Friday, October 20, 2023

New Deal Homestead Museum

Arthurdale, West Virginia was the initial project of the Subsistence Homesteads Division, part of the President Roosevelt's New Deal agencies. Construction started on the 165 house community in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression with a goal of providing modern, safe living conditions for unemployed farmers, miners, and their families. The community was designed to be self governing and self sufficient with an administration building, community hall, forge, school, post office, stores, and businesses. Each house had a large plot of land so that the families could grow their own food using shared farm equipment. 

This was a pet project of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was very involved in the planning and visited the community 33 times. She also convinced businesses to open factories in the town. Unfortunately, none of them lasted long.Twenty nine communities, located all across the country, were constructed by the division before it was abolished in 1937 because it wasn't popular with either political party and the communities didn't live up to expectations. Even so Eleanor Roosevelt and families living in Arthurdale considered it a success because of the improvements in people's lives. 

Guided tours are the only way to see the museum buildings which consist of the admiration building, the forge, a few outbuildings, one of the houses furnished circa 1930s, and the community hall. The tour is very interesting. A map is available if you want to take a driving tour of the community. Most of the houses are still standing and occupied although many have been remodeled. I highly recommend using the map because we tried just driving around and kept hitting dead ends. 

The administration building, where most of the exhibits are located, and the community hall, which is empty except on special event days, are accessible. The entrance to the house has a high threshold and the second floor is accessed by stairs only. Assistance may be needed to see the outbuildings due to rough terrain.

The parking lot is large enough for RVs. Museum  39.49481, -79.81564


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