On August 31, 1935, the county superintendent for Valencia County prepared a WPA project proposal for two, two-room schoolhouses in Fence Lake and Liberty.
The schools were to be constructed of logs cut from nearby forests and were to be designed to adhere to the WPA “school house standards” of the day (WPA OP 65-85-466).
Added on to the project was a two-room community building in Trechado, an ephemeral community that no longer exists.
The supervisor estimated all three buildings would cost $3,737.50, with the WPA providing $2,911.50.
During the Great Depression, Fence Lake, a once cattle-raising area, became overwhelmed with refugees fleeing the Dust Bowl in Texas and Oklahoma.
The request for the schools in Fence Lake, and the buildings in the now erased communities of Liberty and Trechado, reflected a need to provide school facilities to the Dust Bowl immigrant children.
The WPA played a critical role in developing school infrastructure in New Mexico during the Great Depression. Prior to the New Deal, New Mexico’s more than 900 school districts relied primarily on property taxes to fund new school construction. Given the state’s low tax base, especially in poor, rural areas, the monies provided by the PWA and WPA proved a boon to school construction.
According to one figure, by 1937 the WPA had financed 257 new school buildings, 54 playgrounds, 15 gymnasiums, and remodeled 56 schools (Nanninga, 1942: 111).
By the conclusion of the New Deal, 361 schools had been constructed with WPA funds, representing the seventh highest expenditure on schools in the United States during the Depression (Kammer, 1994: 53).
While the log schoolhouse in Fence Lake still stands, it is unclear of the other two buildings, whose communities are no longer found on maps.
Kammer, David. The Historic and Architectural Resources of the New Deal in New Mexico. Multiple Property Documentation Form prepared for the Historic Preservation Division, 1994. Nanninga, Simon P. The New Mexico School System. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942. WPA Official Project File # 65-85-466.
Project originally submitted by John Murphey on April 13, 2015.
We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.SUBMIT MORE INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THIS SITE