The Beaver Main Post Office is a one-story, buff-colored brick building on a raised concrete basement. The front façade is symmetrical, divided into five bays devoid of significant detailing. A centered entry bay with two equally-sized window bays on either side break the otherwise plain façade. Granite steps and landing, flanked by square concrete buttresses, provide access to the entry. Above the entry doors, and fronting a transom window is an ornate aluminum grille in which a low-relief sculpted eagle is centered. The façade is terminated by a plain limestone frieze with a slightly projecting molded cornice. A hipped roof, clad with copper, covers the front portion of the building while the rear is covered by a flat built-up tar composition roof. Centered on the ridge of the hipped roof is a square copper and glass cupola.
Built in 1941 at 20 South Main Street in Beaver, Utah
The front facade (east) is divided into five flat-arched bays. The main entry bay is centered, and flanked on each side by two window bays. The entry bay is slightly recessed from the brick-faced facade and framed in wood. The entry consists of double metal doors with six-light glass panels, topped by a nine-light transom window which rests atop a plain wooden door head. The ornate painted aluminum grille, in which a flat relief sculpted eagle is centered, is set in front of the transom window. Single free-standing lanterns in a torch motif rest atop each of the entry buttresses.
The window bays are identical to each other and of the same dimension as the entry bay. The bays consist of triple-hung six-light windows of wood sash which are set above a plain sandstone panel. The panel is slightly recessed and rests on the limestone facing of the raised basement wall. A plain limestone frieze extends across the façade between the line marking the tops of the bays to a plain, slightly projecting sandstone cornice. “United States Post Office”, “Beaver, Utah” is carved into the frieze and centered on the entry. The copper-clad hipped roof is topped by a square cupola a copper base, centered copper louvers flanked by four-light glass panels, and flat copper cap. A weather vane is set atop the cap.
The south façade is flat and divided into two sections the front section projecting slightly relative to the rear. Each section contains two window bays identical in design and detail as those of the front façade. Sandstone faces the exposed basement wall, frieze above the window bays, and cornice. Brick faces the remainder of the façade. The hipped roof overlies the front section and the flat built-up tar composition roof covers the rear.
The north facade is almost identical to the south facade. It differs in that one window bay is filled with brick (original construction) and one small one-over-one light double-hung sash window flanks each side of the bricked-in window.
The rear facade is similar in design and use of materials as the front except that the entry has been replaced by a brick-enclosed concrete loading platform. Extending rearward, the platform is slightly offset from the center of the building. The platform opens to the north with a single metal overhead loading door and a single metal pedestrian door. The west and south sides are solid brick. A flat roof with a metal marquee which projects over the loading area covers the platform. Two window bays, identical to those of the front and sides of the main building, flank each side of the platform. A smaller vertically-aligned window with one-over-one, double-hung wood sash occupies the northern corner.
The physical appearance of the Beaver Post Office has not been altered. No major renovations have occurred since its 1941 construction.
Though not yet fifty years old, the Beaver Post Office is exceptionally significant on the state level for art and architecture and on the local level for politics/government. The design is a duplicate of several other western post
offices, but it is the only example of Depression-era Federal architecture in Beaver. Moreover, it is the only example of its design-type in Utah. The building and the mural which it contains represent the efforts of the federal government, through its public works and art programs, to assist communities during a period of economic emergency. The mural, one of three post office murals in the state, represents a significant type, period, and style of artistic expression which, through its visual expression, relates to the social history of its locality. Finally, the building symbolizes the linkage between the federal government and local citizens through their home-grown Congressman, Abe Murdock.
The Beaver Main Post Office is a well-preserved and unaltered example of a small-town, single-purpose post office in the Starved Classical style. The building exhibits the modern or the International design influence in its flat facades and lack of explicitly articulated historical design elements, yet retains Classical symmetry and proportion. Flat brick piers, extending from the exposed basement wall to a broad limestone band, divide the five bays of the façade. These elements are reductions of the pilasters or columns, and the entablature of the Beaux-Arts designs. Ornamentation is stripped and limited to the ornate grille in which is set a low-relief eagle sculpture (also standardized) which rests above the entry doors. Although the building is given an American Colonial flavor by use of a hipped roof and cupola,
the design is modern.
The design represents the culmination of the evolution of federal design in the vastly expanded public buildings programs beginning at the turn of the century. The buildings prior to 1920 were designed in the Beaux-Arts tradition.
Those buildings of the early 1930s carry over this tradition, yet begin to show the transition to the modern. The Classical influence remains clear and the historical detailing retains its definition, however the facades become flatter
and tend toward simplicity. Federal architecture after the mid-1930s evidences greater refinement and attention to the modern influence. This is strongly evident in the Beaver Post Office which represents the end of the design revolution, which essentially ended at the onset of World War II. As such, it is a significant element in the state’s legacy of federal architecture and integral to the group of post offices included in this thematic nomination. Therefore, the building has statewide significance under Criterion C.
