Located at 919 Broadway, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville began its life as the Main Post Office, designed in the Art Deco style by Marr & Holman and constructed in 1933-34.
The flashy interior features cast aluminum doors and grillwork, as well as colored marble and stone on the floors and walls.
Apparently the grillwork designs were selected by the architects from a federal building planning manual: Art Deco clip art! The motifs celebrate American progress and productivity. I think the ones shown below represent scientific research [microscope], harvesting [sickle with a sheaf of wheat], industry [cogwheel], and publishing [book press].
Since this was originally a government building, I suppose the recurring star motif was intended to be patriotic. Now, it’s dreamy and celestial, which seems fitting for an inspiring venue dedicated to the arts.
The streamlined exterior features the stripped-down classicism characteristic of government buildings of the era.
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts has no permanent collection. For an art museum, it seems rather small though, in the immortal words of Dave Mustaine in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, “It’s not how big your pencil is; it’s how you write your name.”
Thomas Marr began his career as a draftsman, later attending MIT in Cambridge and then founding his own architectural practice in 1897. Joseph Holman started his career as an office boy in Marr’s Nashville firm and rose rapidly to partnership. Marr & Holman specialized in the design of theaters, schools, hotels, and other commercial buildings.
Another lovely old post office is the one on Dalton St. in Cincinnati, designed by by Samuel Hannaford & Sons.