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7 of America’s Smallest Civic Institutions

(Photo: Paxson Woelber/Flickr)

Historically, Americans have taken a “bigger is better” attitude but in a few notable spot around our great big country, it’s the little things that count. From forests, to post offices, to a whole other country, America is full of wondrously tiny, little facilities that are (for the most part) just as effective as their full-size counterparts.

Some of them even claim to be the smallest in the entire world, although while its obviously easier to identify the biggest things, confirming the smallest things world-wide is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Nonetheless, these cute (can a police station be cute?) little mini-facilities prove that size does matter, especially if you don’t have much of it.

1. MILL ENDS PARK

America’s Smallest Public Park
Portland, Oregon

A Cactus in Mill Ends Park? 2004(Photo: Gabor/Flickr)

Of course Portland, Oregon has a habitat for leprechauns. Noted as the smallest city park in the world, Mill Ends Park is a literal spot of land contained in a little concrete median on Naito Place. It was originally founded on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976, but the green space was begun by writer Patrick Fagen in 1948 when he took to planting flowers in a hole in the street that was intended to hold a lamppost which never materialized. Fagen also wrote a column about the leprechauns, that only he could see, that were establishing a colony in the city. According to Fagen’s history of the park, he had caught a leprechaun and wished for his own park. The mischievous little sprite awarded him Mills End. Over the years the park has been home to little swimming pools, and even mini-protest camps.

Mills End Park in 2008(Photo: sfgamchick/Flickr)

2. ADAK NATIONAL FOREST

America’s Smallest National Forest
Adak Island, Alaska

(Photo: jomilo75/Flickr)

While Alaska’s Adak Island, and its surrounding neighbors, are nearly completely devoid of trees, the country’s smallest so-called “national park” definitely stands out. Even though it is only 33 trees large.

The tight stand of pine trees, surviving against all odds in the harsh island climate, were actually planted during World War II when the U.S. military decided that some Christmas trees might help cheer up the troops stationed on the Adak base. Of course the cold, winds, and weather that prevented trees from growing there naturally nearly wiped the small forest out before it took root, but a small, tight copse held on, and survives to this day. The Adak National Forest is not officially a national forest, but it deserves recognition for it’s surviving spirit.

(Photo: jomilo75/Flickr)

3. OCHOPEE POST OFFICE

America’s Smallest Post Office
Ochopee, Florida

Ochopee Post Office(Photo: Kriketini/Wikipedia)

The country’s smallest post office didn’t begin as a post office at all. It started as a closet for irrigation pipes. Of course when the original Ochopee post office space was lost when the general store it was located in burnt down, the little shed was converted into a tiny little postal node. As it operates today, the space is so small it can only accommodate a single worker at any given time. The space is simply appointed with mail slots on the back wall, and a single fluorescent fixture to light the space. But despite it’s minuscule size, the post must go on, and the tiny office actually processes mail for around 130 miles around Ochopee.  

Ochopee Post Office(Photo: C-monster/Flickr)

4. CROSS ISLAND CHAPEL

America’s Smallest Church
Oneida, New York

(Photo: Atlas Obscura)

This closet-sized floating church actually claims to be the smallest church in the entire world. While this is nearly impossible to verify, the little chapel could easily be the smallest church in the U.S. It seems as though the titular Cross Island is a simple crucifix planted in a stand of small rocks between the floating chapel and the shore, or maybe the location of the chapel itself, either way, it is pretty adorable.

A boat must be taken to reach the church, but once there it can host minuscule weddings and assumedly any other type of church function, if only for a few people at a time. The church is just over 28 square feet large, and getting squeezed out would mean landing yourself in the pond water, but you can’t get much more intimate. 

Cross Island Chapel(Photo: Atlas Obscura)

5. WORLD’S SMALLEST POLICE STATION

(Also) America’s Smallest Police Station
Carrabelle, Florida

(Photo: ebyabe/Wikipedia)

Who ya gonna call? If you said the Carrabelle, Florida police, they might actually answer from the world’s smallest police station, located in a phone booth. The station-booth was originally installed in 1963 as a simple police call box, but it soon became so popular that the locals just figured they’d cut out the middleman and make the box itself a station. While this might seem like a whimsical move on behalf of the people of Carrabelle, the station has seen its fair share of the action. During its life, the tiny police station has been vandalized, robbed, and even shot. But each time, the station is repaired, sometimes entirely. It’s essentially the little station that could.  

(Photo: ebyabe/Wikipedia)    

6. THE MµSEUM

America’s Smallest Museum
Somerville, Massachussetts

Mµseum(Photo: Atlas Obscura)

For those who have trouble with the Greek “mew” in their name, the smallest gallery in America, and probably the world is alternately known as the “Tiny Museum.” Created in 2010, the eensy gallery space is held in a glass-fronted box attached to the wall of a building. The Tiny Museum was the work of local Somerville artist, Julia Klausner who wanted to see fine art escape the intimidating caverns of giant museums and become a smaller, more personal experience. And boy, did she succeed. The minuscule works held behind the glass force the viewers to get up close and study the work. A far more effective tactic than some massive canvas.

At the ribbon cutting(Photo: Dustin Stonecipher/Atlas Obscura)      

7. THE REPUBLIC OF MOLOSSIA

The Smallest Country In America
Dayton, Nevada

(Photo: Kevin Baugh/Wikipedia)

The smallest country in America, contains only a single home (known as the Government House) which contains the entire staff of Molossia’s government (which also happens to be the man who created the republic). The borders of Molossia actually encompass about an acre of land in the Nevada desert, although Molossia has also claimed another 50,000 acres on the surface of Venus. The president and creator of Molossia is Kevin Baugh, who dreamt up the micro-nation when he was just a teenager. They even have their own currency which is printed on poker chips, and is held against a cookie-dough standard. Baugh is a benevolent leader, and will give tours of his country while dressed in his governmental attire for a small fee.

(Photo: Kevin Baugh/Wikipedia)

(Photo: Photo: Kevin Baugh/Wikipedia)