I have been planning to visit the Indianola New Deal Administration post office for over 3 years…and this year is the Year of the Great Mississippi Road Trips to the Delta region. The Indianola post office was built in 1935 in an Art Moderne style. Nancy Bell (June 2, 2008) in the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, Indianola Historic District, described an exterior stucco chimney, although it was not visible to me from any of the locations I could access. The center doors have a concrete surround, and there is a belt course below the top portion of the front wall. I suspect the single door at the left of the building was originally a window; it is now the handicap accessibility entrance with a ramp. I am always happy to see a New Deal post office still in the center of town and serving the community.
George Biddle, an artist, contacted his former college friend, President Franklin Roosevelt with an idea to promote art and artists, and the concept of “art for the people” resulted with the first relief project, the Public Works of Art Project operated under the Civil Works Administration. Other art projects followed, such as the Federal Art Project operated under the Works Progress Administration (1935-1943) and the Treasury Relief Art Project from 1935-1939. The post office art spending ended in 1942 and was not resumed after the war.
Beulah Bettersworth’s 1939 mural “White Gold in the Delta” originally hung in the Indianola Post Office. The mural was destroyed in the 1960s during post office renovations. You can see a black and white photograph of the mural at Jimmy Emerson’s page on Flickr. Emerson has photographed many of the post office murals in the US.
Update October 22, 2017: Following Beth’s questions below, I did a bit of additional searching and turned up some information about the 1960s remodeling. Approval to “enlarge and modernize” the Indianola post office was granted in July 1960 (Greenwood Commonwealth). In addition to “modernization”–a word that has come to scare me used in conjunction with historic buildings, an extension to the rear and west side were approved. Following the near completion of the new post office, the Indianola Enterprise wrote:
The only fault, if it is a fault, is in the shape of the building, and the way it sits on the lot. A few feet to the west so as to line up with the buildings on the north side of Percy street, and a few feet back, would have added to the appearance. (Uncle Sam’s New Post Office, 27 June 1935, p. 1)
During the renovations in 1962, the post office added the new wing to the west, a basement for a fallout shelter, and the west end–which housed the taller portion of the building, became the center entrance, relocated from the east end of the original building. E. L. Malvaney designed the extention to the building. Because of November rains, a canopy of plastic sheeting affixed by a tin roof and wooden framing, was utilized to proceed with construction.
There is no indication of when the current canopies were added.