Along with its own post office, Centralia PA once had a postal ZIP code: 17927. Today, that code is no longer in use within the borough.
It would be over dramatic to say that the town is entirely without a ZIP code. It still has one. Though, the code it now uses is actually the one for the neighboring town of Ashland, Pennsylvania. That ZIP code is 17921.
The story of how the town lost its post ZIP code is invariably tied to the coal mine fire that burns beneath it. In the early 1980s, the state began to move the residents of Centralia Pennsylvania. As the momentum of the relocations picked up in the mid-1980s, the demand for mail service to the area declined.
In a number of interviews Centralia’s last postmaster, Tom Dempsey, describes how he knew all of the residents in the borough. They would come to his post office to purchase stamps, send packages, and to pickup their mail. It was a close knit community, and mail service was important.
As the population of the town grew smaller, so did the need for a post office. The post office in Centralia PA was eventually closed. It was finally demolished in 1997. However, for another five years, the remaining residents could still receive mail if addressed with “Centralia 17927.”
That changed in 2002. In that year, the United Stated Postal Service revoked the town’s ZIP code and incorporated its mail delivery into Ashland’s routes. This was done for the simple reason of efficiency. By the 2000s there were less than 20 people in the town. The cost of sorting another ZIP just for these few didn’t make sense.
There was an immediate outcry from the last residents. John Lokitis was particularly vocal. In response, one of the two green benches in Centralia, Pennsylvania was embellished with the borough’s now defunct ZIP code.
It’s easy to understand why the last people in the town were so upset about losing their unique postal code. It was one of the last vestiges of their identity and as a place on the map. However, like the number 17927, even that will slowly fade into history as the last few residents leave the town or pass away.