New Book: Women and the Spirit of the New Deal

Featured

Women and the Spirit of the New Deal highlights the extensive role of women in the programs and operations of the New Deal under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  It was prepared for a two-day conference, “Women and the Spirit of the New Deal,” held in Berkeley, California on October 5-6, 2018.  The conference was jointly sponsored by The Living New Deal, The National New Deal Preservation Association and The Frances Perkins Center.  The brief biographies of approximately 100 women include some individuals who were known to the public and remembered by historians, while others operated behind the scenes and have been virtually forgotten.  Some were prominent during the period 1933-1945 while not formally linked to government programs.  Most played significant roles in the numerous agencies, projects and programs of the federal government during a dozen years when the relationship between the government and American citizens was profoundly reshaped. The women include politicians, administrators, lawyers, social workers, authors, journalists, painters, sculptors, musicians and scientists.   The book begins a process of identifying hundreds if not thousands of women whose roles during this eventful period were of consequence in contributing to the transformations that took place through the initiatives of the Roosevelt Administration.   Our hope is that readers of this book will contribute the names and descriptions of additional women (including modifications and/or elaborations of the biographies contained herein) to the websites of the three sponsoring organizations where they will be available to students, scholars and interested citizens:

The Living New Deal www.livingnewdeal.org

The National New Deal Preservation Association www.newdeallegacy.org

The Frances Perkins Center  www.FrancesPerkinsCenter.org

The book can be purchased here.

Living New Deal Launches New York City Project

Two hundred New Yorkers gathered at the Center for Architecture to learn about a new initiative to familiarize a new generation to the New Deal’s vast imprint on the nation’s largest city.

The May 7 reception was co-sponsored by the Museum of the City of New York, the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, Planners Network, Historic Districts Council, National Jobs for All Network, City Lore, FDR Library, Gotham Center for New York City History, and Roosevelt House at Hunter College. It featured Kevin Baker as keynote speaker, and a panel, including New Deal scholars Nick Taylor, Gray Brechin, and Marta Gutman, and Deputy Mayor of New York City, Phillip Thompson.

The presentations can be viewed on our website, as well as a WPA film, “A Better New York City,” produced in 1937. See it here.

To learn more about the New Deal-New York program, please contact, Margaret Crane [email protected]

Recently Published Monograph: New York Recentered

Kara Murphy Schlichting’s new book, New York Recentered, examines the development of modern New York, including its New Deal history. New York Recentered offers a new model for understanding the invention of metropolitan New York during the city’s unprecedented expansion between 1840 and 1940. By broadening the definition of planning and playing close attention to the levels of governance on which it occurred, this book tells a regional history, not just a history of the city’s influence on the periphery. This book demonstrates how regional actors directed much of greater New York’s formation through work on the urban edge.

In Chapter 6, Schlichting examines the environmental reclamation of Flushing Meadows for the 1939-1940 Queens world’s fair.  In the 1930s, the infamous ash dump at Flushing Meadows stood as stark proof of the consequences of an unplanned periphery.  On this wasteland, planners merged urban environmental and technological infrastructure to build the fair, the “World of Tomorrow.”  While the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair is most often remembered in terms of its futurist theme, the creation of the fairsite was grounded in the contemporary forces of city planning and federally-funded public works during the New Deal.  Fair officials declared the filling of Flushing Meadows a triumph of engineering and environmental reclamation.  But the removal of decades of ashes and garbage dumped into the marshes as well as the dredging and filling required to establish a foundation for the fair had environmental consequences.  Viewed comparatively, fair construction and the World of Tomorrow’s most important exhibits on utopian cities emerge as complementary narratives of planning and environmental change to build the modern metropolis.

The book can be purchased from the University of Chicago Press.

Act Now to Defend the National Register of Historic Places – Deadline Today 4/30!

Proposed Federal Rule Changes Endanger

National Register of Historic Places Listings:

Voice Your Opposition by the April 30 Deadline!

The National Park Service (NPS) is currently proposing rule changes which seek to significantly weaken the implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act  (NHPA) of 1966.  These changes seek to diminish the NHPA in several ways, including by:

  • significantly limiting listings of federal properties to the National Register 
  • reducing the availability of the federal historic tax credit for restoration work on National Register listed properties 
  • giving large property owners greater rights than their neighbors by allowing them to veto the listing of entire historic districts on the National Register. 

Please make your voice heard in opposition to this anti-preservation proposal by the April 30 deadline.  See here for rule changes.   

