At first blush, it may seem unusual to head for a post office to enjoy legendary artwork.
However, a peek inside St. Thomas art history books will clarify the reason why Alvaro de Lugo Post Office in downtown Charlotte Amalie holds special significance for art lovers throughout the nation.
Constructed in 1938 and referred to locally as Emancipation Garden Post Office, the full-service facility houses two fascinating murals painted by renowned Saturday Evening Post artist, Stevan Dohanos.
These paintings were commissioned as part of the Section of Fine Arts program established in 1934 by the U.S. Treasury Department. Completed in 1941, the murals are the only two examples of New Deal federal building artwork in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“The Virgin Islands, U.S. – The Outer World Significance” (pictured below) is located on the east end of the building and depicts an anchor, cannon, and pyramid of cannonballs surrounded by conch shells. In the background is the tower of Fort Christian. A waymarking banner around an anchor contains geographic coordinates.
On the west end, “The Leisurely Native Tempo” (pictured at the top of the page) depicts a dock scene with bananas, fish, pots and a full sack. Two figures with their backs turned are wearing straw hats while seemingly looking out to sea.
Throughout the mainland, many of these classic post office murals have vanished over time; others are in need of major repair.
Happily, both V.I. murals were recently restored after having been significantly damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
The lobby is open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Sundays.
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A BIT ABOUT THE COWFOOT WOMAN
A legendary character in Virgin Islands history, school children are warned to stay away from thick brush, bushes, and secluded shortcuts to avoid being caught by the Cowfoot Woman. The mysterious lady is believed to have once worked in a local butcher shop. Due to an accident, her leg was severed. To save her life, she was given a cow’s leg. Because youngsters would stare at her leg, point, and make fun, she developed a violent hatred for all children. The mere mention of the Cowfoot Woman can send young islanders running.