Arthurdale New Deal Festival 2010

August 12, 2010 - 1 Comment

by Jim Barnes

The 2010 edition of the Arthurdale New Deal Festival took place on July 10. As usual, Eleanor Roosevelt was there and was accompanied this year by her husband, the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. For those of you who don’t know, Arthurdale was a planned community which was proposed by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933 to remedy the squalid living conditions among unemployed coal miners in the Scott’s Run area of neighboring Monongalia County. Many of these miners had been without jobs for years and they and their families were living very marginal existences. This situation was brought to her attention by her friend, Lorena Hickok. Eleanor then brought the situation to the attention of her husband, who placed the project under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. (Wikipedia)

Eventually 165 homesteads were built on the 2500 acre plot and the families chosen to rent them were given the training and means to raise much of their own food and businesses were encouraged to locate in the area to provide jobs. Eventually, however, the lack of cost-efficient transportation doomed most of the businesses and by the late thirties, as the US moved a war footing, the project was abandoned by the government and the homes sold off to the renters. Critics have called the project a failure for this reason, but, for the people who lived there, it gave them and their families a decent place to live, as well as founding a permanent community. So in this way the project was a success. Eleanor continued to visit the community up until the 1960’s.

Every year, the local historical association,  Arthurdale Heritage Inc. sponsors a New Deal Festival to commemorate the founding of the community and raise money to continue the work of historical preservation in the community. The event itself involves period music, good food, games for the kids and living history presentations including rides in antique cars and horse-drawn carts with the President, First Lady and other 1930’s personalities.

Professional Living Historian, Patty Cooper again did a fine job in portraying Eleanor, while Bill Donegan provided a fine FDR. Bill’s wife, Linda, portrayed Elsie Clapp, first administrator of the community school. I got to be Josephus Daniels, who was ambassador to Mexico at the time of FDR’s only visit to Arthurdale in 1938. (FDR gave the commencement address to the High School that year)Daniels, a longtime friend of the President accompanied the Roosevelts on that particular trip.

We had a great time at this event. It was an interesting departure from the usual military living history and offered some different avenues to explore for impressions. Also, the event itself is well-run and offers a lot to many different people, all for a worthy cause. I think it has potential to grow. However, we can always use more living historians in period clothing, so if you are interested, get some duds and come on out!,_West_Virginia

Comments (1)

Bill Donegan

September 11th, 2010 at 7:26 am    

It has been one month since this blog post and still no comments? What’s that all about?

Linda and I will be in Gettysburg at the IKE Farm in another fashion show Saturday Sept 19, 2010.

Ya all come.


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