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The Secret Story Behind Alameda’s Love Letter Mailboxes

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Early Saturday morning the 12th, I received an anonymous message on Facebook stating: “I saw your post on Alameda Peeps about your story on the red love letter mailboxes. I can get you in contact with the person who created these on the condition that they stay anonymous?”

Attached was an in-progress photo of the mailboxes, deconstructed and half done. Clearly to indicate that this person was either the artist behind the romantic project or someone close to the source.

Love letter mailboxes during their build out

I needed to get the scoop – for all of us. So, I quickly emailed back and promised to keep their name anonymous, gave my phone number and waited about an hour before a call came in from a number I didn’t recognize.

We talked for a bit of time. I asked them everything we’ve been wondering & I didn’t pry about their name (much).

So, here’s the scoop:

Back in 2020, “M” (as they would like to be called), thought about all of those who had no one. They knew many people were alone in more ways than one. Maybe without anyone to tell them they love them or give them compliments just because. By the time 2021 came around, M had started to think that they really wanted folks to feel loved and cooked up the idea to do something similar to a Free Library – except maybe it’s a give a note, take a note situation.

You see – M isn’t an artist with a long list of art installations or interactive art exhibits around The Bay Area. They’re “just someone in tech” who felt there was an opportunity to share some love. It took them a little while to figure out how it would all work, where they would put it or even where to get the little trays for the interior of the boxes.

The locations seemingly came easy to M. They wanted to place them in locations with more intentional and slow foot traffic. Five boxes are located on the slow streets within Alameda for this exact reason. One other out at the point by the new park on Seaplane Lagoon. The build out took them nearly two months – the bulk of the work may have been the hundreds of individually cut note cards. During the whole build, they kept it a close secret. They didn’t even tell anyone aside from their immediate family – and folks within their friend circle still don’t know who is behind the project.

Why the big secret? Because M doesn’t want the message to get watered down or the project to be about them. They feel strongly that the project is about connection in a time where connections are still so hard to come by. They did, however, sign the back of each box just as if each were a love letter to Alameda themselves.

back of red mailboxes which reads "to alameda from M"

Easter Egg creator signature on the mailboxes

What’s next for this lovingly created project? M isn’t sure. For now, the boxes plan to be up for at least a little while. But beyond that, no one knows…maybe it’ll be a yearly treat or it could become something that travels? It’s safe to say, we’ve all felt a little more love being spread around with just the sight of them.

The love letters themselves will hopefully be shared in a more permanent way…but that’s still all up in the air, too. I know we all hope to see the mailboxes pop up again in the future or become a more permanent part of Alameda.

I think we agree: the more love, the better.

For a full list of locations, reference the original story on the red love letter mailboxes.

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.