Fall 2016 Newsletter

Amidst the shambles of the Great Depression, FDR and his “brain trust” set about making America work again— investing in jobs, infrastructure, the environment, public spaces, education, and the arts. Much of what got created during the New Deal is hiding in full view. At the Living New Deal, we’re working to bring the New Deal to light.

In this Fall issue we we offer stories of discovery and tribute for the New Deal heritage we all share.  If you have memories, photographs, or places connected to the New Deal that you would like to share with us, we welcome hearing from you. Help us rekindle a new New Deal! Your support makes our work possible. Thank you!

In this Issue:


Preserved Forever: How the CCC Helped Build a Park District

Robert Sibley: Park District Board Member Robert Sibley (center) highlights the Tilden Nature Study Area on the relief model in the mid-1950s.

Robert Sibley
Park District Board Member Robert Sibley (center) highlights the Tilden Nature Study Area on the relief model in the mid-1950s.
Photo Credit: Courtesy EBRPD

In 1928, conservationist, hiker, and University of California alumnus Robert Sibley, saw into the future of the open rolling hills above the Berkeley campus. “These valuable pieces of land ought to be preserved forever,” he forewarned. So began a movement to save thousands of wild acres from certain development. The New Deal played a critical part in gaining the public’s support.

A 1930 report, “Proposed Park Reservations for East Bay Cities,” by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and Ansel F. Hall, first chief naturalist of the National Park Service, laid out a plan for a system of regional parks and a single agency to manage them. As early as 1933, local CCC enrollees, under the direction of the Western Museum Laboratory in Berkeley, set to work on a project to help win the public over to the idea.

Unveiling the Restored Map District General Manager Robert Doyle welcomes visitors to the unveiling of the newly restored CCC relief model at the Tilden Environmental Education Center on August 27, 2016.

Unveiling the Restored Map
District General Manager Robert Doyle welcomes visitors to the unveiling of the newly restored CCC relief model at the Tilden Environmental Education Center on August 27, 2016.
Photo Credit: Courtesy EBRPD

Often more than a hundred CCC men at a time worked to fabricate a series of 6-foot by 12-foot replicas of the East Bay region based on maps in the Olmsted-Hall plan. The hand-painted plaster relief models highlighted the ridgelines, hills, and valleys that park advocates hoped to conserve. Local cities used the topographical models to promote the cause. The prospect of federally funded labor and construction dollars through New Deal programs also had a role in winning over voters.

In 1934, despite the Great Depression, voters approved a tax to establish the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the first regional park systems in the country. With parklands secured, WPA and CCC crews arrived in 1935 to begin building the roads, trails, stone bridges, buildings, and fountains that remain a lasting tribute to their work.

CCC Camp Wildcat Canyon : Tilden Environmental Education Center sits on the former site of Camp Wildcat Canyon, a CCC camp that housed several hundred young men who built the trails, restrooms, and picnic areas for the new parks

CCC Camp Wildcat Canyon
Tilden Environmental Education Center sits on the former site of Camp Wildcat Canyon, a CCC camp that housed several hundred young men who built the trails, restrooms, and picnic areas for the new parks
Photo Credit: Courtesy EBRPD

Today, one of the nation’s oldest regional park systems is also one of the largest—with 65 parks totaling 120,000 acres, and 1,200 miles of trails.

Recently, the last known remaining model the CCC built for the parks campaign was resurrected from a seldom-used building where it had languished for decades. Its significance came to light in the course of preparing for the District’s 80th anniversary.

Experts from the Richmond, California-based Scientific Art Studio, which manufactures museum exhibits, were called in to help with the model’s restoration. They carefully patched and reinforced the crumbling plaster and removed many added layers of paint revealing the map’s original colors and hand lettering. Original errors were left intact, including a puzzling reference to “Citizens Conservation Corps.”

Ansel Hall, chief naturalist at the National Park Service, points out the proposed Regional parklands to local civic leaders in 1934

Early Park Leaders
Ansel Hall, chief naturalist at the National Park Service, points out the proposed Regional parklands to local civic leaders in 1934
Photo Credit: Smithsonian, Civilian Conservation Corps Collection

In August, the restored model was unveiled to the public to great fanfare. It is on permanent display at the popular Environmental Education Center at Tilden Park—the former site of CCC Camp Wildcat Canyon.

Dave Zuckermann has worked for the East Bay Regional Parks since 1987 and is currently the Regional Interpretive & Recreation Services Manager. Dave previously was the naturalist and supervisor at the Tilden Nature Area and Little Farm. His interest in the New Deal comes from working in a park built by the CCC. www.ebparks.org

Goliad’s Custodian’s Cottage: A Living Laboratory

Raiford Stripling and CCC men at the cottage, testing the methods they would use to reconstruct Mission Espíritu Santo at Goliad State Park.

