To ease unemployment during the Great Depression, the Public Works Administration (PWA) hired skilled construction workers and artists to create federal facilities like this modest post office. Simon oversaw more than twenty architects, including J. C. Bollenbacher, who produced most of the stock plans for Wisconsin and may well have drawn this one. Simon’s architectural crew then paired one of twenty-four standard plans with one of several stylistic treatments to create a suitable building for the size of a given community. That approach produced similar post offices in towns across the country.
Many of those buildings were in the Moderne style as here. The post office is a simple tan-brick box with a flat roof, yet the sleek limestone veneer across the central section elevates the design above the ordinary. These vertical panels embrace the central entrance, flanked on either side by twelve-over-twelve double-hung windows. The government made similar post offices distinctive by commissioning an interior mural for each. The Department of the Treasury’s Section of Painting and Sculpture (later renamed the Section of Fine Arts) oversaw this program. Regional topics were promoted for the art works, and in this spirit, Raymond Redell created in 1938 a mural with a local theme, using a realistic yet heroic style. Located above the door to the postmaster’s office, the mural, Harvesting Cranberries, portrays five men working in a cranberry bog to show an important aspect of Berlin’s economic history. Redell, who later became a staff artist for the Milwaukee Journal, also painted murals for the Waupaca Post Office. The post office’s interior retains its original terrazzo floor, marble wainscot, and built-in mailboxes.