The postman’s unofficial creed — “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” — applies just as much to postal patrons in the North Fork’s small hamlets as it does to postal employees themselves.
The facilities are veritable meetinghouses where residents travel not only to pick up and send mail, but to converse with neighbors and gossip about town goings-on — no matter the weather outside. “Post offices are a hub of these little communities,” said local historian Richard Wines. Read on as we explore six of the region’s smallest post offices.
Constructed and dedicated by residents as a war memorial on Memorial Day 1949, the East Marion post office has a large granite and brass monument on its front lawn honoring 15 townspeople who died in World War I. Inside, on the colonial-style building’s walls, two brass plaques commemorate 45 residents who served in World War II, six who fought in the Korean War and 10 who served in Vietnam.
Erecting the East Marion post office was a community effort: locals raised $7,000 and received a $1,000 loan to construct the building, according to a 1993 Suffolk Times article.
This facility is Long Island’s smallest and is comparable to the size of a “one-car garage,” said Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association. The building itself was “a gift of the residents of South Jamesport,” said Mr. Wines, adding that the residents “in 1902 donated the land, materials and volunteer labor to build the structure so that the community could have its own post office. Since then, it has been a source of community pride and identity.” The South Jamesport facility doesn’t offer rural delivery, Mr. Wines said, so customers must pick up their mail at the post office.
Situated near the railroad tracks in a modest white building, the Peconic post office operated as a store called Jefferson’s in the mid-19th century and still “has a real old-time feel to it,” said postmaster Frank Pitagno. “A lot of the charm of this post office is that people will come over to the window and say hi,” Mr. Pitagno said. “The people here are farmers; they’re up early.” Like many other North Fork post offices, Peconic has antique brass postal boxes with combination locks instead of keys. It’s a nice touch, but there is a downside to all that authenticity: “When they break, we can’t buy parts to fix them,” Mr. Pitagno said.
Built in 1907, the white clapboard building that houses the Laurel post office once operated as a general store and fueling station with two gas pumps outside. The hamlet’s first post office opened in 1898, Mr. Wines said, and was located in a room at the Leander Terry house, situated on the southwest corner of Main Road and Laurel Lane. Oliver Atwood, the facility’s first postmaster, built the current Laurel post office just west of the town line on land he acquired from the Fanning family, Mr. Wines said.
Located on a stretch of land just steps from the water, this one-story, vinyl-sided post office is Long Island’s second-smallest, behind South Jamesport. It doesn’t offer rural postal delivery — meaning its roughly 300 customers must pick up their mail there. Letters and magazines are stuffed in antique brass postal boxes that were saved from the wreckage of a 1993 fire that ravaged the building and forced residents to travel to the Cutchogue post office to pick up their mail for several months while it was reconstructed.
After mailing a package at the red-shingled Orient post office, customers can head next door to the Idle Hour Ice Cream Parlor to get a scoop of their favorite frozen treat — the two share a building. “We have a very friendly atmosphere here,” said postmaster Lalta Singh, who’s known as “Charlie” to customers. “It’s a small community and everybody knows everybody.” That includes pets. In the 1990s, a friendly cat named Boots made himself at home during the post office’s operating hours, said Carol Gillooly, Orient resident and Suffolk Times community columnist. “Every day he used to curl up in the ‘outgoing mail’ box,” she said. “Boots was the ambassador of the post office.”