House Municipal Schools Entrance
On February 26, 1936, the Quay County Board of Education prepared a WPA project proposal to build a four-room school in House, a remote dry farming settlement on the Caprock, approximately 40 miles south of Tucumcari, the county seat.
The building was to be constructed of adobe on a masonry foundation with plaster walls “inside and outside” (WPA OP 65-85-1480).
The Board estimated the federal share of the construction to be $5,955.56, of which employment unskilled labor would be the highest cost (26%) of the project.
In 1941, near the end of the New Deal, the Quay County Board of Education would again use WPA financing to construct an addition for the Home Economics Department and make other improvements to the school.
These three projects and the construction of a farm-to-market road were the only WPA projects activated in this rural area.
The WPA played an important 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).
The prolonged drought years of 1950s led to the area’s depopulation over the ensuing decades.
Despite this trend, the House school district continues today with approximately 90 students. The students, pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, are clustered together on one campus consisting of three schools.
Parts of the campus include the improvements made by the WPA over 75 years ago.
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 Files # 65-85-1480, 165-1-85-181 and 265-1-85-32.
Project originally submitted by John Murphey on April 18, 2015.
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