According to Dan E. Burke, in the exhibition catalogue for Utah Art of the Depression (1986), the public arts programs sponsored by the federal government in Utah during the Depression were successful in not only in enriching the lives of Utah citizens but also for laying down the first stone in the foundation of a vital cultural movement. The first of the federal programs, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), functioned from December 1933 to June 1934. Under the direction of the Women’s Division of the Utah Civil Works Administration, projects were initially assigned to Utah artists. Included in this body of work were sculptures, sketches, easel paintings and murals for the Utah State Capitol
rotunda. After the initial projects were completed, several other artists received commissions to execute murals and easel paintings.
Following PWAP, arts programs were continued under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration of Utah (FERA) which existed in Utah from April 1, 1934 to July 1, 1935. Administered by Judy F. Lund, twenty-two artists produced eighty-three art works. These works included easel paintings, ceramic pieces, woodblock prints, sketches, sculptures, posters and the completion of the State Capitol dome murals. The program allowed completion of projects initiated under PWAP, provided additional opportunity for artists to produce their artwork, and continued federal support for the arts until the beginning of the Section of Painting and Sculpture.
The Section of Painting and Sculpture (renamed the Section of Fine Arts in 1938) was established by the Treasury Department on October 14, 1934. It was under this program that the Beaver mural and murals in the Provo and Helper post offices were completed. The Section, which was administered in Washington, dealt directly with the artists, and selected artists through national and regional design competitions. The Section sought the best decorative art that it could find for designated federal buildings. The intent of the program’s administrators was that the work would reflect the themes and styles of the American Scene, with a hope that it would strike a responsive chord in the general public. Although the program is attributed with having fostered an American Regionalism, art critics could never find a coherent body of work that was truly Regionalist or representative of particular sections of the country. The work that was created did, however, portray the American Scene in the form of localized subject matter. Further, the work resulting from the program tended to pursue an inoffensive middle ground of style and content which was sometimes viewed as producing limp platitudes rather than strong statements. This resulted from the requirement for final approval from Washington as well as compliance with local preferences. The strife or dark side of the Depression was not portrayed, but instead the nostalgic and positive events of the American Scene were depicted.
No Utah artist received a commission under the Section of Fine Arts program and none participated in the Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP) which was initiated in July 1935.
The WPA Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) perhaps made the greatest contribution to the body of Utah art. Implemented in mid-1935, the Utah program was sponsored by the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts. Three areas of activity were covered by the program: (1) creation of art; (2) technical research; and (3) art applied to community service and art education. Several hundred works of art including fourteen murals were added to the collections of the State, and various public agencies and municipalities.
Beaver’s mural (approximately 12′ x 6′, oil on canvas), entitled “Life on the Plains”, is attached to the lobby wall over the Postmaster’s door. One of only three post office murals in the state, it was executed in 1943 for a sum of $740. The mural depicts prospectors panning for gold, wranglers rounding up a steer for branding, and traders dealing with local Indians. John W. Beauchamp, the artist, was born in Marion, Indiana on June 22, 1906. He studied under Richard E. Miller, Leon Kroll and P. Lewis Schlemmer and was awarded the Beck Medal for portraiture by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 1935. His other post office murals included Millinocket, Maine and Muncey, Pennsylvania.
The Beaver Post Office is significant under Criterion A for its historic association with the federal government’s New Deal public arts programs. The mural is also significant under Criterion C as an integral part of a building that represents a significant type, period, and style of artistic expression. Finally, the building is eligible under Criterion D because of its information potential relating to artistic expression and techniques of the period, and social history of its locality.
Politics / Government
The building, the city’s first federally-constructed post office, is a legacy of the massive federal public works programs which were designed to assist local communities during a period of national economic emergency. Other WPA projects in Beaver at this time included work on local schools, an armory, reservoir, and racetrack. The post office also represents the efforts on the part of local citizens, through their elected representatives in Washington, D.C., to secure a federal building. This linkage is especially meaningful for Beaver since Congressman Abe Murdock (D), who served in the House from 1932 to 1940 and in the Senate from 1940 to 1946, was raised and practiced law in Beaver. The local press credited Murdock, “better known in Beaver as ‘Abe'”, as “the one man responsible” for the post office, and praised his “splendid efforts in behalf of our little city.”
Beaver City is in southwestern Utah on the high, Great Basin desert at the foot of the Tushar Mountains. It is the county seat of Beaver County and had an estimated 1984 population of 2,076. Tourism, agriculture and its status as the local retail and service center provide the base for the local economy.
Beaver City was founded by Mormon pioneers in 1856 on the banks of the Beaver River. Because of its high altitude (6,000 feet which makes for a short growing season) and arid climate, Beaver was settled primarily as a stock raising
village, though local farmers have always grown hay, corn and oats. Ross A. Rogers was appointed the settlement’s first postmaster on July 24, 1857. After the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, many of the refugees from the abandoned Mormon mission in San Bernardino settled in Beaver, considerably boosting its population. But the young community faced so many hardships and experienced such poverty that church leaders decided new leadership was necessary. John Riggs Murdock of Lehi became Beaver’s new leader in 1864 and soon things began to improve. By 1868, there were approximately 1,000 people living in Beaver. It had been designated county seat, and it appeared that the tentative community had finally taken root as a permanent settlement.
