Wynne Post Office
The Wynne Post Office at 402 East Merriman Avenue in Wynne (Cross County) is a one-story, brick-masonry structure designed in a restrained interpretation 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 September 28, 1935, the Wynne Daily Star Progress reported that a lot on Merriman Avenue was picked as the site of a new post office for Wynne. The U.S. Department of the Treasury paid Lizzie Collins $6,000 for the property.
A January 10, 1936, article noted that a cap of $65,000 was placed on construction costs for the structure, projected to be a one-story structure with a basement. It was summer before work began, and an August 19 Star Progress article quoted construction superintendent C. W. Saffell of the Farnsworth Construction Company of New Orleans, Louisiana, as saying the building would be ready for occupancy by the first of the year. Ultimately, however, the building did not open until late April 1937.
The original specifications for the Wynne Post Office included a $560 allocation for a 12′ x 4’6″ mural above the postmaster’s door. On August 5, 1938, section chief Ed Rowan invited Ethel Magafan of Colorado Springs, Colorado, to submit designs for the Wynne structure, and on January 5, 1939, Magafan submitted two pencil sketches “using the theme of negro cotton pickers” for the Wynne Post Office. The section deemed a sketch of workers in a cotton field as “the most interesting.” By early June, Magafan submitted the required color sketch of her mural proposal. Rowan noted one figure with a disproportionately small head and a male figure “which does not seem entirely realized” but accepted the work.
On October 26, Rowan notified Magafan that arrangements were complete for her to install the mural in the Wynne Post Office. Magafan wrote Rowan on November 8 that she was “very anxious to install it immediately and would appreciate it if you would wire me collect if it meets your approval.” The next message from Rowan, dated December 2, was a terse telegram reading: “ON YOUR VISIT WYNNE ARKANSAS DID POSTMASTER APPROVE COTTON SUBJECT MATTER.” Magafan replied on the same date that Rowan left her “a wee bit bewildered as to why there is any discussion about the cotton as subject matter. Upon arriving at Wynne, I discovered there were fields of cotton on all sides as far as I could see. When I visited the Postmaster I naturally asked about the crops and things of importance in Wynne. About all the Postmaster could suggest was orchards and cotton. As he himself suggested cotton I took for granted he approved of it.” On December 6, Rowan replied: “THANKS LETTER DECEMBER SECOND EXPLANATION SATISFACTORY PROCEED INSTALLATION FIRST CONFERRING WITH POSTMASTER RELATIVE CONVENIENT DATE ACCOUNT HOLIDAY RUSH.”
Magafan installed the mural around the first of the year in 1940, writing Rowan on January 3 that “the Postmaster and his crew were pleased with it and the local people seemed very interested, although some of them didn’t even know the meaning of the word mural.” The local postmaster notified Rowan on January 15 that the mural “seems to be satisfactory, we have had numerous compliments on the work” and enclosed an undated Star Progress clipping noting the installation of the work by Magafan and her twin sister, Jenne. Magafan is quoted on her inspiration for the work: “When I was here last year I made many sketches of the negroes at work and found that your landscape here offered much interesting material for an artist to use.”
The Wynne Post Office continues to serve the people of Wynne and Cross County in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:
“Arkansas Post Office Murals.” University of Central Arkansas. http://uca.edu/postofficemurals/home/ (accessed October 7, 2020).
“Construction of Local Post Office Will Begin Soon.” Wynne Daily Star Progress, January 10, 1936, p. 1.
“Lot Is Selected for Post Office.” Wynne Daily Star Progress, September 28, 1935, p. 1.
“New Post Office Opening Monday.” Wynne Daily Star Progress, April 24, 1937, p. 1.
“Post Office Cost Is Raised $4,500.” Wynne Daily Star Progress, May 9, 1936, p. 1.
“Rapid Progress on New Building,” Wynne Daily Star Progress, December 31, 1936, 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 October 7, 2020).
“To Start June 1 on Post Office.” Wynne Daily Star Progress, March 24, 1936, p. 1.
“To Start Work on Post Office Here Soon.” Wynne Daily Star Progress, June 2, 1936, p. 1.
“Work Progresses Rapidly on Post Office Building.” Wynne Daily Star Progress, August 19, 1936, p. 1.
“Wynne 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/CS0022.nr.pdf (accessed October 7, 2020).
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated: 10/07/2020