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The New Deal and Parks in Washington, D.C.
May 6 @ 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm
Join the DC Preservation League, Washington Architectural Foundation, and AIA|DC on Thursday, May 6th at 2:30pm EDT for a presentation with the Living New Deal about their recently published map that identifies work of the New Deal in Washington, DC. This five-color, large-format map, which folds to pocket size, locates over 500 New Deal public works sites around the District of Columbia. An inset of the area around the National Mall can be used as a guide for walking tours and short explanations of 35 notable sites featured on the map are found on the back.
The New Deal transformed the nation’s capital in a brief decade, 1933-42. It realized the civic dreams of the L’Enfant and McMillan Plans: completion of the Federal Triangle, development of the capital parks, and renovation of the National Mall as the centerpiece of the city. The Washington Monument got a badly-needed renovation and the Jefferson Memorial was built beside the Tidal Basin. The development of the capital parks systems came under the National Park Service. With funding from the PWA and labor of CCC enrollees, Rock Creek Park, National Zoo, Anacostia Park, the National Arboretum, TR Island Park and the C&O Canal National Park were all developed. With the help of WPA relief workers, smaller parks around the District gained ballfields, tennis courts, playgrounds, and more. Langston Golf Course was opened to all citizens regardless of race.
The New Deal enhanced cultural life with hundreds of murals and sculptures for federal facilities. The Library of Congress was doubled in size and the Frederick Douglass home renovated. The Black cultural contribution to the city was further emphasized by murals celebrating African American history.
The New Deal rebuilt city infrastructure from the bottom up. It expanded the sewerage and treatment system to clean up the rivers. It completed Rock Creek Parkway, improved miles of city streets and put up new bridges. It funded the enlargement of schools and hospitals and constructed the National Airport. Economic recovery and job relief brought an end to the shame of squalid Hoovervilles in the nation’s capital and thousands of insalubrious housing units for African Americans were replaced by public housing.
As LND founder, Dr. Gray Brechin, says, “The New Deal’s work of building, renovating and modernizing Washington, DC is largely unmarked and unrecognized, as in most of the country. It’s like finding a lost civilization that has been buried and forgotten.”
Richard Walker is Professor Emeritus of Geography at UC Berkeley, where he taught 1975-2012 and served as Chair for five years. His books include two co-authored classics in economic geography, The Capitalist Imperative (1989) and The New Social Economy (1992), and four books on California: The Conquest of Bread (2004), The Country in the City (2007), The Atlas of California (2013), and Pictures of a Gone City (2018). Walker has received awards from the Fulbright program, Guggenheim Foundation, Association of American Geographers, California Studies Association and Western History Association. He is currently director of the Living New Deal, a project to document and map all New Deal public works.
Brent McKee is the Project Historian with the Living New Deal. He holds graduate degrees in history and public policy, and has been researching the New Deal since 2010.
The Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|DC) serves the Nation’s Capital, functioning as both the “local” and “state” component of the AIA for the District of Columbia. We empower our members, profession and community to advance the value of architecture and design in Washington, DC. The Chapter was intimately involved in the design and planning of Washington and continues to play an active role in city development today.
The Washington Architectural Foundation (WAF) is dedicated to educating and engaging the greater DC community, focusing on students, teachers, professionals, and the public to demonstrate the transformative power of architecture.
The District Architecture Center (DAC) is home to the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Washington Architectural Foundation. Located in the historic Penn Quarter neighborhood, we celebrate the built environment through exhibitions and related programs that engage architects, architectural enthusiasts, allied professionals, students, and the public.