Sunday, July 28, 2013

WPA Plaster Models of Historic Houses and Buildings


Works Progress Administration, or its abbreviation WPA, was a program created by executive order in 1935 to provide jobs for millions of unemployed Americans during the U.S. depression. It was instituted as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and was changed in 1939 when it was moved to the Federal Works Agency. Artists were hired to create murals, paintings, drawings, and sculptures for public buildings and educational purposes. Among the items made were a collection of plaster building replicas. Pieces are marked with WPA and sometimes have the artist's name included. There is a wealth of information online and in various institutional collections. The Broward County Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida contains the collection "Education by Design - The Bienes Museum of Modern Book WPA Museum Extension Project Collection."  In addition to photographs of the WPA buildings in their collection there is also a copy on this site of the "WPA Museum Extension Project Catalog, 3rd Edition, 1940".  Pages 19-25 list the 104 WPA model buildings that could be ordered in 1940. The Spring 2008 edition of "Pennsylvania Heritage" journal produced by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission has an article written by Mr. Curtis Minor, "Art with a Purpose: Pennsylvania's Museum Extension Project, 1935-1943".  It includes a section, with photographs, of the model buildings component. Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, PA houses in their Archives and Special Collections "The Pennsylvania Museum Extension Project."  A description of the collection on their web site includes links to photographic images of the WPA buildings included in their collection together with those from the Shippensburg Historical Society. The Keystone Library network has a collection with many photos. West Chester University also has a collection of WPA models. We all know of the White House, but do you know about the President's House? This Philadelphia mansion served as the 'White House' for the lion's shares of the Washington and Adams presidencies. A WPA plaster model was made of this historic house. Previously, I wrote about perhaps the grand-daddy of all WPA models, the replica of Independence Hall. Thank you to both Joe K., for some of the photos displayed here, and Russell K. for contributing some great information and links.












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