Morton WA Installs New Post Office Murals

Inspired by many of the same ideals that fueled the New Deal, this small town in Morton, Washington has recently banded together to create a set of brand new murals for the local post office. The murals were funded by the USPS, painted by local artist Pamela Kelly.

Morton is set among the mountains, wildlife, eagles and birding in between the three mountains of Rainier, Mt. Adams and St. Helen’s. A classic logging town, Morton has faced many economic setbacks in recent years.

As during the Great Depression, these murals are intended both to stimulate the economy through (funding the painter and attracting tourism to the USPS and the local community), and, more simply, to increase the beauty of our country’s public spaces.

The artist and post office staff are also inspired by the Flat Stanley educational program already underway in Florida.

So if you’re in the area, stop by to see these lovely murals, and remember to support your local post office.

(Photos provided by Erin Dill, Postmaster, Morton WA)

Morton WA Post Office MuralNew Morton WA Post Office Murals

Morton Post Office MuralsArtist Painting the Morton PO Murals"We want Flat Stanley Here"


Exploring CCC Ski Trails

Skiing the Gulf of Slides in New HampshireNew York Times reporter Jonathan Mingle describes his ski adventure down CCC trails in the Northeast. From the Times:

“The Thunderbolt is one of more than a dozen semi-hidden gems tucked throughout the hills of New England, the legacy of a trail-cutting frenzy conducted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a signature program of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

…The program also helped catalyze the nascent ski industry in the United States. Many New England ski resorts were built around trails first cut by the C.C.C. “In the scope of what the C.C.C. did, it was a real drop in the bucket,” said Jeff Leich, director of the New England Ski Museum. “And yet you think about Cannon, Wildcat, Stowe and what that’s meant for the economy of the region.” The winter tourism industry they helped spawn remains an important source of revenue throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and the Berkshires.”

Butte County Gets a New Deal

On the banks of Big Chico Creek, where the university campus meets Children’s Playground and Bidwell Mansion, lies one of Chico’s most striking, and least recognized, architectural and historic treasures: Bidwell Bowl Amphitheater.

The amphitheater is wrought from local stone and incorporates the creek itself into its structure. Moss and lichen settled on old stone walls add to its grandeur, only partly diminished by intermittent broken wood seating planks, graffiti scribbles and a bite-shaped chunk missing from the main wall.

More people pass by than stop to appreciate the amphitheater, and most who do use it—students seeking quiet study space, older children escaping eyes of parents and police—couldn’t tell you anything about it, even its official name.

But, to those who know its meaning, a humble, inconspicuous plaque reading “ERECTED 1938 WPA” speaks volumes about who built it, for whom it was built, and why it is here.

Michael Magliari, a history professor at Chico State, met this reporter at the site one recent morning to talk about the Bidwell Bowl and the era that birthed it—the Great Depression. The conversation, though rooted in events that occurred at least 70 years ago, couldn’t have been more timely or telling in its relationship to modern politics.

“There’s a lot of lessons we learned from the Depression,” Magliari said at one point, shaking his head, “that have been completely forgotten. Or, at best they’ve been half-heartedly applied.”

These lessons, much like the buildings erected for the people, by the people, and the services that employed, fed, clothed, housed, entertained and educated millions during a dark hour in our nation’s history, need to be remembered, lest they disappear forever. And they are especially relevant today, as we struggle through another difficult economic era…

Read the full article here

By Ken Smith, May 31, 2012,

Recalling the Creation of Coit Tower’s Murals

In the corner of a 100-square-foot mural painted on a wall of Coit Tower, Ruth Gottstein is forever memorialized.

Just 12 years old in the painting, she has a short, pageboy haircut, and soft, thoughtful eyes. She’s clutching a notebook, and wearing a blue skirt and a sailor-style blouse.

“I never wore a blouse like that,” said Gottstein, now 89. “I don’t know what my father was thinking.”

Portion of Zakheim mural in Coit Tower
Ruth Gottstein portrayed in Zakheim mural

Gottstein’s father, Bernard Zakheim, was one of 26 artists who painted the 27 Great Depression-era murals inside Coit Tower. Zakheim’s mural, called “Library,” features men and women reading books and newspapers, many of them blasting headlines about union strife and public discord from the times.

