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State Historic Preservation Office to conduct architectural survey of New Deal towns in Randolph County

9/18/01

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History will begin conducting an architectural survey of the New Deal Homestead towns of Valley Bend, Dailey and East Dailey in the Tygart Valley area of Randolph County on Monday, Sept. 24. The survey will include documenting the communities, photographing buildings and resources, recording building materials and architectural styles, and charting the date of construction. The project will begin with a public meeting to discuss the survey at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24 at the Fire Hall on US 250, near Valley Bend.

Barbara Rasmussen, a historian and consultant from Morgantown, will conduct the survey for the SHPO. She also is interested in talking to people who live in the community. Rasmussen will be traveling and working in the area through June 30, 2002.

The New Deal Homestead project began with the purpose of rehabilitating mining and timber workers, both socially and economically, by establishing them in their own homes and providing them with a means of earning a living. For decades during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Tygart Valley’s biggest business was lumbering. By 1930 when the Depression struck, observers came to realize that the timbered wilderness was nearly depleted and coal mining was declining in the area, thus leaving thousands of people without a visible means of support.

Although only 198 housing units were planned for the homesteads, officials received more than 1,640 applications. Construction of the new homes began in March 1934. Each man was to work three days a week for a paycheck based on 30 cents per hour and an additional three days for credit to be applied to the ultimate purchase of the house. Cost of the homesteads ranged from $2,800 to $3,500, depending on the size of the house and plot. When construction of their own houses was complete, members of the community found work helping build houses for teachers, and building and operating community facilities such as the general supply building, the weaving center, the garage and filling station, the potato storage unit, the stone quarry and limestone crushing plant, a lumber mill, and the woodworking shop. Others were farmers who had the opportunity to work on the cooperative farm producing wheat, corn, oats, potatoes and more than 20 acres of vegetables.

In 1941, with the outbreak of World War II and the end of the Depression and unemployment, the conditions which started the Homestead Projects disappeared for several decades. During 1946-47, the houses were sold to the occupants and much of the business concerns like the lumber mill, stone quarry and lime plant became private corporations.

The survey will help document this important part of the state’s history and supplement the SHPO’s historic property inventory files. In addition, the survey also will help with a comparison of two other New Deal projects in West Virginia, Arthurdale in Preston County and Eleanor in Putnam County, both of which have already had surveys completed.

For more information about the architectural survey of the New Deal Homestead project, call Katherine Jourdan, survey and National Register coordinator for the Division, at (304) 558-0220, ext. 156.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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