A Public Meeting of the KPL Board of Trustees will be held at 5 pm Monday, December 11, 2023 at Central Library/Van Deusen. Information can be found on the library’s website. 

New Deal Projects


Works Progress Administration poster, Library of Congress Collection

Throughout the late 1930s, the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal programs (Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, Civil Works Administration, Farm Security Administration, e.g.) flooded local communities with Federal money that was used for two primary purposes: 1) To provide men and women work opportunities and 2) To make improvements to the community’s social, cultural and economic infrastructure. The following local projects were completed during the Great Depression, a time period when the local unemployment rate averaged around 25% (the state rate was over 40%). Compared to the nation as a whole, Kalamazoo managed the financial instability and economic setback rather well. Despite its successes, the city of Kalamazoo still had thousands of men and women who were either unemployed or underemployed. The federal money helped local officials to address major infrastructure problems that otherwise would likely have been neglected because of cost. For example, despite the city knowing about the tribulations associated with hazardous railroad crossings at various points along Michigan Avenue for years, it wasn’t until money from the WPA allowed the city, state and railroad company to be able to construct safer, less troublesome roadways. The result was the grade separation project at the intersection of East Michigan Avenue and Riverview Drive that saw the construction of the elevated railroad tracks. The legacy of many of these depression-era works projects are still visible today.


Project details researched by John Urschel, City of Kalamazoo Records and Information Manager, January 2007. Reposted by KPL staff, November 2023

  • Milham Park & golf course improvements
  • Milham Park bathhouse
  • Crane Park improvements
  • City Light Plant electric service conduits to schools
  • Removal of abandoned street car tracks
  • Stone gutter work on hillside streets
  • Fieldstone retaining walls for Axtell, Arcadia and Portage creeks
  • Riverfront Park improvements
  • Red Arrow Park improvements
  • Riverside Cemetery improvements
  • Michigan Avenue repaving
  • Riverside Cemetery sunken garden, retaining walls, entryway
  • Milham Park walks, bridges, stone walls, drains, dam, horseshoe courts
  • Riverfront Park artificial pond, redirected river channel, roads, baseball diamond
  • Crane Park brick roads and walks, retaining walls, comfort station
  • Western half of Upjohn Park
  • Graded Lindbergh Field, remodeled hangar
  • Improvements to sidewalks curbs, library platform, garage, bleachers, archery range, fireplaces, and parking lots at Western State Teacher’s College
  • Removed diseased trees, and re-planted 150 new
  • Milham Park picnic grounds
  • Entrance to Riverside Cemetery
  • Pitcher Street repaving
  • Burdick Street repaving
  • Lacrone Park playground and wading pool
  • Rebuilt stairs at Kalamazoo State Hospital
  • Made improvements to Red Arrow Park
  • Developed second nine holes at Milham Park golf course
  • Grade separation/viaduct construction East Michigan Avenue
  • Began construction on Waldo Stadium
  • Made improvements to grounds of Kalamazoo State Hospital
  • Built walls to improve Riverside Cemetery
  • Two tennis courts at Crane Park
  • 15,000 seat natural amphitheater at Memorial Park
  • Developed grandstand, track, tennis court fences, sidewalks, drains and baseball field at WSTC
  • Rockwell Park
  • Two softball fields at Hays Park
  • Verburg Park
  • Versluis Park
  • Bronson Park redesign/fountain
  • Completed construction of Western State Teacher’s College’s Waldo Stadium
  • Crane Park botanical garden
  • Made improvements to Mountain Home Cemetery grounds
  • Douglass Community Association facility at Ransom and Pitcher streets
  • Crosstown ponds
  • Built runways, sewers and lighting at Kalamazoo Municipal Airport



“An FDR legacy”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 24 October 1991, page B1, column 1

Local History Room Files

Subject File: WPA

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