Morrilton Post Office
The 1936 Morrilton Post Office at 117 North Division Street in Morrilton (Conway County) is a one-story, brick-masonry structure on a continuous brick foundation. The building is designed in a simplified treatment of the Art Deco style of architecture. It features a mural financed through 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.
On January 16, 1936, the Morrilton Democrat reported that Morrilton was included in a group of seven new post offices to be built in Arkansas. The article said that it would be one story with a basement “at a maximum cost of $68, 000.” Bids for the new building were due by May 12, 1936, and the specifications called for it to be sixty-six feet wide and 117.5 feet deep; the lobby was to be 14′ x 52′ and feature five service windows. A. Farnell Blair of Petersburg, Virginia, won the contract with a low bid of $52,157, and the structure was to be built within 250 days. Construction began on June 25, 1936, and the building was dedicated on December 29, 1936, with Congressman David D. Terry as the featured speaker.
Five months before the Morrilton Post Office was completed, the Section requested that $590 be set aside to finance production of a mural for the new building. The request was approved by the director of procurement on May 29, 1936. For some reason, however, more than two years would pass before Section chief Ed Rowan asked permission to invite artist Richard Sargent of Cambria, Virginia, to submit designs for the Morrilton building.
On August 20, 1938, Rowan wrote Sargent and invited him to submit designs for the job. “It is suggested that you use subject matter which embodies some idea appropriate to the building or to the particular locale of Morrilton,” Rowan wrote. “What we want most is simple and vital design.” Sargent enthusiastically accepted the commission in an August 26, 1938, letter, offering to make a trip to Morrilton; Rowan replied that the artist would be wiser to receive suggestions on subject matter from the local postmaster since Sargent would already need to make a trip to Morrilton to install the mural after completion.
Sargent initially submitted two possible designs, one depicting a country fair and the other concerning the legend of Petit Jean. Of the two designs, the section favored the country fair concept but was concerned that it did not reflect life in Morrilton. Sargent submitted five additional sketches titled “The Whistle,” “Arkansas Traveler,” “Building the Little Rock and Fort Smith,” “The Builders,” and “Thirsting Men.” The latter, ultimately titled “Men at Rest,” was selected by the Section, and a contract was executed on November 1, 1938.
The mural was installed by April 1939. It depicts a group of agricultural workers resting and drinking water next to a wagon piled high with hay. The Morrilton Post Office stopped serving as a post office by 2000, after which the mural was removed and restored. The mural was installed in the Conway County Courthouse on January 29, 2002.
The Morrilton Post Office building now houses the Conway County Office of Emergency Management.
For additional information:
“Contract Let for Local Post Office.” Morrilton Democrat, June 4, 1936, p. 1.
“Local Post Office Bids Due.” Morrilton Democrat, April 16, 1936, p. 1.
“Morrilton 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/CN0016.nr.pdf (accessed July 14, 2016).
“New Post Office Dedicated Tuesday.” Morrilton Democrat, December 31, 1936, p. 1.
“New Post Office to Be One Story and Basement.” Morrilton Democrat, April 23, 1936, p. 1.
“Post Office Murals.” University of Central Arkansas. http://uca.edu/postofficemurals/ (accessed July 14, 2016).
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 July 14, 2016).
“To Begin New Post-Office by March 15.” Morrilton Democrat, January 16, 1936, p. 1.
“To Dedicate New Post Office Dec. 29.” Morrilton Democrat, December 17, 1936, p. 1.
U.S. Postal Service Report on Morrilton Post Office, January 30, 1981. On file at the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Work Started on New Post Office.” Morrilton Democrat, June 25, 1936, p. 1.
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated: 07/22/2016