The Great Depression & The WPA

The Great Depression & The WPA (HM1IJ4)

Location: Belleville, KS 66935 Republic County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 49.364', W 97° 37.775'

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— Belleville Main Street Walking Tour —

After the stock market crash of 1929, millions of Americans lost their jobs and those still working saw their wages reduced. Drought and dust storms in the Great Plains left many farm families in despair. Congress quickly drafted new federal programs for relief and recovery from the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created in 1935 to provide jobs for unemployed workers.

In Republic County, funds were allocated for roads, bridges, "sanitary privies in rural areas," pond construction, flood control, and the renovation of public buildings. In Belleville, the municipal swimming pool, band shell, tennis courts, park and native stone grandstand at the North Central Kansas Free Fair grounds all were constructed with financial assistance from the WPA. The grandstand served crowds attracted by popular auto races on the high-banked oval race track. Federal funds also supported construction of the post office just west of the commercial district. The Belleville Post Office and the Republic County Courthouse on the square in Belleville were built with the assistance of the Public Works Administration (PWA), another New Deal economic recovery program. The Post Office also features an interior mural painted by the notable Kansas painter, Birger Sandzen.

Less well known than the public construction programs were the WPA projects initiated by the Division of Women's and Professional Projects. These programs were designed to employ "white collar" workers and women who were the heads of families. The Kansas Museum Project was intended "to awaken interest in historic and cultural backgrounds and to stimulate appreciation and contemporary creative expression."

Kansas was one of only three states to create a museum project through the Works Progress Administration. Workshops in seven Kansas communities produced handcraft and visual aid materials, which were distributed throughout the state to educational institutions. Belleville was one of those communities and in November, 1938 the Belleville Public Library ordered several Models of Industry, the All Nation figurines, and American Costume Dolls, Native Birds and Kansas Landmark prints by Margaret Whittemore, and Wild Flower paintings by Avis Chitwood.

Today the library collection includes seventeen pairs of costume dolls, forty-three prints of Kansas landmarks, five paintings of Kansas wildflowers, eight intricate wooden models, and one horn carving.

[Photo captions, from left to right, read]
· Post Office under construction in 1938 built with the assistance of PWA, another New Deal economic recovery program.

· Band Shell in the Belleville City Park was built with financial assistance from the WPA.

· Completed Post Office in October 1938.

· Belleville Municipal Swimming Pool still in use today. The city of Belleville has made many improvements, but the original structure has remained.

· The Belleville Public Library houses a museum project created through the WPA. Dolls, figurines, models, paintings and prints make up the collection.

· Art Deco Courthouse in the 1940's built with the assistance of the Public Works Administration.

HM NumberHM1IJ4
Year Placed2008
Placed ByRepublic County Historical Society, Kansas State Historical Society, Republic County, City of Belleville, Belleville Main Street, & Kansas Humanities Council
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, December 26th, 2014 at 5:01pm PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)14S E 617282 N 4408980
Decimal Degrees39.82273333, -97.62958333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 49.364', W 97° 37.775'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 49' 21.84" N, 97° 37' 46.5" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)785
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1301-1399 19th St, Belleville KS 66935, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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