WPA Today   

Parks & Recreation 1

WPA Poster

Building Parks & Promoting Recreation--Page 1
(See Photos Below!)

      In Maryland, the WPA created or improved 64 parks, 165 playgrounds & athletic fields, and 9 swimming & wading pools.  Many people have enjoyed these areas, but do not know that the WPA made them possible.  Indeed, I am 100% sure that millions of Americans who are opposed to "big government" and direct government hiring of the jobless have--without knowing it--enjoyed the recreational areas & facilities that the WPA created or improved (in the same way that they have used the roads, schools, buildings, bridges, etc., made by the WPA).

     The WPA was not only interested in recreational construction, but it was also interested in promoting recreation.  For example, on July 25th, 1937, it was reported that a "State-wide Works Progress Administration program in recreation, sponsored by the University of Maryland, will commence operations in Maryland tomorrow...Operating through a joint committee consisting of representatives of the WPA and the University of Maryland, the project will supply recreational leaders and promote recreation programs in any part of the State where qualified relief personnel is available..." ("State Recreation Program To Begin," Baltimore Sun, July 25, 1937, p. 3)

     The WPA recreational program seems to have been popular:

"In Maryland, as well as in all parts of the country, more and more people each year are receiving the benefits of guided recreational activities through the recreation program of the Works Projects Administration.  The Talbot county project, which celebrates its third anniversary on Wednesday, sponsors some nineteen different forms of recreational activity...Here, an average of 1,500 of the county's residents participate in at least one of the activities each month...Among the activities included in Talbot's project are music, pre-school handicraft of all kinds, badminton, basket ball, softball, horseshoe, pitching, water-front activities, hiking and nature groups, library, boys', girls' and adults' clubs, playground activities, tap dancing, community nights, folk dancing, recreational therapy, and women's calisthenics."  (Norman Wm. Harrington, "Talbot Celebrating WPA Recreation Anniversary," Baltimore Sun, January 7, 1940, p. M11)     

     However, it's the parks and facilities that the WPA created or improved that are the most enduring legacy of the WPA's recreational work, simply because these parks have served (and continue to serve) subsequent generations.  So, the next time you go to a park, ask yourself, "I wonder if the the WPA had something to do with this....or the CCC?"


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:

Baker Park, Frederick, Frederick County
Chambers Park, Federalsburg, Caroline County
Salisbury Municipal Park, Wicomico County
Lake Ashburton, Baltimore City
Hillsdale Park & Golf Course, Baltimore City
Pocomoke Municipal Park, Worcester County

 1. Baker Park, Frederick, Frederick County

Above: The WPA's work at Baker Park in Frederick was project #3520, circa 1938-40.  From the photos at the University of Maryland College Park Archives, it appears that the WPA created Culler Lake, a fountain in the center of Culler Lake, and a clubhouse.  But, unfortunately, I don't have a lot of details.  The description for this photo reads, "Site of Culler Lake before project began."  Like many other recreational areas the WPA worked on, it appears they dammed the creek you see here to create the lake you see in the next photo.  (This photo was taken in December of 1938)

Above: The description for this photo reads, "partial view of lake showing fountain in center."  The picture was taken in January of 1940, and it looks like a Christmas Tree was put on top of the fountain for the holiday season.

Above: Here is the fountain today (notice the crane, or crane-type bird).  Photo taken 2011.

Above: Here is a picture of the club house at Culler Lake, from January 1940.

Above: Here is the club house today.  Again, I'm not 100% sure the WPA built it, but it has the typical WPA-type architecture.  Photo taken 2011.

