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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Silver Spring in Montgomery County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Blair Mansion: Silver Spring / Blair Station Post Office

TRANSORMA/TRANSFORMA © 2005

 
 
The Blair Mansion: Silver Spring </b>(Panel 1) image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2009
1. The Blair Mansion: Silver Spring (Panel 1)
Inscription. [Panel 1:]
Blair Mansion: Silver Spring

Prior to the development of modern Silver Spring, this immediate area was a bucolic, rural landscape in a portion of Montgomery County then known as Sligo. The property was owned by Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), who also owned sections of Takoma Park and Washington, D.C. that encompassed over 1,000 acres. Blair used this area as an escape from the summer heat of his work and his home on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., which is known today as Blair House. While exploring the property in 1842, Blair and his daughter, Elizabeth (1818-1906), discovered a mica-filled spring that sparkled silver. Taken by the beauty of the area, Blair decided to build a rural retreat near the spring and to call his home “Silver Spring”. This summer escape eventually gave name to the entire community of Silver Spring. Blair built a three-story mansion that consisted of 20 rooms, 4 baths, 9 fireplaces, 2 kitchens, and a wine cellar. He moved to his house permanently after is retirement in 1854 and lived out the rest of his life in Silver Spring. The Blair Mansion was inherited by Samuel Phillips Lee (1812-1897) through his marriage to Elizabeth. As the community of Silver Spring continued to grow in the 20th century, the Lee family began to develop portions of the Blair
Blair Station Post Office </b>(Panel 2) image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2009
2. Blair Station Post Office (Panel 2)
property. After 112 years, the Blair Mansion was demolished in 1954 for expansion of the adjacent Blair Station Post Office.

[The panel text over-lies a photograph of the Blair Mansion from the turn of the 20th Century.]

[Panel 2:]
Blair Station Post Office

An over-scaled postage cancellation pattern was incorporated into the plaza’s paving design as a symbolic reference to the former Blair Station Post office.

Background

The Blair Station Post Office that stood on this site was built in 1949, with additions in 1954. This Post Office represented the tremendous growth of Silver Spring after World war II and played an essential role in the history of the United States postal system. Due to the large volume of mail handled at this facility, which was at one time more than any other Post OfficE in the country, this office was home to the first successful trial of the automated mail-handling machine called the TRANSORMA, which took place in 1957. This acronym stood for TRANsportation, SORting, Marchand, and Andriersen (the last two represented its Dutch inventors). The machine weighed almost 15 tons and stood 13 feet tall and occupied an entire room. It was operated by five key punchers and could sort 15,000 letters into 300 chutes in an hour. This compared with 7,500 letters into 75 chutes an hour by hand. The
TRANSORMA/TRANSFORMA - "Art Glass Wall" </b>(Panel 3) image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2009
3. TRANSORMA/TRANSFORMA - "Art Glass Wall" (Panel 3)
successful testing of the TRANSORMA forever changed the way mail was handled by the United States Postal Service.

[The panel text over-lies a photograph of the transformative “TRANSORMA” mail sorter.]

[Panel 3:]
TRANSORMA / TRANSFORMA©2005

Art Glass Wall

The original concept for the art wall image is rooted in the dynamism of Silver Spring as exemplified by the millions of letters that flowed through the post office formerly on this site. Cancellation stamps, reflected in a pattern of circles and stripes flow throughout the multi-layered glass reflecting on this history and the cancellation stamps. The glass was hand-painted, silk screened and kiln fired to its final finish.

Artist: Heidi Lippman
Fabricator: Franz Mayer of Munich, Germany
 
Erected 2005.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Postal Mail and Philately marker series.
 
Location. 38° 59.344′ N, 77° 1.774′ W. Marker is in Silver Spring, Maryland, in Montgomery County. Marker is at the intersection of Newell Street and Kennett Street, on the right when traveling north on Newell Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 8045 Newell Street, Silver Spring MD 20910, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers.
Marker inscriptions also provided <i>en español</i> image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2009
4. Marker inscriptions also provided en español
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Blair House (within shouting distance of this marker); Early's Raid on Washington (within shouting distance of this marker); Silver Spring B & O Railroad Station (within shouting distance of this marker); Silver Spring Armory 1914 (within shouting distance of this marker); The Silver Spring (within shouting distance of this marker); Silver Spring Shopping Center (within shouting distance of this marker); The Community of Silver Spring (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Canada Dry Building (about 500 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Silver Spring.
 
More about this marker. The TRANSORMA/TRANSFORMA memorial and the marker panels are accessible to pedestrians in the plaza on the corner of Newell and Kennett Streets - the now-redeveloped site once occupied by the old Blair Mansion and the historic Blair Station Post Office - one block southwest of East-West Highway (MD 410) and one block northeast of Eastern Avenue (the Maryland/District of Columbia border).
 
Also see . . .
1. National Postal Museum. ... story of the TRANSORMA mail sorting machine. (Submitted on May 9, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.) 

2. Wikipedia entry for Francis Preston Blair. (Submitted on October 20, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Blair Station Post Office Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2009
5. Blair Station Post Office Marker
The interpretive panels are set around a planter at Newell and Kennett Streets. The "Art Glass Wall" is visible in background.

 
Additional keywords. Technology; U.S. Post Office Department.
 
Categories. Arts, Letters, MusicIndustry & CommerceNotable Places
 
"Transorma/Transforma" © 2005 - the "Art Glass Wall" created by Heidi Lippman. image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2009
6. "Transorma/Transforma" © 2005 - the "Art Glass Wall" created by Heidi Lippman.
Blair Mansion: Silver Spring image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 11, 2010
7. Blair Mansion: Silver Spring
Close-up of photo on marker
Transorma Letter Sorting Machine image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 22, 2014
8. Transorma Letter Sorting Machine
Close-up of photo on marker
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,400 times since then and 25 times this year. Last updated on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   7, 8. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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