The Florence Post Office was built in 1936–37 as a Public Works Administration (PWA) project. The building has a simple Neoclassical design with some Art Deco details and a mural by Olive Rush in the lobby. In 1986 the post office was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is still in use today.
The PWA was a New Deal program designed to stimulate the economy by assisting local governments and agencies with the construction of large-scale public works. Unlike its cousin, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the PWA emphasized architect-designed projects rather than local labor and handcraftsmanship. In addition to dams, airports, bridges, and schools, the PWA also built more than 400 post offices between 1933 and 1939.
In 1873 the city of Florence was named for the daughter of its first postmaster, James McCandless. The city grew over the next three decades but then stagnated after local ore reduction mills closed in the early twentieth century. Construction in the downtown commercial district ground to a halt.
In August 1935, funds were appropriated for a new Florence Post Office as part of a larger list of emergency building projects. Within a few months a site for the post office was chosen at the corner of North Pikes Peak Avenue and West Second Street, on the boundary between Florence’s business district and its residential area. Construction started in 1936, and the community closely followed the building’s progress. Local stores closed for an hour so residents could attend the cornerstone ceremony on December 5, 1936, which featured a speech by Congressman John A. Martin of Pueblo.
The post office opened to the public in August 1937. It was the first federal building in Florence and probably the only major building constructed in the city during the Great Depression. It was made mostly of hollow tile covered with tan brick, but used concrete for the foundation and front entrance. Designed in a style known as PWA Moderne, the one-story post office was also the only building in town that featured a modern, stripped-down Classicism paired with a few Art Deco zigs and zags (such as on the lintel above the main entrance).
For the interior of the Florence Post Office, the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts program commissioned Santa Fe–based artist Olive Rush to paint a mural for the lobby. Murals were popular in the 1930s as a democratic art form that could bring complex subjects to the public, and New Deal initiatives such as the Section of Fine Arts program were established to put artists to work painting murals in federal buildings across the country. Rush painted several murals for the Section of Fine Arts in New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma; at the time she was becoming known for delicate nature paintings that conveyed a sense of animals moving through dreamlike space. Her mural for the Florence Post Office, called Antelope, was completed and installed in 1939. It featured a line of antelope walking across a grassy plain, with one taking a drink from a pond where two ducks swam. In the background, fluffy white clouds drifted across an open sky.
The Florence Post Office remains largely unchanged and continues to serve the community.