The Columbus post office (1937-1939) in Lowndes County is another of the federal buildings funded and constructed by the New Deal Administration. In the case of Columbus, the result was a Stripped Classic building, which was described as
…largest and most elaborate of the Colonial Revival group…(Fazio, Parrish, Blackwell, & Franks, 1979)
Having now investigated quite a few of the Mississippi post offices constructed during this time period, I would have to agree with them. The post office is brick with white stone trim, and clearly more elegant than others in this style. Look closely now–what detail do you see?
The slate-shingled hipped roof, copper-topped cupola, marble-floored and marble-wainscoted building was designed by architect R. Stanley Brown and constructed by contractor Murphy Pound (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory).
The mural in the Columbus post office, “Out of Soil” by Beulah Bettersworth, was completed and installed for $1,850 under the Treasury Section of Fine Arts. Bettersworth also completed the mural “White Gold in the Delta” for the Indianola post office after Walter Anderson was unable to complete the commission due to his ill health.
Like many of the murals completed during that period, Bettersworth’s mural has been criticized for “racial insensitivity” (Burnett, 2011). Apparently, according to notes made (possibly by the postmaster) at the time of installation, “…many blacks offended” (Library of Congress, HABS). Artistic critiques included that the mules had “a cow’s tail” and the plow harness was “wrong” and that cotton pickers were shown all bunched up rather than along the rows as they would have been in reality. A mule has a tail like a horse (since it is a cross between horse and donkey) and a donkey has a tail similar to that depicted in the mural. Bettersworth may have confused the two, thinking a donkey and a mule were the same–many do.
Two fluted, limestone, Tuscan columns support the limestone architrave along with square limestone pilasters to either side. (U. S. Post Office–Columbus, Mississippi, National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, Fazio et al, 1979)