WPA Today   

Other Projects 2



WPA Poster

Other WPA Projects in Maryland--Page 2
(See Photos Below!)

*******************************************************

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.

 You can scroll through all the sections below, or jump to the section you want to see:

1. Relocating Buildings
2. Rail Yard Improvements
3.
Nursery Schools
4. Baltimore City Atlas
5. Dams
6.
Retaining Walls
7. The Baltimore Aquarium
8. Art Classes
9.
Transcribing Records & Clerical Work


 1. Relocating Buildings

Above: Sometimes a project required some unusual task, like this "Caretaker's cottage being moved down State Road to new location."  This picture was taken in July of 1936 in St. Mary's City, and the moving job was part of Maryland WPA project #182, "St. Mary's Seminary sewer & repairs."  (Information from picture's description card)

back to top menu


 2. Rail Yard Improvement

Above: In this picture, WPA workers are seen making improvements to a rail yard in Baltimore.  Notice the workers building some sort of structure in the background.  Maryland WPA project #24, photo taken May 1936.   

back to top menu

 3.
Nursery Schools

Above: This picture shows a WPA nursery school in Cambridge.  Note the box crate chairs.  The WPA helped staff and operate many nursery schools across the country, "for the purpose of aiding children of low-income families."  As of October 1942, there were twenty six operating in Maryland.  But there were calls from the public for more, since so many fathers had gone off to war and so many mothers had taken jobs in the defense industries.  Once again, we see how the WPA proved beneficial to the war effort.  ("More Nursery Schools Urged," Baltimore Sun, October 28, 1942, p. 5) 


Above: The description for this photo reads, "Lunch time for children attending the Carroll Mansion Nursery School."  Maryland WPA project #8251B, date unknown.


Above: The description for this photo only reads, "NYA Nursery."  This may mean that the nursery school here was staffed primarily by high school and college students in the National Youth Administration.  Maryland WPA project #8251C, date unknown.

back to top menu

 4. Baltimore City Atlas

Above: The description for this photo reads, "Drafting City Atlas."  The photo was taken in February of 1936, and was Maryland WPA project #191.  The atlas was begun as a Civil Works Administration project, and then picked up by the WPA.  As of July 1939, the project had taken up 6 years of work and needed extra money to continue (which it received).  However the time and money seems somewhat warranted since the last Baltimore atlas was created in 1914.  Additionally, the work for the new atlas entailed an examination of a quarter million land titles, field surveys of 6,500 city blocks, and the drafting of the maps as shown above.  In 1939, the 6 WPA draftsmen working on the project received $78 per month, which is about $1,251 in 2011 dollars (about a $15,000 annual salary).  ("Atlas Of City Nearly Ready After 6 Years," Baltimore Sun, July 9, 1939, p. 18)      

back to top menu

 5. Dams

Above: The Savage River Dam, in Garrett County.  I haven't done much research on the WPA's dam work in Maryland, but my understanding is that the Savage River Dam was started as a WPA project, but later completed by the Army Corps of Engineers.  The WPA did not finish the job because of the impact of the war and/or because of the closing of the WPA program altogether at the end of June 1943.  (See, e.g., "WPA To Drop 3,000 From State Rolls," Baltimore Sun, June 27, 1941, p. 13)  Photo taken January 2012.

back to top menu

 6.
Retaining Walls

Above: The WPA's vast infrastructure work included many retaining walls.  This retaining wall was built for the Coast Guard in Baltimore, and was Maryland WPA project #526.  Photo taken August 1936.


Above: This photo was taken in April 1937, and shows a WPA-built retaining wall at the intersection of Church Rd. and Sylvan Lane in Ellicott City.  It was Maryland WPA project #676.


Above: Here, WPA workers are building a retaining wall in Frostburg, along route 40, in November 1938.  Maryland WPA project #3355.


Above: The Frostburg retaining wall today.  Photo taken 2011.


Above: The plaque on the Frostburg retaining wall, acknowledging the work of the WPA.  Photo taken 2011. 

back to top menu

 7. The Baltimore Aquarium
Above: This building in Druid Hill park served as a pump house (1914-1928), an aquarium (1938-1948), and the Baltimore Zoo's Reptile House (1948-2004).  It is not currently in use.  Photo taken January 2012.   

A brief history of the Baltimore Aquarium (1938-1948)


     Many Marylanders are probably not aware that there was a Baltimore Aquarium at Druid Hill Park long before the present (and fantastic) one at the Inner Harbor.  It lasted from 1938 to 1948 and was in the same building as the subsequent, but now-closed Reptile House of the Maryland (Baltimore) Zoo.  Serious planning for it began in 1936 ("Plans For City Aquarium And Fish Hatchery Made," Baltimore Sun, August 12, 1936, p. 20).

     Just two months later, plans were developing nicely.  An aquarium committee sponsoring the project had received about $8,000 in pledges from various civic organizations, and was preparing to apply for a $12,000 WPA grant (that's about $130,000 and $195,000, respectively, in 2011 dollars).  The committee planned to exhibit fish from the Chesapeake Bay, and also some tropical fish.  Furthermore, the aquarium was to be named "Jackson Aquarium," in honor of Baltimore's then-Mayor Howard W. Jackson.  The old pumping station, to be converted into the aquarium, is described as a structure "at the northwest end of the park, near Green Spring Avenue.  It was abandoned when the Ashburton pumping station was put in operation several months ago."  ("$12,000 WPA Grant Is Sought For Aquarium In Druid Hill Park," Baltimore Sun, October 22, 1936, p. 28)

     On February 14, 1937 it was reported that President Roosevelt had approved WPA funds for the aquarium ("Announces Funds For Park Aquarium," Baltimore Sun, p. 20).  

