New Deal in Mississippi: Louisville Post Office and Mural

closeupIn another of the series of 32 post offices built in Mississippi with help from the New Deal Administration funding, Louisville stands out.  This Colonial Revival building was constructed in 1935 by Dye and Mullings from Columbia-Hattiesburg, under the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury (Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Historic Resources Inventory database).  This is not what makes the building stand out, though.

front elevation

This is: the addition to the east side of the building, added 1989-90.  Architects Mockbee-Coker-Howorth designed the construction that enlarged the facility, creating the ability to maintain an important historic structure, while meeting the needs for greater workspace, and accessibility.  The east wing is accessible, both with off-street parking and access ramp and automatic door, and street-level elevation.  The interior blends with the original construction, which still houses the front mail window and the original entry vestibule.  Hats off and a big salute to the folks in Louisville who opted for a preservation plan instead of destruction of a beautiful and historically significant building, or even if saving it, turning it over for other non-postal use.  Now, the post office still belongs to the community, e.g., “the people” and fulfills an important function in communities.


Used with permission of the United States Postal Service

Inside, the mural Crossroads, painted by Karl Wolfe of Jackson, was installed in 1938.  Wolfe was one of only three Mississippi artists to be selected for the 28 commissioned pieces placed in Mississippi under the Treasury’s program for bringing art to the people (Patti Carr Black, 1998, Art in Mississippi, 1720-1980).  Payment was $310, installed.  The postal worker advised, “A lot of people are interested in that mural and come in to take a picture.”

pilasters front entranceThese doors are still open!

Categories: Historic Preservation, New Deal, Post Offices

18 replies

  1. thanks for continuing this series suzassippi!


  2. This series does make us think anew about what is “public art” – who does it? What does it tell us about ourselves or our world? Has modernism taken us over a great divide away from representational art and stolen from us an important part of our language?


    • Good questions. Some of the early posts described the meanings behind public art, and the political and social reasons for creating it to garner support for the New Deal programs. I also think that the subjects of the murals–laborers, working men and women, regional representations that reflected the history, for example, very much told us something about ourselves and our world. Now, when we discuss the representation of African Americans in the New Deal era art, while it may make people uncomfortable, the truth is that is how white people saw the roles and relationships at that time. It is always that way when the only thing considered art, or history, is from the perspective of the dominant group. I think that having the conversation about it is important, though.


      • The depiction of workers in New Deal art underwent periods of almost phobic criticism (McCarthy era) when the public monuments in the Soviet Union began to glorify and idealize workers. There was an actual bleed over between these depictions; because some New Deal artists were ex-patriot Soviets.


  3. So your’e saying Louisville is a “case study” for a Mendenhall solution?


  4. I’ve posted this link before and that image in my mind’s eye of “flashing a golden tooth” architecture keeps coming back as I witness these new evangelical baptist churches bulldoze our historic architecure into landfills. My earliest encounter with these religious “reconstructionists” was back in the 1960s. when I was a member of a baptist church chartered circa 1848 up in Oktibbeha county. The church building had always two entry doors in front–the front of the church building was approximately 30 feet in width. And there was a separation “barrier” between the pews. When the new blood and the Seminary-trained preachers discovered why the building was designed as it was, they mounted a campaign to “cleanse”–the baptists are big on cleansing– the church of its slavedays history . The two doors entrances were “cleansed” and replaced with one front entrance door and the segregated pew barrier was removed. During “reconstruction” the freed slave members of the church were OFFERED the opportunity to form their own congregations, which they did. Yes, chattel slavery was one peculiar institution, indeed..


  5. It’s interesting that the white people in this mural do not appear to be any less enslaved than the black man. And if you look at the history of lumber manufacturing up until World War II, you will see a lot of northern millionaires like Edward Hines and the Finkbine brothers clear cutting the land and paying workers of all races with tokens. When you are getting a billion board feet of timber cut and paying the workers with wooden nickels and then charging them a wooden nickel for a loaf of bread that you may have paid a penny for–you can realize a very profitable business model. The economies that absentee owners set up in the South were very much like those imperial overlords designed for colonials. Scrip economies virtually disappeared with the advent of World War II and I would like to know if it was because government contracts would not be given to companies paying in scrip.


    • AMEN! Mississippi’s virgin timber was ravaged after the Civil War. But what else could they do, feed their families or cut the trees. Northern business men made a mint, while their workers were basically paying their employers to work. This is why my family was made up of back woods farmers. They might have not had much, but every penny they made was theirs to keep and didn’t have a portion subtracted to go to the company store.


  6. When you are getting a billion board feet of timber cut and paying the workers with wooden nickels and then charging them a wooden nickel for a loaf of bread that you may have paid a penny for–you can realize a very profitable business model.~Mark Clinton Davis

    And Mississippi State University’s own Richard Adkerson(CEO of Freeport MacMoran) is carrying that very same business model into Central Africa(DRC)–the Congo–after the decades-long dig in Indonesia. The graduate business school at State was named for Mr. Adkerson.


  7. Colonialism and imperialism are rampant Mr Clifton. Greed and exploitation are tragic. Freeport MacMoran has also proven to be whizbang at stock manipulation projects that bilk their investors; so they are doubling up on the exploitation models.


  8. Maybe that expalins why Blackwater mercenaries were guarding Adkerson’s home in New Orleans during the Katrina flooding.


  9. He lives directly across the street from my cousin Jon in the FQ. If you look at the operations of Freeport McMoran and see the denuded landscapes stretching for sixty miles at a time, so polluted not even a blade of grass will grow there–while indigenous people dressed in filthy rags work for nothing more than subsistance–on land their corrupt governments confiscated from them because of corporate bribes; it is clear that corporations are not the best representatives of the United States or its people. In one of those supreme Orwellian ironies I’m sure the guards protecting his house were there to protect him from “environmental terrorists.”


  10. Before Freeport acquired the Phelps-Dodge mine holdings in the DRC, Adkerson was known as the “Goldbug” of Indonesia. I guess now he’s become the Copperbug of Congo. I think that you would appreciate the documentary films and journalism of John Pilger;especially, the East Timor one. The Obama administration blocked Pilger’s entry into the US to appear at the US premier screening of his latest documentary, The War You Don’t See.


  11. Thank you for that recommendation! Mine is Vincent Monnikendam’s Mother Dao the Turtlelike. It is a dark poetic masterpiece woven of archival film footage of colonial Indonesia, very thought-provoking.


  12. Have you done an article on the post office in Forest, Mississippi? I understand that it was built in 1938 and it has a mural painted with a logging theme.


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