October 19, 2021

The Centralhatchee Gym and the Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Written by 2020 HCHS graduate Alannah McQuain

(Centralhatchee, GA) — The Old Centralhatchee Gym has been a staple in the community since it was built in 1935.

I remember playing in this gym before there was a new one built. I also remember going to the Fall festivals held by Centralhatchee Elementary in the Old Gym. I even volunteered at those same Fall Festivals when I was in high school.

It was not until I reached upper elementary school that we were learning about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “New Deal.”

My teacher asked us why the old gym had not been torn down after the newer one was built. None of us knew the correct answer. This was when my teacher introduced us to the Works Progress Administration.

The Works Progress Administration was part of Roosevelt’s New Deal to get the economy out of the Great Depression.

Created on May 6th, 1935, the WPA lasted until June of 1943 when it was shut down due to production for World War II picking up. The WPA was renamed in 1939 from the Works Progress Administration to the Work Projects Administration.

When at its peak in late 1938, the WPA employed over 3.3 million Americans nationwide. Most of those employees were unskilled men who carried out public works infrastructure projects. Many women, African Americans, and other minorities found work within the WPA.

In 1935, the WPA employed approximately 350,000 African Americans making up about 15% of the total workforce. The WPA also found jobs for women in clerical work, gardening, and canning.

Women were also hired as librarians and seamstresses. Women made up about 7% of the workforce of the WPA.

The WPA also oversaw a group of programs called Federal Project Number One which helped employ artists, musicians, actors, and writers across the country.

Federal One helped establish more than 100 community art centers throughout the country. Some of the artists, musicians, actors, and writers that worked for Federal One went on to become well known in their field.

Jackson Pollock worked for Federal One under the WPA’s federal Arts Project. Other notable projects completed by the WPA include the Hoover Dam, the John Adams Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Mint.

When the WPA was started in 1935, unemployment in America was at 20%.

However, at the time the WPA was shut down in 1943, unemployment was less than 2%.

It is because of what the WPA did for America in the 1930s and 1940s that the Centralhatchee Gym is protected under the National Historic Preservation Act.

The Old Gym will be standing for years to come.

Comments

  1. Mart Hyatt says

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read in any newspaper in a while. Very important but likely unknown landmark we have in Centralhatchee. Thanks for writing this informative piece Alannah McQuain.

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