Award winning veteran photojournalist
In East Texas the "tomato capital" of Texas the town of Jacksonville's 1933 main post office is all dressed up. Now the Landmark Event Center with a spa and catering to weddings, banquets, reunions and holiday parties. They removed all the mail boxes and turned them into etched windows.Texas Senator Morris Sheppard served from 1913 to his death in 1941. Known as "King of Pork," he was able to get added funds to dress-up it up with some marble inside (stairs, columns) and outside a post office in the booming East Texas oilfield. Check out www.landmarkmedspa.com
Once upon a time it was a post office but now in Athens, Texas, it is the city library. The safe that protected the stamps and registered mail is now a storage and break room for the librarians. Interior remodeled with large open space and decorative ceiling. In Nacogdoches the old post main post office on Main Street is now the Visitor Center with a museum.
For some cities they "starved" . . . not in Fort Worth
No kidding, the old main in Fort Worth next to the railroad tracks and the train station is huge and ornate. Huge marble columns imported on a barge up the Trinity river from Italy, every column on the front and pillars on each side are topped with a volate showing cattle.( Fort Worth was cattle country in 1933), metal emblems feature postal services like airmail.
The Star-Telegram was the largest paper in Texas at the time, covering everything west of Fort Worth all the way to El Paso. The publisher, Amon Carter, traveled the country getting advertising and promoting Fort Worth. In 1932, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt came to Fort Worth, as well as fellow Texan and Vice President of the United States James N. Garner and the Postmaster General James Farley. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn also enjoyed getting off the train in Fort Worth, they had built a road (HWY 121) pointing to his home in Bonham, Texas.
The Depression had forced the Postal Department to cut back and be thrifty, according to James H. Bruns in his book Great American Post Offices "the majority of these New Deal buildings were 'Starved Classical' style post offices, an architectural form that matched the Roosevelt Administration's propensity for simplicity and thrift."
Artwork for even the smaller Texas post offices
People were out of work, even artists, and President Frankiln D. Roosevelt wanted to help. Was elected with promises to reduce the countries 25% unemployed workers. The government built new post offices, built roads, and petitioned artists to paint murals for local post offices.
Artists had to place bids to every proposal, SMU professor Otis Dozier won the bid for the Arlington, Texas, post office located between Dallas and Fort Worth. Dozier suggested a painting something showing picking cotton or maybe picking pecans. Since there was a Federally funded Pecan research grove in Arlington, the pecan idea won.
It was a perfect fit with professor O.S. Gray cloning ways to modify the native Texas pecan into something producing larger nuts and today those modified pecans are what we see today in the store.
The Worthington Bank bought the old post office in downtown Arlington and initially preserved the post office decor, photos taken in 2012 show the mural, which had hung over the postmasters office since 1941. The bank has since been remodeled and decided to donated it to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort worth.
After restoration the mural now proudly hangs across from the gift shop.
It's interesting seeing how the old Post Office has changed. Maybe the town needed a new larger one, so it would be easier for trucks and carriers to deliver the mail.
But the old Post Office was strong and solid. They all had to be fireproof and were constructed with a steel frame and with stone or brick. They had strong secure safes to insure the money, stamps and valuables won't be stolen.
Federal government assigned grade levels, based on the amount of mail handled, this then determined the size, Class A for the major metropolitan cities with highest volume of mail had to be on a major thoroughfare an "improvement to adjoining property."
Then there is the Class C post office building. "Brick facing with store or terra cotta trimmings, fireproof floors...public spaces restricted to very simple forms of ornament." This was the general classification architects had to work with that was proposed by Treasury Secretary William McAdoo in 1915.
Although the Post office in Henderson and Belton are still in use, they are no longer post offices.
Post Offices in East Texas in the 1930's were in the heart of what many thought was the largest oil reserve in the world.
Going back to day it is interesting to compare and imagine what life was like back in the Depression and Texas oil boom. With so much oil there was no control over how much, where or who could sell the oil. They were nearly giving it away and this led to Texas putting the Texas Railroad Commission in charge of regulating to stabilize both production and prizes and preserve a natural resource.
H.L. Hunt lived in Tyler as he gobbled up oil reserves in East Texas and negotiated with Dallas bankers. And the Post Office and Federal Courthouse is one of a kind. First post office to have a woman architect, Shirley Simons.
Kilgore shows off it's "Million Dollar Mile," but had a small post office which is now the town library. The mural showing drilling is now displayed high up in the East Texas Oil Museum.
The Tyler PO is now the Federal Courthouse and in Longview the postmaster's office is used by a lawyer.
The old main Post Office in Austin Texas
James Bruns in his book, Great American Post Offices lists the old Main as one of ten in Texas worth seeing. Noting how resembles overall proportions and contours of the PO in Cairo, Illinois. But look at how it compares to the former post office in Waxahachie that is now the City Hall.
Austin's modeled after Italian High Renaissance palace and build in 1870. Architect thought to be Alfred Mullett and built in 1878. Today it's part of the University of Texas and known as O'Henry Hall. With a booming city it is preserved as the rest of the block goes under construction for a new skyscraper.
The post office in Waxahachie became the City Hall in 2000, built in 1911 and in use as a post office till 1967. It has significant changes inside, but has been preserved as additions were added. Just look at the photos.
Above is Waxahachie City Hall. and they are proud of preserving a historic structure. Where Austin was capitol of the State of Texas, Waxahachie was a cotton capital and known for it's pre-1900
"Ginger Bread" houses as well as the Ellis County Courthouse built in 1897. Look at some other photos of these "similar" Texas post offices.
We take them for granted, just another old building. Most people simply take these historic landmarks for granted. The post office once was the only source of information, delivering newspapers, personal letters, catalogs, along with bills and checks.
These monuments shouldn't be forgotten. I want to get up close and look at all sides inside and out. Hopefully this blog will tell the story of people and pride in various communities around Texas.
Jim is focusing on preserving and bringing awareness of those classic post offices. He is happy to speak to groups and show what it was like before the internet..