I regularly walk past the West Hollywood post office, and it’s occurred to me how boring the place looks in comparison to its surroundings. The nearby intersection boasts two rainbow crosswalks, but the post office is purely utilitarian.
I became interested in what other sorts of post offices are out there. Surely there were more inspiring halls of snail mail. Here are some great ones (none of the photos of which are mine):
Mexico City has a postal palace as well–literally! It’s called the Palacio de Correos de Mexico (Mail Palace of Mexico). The Palacio was completed in 1907, when president Porfirio Diaz declared it open by dropping two postcards into a mailbox there. It continues as a functioning post office to this day, and also houses part of the Bank of Mexico and the Naval History Museum.
The only post office of its kind, the J.W. Westcott II has been delivering mail to ships on the Detroit River in Michigan since 1949. The mail arrives at a postal station near the base of the Ambassador Bridge (on the Detroit side). There, the J.W. Westcott II crew picks it up, and delivers it to the lake freighters as they pass under the bridge.
The J.W. Westcott II’s “district” has its own zip code. To send mail via the 45-foot boat, you write the addressee’s name, the name of the vessel he’s aboard, followed by “Marine Post Office, Detroit, MI 48222.”
This floating post office is named for Captain J.W. Westcott. In 1874, the Captain took to a rowboat to deliver supplies to passing freighters, and started perfecting the “mail in the pail” system. To learn more and see some wonderful antique photos, check out the J.W. Westcott Co. website.
This might be too gimmicky for some tastes, but Hideaway Island in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is home to the world’s only underwater post office. Visitors swim about 160 feet from shore, then dive down to find the scuba postmaster. He embosses your waterproof postcard instead of canceling it with an ink postmark, and then you slip it in the underwater mailbox.
In the 19th century, whalers kept a wooden barrel at a spot on Floreana Island in the Galápagos. The area became known as Post Office Bay, because the barrel there functioned as a mailbox. Whalers who still had a long journey ahead without access to traditional post offices would leave their letters in the barrel. Others who stopped at Post Office Bay on their way back to Europe and the U.S. would take with them any letters addressed to their hometown.
Today, visitors still leave unstamped letters and postcards in the barrel, and sift through those left by others, looking for ones they can hand-deliver when they return home.
Bald Head Island, North Carolina
open 1-3 pm weekdays
Built around 1904, Hye Post Office’s gothic revival woodwork has lent itself to different color combinations over the years. Her’s a nice postcard image I found online that looks like it’s from the ’60s:
I found out about this post office on a page listing Texas post offices being considered for closure in 2011. Happily, Hye is still up and running.
Fun fact: Hye is near LBJ’s family ranch. I wonder if President Johnson ever went to this next post office…
Saigon Central Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel), was completed in 1891 when Vietnam was part of French Indochina. As you probably guessed, the design was inspired by European train stations of the day. But lest you forget where you are, General Ho Chi Minh here will remind you.
Although it closed in 2011, I would be remiss not to include another vaulted ceiling wonder, the Utrecht Main Post Office in Holland. Completed in 1924, the Utrecht main post office includes statues symbolizing the five inhabited continents, and a sixth representing trade and prosperity. What an ode to snail mail!
The quaintness award, meanwhile, goes to Britain. Here are just a few examples.
I couldn’t find where this post office is, but I love that in such humble circumstances, there’s a prominent place for postcards.