Greenbelt--A Maryland New Deal Community
(See Photos Below!)
The city of Greenbelt is a product of the Great Depression and the New Deal. The city was planned and built by the federal government, and it was established (in 1937) to provide modestly priced housing for people who wanted to live in a socially active community. As might be expected, the WPA provided much of the labor to create the town.
A glowing article about Greenbelt appeared in the July 14th, 1939 edition of the Baltimore Sun. The author, Alfred D. Charles, was unrestrained in his praise:
"Such a carefully planned town as Greenbelt was bound to produce an extraordinary type of citizen. This, in fact, was the purpose behind the garden-city idea...Freed from worries of badly laid-out towns, they are living a life such as no other community of comparable size provides. Missing are the dusty roads of country towns, the congestion of city blocks. Missing are slums, eyesores, overcrowded tenements...The whole physical structure of the town is such that residents think more of themselves. Think more about education, better health conditions, recreation, hobbies." ("Greenbelt Town Of Youth, With Emphasis on Health, Education And Recreation," p. 26)
For more information about the history of Greenbelt, see the Greenbelt Museum and the city of Greenbelt's history page. Also, a good history of the construction of Greenbelt was written by Leta Mach. See, "Constructing the Town of Greenbelt," in Greenbelt: History of a New Town, 1937-1987, Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company/Publishers, 1987.
Photo credits: Unless otherwise noted, all black and white
photos were taken by the WPA, are in the public domain, and provided
courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives. All color
photos--unless otherwise noted--were taken by Brent McKee. Click here for more information on photo credits, permission to use, and exhibit descriptions.
Above: In 1937, the WPA commissioned artist Lenore Thomas to create some sculptured art for Greenbelt. Part of her work consisted of these Bas-reliefs on the side of the Center Elementary School (the building now serves as the Greenbelt Community Center). Photographed November 2011.
Above: A plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lenore Thomas's work. On the first floor of the Greenbelt Community Center, a photograph caption (one of many) states: "Given complete freedom to choose her subject matter, she chose the preamble to the constitution. She believed that American schoolchildren needed to learn about the foundations of their country and political system." Photographed November 2011.
Above: "We The People" (Photographed November 2011)
Above: "To Form A More Perfect Union" (Photographed November 2011)
Above: "Establish Justice" (Photographed November 2011)
Above: "Insure Domestic Tranquillity" (Photographed November 2011)
Above: "Provide For The Common Defense" (Photographed November 2011)
Above: "Promote The General Welfare" (Photographed November 2011)
Above: In 1939, Lenore Thomas sculpted "Mother and Child" for Greenbelt. Photographed November 2011.
Above: Another view of "Mother and Child." Photographed November 2011.
Above: A plaque commemorating Lenore Thomas and her "Mother and Child" sculpture. Photographed November 2011.
Above: WPA workers created the Greenbelt community lake.
Above: The Greenbelt shopping center, including this movie theater, was built with the assistance of WPA labor. The center has since been renovated.