The man behind the missing mural at the post office
I was reading the April edition of New Jersey Monthly after it arrived at The Gazette. There was an article by Rowan University Professor Fred B. Adelson about the outstanding examples of New Deal artwork in New Jersey, commissioned under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration from 1933 to 1943 to provide work for artists during the Great Depression.
It made me think about the Hammonton Post Office and its connection to a nationally and internationally famous artist.
Hammonton used to have its own piece of New Deal artwork, inside the Hammonton Post Office, which was itself a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The building was completed in 1939.
The artwork, entitled “Harvest” most likely hung over the doorway to the postmasters office, as many of the artworks in post offices did in that era, according to Edelson’s article. It probably would have hung where the clock is hanging on the wall in the lobby in the post office.
Research revealed that the artwork, a “bas-relief sculpture” or “tablet” was commissioned for the “Hammonton USPO” in 1938.
“Harvest” was the first commissioned artwork of Spero Anargyros, the Greek artist and sculptor who became nationally and internationally famous. He was only 23 years old when his artwork was commissioned by the Treasury of Fine Arts, which the website www.livingnewdeal.org said was completed (and most likely installed) in the Hammonton Post Office in 1940.
As most of you have noticed, “Harvest” no longer hangs in the post office. It is listing as “missing” on all the research websites I went through. I can’t even find a picture of what it looked like. Apparently, according to Edelson’s article in New Jersey Monthly, it’s not a unique situation: A mural created for the Stanley Holmes Village Housing Project in Atlantic City also disappeared and is presumed to have been destroyed.
It’s a shame we lost the artwork Anargyros did for the Hammonton Post Office, because he went on to do amazing work in a career that lasted until his death in 2004 at the age of 89.
Here, from the catalogue on the artist’s website (www.speroanargyros.com) are just a sampling of some of his commissions during his long and successful life as an artist that followed Anargyros’ first commissioned artwork in the 1930s that once hung in Hammonton. Most of the artworks on this brief date-order list of samples taken from a larger list are large sculptures and commemorative medallions for events.
1938: Bas-relief Sculpture, Post Office, Hammonton, New Jersey
1944-1947: This Is The Place Monument, Salt Lake City, Assistant to Mahonri Young, grandson of Brigham Young
1947: Portrait bust of Kirk Douglas, Actor
1953: Redwood Bas-relief, lobby of Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Building, San Francisco
1959: Hawaii Statehood Medallion
1962: Marble “Owl of Athenia,” Bohemian Club, San Francisco
1968: Mt. Rushmore National Monument Medallion
1971: Levi Strauss statue, San Francisco
1974: 12-inch “statuette” “Jockey of the Year” Award, Bay Meadows Race Track, Belmont, California
1985: Bronze memorial statue of St. Francis, St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette, California
1992: 9-inch Poly-Bronze statue of the Hills Bros. Coffee Drinker, Hills Bros. Plaza, San Francisco
1994: Over-life sized Bronze Bust of George R. Moscone, San Francisco Mayor, one casting for City Hall and a second casting for the Moscone Convention Center
2003: 36 inch by 60 inch bronze portrait bas relief of Nelson Mandela, then-President of South Africa and Nobel Prize winner & Daisaku Ikeda, six castings
These are just some of Anargyros’ commissions. His first commissioned artwork for the Hammonton Post Office (that work, “Harvest” is still proudly listed first on the list of commissions on his website, 16 years after his death) led to his lifetime of work on the national and international stage.
We all know Hammonton has a way of leading people to do big things.
If anyone has any information or pictures of the Anargyros work “Harvest” that used to be on display at the Hammonton Post Office decades ago, contact The Gazette at (609) 704-1940.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.