Tell Us About Your Favorite New Deal Site
Does a Shelf of Books Qualify as Public Works?
My favorite WPA project isn’t a road or a bridge or even a school. It’s not a library, but you’re getting warmer. The Santa Monica Main Library has a gorgeous Stanton Macdonald-Wright mural that spent 40 years in storage before somebody remembered and restored it—but even that’s not my favorite. No, only if you visit the Santa Monica Library—or any good public library in the country—can you find jewels from the best WPA project of them all: the Federal Writers’ Project, which created American Guides to all 48 states. In addition to the states, forty cities around the country had guides, too, many available in inexpensive reprints.
But does a shelf of books qualify as public works, let alone infrastructure? As far as I’m concerned, public works are anything that will still be useful in ninety years. By that definition, the WPA and all its projects not only meet that criterion—they’re still paying Americans back to this day.
David narrates the documentary, “A New Deal for Los Angeles,” which recently premiered on the PBS affiliate, KCET. WATCH (50 minutes)