Neither snow, wind nor slush stayed the postal officials at the new Friendship Postal Station, 4001 Wisconsin Ave. NW, when they opened their doors Sunday to show off the station to area residents, according to D.C. Postmaster William H. Gordon.
At an open house Sunday, residents were able to tour the new facility, which includes indoor and outdoor parking lots for customer, employe and mail delivery vehicles, more spacious working areas for employes, ramps and bars for handicapped customers and a lobby that is open 24 hours a day and contains a self-service postal center. According to Gordon, the new facility has meant consolidated and improved service for the Friendship Heights, Cleveland Park and Georgetown areas.
Built on 2.4-acres where the old Friendship Heights post office stood, the 45,650-square-foot facility cost $2.5 million. It houses 240 employes and serves more than 49,500 individual and business residences.
The dual-level, brick and glass structure was completed in October after eight months of construction and five years of planning.
Planning for the new building began in 1974 after a study by the D.C. Postmaster's Office determined the old facility was too small to serve growing needs of the neighborhood.
"Getting any new building under construction isn't easy," said Gordon. "We had to make sure the building was placed in the proper geographic area, acquire the land and meet the architectural and construction standards of the Fine Arts Commission, as well as local environmental standards."
Gordon added that postal officials tried to involve residents in the planning and to consider residents' concerns about traffic and noise.
The community has been pleased by cooperation from the post office staff in working out noise and parking problems, said City Council member Polly Shackleton, (D-Ward 3).
The new post office is 15 times larger than the old one. On the first floor are an administrative area, workroom for the Friendship Station, (Zip code 20016) and employe lunchroom. Work space for Georgetown (ZIP code 20007) and Cleveland Park (ZIP code 20008) and indoor parking for mail trucks are on the lower level.
The large turnout Sunday was welcomed by postal workers and their families.
"Many people think that all a mailman does is carry around a sack of mail. It's good for people to see the steps involved in processing, sorting and delivering mail, said Beverly Gillette, the wife of a postal employe. "I've been in many post offices and this is the cleanest one I've ever seen."
As the tours ended, guests gathered in the employe lunchroom for coffee, punch and cookies.
"What a big improvement," said Barbara Sutton, of Newark Street NW. "It's attractive, well-lit, safe and warm."
Herb Ernst, of Connecticut Avenue NW, liked the convenience of having kept 24-hour lobby service. But he wasn't pleased with the building's appearance. It's "ugly -- and could have been better planned," he said.
"It looks good, and it should make life here more efficient," said Vince Hutchins, of Quebec Street NW. He brought his five children along for the tour so they could learn first-hand how a post office functions.
"A complete change for the better" is how postal clerk Raye Kemp described her new surroundings. "A lovely lunchroom, and cleaner, larger working areas have improved employe morale."
Friendship carrier Ronnie Reece said better working conditions lead directly to better mail delivery. "Now we get out on the streets earlier so our customers receive their mail faster," he said.
The station is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.