The mailbox is bolted to a cement pole in front of Claudio’s restaurant in Greenport, its blue paint partially chipped away. Near the rusty keyhole locking letters inside the box, a peeling sticker notes the collection time: Monday through Saturday, 1 p.m.
A small metal tab at the top of the mail slot, embossed with the phrase “Pull Down,” emits a high-pitched creak when pulled open before bouncing shut with a few rapid clanks.
Main Street business owners say they’ll miss that old box and its old noise if the U.S. Postal Service follows through on a plan to remove it and install a new mailbox a block or so up the road.
But the postal service says the collection box isn’t used enough, in part because it’s out of date.
“If I’d miss the sound, that means it’s getting used,” said Andrew Rowsom, co-owner of Preston’s Marine Supply across the street.
But the postal service has determined that the decades-old Main Street mailbox was too small to hold packages or large envelopes, said spokesperson Christine Dugas.
“A manager contacted the [Greenport] postmaster to take the postal box out because it doesn’t fit today’s needs,” Ms. Dugas said.
A new mailbox will soon be installed on Main Street near Capital One bank, at which point the old mailbox — which was restored a few years ago by Greenport’s previous postmaster — will be removed, she said.
Ms. Dugas said the box — which is thought to be anywhere from 40 to 60 years old, maybe more — will be preserved, perhaps by encasing it in a display box or shipping it to a nearby post office or a historian in Washington, D.C.
Leaving the box in place on Main Street once it’s decommissioned probably won’t be possible, she added, because customers might confuse it for a working mailbox.
“As far as I know, we’re not able to keep a mailbox on a property where it’s not being used for its original intent as a collection box,” Ms. Dugas said.
That’s not good enough for some of the town’s business leaders, who are working to keep their mailbox right where it is.
“We all feel like it’s a historic and important little mailbox to keep in service, especially since it’s in front of a historic restaurant,” said Peter Clarke, president of the Greenport Business Improvement District. “We are looking for any avenue to pursue to help keep it … It gets a lot of attention and we need to retain everything that is part of our history in Greenport.”
Janice Claudio, whose family owns the restaurant closest to the mailbox, said she’s considering launching a campaign to oppose the postal service’s plan.
“I just can’t understand the thinking why you would take down this recently restored, functioning tribute to our past,” Ms. Claudio said. “It’s just something that’s a relic of another time that makes Greenport the village it is.”
Across the street at Preston’s gift shop, longtime employee Marie Doroski gasped when she heard about the plan for the old mailbox.
“It’s an old fixture,” she said. “Send the person who came up with that in here. We’ll tell him off!”
Not everyone who works on Main Street said they use the mailbox with any regularity. Brittany Barszczewski, who owns Greenport Art & Design, said she normally ships big packages — boxes that won’t fit in the small mailbox.
“It’s cute, but I didn’t even realize it was there until this winter when I parked down by Claudio’s,” Ms. Barszczewski said.
But several business owners said they still use the mailbox, despite claims that it’s too antiquated to accommodate customers’ needs.
“I know it gets quite a bit of mail, because I know that the restaurant, the clam bar, we all use it and I see other people use it,” Ms. Claudio said.
The mailbox also serves another purpose: minor tourist attraction. Ms. Claudio said families take photos in front of the mailbox and other business owners said they hear summer visitors comment about the “cute little mailbox.”
Kate Costello of Southold, who was visiting Greenport with her family Tuesday afternoon, said she was surprised to hear the postal service was removing the well-known mailbox.
“Everybody knows it’s here,” Ms. Costello said. “They fight so hard to keep things rustic in this town … but they’re trying to get rid of this?”