On Sunday, Gottstein spoke before a crowd of 75 people about her memories of watching her father and the other artists at work in 1934, when the murals were painted with money from the federal Public Works of Art Project. Zakheim earned $619 for his mural, which took almost four months to paint.

Citizens Fuel Effort to Restore Coit Tower Murals

Dismayed by longtime neglect of the murals, San Francisco citizens take matters into their own hands, proposing a ballot measure to ensure protection for the murals.  Prompted by Gayle Leyton and Ruth Gottstein, daughter of one of the muralists, the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Association created the Protect Coit Tower Committee, and a movement was launched… Full article by Dan Pine,

The Fading Genius of the US Post Office

Gray Brechin | Tuesday 2 August 2011 13.30 BST

The superb post offices of the New Deal era are a monument to America’s democratic ethos. Now we’re selling off FDR’s legacy

On 9 June, the General Services Administration threw Modesto’s downtown post office onto the auction block. Like so many other postal facilities, the Renaissance-style palazzo had long served as an anchor for downtown stores of the California town, a public space where citizens met to exchange news as well as transact business in an ennobling lobby of polished travertine and marble beneath murals of local farming activities.

The federal government once designed its post offices to elevate and inspire the public whose assets it is now selling. An architectural journal in 1918 spoke of the tutelary value of post offices:

“They are generally the most important of the local buildings, and taken together, [are] seen daily by thousands, who have little opportunity to feel the influence of the great architectural works in the large cities.”

President Hoover’s administration built facilities such as Modesto’s in a last-ditch effort to end the Depression, before Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal unleashed a far greater torrent of public works that succeeded where Hoover had failed (pdf). In less than a decade, the Roosevelt administration built over 1,100 post offices, distinguished by fine architecture, materials and detailing, as well as by a lavish programme of public art that, for the first time, reflected back to patrons and workers their regional identity.

Mandated by the US constitution as a service vital to democracy, the post office has fallen victim to structural adjustment as well as to electronic communication. Congress has successively demanded that the US Postal Service run itself more like a business since making it a quasi-corporation in 1971. Required to provide universal service, even as the internet and private carriers cut into its profit centres, the USPS has spun into a death spiral, raising its rates as it slashes employment and service. It’s now stripping its assets, as well.

Since January, the US Postal Service has closed 280 post offices, despite community resistance and the objections of local business people horrified to watch downtown magnets decamp for peripheral strip malls and trailers. Those closures were only a warmup for what was coming. On 26 July, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe listed nearly 3,700 more, saying “The Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner, and more competitive.” Those facilities constitute well over a tenth of the nation’s post offices, buildings that once physically embodied government honesty, efficiency and even culture. Perhaps, that is why they must go.

The distinguished Modesto building, like many other New Deal post offices, has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places, but a buyer could still demolish it to utilise the real estate beneath it. In that case, law requires the developer to donate its murals to the federal government. But as Congress and the White House hack ever deeper into the services that Americans until recently took for granted, no one may be at home in Washington to find lodging for such art other than that for which it was made.

New Deal critic Amity Shlaes has claimed that “It’s not really the government’s business, art, is it?” Roosevelt shared with other New Dealers a considerably more expansive notion of what the US could achieve. He forecast that “one hundred years from now, my administration will be known for its art, not for its relief.” The New Dealers envisioned a new Renaissance. Its successors are knocking that legacy down to the highest bidder, and with it goes what we once were and might yet be.

The Guardian


Needles Fire Lookout Tower Burns



SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST The Needles Fire Lookout Tower, located on the Western Divide Ranger District within the Giant Sequoia National Monument on the Sequoia National Forest was destroyed in a structure fire today. “This is a tragic loss to the District,” stated District Ranger Priscilla Summers. “I’m relieved the person staffing the lookout tower was able to safely evacuate the tower before it burned.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, however it was determined to be a structure fire and not in any way related to the Lion Wildland Fire currently burning in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Firefighters are ensuring the safety of visitors by closing Forest Road 21S05 and trail 32E22 that lead to Needles Lookout, and closure of the area surrounding the rock formation where the lookout was perched. The closure area includes the formation popular for rock climbers known as “The Magician” and will remain closed until the wildland fire resulting from the burning debris has been contained and the area safe for visitors.

