Forgotten Trails: History of art revealed

Published 4:06 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By Staff
You may or may not remember some time ago when I wrote about a project done during the 1930s.
Post Office artwork has often thought to have been a work of the WPA, but actually it was funded through commissions under the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture. Post office murals were done by artists working for the Section of Fine Arts. It was established in 1934 and administered by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department. The main function of this department was to select fine art to be displayed in public buildings. By putting the art in public places it was to be made available to all people. It was the era of ‘The Depression' and no artwork was to represent the rough times people were having. They were supposed to be uplifting and display some theme that fit each location. The Section held open anonymous competitions, national, regional, state or local, to which all citizen artists of the United States were eligible. A different jury of painters or sculptors, unattached to the Section, judged each competition.
Brewton Post Office, which was then where the Escambia County Board of Education is today, was one of the places selected to display a work of art. The theme of the painting was &#8220Logging” and executed by New York City artist John Von Wicht in 1939. He received his commission as a result of an Honorable Mention in a Section of Fine Arts National Competition. The website, states that according to a Brewton local, the mural was painted over between 1965 and 1968. However, according to Dallan Wordekemper, Federal Preservation Officer, USPS, the mural was removed by the GSA in 1965.
I have talked with several people in Brewton to see if I could find out anything about the mural but have not gotten too far. No one seems to know much about it. The same website as above does have an image that is from the National Archives. It is supposed to have been above the postmaster's door in the old post office. It depicted a river running through a pine forest with lumbermen riding the logs and preventing a jam. Some of the other surrounding towns had their own artwork in the post office. Atmore, Monroeville and Enterprise had paintings while Opp had a piece of sculpture.
It is a shame that, in the name of progress, most of this artwork has been lost. Buildings were torn down or used for different purposes and no one thought to save the art that was placed there when the nation was under such stress during the Depression.
Next week I am finally going to get a chance to show you some of the details on the Sanborn maps I have been telling you about.
If you have anything to share about your family or the history of the area, get in touch with me. I can be reached by email at, by telephone at 867-4876 or by regular mail at P.O. Box 887, Brewton, Ala. 36427.

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