had been heralded by its initial settlers as magical. The rumors had so spread that at one point during the late 19th century (according to Wikipedia, I couldn't find the census statistics) the city was Arkansas's second largest (with only Little Rock being bigger).

How this town was built I'm still amazed. Buildings were built on steep slopes, into hills, above and through ridiculously interesting rock formations... This is not at all unusual there:

House in Eureka Springs

And believe you me, Eureka Springs definitely earns its nickname of "The Stair-Step Town."

Stone staircase in Eureka Springs

My favorite part of the city was Spring Street. No Mickey D's here; the street is flanked with enough stores of artisinal vendors to make a hipster from Brooklyn jealous.

Basin Spring Park is a unique venue with stunning exposed rock walls and artwork and sculptures around every corner.

Ah, yes, the post office! Eureka Springs's post office was established October 21, 1879 and has been housed at its current site for most of that time. The Eureka Springs post office is located a block off the Spring Street drag and was built in 1916 with federal Treasury Department funds. The stately building has old-style P.O. boxes. This said, renovations have been undertaken. Regardless, it's good to see that this building is still in service.

Eureka Springs post office

Eureka Springs post office cornerstone

Eureka Springs post office interior

Until next time,