Garrett Post Office

I'm starting to be able to spot these things a mile away, post offices built during the Depression that feature Public Works of Art Project murals.  I was in Garrett late last summer to look at a theater project and their post office caught my eye.  Sure enough, it had one of Indiana's 36 extant post office murals.  This one recalls the city's great railroad past.  The following is from a piece I wrote about Rensselaer's mural:

The Public Works of Art Project was formed on December 8, 1933, as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program to pull the country out of the dire economic conditions brought on by the stock market crash in 1929.  On the December 8th date, a meeting was held by the Treasury Department’s Advisory Committee on Fine Arts which also included First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt and the directors of eight major museums of art in the United States.  The goal was to employ artists in the decoration of public buildings and parks. To participate, artists had to prove that they were unemployed and qualified to produce works of art that would benefit public property.  Following the success of other New Deal programs, the Works Progress Administration was formed in 1935 and included under its auspices the Division of Professional and Service Projects with four programs: art, music, literature, and drama. The Federal Art Project was designed for the production of art among other related functions.

The Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., established a Section of Painting and Sculpture to employ artists for producing work for public buildings in 1935 after funding for the Public Works of Art Project was withdrawn.  The founder of the Public Works of Art Project, Edward Bruce, was chosen to direct the program. To achieve the goal of exposing the public to good art, post offices were selected because of high volume of use.  Bruce commented in a letter to President Roosevelt that placing art in post offices would carry out his “dream of letting simple people all over the country see at least one thing of beauty.”

Thirty-seven murals were commissioned for Indiana post offices.  Thirty-six are extant.  The first mural was installed in the Lafayette post office in 1936 and the last was installed in Monticello in 1942, one year before the Treasury Department program would end.

Garrett is located in west central DeKalb County. The town was platted by Beverly Randolph, the son of James Randolph, the chief engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The town was platted in 1875, shortly after the railroad was constructed through DeKalb County, and was named for John Garrett, the president of the railroad.  Lots were sold immediately and a rush to create a new commercial and shipping center with access to the railroad occurred in the town genuinely developed by and for the railroad.  By 1913 Garrett’s population was nearly 5,000.  The town was incorporated as a city in 1893.

Some of the more significant public works developed in Garrett  at the turn of the century were the city’s water and light company plant that was established in 1896.  There were nine miles of water lines included in the city’s water system.  By 1912, the city had developed a boulevard lighting system.  The city had three miles of paved streets and five miles of sewerage under the streets by 1913.  The city constructed a new city hall in 1913 and a Carnegie library by 1914.  One of the largest public buildings in the city is the Sacred Heart Hospital which was constructed in 1902.


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