A New Deal Spirit

Activist and art critic Anita Brenner was excited by the New Deal. She saw a “New Deal spirit” in the struggling artists of the WPA. “You can see it in his grin . . . in his truculent exuberance; you can see that he knows the future belongs to him.”

That New Deal spirit persists today. Some of its keepers appear in this issue: A steadfast guardian of a disregarded Diego Rivera mural; a town fighting for its New Deal heritage; advocates calling to revive FDR’s “Tree Army,” the CCC.

The New Deal lives on not only through its great public works, but also through the undimmed exuberance of the keepers of the New Deal spirit. Thank you for helping to keep the spirit alive!

Emerson, NJ Fights to Save Borough Hall and Murals

The Works Progress Administration built Emerson’s Borough Hall in 1938-39. The Federal Art Project employed two artists, including Albert C. Haring and one unknown artist, to create murals in Borough Hall. The building has seven murals in its basement. Emerson is considering renovating, or outright replacing, Borough Hall. While the Borough Council acknowledges the importance of potentially preserving the murals, it is not committed to preserving the front of the building, despite its historical significance. Emerson’s mayor stated that “As far as the front of the building, again, we will listen to the architect’s recommendation and decide accordingly.” Read more about the battle to save the building and its murals. You can also contact Jill McGuire of the Emerson Historic Preservation Committee at [email protected].

Where in the World is Evan?

Evan Kalish recently traveled to New Mexico where he documented dozens of New Deal projects. Here is his summary – I love exploring New Mexico: the sunsets are beautiful, the spaces are wide-open, and the New Deal is everywhere. Melrose, N.M., population 650, has several stone WPA structures in town, and fortunately most of them are identified as New Deal. The school in Melrose bears a 1942 WPA plaque and the wall surrounding the grounds is imprinted with a WPA stamp. These are great, though when it comes to identifying its maker another Melrose project takes the cake: look closely at this wall surrounding a park and former senior center in Melrose, and you’ll find giant stone patterns spelling out “WPA” in lettering around two feet tall. He’d
almost completely missed this; fortunately the current owner was available to point it out to him! Evan also explored northeast New Mexico towns of Tucumcari, Clovis, Portales , Clayton , Raton.

Lawrence Restores New Deal Relic

In 1936, the town of Lawrence, on Long Island in New York, undertook a $825,000 project to build a high school. The town completed the project thanks to funds from the Public Works Administration. The town recently restored the building’s cupola and clock tower. The structures had been in decline for decades. With the advent of smart phones, many cities and school districts discard clock towers because of the diminished need but to Lawrence officials, the structures are important to restore – “part of combating the Depression, to put people to work.” The building is now a middle school and its new cupola and clock tower are powered by LED and smartphone technology. Read more about the project here.

We’ve Passed A New Benchmark!

The Living New Deal has now surpassed 14,000 mapped sites on its website (https://livingnewdeal.org/map/) and is rapidly approaching the 15,000 benchmark, with almost 14,500 sites mapped. We have also reached impressive milestones in a number of individual states: Massachusetts now has 800 sites, New Mexico has 300, Connecticut has 250, and Montana and Utah each have 200. We are grateful to our entire team – including the “Core Team,” our National Associates , and every individual who has taken the time to contribute sites, add information to existing sites, and spread the word about our project. Thank you for your interest and for making the Living New Deal a success. Please continue to contribute sites and information to help build on our accomplishments.

Village of Greenhills, Ohio, Fights Demolition of New Deal Housing

Preservationists in the Village of Greenhills, Ohio are working to save the town’s New Deal legacy. Located near Mill Creek Valley, the village was one of the three New Deal greenbelt towns built by the Resettlement Administration’s Division of Suburban Resettlement. The design of Greenhills resulted from the collaboration of town planners and principal architects Roland Want and F. Frank Cordner. A team of more than 150 people created the village. In 1950, the federal government divested itself of the property. Despite being designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016, the village has demolished multiple structures, accounting for 26 townhomes. Rumors are the village has more demolition planned. For more information contact [email protected].

Public/Private: The Commons Besieged – An Exhibit

Together with the Canessa Gallery in San Francisco, the Living New Deal will host an exhibit and conversation about the intersection of the public domain and private interests. The event will discuss efforts to preserve the American Commons, including two local efforts in Berkeley and Point Reyes Station. It will also feature the work of artists Daniel Dietrich, Jos Sances, Art Hazelwood, and Doug Minkler. The event will take place at the Canessa Gallery in San Francisco (708 Montgomery St.) on Saturday, January 19 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. The general public is welcome and the exhibit is free.

We’re Now On Instagram!

We set up an Instagram feed to share some of our trove of photographs of New Deal public works and public art. It will feature black and white photos from the archives alongside current color photos taken by Living New Deal volunteers. The idea is to share the beauty of New Deal art, architecture and landscapes, as well as showing their ubiquity around the country and provide insight into the many New Deal service programs almost completely forgotten today. Please follow us @livingnewdealproject and stay tuned for more developments. You can visit our Instagram page here but you will need to join Instagram, which is easy to do here.

Where in the World is Evan?

Evan Kalish, The Living New Deal’s Researcher at Large, is often traveling the nation in pursuit of uncovering New Deal treasures. Just in the last year, Evan has motored around New England, the Upper Midwest and the Southeast. A new, recurring eBlast feature will update us on Evan’s adventures. He recently traveled to Mackinac Island in Michigan, where WPA engravers hand-carved detailed, two-sided oak signs showing scenes of the island’s heritage. After decades of decay, a local carpenter rescued seven signs from disposal and undertook a multiyear effort to restore them. Each sign is about 3.5 feet tall, 2.5 feet wide, and weighs almost 300 pounds. Read the full story and see images here.

Winter 2018

Thank you for being a part of the Living New Deal community. Your help makes our programs possible—from creating the first-ever and still-growing online index to the New Deal’s vast legacy; to our public events, tours, exhibits, and publications; to working with schools, historical societies, museums, artists, and policy institutes to preserve our country’s New Deal heritage. We appreciate all that you do to fan the flame of the New Deal as a model for compassionate leadership and public service.

In this, our last newsletter in 2017, (a year, as FDR might say, “that will live in infamy”), we offer as inspiration stories about those who led the New Deal and those whose lives were made better by their courage, vision, and tenacity. We wish you all three in the coming year. With thanks for your continued support.