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Thread: WPA - Works Progress Administration

  1. #1
    Apr 2005
    Section 14-12-7, 3rd PM

    WPA - Works Progress Administration

    I just helped my kid on some research on the WPA. (I took a lot of the text for this post from his report) The WPA was ironically mentioned in another thread.

    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian
    wow - bring back the WPA?
    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    WPA = "We Piddle Around"
    Quote Originally posted by iamme
    Yet a lot of that infrastructure is still around today.
    The WPA (Works Progress Administration) was created in 1935 as part of the New Deal during the Depression. It was created by executive order by the President; Congress did not set it up. It was no longer needed once the United States entered WWII and unemployment dropped. Congress shut down the WPA in 1943.

    The WPA was responsible for a lot of the infrastructure, even in smaller towns as Mattoon and Charleston. They got the reputation of “We Piddle Around” because they never knew if there would be another job when they finished the one they were working on. And pay was guaranteed whether a project was completed or not.

    Some projects were defiantly worthy. Locally, the WPA installed most of the sanitary sewer system in Charleston (Illinois) as well as widened the streets around the courthouse to accommodate parking. They also built the road around Lake Paradise (Mattoon) allowing that area to develop.

    But other projects seemed like they were created just for something to do; like the turning the bricks over along 15th Street in Mattoon, or building the stone wall around Peterson Park.

    The WPA was a lot more than building infrastructure. They also had arts, music, theatre and writers programs, as well as a historical records program. I spoke to a lady who took piano lessons taught by the WPA, her brother took woodworking. She also took a cooking class that highlighted stretching your food supply since it was the depression.

    The arts program hired artists to paint murals in public buildings. It was a big deal to get a mural in your post office. Tuscola, Shelbyville and Marshall Illinois have WPA murals in their post offices. There are also several scattered around Decatur.

    I thought I would be able to find a database of WPA projects. But with the exception of the murals projects, I couldn’t find any large lists of projects. These projects are now 70 years old and are probably starting to disappear without their historical significance realized. Does anyone’s community recognize WPA projects and work towards preserving them?

  2. #2
    Member CosmicMojo's avatar
    Feb 2006
    I'm not sure where I am...or where I want to be
    Yeah, most of the state parks in my state would not be here were it not for the WPA.

    I *think* the LIbrary of Congress has some great WPA photos on it's web site. Photos you can order that WPA artists took of depression, dust bowl culture, breadlines. I remember looking at them somewhere, I'm pretty sure it was the Library of Congress, or else the Smithsonian.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
    Mar 2005
    Clayobyrne, CB

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Feb 1998
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Coincidence. I am now working on listing our WPA projects on our local historical register. Airport terminal, park bandstand, county public works shop, scout hut in a park, a few monuments, and whatever else I can find.

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