Manufacture of Plowshares

Photo courtesy of Nancy Lorance, with permission of the United States Postal Service

“Manufacture of Plowshares” by Edward Millman in 1937 hangs in the downtown Moline Post Office. It was completed during as a Works Progress Administration project.

Contributed photo

The future of the downtown post office in Moline will be up to whoever buys it.

But one piece of the once-crucial 77-year-old structure is sure to remain a part of the public.

The Depression-era mural “Manufacture of Plowshares” was created by Chicago artist Edward Millman. It hangs on a north wall of the post office at 514 7th St. and is to be reserved for public access, regardless of whomever buys the building.

The post office, along with one in Milan, Ill., has been on the market for more than six months, and the price recently was reduced from $450,000 to $400,000, according to Ruhl & Ruhl commercial broker Jim Tansey.

He said he has had “several inquiries” on the 27,213-square-foot, two-story building, but no offers have been made.

Built in 1934, the property comes with 44 parking spaces, which are valuable in the downtown. But it does not necessarily come with the mural.

Barb Sandberg, a member of Moline’s Historic Preservation Commission, said commissioners were taken by surprise when an official from the state Historic Preservation Agency came to them to ask for input on the mural.

“It was surprising to us, because we hadn’t asked, but they put a covenant on it (the post office), restricting the use,” she said  Friday. “The concern of the commission was: This is a public mural. It belongs to the public.”

Under the conditions of the covenant, the mural would remain on permanent loan to whomever purchases the building — on the condition it remain accessible to the public.

And what happens if the buyer does not intend to allow public access?

“We hope we don’t have to cross that bridge,” Sandberg said. “We hope it stays where it is.”

The future that is not as certain is that of the 70 to 75 employees who are based out of the downtown post office. Workers there Friday said the postmaster is not allowed to speak publicly about possible plans, and Tansey said it would be inappropriate to disclose what he knows of his client’s plans.

“It’s probably not feasible of them to lease back space,” he said of the possibility the post office would continue to use part of the building. “We have discussed alternate locations.”

The Moline Post Office is used for sorting and carrier services, post office boxes, passport processing and retail operations. The post office in Milan is on the market for $300,000 and has 9,200 square feet. It was converted to retail-service only during a recent consolidation.