Above: The plaque on the club house does not mention the WPA, but I have noticed that many Maryland WPA projects are unmarked.  My impression is that Maryland seems to have been less caring (or diligent) in giving the WPA credit for the work they performed.  Maryland Senator Millard Tydings (in the Senate from 1927-1951) was a democrat, but he was very opposed to the New Deal and I believe Roosevelt and other New Dealers tried to get him defeated at elections.  I've often wondered if this tension led Tydings--and perhaps others--to actively try to downplay or suppress the accomplishments of the New Deal work programs, as payback (for example, by asking friendly, local politicians--off the record--to keep "WPA" off any plaques or cornerstones).  At this point, I'm merely speculating, but we all know how nasty politics can get, so I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility.         

back to top menu

 2. Chambers Park, Federalsburg, Caroline County

Above: A plaque at Chambers Park.  The WPA worked in Chambers Park, but I'm not certain as to the extent of their work.  There is another plaque in the park that dates from the 1920s, so the WPA's work here was probably improvements to an already established park.  Photo taken 2011. 

Above: According to a report prepared for the Maryland Historical Trust, "The log cabin in Chambers Park was constructed in 1936 by the National Youth Administration."  The report also states "The Chambers Park Log Cabin is significant as an example (of) New Deal park architecture more commonly associated with western Maryland parks than those of the eastern shore."  Interestingly, the stone chimney you see here replaced a brick chimney (which was falling down).  Photo taken 2011. 

Above: The WPA constructing a dam at the Chambers Park area.  Maryland WPA project #3209.  Photo taken April 1938.

Above: The description card for this photo reads, "Water over the dam and testing the sluice gates."  Photo taken July 1938.

back to top menu

 3. Salisbury Municipal Park, Wicomico County

Above: Once again, I know the WPA worked at the Salisbury Municipal Park (now part of--or at least adjacent to--the Salisbury Zoo), but I'm not sure about the extent of the work.  The description card for this photo reads, "Placing rip rap on banks of lagoon."  Maryland WPA project #3118.  Photo taken March 1938. 

Above: A bridge built by the WPA at the Salisbury Municipal Park (date unknown).

back to top menu

 4. Lake Ashburton, Baltimore City

Above: Erecting this fence at Lake Ashburton in Baltimore City was Maryland WPA project #13.  Regarding a picture you will see below, note the rounded "knob" ornamentation at the top of the fence posts.  Photo taken January 1936. 

Above: The finished fence (and sidewalk) at Lake Ashburton.  Again, note the rounded knobs at the top of the fence posts.  Photo taken May 1936.

Above: The fence that surrounds the lake today.  Considering the round knobs at the top of the fence posts, as well as the rust & general condition of the fence, I would say that this is the same fence that the WPA put up in 1936.  Photo taken in 2011.

Above: A wider view of Lake Ashburton.  Photo taken in 2011.

Above: These old steps lead to the park area above Lake Ashburton, and have WPA written all over them.  However, I don't know if the WPA made them, and I probably never will.  These stairs are symbolic of so many structures that surround us and seem like WPA creations but, since (a) records are buried away (if they exist at all) and (b) few, if any, people have the time, resources, or inclination to do the research, we'll never know their origins with any certainty.  These types of structures are monuments to forgotten history...WPA or otherwise. 

back to top menu

 5. Hillsdale Park & Golf Course, Baltimore City

Above: Not many people know that the WPA created many municipal golf courses.  This photo was in the WPA photograph collection at the University of Maryland College Park Archives but, unfortunately, did not come with much of a description, just "Hillsdale Park, constructing the green."  This is probably Forest Park Golf Course, which is part of--or attached to--Hillsdale Park, near West Forest Park Avenue on the western outskirts of Baltimore City.  (Date of photo unknown) 

Above: The description card for this photo reads, "Hillsdale Stable."  I believe this structure may still exist at the Forest Park Golf Course.  Maryland WPA project #33.  Photo taken January 1936. 

back to top menu

 6. Pocomoke Municipal Park, Worcester County

Above: The WPA built this log club house--now called Winter Quarters Log Cabin--in 1940.  It was Maryland WPA project #3676.  Photo taken May 1940.

Above: Winter Quarters Log Cabin today.  Photo taken 2011.  This large cabin sits aside Pocomoke City Golf Course, and can be rented for wedding receptions, business meetings, retreats, etc. (see here).  For another picture of the cabin--showing its full size--see here

back to top menu

Go to Parks & Recreation 2

Website Builder