A New Deal for Historic Preservation: The Impact of Relief Funding on the Cultural Landscape of Pennsylvania, 1932-1941

Open Access
Calamia, Lynne Marie
Graduate Program:
American Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 23, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Anne Ayer Verplanck, Dissertation Advisor
  • Charles David Kupfer, Committee Member
  • Michael Lee Barton, Committee Member
  • Joseph James Cecere, Committee Member
  • historic preservation
  • Pennsylvania Historical Commission
  • Pennsylvania
  • Colonial Revival
  • Pennsbury Manor
  • Old Economy Village
As one of only a handful of states to have a government agency responsible for historic matters, Pennsylvania was well-positioned to benefit from funding made available through New Deal relief programs. New Deal labor and funding played a pivotal role during the formative years of the field of historic preservation, but its impact is often overlooked on both a regional and national level. Through analysis of the records of the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, this dissertation explores the significance of historic preservation undertaken using New Deal relief funds and its relationship to the national urge to celebrate, remember, and commemorate history. Recent scholarship has identified that historic sites are shaped by the ideals of the groups that rallied to preserve and interpret them. This study identifies how the Pennsylvania Historical Commission affected the development of the state’s cultural landscape using New Deal relief funds. Moreover, it explores the ways in which a legacy of political influence remains imprinted on state historical landmarks. The effect New Deal funding had on heritage management systems in Pennsylvania can offer broad insights into the formation of the character of the cultural landscape of the United States and the development of the field of historic preservation. This research expands on previous findings and contributes additional evidence that the history of historic preservation needs to be revisited in order to reveal fully the political and cultural dynamics of preservation and commemoration