Suzassippi’s Mississippi: Old Pontotoc Post Office

A few weeks ago, Mark Davis’ Restoring Picayune’s Disappeared WPA Mural  not only provided a great story about the Picayune Post Office WPA mural, but included some wonderful photographs of other WPA post office murals.  Not long after that, I found myself in Pontotoc, and as I was walking around the square, was reminded of the days when the post office–like most other businesses and services–was located downtown instead of out on some by-pass.

The original downtown Pontotoc Post Office was built in 1937 in the Georgian style (Mississippi Department of Archives and History/Historic Resources Inventory database).   The architect was Louis A. Simon, Supervising Architect of the Treasury.  Simon joined the office in 1896 and spent the rest of his career there.  He was responsible for seven post offices in Mississippi, including one in near-by New Albany.  Sanders & Cawthon (1993) described the building:

Colonial Revival, constructed 1936…central double-leaf aluminum and glass doors surrounded by a stone architrave with dentil molding in the cornice…stone water table and cornice with dentil molding…brick quoins at corners…granite steps.

I remembered the post on the Picayune murals and wondered if there might be one in the Pontotoc post office…stepped across the street and inside…

“Used with the permission of the United States Postal Service®. All rights reserved.”

The mural, The Wedding of Ortez and SaOwana-Christmas 1540, was painted by Joseph Pollet (MDAH/HRI), completed and installed under the WPA program in 1939 (Princeton.edu).  Pollet was born in Germany and emigrated to New York City in 1911 with his parents.

“Used with the permission of the United States Postal Service®. All rights reserved.”

The mural depicts the feast given in 1540 by Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto to honor the first recorded Christian marriage in North America, which took place near Pontotoc (Sanders & Cawthon, 1993).  The mural is oil-on-canvas (WPA murals.com).  The building is currently used as a museum.



Categories: Historic Preservation, Pontotoc, Post Offices

16 replies

  1. Thank you for this beautiful post. You can still buy stamps and mail packages from this location. Also some residents of the town receive mail in their P. O. Boxes here. Full of great history and Southern hospitality, Pontotoc is one of Mississippi’s best kept secrets. It is located just 45 minutes from Oxford. Tupelo is only 20 miles in the opposite direction. Another historical gem on the outskirts of Pontotoc is the antebellum home Lochinvar. It is no longer open for tours but MDAH web site has a great photo album of Lochinvar. Dr. Forrest Tutor, the same owner for almost half a century, wrote a book on the home’s history. The book is no longer in print, but it is available for purchase on line. He and his wife Dr. Janis Tutor take excellent care of the home. Lochinvar has a great ghost story. Google: Lochinvar Ghosts of the Prairie. Happy Halloween. BOO !!!

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  2. Thank you for this post! I looked up this mural on the MDAH HRI database after the last mural post. I found a photo in the National Register Nomination but it was a black and white image that does not do it the justice your color images do.

    I wonder if Louis A. Simon was the architect for the now demolished Pascagoula Post Office as it is almost identical to this one? http://www.cardcow.com/61192/post-office-pascagoula-mississippi/

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    • That is amazing, but he is not credited with it on the MDAH/HRI database. It sure looks the same, doesn’t it?

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    • Louis Simon probably didn’t actually do the designing of any of these post offices, but the large office he directed, the Office of the Supervising Architect, located in the Dept. of Treasury (of all places) did most of the design work for federal buildings of all types from the late nineteenth century until morphing through a couple of successions into the modern-day General Services Administration. These Georgian/Colonial Revival designs were very popular in the 1930s since they were putting up post offices lickety-split all over the country. Big cities like Jackson, Hattiesburg, Vicksburg, and Meridian got more attention for their larger non-standard P.O.s and for those local architects usually got the job (probably still overseen by the OSA). There’s a whole book–which I’ve looked through but never read through–about the OSA: Architects to the Nation by Antoinette Lee. Or you could read the crib notes: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/hisnps/NPSBooks/lee.htm

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      • I had begun to figure as much, the more I have looked into this. I’m knee deep into the next road trip planning, though. I have an idea for an interdisciplinary service learning class perking in my head.

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  3. Thank you for continuing this intriguing story. Next trip to Mississippi I’m checking out the post offices!

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  4. Thanks for your post on the Post Office in Pontotoc. It is a working Post Office that services our Downtown area. We do have a larger PO on the by-pass. The mural is amazing and does give us credit for the first marriage in the New Land. We used this when we worked on a new tagline for Pontotoc. Bloomberg Review selected Pontotoc as best place to raise kids in MS in November of 2011 for 2012. Families are very important to us and we are very proud of our families. Thus the tagline for “Pontotoc:where family comes first and we love every second.” The Mural and Bloomsberg help us back up the statement. Our doors are open and welcome all to come and visit and you maybe surprised;You will want to stay.

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  5. I remember several of these murals. Who owns the copyright to them, if, for example, as in New Albany, the post office building has been purchased? by Chamber of Commerce. I would LOVE to have posters of many of these murals. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but when I first looked at the First Marriage mural, I thought I was looking at a painting based on “The Last Supper,” but with pigs !! Is there a book with ALL the murals done in the U.S.? I’ve always been curious about these.

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    • According to an article I found in Greenwich Times quoting a USPS spokesperson, the mural may be left in the building if the buyer agrees to preserve it. If not, the mural is removed.

      I will be doing a follow up post on the New Deal murals. I recently learned that they were part of the program Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture created in 1934 after the Public Works of Art Project 1933-34 ended, and was intended to provide employment for artists on relief. The US Postal Service maintains ownership and control of the art.

      Texas has 3 of the posters for sale through the historic commission (http://www.thc.state.tx.us/store/stPOmural.shtml). There are many books on the art work in various states and communities.

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  6. I did my thesis for an MFA in HP on 10 of these post offices north of HWY 82. It was a fascinating study. Yes, the murals remain the property of the Treasury Dept even if the building is sold. The post office murals were not really a WPA artist project, but a project of the Treasury Dept. during the New Deal. Artists had to submit cartoons for the drawings and were selected for the project. Numerous preliminary drawings and letters ran back and forth for each mural before the final was approved. I have copies of much of the correspondence. If an artist from a particular state was available The floor plan on the smaller post offices is very similar. Columbus is one of the larger ones because Columbus was a bustling city at the time and the need was greater for the larger post office. Okolona’s mural was painted over because the art deco mural was considered risque by the locals. I could write a book on the subject….oh that’s right I did.

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