WPA Today   

Schools 1



WPA Poster

The WPA Built and Improved Public Schools
Page 1

(See Photos Below!) 

     Across the nation, the WPA built 8,081 new school buildings (either entirely new schools or additions to existing schools) and made repairs or improvements to 31,316 other schools.  Quite an achievement for workers who were maligned as "shovel-leaners."  In Maryland, the respective numbers were 19 and 389.  Considering how many millions of Americans have received their education in WPA-built or WPA-improved schools, do you think the investment was worthwhile, or just one big "boondoggle"?

     In addition to the photos below, be sure to see my other school exhibits, e.g., African American Schools, Fort Hill High School, Great Mills School, Port Deposit School, and Princess Anne High School.    

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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: Here, WPA laborers are replacing the roof of the Mt. Herman schoolhouse, near Salisbury (Wicomico County).  Maryland WPA project #301.  Photo taken April 1936.


Above: The only description that came with this photo was "Nanjemoy Consolidated School, Nanjemoy, Maryland," so the WPA could have built the entire school, or could have performed work as simple as a new coat of paint.  More research is required to know for sure.  Nanjemoy is in Charles County.  (Maryland WPA project #, and date of photo, unknown)


Above: The Nanjemoy School today (see previous photo).  It now serves as a community center.  Photo taken 2012.


Above: The description card for this photo reads, "Raising roof over toilets at Denton Primary School.  Brick walls being constructed to a height to give sufficient ventilation in toilets."  Maryland WPA project #89 (project # 89 appears to have encompassed multiple school repair & improvement projects in Caroline County).  Photo taken April 1936.

Above: Maryland WPA project #317 was "Painting and repairing 24 schools in Talbot County" (from this photo's description card).  This picture shows St. Michae'ls Elementary School in Talbot County; my understanding is that the building no longer exists.  Photo taken August 1937. 


Above: This picture is described as project #'s 316 & 317, in October 1936, "Painting, Replastering, & Waterproofing School, Showing project after completion..." (from photo's description card).  This building is in Oxford, Talbot County, and is now the Oxford Community Center and, as of January 2012, is being restored (see here).


Above: These men are working on Maryland WPA project #89 in Ridgely, Caroline County: "Alterations & additions to schools, Ridgely School alterations" (from the photo description card).  Photo taken July 1936. 


Above: The description card for this photo reads "Construction of Ridgely School, Completed exterior of school."  Maryland WPA project #125 (notice that the project # is different than the previous photo, but the building appears to be the same one).  Date of photo unknown.


Above: This building (also seen in the next photo) is a bit of a mystery.  But based on information I obtained from from the Somerset County Library, here is what I think is going on.  A Princess Anne Elementary school was built in 1926-27.  The building was destroyed by fire in 1939 (which I think is shown in the photo above--note what appears to be some blackened areas on the remaining structure).  The WPA the rebuilt the school, constructing it closely to its original appearance.  The description card for this photo reads, "Construct new brick elementary school. Showing walls to be demolished."  Maryland WPA project #3754.  Photo taken December 1939.


Above: Here, we see the completed Princess Anne Elementary School in October of 1940.  The building no longer exists.  It's possible this building was destroyed by fire, but I think it was a previous school that was taken by flames, not this one.  I think this building was probably demolished to make room for a more modern building (see previous photo for more information).


Above: The description card for this photo reads, "Addition to Preston School, laying brick on new addition."  This was Maryland WPA project #3273, in Caroline County, and the photo was taken in April of 1937. 


Above: This photo shows a new elementary school being built in Crisfield (Somerset County) in 1936.  This was either project #465 or 467 (there is a discrepancy between what's written on the description for this photo--"465"--and what's listed on the the University of Maryland's finding aid for the WPA photograph collection--"467"). 

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