Monthly Archives: May 2011

We’ve Got a Three Alarm Conflagration Here!

Fire Hydrant Mailbox

Three Alarm Mailbox

When it comes to whimsical, themed mailboxes this is surely one of my favorites. Notice how the theme has been carried out for all three main areas of design that I’ve found for most all curbside mailboxes.

First there’s the support structure, which is carried out through the use of an old fire hydrant. Actually, I never checked (it didn’t occur to me) the street to see if there was a blue botts dot in the road, signifying the presence of a working hydrant. For all I know this one actually carries pressure . . . and water!

Next comes the actual mail receptacle itself, which is an old fire alarm box; the kind you used to see in buildings; schools, offices, etc. The third, and final, design element is really clever, IMO, as they’ve used an old fire hose and wrapped it around the base, creating a planter area – which might be considered a combination of two more elements (planters and general accoutrement).

I suppose one might argue the brick in the sidewalk is evocative of the old brick firehouses as well. However, based on the driveway I think it wasn’t intentionally done. I really don’t know though, unless I go back and ask the owners of the house.

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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Flower Box, Whimsical


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Mundane, Yet Interesting

Strange hybrid design

Interesting Combination Design

Suburban, curbside mailboxes exhibit an astonishing range and array of design concepts. I’ve been thinking about how to create somewhat of a faceted taxonomy to help classify and express the variations in those concepts and at least two of those facets are materials and accoutrements – or accessories – most frequently the inclusion of some kind of planter for flowers or bushes.

This one, however, seems to defy easy classification. Note the bottom portion of the design is brick – a very common material used to build mailboxes, but the top portion uses a simple 4 X 4 with a standard painted metal box perched on top.

Furthermore, there is a planter associated with the box, but it isn’t really part of the design. Although it’s surrounded by a bricklike material, it isn’t the same as the box itself; neither is it contiguous with the physical structure of the box. I haven’t encountered this type of design very often and, at least to me, it stands out as somewhat strange.

There are several other things about this grouping that strikes me as interesting. First of all, the brickwork is uneven and rather amateurish looking. The fact that the actual box is merely sitting on top of the 4 X 4, rather than being supported by an angled piece of wood or metal as a brace, has allowed it to list to the side somewhat, giving it a bit of a sad look. It also looks to me as though the post isn’t exactly in the middle of the supporting brick structure. All in all, I find this particular mailbox both interesting and mundane.


Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Brick, Flower Box, Wood


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An Exhibit of Fine Workmanship

Mailbox Exhibiting Nice Workmanship

Some Really Nice Stone & Brickwork

The mailboxes in my neighborhood run the gamut from incredibly simple, sad, neglected, and broken down receptacles of snailmail to wonderfully hand-crafted, well-thought-out exhibits of stonemasonry and bricklaying.

I think this one is an nice example of the latter two. My only complaint might be that the box itself is rather pedestrian; far too simple for such an elegant supporting structure. I find it somewhat analogous to building a cathedral and replacing stained glass by hanging venetian blinds in the windows. It’s a bit incongruous.

Even though the USPS has regulations regarding the construction of mailboxes, the local postmaster will allow individuals to design and build their own as long as they meet the general specifications required of manufacturers. The regs seem to be most interested in making sure the carrier is unimpeded and that mail is delivered accurately and expeditiously.

Regardless, I find the design and construction of this mailbox if not extraordinary – at least somewhat remarkable and, perhaps, a bit out of place in the mostly lower middle-class neighborhood I found it in which, btw, is characteristic of most of the area in which I live, including our own modest and unremarkable (save for the fact it’s ours) home.

I like the use of bullnose brick for the top, the color of brick designed to blend with the color of the stone, as well as the inlay of stone on the sides or faces. Some mailboxes are constructed to repeat or complement the design of a home or its surrounding wall/fence. This one, however, is surrounded by a continuation of its theme inlaid into the sidewalk. A nice touch, indeed.

As I recall, and I can see somewhat in the background, this piece of craftsmanship was juxtaposed with a somewhat disheveled and seedy yard and driveway, adding to its incongruity. Perhaps it was built by a former owner and the new owners were either not concerned as much with the appearance of their house or, as can be the case during economic times such as we’re currently in, they just can’t afford to keep the place up.

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Posted by on May 28, 2011 in Brick, Stone


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I See Accordions and Hear “Cheese”

Lights, Camera, Action

OK - Everyone say "Cheese"!

One of the most impressive things about many of these mailboxes, is the whimsy many people bring to their designs. This is not a matter of just adding a decoration, which some people do incorporate into their designs. I’m talking more about the mailboxes where a lot of thought has gone into the creation of the box, especially those that clearly mean something to the homeowner.

This one tells us something (I think) about one or more of the people who receive mail at this address. I believe it’s safe to say photography fits neatly into at least one persons life here.

