Fairfield, Alabama

“Garden – lot 9, block 11. . . .  Garden of $20 a month home,” Fairfield, Alabama, 1917,
via Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Fairfield was a planned community built in 1910 for the workers of U.S. Steel’s plants in the Birmingham area. Its (mostly white) residents could either rent or purchase modern houses with indoor plumbing and central heating. There were also parks and playgrounds, churches, a public library, and 30,000 newly planted trees and shrubs.

The photograph is one of over sixteen thousand created or collected by Frank G. Carpenter and his daughter, Frances, to illustrate his geography textbooks and popular travel books.

Greenhills, Ohio

They might want to keep an eye on what’s going on behind them.

Swingset at Greenhills, Ohio, ca. 1938, probably by John Vachon for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Greenhills, Ohio, was one of three “Greenbelt Towns” built between 1935 and 1938 by the U.S. Resettlement Administration. (The other two are Greenbelt, Maryland, and Greendale, Wisconsin.) There are more Library of Congress photos of Greenhills here.

The Sunday porch: Dyess Colony

Porch, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of CongressBeautiful elephant ears. This porch belonged to a farming family who were “resettled” in “Colonization Project No. 1” in Mississippi County, Arkansas.

The photos* were taken in August 1935 by Arthur Rothstein. He was on assignment for the U.S. Farm Security Administration.

Children, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of Congres

The government-sponsored agricultural community had just been established the year before — the brainchild of local cotton planter William Reynolds Dyess, who was also Director of the Arkanasas Emergency Relief Administration.

Family, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of Congres

Dyess wanted to provide aid to displaced tenant farmers and sharecroppers. His idea was to put 800 families on 20 to 40-acre uncleared bottomland plots with new houses.

Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of Congres

The project — scaled back to 500 families — was underwritten by the New Deal Federal Emergency Relief Administration. (It was absorbed by the Farm Security Administration in 1944 and made independent of the federal government in 1951. )

“The colony was laid out in a wagon-wheel design, with a community center at the hub and farms stretching out from the middle. . ,” according to the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas. “Each house had five rooms with an adjacent barn, privy, and chicken coop. . . , plus a front and back porch.”

Another Dyess Colony House, Arkansas, 1935, Library of Congress
Another colony house with a mass of flowers along the front path.

Dyess was killed in a plane crash in 1936, and the colony was given his name.

Among the resettled farmers — all of whom were white — was the father of country singer Johnny Cash.  Cash lived  in house #266 from the age  of three until his high school graduation in 1950.

Today, Arkansas State University has restored the Cash home (open to the public) and is working on an adjacent original colony home, as well as the administration building and theater.

Sharecropper's house, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1935, Library of Congress

The 1935 photo above by Ben Shahn was captioned, “Sharecropper’s house optioned. Dyess Colony, Arkansas.”  I’m not sure what that means, but the picture gives an example of original local farm housing.

I like the small semi-circle of trees and the two chairs facing out on the left side.


*All photos but the last were by Rothstein, taken in August 1935. All are via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The dooryard bloom’d

Greenbelt, Md., 1938, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of CongressMother and daughter cut flowers in their cottage style garden in Greenbelt, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., September 1938, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Greenbelt was one of three* “Greenbelt Towns” created by the New Deal federal government in the late 1930s.  The built-from-scratch communities were designed to provide the best of both city and country living.

Greenbelt, Md., 1938, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of Congress

In addition to affordable housing, they incorporated commercial, medical, educational, and social facilities — all within park-like landscaping.

. . .Greenbelt was an experiment in both the physical and social planning that preceded its construction. Homes were grouped in superblocks, with a system of interior walkways permitting residents to go from home to town center without crossing a major street. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic were carefully separated. The two curving major streets were laid out upon and below a crescent-shaped natural ridge. Shops, school, ball fields, and community buildings were grouped in the center of this crescent.

. . .The first families were chosen not only to meet [low] income criteria, but also to demonstrate willingness to participate in community organizations.

[They] arrived on October 1, 1937, [and] found no established patterns or institutions of community life. Almost all were under 30 years of age. All considered themselves pioneers in a new way of life. A mix of blue and white collar workers, they reflected the religious composition of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.—Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish; but because of the racial bias controlling public policy at that time, all were white.†

. . .In 1952, when Congress voted to sell off the greenbelt towns, citizens in Greenbelt formed a housing cooperative (Greenbelt Veterans Housing Corporation, later Greenbelt Homes, Inc.)

— “The History of Greenbelt, Maryland

Greenbelt, MD, in 2005, HABS, via Library of Congress

Old Greenbelt” has been well preserved over the years and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.  The photo above shows some of its rowhouses with gardens in 2005.  It was taken by James W. Rosenthal for an Historic American Buildings Survey (via Library of Congress).

More Library of Congress photos of Greenbelt are here (1938) and here (2005).


*Along with Greendale, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee, and Greenhills, Ohio, near Cincinnati.

†The Census found that 41% of residents were African-American in 2000.