TAKOMA ARCHIVES • BY DIANA KOHN
The numerical notation for today’s date has a familiar look: 2/09/12. Yep, it’s our zip code, which makes today Takoma Park Zip Code Day.
Although most Takoma residents in Maryland use 20912 in our addresses, it wasn’t always the case. When zip codes were instituted in 1963, these residents were included under the 20012 designation that is still in place for the District of Columbia. In 1983, the city of Takoma Park was transferred to Silver Spring control. Takoma Park residents were reassigned to the 20912 code, which we share with some Silver Spring residents. Since many computer databases are programmed to translate 20912 as “Silver Spring,” some companies insist we live in Silver Spring.
To further complicate matters, zip codes are assigned for administrative reasons rather than geographical ones, so some residents of Takoma Park, notably along Piney Branch Road, find themselves with a 20910 zip code (including Takoma Park Middle School).
As a community straddling the boundary between Maryland and the District of Columbia, Takoma Park has always had a confusing identity. When the first post office was established on Dec 6, 1886, three years after Takoma was founded, it was located on the District side. It made sense, given that mail was delivered by train, and the station was on the DC side.
Issac Thomas’ general store was closest to the station so he was appointed postmaster. One year later, “Park” was added to the name. The store, located near the site of today’s Metro entrance, was sold to George and Pamela Favorite a few years later. Pamela became the official postmistress, one of many ladies bearing this newly-coined job title.
The fire of 1895 destroyed Favorite’s store along with three other businesses along the tracks. Pamela opened a new two-story, balconied store two blocks east on Carroll Street, still in DC. Subsequently the post office returned to the old location near the railroad crossing, joining Takoma Hall and the bowling alley along Cedar Street.
The District connection is reflected in official postcards from the first half of the 20th century. Familiar landmarks such Bliss Electrical School, the Washington Sanitarium (and the college), and even Walter Reed Hospital are identified as Takoma Park DC.
Finally, in 1957 the city of Takoma Park successfully lobbied for a Maryland post office at 7117 Maple Avenue, just over the boundary line. Nonetheless, it remained a substation of the District, explaining why we fell under the 20012 zip code in 1963 until the switch to Silver Spring in 1983.
The Carroll Avenue branch closed in the 1990s, and was eventually purchased by Liz Lerman for the Dance Exchange. Residents were without a local post office until the current space at 6909 Laurel Avenue was converted from the old hardware store. Ironically, this post office has a 20913 zip code, applying to the post office boxes available for rent.
Technically, I guess this means we can also celebrate Zip Code Day next year on February 9, 2013.
Photos courtesy Historic Takoma.