To register your objection, you can copy and paste the sample letter below into the NPS form, HERE, with whatever edits you’d like to make, or you can write your own comments.  Thank you! 

I am writing to strongly OPPOSE the National Park Service’s proposed rule changes in docket #NPS-2019-0001, which are intended to significantly weaken the implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966.  These changes seek to diminish the NHPA in several ways: by limiting nominations of federal properties to the National Register; reducing the availability of the federal historic tax credit for restoration work on National Register listed properties; and giving large property owners the right to thwart listing of entire historic districts on the National Register.

Giving federal agencies with limited if any expertise in historic preservation effective veto power over new National Register listings subverts the intention of the NHPA.  The proposal’s call for abolishing time limits on listing new National Register sites endangers tax credits for historically sensitive rehabilitations of historic sites.

Granting large landholders veto power over National Register historic district designations is contrary to the statutory language of the National Historic Preservation Act, and counter to the democratic principle of one person, one vote.  Furthermore, Native American tribal communities, which were left out of this process, must be consulted as the proposed rule changes are likely to impact them as well.

For more than half a century the National Register of Historic Places has served to protect and preserve our nation’s shared  historic architecture and culture.  There is no justifiable reason to undermine the highly successful NHPA.  The NPS needs to scrap the proposed rule changes and instead look at ways to strengthen the NPS’s role in preserving our country’s invaluable and irreplaceable historic resources.

 

Book on the work of the CCC in Indiana – The History of the Indiana State Forests

PIKE STATE FOREST BARN
Photo: Glory-June Greiff
© All Rights Reserved

The History of the Indiana State Forests

Edited by Ronald V. Morris and Glory-June Greiff | Photography by Glory-June Greiff
Most states have a department of natural resources, but the structure and hierarchy varies from state to state. In addition to state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreation areas, and nature preserves–whose missions all differ–Indiana boasts fourteen state forests, most of which were created or developed or improved by the CCC (and the WPA, in some cases). Indeed, only two of our present forests entered the system after the New Deal period. In addition, there are several former state forests that have become something else (two have been upgraded into state parks); all are still public land.  All are discussed in a new book from Ball State University, The History of the Indiana State Forests, available through MT Publishing.
Indiana’s state forests were developed in the 1930s by the CCC, usually from played-out farms or on terrain that had proven too difficult for agriculture. While the state parks’ primary mission was preservation of “pristine” lands (or what was perceived as such) and recreation suitable for same, that of state forests, in dire need of reclamation when acquired, was to serve as tree reserves, plantations, and places for silviculture experimentation. Once established, though, the forests were going to be there for awhile, so the Department of Conservation added a secondary recreational mission and oversaw the building of picnic groves and shelters in portions of the forests, the work done by the CCC. This was, of course, in addition to the more typical work of “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” which involved planting thousands of trees and constructing earthen dams to impound lakes on these properties for flood control and wildlife conservation. Most of the structures are still in place and in more recent years have at last come to be appreciated. A few have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

OVEN SHELTER - JACKSON-WASHINGTON STATE FOREST IN
Photo: Glory-June Greiff © All Rights Reserved

The book is lavishly illustrated with color photographs of many of these New Deal projects, while telling the story of the CCC companies that built them within the larger context of the forests’ establishment and use over time. Edited by Dr. Ronald Morris and public historian Glory-June Greiff, who oversaw the research and writing, the book is the first effort at a comprehensive history of Indiana state forests. Greiff, a long time photographer, provided most of the recent images of the New Deal gems; she had previously documented them for the Indiana DNR’s Division of Historic Preservation in the 1990s.

Join our Campaign to Save the George Washington High School Murals

Washington High - Life of Washington
Washington High – Life of Washington

We are mounting a campaign to save the historic WPA murals at the George Washington High School in San Francisco. Some parents and students at the school believe that two of Arnautoff’s 13 murals “glorify” racism. One controversial panel depicts slaves and the other shows Washington pointing westward over a murdered Indian. Art historians and the school’s alumni association interpret these as the artist’s condemnation of both slavery and the myth of so-called Manifest Destiny. The members of the SF School Board are currently considering the removal of the murals and are expected to make a decision in May. Please consider joining our letter-writing campaign and writing to the members SF School Board to express your concern about this loss of public art and erasure of the past—albeit a painful depiction of our nation’s history.

