At first glance, the Santa Barbara U.S. Post Office comes off as just another example of Mission Revival with its stucco walls and terra cotta tiled roof, but look closer and you’ll see that it’s so much more...
Designed in the mid-1930s, the Post Office was Reginald Johnson’s final commission, and upon its completion in 1937, he announced his retirement as an architect. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and maintains much of the original look, with only minimal changes made to the interior. Amazingly, the exterior, including the original landscaping, remains unchanged.
Johnson was known for his ability to marry two often highly dissimilar styles, in this case the modern and the historic. Never one to deny himself the use of various creative themes, the Post Office displays multiple influences, as did most of his designs. The structure itself is fundamentally Spanish Colonial or Mediterranean Revival as seen in the general shape and size, or massing, of the building as well as the arrangement of doors and windows known as fenestration, while the ornament is more in line with Art Deco styles.
The Bronze hardware, including interior gates, grates and furniture, as well as exterior doors and indoor and ourdoor light fixtures, are works of art in themselves, often patterned with the Zig-Zag Moderne designs.
A Chevron motif runs through the detailing, as can be seen in the outdoor lanterns flanking the main entrance, as well as in the keystones above the front doors and on the pewter-finished bronze interior doors.
The six federally-sponsored bas-reliefs located in the main lobby are by LA sculptor William Atkinson and exemplify more of a Streamline Moderne, or Art Moderne, style with long horizontal lines and curved forms. The eagle above the North entrance is less ornate than the interior reliefs but still is typical of Art Deco in both subject and style.