WPA Parks and Playgrounds - 1938

Parks and Playgrounds. Recreation Facilities Constructed by the WPA.

Parks and Playgrounds. Recreation Facilities Constructed by the WPA Include: Band Shell (Ohio); University Stadium (Louisiana); Grandstand (Arizona); Golf Course (Connecticut); Gymnasium (California); Playground (District of Columbia); Swimming Pool (California); Wading Pool (Nebraska); Tennis Courts (Ohio).

Construction of public parks and facilities for recreation constitutes more than 11 percent of the WPA program. It is exceeded in volume only by the work on roads, streets, and bridges.

Parks and Playgrounds—11 percent of the total program

Parks and Playgrounds—11 percent of the total program 

The 3,777 new recreational buildings which WPA workers have built, and the 2,902 they have improved or enlarged, are described under "Public Buildings."

Other recreational facilities of the WPA:

  • Parks—881 newly developed, with a total area of 26,707 acres, or an average of about 30 acres each. Also, improvements to 3,210 existing parks, averaging nearly twice the size of the new ones.
  • Athletic fields—1,534 newly constructed, 1,360 others improved.
  • Playgrounds—1,303 newly built, improvements made on 3,792 others. About three-fourths of these (751 new and 3,087 improved) are on school grounds.
  • Swimming pools—433 built new, 143 renovated.
  • Wading pools—324 built new, 47 renovated.
  • Golf courses—123 newly constructed, improvement or enlargement of 186 others. Nearly half of these are 18-hole courses, while a number of the 9-hole courses are extensions of existing 9-hole facilities. The area of these improvements aggregates 26,210 acres.
  • Tennis courts—3,535 new, 1,174 repaired or improved.
  • Fairgrounds—20 new plants, 104 others improved. Total area, 5,961 acres.
  • Ice-skating rinks—731 new, 159 improved. Average area, about 50,000 square feet.
  • Ski jumps—29 new, 4 renovated.
  • Ski trails—28 miles new, 31 miles improved.
  • Outdoor theatres—48 new, 10 reconstructed.
  • Bandstands or shells—88 new, 25 repaired.
  • Handball courts—569 new, 50 improved.
  • Horseshoe courts—716 constructed.

In this broad program of park and recreation facilities, as in 98 percent of all WPA projects, each improvement is based upon the expression of local officials that it is needed and wanted by the community, and is supported by local funds to help pay for materials and other non-labor costs.

One of the most exciting projects completed by the WPA in this field is the complete construction, from material dredged out of San Francisco Bay, of the level 400-acre island, which is the site of San Francisco's great exposition in 1939.

 Other unusual improvements include Timberline Lodge, on the upper slopes of Mount Hood, Oregon; many vital additions to the Toledo Zoo, constructed in no small measure out of reclaimed materials salvaged from demolition work; an unusual outdoor aquarium at Key West, Fla.; extensive additions to Audubon Park in New Orleans, and construction of a swimming pool at the municipal airport in the same city; and creation of an elaborate botanical garden in Fort Worth, Tex.

The size of the program indicates that local officials throughout the country recognize the growing problem of leisure time in America, and have taken widespread advantage of the manpower offered by the WPA to renovate and extend their facilities for public recreation. Many of the projects provide little or no maintenance problem because the costs of upkeep can be supplied from the nominal fees paid by those who use them.

From the standpoint of mass employment, also, this program is especially suitable, since much of the work, such as park development, requires a high proportion of labor and a relatively small outlay for materials.

The general public, on the other hand, is being given many recreation opportunities which hitherto have been largely beyond the reach of the average citizen.

Recreation Facilities Constructed by WPA

Recreation Facilities Constructed by WPA Include: Outdoor Theatre (California); Skating Shelter (Indiana); Zoo Building (California); Swimming Pool (California); Athletic Field (New Hampshire); Fairgrounds (California); Winter Sports Shelter (Wisconsin); Parking Facilities (New Jersey); Stadium (Rhode Island); Band Shell (California); Grandstand (New Jersey).


If the accomplishments of relief workers on prior work-relief projects are added to the above figures for the WPA, the total facilities which have benefited are more than tripled in number. Parks built or improved under the three successive agencies, total 15,500, playgrounds and athletic fields, 25,600.

Again it should be explained that earlier projects, while more numerous, were somewhat lighter in character and ran more heavily to repair work than to new facilities. The combined three work-relief agencies (CWA, FERA, and WPA) have built or rehabilitated more than 1,900 swimming and wading pools, nearly 850 golf courses, and more than 2,800 stadiums and grandstands. 

"Parks and Playgrounds," in Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938, pp. 17-20.

Return to Top of Page

WPA / Works Progress Administration
GG Archives

Brochures, Booklets, & Pamphlets


Farmers on Relief and Rehabilitation - WPA - 1937

Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration - 1938

Rural Families on Relief - Research Monograph XVII - 1938

Rural Youth: Their Situation and Prospects - Research Monograph XV - 1938

Rural Youth - Their Situation and Prospects - Conclusions - 1938

New Deal for Youth - The National Youth Administration (NYA) - 1938

1935-05 The Drought and Current Farm Imports

1936-10-15 Report on Progress of The Works Program

Final Report on the WPA Program 1935-43

Handbook of Proceedures - 1937

Report on Progress of WPA Program - 1942

Other Information

WPA Reference Section