Illustrations in Cosmopolitan, Redbook and American Weekly. Ads for Coca-Cola, Seagrams and Palmolive Soap. Murals in New York's Rockefeller Center, the Los Angeles Public Library and ... Chapel Hill's U.S. Post Office? Dean Cornwell (1887-1960), dubbed by Norman Rockwell as the "Dean of Illustrators," was an accomplished commercial illustrator whose artwork appeared in magazines, books, ads and posters across the nation. Here in Chapel Hill, his mural "Laying the Cornerstone of Old East" (completed in 1941) still stretches above the postmaster's door inside the post office on Franklin Street. The piece portrays an historic event in the construction of the University of North Carolina -- the nation's first public university chartered in 1789 and opened to students in 1795.
The mural depicts General William Richardson Davie, known as "the father of the university," directing the laying of the cornerstone of UNC's East Building (now a residence hall) on April 12, 1793. The cornerstone is a stone set in a masonry foundation which determines the position of a building. Five years later, Davie went on to serve as a governor of North Carolina (1798-1799). He is the man in the orange coat holding a trowel.
(photograph taken at U.S. Post Office, downtown Chapel Hill branch on Franklin Street)