Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Communal Mailboxes

David Wissing has a post about communal mailboxes that is worth a read. The communal mailbox was one of the design features used by Jim Rouse to bring people together and get them to know their neighbors. (I personally think communal mailboxes were the least effective of Rouse’s design features because as I have said before they mainly brought people together when mail got mis-sorted and you had to go give your neighbor their mail that you accidentally got.) In this case maybe I am being to pessimistic about how little the mailboxes worked to change how people think about the world, because as a regular reader of David’s blog I am actually very surprised by his support for communal mailboxes. I would guess that if he didn’t have a personal experience with them growing up in Columbia he would have a very different gut reaction. It is amazing how personal experience can impact ones approach to various issues.

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Anonymous Dave Wissing said...

Why are you surprised about my support? It has just been something I have grown up with. Even today when I go out to get the mail from the community mailbox in my neighborhood, I end up seeing a another neighbor outside and we might talk for a few minutes, not necessarily at the mailbox like was intended, but maybe in their front yard or on the street/sidewalk as I go past them on my way to the mailbox.

Chances are if I never had to go to a mailbox off my property, I would never talk to some of these neighbors since I would have no reason to walk by their house on foot. So in that respect, I think they have worked. Maybe it is a growing up in Columbia thing....

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally love the community mailboxes, and my guess is that they save money for the postal service.

I have no kids, but I never would know all the kids in my development without the mailbox. It's a great opportunity to say hi to whomever is in the yard, adult or child. Moreover, I think the "hi"s to kids, as well as the snippets of conversation that take place - compliment their basketball game, ask how school is, or whatever - is good for children 0-21, and is such an important part of the community.

It might seem small, but saying hi to your neighbors isn't something that happens everywhere.

Maybe your perspective is shaped by living in a condo?

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I am not mistaken, the post office suggested communal mailboxes to the Rouse Company when Columbia was being planned, and Jim Rouse liked the idea.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Jessie N said...

That's an interesting tidbit about the USPS suggesting the community mailboxes. The USPS (Baltimore main branch) helped shape Columbia's character, as well, by insisting that not a single street in Columbia have an overlapped name with any street they were already serving. I worked on a project years back with the Columbia Archives, and this was a little factoid I took from the project.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The communal mailboxes also serve as very local community billboards, despite being a USPS no-no. Nonetheless, the notices placed thereon range from neighborhood meetings/parties/cookouts to lost pet signs to odes to having poo on your shoe, all of which serve to knit the neighborhood a little more tightly together.

Most of the incorrect mail I receive actually comes from similarly numbered homes more than a quarter mile away. Somewhat amusing, when I've labeled the mail as being misdelivered, circled the mailing address, and placing it back in the mail for redelivery, I've then been chastised for making such notations on the mail. Go figure.

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