Washburn Ave Looking North 2020
Starting in the spring of 1938, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) team laid 2,000 square feet of sidewalk and 4,000 linear feet of curbing in downtown Paynesville MN. The St. Cloud Times reported that the Stearns Country WPA projects were wrapping up in June of 1941.
Like the rest of the United States, the depression affected Stearns County and Paynesville.
In 1938 a WPA project came to Stearns County; according to the St. Cloud Times, on April 16th, 1938, Paynesville was one of five towns to receive WPA sidewalk projects. The job was to build 2,000 square feet of sidewalk and 4,000 linear feet of curbing in Paynesville; the budget for this project was not to exceed $5,000, and “the project will give useful employment to 20 men from local relief roles.” (Times) According to Stearns County, Minnesota, these new sidewalks had granite in them; WPA projects like the Paynesville sidewalks helped Stearns County survive the Depression due to government orders of granite for WPA projects from Stearns County granite quarries.
In the [Federal] “Final Report on the WPA Program,” it states: “In the eight years of operation of the WPA program, more than 67,000 miles of urban streets were constructed.” Bill Morgan said that “in 1940… eleven miles of sidewalks and thirteen miles of curbing were also laid.” Two thousand square feet of those sidewalks were in the rural town of Paynesville in west-central Minnesota.
During construction of the sidewalks, the workers had to take a break from sidewalk construction to help with the fall harvest for the local farmers – see Paynesville Press article from August 1938. This break, plus the long winters, made this project take a couple of years to complete.
While it is no longer standing today, its legacy must live on.
Corner of James and Washburn. c1940’s. Photograph. Paynesville, MN. Courtesy of Michael Jacobson, Paynesville Historical Society
Final Report on the Wpa Program, 1935-43. Washington, D.C.: U.S Government Printing Office, 1947.
Gardner, Kate. Corner of James and Washburn. 5 December 2020. Photograph. Paynesville MN
Gardner, Kate. Sidewalk - Corner of James & Washburn. 5 December 2020. Photograph. Paynesville, MN
Gardner, Kate. Washburn Avenue Looking North Now. 5 December 2020. Photograph. Paynesville MN
Morgan, Bill. "WPA Talk at the Riverview Wall." October 30, 2012. Draft provided by author.
“Sidewalk Project Starts Next Week.” The Paynesville Press [Paynesville, MN], 4 April 1938, p. 1.
Simpson, Lee M.A. Stearns County, Minnesota. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000. Accessed December 4, 2020. https://ebooksmn.biblioboard.com
“WPA Crew is Busy Constructing Sidewalk.” The Paynesville Press [Paynesville, MN], 14 July 1938.
“WPA’s Stearns Work is Computed in Miles; Big Job Done in Every Town.” St. Cloud Times [St. Cloud, MN], 6 June, 1941.
Washburn Avenue Looking North. c1940s. Photograph. Paynesville, MN. Courtesy of Paynesville History Museum.
“Workers Must Aid in Harvest Fields: Temporary Shutdown of WPA Projects During Harvest May be Necessary.” The Paynesville Press [Paynesville, MN], 4 August 1938.
Project originally submitted by Kate Gardner on December 9, 2020.
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