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By 1940, the New Deal era and its programs reached the farthest corners of the nation, including mountain towns such as Boone, NC. It was during this year that a beautiful stone post office was dedicated in Boone, NC. Yet, it was not merely the exterior that was a treasure for the town but the interior, as well. Along with the Works Progress Administrations building project that resulted in the construction of this post office was an artwork program to decorate the walls of federal post offices. The artwork that emerged from this program, specifically “Young Daniel Boone on a hunting expedition in Watauga Country,” helped to not only assert but solidify Boone’s identity within the nation.


  • "Daniel Boone on a Hunting Trip in Watauga County" by Alan Tompkins, 1940
  • “Post Office,” Digital Watauga, accessed December 12, 2016.

In 1937, the Public Buildings Act was passed which set in motion the construction of post offices across the State of North Carolina, including the historic Downtown Boone Post Office.[1] This post office, a Colonial Revival cut-stone building, was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938 to address the growing demand for postal services since the population of the Town of Boone was growing.[2] Reflecting the economic role of the WPA during the Great Depression, the post office, completed in 1938 and dedicated on April 10, 1940, brought ten new jobs to local residents.[3]

The exterior masonry on the building is beautiful, but step inside the lobby, and you will see another layer of beauty. A variety of marble types are found throughout, and original features, such as mailboxes, windows, and brass ceiling fixtures, are still used.[4] Yet, what captures one’s attention is the mural on the wall. This oil-on-canvas is a mural titled “Daniel Boone on a Hunting Trip in Watauga County” and is hanging on the east wall above the postmaster’s office and measures 11’ 8” x 4’ 6” and is 54 square feet.[5] The mural was commissioned by the United States Treasury Department, Section of Painting and Sculpture as part of a joint U.S. Treasury and WPA 48-state art competition to field artwork for federal post offices.[6]

Alan Tompkins, a Connecticut painter, won the competition and produced the 1940 mural, but the current mural was not his first.[7] The first mural was scrapped after this first depiction of the region brought controversy because it featured tobacco farmers in lowland fields.[8] This piece was displayed in the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., but locals said “it stinks,” and an editorial called it “an artistic monstrosity.”[9] Thus, a mural more representative of Boone’s character in the depiction of the town’s namesake was produced after the artist spent days surveying the community and speaking with local residents.[10]

The approved mural now featured Daniel Boone on a hunting trip with his companions in frontier-era Watauga county, North Carolina. Furthermore, Tompkins went to great lengths to depict Daniel Boone with accuracy, such as the absence of a coonskin cap, an accessory Boone never wore.[11] This particular mural was the only mural of the forty-three such murals in North Carolina to find its way to northwestern North Carolina.[12] Thus, the post office and its artwork connected Boone with the larger world as a means of communication while also remaining faithful to its history and character as it drew people together and solidified their identity as a mountain people when they vocalized and retained said identity in the midst of federal projects.

As the years passed by, the post office became busier and busier, so by the 1970s, plans were being made for a new post office.[13] Yet, one of the arguments for keeping the historic post office open was specifically the artwork from the New Deal era.[14] This particular argument was one that enabled the post office to be study listed in 1984, nominated to the national register in 1995, and placed on the national register in 1996.[15] It was not merely the building that helped to form Boone’s identity; rather, it was the artwork within the building that asserted and solidified their identity as a mountain community within the national context of the New Deal era.

[1] Jesse Wood, “A ‘Culmination of 200 Years of Postal History’ in Downtown Boone, Grand Opening of Renovated Post Office Sunday, Oct. 27,” HCPress.com, October 25, 2013, accessed October 4, 2016, “http://www.hcpress.com/news/a-culmination-of-200-years-of-postal-history-in-downtown-boone-grand-ope....

[2] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 86Boone Downtown Post Office.

[3] Jesse Wood, “A ‘Culmination of 200 Years.’”

[4] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 283-285; Boone Downtown Post Office.

[5] Kaye Reynolds Edmisten, "United States Post Office," National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form, Downtown Boone Development Association, Boone, NC, August 17, 1995.

[6] Boone Downtown Post Office.

[7] Anna Oakes, “Restored post office mural dedicated,” Watauga Democrat, October 27, 2015, accessed October 4, 2016, http://www.wataugademocrat.com/restored-post-office-mural-dedicated/article_705c93cc-3f73-5e7c-aa47-....

[8] Ibid.

[9] Jesse Wood, “Dedication.”; J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History.

[10] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 284.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kaye Reynolds Edmisten, "United States Post Office."

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

Image credit [1] Jesse Wood, “A ‘Culmination of 200 Years of Postal History’ in Downtown Boone, Grand Opening of Renovated Post Office Sunday, Oct. 27,” HCPress.com, October 25, 2013, accessed October 4, 2016, “http://www.hcpress.com/news/a-culmination-of-200-years-of-postal-history-in-downtown-boone-grand-ope....

[2] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 86Boone Downtown Post Office.

[3] Jesse Wood, “A ‘Culmination of 200 Years.’”

[4] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 283-285; Boone Downtown Post Office.

[5] Kaye Reynolds Edmisten, "United States Post Office," National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form, Downtown Boone Development Association, Boone, NC, August 17, 1995.

[6] Boone Downtown Post Office.

[7] Anna Oakes, “Restored post office mural dedicated,” Watauga Democrat, October 27, 2015, accessed October 4, 2016, http://www.wataugademocrat.com/restored-post-office-mural-dedicated/article_705c93cc-3f73-5e7c-aa47-....

[8] Ibid.

[9] Jesse Wood, “Dedication.”; J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History.

[10] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 284.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kaye Reynolds Edmisten, "United States Post Office."

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[1] Jesse Wood, “A ‘Culmination of 200 Years of Postal History’ in Downtown Boone, Grand Opening of Renovated Post Office Sunday, Oct. 27,” HCPress.com, October 25, 2013, accessed October 4, 2016, “http://www.hcpress.com/news/a-culmination-of-200-years-of-postal-history-in-downtown-boone-grand-ope....

[2] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 86Boone Downtown Post Office.

[3] Jesse Wood, “A ‘Culmination of 200 Years.’”

[4] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 283-285; Boone Downtown Post Office.

[5] Kaye Reynolds Edmisten, "United States Post Office," National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form, Downtown Boone Development Association, Boone, NC, August 17, 1995.

[6] Boone Downtown Post Office.

[7] Anna Oakes, “Restored post office mural dedicated,” Watauga Democrat, October 27, 2015, accessed October 4, 2016, http://www.wataugademocrat.com/restored-post-office-mural-dedicated/article_705c93cc-3f73-5e7c-aa47-....

[8] Ibid.

[9] Jesse Wood, “Dedication.”; J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History.

[10] J. Daniel Pezzoni, ed., The Architectural History, 284.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kaye Reynolds Edmisten, "United States Post Office."

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

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