Water damage is would clearly be a threat to a 76-year-old mural. But it appears that in the midst of repairs to Selbyville Post Office, the 1942 mural there should be safe.
“It does not appear that the mural will be impacted,” said Ray Daiutolo Sr., a USPS spokesperson for the South Jersey & Philadelphia Districts.
The Selbyville Community Club has stepped up to help protect the mural and ensure its historic impact remains for years to come. This summer, when they noticed water damage creeping around the post office ceiling, volunteers contacted the USPS and U.S. Congressional delegation.
Daiutolo described work that has been completed at 23 W. Church Street since then.
“I understand the ceiling had some water damage to it from a previous leak; that has been repaired,” said Daiutolo. “The district’s field maintenance team also repaired a clogged drainpipe on one of the rain gutters. They have inspected the roof/ceiling after several recent heavy rainstorms, to confirm the repairs are effective.”
That’s just the first phase.
“Now, the next step is to address some of the cosmetic issues in the lobby, with the peeling paint on the ceiling. … It will be scraped and painted,” he said, although Daiutolo noted that the request for repairs is still being completed. “I anticipate that will be confirmed and processed shortly. Once that is done, the repair work will begin.”
William H. Calfee’s “Chicken Farm” painting depicts quiet Delmarva life in the 1940s: a girl surrounded by chickens, with a man nearby and farmhouse with horses in the background.
“Selbyville Community Club wants to put the spotlight on a unique piece of public art that is often seen but rarely appreciated,” the group wrote in asking the USPS to address the problem.
Despite the mural being displayed prominently in the post office lobby, people often miss it, their eyes cast downward to read mail or send letters.
The mural and entire post office building were an impressive show of federal support in a small town.
“It was during recovery from the Great Depression that we got this federal building,” said club member Dawn LeKites.
The 1940 building put people back to work during the New Deal, and the 1942 mural was intended to bring art to everyday people and boost morale after the Great Depression. Around 1,500 postal and federal facilities were planned at the time. But the Selbyville facility was among the lucky few that got murals, which portrayed life in their local communities.
By Laura Walter