“‘It was really a quantum leap forward for the entire United States,’ says Gray Brechin, an author who helps run the Living New Deal. ‘By building this vast physical and cultural infrastructure, the New Deal brought the country into the mid 20th century.'” With the help of The Living New Deal, Curbed, a website devoted to the built environment, lists its top ten New Deal architectural sites.
On Thursday, Dec. 22, at 1 pm EST, Gray Brechin will be featured on Pat Thurston’s long-running show on KGO-FM. Tune in to hear Gray discuss The Living New Deal and the Bay Area’s New Deal legacy.
Gaye Lebaron of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat offered a timely meditation on the New Deal’s lasting importance for Sonoma County, following on a talk by the Living New Deal’s Gray Brechin. She wrote: “‘People think the Great Depression happened in black and white,’ Gray Brechin told us in a talk last month at the Sonoma County Library, adding that he often feels like his project is uncovering a lost civilization…. The Living New Deal’s Dr. Brechin would tell you that there are valuable lessons in these stories for those seeking to understand the past — and for those who worry about the nation’s present and future.” Read more.
“Among the many WPA initiatives I discovered in my early research were archaeological digs and historical re-creations, and they gave me the idea for an analogous effort: to create an ever-expanding excavation to reveal a buried and lost civilization. This was not, however, a civilization engulfed by the jungles of Guatemala or the sands of Egypt. It was our own history and a monument to an era a mere eighty years old but almost entirely forgotten by what Gore Vidal called the ‘United States of Amnesia.’”… Gray Brechin’s “Uncovering the New Deal’s Hidden History,” detailing the origins and development of The Living New Deal, has been reprinted in the newsletter of the Blue Mountain Center, an Upstate New York-based, nonprofit community space for writers, artists, and activists. (It initially appeared as “A New Deal for California: Finding a Hidden History in Plain Sight” for BOOM: A Journal of California. ). Check it out and look back on our salad days!
The Living New Deal recently made news for its participation in “A Century of Design in the Parks,” a symposium marking the centennial of the National Park Service, which was held in Santa Fe from June 21-23. In an article entitled, “In New Mexico, New Deal legacy gets a second look,” the Associated Press makes a case for our project’s importance and even interviews our Communications Director, Susan Ives!
Ken Herman’s “Old stuff from the New Deal” (Austin American-Statesman, Friday, May 13, 2016) makes a case for The Living New Deal’s relevance to communities around the country. (Larry Moore, our Texas-based Research Associate, also gets some well-deserved recognition in this opinion piece.) Herman draws from our site to showcase the New Deal’s legacy in Austin–“highways and bridges and parks and buildings and lots of stuff still in use in Austin, ranging from the mundane to the majestic.” Some (from bridges to parks to university dorms) continue to serve their original purpose. Others still stand, but have been repurposed—including the US Post Office in somewhat-nearby Lampasas, built in 1938 and converted into a single-family home in 2010. (The fates of most New Deal post offices remain uncertain throughout the country. And if they’re closed down, they typically see less cheery fates than the one in Lampasas.) It is a testament to the quality and craftsmanship that went into New Deal construction that its physical presence remains, integrated into our communities “to the point of taking it for granted.”
Gray Brechin and Richard Walker discussed the legacy of the New Deal as guests on Richard Wolff’s weekly radio program “Economic Update”, broadcast from New York to hundreds of stations around the country on June 1st. The half-hour interview, “The New Deal Lives”, can be found through Truthout.org or Democracy at Work. Richard Wolff is a well-known economics professor and a popular and provocative commentator on economic news and current politics in the United States.
Project founder Gray Brechin has published an account of the origins and development of the Living New Deal in the oddly-name but much-read magazine BOOM: A Journal of California. The article, “A New Deal for California: Finding a Hidden History in Plain Sight”, appeared in the Winter 2014 issue. A pdf version can be downloaded here. Brechin – A New Deal for California-BOOM.
Popular Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik gave a nice shout-out to Gray Brechin for being honored by the California Book Club and called attention to the Living New Deal’s just-issued New Deal map of San Francisco. Here’s what she said, in full:
“Gray Brechin, who on March 30 will receive the California Book Club’s Oscar Lewis Award for contributions to Western history, will have on hand copies of the spiffy new San Francisco Guide to Art and Architecture of the New Deal, a brochure that identifies New Deal projects around the city. This is a project of the UC Berkeley Department of Geography, which hopes to create similar brochures for other cities about the country. There are more than 300 New Deal projects in the Bay Area, including 11 in Golden Gate Park. More information is at www.livingnewdeal.org.”
Thanks to Leah for the recognition, even if she got a couple things a tiny bit wrong: the 300+ New Deal sites are just in the city of San Francisco alone and the SF map is a project of our non-profit in Berkeley. The original column can be found in the March 18th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle on page E8 (the back page of the Datebook section).
The Living New Deal and National New Deal Preservation Association received a nice tip of the hat from a trade journal called Government Product News, a magazine serving some 20,000 local government officials around the country. They contacted LND’s Harvey Smith for some examples of WPA buildings and then posted this paean to public works produced by the Works Progress Administration. Editor Michael Keating of GPN reports a strong response from the readers of the website and their newsletter. Thank you, Mr. Keating!
Slate Magazine has chosen livingnewdeal.org as one of its top 10 websites for 2014. This is a huge honor (especially if you look at the list of nominees) and it shows that word is really getting around about the Living New Deal project. We thank Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog, The Vault, for honoring us.
The Smithsonian Magazine recently ran a fine article on the legacy of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) by writer Andrea Stone, When America Invested in Infrastructure, These Beautiful Landmarks Were the Result. The article features wonderful photographs and brief essays about eight famous New Deal structures, such as the Mt. Hood Timberline Lodge (OR) and Red Rock Amphitheater (CO). It quotes Bob Leighninger, author of Long-range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal and Living New Deal Research Board member and has links to our website at the Living New Deal.
Now, if we could just get the Smithsonian Institution to create a New Deal History pavilion, our dreams would be fulfilled!
We were very pleased that the Living New Deal was acknowledged in a wonderful opinion piece in the Boston Globe on the day after Thanksgiving. In an editorial entitled, “When public buildings were revered”, writer René Loth captures the spirit of the New Deal in asking why Americans no longer value public places as they once did and deplores the privatization of the New Deal legacy. “We have traveled a long way from a time when public buildings were revered precisely because they belonged to everyone.”
We particularly liked this observation:
“Sturdily made, architecturally significant, the New Deal’s public buildings project a sense of authority and even grandeur, but with the clean, stripped-down lines of the Art Deco style. Even simple cabins in state parks creatively used natural materials to blend in with their settings. They are artifacts of a time when government institutions — schools, courthouses, even waterworks — commanded a certain respect, and the quality of design and craftsmanship reflected that.”
And we appreciate that the article included the url of the Living New Deal website.
To download the article as a pdf, click here.