Grimshawes Post Office
From 1878 until 1953, this 5' by 6' shack was the "Smallest U.S. Post Office." Afterwards used for ticket and postcard sales, it has been restored and is now open to the public as a popular tourist attraction.
Backstory and Context
Originally known as the Whiteside Cove Post Office, this office opened on May 28, 1878, and was run by Elizabeth Grimshawe (or Grimshaw) until October, when local miller Thomas Grimshawe, Sr. became Postmaster. Some sources say that his son, Dr. Thomas Grimshawe, Jr., succeeded him as Postmaster in 1902; however, according to research done by the Postal Service, Elizabeth F. Grimshawe was Postmaster from 1893 until 1911. On September 11, 1909, the Whiteside Cove office was renamed Grimshawes Post Office after its first Postmasters. Bessie Pickelsimer (later Bessie Pickelsimer Dillard) ran the office from 1911 to 1914. Warren S. Alexander served as Postmaster from 1914 until 1937, when his wife, Lena, took over. The office was moved one mile in 1946 to land owned by the Alexander’s daughter, Mae Alexander Passemore, and she ran it from the following year until 1952. Thomas E. Picklesimer served as Acting Postmaster until the office was shuttered in 1953 due to a statute, enacted by President Eisenhower, closing all third-class post offices. (Offices were categorized based on postmaster income, which was, in turn, based on revenue.) It was then relocated to the top of Whiteside Mountain and used to sell tickets and postcards. It was moved back to Whiteside Cove Road in 1976 and then to its present location in 1999, when it was restored and given a new roof. It has been open to the public since and remains a popular, if simple (the inside's main attractions are a worn flag and a small chair), attraction. The title of "Smallest U.S. Post Office" is now held by the office in Ochopee, Florida.
The first post offices date back to 1775, when they first became under control of the new American government. By the time the Grimshawes Post Office was founded in 1878, there were over 38,000 post offices; this number peaked in 1901 with almost 77,000. (1878 was also just over 30 years after the first American postage stamps were issued.) Grimshawes was just one of many small post offices throughout the nation before the advent of Rural Free Delivery. While free city delivery began during the Civil War, by 1890, the rural 65% of the American population still had to make a trip to the nearest post office to get their mail. The first RFD routes, including several in North Carolina, were established in 1896. Rural routes cost the post office more to operate and sustain (a $40 million deficit in 1914 alone), but Congress was committed to providing equal services to all Americans at an affordable price. A compromise was reached; routes were standardized and simplified and RFD was denied to patrons within city limits or ¼ mile of a post office. This caused the number of small post offices – especially 4th class offices, often part of other businesses – to plummet, as many rural citizens greatly preferred home delivery over post office pickup. In fact, one postal employee reported to The Boston Sunday Globe that RFD, “cut down the cases of suicide and insanity among farmers’ wives fully 50 percent.”[qtd.15] However, Grimshawes’ patrons kept their office. Various services – such as Parcel Post – greatly increased the usefulness of rural post offices and carriers. Now, customers could receive packages, such as Sears & Roebuck catalog orders, of up to 70 pounds through the mail rather than through an express agency that often only shipped to railroad depots. The year 1953, when Grimshawes Post Office was finally closed, saw the largest single-year drop in post offices since World War I. (However, the number of employees changed very little – meaning the terminated offices were small, with employee losses mostly matched by gains at larger offices.) Today, the United States Postal Service, the semi-independent successor to the Post Office Department, still faces changes in balancing equal urban and rural service with profitability and efficiency; against Government Accountability Office recommendations, it still tries to avoid closing small, local post offices.
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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grimshawes_Post_Office,_Whiteside_Cove,_NC_(31682865617).jpg; Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States [CC0]