“Originally called “Westmoreland Homesteads”, Norvelt was established April 13, 1934, by the federal government as part of a New Deal homestead project. With 250 homes, Norvelt provided housing, work, and a community environment to unemployed workers and their families during the Great Depression. It was renamed “Norvelt” in 1937 in honor of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her interest in the project…
In April 1934, federal officials acquired 1,326 acres (5.37 km2) of farmland in Mount Pleasant Township, and announced construction of the Westmoreland Homesteads. Following Division guidelines, local architect Paul Bartholomew designed the planned community’s buildings and its overall layout. On 772 acres (3.12 km2) he arranged 254 individual lots, ranging in size from 1.7 to 7 acres (28,000 m2), in six, mostly curvilinear sections. Each lot was to feature a simply designed, 1 1⁄2-story Cape Cod. Originally, the houses were available in 4- to 6-room models, with a living room, eat-in kitchen, utility room, bathroom and bedroom space. Utilities included water and electricity. The remaining 728 acres (2.95 km2) Bartholomew reserved for a cooperative farm, a schoolhouse, playground, post office, and other common buildings. These original depression-era Cape Cod–style homes are called “Norvelt Houses” by the locals. A six-room house on more than 2 acres (8,100 m2) usually ended up costing a family $12,000. Thousands applied for the government properties, which spanned nearly 1,500 acres. Only 254 families received houses.
Pickett helped establish the first American Friends Service Committee work camp in, what would become Norvelt, to help the Homesteads project with the construction of a reservoir and ditch to hold a water main for the community. In the summer of 1934, 55 young volunteers contributed 10,000 hours at Norvelt by digging a ditch one-and-a-half miles long and constructing a 260,000-gallon reservoir. The directors of this work camp were Mildred and Wilmer Young, who later led several experiments with cooperative enterprises in Mississippi and South Carolina. Three years later, Westrmoreland Homesteads was the largest of President Roosevelt’s 92 model subsistence homesteads that provided relief for displaced miners and industrial workers…
Norvelt never achieved the lofty goals that Eleanor Roosevelt and others had invested in it. As a relief measure, however, it was a success. In 2002, Norvelt’s handful of surviving original pioneers expressed their appreciation for their town during the festivities for the historic marker designation. Evidence of the town’s original name is still visible. The village’s laundromat still carries the name Homestead. The entrance to Roosevelt Hall reads Westmoreland Homestead’s “Norvelt” Volunteer Fire Department.”
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