In these tough times, the uncertainty around the speed and reliability of the USPS and current and planned changes to it have many people worried. Living in D.C., we get to see both local and Federal postal operations, so here are some of the components of the service that we appreciate:
Letter Carriers deliver first-class mail, bulk mail, and packages in all seasons and weather conditions.
Unpredictable events can be hazardous for postal workers. In 2001, just a week after 9/11, there were anthrax attacks through contaminated mail. Two of the five people that were killed in the attacks worked at the Brentwood Mail Processing facility in Washington, DC: Joseph P. Curseen, Jr. and Thomas L. Morris, Jr. The building has been named after them and a plaque flagged by benches sits out front. With the current pandemic, a sign noting the heroism of front line workers, including those that deliver mail despite the pandemic, adorns the building.
City Post Office Building
The Joseph Curseen Junior and Thomas Morris Junior Processing Distribution Center is currently D.C.’s main post office but there are about 60 post office branches and facilities in D.C.. The City Post Office Building, across from Union Station, was constructed in 1914 and was D.C.’s main post office from 1914 through 1986. The main part of the building is now the Smithsonian Postal Museum, with a small post office remaining in one corner.
We’re all familiar with the “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” motto of the Post Office. Less familiar is this quote on the top of either end of the City Post Office Building. It’s from Charles W. Eliot, slightly modified by President Wilson before it was carved on the building.
Old vs New vs Newer Post Office Federal headquarters
The Old Post Office towers over Pennsylvania Avenue, with Ben Franklin standing proudly in front of it (he was the first Postmaster General, appointed by the Continental Congress in 1775).
New Post Office
The New Post Office was built across the street from the Old Post Office in 1934. It’s a grand building, designed after the Place Vendome. It was the headquarters of the U.S. Post Office Department from 1935 to 1971, when the Post Office Department became the USPS. The building is now named the William Jefferson Clinton Building, headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency. If you look above some of the doorways, you can still see the signage for the original Post Office Department. There’s also still a small branch office, the Benjamin Franklin Station, on one side of the front of the building.
The Post Office Department was replaced by the United States Postal Service in 1971. It is headquartered in L’Enfant Plaza.
National Association of Letter Carriers
The National Association of Letter Carriers was founded in 1889, and since then has been “defending the rights of letter carriers before abusive supervisors, unfair presidential administrations and indifferent Congresses.” Its headquarters are right near the Capitol at 100 Indiana Avenue. Currently there is protective plywood covering the ground floor windows, a sign of the current times and cautionary measures some building management has installed.
Protests against USPS cutbacks have been happening all over the country. In D.C., the main location has been by the Old Post Office, currently the Trump Hotel.
The postal service is an odd mixture of new and old. E-mail and delivery services have replaced many functions, but mail is still a vital service for many people and many types of transactions.
Addendum – quirky mailboxes
This isn’t a mailbox but it looks like one. The next time you are walking near its address, look for it. Our current times may make many wish for prayers in addition to mail.
It’s time for our fifth Community Post! Please submit two images by Tuesday September 1st that were taken sometime this summer – encapsulating what you saw, thought, or felt during these unprecedented times. Include a caption or a description of what the photos are about or why they are meaningful to you. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org The post with all the community photos will be posted on September 4th.