Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Post Office Murals - Hartselle & Haleyville

Photo by Jimmy Emerson

Cotton Scene is the title of the New Deal mural that once adorned the Hartselle Post Office. Now the 1941 artwork of Lee R. Warthen resides in the Hartselle Chamber of Commerce at 110 Railroad Street. US Senator John Sparkman was a Hartselle native and provided input for Warthen's work.

A fourth mural, technically located just outside northwest Alabama, also merits mention. In 1940, New Deal artist Hollis Holbrook painted a mural entitled Reforestation in the Haleyville Post Office. The artwork depicts an unknown CCC worker and forest ranger Thomas Wilson. The location of Holbrook's art has since been painted over, but Birmingham art restorationist John Bertalam is currently planning a complete restoration of the mural. As of yet, the Haleyville Historical Society has not been able to obtain a grant for the project, but interested individuals may make donations to the Haleyville Public Library in care of Carla Waldrep. Ms. Waldrep may be reached at 205-486-7450.

This fourth mural is also of particular interest since an identical work was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1962. Some sources feel the Haleyville mural was removed in some manner, despite Mr. Bertalam's assertions that the original work still lies beneath several coats of paint.

We should all be thankful that the Tuscumbia and Russellville murals remain. Let's all endeavor to ensure their survival for coming generations.

Interesting Addenda: It seems the Tuscumbia mural featuring Michael Dickson almost lost to artwork depicting the ubiquitous Helen Keller. Similarly in Russellville, the iron ore industry depicted had originally been sketched as a rock quarry. Many of these rejected sketches reside at the Smithsonian; how fantastic if local chambers of commerce could acquire copies for local display.