Explore the New Deal’s Legacy Across Philadelphia

By Laura S. RSS Tue, October 5, 2021

The New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s political experiment to pull the United States out of the Great Depression, created programs for relief for the unemployed and economic recovery and reform. Evidence of some of these programs can still be found across Philadelphia.

Since it’s October, we are hosting programs related to some of these historic New Deal sites for Archives Month Philly (AMP), a city-wide celebration of events sponsored by local archival institutions.

New Deal agencies employed 20 million workers, including about ten thousand people working for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Art Project. The Philadelphia Fine Print Workshop was created in April 1937 and was located at 311 South Broad Street. The Poster Workshop was located on a different floor of the same building. Ninety percent of the employees in the workshops were on needs-based relief. Between 1937 and 1943, the artists in the workshops produced hundreds of prints and posters. When the WPA ended, the Print and Picture Collection in Parkway Central Library received a collection of over 1300 prints, drawings, and posters from the print and poster workshops. On Wednesday, October 13, Parkway Central Library will host a Make Your Own WPA Poster event where a teaching artist from Posters for the People will guide visitors in making their own poster based on a poster in the Print and Picture Collection. We’ll host the same event at Donatucci Library on Thursday, October 14.

WPA printmaker Dox Thrash owned a home at 2340 West Columbia Avenue (now Cecil B. Moore Avenue) in Philadelphia’s Sharswood neighborhood. The Dox Thrash House is just doors away from Cecil B. Moore Library, and the team behind the project to save his historic home are collaborating with the library. Learn more about the history and future of the Dox Thrash House and join them for a fun printmaking activity on Thursday, October 21. Cecil B. Moore Library will also host Black Ancestral Healing and Historic Remedies with Nyambi Naturals on Thursday, October 7.

All Archives Month Philly long, stop by the third floor of Parkway Central Library to see the Free Library’s newest exhibition For the Greatest Number: The New Deal Revisited, on view Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Explore the legacy of the New Deal across our city.

Our map of New Deal sites in Philadelphia was inspired by the Living New Deal, a crowdsourced project that involves volunteers in a collective effort to rediscover the legacy of the New Deal throughout the United States. Check out the Living New Deal map, where you can click on each dot to learn more about New Deal sites.

  1. Parkway Central Library
    1901 Vine Street, 19103
    Home of the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music and the Print and Picture Collection's Works Progress Administration (WPA) materials
  2. Dox Thrash House
    2340 Cecil B. Moore Ave
    Local artist's longtime home
  3. WPA Fine Print and Poster Workshops
    311 South Broad St
    Now demolished, this historic lot is being replaced with a luxury development
  1. Philadelphia Zoo
    3400 West Girard Ave
    The WPA funded the iconic python sculpture outside the Reptile House
  2. Central High School
    1700 West Olney Ave
    The current home of the city's oldest public high school was built by the Public Works Administration
  3. Pennypack Creek Improvements
    8447 Krewstown Rd
    Trout fishing remains popular here, with water flow improvements built by the WPA
  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park
    1500 Pattison Ave
    The park's golf course built by the WPA is now a public wildlife area, "The Meadows"
  2. Former Kingsessing Station Post Office
    5201 Whitby Ave
    The public murals funded by the Treasury Department were removed when the post office closed and are now damaged and inaccessible
  3. Ten Box
    6300 Forbidden Dr
    This former Fairmount Park guard house bulit by the WPA was restored in the 1990s

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