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Trivia Tuesday: Why is There a Post Office in Diablo?

The presence of a U.S. Postal Service building in Diablo, a community of just 1,000 residents, may seem a little odd. But, the history of the community is closely tied with the post office tucked inside the exclusive enclave.

When I drive down Diablo Road, passing the area, I see the sign for the post office and wonder, "Why is there a post office tucked away in Diablo?"

It's a pretty small community comparatively, so it always has struck me as odd.

While reading about the history of Diablo, I stumbled upon the answer. To understand why there's a post office there, you need to know a little bit about the man who established Diablo.

An enterprising young Danville man, Robert Noble "R.N." Burgess, established the Diablo Country Club and surrounding housing development in 1912.

Burgess was the son of the Rev. Joshua Burgess, a Presbyterian minister who brought his family to the town when he was named pastor at the Danville Presbyterian Church in 1886.

R.N. Burgess' defining characteristic seems to have been his capacity to dream big and then make it happen. He was a tireless entrepreneur who had myriad businesses, even in his early adolescence.

By the time he graduated from the eighth grade when he was about 15, Burgess had saved enough money to buy 20 acres, build his first home, and establish a warehouse to process and store fruits and nuts from local orchards.

He had a gamblers streak and the ability to bluff.

According to Diablo Country Club historian James C. Stone, Burgess finagled the purchase of the 10,000-acre Oakwood Stock Farm for $150,000, thanks to some inside information and dramatic flair. He later added Blackhawk Ranch "and all the land between it and Diablo and up to the top of Mount Diablo, including the official Mount Diablo Base Meridian Monument and the right-of-way of Mount Diablo Scenic Boulevard."

Things got really interesting when Burgess cold-called one of the most powerful men of the time, William Randolph Hearst, to pitch his big ideas for Diablo. That's a story for another column.

The post office came into play when Burgess took a long view of his plans for Diablo to ensure his vision for the community stood the test of time.

It needed its own U.S. Post Office.

In August 1916 he applied to the post master general and in December of that year the U.S. Post Office in the Diablo Country Club opened on the corner of Avenita Nueva and La Cadena, the site of the Old Horse Barn.

Diablo was established officially.

Today, the post office is tucked inside the Diablo community at 1701 El Nido. The 11th postmaster, Gayle Valencia, took over early last year.

The post office does not deliver to homes. According to the U.S. Postal Service, it delivers to 626 post office boxes, and serves a community of 1,000.

I hear if you can find it, the wait time is next to nothing.

To learn more about the Diablo community, read James C. Stone's "Diablo's Legacy: Recollections and Reflections 1912 – Present," published in 1994, by Miller Freeman Inc., San Francisco.

Kathleen Kull Urban November 17, 2010 at 05:57 PM
If you go between 8 and 8:30, which is before all the mail is put in the post office boxes for the Diablo residents to pick up, then there's rarely a line. I found this option much quicker than any of the other local post offices.
Kirsten Branch November 18, 2010 at 05:30 AM
Thanks for the tip, Kathleen!
David Huntsman May 17, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Would access to the Diablo Post Office be cut off if the roads are closed to non-residents? http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_23262183/diablo-eyes-banning-outside-cyclists-and-drivers-from
Kathy T November 27, 2013 at 07:55 PM
It is a tucked away secret. Took me quite a while to find it. Sign on main road - then nothing more.

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