New Deal in Mississippi: Carthage US Post Office and carved wood bas relief

US Post Office Carthage

The 1939 Carthage post office has the distinction of being not only one of 32 Mississippi post offices constructed with New Deal funds, but one with several unique details that enable the building and its art work to stand out among the other 31. This stunning-in-its-simplicity design has qualities of detail that render it a stand-alone, albeit this pronouncement is delivered in my non-architectural, non-historian, non-artist credentials opinion.  Granted, I have a fully-acknowledged bias toward those communities that continue to use their historic post offices as a post office, located in the center of the town, and as someone who has in recent years photographed a lot of post offices, I have a somewhat broad comparative database.

logrolling woodcut

“Lumbermen Rolling a Log” carved wood bas relief by Peter Dalton. Image used with permission of United States Postal Service.

The interior of the post office contains not the typical mural painting, but a wood sculpture of men working as loggers, completed and installed in 1941 by New York City artist Peter Dalton, at a cost of $750, funded through the Treasury Bureau Section of the Fine Arts program.  The original wooden entry vestibule, polychrome terrazzo floor, and granite wainscoting are all intact.

The National Register of Historic Places nomination form (Fazio et al., 1979) described the ‘prismatic quality’ of the exterior, and I confess, that sent me to the dictionary.

Prismatic: of, relating to, or having the form of a prism or prisms: a prismatic structure;  from the French prismatique, from Greek prisma ‘thing sawn’.

So what in that exterior wall is prismatic?  What other unique features are showcased in this design?  Architect Shelby Olvy Yarborough’s Art Deco/Georgian Revival/Colonial Revival building included a cast metal grill and a cupola with louvers and what appear to be glass blocks.  The final question with which I leave you is this:

Is that a cant hook or peavey that the lumbermen are using to turn (roll) that log?  Is it a cant hook with hog nose end, or a cant hook with crow foot end?

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Sources:  Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory; Living New Deal; M. W. Fazio, W. E. Parrish, T. Blackwell, & C. Franks, 1979 National Register of Historic Places nomination form retrieved from MDAH/HRI; Sam Moore, Cant Hook or Peavey?, Rural Heritage Logging Camp.



Categories: Carthage, New Deal, Post Offices

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11 replies

  1. I like those triple hung windows. I think the glass in the copula is just opaque rather than actual glass block.

    This has to be one of my favorites of all the post offices you’ve featured.

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  2. Enjoyed reading about this post office. Very beautiful building that I hope always shall receive care and love.

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  3. So different and yet, I see similarities to the other Post Offices of that era. The vestibules are always familiar. I’m also glad to see these buildings in the middle of the town still being used as they were intended!

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    • I like the vestibules, and am always happy to walk into post offices from that period and see those. I do confess to not particularly caring for the giant pink ribbon strung across this one, but perhaps they were acknowledging breast cancer awareness month.

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  4. I understand Dr. Fazio’s use of the term “prismatic” to imply a work of perfectly-proportioned, discrete elements…in this case a rectangular block topped by a canted roof topped by a small vertical box…three discrete elements stripped pretty much of ornament, each of elegant proportion.

    That’s a guess based, I suppose, upon listening to him for many, many hours. He’s the best.

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