WPA artwork has enlivened Inglewood Post Office since the 1930s – Daily Breeze

One of the first features created in the 1880s settlement that would become known as Inglewood was its post office.

The “Centinela Post Office,” as its first sign said, operated out of the general store in which it was established. President Grover Cleveland appointed store owner George Robbins as the first postmaster in 1884.

However local land baron Daniel Freeman would have preferred the new town to be called “Centinela”, Inglewood became its name when it was officially founded in 1888. The post office sign was changed to reflect the new name.

Inglewood officially incorporated in 1908. As the town grew, so did its need for a much larger post office. The old one suffered damage during the 1920 earthquake that shook the city.

So, to much fanfare, a brand new post office opened on October 30, 1926. As it was the eve of Halloween, the opening gala doubled as a community Halloween celebration, its guests are encouraged to arrive in costume.

The imposing four-story building at the northwest corner of Queen and Locust streets cost $325,000 to construct. It had 5,000 square feet of floor space and was considered “the most elaborate of all outside the largest cities in the state”, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Problems with the new building apparently surfaced over the next six years, when the U.S. Treasury Department announced in December 1932 that it had acquired land for a new post office at Hillcrest Boulevard and Kelso Street for $26,000. .

One of the problems with the 1926 building became evident following the Long Beach earthquake in 1933. The powerful earthquake registered 6.4 on the Richter scale, severely damaging the post office building of Inglewood.

  • Inglewood Post Office workers in their impromptu outdoor setup the day after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. (Credit: The Inglewood Story, by Gladys Waddingham, Centinela Valley Historical Society, 1994)

  • Group photo of Inglewood Post Office staff in 1939...

    Group photograph of Inglewood Post Office staff in 1939. The only person identified in the photo is Anthony Siminski, who is standing on the left side, first in the back row. (Credit: Inglewood Public Library)

  • A flag flies above the Inglewood Post Office at 300...

    A flag flies above the Inglewood Post Office at 300 East Hillcrest Blvd, completed in 1935. Photo circa 1938. (Credit: Inglewood Public Library)

  • The Inglewood Post Office on Hillcrest Blvd.  in September 2022....

    The Inglewood Post Office on Hillcrest Blvd. in September 2022. (Photo by Sam Gnerre)

  • The sculpture

    Archibald Garner’s “Centinela Springs” sculpture inside the Inglewood Post Office in September 2022. (Photo by Sam Gnerre)

  • The statue and pet fountain honoring Rex are still there...

    The statue and pet fountain honoring Rex still stand on the median in front of the Inglewood Post Office. September 2022. (Photo by Sam Gnerre)

Thinking on their collective feet, its employees set up an impromptu outdoor postal facility the day after the earthquake in order to continue doing business.

One of the most significant side effects of the 1933 earthquake was the almost immediate passage by the California Legislature of the Field Act, which imposed earthquake safety standards for schools and other public buildings in the State.

The federal government’s $210,000 project at 300 E. Hillcrest Boulevard met those standards. His dedication ceremony at the Streamline Moderne structure took place in April 1935, with several former postmasters – including George Robbins – present to hear At Mayor Raymond Darby’s speech commemorating the event. The new post office building was completed later that year.

Project management and construction fell to the New Deal Works Progress Administration. In addition to the building itself, the WPA also funded two pieces of public art for the project. The Section du Trésor de la Peinture et des Beaux-Arts, founded in 1934, is responsible for soliciting local artists for its interior and exterior works.

Hugo Ballin, a well-known muralist of the time, had submitted designs for works of art offered at the Post Office in Washington, DC. A few of them showed scenes of rioting drunkenness and fighting during the California Gold Rush era, and the Treasury selected these two for the Post Office of Inglewood, much to Ballin’s surprise. He declined the offer, explaining that he submitted them as a joke.

A more respectable entry for Archibald Garner’s interior mural was then chosen. The result, a wooden bas-relief mural titled “Centinela Springs”, depicted California’s first residents obtaining water from the nearby local spring.

Artists Gordon Newell and Sherry Peticolas designed the four plaster animal images of wildlife – a buffalo, a bear, a ram and a lion – on the exterior facade of the building. The interior and exterior sculptures were completed in 1937.

And it is the Central Post Office in Inglewood that exists today, with only minor modifications.

A third sculpture was added in front of the post office building in 1940. This honored a local dog, Penelope, also known as Rex. “Rex” followed mailman Lorenz Prader on his daily route for more than 13 years, eating treats donated by local residents along the way, walking some 60,000 miles in the process.

He died in 1939 after being hit by a car. Uniformed members of Prader’s Veterans of Foreign Wars unit dipped their flags in tribute to Rex during the 1940 dedication ceremony. The bronze statue and granite pet fountain erected in his honor are still standing.

For decades, the Inglewood Post Office has also featured a stamp collection room inside the building, dedicated to the needs of serious philatelists as well as casual collectors. Budget cuts caused it to close in the early 2000s.

But at least its builders managed to construct the building in 1935. Just like the similarly designed San Pedro Post Officecompleted a year later in 1936, it endures as a window into a bygone era while continuing to serve its purpose in the modern age.

Sources: “The Centinela Springs / Lion Buffalo Ram + Bear / Monument to Penelope (Rex),” City of Inglewood Public Art Education Project website. Daily Breeze Archives. The Inglewood Story, by Gladys Waddingham, Centinela Valley Historical Society, 1994. Los Angeles Times Archive. “Tile Mosaics at the Los Angeles Design Center,” by Vicky Kall, History, Los Angeles County Blog, April 14, 2014. “Post Office—Inglewood CA,” The Living New Deal website.

Christopher S. Washington