National Register of Historic Places in Tulare County

National Register #85000142: Main Post Office in Visalia 24 June 2006
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National Register #85000142
Main Post Office
111 West Acequia Avenue
Built 1932-1933

The Visalia Post Office, designed by William D. Coates, conforms to the standard symmetry used in most post offices, but has unusually sophisticated detailing.

The elevations are decorated with cast terra cotta, in shapes directly derivative of 1920s Art Deco motifs. Dark brown brick is used in decorative patterns to contrast with the light tan brick used for the bulk of the building's walls. Interior ornament is lavish, and includes cast aluminum, marble, and a decorative multi-colored terrazzo floor.

Art Deco architecture borrowed freely from a multiplicity of sources. Pre-Columbian architectural motifs, Southwestern Indian textile designs, and ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian elements are all freely combined and applied to the building. This style was commonly used in private projects in the 1920s and is often associated with expensive, luxurious, and even slightly decadent shops and hotels, though by the time of this building's construction, the Depression had halted most of these private projects. Though the Visalia Main Office uses Art Deco ornamental motifs, the structure is monumentalized, rather than prettified, by the ornament. The volumetric massing is symmetrical and derived from the neo-classical phase of Beaux Arts design.

The Public Works Administration often used Art Deco elements in a primarily classical and monumental framework. The Visalia Main Office thus presages the style and aesthetic of much subsequent government architecture in the thirties.

Adapted from the NRHP nomination dated 27 November 1984.

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