It rose from the Great Depression of the 1930's and stands as one of the finest Art Deco structures in Dodge City.
The old Health Department building at 106 East Spruce just east of the U.S. Post Office is good example of one of the projects undertaken by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
In 1935, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order establishing the WPA. Funding came from the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act passed by Congress in January 1935. The WPA's intent was to curb the high unemployment rate, caused by the Depression, by providing Government jobs to thousands of workers. It also enhanced the Nation's infrastructure and facilities with its numerous buildings and upgrades.
Society felt having people gainfully occupied was better than having millions on the "dole." Most of the people hired by the WPA were unskilled men, but the program employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.
In 1935, the Government budgeted 6.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product or $4.9 billion for the agency, which works out to about $80 billion in today's money. When the WPA built the building which formerly held the Ford County Health Dept. in 1938, the WPA was at its peak. At that time, it employed three million men and women. A separate division the National Youth Administration hired many young people. During its existence the WPA employed 8.5 million people in all.
State and local governments covered 10 to 30 percent of the costs, with local businesses and organizations providing "in kind" donations of goods and services. The WPA was responsible for paying the workers and providing salaries to the supervisors.
The list of types of projects the WPA undertook is extensive. At first, the program concentrated on infrastructure such as roads, waterworks and rural electrification. As needs changed, they shifted to new buildings, including museums, schools, auditoriums, libraries and community centers. The WPA also constructed parks, fairgrounds, athletic facilities and stadiums, just to mention a few. They also improved existing structures and features.
World War II alleviated most of the unemployment problem by sending employable men into the military service. On June 30, 1943, The WPA was no longer needed and the program disbanded.
The Health Dept. Building is just one WPA project in Ford County. It originally housed the Ford County Welfare Dept. and, until recently, was home to the Health Dept. was has moved several blocks east to Avenue L. The one-and-half story edifice is built in the Art Deco style which was very popular in the 1930's.
Other WPA projects in the area include the Wright Park Band Shell (1935) and the Administration (terminal) Building at the Dodge City Municipal Airport (1941), as well as stone fences in some of our City parks. There is evidence WPA crews helped build or make improvements to the Dodge City Army Airfield which existed west of town during World War II.