TwHP Lessons

Arthurdale: A New Deal Community Experiment

Photograph of Aurthurdale children, from the Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)

magine waking up in Hell one morning but going to sleep in Heaven at the end of the day.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said that’s how an Arthurdale resident described going from a cramped, poverty-stricken mining town to the new experimental farming community. For that resident, Arthurdale, West Virginia, was Heaven. For Eleanor, it was a humanitarian project and experiment. For politicians and policy commentators, it was a flashpoint for the great debate over the role of government during an economic crisis.

Arthurdale was the first of one hundred homestead communities built from the ground-up by the federal government during the Great Depression. Due to Eleanor Roosevelt's lobbying and influence, this New Deal project provided spacious new homes with indoor plumbing, modern appliances, and furniture to a select, lucky few. Arthurdale children attended an experimental school and their parents worked cooperatively to support the town. The experiment Roosevelt championed faced many challenges, but Arthurdale remains.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Map
  1. Map 1: The Appalachian Coal Basin.

Determining the Facts: Readings

  1. Reading 1: A New Deal for Scotts Run.
  2. Reading 2: Life at Arthurdale.
  3. Reading 3: Arthurdale Struggles.

Visual Evidence: Images
  1. Photo 1: Miners’ Housing in Scotts Run, West Virginia.
  2. Map 2: A New Deal Homestead Farm, ca. 1934.
  3. Map 2: Arthurdale Town Map.
  4. Photo 2: Arthurdale, 1937.
  5. Photo 3: School children in Arthurdale, 1935.

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. A New Deal for the United States
 2. Discover the New Deal Homesteads
 3. Plan Your Own Community
 4. Heritage and Community Service

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This lesson is based on the National Register of Historic Places registration file for the Arthurdale Historic District in Preston County, West Virginia. It is among the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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