Have you ever heard of a place called Arthurdale?

I hadn’t – but I’ve been watching the excellent 2014 PBS America television series “The Roosevelts” and I was fascinated by the reference to the experiment in community living called Arthurdale.

The Wikipedia page on the subject states:

Arthurdale is an unincorporated community in Preston CountyWest Virginia, United States. It was built in 1933, at the height of the Depression as a social experiment to provide opportunities for unemployed local miners and farmers. Arthurdale was undertaken by the short-lived Subsistence Homesteads Divisionand with the personal involvement of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who used her influence to win government approval for the scheme.

The aim was to encourage self-sufficiency, and reduce dependence on both market forces and welfare provision. The experiment failed through a clash of ideologies. There was a strong emphasis on accommodating those most in need. Yet there also had to be qualifications to ensure that the community would be self-governed in a professional manner. The entrepreneurial community spirit never took hold, and the project is remembered by some as a classic failure, though some of its original residents have contradicted this narrative.

Arthurdale is now classed as a historic district, with over 100 of the original buildings still standing, and a New Deal Museum.


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