Maryland post office with ties to 1814 battle shuttered on Halloween
Delivering the Mail by Allen Abel
It never is a joyous occasion when a United States post office is shuttered for good, but it is especially melancholy when the closure occurs in a tiny settlement that once played a part in turning back one of the most powerful armies in the world.
There is not much in Fort Howard, Md., to remind the casual visitor that it was here, on Sept. 12, 1814, that Great Britain landed a force of some 4,000 soldiers and marines with the intention of seizing the city of Baltimore, a dozen marshy miles away. They never got there in part because of a battle fought at North Point.
The redcoats, stymied by the Maryland Militia under the command of Gen. John Stricker at the Battle of North Point, observed the red glare of the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Sept. 13 and 14.
In 2023, hemmed in on three sides by water and on the fourth by time, Fort Howard is composed of fewer than 200 houses, the ruins of a gun battery from the Spanish-American War, a veterans’ hospital that was abandoned in 2002, an Odd Fellows hall, and a riverbank park that would afford a spectacular view of the bombs bursting in air should the British ever try to march on Fort McHenry again.
“It’s real quiet and everybody helps everybody,” a woman who asked to be called Donna told a Linn’s correspondent who came to gauge public opinion shortly before the post office closed.
A few months ago, citing its inability to reach a new lease agreement with a local landlord, the U.S. Postal Service announced that the Fort Howard station would be terminated in September. An appeal from the Maryland congressional delegation got the USPS to push the deadline back to Oct. 31.
An employee at the Fort Howard post office told Linn’s that a stand of 169 cluster box units has been installed in the local park 200 yards from the current building. The post office was scheduled to close at noon on Oct. 31, the employee said.
The nearest full-service USPS outlet is in Dundalk, Md., 7 miles away. But for Fort Howard folk who don’t drive or who can barely walk that outlet might as well be in Dundalk, Ireland.
On a blustery Saturday morning in late October, shortly before the Oct. 31 closure, a steady flow of Fort Howard residents motored or walked up to collect their checks, bills and mail-inspired memories. A notice taped to the post office door began with the words “We do apologize … ”
“It’s not fair to do this to us,” grumbled Dean Henderson, who served as a petty officer in the U.S. Navy a number of decades ago.
“We are just a hundred families down here,” Henderson said. “How much trouble could it be for them to deliver our mail?”
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