Tag: Post Offices

  • Old Post Office, Homestead

    Post Office

    Ten years ago this building was abandoned, and the jungle was rapidly swallowing it (here’s a Street View image from Google Maps). Now it’s beautifully restored and in use.

    Addendum: According to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, this post office was built in 1912, with James Knox Taylor listed as architect; but since he was Supervising Architect of the Department of the Treasury, we don’t know how much he had to do with the design. It is certainly true that the designs coming from his office had a certain similarity, implying that he was the dictator of taste if not the architect of the details.

    Front of the building
    That white van pulled in just before old Pa Pitt got into position for this picture. Sometimes we think it might be worth our while to invest in a tow truck.

    Yesterday we visited McKeesport, a city that has suffered much and probably still has more to suffer. But when our frequent correspondent “von Hindenburg” bemoaned the tragedy of McKeesport, we promised to lift his spirits with some pictures from Homestead, another Mon Valley city (technically a borough) where the news is more cheerful. We’ll be seeing quite a few pictures from both places over the next few days or weeks, and the comparison is instructive.

    Both cities lost their reason for being with the end of heavy industry. In McKeesport, the politicians who had presided over the city’s decline had only one strategy for revival: bring back heavy industry. It was never going to happen. In Homestead, politicians seem to have realized that, if the place had a future, it would be as a bedroom community and shopping area for metropolitan Pittsburgh. The gigantic Waterfront development that replaced the Homestead Works brought in money. Father Pitt criticized it for being isolated from the rest of Homestead, but the prosperity has seeped through anyway, and now the Eighth Avenue business district, once nearly deserted, is filling up with brewpubs and smoothie bars and axe-throwing emporia and other signs of prosperity.

    Homestead is far from free of problems. But it is beginning to look like an attractive place to live again. McKeesport has what the real-estate agents call potential, but right now it’s definitely a fixer-upper.

  • South Hills Branch Post Office, Dormont

    South Hills Branch Post Office

    As far as the Post Office is concerned, Dormont is “Pittsburgh,” as is everything with a 152– ZIP code. This dignified post office is typical of many branches built in the Franklin Roosevelt era. The bronze lanterns are especially fine.


    The cornerstone lists the supervising architect, the supervising engineer, and the architect. Louis A. Simon was responsible for many federal projects; he created standard plans that would then be adapted by other architects to the individual situation. Carroll H. Pratt seems to have been a New York architect who, aside from Rooseveltian post offices like this one, designed homes for the wealthy.

    Now here is a little bit of Pittsburgh lore too arcane for most Pittsburghers, but not for old Pa Pitt. Before there were ZIP codes, there were postal codes in big cities that referred to the individual postal station. A letter going to the South Hills in Pittsburgh, for example, would be addressed to Pittsburgh 16. When ZIP codes were assigned, the old Pittsburgh postal codes were retained as the last two digits, so that Pittsburgh 16 became ZIP code 15216.

    Those old postal codes were in alphabetical order, so the original ZIP codes for Pittsburgh are also in alphabetical order. Of course you have to know the names of the branch post offices to decipher the order. For example, Lawrenceville was Pittsburgh 1 (now 15201), because it is Arsenal station to the post office. The South Side was Pittsburgh 3 (15203), because it is Carson station. Pittsburgh 21, Wilkinsburg, was the last in the series; ZIP codes 15222 and above are later creations.