Monday, March 8, 2010
The Works Progress (later Projects) Administration was created in 1935 in response to America’s Great Depression. It was designed to offer work to unemployed Americans at a time when, according to my grandmother, “You couldn’t BUY a job!”
The WPA employed Americans in public projects. They built bridges, university buildings, zoos, schools, roads, theaters, hospitals, reinforced mountainsides and riverbeds, you name it. The WPA was used extensively in the fledgling National Parks Service, as well as state and local recreation areas. The federal government made WPA funds available to states for their projects, too.
It is said that every community in the nation has at least one WPA-funded project. Although the western US was the benefactor of the bulk of WPA funds, you can see many projects all across the country.
Besides creating improvements, the WPA’s works supported millions of American families through one of the nation’s most challenging economic times.
The Civilian Conservation Corps had been created earlier. Its work had a conservation/resources focus and was available only to men. The WPA, however, employed many female heads of household.
This is what government officials are discussing when we now hear them talk about improving the economy through building America’s infrastructure.
I love WPA projects. They are often in rural settings and use local stone and timber, so there is a rustic beauty in them. The architecture is simple and designed to last.