Why I want to live at Hattiesburg’s Art Deco P.O.

As I was headed out of Hattiesburg a week or so ago–having taken my pictures of Eaton School and scowling about the lack of progress and initiative on that roof (still haven’t heard an update, but I hope somebody finally figured out that it needed to get done sooner rather than later)–I drove up Pine Street, and for some reason finally noticed the Post Office building in all its Art Deco amazingness. It’s not like I’ve never seen it before, and it wasn’t that the light was hitting it particularly well (it was starting to rain so there wasn’t much light at all), but for some reason I finally spent time staring at it as I drove past. Maybe it was the lack of traffic and the wide open parking area in front, leaving room for a nice long look at the facade. At any rate, I slammed on the brakes, grabbed my camera, and braved the elements to grab some pictures.

One of the many things about post offices I love is that they are among the last institutions–public or private–that still leave their doors open when no one is there. Every once in a while you’ll still find a Catholic church that doesn’t lock its doors, but it’s getting more and more rare. So not only was I able to get detail shots of the exterior but also the even more amazing interior. Looking at the cornerstone, I see that it was built in 1933, and designed by local architect Juan G. Landry and our New Orleans friend-with-the-great-name Rathbone Debuys. Debuys, as you may recall, also designed the original buildings at Gulf Park College in Long Beach, including the administration building, which USM wants to demolish.

Anyway, I don’t think that Sister lived in a P.O. like this one, but I sure could. Look at all the geometries in this building–so sophisticated and confident–and I love the little airplanes!

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Categories: Architectural Research, Cool Old Places, Hattiesburg, Post Offices

20 replies

  1. Love the snappy interior with the striped floor too! If only federal buildings were built with this kind of care and permanence today!

  2. WOW! Amazing interior. Reminds me of the former Nashille post office (now the Frist Center for Visual Arts) – on a smaller scale…

    • I thought that too–I could spent all day just sitting in these kinds of spaces. I can’t put my finger on the quality that makes them so bold and modern but also very friendly and humane at the same time.

    • Yes, it certainly does look remarkably like the Frist Center. The feel is wonderfully similar.

      At the Frist Center, our architecture tours are among the most popular events we schedule, and people are constantly amazed at some of the stories the building tells.

      I wonder if the floors workspace in the Hattiesburg bldg. are like ours. 2x4s cut and laid on end.

      I hope people enjoy working in that building as much as we love working in Nashville’s historic post office building.

      • I was introduced to the Frist Center when SESAH met in Nashville and toured there a couple of years ago. I still remember just standing in the lobby with my mouth slightly agape. Wow! If I worked there, I’m afraid I would be completely unproductive!

      • I toured the Frist as part of the National Trust events last year — it was absolutely FABULOUS! Great job of keeping the character of the post office intact while giving it a vibrant new use.

  3. I wonder if the planes could have had any relationship with the great Key brothers of Meridian? Their flight endurance record was established in 1935 (they stayed in flight from June 4 through July 1) – but I suspect they were doing extraordinary things leading up to that record…

    • Well, the plans began in 1933 and the building was finished in 1934, so the dates don’t line up. Was there an airfield closer to Hattiesburg that would have inspired them? Or maybe they just seemed like wonders of the modern world in general. A new iconography.

    • I see what you’re saying now–maybe they were already doing amazing things before 1935. Key Field is listed on the NR, so I’ll check the nomination and see what it says.

    • Key Field was indeed built in 1930, but it doesn’t look like it had much going on except normal flight operations until the Key brothers’ record-setting flight in 1935.

  4. The airplanes may have more to do with the airport near Hattiesburg, which was built around 1930. Maybe the newness of the airport influenced the Post Office design? That would be where I’d start if I was digging further into the history of the building and the design.

  5. Amazing building. I love the airplanes too. But its the interior which is so chic and stylish. Wish they’d build gorgeous things like that these days.

  6. These kinds of beautiful and sophisticated public buildings are such a democratic gift to all citizens–rich, poor, middle-class, black, white–and I think it says something about our society not only that they aren’t being built today (for the most part), but that the older buildings are either being closed to the public for security reasons (Jackson’s old post office, for instance, where you can’t even peak your head in the door unless you have verified business there) or abandoned by their government agencies (Vicksburg’s Art Deco P.O./federal courthouse building). I’m glad a few like Hattiesburg’s are still open and operating as intended.

  7. I work across the street from this building and can see it out of my window every day…still have not tired of it after 7 years. The parking garage you were standing in, Elmalvaney, to take that long shot photo is where I park every day. Even the furnace gratings have awesome Art Deco detail. The edges of each mailbox door have greek key details. The marble walls have visible fossils in them. This is a beautiful building.

  8. The H’Burg PO clerk told me once that there was a “twin” to the H’Burg facility located in Missouri. The “art deco-looking” airplane appears to be modeled after Charles Linbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis(MO). Before Lindy made his historic 1927 solo flight to Paris, he was a 25-year old commercial airline pilot.

Trackbacks

  1. Odds and Ends: March 30, 2010 | The Marmot's Hole
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