You can find the Board members’ names and email addresses here: http://www.sfusd.edu/en/about-sfusd/board-of-education/overview-and-members.html

The destruction of these murals would be a significant loss for the public. Commissioned by the Federal Art Project, the George Washington High School murals belong to all Americans. Art historians have argued that the artist’s intent was, in fact, critical of national mythology, rather than condoning racism. Thus, the murals illuminate America’s history and hold valuable lessons. We believe that informative signage installed on site would offer an opportunity to make visible, rather than accept the historical injustices of Colonial America. History  should not be erased.  The National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington DC has displays devoted to a discussion of slavery. The Holocaust Museum is dedicated to educating about genocide so that people will “never forget,” what happened.  The Choctaw Cultural Center educates visitors about the “Trail of Tears.” The George Washington High School can deliver the same message.

Indiana’s PWA Housing Projects Featured at Preservation Conference April 9-12

Indiana’s annual historic preservation conference, Preserving Historic Places, takes place April 9-12 this year in Evansville on the Ohio River.  Among the educational sessions on the first full day (April 10) will be The New Deal Gardens of Lockefield and Lincoln, a presentation on two PWA housing projects in Indiana, which was quite a hotbed of New Deal efforts. Professor Emeritus Patrick J. Furlong will open the program with an overview of New Deal housing improvement projects, both urban and rural, in the state. Glory-June Greiff, historian and LND consultant, will tell the story of Lockefield Gardens in Indianapolis, a beautiful and modern project built on a park-like 22 acres, and designed on a humane scale in an International Style with Art Deco elements. Opened in 1938, it boasted 748 units, garages, shops, and playgrounds. Greiff, who was deeply involved in the fight to save Lockefield Gardens and who organized the session, will focus mainly on that grassroots effort, in which a core group rehabbed one apartment within the closed complex and then brought movers and shakers, former residents, and community organizers to see it. The gallant battle was lost, but they did manage to secure the preservation of about one-fourth of the complex, which was rehabbed and whose units are much in demand today.
Dennis Au, former preservation officer of Evansville, will then speak briefly on Lincoln Gardens, another PWA housing complex built for the African-American community. Although only one structure from Lincoln Gardens remains, today it houses Evansville’s African-American Museum and contains one refurnished unit of the complex. The session takes place in this building, and will end with a tour of the refurbished unit by Janice Hall, who had lived in Lincoln Gardens.

WPA-Built Inland Naval Armory Becomes Charter High School, by Glory-June Greiff

Hesslar Naval Armory
Photo by Glory-June Greiff

Featured in Art Deco in Indianapolis (Greiff 1980), the stunning WPA-built Naval Armory, the work of architect Ben H. Bacon, has graced the bank of the non-navigable White River since before its dedication in October 1938.  At the time of that first publication, the glorious Art Moderne building still somewhat served its original function and was gloriously intact outside and in, including the over-the-top nautical decor of the Officers’ Mess. The interior was originally fitted with a simulated navigation bridge and many other accoutrements of a naval vessel. Inside the drill room–essentially a large gymnasium–are four huge murals of famous naval battles by WPA artist Charles Bauerle.*  The building was renamed the Heslar Naval Armory in 1964 to honor its first commanding officer, Capt. O.F. Heslar. In 1985, a humanities grant afforded me the opportunity to invite the public into the drill room for an illustrated talk on the WPA in Indiana in its 50th anniversary year. The building was functioning as a headquarter for both the Navy and Marine Reserve, and security grew much tighter, the public no longer able to enter so easily. The beautiful dining room became just another classroom, its adjacent curving barroom with the glass block counter abandoned.  Seeing the interior a few years ago was disheartening, to say the least. The building was decommissioned over two years ago and its fate was uncertain. Enter Indiana Landmarks and the charter Herron High School (headquartered in the former Herron School of Art north of downtown Indianapolis), who partnered to save the structure, rehab it, and transform it into Riverside High School, another charter school that follows. Herron’s classical education model. It opened to great fanfare last fall. Huzzah!

Exhibit: “New Deal Picture Stories” – The Photography of Arthur Rothstein

“New Deal Picture Stories” – The Photography of Arthur Rothstein will be hosted by the Canessa Gallery, located at 708 Montgomery St. San Francisco, CA.Opening Reception: Friday, December 7, 2018. 6:00pm–9:00 pm.

Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) is recognized as one of America’s premier photojournalists. Rothstein became the first photographer for the newly established Resettlement Administration in 1935, and later worked for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), producing some of the most recognized images of life in the United States in the 1930s and 40s.