PennDesign student goes postal to chronicle American life

Gone Postal

Evan Kalish

Due to billions of dollars in losses, the federal government is threatening to close nearly 3,000 post offices across the country, but post office enthusiasts like School of Design graduate student Evan Kalish are doing what they can to try to keep them open, or at least chronicle their impact on American life.

Since 2008, Kalish has visited, photographed and written about the life and, in some cases, the death of U.S. post offices in his blog, “Going Postal: A Photo Journal of Post Offices and Places.”

During his travels, Kalish has visited post offices located in a wide variety of buildings, including one inside a bagel shop, a few in people’s homes and others tucked in the back of small town general stores. He says his favorite post office building is in the northwestern Pennsylvania town of Greenville. Built in the 1930s, the massive, stately granite structure with a marble interior covers almost an entire city block.

Kalish has visited post offices in almost every state—more than 2,700 so far, with the list growing almost daily. In between his classes in the Master of Urban Spatial Analytics program, Kalish makes time to visit post offices throughout the Northeast.

“I discovered if I made specific efforts to visit places one would not ordinarily consider going, I would have further memorable experiences,” he says, “like scenery you would not have seen, or the opportunity to meet somebody who could tell you about the history of a small town in rural Wyoming.”

His interest led him to begin collecting signs from some shuttered post offices. In his apartment, he has one from the closed-down Wissinoming post office in Philadelphia. It, he says, along with one from the Malone, Wash., post office, will eventually be housed permanently in the Postmark Collector’s Club in Bellevue, Ohio.

“There are plenty more [signs] around the country that could undoubtedly use a good home, which might otherwise go in the wood chipper,” says Kalish.

Originally published on December 1, 2011