The WPA was started under President Roosevelt’s administration to pay men out of work due to the Great Depression to construct projects that were in the public interest. Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood is one of those projects.
WPA employees tended to be older, skilled craftsmen and they were paid 95 cents an hour. The CCC – Civilian Conservation Corps – was a place where younger men, ages 18-21, could learn on the job. CCC workers earned 55 cents an hour and tended to do less demanding work like clearing brush and building campsites.
The Lodge was built by men talented at wood working and iron mongering. From start to finish, the structure went up in 15 months. The building was dedicated by the President himself.
The WPA didn’t pull the United States economy out of the Depression; World War II did. But the WPA gave men the dignity of work, and created some lasting monuments to the craftsmanship of U.S. laborers.
There’s a lot of debate, especially in this highly politicized run-up to the November election, over whether government stimulus money has done anything to alleviate unemployment, or whether we should have simply let market forces work. These days stimulus funds don’t go to create big visible monuments like Timberline Lodge. The funds are supposed to go to “shovel-ready projects”, but most of us would be hard-pressed to point to anything in our actual communities that stimulus money has built.
Stimulus money is supposed to help create demand, and demand is supposed to call forth a market for goods and services. When no one else is spending the government spends, and that should help rev up a faltering economy. At least that’s what economists like Paul Krugman believe.
I wonder if Franklin Roosevelt thought like that, or whether he simply needed something useful for all these out of work guys begging on street corners to do.
You can argue in the abstract about stimulus spending and the effect on the deficit. But being without work is a terrible thing. Timberline Lodge is a proud place, as if the ghosts of the men who built it still linger on the hand-hewn wooden steps and in the hallways. You’d be hard pressed to look them in the eye and say the government should have sat on its hands in the face of massive unemployment, that the Lodge should never have been built.