World War Memorial Stadium
By the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated president in 1933, the United States was suffering the worst economic collapse in its history. In order to stimulate the economy and lessen unemployment, Roosevelt started the Public Works Administration (PWA) and, eventually, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA completed a wide variety of public works projects, ranging from building sidewalks to painting public murals. One of the most significant WPA projects in Newburyport was the World War Memorial Stadium built in 1938-39. Large portions of the stadium still exist, and it stands as an excellent example of the living New Deal.
The football stadium is located directly behind the Newburyport High School. Work on the stadium began in 1938, but picked up in the Spring of 1939. The WPA employed 134 men working on two shifts. For a small city the stadium seating capacity was quite large at 5,696 persons. In March of 1939, the local newspaper quoted the WPA Supervisor as promising that, with warm weather, they would “start pouring concrete for the girders and deck of the north grandstand.” The front page newspaper article included a picture of the large concrete columns that were in the process of being poured. The columns, which still exist, were to support the “19-tier grandstand on the southerly side of the stadium.” The article also reported that the stadium “would be open for use when Newburyport High opens the season with Salem in September.”
The WPA stadium project not only provided local employment, it was a point of pride for Newburyport. Every year after 1939, football games and graduations took place in the stadium. While working on the stadium, the WPA also expanded the granite wall surrounding the High School.
Eventually the concrete poured in 1939 began to deteriorate. Recently, the City of Newburyport rebuilt portions of World War Memorial Stadium, although the large concrete WPA girders still support the newly renovated stadium. During this process, a portion of the stadium was torn down. Nevertheless, the City proudly noted that the original structure was the product of the WPA.
Like other WPA and PWA projects built in Newburyport during the 1930s, the WPA project that built the World War Memorial Stadium provided essential employment to a city hit hard by the Great Depression. During 1938 and 1939, just before the economic recovery caused by World War II, Newburyport was in dire need of employment through public works projects. The World War Memorial Stadium is an excellent example of an important and useful WPA project.
“An Introduction to Newburyport History." Newburyport Preservation Trust. (Accessed March 13, 2016). Dodge, John. “The Dodge Shoe Dynasty of Newburyport, Mass.” February 19, 2015. The Dodge Retort. (Accessed March 18, 2016). Lagoulis, John. “Remembering the Worst of Times.” Newburyport Daily News. February 20, 2012. (Accessed March 18, 2016). Lagoulis, John. “Remembering When the Post Office Came to Town.” Newburyport Daily News. March 2, 2013. (Accessed March 19, 2016). Progress Being Made on World War Memorial Stadium”. Newburyport Daily News and Newburyport Herald. March 25, 1939. Microfilm, Newburyport Public Library, Newburyport, MA.
Project originally submitted by Richard Welch on December 20, 2016.
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