Chasing Bay Area Artifacts of the New Deal
Chasing Bay Area artifacts of the New Deal
Monday, September 1, 2008
(08-31) 18:41 PDT -- A stream tumbles down a rocky outcrop behind Lake Temescal's log-cabin-like boathouse, passing through shaded pools before flattening out on its way into the lake.
The stream looks as natural as the Oakland hills that rise to the east. In fact, it was built by federal workers in the 1930s - just like the boathouse, and just like hundreds of other Bay Area landmarks that endure as part of the region's physical and cultural heritage, even though they were spawned by an economic crisis.
"Millions of people enjoy these things all the time who have no idea where they came from," says Gray Brechin, a visiting scholar in UC Berkeley's geography department. "I think of it as a buried civilization."
Brechin is founder of the Living New Deal Project, a 4-year-old effort to catalog how California's landscape is marked by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression.
The goal was to have a definitive map finished this year, the 75th anniversary of FDR's first year in office. Instead, much of the state remains uncharted, especially rural areas. But what started as a personal mission has become a systematic endeavor. The California Historical Society manages the effort and is reaching out to members to find local caches of information that may exist; the Web site is maintained by UC Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Library.
"Gray would give talks, everyone would get excited, but it's hard to sustain that without an organization," says Richard Walker, a Cal geography professor who has been pulled into the effort. "We're trying to get people out in the hustings, have them find things we wouldn't know of ourselves."
The Bay Area legacy extends geographically from San Jose Civic Auditorium to buildings at Santa Rosa Junior College. The manicured romance of the Berkeley Rose Garden is part of the picture; so is a water pipe supplying Pacifica's Sharp Park Golf Course.
View entire article here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/31/MNR512IMSH.DTL
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