Historic Structures

US Post Office, Adel Georgia

Date added: July 2, 2019 Categories: Georgia Post Office Colonial Revival

In 1889, the city of Adel, the county seat of Cook County in south Georgia, was incorporated. The first Adel post office had been established 10 years earlier, and Joel J. Parish, the first postmaster in Adel, selected its name from the center portion of the name "Philadelphia".

Cook County was named for Phil Cook, a former Secretary of State, and was created from Berrien County in 1918. Cook County encompasses 226 miles and is located approximately halfway between Macon, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida.

Plans for the post office were initiated in 1937. Construction of the United States Post Office in Adel began in 1939 and was completed in May of 1940 by the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury under the auspices of the Public Works Administration. The Adel post office operated as a post office until 2001, when a new postal facility in Adel was constructed outside of downtown. The Adel post office is characteristic of post offices built in Georgia between 1932 and 1942 and was built from standardized plans. In Georgia, the Treasury Department provided plans for approximately 65 post offices in small towns between 1932 and 1942. Like the United States Post Office in Adel, most were one-story, five-bay buildings with a standardized floor plan of a full-width workroom, mailing platform at the rear of the building, and a L-shaped public lobby. The vast majority of post offices in Georgia built under the Public Works Administration are brick buildings in the Colonial Revival style. The building is being nominated at the local level of significance as an excellent and intact example of a United States Post Office in a small town in Georgia.

The United States Post Office in Adel is significant in the area of architecture as an excellent and intact example of a small town post office built in the Colonial Revival style. The post office has remained basically unchanged since its completion in 1940 and retains its interior and exterior character-defining features.

During the 1930s, the number of post offices built in the United States increased dramatically as numerous public works programs were initiated to spur economic recovery and provide work for the unemployed, many of whom worked in the building trades. In 1933, the Public Works Administration (PWA) was formed to administer the planning and construction of Federal and non-Federal public works projects. The Public Buildings Act (1926) and the Federal Employment Stabilization Act (1931) enabled the PWA to begin its program without delay by starting with Federal projects such as post offices. By 1939, the PWA completed 406 post offices, nearly one-eighth of the total 3,174 construction projects funded by the Public Works Administration.

The role of the PWA in construction projects was similar to that of a bank or a large building and loan association. The PWA determined which projects received funding and ensured that its projects were completed according to the appropriate specifications. The Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury retained primary responsibility for design, construction, and allocation of post offices until 1939. By 1935, Treasury Department building projects were funded under the auspices of five separate programs: the original Public Building Program (1926); the PWA; the Emergency Relief and Construction Act (1932); the Emergency Construction Program (1934); and the Building Program for the District of Columbia (1926).

In 1934, the Office of the Supervising Architect was reorganized and Louis A. Simon replaced Supervising Architect James W. Wetmore. The Supervising Architect's office, which lost its independence as a separate office in the Office of the Treasury Secretary, was replaced by the Public Buildings Branch of the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department. In February 1934, the Supervising Architect's office was moved from the Treasury Building to the Federal Warehouse Building, renamed the Procurement Building. In addition, the Office was reorganized into four divisions consisting of a Supervising Architect, a Supervising Engineer, a Chairman of the Board of Award, and a Chief of the Legal Section. Through the 1920s, the staff of the Office of the Supervising Architect developed standardized designs and floor plans for its buildings. The Supervising Architect's office rarely hired local architects to design its buildings as it had during the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Local architects were hired from some projects from 1930 to 1934, when many of the Federal recovery programs were getting underway. In June 1934, the Treasury Department determined that it was not practical for private architects to handle small architectural projects. The staff of the Office of the Supervising Architect designed all of the remaining Federal buildings.

