May 6, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monica’s Top Five Landmarks From This Era:

By Charles Epting

April of 2015 marks the 80th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of a number of relief agencies created as part of the New Deal in an effort to combat the economic impact of the Great Depression.

The WPA provided federal funding for construction jobs across the county, with the simultaneous goals of providing work to the unemployed and giving cities infrastructure they needed but were unable to provide themselves.

Additionally, as a way to boost national morale, out-of-work artists were commissioned by the government to create public works of art that could be enjoyed by all.

Santa Monica was fortunate to be the beneficiary of several WPA projects; however, one must be cautious not to lump all New Deal projects under the banner of the WPA.

The 1938 Santa Monica Post Office, for example, is often referred to as a WPA project, when in fact it was constructed by the US Treasury Department; likewise, the murals that were recently reinstalled in the Santa Monica Public Library were commissioned under the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor to the WPA.

What follows is a brief guide to Santa Monica’s five most notable WPA projects. While by no means comprehensive, this list will hopefully instill a new sense of interest in the program as we approach its 80th anniversary next year.

• City Hall Murals

Santa Monica’s city hall was constructed in 1938 by the Public Works Administration, a sister-program to the WPA. However, the two large murals flanking either side of the main entrance were created by Stanton MacDonald-Wright for the WPA’s Federal Art Project. Bearing the titles Spanish Colonial Santa Monica and Recreation in Santa Monica, the two pieces (as well as the large city seal in the floor) were created in a unique medium called “petrachrome,” in which murals are painted with pigmented cement that is then polished.

• Santa Monica Pier

Between 1939 and 1940, Santa Monica Pier was resurfaced as part of a WPA project, while the long concrete walkway that still stands today was constructed by the Public Works Administration. This project would not be significant had the WPA not also constructed a wooden platform with exercise equipment immediately south of the pier. Because of the frequent fitness exhibitions held on this equipment, the area quickly became known as “Muscle Beach,” a name that is still a part of the American lexicon to this day.

• Santa Monica Airport

Originally called Clover Field (after World War I pilot Greayer Clover), Santa Monica Municipal Airport was greatly improved by the WPA during the late-1930s. Two intersecting runways were constructed by the program due to the importance of Douglas Aircraft, who were based at Clover Field. It was on these runways that the first female pilot in history flew United States mail and the experimental B-19 made its maiden voyage. Although the runways have since been reconfigured, the WPA’s improvements helped ensure the airport’s survival after World War 2.

• McKinley School Statue

Located in the inner courtyard of McKinley Elementary School is a cast-stone sculpture of two children reading. Called Story Book Land, the piece was created by artist Stefan De Vriedt in 1936 as part of the Federal Art Project. Several dozen schools around Southern California received similar sculptures as part of the program, although a good number have since been lost. Another federally-funded sculpture, located at base of Wilshire Boulevard at Ocean Avenue, is Eugene Morahan’s Santa Monica, created several years earlier under the Public Works of Art Project.

• Santa Monica High School

The highest concentration of WPA projects in Santa Monica exists at the high school. A number of the campus’s buildings were constructed at this time, most notably the recently-refurbished Barnum Hall Theater, which originally served as Santa Monica’s municipal auditorium. The theater’s fire curtain is a painting entitled Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla, while a complementary mosaic depicts The Landing of the Vikings in Vinland (both by Stanton MacDonald-Wright). Amongst the school’s other federal art projects is a seven-foot tall statue of a Viking created by Uno John Palo-Kangas.

Charles Epting is currently a USC student, author, and research associate at UC Berkeley’s Living New Deal project.

in News
Related Posts

Riviera Mansion on Market for $25 Million

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

 6 bedroom, 10 bathroom Riviera mansion hits market  By Chad Winthrop A nearly century-old Riviera mansion complete with a speakeasy...

Venice’s Fox Theater Revamp

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

A developer wants to revamp the historic Fox Theater building in Venice. Learn more in this video made possible by...

Edify TV: Site Work Begins on Nearly Billion Dollar LAX Station

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

Site work has begun for a nearly billion dollar light rail transit station coming to LAX. Learn more in this...

Nearly 50-Unit Affordable Housing Complex Breaks Ground in Santa Monica

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

Development combines retail and residential units  By Toi Creel A 50-unit affordable housing complex recently broke ground in Santa Monica’s...

Edify TV: Concert Capacity Rules Issue for Small Venues

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

Live music is back in LA County but the owner of a Westside jazz club says reopening will have to...

Santa Monica City Council Gives Green Light to Pursue Main Street Closures

May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

Lawmakers instruct staff to develop proposal that would close Main Street to vehicles on weekends By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica’s...

Rents on The Rise In Santa Monica: Santa Monica Beat – May, 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Rents on The Rise In Santa Monica * Natural Gas Leak...

Woman Killed by Vehicle on 10 Freeway in Santa Monica

May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

Victim struck at Cloverfield Boulevard on-ramp Sunday night By Sam Catanzaro A woman was struck and killed by a vehicle...

Santa Monica Police Use Naloxone to Save Overdose Victim in Park

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

SMPD save woman who has overdosed on Oxocodone By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police used Naloxone to save a woman...

Edify TV: Could Penmar Golf Course Become Affordable Housing?

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

Under a state bill facilities like Penmar golf course could be converted into space for affordable housing. Learn more in...

Hard Kombucha Tasting Room Opens on Main Street

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

JuneShine opens on Main Street in Santa Monica Toi Creel A hard kombucha tasting room has opened on Main Street...

Italian-Style Raw Seafood Bar Comes to Santa Monica

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

Crudo e Nudo, a new Italian-style raw seafood bar on the Westside offers sustainably sourced fresh fish, shellfish and crustaceans....

Film Review: The Serpent

April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

8 One-Hour Episodes Miniseries Released April 2nd on Netflix The Serpent is an intense miniseries based on the horrific true...

Heal the Bay Aquarium Under Santa Monica Pier Reopens

April 27, 2021

April 27, 2021

Aquarium opens with patio exhibits for weekends By Sam Catanzaro The Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier...

Santa Monica College Student Film to be Screened at Cannes

April 27, 2021

April 27, 2021

SMC student film “Broken Layers” accepted into The American Pavilion at Cannes By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica College (SMC) student...