The lookout tower was constructed in 1937-38 by the Civilian Conservation Corps atop the rock formation at 8,245 feet. A Forest Service employee, stationed in the tower, was responsible for detecting fires and relaying radio messages to a dispatcher, who in turn sent firefighters and support equipment to extinguish the reported fire. The tower was utilized as this employee’s office as well as their home for the summer months while the lookout was on duty.

Needles overlooked the Kern River Drainage, Mt. Whitney, Olancha Peak, Farewell Gap, and Dome Rock. The tower was the primary communication line for persons in the backcountry where cell phones do not work. The Needles Lookout Tower was one of the most popular places to visit on the Western Divide Ranger District.

“The loss of this historic landmark is significant.” stated Summers. “My immediate concern is for the safety of firefighters who are working to contain the Lion Wildland Fire in the Golden Trout Wilderness who have now lost one of their main lines of communication.” More information will be sent out as soon as it’s available regarding the cause of the fire, availability of the rock formation for visitors, and future plans.

Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Hume Lake and Western Divide Ranger Districts

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

Hidden Treasures: CWA Network of Trails in Prescott Arizona Overlooked for Decades


PRESCOTT – Times were tough in Prescott 75 years ago, but that did not dim the ambitions of a troop of transient workers stationed at the old Prescott Fairgrounds.

Not only were the workers busy building many of the structures that still exist at today’s Prescott Rodeo Grounds, but the Civilian Works Administration (CWA) participants also were preparing for construction of an outdoor amphitheater that would span the massive rock formations behind the fairgrounds’ Doc Pardee and Danny Freeman buildings.

Although the amphitheater plans went away when money for the Depression-era work programs ran out, the aborted venture did leave behind one lasting legacy: a network of trails that circle through the rocks, leading to the summit.

Prescott historic preservation specialist Cat Moody said the trail construction was likely done as one of the preparations for the natural amphitheater.

“The amphitheater never got built,” Moody said. “But that is why there are trails there.”

Through the years, however, the “Trail to the Top” became obscured with overgrown brush and dirt. By all accounts, no one at the city knew that the trails existed.

So, when the city parks department and the Over the Hill Gang volunteers set out to a build a trail in the scenic rock pile at the rodeo grounds, they were shocked to find a well-defined route already in place.

“All of these trails were in here, and nobody knew about them,” Chris Hosking, the city’s trails coordinator, said recently as he walked along the route.

With large rocks already lining the sides of the trail, Hosking said, “It only took us about 200 volunteer hours” to get the trail ready for use.

Along with clearing away the brush, the work included redefining the trail bed, cleaning out a rock culvert, and painting white dots on the rocks along the trail to alert hikers to the best route.

For the past several weeks, the Trail to the Top has been open to the public, and Hosking said it got plenty of use during the July 4 Frontier Days Rodeo.

Although steep in some areas, the trail is only about a half-mile long, and Hosking pointed out that hikers get a big pay-off for their efforts. “It’s an awesome view right in the middle of town,” he said from the summit, pointing to the up-close vista of Thumb Butte.


Hosking gives most of the credit for the trail to those earlier workers who toiled on many of Prescott’s historic structures.

“Ninety-nine percent of the trails were already here; we just unearthed them,” Hosking said of the Trail to the Top.

Moody reports that the early- to mid-1930s CWA camp – named “Camp Prescott” – was intended to accommodate as many as 300 workers.

The camp was designed to put stranded out-of-state travelers and other out-of-work men to work on a variety of local projects, Moody said. The CWA – the predecessor of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) – was a part of the New Deal program that gave jobs to millions.

The mission of the CWA camp was to complete numerous public works projects around the community – not the least of which was the refurbishment of the fair/rodeo grounds off Prescott’s Rodeo Drive.

Along with the Doc Pardee and Danny Freeman buildings, the workers also produced the rodeo grounds grandstand, an administration building, an infirmary, two barracks, a bakery, a kitchen and mess hall, and two water wells. Most of the buildings no longer exist, although the grandstands are still in use.

