Post Office

Wrangell, Alaska | C.1869

Photo Credit: Robin Petravic & Catherine Bailey

Located on the northern tip of an island in the Alaska panhandle, Wrangell is home to 3,000 people who love visiting their well-decorated post office—a necessity in an area with no home delivery of the mail.

Although Alaska was a US territory at the time (not yet a full-fledged state), this current post office was constructed as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal public works projects. As these buildings were uniformly sober in design, several post offices built in the 1930s were decorated with images of the “American scene.”

A nonprofit known as the Alaskan Art Project sought to soften the austerity of the building’s architecture by commissioning a bohemian couple to bedeck its walls with their own vision of an American scene.

Artists Austin Mecklem (“Meck”) and his wife, Marianne Greer Appel (later a puppeteer and Muppets designer), painted this vivid and impressive mural while living at an artists’ colony in Woodstock, New York. Old Town in Alaska depicts the town’s harbor and the horizon of the wild Alaskan coast. After completion, in the fall of 1943, the mural was sent on a 3,500-mile journey via railway and was installed two months later.

The people of Wrangell clearly appreciate the intricate painting and the experience of visiting the postmaster. The community was offered standard mail delivery service, but the proposal was overwhelmingly defeated, as the vast majority of Wrangell’s citizens prefer the social ritual of going to the post office.

Included in AWA, The Postcards 👇

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