TRANSORMA/TRANSFORMA ? 2005
:]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 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.]
:]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.
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 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.]
:]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