Historic Bethesda Mural to be Reinstalled

December 4, 2013

It’s an important symbol of the New Deal era based on a piece of Bethesda history. But for the last 17 months, the old Bethesda Post Office mural has been sitting in Postal Service storage.

On Wednesday, the 1939 mural of the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market that was proudly displayed in the old Bethesda Post Office will be re-installed in the county’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).

The mural has been restored, according to Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman, who worked with the United States Postal Service to let it again see the light of day.

The mural was funded by the Works Project Administration, the largest New Deal agency that put millions of unemployed men to work on public works projects. It also commissioned music, writing and arts projects, such as the mural.

The old post office (7400 Wisconsin Ave.) was built in 1938 as part of the New Deal next to the Madonna of the Trail statue. The post office building has been deemed historic. Faced with mounting financial difficulties, the USPS closed it in 2012 and sold it for $4 million to the Donohoe Companies.

The mural went in a year after it opened. It was created by Robert Gates, who later became head of the Art Department at American University. It shows a woman feeding animals next to women selling produce at the Farm Women’s Market, which opened on Wisconsin Avenue in 1932.

In 1938, Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department to look at the sketches of the mural. She later wrote in her diary the sketch was “charming,” and “I think these post offices are making the country more and more conscious of decorative, artistic values.”

It will go in the lobby of the Regional Services Center, located on the first floor/plaza level of the building.

SOURCE: Aaron Kraut/Bethesda Now (Photo via Save the Post Office)

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