     A lengthy article was written for the Baltimore Sun by William Conhurst on February 28, 1937, and it seems to embody the excitement that Baltimore must have felt about their soon-to-be aquarium ("An Aquarium For Baltimore: Druid Hill Pumphouse To Hold Maryland And Foreign Fish," p. MS10).  Here are some of the items Conhurst reported:

***  "Improvements to Baltmore's parks have been few in recent years, but there is now room to hope that by June Druid Hill Park will blossom out with our long-awaited public aquarium, a showplace for a wide variety of water life, readily accessible to a public traveling either by automobile or trolley line."

***  Planned and possible exhibits included electric eels, penguins, albino frogs, leaf fish, knife fish, sea horses (Conhurst wrote of the sea horse: "a strange creature whose head is like that of a horse and which carries its young, kangaroo style, in a pouch"), catfish, small-mouthed and large-mouthed bass, trout, and even a manatee.

***  There was a proposal to have WPA artists paint murals in the aquarium building.

***  With respect to the fish hatchery part of the aquarium, millions of shad were to be hatched and used to restock the Chesapeake Bay.
 

     On April 19, 1937, Harry D. Williar--deputy administrator for the Maryland WPA--ordered work to commence on the Baltimore Aquarium.  About 50 WPA workers were assigned to the job.  ("Orders Work To Start At Once On Druid Hill Park Aquarium," Baltimore Sun, April 20, 1937, p. 26)

     By December of 1937, progress was still going well ("Baltimore's New Aquarium Will Open About December 1," Baltimore Sun, September 26, 1937, p. 18).  But somewhere along the line, the opening was delayed from December 1937 to June 1938.  On the bright side, the WPA mural proposal seems to have been adopted: "...the walls and ceiling of the aquarium are being adorned with murals by Donald Coale, depicting Maryland fish and fishing scenes."  (Katherine Scarborough, "Baltimore's Aquarium Takes Shape," Baltimore Sun, May 1, 1938, p. SM2)   

     The aquarium's construction proceeded as planned, and on June 1, 1938 Mayor Jackson spoke during the aquarium's opening ceremony, and thanked the various parties responsible for its creation, including the WPA
("Aquarium Opened After Dedication," Baltimore Sun, June 2, 1938, p. 22).  The aquarium apparently had about 50 tanks of various sizes, two pools at ground level, and perhaps a few things outside the building too (more research is needed here).

     By November of 1938, the Baltimore Aquarium seems to have been doing very well, despite a few of the animals dying.  Types of fish on display included flying barbs, bull minnows, white perch, Siamese fighting fish, Chinese walking fish, and piranhas.  It was reported that "More than 5,000 persons visit the aquarium every week..." ("Drama Is Being Enacted At Municipal Aquarium," Baltimore Sun, November 6, 1938, p. 14)     

     Unfortunately, it seems that visitation rates & revenue did not keep up with the resource needs of the Baltimore Aquarium for very long, and the aquarium was converted into the longer-lasting and better-remembered "Reptile House" of the Maryland (Baltimore) Zoo in 1948 ("New Reptile House Opened At Park," Baltimore Sun, August 6, 1948, p. 21).  However, every once in awhile, someone remembers the old Baltimore Aquarium (See, e.g., "Zoo's Scariest Attraction Reopening: It's Slither Time At The Reptile House," Baltimore Sun, May 25, 1993, p. 1B).
  
  
back to top menu

 8. Art Classes

Above: The description for this photo reads, "An art class in the Pratt Library conducted by the art project" (no date or project number is given).  The WPA Federal Art Project--among other goals--strove to "foster an interest in art among underprivileged children throughout the country."  As of January 1937, the Art Project had provided employment to "5,300 artists and art teachers in forty-four states." ("Children's Art Exhibit," Baltimore Sun, January 17, 1937, p. SA8)

     One such art program took place regularly at the "Maryland House" in Druid Hill Park.  Children learned to sketch animals at the Maryland House & the nearby Baltimore Zoo, and, according to the WPA instructor, "there has not been a single session at which the children have not asked to stay overtime to put additional touches on their drawings"  ("Art Pupils Study Horse's Skeleton," Baltimore Sun, August 21, 1938, p. 3).  The children's art would sometimes be put on display at a museum or gallery (see, e.g., "Children's Art Show At Museum," Baltimore Sun, September 25, 1938, p. SM8) and, judging by a photo that appeared in the Baltimore Sun, of 11-year-old John Sandrock drawing a goat at the zoo, the children had acquired excellent art skills (see cite above, "Art Pupils...").    

back to top menu

 9.
Transcribing Records & Clerical Work

Above: The description for this photo reads, "Works Progress Administration of Maryland, Work Project #7011--to provide employment for needy professional and clerical persons to transcribe, catalog, etc., records in the public office of the Dept. of Public Legislative Reference in Baltimore City...showing colored persons engaged in transcribing various records" (date unknown).         


Above: This picture was taken in May of 1941 (project # unknown).  The description for it reads, "WPA clerical workers at Curtis Bay Ordinance Depot, U.S. Army, So. Baltimore, Maryland, who are reclassifying historical records of the Ordinance Department for new files.  Work includes reclassifying designs of old and modern guns and other ordinance material."  

back to top menu
Website Builder