See the sights in Walworth County: Post office art
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The 1930s-era mural hanging in the Elkhorn Post Office is called "Pioneer Postman." Terry Mayer photo.
"Winter Landscape" is the title of the mural in the Lake Geneva Post Office. Terry Mayer photo.
They’re not always marked on any map, but Walworth County has its share of quirky little spots. They come in all shapes, from a bit of living history to a slice of unexpected natural beauty. Some of them are hidden in out-of-the-way places. Others are in plain sight, but so familiar they can blend into the landscape unnoticed. All of them are worth a look.
Art of history
During the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s, with millions of Americans unemployed, the federal government tried to provide jobs for everyone from construction workers to foresters. The Works Progress Administration even established a Section of Fine Arts in 1934 to employ writers and painters —earning criticism from some who questioned the government support of the arts. But as Harry Hopkins, President Franklin Roosevelt’s relief administrator, said, “(Artists) have got to eat just like other people.”
One of the projects designed by the program was providing art for public buildings, including post offices. Artists were awarded commissions to paint murals, often positioned in spots right above a door inside the building.
Two such paintings still exist at post offices in Lake Geneva, 672 W. Main St., and Elkhorn, 102 E. Walworth St.
Lake Geneva’s mural, surprisingly, doesn’t feature lakeside mansions or boatloads of tourists. Instead, the 1940 painting by George Dietrich, titled “Winter Landscape,” is a stark rural scene of snow-covered hay stacks and farm fields.
Elkhorn’s mural is Tom Rost’s “Pioneer Postman,” installed in 1938. In it, residents of a small town are clustered around a man who has just arrived by horseback, with a bag of letters he’s preparing to distribute.
Walworth County historian Doris Reinke isn’t sure people who stop to buy stamps or mail a package even notice the painting. But those who do see it may recognize its history.
“I think we’re more aware of the importance of the past now,” she said.
Other Walworth County backyard gems:
Sunday: Beulah Bog
Monday: Portal to a park
Tuesday: Muster tree
Wednesday: P.O. art
Thursday: Ever-flowing well
Friday: Sacred spot
Have any suggestions for your own backyard gems? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.