For those who are new to the game of hunting New Deal sites, it is a lot like a scavenger hunt – great fun and full of puzzles to be solved. Be sure to download the free Living New Deal iPhone app from the Apple App Store to help you document what you find. Bookmark the Living New Deal online map in your cellphone browser so that it’s always handy for checking what New Deal sites have already been located in your area (many of which could use more information or photographs).
Whether you go looking for New Deal buildings, parks or artworks, or just stumble on them, there are several clues to help you start to identify sites. One is simply their age, now approaching a century. Another is to be alert to visual clues in architectural styles, like Art Deco civic buildings or Rustic Style park facilities, or tell-tale rockwork in walls, stairs or bridge abutments. Or, you may be guided by the memory of a grandparent, an old timer in the town or a park ranger. If you are lucky, there will be a cornerstone or plaque to confirm that a post office, high school or visitor center was built with the aid of the federal treasury, Public Works Administration, Works Progress Administration, or Civilian Conservation Corps in the years 1933-1942. More often than not, however, there is no such marker.
When there’s little to go on, that’s when the real (re)search begins! That can be fun, too.
To help out, we have prepared three guides for aspiring New Deal (re)searchers:
• Guidelines or Practical Tips for New Deal sleuths; this should be read by everyone setting out to look for and document New Deal public works sites.
•A list of Summary Reports by New Deal agencies on their public works; this is deep background information for serious New Deal researchers.
•A detailed aid for anyone looking into the WPA records at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Check out our new map and guide to the work of the New Deal in Washington, D.C. It includes 500 New Deal sites in the District alone, highlighting 34 notable sites, and includes an inset map of the area around the National Mall which can be used for self-guided walking tours.