In addition, remains of a fishpond are still visible at the entrance to the trail. Hosking said Eagle Scout hopeful Eric Sparks is working on further improvements at the trail entrance.

Parking for the Trail to the Top is available in a lot off Rodeo Drive and in dirt pullouts along Schemmer Drive, Hosking said.

The Daily Courier | Cindy Barks

W. Va. Museum is Tribute to New Deal Program

QUIET DELL (AP) – From 1933 to 1942, a civilian army of 55,000 young men poured into 67 encampments spread across West Virginia.

In the darkest days of the Great Depression, they built roads, bridges, swimming pools, ponds, fire towers, cabins, picnic shelters and lodges – when they weren’t planting trees, stringing utility lines, digging wells or fighting forest fires.

In return, the “CCC boys” were fed three square meals a day, learned marketable skills, received classroom training and earned salaries of $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home to help their families in the struggle to survive that era’s economic meltdown.

The men of the Civilian Conservation Corps left a lasting mark on West Virginia’s landscape. Much of what they built more than 70 years ago is still in use, mainly as guest accommodations, fishing ponds and picnic pavilions at state parks and forests, or as campgrounds, enhanced swimming beaches and recreation sites in the Monongahela National Forest.

“The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the more successful government programs ever created,” said Bob Anderson, a retired WVU microbiology professor and chairman of the West Virginia CCC Museum Association.

“It helped men help themselves and their families, it brought improvements to the environment, and it provided economic support for the communities near the camps,” Anderson said. “As the late Sen. Jennings Randolph once said, the CCC boys helped lift America out of the darkness of the Depression and into the sunshine of better times.”

Nationally, about 3 million young men took part in the CCC program during its nine-year run. A total of 1,600 CCC camps were established, giving the program a presence in every state and most U.S. territories.

The CCC, a key component of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program, was open to single men between the ages of 17 and 25 who were unemployed and eager to work. While it was a civilian organization, the CCC operated its camps on a military model, making use of barracks, mess halls, formations and drills, with reserve Army and Navy officers serving as camp commanders.

The CCC lifestyle helped thousands of alumni of the program make a relatively seamless transition to military service in World War II.

– To read this article in its entirety, visit

“The camps operated under a code of military discipline,” said Anderson, “but they also made time for sports, published camp newspapers, and hosted dances and movies that were open to the people in the nearby towns. The CCC boys worked under LEMs – local experienced men – who taught them skills like masonry, blacksmithing and heavy equipment operation.”

The CCC camps hired local residents to work as cooks and clerks and bought supplies from local vendors while creating local infrastructure improvements that would endure for generations.

To honor their largely unheralded legacy, Anderson helped form the West Virginia CCC Camp Museum, in the historic Quiet Dell School building just south of Clarksburg, nine years ago.

The rolling pastures behind the 1922-vintage two-room schoolhouse once served as the site for CCC Camp Harrison, built in 1935. CCC members at Camp Harrison were involved with agricultural soil conservation projects with area farmers.

The museum, which has more than 250 CCC photos, tools, newspapers, uniforms and other items on display, shares the building with the West Virginia Heritage Crafts Co-op, which operates a gift shop on the premises.

The museum’s photos include numerous scenes from CCC camps across the state, including Camp Parsons in Tucker County, where several CCC-built buildings are still in use by employees of the U.S. Forest Service’s Fernow Experimental Forest.

“The CCC raised millions of trees there that were planted throughout West Virginia and neighboring states,” Anderson said.

Feelings of pride, shared experiences and camaraderie developed at CCC camps were similar to those experienced by veterans of military service, Anderson said, prompting CCCers to hold reunions at or near their former camps over the years.

The West Virginia CCC Camp Museum holds two reunions annually for CCC alumni and their families, regardless of where they served.

“Attendance at the reunions has really fallen off, since so many of the CCC boys are dying off,” said Anderson. “The youngest surviving CCC boys are now at least 86 years old. But more people come to our jubilees than come to the CCC’s national conference.”

Anderson, the author of “Written on the Land,” a book covering the CCC era in West Virginia, said he continues to learn more about the program from alumni at each Quiet Dell reunion event.

