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Patuxent Research Refuge



WPA Poster

Patuxent Research Refuge
(See Photos Below!)

Scientific and recreational area located in Prince George's and Anne Arundel Counties

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      The WPA played a major role in the development of Patuxent Research Refuge (PRR) during the 1930s/40s.  Numerous, still-existing structures at PRR--both large and small--are WPA creations.  In fact, there is probably no site in Maryland that surpasses the importance of PRR as a historical "footprint" of the WPA.  And even considering the New Deal as a whole (i.e., all the New Deal programs), few areas in Maryland rival PRR's historical significance (perhaps only Greenbelt or Catoctin Mountain Park/Camp David).  Given this, I feel that PRR's historic preservation is vitally important.

     PRR has been the location of important scientific work.  In the late 1960s, PRR scientists discovered that the pesticide DDT thinned the egg shells of many birds (including the Bald Eagle).  PRR researchers have also had major findings in migratory bird studies and endangered species propagation.  This shows how public investment in the jobless during the 1930s (via work opportunities in the WPA) has had enduring value for the country.  The jobless were given an opportunity to work, and they helped create an environment for scientists to perform their valuable research. 

     In addition to being an important site for scientific work, PRR offers opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, and more.  The WPA helped create outdoor recreational opportunities for generations of Americans.       

Sources & Suggested Reading:

"Early History of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center," by Dr. Leland B. Morley (1948).  Available here.

"The Evolution of Patuxent as a Research Refuge and a Wildlife Research Center," by Dr. Matthew C. Perry (2001).  Available here.

"Maryland Historical Trust National Register Eligibility" report for Patuxent Research Refuge Historic District (2002).

"Historic Structures of Patuxent Research Refuge," informational brochure by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2011).

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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: Looking across Snowden Pond at Merriam Lab.  The lab was built by the WPA circa 1939.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Another view of Merriam Lab.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Another view of Merriam Lab.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Nelson Lab, built by the WPA circa 1938.  Photographed September 2011. 


Above: Cupola on top of Nelson Lab.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Henshaw Lab, built by the WPA circa 1939.  Photographed September 2011.


Above: The Assistant Superintendent's House, built by the WPA circa 1938.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Quarters #9, built by the WPA in 1938.  Photographed in September 2011.

Above: Apartment building built by the WPA circa 1938.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Apartment building garage, built by the WPA circa 1938.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Service garage, built by the WPA circa 1938.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Snowden Hall, built in the early-1800s.  The WPA most likely added the lower story wings to each end of the building in 1938, but not yet confirmed.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Springhouse built in 1939 (probably by the WPA) to service the laboratories.  Photographed September 2011.

Above: Tank House built in 1941 (probably by the WPA) to hold spring water.  Photographed September 2011.


Above: The WPA built a picnic area at Patuxent Research Refuge, capable of handling up to 200 people.  The area has been abandoned for about half a century now, and "reclaimed" by the forest.  This outdoor cooking grill & oven is one of the last remnants of the picnic area.  Photographed 2012.  


Above: Another cooking grill at the abandoned picnic area.  Now encroached upon by skunk cabbage, it's hard to picture a gathering of people here, socializing over a grill full of hot dogs & barbecue ribs.  Photographed 2012.

Above: Cash Lake was developed largely by the CCC, with the WPA contributing.  Fishing is allowed on the lake, showing once again how the work of the WPA and CCC have provided ongoing recreational opportunities for Marylanders, and others.  Photographed September 2011.

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