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What’s up with those abandoned mailboxes?

These green mailboxes that seem to be sealed off and unaccepting of outgoing mail can be found throughout the neighborhoods of Alexandria, leaving many wondering about their purpose. (Lowell Anderson/Echo Press)

If you’re taking walks or driving around the residential parts of Alexandria, you may have wandered upon a lonely looking mailbox on the street corners.

Sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods, old, green USPS mailboxes can be found. They appear to be sealed off and no longer welcoming any outgoing mail from the areas where they reside.

After speaking with members of the post office in Alexandria, it was discovered that these are not abandoned mailboxes, but relay boxes that were never meant for outgoing mail.

Back in the day before mail carriers went mobile, the mail routes were done by foot with little carts they would pull behind them on wheels. As anyone can imagine, there’s a certain limit that those carts can physically tote, and that limit wasn’t near sufficient enough to cover an entire route.

Because of this, clerks would drive to the relay boxes and stuff them full of mail for the next section of the route. By the time a carrier reached one of the boxes, their buggies would be out of mail and ready to restock.

The relay boxes found around Alexandria have been out of commission for quite some time, but the process of having them removed isn’t an easy one. The postmaster of the local post office has to put in a maintenance request down in the central office in Minneapolis. Once that is approved, they will send out approved maintenance teams that will begin the removal process by cutting through the sidewalk to unearth the boxes. Lastly, they will have to patch up every hole they create.

In the meantime, the boxes are sitting in peace, going untouched by all. The exact number of abandoned green relay boxes in the area is unknown, but they will remain lonely and statuesque for what seems to be the foreseeable future.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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