Letter box at the St. Regis Hotel. Image via Art Deco Mailboxes
The book Art Deco Mailboxes by Karen Greene and Lynne Lavelle is a wonderful survey of the iconic mailboxes installed in American buildings in early 20th cenetury. Seeing just one still extant in a building today is a treat, but viewing them all together gives a sense of the range of styles and how they reflected, in detail, the architectural prowess of the skyscrapers within which they were situated. As the book shows, the Art Deco mailboxes (also known as letter boxes) of this time period were also in residential buildings, offices, hotels and more, and many, polished daily, are still in use.
Working with the publisher W.W. Norton, we are able to share with you this sample of 14 beautiful letter boxes in New York City from the book Art Deco Mailboxes. Although we have focused on New York City for this piece, the book includes mailboxes from all the major American cities during this era including Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.
In the beginning, the patented Cutler U.S. Mail chute was considered, “as necessary to the businessman as the elevator,” as proclaimed by the unknown author of the book The Industries of the City of Rochester in 1888. Inventor and architect James Goold Cutler was born in Albany but lived in Rochester, then a hub of commerce where he created the successful Cutler letter box and chute system that spread across America. It is the Cutler company trademark, the bald eagle, that graces the front of many of the mailboxes seen today.
But by the 1980s with newer efficient method of sorting mail, only a few new mail chutes were constructed and in 1997, the National Fire Protection Association banned the use of mail chutes in new buildings. Now they remain a beloved remnant of an earlier era.
Here, take a look at 14 of the many vintage letter boxes from the book Art Deco Mailboxes:
Image via Art Deco Mailboxes
200 Madison Avenue is a building designed by Warren and Wetmore, the firm responsible for Grand Central Terminal, Yonkers Train Station, the original Chelsea Piers and the haunting Michigan Central Station. The relatively simple exterior of 200 Madison Avenue hides the ornamentation on the elevator doors and the Cutler letter box chute.