The wonderful Art Deco Wichita Federal Courthouse is home to two wonderful Kansas history murals inside. These WPA murals are the primary reason for the building being listed on the National Register.
From the National Register nomination form: (visit link
The murals are located in the first floor lobby of the federal building, in the area that originally housed the United States Postal Service. . . .
"Pioneers in Kansas" and "Kansas Farming" were placed at the east and west ends of the lobby respectively. The murals measured 10'6" by 4'7" each and were attached to the marble walls with white lead paste. "Pioneers in Kansas" was installed on April 24, 1936 and "Kansas Farming" was installed on May 25, 1936. In 1973 the condition of the murals was evaluated, "Pioneers in Kansas" was judged in good condition and remains as such, "Kansas Farming" was judged to have a slight defect and likely has not been repaired.
"Pioneers in Kansas" is an oil on canvas mural that is a collage of images associated with western settlement. A stagecoach loaded with mail and passengers marks the center of the canvas, the other images radiate around it.
A Pony Express rider and an American Indian shoot at one another on the left side of the canvas. A vulture flys above the rider, symbolizing imminent danger and death. In the center foreground of the canvas a hardened, buckskinned and coon capped pioneer loads his shotgun as he crouches down behind a rock outcropping. A well dressed pioneer couple stand on the right side of the canvas, the woman reads a letter. A black steam engine emerges behind the couple, symbolizing continued western expansion.
The collage is composed of five major images that are woven together into the same rugged landscape of the high plains. Lockwood employs a primary palette of blue, brown, and orange for the mural.
"Kansas Farming" Is an oil on canvas mural that depicts various aspects of rural life and farm production, it is arranged in three interrelational units. In much the same way that Lockwood achieved a collage of images associated with western settlement in one landscape, so too has Haines achieved a collage of sorts, integrating various aspects of agriculture into one landscape. Rolling fertile hills ripe with the bounty of the fall harvest comprise Haines' idealized rural landscape.
A tall corn plant and a tall sunflower plant frame the center panel of the canvas. The merging of traditional and modern rural lifestyles is represented in this panel. A farmer on horseback visits with his neighbors in the center of the canvas, the neighbor leans on a fence post digger while his wife cradles freshily picked tomatoes in her apron. The three form a triangular association, symbolizing a traditional way of life on the farm that is slowly changing, as the events around them indicate. In the foreground, a farmer prepares to place a fence post in the ground, symbolizing the growing separation between the farm and the city. He looks to the sky as do the young boy and girl near him. The girls hold mail in both hands as the boy waves to an unseen mail plane. A mailbox stands in front of the children. The farmer and the children look up to the sky in the same way that they look toward the future and the impact that technology and transportation will have on their lives.
The two outer panels represent the relationship between farm production and the shipping of those products to consumers. On the right side of the canvas a farmer feeds hogs corn. A cow and chickens feed behind him. A white barn and silo stand in the background. The farmer looks toward the produce packers on the left side of the canvas. These workers package and load the produce onto rail cars that transport the food to the city. One worker looks toward the farmer across the canvas, mirroring him in appearance and stance. The workers are inside but the transition between outside and inside is subtle. Rows of boxes stand outside the packing building ready for transport, they merge with the freshly tilled field in the center of the canvas. A small town with a railroad depot and grain elevator stand beyond the boxes. Oil derricks meet the horizon beyond the town. Haines employs a primary palette of green, gold, and rust for the mural." [end]
Blasterz were in Wichita on Sunday, so were unable to go inside to see the historic murals. :(
We plan to go back to Wichita this year, so will add these photos then :)
Be sure and check out HF0444 M 39, the benchmark on the west entrance to this wonderful Art Deco building.