Nearly 90 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt announced the New Deal, launching an unprecedented decade-long building spree that created parks, public art, monuments and much more.
“We’re surrounded by the legacy of the New Deal. It’s hidden in plain sight,” says Susan Ives of the Living New Deal (livingnewdeal.org), an organization that has documented more than 16,000 projects from the era, cataloged on its website and mobile app.
The University of California, Berkeley-based group also has published art and architecture map guides for Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco, available for purchase online.
Ives and her colleagues share some notable sites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Generations of music fans have enjoyed performances under the stars at this amphitheatre west of Denver. It was built by Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration workers, who moved over 50,000 cubic yards of earth and rocks to shape the site.
“It’s totally unique and acoustically perfect and carved out of the stone,” Ives says. U2, Dave Matthews and Stevie Nicks are among many who have recorded performances here.
More details: redrocksonline.com
Federal Trade Commission Building
Washington has hundreds of New Deal sites, from the National Zoo to the Jefferson Memorial. But even its government office buildings have something for visitors. At the Federal Trade Commission, located just off the National Mall, you’ll have a hard time missing the pair of 12-foot limestone statues called “Man Controlling Trade,” showing a muscle-bound human struggling to rein in a runaway stallion.
More details: ftc.gov/about-ftc/our-history/building-images
Government Camp, Oregon
This arts-and-crafts style ski lodge on the slope of Mount Hood has been called the “crown jewel” of the New Deal, with a wooden interior built around a 92-foot stone chimney. Artwork inside includes carved and inlaid wood, wrought iron, weavings, paintings, mosaics and stained glass. Dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 and now a National Historic Landmark, it still welcomes guests year-round.
More details: timberlinelodge.com
Rapid City, South Dakota
The New Deal created mammoth structures like dams and bridges, but it also had a touch of whimsy. How else to explain the seven giant prehistoric creatures grazing on a sandstone ridge overlooking Rapid City? The concrete residents of Dinosaur Park still celebrate the region’s many paleontological finds.
More details: blackhillsbadlands.com/business/dinosaur-park
Maritime National Historical Park
A museum operated by the National Park Service now stands on the site that was the San Francisco Aquatic Park. Originally built as a public bathhouse, the streamline moderne-style building looks like an ocean liner and includes colorful deep-sea-inspired murals.
More details: nps.gov/safr
One of the most popular projects in Texas, the River Walk beautified and preserved the San Antonio River, creating a linear park below street level with bridges, sidewalks and thousands of plants. Funded by the Works Progress Administration, the downtown park’s now lined with restaurants and shops.
More details: visitsanantonio.com
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
The New Deal created dozens of national wildlife refuges, including this tidal marsh along Delaware Bay. The refuge was constructed by a segregated Black Civilian Conservation Corps crew, which shaped the park from swampland. The 16,251-acre area attracts migratory waterfowl along the Eastern Seaboard.
More details: fws.gov/refuge/bombay_hook/
Central Park Zoo
The most prominent of more than 30 New Deal projects in New York’s famous park, the zoo was completed in just eight months. It was designed as a small-scale “picture-book zoo” to appeal to children. Although largely redesigned, you can still see traces of original construction, including the sea lion pool, and the gift shop, located in the original bird house.
More details: centralparkzoo.com
Griffith Park Astronomer’s Monument
In a city known for stars, you can pay homage to some of the world’s greatest scientists at the Griffith Park Observatory. “The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) did a lot of work there,” Ives says. “It’s an amazing space.” The monument, which features six astronomers including Copernicus and Galileo, was designed by a group of six local artists, including George Stanley, who also created the Oscar statuette.
More details: griffithobservatory.org
Jewel Box Greenhouse at Forest Park
Made with an arched steel frame and 50-foot cantilevered glass walls, this art deco masterpiece drew national attention when it opened in 1936. The building, officially known as the St. Louis Floral Conservancy, was renovated about 20 years ago, and showcases permanent and seasonal flower displays. It’s also a popular wedding venue.
More details: stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/parks/parks/Jewel-Box.cfm