Berryville Post Office
The Berryville Post Office at 101 East Madison Avenue in Berryville (Carroll County) is a one-story, brick-masonry structure designed in the Colonial Revival style of architecture and featuring a sculpture by Daniel Olney financed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture (later renamed the Section of Fine Arts), a Depression-era stimulus project that promoted public art. The post office was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 1998.
In late 1937, Congress authorized $70 million for public works projects over a three-year period. The majority of those were post offices, and among four in Arkansas was a new post office for Berryville. The building was designed in 1938 and erected by 1939 by Linebarger and Fraser, Contractors, of Camden (Ouachita County). Louis A. Simon was the supervising architect for the project. The new Berryville Post Office opened for business on East Madison Avenue on August 31, 1939; its previous location was on the west side of the town square. A formal dedication was held on September 2, 1939, with Congressman Clyde T. Ellis as the chief speaker.
A total of $750 was allotted for a mural for the new post office, and on May 31, 1939, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts requested and received permission to change the type art from mural to sculpture. Inslee A. Hopper, consultant to the Section chief, invited artist Daniel Olney on June 7, 1939, to submit designs for the sculpture. Olney was born in New York City in 1909 and studied sculpture under Gutzon Borglum. He also studied at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design, the Arts Students League, and the Bavarian Art Trade School. Olney received an honorable mention in the Section’s 50 States Competition before receiving the Berryville commission.
Olney accepted the commission on June 19, writing: “I think some scene from the Arkansas life, or a family group surrounded by the implements of that life, possibly tied up somehow in connection with the mails would be appropriate. My experience living in that extraordinary country will be a help.” A formal contract dated September 1, 1939, gave Olney 252 days to complete a three-part plaster sculpture for the space above the postmaster’s door. One relief was to be 3’4″ high and 2’3″ wide, another 3’4″ high by 2′ wide, and a third 2′ high by 2′ wide, covering a total of nineteen square feet. Olney’s preliminary design was accepted on February 2, 1940, and the Section authorized his first payment of $150.
Hopper, in a March 19, 1940, letter, recommended that Olney himself install the two flanking elements of the sculpture and arrange with a local contractor for installation of the third. The Section approved Olney’s method, provided that two anchors were created for each relief. Olney’s second payment of $250 was approved on March 27.
On the right, the sculpture depicts a kneeling woman with a butter churn. A crossed guitar and plow form the middle element, representing work and play, and the left figure shows a kneeling man with a sheaf of wheat and a pitchfork.
The sculpture was installed in May, and Olney’s final payment of $350 was approved on May 27. The Section apparently was pleased with Olney’s work, since Rowan later provided a letter of support to assist the artist in landing a job with the New York City school system. The Section also selected Olney to provide a sculpture for the post office in Marion, Virginia.
The building still serves as a post office in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:
“Arkansas Post Office Murals.” University of Central Arkansas. http://uca.edu/postofficemurals/home/ (accessed November 6, 2020).
“Arkansas Post Office Murals: Berryville.” University of Central Arkansas. http://uca.edu/postofficemurals/berryville/ (accessed November 6, 2020).
“Berryville Post Office.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CR0989.nr.pdf (accessed November 6, 2020).
“Berryville Post Office Building Is Approved.” Star Progress, September 16, 1937, p. 1.
“Berryville to Get Federal Building.” Star Progress, September 9, 1937, p. 1.
“Five Arkansas U.S. Buildings Approved.” Arkansas Gazette, September 10, 1937, p. 26.
Historic Significance Survey, U.S. Postal Service. July 10, 1980. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Nine Government Building Sites Submitted Here.” Star Progress, October 7, 1937, p. 1.
Smith, Sandra Taylor, and Mark K. Christ, Arkansas Post Offices and the Treasury Department’s Section Art Program, 1938–1942. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1998). Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed November 6, 2020).
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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