When Robert Gindhart bought his historic home in 2011 overlooking Old Town Brunswick’s Hanover Square, he envisioned a bright future for what was then a house broken up into several apartments.
Gindhart did his homework and set his eyes on restoring the 1850s-built home back to how it was after an 1886 renovation that added second floor porches and an upper-level gazebo to the front.
Today, looking at the house is like stepping into an old photograph, save for one small detail that for Gindhart, makes a big difference — the curbside mailbox on Richmond Street. It doesn’t belong, he said.
“I’d rather have it back on my house like it was,” Gindhart said, standing on the sidewalk in front of his recently painted home. “I was really disappointed to have to do this.”
Although the mailbox was already at the sidewalk when he bought the house, his disappointment turned to frustration when he learned that had he kept the mailbox there, mail delivery would have continued.
A note from his mailman told him otherwise. Gindhart, like other recent buyers in the historic Old Town neighborhood, was told he would have to move the box to the curb or begin picking up his mail at the post office.
Old Town is part of a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Now a member of the Brunswick Historic Preservation Board, which ensures aspects of Old Town remain aesthetically historic, Gindhart said he wants new owners to know that if they get delivery to a door-side box, as is historically accurate, they do not have to move their mailbox to the curb.
In a district where many people park on the streets in front of their homes due to a lack of off-street parking, Gindhart said he did not get any mail for several days after moving his box to the curb because cars had parked in front it.
Curbside boxes also take away from the historic look and feel of the neighborhood, he said.
“I really feel we should have a common vision for what (Old Town) should look like,” Gindhart said. “I would love to see some decision that (the postal service) had to deliver mail to the door.”
But as other cities like Avondale Estates, near Atlanta, and Salisbury, N.C., have taken steps to ban curbside mailboxes in their historic districts for similar reasons, the U.S. Postal Service is operating with new policies that make it unlikely anyone who removed a curbside mailbox would continue having mail delivered to the house at all.
“As delivery points increase and mail volumes decrease, we continue to balance the safe and timely delivery of mail with measures to maintain the affordability of mail,” said Dionne Montague, a postal service spokesperson.
With that in mind, the postal service has started encouraging new developments like shopping centers to use centralized delivery points.
“With new residential developments, the postal service no longer allows builders and developers to place mailboxes at the end of driveways,” Montague said. “Instead, cluster box delivery has become the new norm for residential deliveries.”
Door delivery is more expensive and less efficient, Montague said. The average annual cost of door delivery per address is $369 as opposed to $235 for curbside delivery and $165 for cluster box delivery.
But in established neighborhoods like Old Town, Montague said moving a mailbox to the curb is voluntary, despite notes like the one Gindhart received. If a new homeowner did not move the mailbox curbside after receiving a request to do so, Montague said the mail carrier would continue delivering to the existing box, even if it is on the porch.
“While we continue efforts to improve efficiencies, the postal service cannot force customers to relocate their mailboxes from current established delivery points,” Montague said.
“Until an act of Congress says otherwise, any conversions to centralized or curb delivery is 100 percent voluntary and can only be implemented after involvement — and agreement — by the community.”
Which is why Gindhart would like to explore the idea of establishing guidelines for Old Town about where door-side and curbside mailboxes should be.