Working at the Custodian’s Cottage
Raiford Stripling and CCC men at the cottage, testing the methods they would use to reconstruct Mission Espíritu Santo at Goliad State Park.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Goliad County Library

Visitors to Goliad State Park and Historic Site in South Texas marvel at the park’s architectural centerpiece, Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga. Many are surprised to learn it’s a reconstruction, built on top of the mission’s 1749 foundation and wall remnants, completed by the National Park Service (NPS) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1941. How did a group of park planners, architects, and CCC enrollees manage such an impressive and seemingly authentic architectural feat?

The answer lies across the road just north of the park. Off Highway 183, hidden among county baseball fields and a recycling center, is a low-slung, one-story limestone building with a wooden roof. It’s the Custodian’s Cottage, built by the CCC to house the site’s caretaker. This five-room, one-bath park residence, erected between 1936 and 1937 in the style of the region’s vernacular ranch homes, served a purpose higher than staff housing alone. An embodiment of NPS Rustic style design tenets, architects Samuel C.P. Vosper and Raiford Stripling used the residential cottage as their experimental studio, testing the methods they would use to reconstruct Mission Espíritu Santo.

The First Lady toured the residence in 1940 while visiting the park.

Eleanor Roosevelt
The First Lady toured the residence in 1940 while visiting the park.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Goliad County Library

Inspired by their architectural road trip through south Texas, northern Mexico, and California, the architects designed, built, and worked in the cottage. It was a space where ideas incubated, draftsmen drew, and CCC workers tested construction techniques. Finishes and flourishes replicated at the mission reconstruction were prototyped: plastered clamshell windows, latilla ceilings, hand-carved doors and cabinets, and forged iron hinges. An “attic work room” provided extra space to lay out and store blueprints. CCC Company 3822(V), comprised of middle-aged veterans from Texas and Oklahoma, was entrusted with this “historical reconstruction” project, atypical of NPS/CCC park development work.

The cottage’s charm was readily apparent after completion: “[D]ouble worth as a thing of beauty and as a practical service building”[1] assessed the local press. The residence featured native materials; handmade, mortised joinery; “antique natural” finishes; clay tiles fired on site; blue and red dadoes, and a “Mexican charcoal stove” (a concealed gas stove). Inspiration spread from the inside out to a pleasant patio, native garden, and enclosed service yard, marrying interior and exterior to form a fully-landscaped vision. The cottage graced the pages of the seminal 1938 NPS publication, Park and Recreation Structures, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt toured the residence in 1940 while visiting the park.

Postcard: Custodian’s Building in Goliad State Park

Postcard
Custodian’s Building in Goliad State Park
Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

While Goliad’s Mission Espíritu Santo has been well-visited and maintained over the years, the custodian’s cottage—partly because it operated as the superintendent’s residence until 2007 in an area not accessible to visitors—experienced decades of alterations and intrusions that compromised its historic fabric and diminished its importance at the park. Visitors learn about Spanish Texas, Goliad’s ranching history, and the work of the CCC while touring the mission, but they remain unaware of the cottage’s role in that ambitious project.

Thanks to a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, the cottage will soon be rehabilitated as park offices and a visitor center. Displays inside will explore the CCC’s architectural legacy and early sponsorship of historic preservation. Visitors will discover how the cottage ensured the success of the mission project, and in turn, the park. This diamond-in-the-rough will shine bright again as an architectural jewel.

Jennifer Carpenter is a Preservation, Research, and Outreach Specialist with Texas State Parks’ Historic Sites and Structures Program. She frequently presents about the Civilian Conservation Corps and Texas State Parks and is researching how other work programs impacted park development.

Jo Mora, Renaissance Man of the West

Brass Plaque: One of four different brass plaques at the Monterey County Courthouse, this one representing agriculture.

Brass Plaque
One of four different brass plaques at the Monterey County Courthouse, this one representing agriculture.
Photo Credit: Peter Hiller

It is rare for any artist to support a family solely through artistic prowess, and rarer still during the Great Depression. Joseph Jacinto “Jo” Mora (1876-1947) was such an artist. Mora used his wits as well as his expansive creative abilities to keep food on the table.

An illustrator, writer, cartographer, architect, photographer, sculptor, and painter, Mora’s extensive talent spanned several decades including during the New Deal era. Born in Uruguay, the son of a classical sculptor, Jo Mora grew up and attended school in neighborhoods in New Jersey, New York, and Boston. After attending art school, training with his father and honing his artistic skills as an illustrator for Boston area newspapers and book publishers, Jo followed his heart and traveled west.

