[Source: Robrt L. Pela, Phoenix New Times] — I fall in love with old buildings. There’s that odd little Flintstonian office building at Third Street and Clarendon, whose comically prehistoric rock-and-mortar façade stole my heart years ago. For a while, I had as my screensaver a photograph of the impossibly tiny stone cottage I drive past when I’m visiting Provence. And there’s the little clapboard Victorian in Ohio that I fell hard for in 1976, whose dilapidated beauty I attempted to capture that year in an awesomely awful acrylic painting.
In Phoenix, my heart belongs to the downtown post office at 522 North Central Avenue. I love the stone steps leading up to the front door, over which a giant lantern sways in front of an elaborate glass-and-grillwork that’s framed by concrete columns on either side. Inside there are ancient (and rather cheesy) Southwestern-themed murals, commissioned in 1938 by the Fine Arts Section of the Treasury Department and painted by La Verne Black and Oscar E. Berninghaus, that I always breeze past on my way to the rows of ancient P.O. boxes with their coppery metal doors, oversize keyholes, and little glass windows etched with gold and red numbers in an old-timey font.
Built between 1932 and 1936, the two-story structure’s maiden name is The Phoenix Federal Building, as its construction was part of a massive federal program undertaken in an attempt to forestall the Great Depression. The gorgeous Spanish Colonial Revival building, which opened to the public in 1936 and housed the city’s main post office for more than 30 years, is the only federal building from the period still standing here. And I love it. I go out of my way to drive past it, especially early in the day, when one can park in front of this big, beautiful building and ogle like mad.
Of course, I panicked when I read a couple of years ago that ASU had purchased the building for use in its new downtown campus. It would serve as a gathering place for students as well as housing the administrative offices of some ASU executives and the ASU police. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]