What is Westminster, Maryland’s claim to fame?
Besides being my childhood hometown, it was where county-wide Rural Free Delivery began on December 20, 1899. Mailboxes from the era are contained in both the collections of the Historical Society of Carroll County and the Carroll County Farm Museum. The historic Westminster Post Office on Main Street, in front of which the RFD Maryland Historical Commision marker stands, was vacated for a charmless mass-produced postal building on the outskirts of town in 1998. The 1934 structure dominated upper Main Street and even though it was purchased by a design firm in 2000, the activity the spot generated is now noticeably absent. Like many US Post Offices of the area, it spoke to the architecture surrounding it, and is just slightly different than its sisters in other towns.
The New York Times (March 7, 2013) wrote about the potential closure and sale of many historic post offices, including those in Princeton, Berkeley, Bethesda, and the Bronx. Those without protected status, such as the Virginia Beach post office, are at risk of being demolished for development. At the very least, the sale of post offices leads to diminished civic traffic, which can hurt those main streets that are already withered. One consequence of the closure of the downtown Westminster post office was that those with unstable living arrangements and no car lost their ability to reach their P.O. Box – it practically wrenched a piece of stability from those living on the edge. The new post office is not accessible on foot.
The mail isn’t what it used to be. I don’t need to get the mail on Saturday – every other day would be fine (of course, that means less employed mail carriers – who’s paying the price?). But let’s not destroy those gifts to the public in preserving the system. We cannot rebuild them.
Want to get involved? Check out NYU professor Steve Hutkins’s project Save the Post Office.