Burke’s “Little Post Office”

The current post office for Burke opened in 1989 but the history of postal service and post offices in Burke goes back over 150 years beginning in 1852 with the appointment of John A. Marshall as postmaster of what was then Burke’s Station. The history continued through 1903 when the name was changed to Burke to 1972 when the Burke post office became a branch of Springfield to today.

Over the years the post office was located in a wide variety of buildings (generally provided by the Postmasters), sometimes in the depot, sometimes in separate buildings, and often in stores.   The Post Office usually announced, with varying degrees of precision, when an office changed its location.  On the grounds of Sunrise at Silas Burke House on Burke Lake Road stands a small white building that is part of that long history.  This small building, that has survived three moves in its lifetime, served for many years as the Burke Post Office.

On August 5, 1927 tragedy befell the small village of Burke. Rev. John James (Jack) Sangster died in a fire.  Sangster was the son of Fairfax County Judge James Sangster, and part of a historic and influential family in the area. Sangster entered the building located at Dunn’s Store (the old Swetnam store) to retrieve the mail. It was thought that he was overcome by smoke and then perished in the fire.

By 1928 the post office had relocated to this small white building.  Oral history indicates that the building was “temporarily” donated to serve as post office.  That temporary status continued until 1950.The postmasters during the building’s operation as post office were Mr. Frank P. Curtis and Mrs. Rena R. Carter.

In an oral history from 2005 (found at braddockheritage.org), Suzi Fowler Neal recalls the “little post office.”

My great aunt, Rena R. Carter, which is mother’s aunt, my grandmother’s sister, ran Burke Post Office. She was the Postmaster, and I do have a picture that I love of Aunt Rena at the door of the little Post Office. My mom, after she relocated to Burke, auntie needed some help, and she was talking to mom about it one day and said well, I don’t know, I guess I can give a couple hours a day, so mom worked two hours a day at the Post Office in Burke, and it was a special treat for me. If I could go down to the Post Office before they got off and close the shutters outside the Post Office, and Charlie Dyer, at that time, was the mail carrier. In later years, they moved across the street to Brown’s Gulf Station, and we all called him Brownie. Right next to the Post Office was Mel Curtis’ house, and Brownie and his wife, Ann, lived there. He built the Gulf station across the road, and Burke was growing a little bit, so he arranged to have a facility big enough so they’d have a little, half as big as this room, I guess, office for the Burke Post Office, and Charlie Dyer, still at that time, was the Postal Carrier. He would go up to the railroad track and put the mail on a bag as it came by, and that’s how they delivered the mail, that’s how they got rid of it.

After it was retired as the post office, the building was moved by Bill Sheads from “downtown Burke” to the Dudley Young property, where the family used it as a detached spare bedroom, adding a front porch and bathroom and making some interior changes. The Young property was located at the intersection of New Guinea Road and Zion Road in Burke.

When the Young property was sold for development as a subdivision to be named “Burke Junction,” its developer, with the consent of Sunrise Senior Living, agreed to move the post office ultimately to the Silas Burke House property. With construction ongoing at the latter, however, a temporary home was found for the building at a county property.

On the early morning of April 23, 2016, the post office was successfully moved to the McMath Wastewater Collection Facility across from Burke Centre Library by a professional crew. The building was moved in October of 2017 to the Sunrise at Silas Burke House site.  Restoration of the building was completed by Sunrise.