Mora’s depiction of Justice as seen on the east side of the Monterey County Courthouse.

Justice
Mora’s depiction of Justice as seen on the east side of the Monterey County Courthouse.
Photo Credit: Peter Hiller

In 1903, Mora rode the train to California on his own to work as a cowboy at the Donahue Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley where he would learn the ways of the Californio vaqueros and take time to draw, paint, and photograph the California Missions along the El Camino Real. He continued back to Arizona, living with the Hopi and Navajo, learning their languages and documenting their daily lives and sacred ceremonies in drawings, paintings, and photographs.

After two and a half years in Arizona, Mora tore himself away from a life he loved, married, and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, working full time as an artist. He painted murals, continued to write and illustrate children’s books as he had done in Boston, as well as create heroic sculptures and decorative elements on numerous buildings in California. A rock and bronze statue of Miguel de Cervantes in Golden Gate Park was one of several sculptural commissions during this period of Mora’s life.

Mora and Stanton: Jo Mora (left) and Robert Stanton with one of the column caps in Mora's studio.

Mora and Stanton
Jo Mora (left) and Robert Stanton with one of the column caps in Mora’s studio.
Photo Credit: Lewis Josselyn from the Jo Mora Trust

The Mora family, his wife Grace, son Jo Jr., and daughter Patti moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea, as Mora was commissioned to create a monumental cenotaph in honor of Father Junipero Serra for the Carmel Mission. The family would quickly become ensconced in the community, living first in Carmel and then moving to nearby Pebble Beach.

In 1937, in collaboration with architect Robert A. Stanton, a family friend and neighbor, Mora undertook two enormous projects under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration. Stanton was charged with designing a new courthouse for Monterey County and Jo was commissioned by the WPA to add artistic elements to the building. Stanton’s monolithic design gave Mora many options for his part of the project. He drew on his love of California and the Southwest to produce ornamental pieces tht reflected the history, commerce, and people of California—Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo.

Jo Mora in Studio:

Jo Mora in Studio
Mora posing with three of the bas-relief panels for the King City High School Auditorium, King City, CA.  Source
Photo Credit: Lewis Josselyn from the Jo Mora Trust

Mora created bas-reliefs capping the four tall columns in the west interior courtyard of the building; five travertine bas-relief panels above the west entrance; twenty three different 3-dimensional concrete heads of persons both real and archetypal; four different brass plaques on the building’s exterior doors ant the interior elevator doors; a bas-relief figure depicting Justice on the east side of the building, and a sculpted center column in a reflecting pool in the central courtyard of the building.

The success of the courthouse project would led to another Stanton-Mora undertaking in the southern end of Monterey County, the King City High School Auditorium, where Stanton designed the building and Mora, again working for the WPA, created bas-relief style figures for the column caps on the building’s sides, as well as a spectacular 9-panel bas-relief on the front. Mora depicted the performing and visual arts, along with images inspired by California’s many cultures.

Monterey Courthouse: In order for court to stay in session during the construction of the new building, Stanton's design was to build around the old courthouse and then remove the old building, board by board, through the open columns. Mora added many decorative elements to the completed building.

Monterey Courthouse
In order for court to stay in session during the construction of the new building, Stanton’s design was to build around the old courthouse and then remove the old building, board by board, through the open columns. Mora added many decorative elements to the completed building.  Source
Photo Credit: Photograph from the collection of the Pebble Beach Company.

Both of these striking buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are still in use today.

Peter Hiller is the collection curator for Jo Mora Trust.

Richmond’s Lost Mural Rediscovered After 40 Years

“Richmond Industrial City,” by Victor Arnautoff,

The Richmond Post Office mural in situ.
“Richmond Industrial City,” by Victor Arnautoff,
Photo Credit: Courtesy Richmond Museum of History

Built in 1938, the art deco Richmond Post Office has long been a center of activity in this once-bustling shipbuilding city on San Francisco Bay. In 2014, the staff at the Richmond Museum of History learned that a mural once graced the post office lobby. “Richmond Industrial City,” by Victor Arnautoff, was commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Section of Fine Arts and installed at the post office in April 1940.

The Russian born Arnatouff, a protégé of Diego Rivera, was perhaps the most prolific muralist in San Francisco in the 1930s. He served as artistic director for the Public Works Administration murals at Coit Tower in nearby San Francisco, and painted the murals for the city’s George Washington High School and the Chapel at the Main Post of the Presidio.

The label on the crate containing the missing mural.

