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March 2, 2011 / Linda Hartong


Carmel by -the Sea decided it would have the character of an Urban Forest and that decision has shaped its inhabitant’s life style.

Because  existing trees are not  be cut down, sidewalks were banned in residential areas. This did not please the US Postal Service.


Carmelites were not distressed. They would simply go to the Post Office ,if it would not come to them.


And so they gather at the Post Office to get the mail and catch up on the news and gossip. Conversations started                   that were often finished over a cup of coffee at a nearby restaurant.





Since there was no mail delivery , there was little need for addresses. Early residents established the custom of giving names to their homes instead.

It is, by the way, bad luck to change the name on a Carmel cottage.


Those seeking directions receive hints such as “fifth house on the east side of Torres Street, blue trim, driftwood fence” . Others just use the geographical  address .


When I want something shipped to my Carmel home, I must send it to my geographical address such as “Monte Verde 4 SW of 8th”. That translates to a building on the West side of Monte Verde Street four properites south of the 8th Ave. intersection. Try getting a computer to recognize that. I reassure the Post Office, Fed Ex, or UPS and they gamely send it on its way. And it does arrive.


Now all these  complicated rules only apply to the  1 sq. mile called Carmel-by-the Sea. If you see a street address on a home, you are in Carmel proper. Not everybody wants to have a home without an address!



I believe that recently provisions have been made for home delivery of mail for those in Carmel-by-Sea who are disabled and can not go to the Post Office. I was at City Hall and overheard an irate man demanding that his neighbor remove a new address from her house.  And I quote, “She walks everywhere. She can darn well get to the Post Office”.

If you need to mail anything in Carmel, the Post Office is at Dolores St. and 5th.

For fun I “googled”  reviews of this post office and found that the word “adorable” is used by many to describe the handsome brass mail boxes.

One woman, raised in a rural community, said she was overwhelmed by happy childhood memories of going to the Post Office with her mother.

Such is the magic of Carmel!


“The Postal Service is the most visible and ubiquitous federal institution in America. … The daily visits that citizens make to local post offices have shaped the development pattern of many towns. Business districts have grown up around post offices, allowing postal customers to shop, dine, and take care of other needs in one convenient area. ”

— from Edward McMahon’s, Public Buildings Should Set the Standard, in the Winter 2001 issue of the Planning Commissioners Journal




Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are copyright (c) Linda Hartong. All rights reserved.

You may not use any image on this site without my written consent. If you are interested in using a photo from my website for any purpose, please send me a quick message and let me know which photo(s) you are interested in.



Leave a Comment
  1. jeanette sclar / Mar 2 2011 9:35 pm

    Just the fact that everyone willingly goes to the post office to save the trees makes this place magical!

  2. Monica de Moss / Mar 6 2011 9:45 pm

    I love the idea that the Post Office becomes an impromptu meeting place. The more you write about Carmel-by-the Sea, the more I want to visit. I love the customs you’ve talked about so far.

  3. Jacqui / Mar 8 2011 7:30 pm

    That looks like Heaven to me!!

  4. David Hathaway / Jul 21 2012 9:26 pm

    One reason they didn’t want addresses is they were anti-government. They didn’t want the gov’t to be able to find them.

  5. Ann / Dec 18 2012 7:36 pm

    No sidewalks? How hazardous is getting about the town on foot, as you seem to? Do people walk a lot, and how does the town discourage drivers smushing pedestrians walking on the roadway, may I ask?

  6. H Fink / Aug 2 2016 5:06 pm

    Hi Linda, I would like to use a few photos of the post office shown on this page. but I can find no way to get ahold of you per your “Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are copyright (c) Linda Hartong. All rights reserved.

    You may not use any image on this site without my written consent. If you are interested in using a photo from my website for any purpose, please send me a quick message and let me know which photo(s) you are interested in.”

    please let me know how I can email or reach you. thanks.

  7. Howrd Gelman / Feb 26 2020 8:52 pm

    My granddaughter is subletting a cottage there. She can’t afford to rent a PO box as it isn’t cheap and the shortest term is longer than her sublet. Also, she can’t get deliveries (bed, etc) because she has no address. The policy might seem quaint, but its lack of fair access seems like (un?)-intended discrimination against poor or transient folks.

  8. John A Hall / Aug 29 2021 11:02 pm

    I would like to see all residences have addresses in Carmel, I moved in to my folks house to be their caretaker. I’ve wasted hours trying to have my home address verified for credit or DMV Real ID. I rented an address at the UPS Store, but that no longer works for verification. I was just turned down for a credit card yesterday, so that will drop my score a bit.
    I never heard the story of how this started until I found this site, I don’t see it as quaint, the rest of the town has addresses with no sidewalks.
    Is it a good idea to gather in a tiny Post Office in COVID times?
    Is it a good idea for the city to pay a private contractor to deliver to the people unable to go to the Post Office, when they could have a mailbox like the rest of the developed world?
    If you live in a houseboat, you can receive mail. If you live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you can receive mail.
    I would like to start a petition or in some way convince the Carmel City Council to change this, if anyone is interested or has advice about how to change this policy, please reply to:

    • Linda Hartong / Sep 15 2021 4:59 pm

      I so understand what you are saying. I too used to find it charming but no longer do. Carmel is constantly trying to balance the old traditions with new changes. Its hard to keep the charm.


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