I really liked this one when I saw it and, contrary to what I normally do (which is shoot pictures from my vehicle), I got out and actually took some time relishing the thought and craftsmanship that went into creating this particular receptacle. Note the use of stone for the supporting structure as well. Of course, a solid metal tripod would have been extra cool, eh?

My only criticism is I wish the light fixture had been made to look either like a flashbulb with a reflector, or one of those flammable powder trays they used to use to create a flash when the picture was taken.

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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Stone, Whimsical


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From Simple to Complex Mailboxes

A Wonderful Brick Mailbox

One of the more complex brick boxes

The most frequently used material for larger, more complex mailboxes is brick. The last post was of one of the simplest of all designs used for a curbside mailbox. Here is an example of a very complex brick mailbox. Note the use of both horizontally and vertically placed bricks. Additionally, though the craftsman who made this didn’t use diagonally placed bricks, he did use vertical bricks set at an angle; a kind of placement I’ve seen in very few mailboxes.

He also used glass bricks, which show up very infrequently as part of the design of a mailbox. Note as well the used brick theme mirrors other work seen in the background. This is also an occasional theme, where mailboxes are constructed to match either the house or the fence surrounding the yard.

There’s one more element here that is quite common, yet adds a tremendous amount to the diversity of the construction of these curbside boxes. The use of planters or foliage in one manner or another. There are, in my neighborhood, hundreds of variations and I hope to share some of the most interesting ones in the days, weeks, and months to come.


Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Brick, Mailbox Photos


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The Simplest of Mailboxes

Simple Mailbox

They don't get much simpler

I actually have had a difficult time finding what I would consider the most basic of curbside mailboxes, which would consist of a non-painted box and a single, unsupported piece of wood, most likely a 4X4, also unpainted. Another variation might be a simple, unpainted box supported by a metal tube or bar.

This one, however, comes about as close as I can get. With the exception of the horizontally placed piece of wood supporting the mailbox itself, this is pretty much the simplest I’ve been able to find in the areas I’ve traveled through in my searches.

There are numerous variations on this type and I’m struggling with how to share them here. I don’t want to create a page with a whole bunch of them, but I do want to show some of the most common variations while, at the same time, not be too boring.

Soon I hope to create a taxonomy of construction for these mailboxes and, perhaps, use it for tags so the various types can somehow be filtered for or what have you.

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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Wood


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Cool, But Not Exactly Fly Fishing

The complete angler's package

Some Pier Fishing

There are several things that make a curbside mailbox stand out. One of my favorites has little to do with the materials or the workmanship, though they are part of the overall package. The ones I like the best are the whimsical ones.

Here’s a great example of not just a purchased box, which you can find at numerous websites, like Mail Boxes and Stuff or The Mailbox Ranch, but a theme carried out through the use of a piling for the supporting structure, rope carefully wrapped around the piling, and a couple handsful of water-eroded stones.

This one clearly took some thought and careful gathering of the right materials to carry out the theme.

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Posted by on May 21, 2011 in Mailbox Photos, Whimsical


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Could This One Be Nutritious?

Sliced Ham

Fascinating Stonework

This mailbox fascinated me when I got back from taking some pictures and had time to actually look closely at it. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what it was that caught my eye. I wasn’t until I had walked away from my pictures and returned a couple days later that it hit me.

This is clearly some kind of stone (I don’t stop and ask people about the construction of their mailboxes; in fact, I worry about people thinking I’m up to no good when I’m shooting photos). It appears as though it’s some kind of flagstone. However, what it resembles most to me is sliced, boiled ham – the kind you buy to put in sandwiches.

It also kind of looks like a Hobbit should be inside. Note the mailbox itself – the metal part used to house the mail itself – has been painted black.

Soon I will get into my development of a taxonomy for classifying mailbox construction and, in this case, it involves a lot more than the actual box itself. It will include construction materials and methods, structural peculiarities, paint and artwork, accouterments, and foliage.

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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Mailbox Photos, Stone


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Numero Uno. The Mailbox That Changed My World!

My First Mailbox

The one that started it all

This is the mailbox that started this modest journey. I had never paid much attention to mailboxes over my 63 years of living in Southern California. I was marginally aware of different types, but really hadn’t thought much about it.

What will follow here is a series of those mailboxes I’ve found no more than a few miles from my home in Simi Valley, California. I am truly amazed at the variety, the creativity, and the craftsmanship that goes into many of these simple, utilitarian devices.

I am also amused and bewildered by the range of materials and adornment some people give to this repository of connectivity. In some ways, I suppose we can think of these mailboxes as analog transporters. I’m beginning to think they are the way they are because they provide a place where we interface most frequently with the rest of the world.

Note the simple, horizontal or (in the case of the roof) angled placement of the bricks. This is one of the simpler forms of construction to be seen in brick mailboxes though, as will be seen as I add pictures, it is by no means the only method used.

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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Brick, Mailbox Photos


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