, West Virginia
July 6, 2005
Amanda is alone at her desk preparing for the 2005 New Deal Festival July 9th and 10th.
We study photos of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt interacting with homesteaders in
the 1930s, while Amanda gets keys to show us around. She knows everything about the
Roosevelts, the New Deal, this area of West Virginia, and government-sponsored
industries that were supposed to transform life for transplanted coal miners from Scott’s
Run. We have her to ourselves for two hours this Tuesday morning and are glad we haven’t opted for
only the driving tour.
Originally Reedsville Experimental Community, also called "Eleanor’s Little Village,"
Arthurdale National Historic District was first of 99 New Deal communities. When Eleanor visited Scott’s
Run, she saw extreme poverty among unemployed miners and cautioned Franklin (and
wealthy philanthropists!) that workers might turn to socialism--ironic, but a brilliant
wife's maneuver! She had a church, built in 1857 near Masontown, taken apart
piece-by-piece and moved to Arthurdale to become Center Hall (now restored), where
she danced many a square with local folks.
We tour the hall (where one can still square dance--third Thursday each
month), Administration Building (where homesteaders paid rents), forge (which made
pewter and copper items), Esso gas station (which saw little business during the
Depression), and a Wagner home (one of three types built here, all
Amanda expounds on the school, taught by Eleanor’s appointee, Elsie Ripley Clapp, a
student of John Dewey; the kindergarten, hygiene, and nutrition programs; and many craft
and other industries sponsored here, including farming, furniture-making, pottery,
weaving, tractor manufacture, and more. Eleanor envisioned a self-sufficient
One hundred tractors were made here, and one of these antiques has been retrieved and is
being restored for the festival this weekend--they found it on eBay! Arthurdale furniture
is valuable, but few items are found locally, because homesteaders couldn’t afford
finely crafted items resembling those made at Eleanor’s Valkill estate. We view some (many Godlove chairs!)
and learn that more pieces are willed to Arthurdale.
The restored Inn--toured by appointment--is where Eleanor, Franklin, and Cabinet
We buy jelly in the gift shop, well-stocked with West Virginia handmade items. This
farming and craft community, prototype for 99 others, is much the same as it was in the
1930’s. With 165 homes, root cellars, cemetery, and WVU’s Experimental Farm (the
original community dairy), Arthurdale includes numerous sites that dot the hayfields--and
the two-lane is quiet here!
From journal Every Which Way from Morgantown