Check out these old Frescoes uncovered at Teddy Roosevelt High School in Petworth

Photos courtesy Department of General Services

Thanks to a reader for passing on an article from NBC Washington:

“The frescoes are products of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative called PWA – Public Works Administration. The fresco titled “Adolescent America” captures entertainment, movies and fun. The 12-by-40-foot “American Panorama” features scientists, innovation and industry. The plan is to hang both pieces in the school’s new grand entrance.”

And thanks to DGS for sending the photos and these two articles from the 1930s:

1935 12 10_Post_Movies, Comics, Refreshments (PDF)

1934 11 26_Herald_Up Looms the Merry Storm (PDF)


12 Comment

  • The initiative in question was the WPA—the Works Progress Administration. It’s arguably the most well-known of the New Deal programs. Get it right (and get a proofreader), NBC Washington!

    • Argh, never mind. PWA is the right program. I am an ass!

      • The W. P. A. was the Depression-era program that sponsored lots of public art (I did a big project on it in high school). So I think you may be right :^) When I saw these mruals, before I read the text, I said, “Those are WPA murals.”

        • I wasn’t familiar with PWA — only WPA — but from Wikipedia, it sounds as though NBC got the two programs confused.

          “The PWA should not be confused with its great rival the Works Progress Administration (WPA), though both were part of the New Deal. The WPA, headed by Harry Hopkins, engaged in smaller projects in close cooperation with local governments—such as building a city hall or sewers or sidewalks. The PWA projects were much larger in scope, such as giant dams. The WPA hired only people on relief who were paid directly by the federal government. The PWA gave contracts to private firms who did all the hiring on the private sector job market. The WPA also had youth programs (the NYA), projects for women, and arts projects that the PWA did not have.”

          • Scratch that… according to the clippings from the 1930s linked in the original post, this _was_ actually a PWA-funded effort, even though people tend to associate that style of art with the WPA.

        • I’m still confused :^0 It could be the use of PWA in the original newspaper is an error. Not impossible to imagine… anyway, whatever. Cool murals!

  • Cool! Makes me think of a History Detective episode I just watched that included some background on the PWA.

  • Awesome murals, though. WPA art is so great!

  • Emmaleigh504

    I love that style, these are great!

  • The PWA (Public Works Administration) began in 1933 and was a precursor to the WPA (Works Progress Administration) which was created in 1935. Interesting to see this, as arts projects were supposedly not part of the PWA mandate. While other programs, such as FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration – created in 1932) did include funding for the arts, it was really only once the WPA was formed that federal funding for the arts became a reality. Likely these murals were funded by FERA, and were then misreported as a PWA project. Either way, truly a unique moment in American cultural history where the federal govt decided during a massive recession that support for artists, musicians, playwrights, and authors was crucial to the American sense of self. Hopefully these will be preserved in some form.

  • I’m oddly ambivalent about this discovery, being as indignant about all those years the students and faculty there were deprived of this work, as I am pleased that the work has been uncovered. I can’t imagine who would make the decision to blot out these classic Depression-era murals with that institutional white tile. And why.

  • I was just at The Museum of American Art over lunch hour. There hangs a series of painitng representing “The 1930s.’ Those done in 1933-1934 are labelled as having been done under the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP?) which has an entirely different Wiki entry from PWA and WPA. Wow!

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