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W.P.A. Anniversary

WPA Mural from Greenwich Village's Women’s House of Detention (demolished 1974)
WPA Mural from Greenwich Village’s Women’s House of Detention (demolished 1974)

On April 8, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. This act granted the President the authority to establish programs such as the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration, later renamed the Work Projects Administration) to combat the Great Depression. There are many great examples of the W.P.A.’s efforts throughout the Village and East Village.

Cooper Station Post Office (built 1943)
Cooper Station Post Office (built 1937)

One is the Cooper Station Post Office at 93 4th Avenue (corner of East 11th Street). This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places — read its listing nomination here and other listings here. The nomination does not mention the fact that Jerry Seinfeld’s neighbor Newman worked out of the Cooper Station branch as a mail carrier. The Cooper Station Post Office was built in 1937 at the same time as many other public works. The New Deal provided NYC with refurbished subway stations, sewers, buildings, post offices, the Central Park Zoo, and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Review this list of NYC New Deal projects.

Theatre for the New City
Theater for the New City

The Theater for the New City is located in a former retail market that that Mayor LaGuardia built using W.P.A. funds to remove pushcarts from the streets. The First Avenue Retail Market opened in 1938. The site operated as a market until 1965.

The Greenwich Women’s House of Detention was opened in 1932 to replace an older prison that was part of the original Jefferson Market Courthouse complex completed in 1875-77.

The original Jefferson Market Courthouse and prison complex
The original Jefferson Market Courthouse and prison complex

The House of Detention was not built with W.P.A. funds but was decorated with W.P.A. funded murals. Demolished in 1973, it was replaced with a garden. However, many of the W.P.A. murals and artwork survive elsewhere. Check here for a full list of all W.P.A. art including murals.

Most of the New Deal era murals were funded through the Federal Art Project of the W.P.A while some of the earlier murals were funded through the Public Works of Art Project of the Civil Works Administration (C.W.A.), a precursor to the W.P.A. Post Office murals were mostly funded by the Section of Painting and Sculpture of the U.S. Treasury Department. The C.W.A. existed from 1932-35, and was replaced in 1935 with the W.P.A., which existed until late 1943.

The Women's House of Detention that replaced the older prison
The Women’s House of Detention that replaced the older prison
Which was replaced by a garden
A garden replaced the prison after it was demolished in 1973



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