Designs for post offices built between 1932 and 1942 followed standardized plans. Some stylistic variation was permitted on the facades, but the floor plans were well established by the early 1930s. Post offices built in small towns were usually one-story, rectangular-plan buildings. Much of the building was devoted to the large, full-width work room, where much of the mail handling and sorting operations were conducted. The work room included a vault and sometimes an area enclosed with wire-mesh screen to secure money orders and registered mail. The rear of the building contained the mailing vestibule and mailing platform for receiving deliveries of mail. A swing room was located above the mailing platform. The public lobby was located across the front of the post office. It contained an entrance vestibule, post office boxes, and customer service windows. Lobbies were usually L-shaped to provide space for additional post office boxes. As the only public space in the building, the lobby was often adorned with decorative architectural elements, including marble wainscoting, terrazzo floors, and coffered ceilings, and furnishings, such as lobby desks. The postmaster's office was generally located in a front corner of the building, with lobby and work room entrances.

The acceptance of standardized floor plans for post offices left little room for ingenuity on the part of the architect, except for the facades. Designs generated in the Office of the Supervising Architect under Louis A. Simon demonstrated greater stylistic variety than in the previous twenty-five years. During this period, more consideration was given to local architectural traditions. In California, for example, the Spanish or Mission style became popular. The small, Mission-style post office in La Jolla, built in 1935, is an example. The Colonial Revival style, built throughout the East, remained the most popular historical revival style for post offices as well as other PWA building types. Middle- Atlantic examples include the two U.S. Post Offices in New Castle, Delaware, and in Easton, Maryland, both completed in 1936.

Most popular were modern designs (such as streamline moderne or Art Deco) or designs that mixed one or more historical styles with the Stripped Classicism that dominated Federal building during the 1930s. Starved classicism, sometimes called PWA Modern, was described by Historian Lois Craig as a simplified classical style characterized by symmetrical massing, smooth expanses of unadorned planar surfaces, and reduced ornamentation. The style derived from the Beaux-Arts tradition and featured inspirational names or phrases incised on the facade as an economical decorative motif.

The PWA was organized in seven administrative regions that comprised the continental United States. Region No. 3, the Southeast, included the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. C. W. Short and R. Stanley Brown observed in their survey Architecture under the Public Works Administration, 1933-1939, that "traditional architecture of the Colonial period still dominates design [in Region No. 3], except in Florida and Gulf coasts of Alabama and Mississippi where 'modern1 has crept in."

The vast majority of post offices built in Georgia during this period were designed in the Colonial Revival style. Small post offices featured hip or side -gable roofs with cupolas, elaborate pedimented door surrounds, sometimes with fanlights, and window treatments that included plain stone lintels or gauged arches with keystones. Decorative details varied at each building; some included stone beltcourses, dentil cornices, brick panels and quoins, or incised lettering. Examples of this type include post offices built in the following towns in Georgia: Adel (1940), Ashburn (1940), Calhoun (1936), Commerce (1937), Cornelia (1937), Cuthbert (1937), East Point (1935), Hawkinsville (1938), Millen (1938), Summerville (1938), and Sylvester (1937).

Less than a dozen post offices in Georgia were built in historical idioms other than the Colonial Revival or Neoclassical styles. Post offices in Buford (1941) and Vidalia (1936) were built in the Greek Revival style. Based on the same building type as the small Colonial Revival post offices, the two buildings feature modified Doric porticos with stout, unfluted columns, and incised lettering across the entablature. The post office in Eatonton (1932) is one of the few Mission-style post offices in Georgia.

Several post offices in Georgia were in built in the Art Deco style. Primarily built after 1935, these buildings are based on the same standardized plans that the Treasury Department used for its Colonial Revival-style post offices. These buildings feature few, if any, historical references. Ornament is minimal, often composed of corbelled brick window surrounds, stone beltcourses and coping, and relief sculptures above the windows and entrance on the main facade. Free-standing Art Deco lamps flank the entrance. Examples of this type include: Cairo (1935), Decatur (1935), Hartwell (1937), Manchester (1940), and Sylvania (1940).