The Great Depression & The WPA
— Belleville Main Street Walking Tour —
After the stock market crash of 1929, millions of Americans lost their jobs and those still working saw their wages reduced. Drought and dust storms in the Great Plains left many farm families in despair. Congress quickly drafted new federal programs for relief and recovery from the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created in 1935 to provide jobs for unemployed workers.
In Republic County, funds were allocated for roads, bridges, "sanitary privies in rural areas," pond construction, flood control, and the renovation of public buildings. In Belleville, the municipal swimming pool, band shell, tennis courts, park and native stone grandstand at the North Central Kansas Free Fair grounds all were constructed with financial assistance from the WPA. The grandstand served crowds attracted by popular auto races on the high-banked oval race track. Federal funds also supported construction of the post office just west of the commercial district. The Belleville Post Office and the Republic County Courthouse on the square in Belleville were built with the assistance of the Public Works Administration (PWA),
Less well known than the public construction programs were the WPA projects initiated by the Division of Women's and Professional Projects. These programs were designed to employ "white collar" workers and women who were the heads of families. The Kansas Museum Project was intended "to awaken interest in historic and cultural backgrounds and to stimulate appreciation and contemporary creative expression."
Kansas was one of only three states to create a museum project through the Works Progress Administration. Workshops in seven Kansas communities produced handcraft and visual aid materials, which were distributed throughout the state to educational institutions. Belleville was one of those communities and in November, 1938 the Belleville Public Library ordered several Models of Industry, the All Nation figurines, and American Costume Dolls, Native Birds and Kansas Landmark prints by Margaret Whittemore, and Wild Flower paintings by Avis Chitwood.
Today the library collection includes seventeen pairs of costume dolls, forty-three prints of Kansas landmarks, five paintings of Kansas wildflowers, eight intricate wooden models, and one horn carving.
[Photo captions, from left to right, read]
· Band Shell in the Belleville City Park was built with financial assistance from the WPA.
· Completed Post Office in October 1938.
· Belleville Municipal Swimming Pool still in use today. The city of Belleville has made many improvements, but the original structure has remained.
· The Belleville Public Library houses a museum project created through the WPA. Dolls, figurines, models, paintings and prints make up the collection.
· Art Deco Courthouse in the 1940's built with the assistance of the Public Works Administration.
Erected 2008 by Republic County Historical Society, Kansas State Historical Society, Republic County, City of Belleville, Belleville Main Street, & Kansas Humanities Council.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Charity & Public Work • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Art Deco, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is October 1938.
Location. 39° 49.364′ N, 97° 37.775′ W. Marker is in Belleville, Kansas, in Republic County. Marker is at the intersection of 19th Street and N Street
Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Belleville Agriculture (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); American Legion Post No. 193 Veterans Memorial (approx. 8˝ miles away); Country of the Pawnee (approx. 8˝ miles away); New Scandinavia (approx. 8˝ miles away); Municipal Auditorium (approx. 13.1 miles away in Nebraska); Home of 6 Man Football (approx. 13.3 miles away in Nebraska).
Also see . . . History of Belleville, Kansas. (Submitted on December 26, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on September 14, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 26, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 406 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on December 26, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.