He said he became interested in researching the CCC’s activities in West Virginia while tracking down information for a book he was writing on the Quiet Dell School.

“Someone pointed out to me that a CCC camp was operating here back in the ’30s,” he said. “I knew almost nothing about the CCC then, so I decided to look into it.”

Anderson said the museum’s role is to “honor the CCC boys for all the unrecognized hard work they did, and to promote the CCC legacy to the public.”

Long-range plans call for building a replica CCC barracks to house the museum on the school’s two-acre campus, now owned by the Harrison County Commission.

“We also need to reach our teachers, and try to get the CCC story woven into the curriculum,” he said. “People need to remember the CCC boys and learn what they did.” | June 5, 2011

Hidden Wilson Mural, Other New Deal Works Displayed

Hidden in the Wilson High School auditorium is a gem of local history and art.

This gem is a stage-sized fire curtain colorfully painted with a mural that depicts students studying, socializing and walking in graduation gowns towards a horizon. Because this fire curtain is often rolled up and out of sight, many people — even its school principals — did not know that it existed.

The painting was created as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal that helped funnel money into cities in an effort to ease the effects of the Great Depression.

As part of the WPA, Long Beach received more than $2 million a year to help pay for projects that put people back to work. While a lot of that money went to infrastructure improvements, some also went to creative endeavors.

“Artists, painters, writers, they all needed to eat,” said Maureen Neeley, advisor for the Historical Society of Long Beach. “The federal government did not dictate, it just said paint, sculpt.”

All throughout the city, artwork can be found with roots in the WPA funds effort to put everyone back to work.

Starting today (Friday), the Long Beach Historical Society will feature an exhibit called “Rebuilding for the Future: A New Deal for Long Beach 1933-1942” that showcases the artwork, as well as samples of other WPA creative efforts. The exhibit is sponsored in part by a grant by the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association. A reception starts at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Long Beach Historical Society, located at 4260 Atlantic Ave.

According to Neeley, the idea to showcase the work that was created during the Great Depression has been decades in the making, and began with the work of Douglas M. Hinkey, who documented the art in his book “Federal Art in Long Beach: A Heritage Rediscovered.” His widow, Scottie Hinkey, donated her husband’s archives to the historical society, and those archives, coupled with old files from the city manager’s office, led to a discovery that showcases the work of all Long Beach citizens, from construction workers, to clothing makers and artists.

“This story longed to be told,” Neeley said. “With the exhibit, we want to tell the story as much as we can in a visual way.”

The timing for these WPA-funded projects was particularly significant because of the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Long Beach in 1933. The earthquake left parts of the city in rubble and residents were anxious to bring their city back to what it was, Neeley said.

Some of the significant WPA projects can be found on the St. Mary Medical Center building, the Veterans’ Memorial building and City Hall. Most of the artwork, though, can be found in schools, specifically, Jefferson Middle School, Naples Elementary School, Fremont Elementary School, Lowell Elementary School, Rogers Middle School and Wilson High School.

To capture the art and exhibit it, photographer Christopher Launi volunteered his services. As part of the project, he photographed the federal art and helped to put the images onto a canvas. The result is canvases that appear as if the painting was directly painted onto the canvas.

“With this method, the photography takes on a painterly look,” Launi said. “The idea was to make the art have a similar effect, and mimic what you’d actually see.”

Because a lot of the other WPA projects cannot be appreciated visually, the Historical Society is hosting several public programs throughout the rest of the year where lecturers will go into detail about how the New Deal helped to rebuild Long Beach and put its citizens back to work.

The first program is at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 23, and will feature Dr. Gray Brechin from UC Berkeley. Brechin will discuss how California benefitted from the New Deal.

On Aug. 5, the program will feature the Long Beach Museum of Art’s New Deal Easel Art Collection. On Sept. 2, the program will discuss Long Beach Unified School District’s New Deal projects. On Oct. 7, the program will discuss “Locals and the New Deal;” and on Nov. 4, the program will feature art and architecture at the Long Beach Airport.

For more information about the exhibit and the historical society, visit | Cristina De Leon-Menjivar