In 1870 a woolen factory was built and in 1873 a U.S. military post (Fort Cameron) was established in Beaver. Both contributed greatly to Beaver’s growth. By the 1870s Beaver had also become a crossroad for travelers as well as a supplier for the nearby mining towns. While Fort Cameron closed in 1883 and the mills closed in 1900, Beaver’s role as
a mining supplier and traveler’s stop helped it to maintain its commercial position. In 1900 Beaver’s population was 1,701; it has fluctuated very little since then (its 1980 population was 1,792). When mining operations in western Beaver County began to decline after the 1910s, it was about then that motor vehicles become more popular and plentiful and Beaver again emerged as an important spot for travelers (this time for tourists).
The Beaver Post Office is on the southwest corner of Main Street and West Center Street in the city’s central business district. Adjacent land uses include the Beaver City Library (one-story brick, Neoclassical/ NHR) to the west and the Beaver Stake Visitor’s Center (one-story log cabin, 1940, on site of 1865-1866 Tabernacle) to the south. The National Guard Armory (discussed in news coverage of Post Office construction) is south of the log cabin. North of the site, across West Center, is the Mansfield, Murdock & Co. Store (two-story brick, NHR). Two-story brick buildings are north of the Mansfield, Murdock Building (commercial block). One-story brick commercial buildings are in the block opposite the Post Office to the northeast and across Main to the east. Although the Post Office is not within an historic district, the buildings noted as NHR are included in the Beaver Multiple Resource Area which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Local newspaper coverage of the construction of the Beaver Main Post Office
In 1937 Beaver celebrated the 80th anniversary of its 1857 founding. During this time the Beaver Press was able to report considerable progress for the city: on May 21st it reported that the Chamber of Commerce was planning a $22,000 racetrack for the city, on August 6th it announced that Beaver’s new $25,000 theatre would open that night, and on October 8th it reported that the Beaver City Bank would soon be opening (the town had been without a bank since the closing of the State Bank of Beaver County). The year before there had been discussion of a new hospital and a new armory (articles of March 6, and March 20, 1936).
1938 brought news of progress for Beaver’s federal building. On August 4, 1938 the Beaver Press reported “Bids Opened Today for Federal Building Site” (two bids were received) . An article of September 22nd explained that congress had approved the building during the last session, primarily due to the “inexhaustible efforts of Congressman
Murdock, better known in Beaver as ‘Abe’.” (Abe Murdock (D), a resident of Beaver, served in the U.S. Congress from 1932 to 1940, and in the U.S. Senate from 1940 to 1946.) The same article revealed that a new choice for the site was a centrally located corner site, owned by the church. The church was asking $10,000 for the property, but was willing to lower the price to $7,500 if the City Council would agree to sponsor a $2,500 project to improve the adjoining park.
In 1938 the Beaver Press also reported further discussion of the racetrack, which would be built with WPA funds (August 18th article) and it was reported that $160,000 worth of work was slated for Beaver schools, with $72,000 coming from the WPA (July 27th and September 29th articles). An article of October 27th commented on the “considerable building and construction work in Beaver County” and mentioned a reservoir project that would also utilize WPA funds. On November 17th the paper announced that the corner site had been approved for the federal building. It was reported that the building would house the Post Office, Forest Service, Farm Administration, County Agent and Welfare Office, and that “this project will help the unemployment problem.”
Bids for Beaver’s federal building were requested in the Beaver Press on February 8, 1940. On March 7th it was announced that John Bernstson of Salt Lake City was the low bidder with a bid of $53,436. An article of April 18th
reported that excavation was complete, construction had started, and gave credit to Congressman Murdock for his effort in securing the project for Beaver. Another Beaver project was discussed in a Beaver Press editorial of May 2nd the armory. The editorial noted that the armory project would give employment to WPA workers and cost $50,000 (Beaver would contribute $4,300 and the site). A week later the paper reported that the city had agreed on a site and the cash for the armory (May 9th article).
An article of June 6th noted “work progressing on Federal Building” the plumbing was in and concrete was being poured but on September 12th it was reported “$80,000 Federal Project Delayed.” Work had been suspended due to failing quarry conditions in the area; arrangements had been made to ship in limestone from Bedford, Indiana. “Beaver May Have to Wait Until Next Summer for New Post Office” was the story of September 26, when it was reported there had been communication with Bedford regarding the “much needed limestone.” A month later it was reported that work was moving forward bricklayers were setting stone, the lawn was in and sidewalks and driveways were completed (October 17th article).
On September 25 , 1941 a front page photograph of the Federal Building illustrated an article reporting that the building had been officially opened on September 2nd. On October 3rd another front page article gave credit to Senator Abe Murdock as “the one man responsible for this fine structure” and praised his “splendid efforts in behalf of our little city.” The paper also noted that “construction was started over a year ago, but because of the rapidly increasing demand for materials for national defense programs it was not until just a few weeks ago that the building was finished.”
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