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It Was A New Deal

Monday, January 04, 2010

Around the US, there were 43 New Deal Homestead projects, and three of them are in Alabama: Gee's Bend / Boykin, The Cahaba Project / Slagheap Village in Trussville, and Cumberland Mountain Farms / Skyline Farms.


In Gee's Bend, residents were able to secure low interest rate loans for the "Gee's Bend Farms" project from the government to purchase the land they farmed and they built what are now called 'Roosevelt houses' there.

On land that previously was used by the pig iron - producing Trussville Furnace, the Cahaba Project was begun. The land turned out to be too poor for much farming, but a few hundred housing units were built. My WPA book says that there were 400, but the Trussville City site states that there are 287. In this building, a retail central store and filling station served the community. It was run by the Cahaba Cooperative Association:
Cahaba Village WPA Project, Trussville AL

The homes here are just really nice and tidy:
Cahaba Village WPA Project, Trussville AL

In November, we were in Skyline, Alabama where the Skyline Farms project was. The idea was that people would receive their own farm (40-60 acres) with a home and farming equipment, repaying the government with the proceeds from their crops or industry (there was a hosiery factory that failed) and in the end, of the 181 farms, only *two* were ever able to outright purchase their farms. Everything else was liquidated and sold to private buyers.

It is a lovely, lovely community.

Skyline home:
Skyline, Alabama

Skyline, Alabama

The Rock Store. Next to the door is a stone plaque that reads, "Cumberland M't Farms. Store".
Skyline, Alabama

This is the Skyline School - the school and grounds were designed by William Kessler. Lots of native sandstone. The historical marker here reads in part that "Educators at Skyline introduced new educational ideas to the state, such as individualized instruction for students and grades based on students' tested abilities. Workers from the Special Skills Office, such as folk song collector Bascom Lunsford and director Nicholas Ray, conducted various programs at the school."
Skyline, Alabama
The community was encouraged to put on plays, dances, singings, and to take part in all sort of traditional folk culture arts. A group of them was even invited to Washington and performed for the FDR and the First Lady.

These are some pics of the Skyline community reproduced from the LOC:

LC-USF33-006281-M1

LC-USF34-025192-D

LC-USF33-006292-M1


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A list of other New Deal homesteading communities in the US is here.

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