Thursday, September 12, 2013

WPA Gymnasium Under Threat

(Click on images to enlarge)

(Photo by a Manteo resident.)

On October 13, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt approved the construction of a gymnasium on Roanoke Island, in the town of Manteo, North Carolina. The Works Progress Administration constructed the building, and the structure has faithfully served the town of Manteo for three-quarters of a century.

Across America, the WPA built 1,255 new gymnasiums, and repaired or improved 1,035 others. These structures are symbols of what the unemployed can accomplish when given opportunities instead of insults. They are great educational tools for our youth, showing them alternatives to the mean-spirited policies and rhetoric aimed at today's unemployed Americans. 

(WPA project card for the Manteo gymnasium, on record at the National Archives. Photo by Brent McKee.) 

Currently, the building in Manteo is under imminent threat of demolition to make room for a school expansion. Although the Manteo Preservation Trust has offered a clear and generous alternative to the demolition, which would save money, offer even more room for school expansion, and preserve the historic building, their alternative is not being clearly communicated by local decision-makers. Thus, proponents of demolition are not fully evaluating (or even aware of) this attractive alternative. Like so many problems in life, communication barriers and road bumps are hindering optimal outcomes.

Gymnasium statistics from: Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946.   

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