Shipping label
The label on the crate containing the missing mural.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Richmond Museum of History

Records show that when the Richmond post office lobby was remodeled in 1976, a 13 by 7-foot oil-on-canvas mural depicting Richmond’s industrial landmarks, had been carefully removed and crated by art conservator Nathan Zakheim, son of the renowned New Deal artist, Bernard Zakheim. The crate was supposed to be sent to Los Angeles where Nathan would perform needed conservation work, but for reasons unknown the crate was never sent. Eventually, Arnautoff’s mural was listed as “lost” on an endangered mural registry.

Then, in 2015, a janitor found a dusty triangular crate in an unlit room in the Richmond post office basement, a label clearly identifying it as the missing mural. It had been left there, forgotten for nearly forty years.

Staff from the Richmond Museum of History worked for nearly a year to gain permission from the Postal Service to take possession of the crate and have it opened by a conservator, when a water leak flooded the post office basement. The crate, showing a distinct water line, was moved six blocks to the museum where experts were on hand to open it. There was a collective sigh of relief when, upon opening the crate it was revealed that Zakheim, the conservator, had built the crate to hold the canvas on 10-inch stilts. The canvas was dry and in overall good condition.

Close up of Richmond, California Post Office mural.

Restoration needed
Close up of Richmond, California Post Office mural.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Richmond Museum of History

The museum has raised $5,000 of the roughly $30,000 needed to restore the mural and return it to public view. There’s been a recent setback—a restoration expert found lead adhesive stuck to the back of the canvas from the wall where the mural originally hung. Special handling is required to remove the toxic glue. Restoration is underway at the University of California, Santa Barbara. If you would like to contribute to restoring the mural, please contact the museum, (510) 235-7387.

Melinda McCrary is Executive Director of the Richmond Museum of History. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1-4PM. For more information, please visit richmondmuseum.org

Indiana’s First CCC Museum

The ribbon cutting was also a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Indiana State Parks.

CCC veteran Otis Stahl and Glory-June Greiff at the museum opening on July 31, 2016.
The ribbon cutting was also a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Indiana State Parks.
Photo Credit: Eric Grayson

Thirteen of Indiana’s 24 current state parks were developed or improved by New Deal agencies. Pokagon State Park, in the lake-filled glacial moraine of the far northeast corner of the state near Angola, is the only one listed virtually in its entirety in the National Register of Historic Places.

For years Pokagon has gone all out to celebrate its Civilian Conservation Corps heritage, with good reason. It had the longest continuous CCC presence of any of Indiana’s parks. Company 556, initially formed in the fall of 1933 to do several projects at Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan, established Camp SP-7 at Pokagon the following year. The ambitious development program for Pokagon included reforestation, landscaping, road building, and construction of numerous outdoor recreational facilities. The CCC boys hewed local timber and split native glacial stone to construct buildings that harmonized especially well with the local environment, following the guidelines created by the National Park Service for state parks.

The former gatehouse was built by the CCC using native materials.

Pokagon Historic Gatehouse Pocket Museum
The former gatehouse was built by the CCC using native materials.
Photo Credit: Glory-June Greiff

Nearly all the park’s present landscaping and buildings–the saddle barn, shelterhouses, much of the group camp, the beach and bathhouse, overnight cabins, and the old gatehouse–are the work of the CCC, which remained in the park until January 1942.

Veterans of Company 556 began an annual reunion at Pokagon in 1953, always the last Sunday of July. This year, not only was the 63rd annual reunion held, but also the dedication of the CCC Gatehouse Pocket Museum, housed in the former gatehouse standing at the north side of the entrance. Styled, typically, like a tiny English cottage, it is built of brick and glacial stone trim with a massive fireplace chimney.

Woodcock served as a stonemason in the park. His dream was to establish a CCC museum at Pokagon.

Museum display honoring the late Roger Woodcock.
Woodcock served as a stonemason in the park. His dream was to establish a CCC museum at Pokagon.
Photo Credit: Glory-June Greiff

“Pocket museum” is an accurate term; essentially it is no more than a single exhibit celebrating the work of the CCC here and in other of Indiana’s parks, a wonderful reuse for the old but charming gatehouse that stood idle all these years. The majority of the artifacts on display are those of one man, Roger Woodcock, who died in 2007. Roger was the man behind the annual reunions, the man who funded the National Register nomination for the park’s two-story shelterhouse and, later, who partly funded the nomination for the entire park. His story, which I recorded more than 25 years ago, is archived at the Indiana Historical Society. A photograph of Roger, nearly life-size, watches over the exhibits with pride.

Glory-June Greiff is a public historian based in Indianapolis. She has been researching the work of New Deal for 35 years.