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Tillamook, OR New Deal Art

Most of the post office works of art were funded under the Treasury Department’s Section commissions. Those works that were created using TRAP funds are so indicated. Although the WPA funded the construction of post office buildings, the artwork was not WPA but was usually produced under the Section or TRAP programs.

Tillamook, Oregon New Deal Art

Tillamook, OR Post Office
“Captain Gray Entering Tillamook Bay” – fresco secco
by Lucia Wiley (1943)


The old Post Office building at 210 Laurel Avenue is currently being used as the Tillamook City Hall after a new Post Office building was built in 1986. The old Post Office lobby continues to be accessible to the general public.

The following text is a transcript of the wall plaque in the lobby:
Captain Grays First Visit to the Oregon Coast
Mural Painting by Lucia Wiley

Captain Gray is best known for discovery of the Columbia River in the year 1792. Four years prior to that however he became the first white man, on record, to set foot on Oregon’s shore. On the same voyage he was the first to carry the American flag around the world. Residents of Tillamook County find special interest in the log of his visit. The log tells of the four days spent in what is now Tillamook Bay. He believed he had discovered the “Great River of the West,” something all nations were seeking.

Captain Gray, born in 1757, served as a naval officer during the American Revolution. For the first voyage of an American fur trader to the Northwest Coast of America Captain Gray was given command of a sloop the Lady Washington. His ship, a small vessel of about fifty feet, carried a crew of less than a dozen officers and men. The Lady Washington left Boston October 1, 1787 and reached the Bay on August 13, 1788 staying within the confines of the Bay until August 15. Captain Gray thoroughly explored the Bay and learned it was not the Great River of the West as he first believed. The Tillamook Indians were able to make him understand however, the true location and course of the Western River. Heavy fogs over the bar kept him from finding it on his voyage of 1787-88.

The Tillamook Indians belonged to the Salish Nation and practiced flattening of the head. The painting shows a small child in a compression frame as well as the flattened heads of the adult Indians. The clothing consists of rush hats with pointed crowns and wide brims and blankets of wood rat skins or mats. The women wore cedar bark fringed petticoats called siwash coats.

The painting illustrates the visit as it is recorded in the log reconstructing the scene from that rather meager record. The flatheaded Tillamook Indians trade with the white men exchanging berries, crabs and fish for trinkets, cloth and metal objects. A part of the crew gathers wood and water. Captain Gray appears to be getting an idea of the location of the Great River of the West from a map an Indian draws in the sand. The bay is pictured as it must have appeared at that time. The setting is the place where Capt. Gray is believed to have landed on the flats where Squaw Town is now located, that is between Bay City and Garibaldi.