1461 Main Street
On June 28, 1938, St. Helena citizens learned they were to become the recipients of a new federally funded post office building. Postmaster Joseph Galewsky and other officials opened the sealed bids. Dr. H.L. Byrd had submitted the accepted bid for a parcel of land located between Adams and Pine Streets, site of the historic Carver Mansion. The Morrison Mortuary and Funeral Parlor was leasing the property from Dr. Byrd. The asking price for this parcel was $14,000. The Morrison Mortuary had to build and relocate to a new building and the existing structure, the Carver Mansion, had to be razed. The mansion had been built in the 1870’s and was known as a local landmark. The low bid for the construction of the Post Office was $49,000 from a Santa Monica construction company.
Construction began in June 1940, and the official dedication was in March 1941. The stone and copper cornerstone was filled with “documents of interest to future generations, copies of the St. Helena Star, and other articles pertinent to the event.” The Post Office opened for business on March 17, 1941. In 1942, less than 3 months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, concerns for heightened Civil Defense resulted in the basement of the new post office becoming a bomb shelter for persons caught downtown at the time of an air raid. Later the shelter was made into a gym for employees. The post office is a good example of a transitional style from Art Deco to Modern.
Located in a shallow niche above the Postmaster’s office door is a full-color mural depicting the local wine industry and its laborers. Lew Keller was the artist and the mural is a product of the Depression Era Federal Fine Arts program that was conducted between 1934 and 1943. In 1999, the local artist, Arthur Lisch, proposed that since the Keller painting depicted Anglo-European farm workers, he would paint another mural, done in a similar style, that would portray Hispanic workers picking grapes. The mural is now displayed on the opposite wall.