Municipal Archives

​Resources for Researching Federal Relief Programs in Dallas, 1932-1939​

Pathfinder Number 6

Aimed at relief, recovery, and reform, the New Deal was President Franklin Roosevelt’s answer to the economic crisis triggered by the stock market crash of 1929.  With millions of Americans unemployed as a result of the financial collapse, the federal government took measures to get America back on its feet.  The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was the coordinating body for many of the government’s “alphabet agencies”.  With the national unemployment rate topping 25%, the WPA disbursed some $11 billion in work relief to millions of Americans between 1935 and 1942.  During this period, the City of Dallas executed a number of WPA projects, employing many of the more than 15,000 Dallasites who were on the local relief rolls.  The City of Dallas’s WPA park improvement projects totaled nearly $300,000 in federal funding.  A total of $124,000 was contributed by the City.  Dallas led the state with 13,365 people on local WPA payrolls.

A large and complex organization, the WPA programs were coordinated by federal, state, and local authorities.  The Dallas office of the WPA, organized under Texas Department #4, administered programs under several different organizations.  These programs included the Public Works Administration (PWA), which split funding between City and federal sources and built several buildings in Fair Park; the WPA, which constructed parks and built roads; the National Youth Administration (NYA), which contributed to the construction of Dealey Plaza; and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which built parks and did other outdoor construction. The CCC was most famous in Dallas for its camp at White Rock Lake, which had educational and training opportunities for young men. 

The citizens of Dallas benefited from more than just federally funded construction projects, however.  The WPA also worked to expand educational, health, library, and community related projects.  Needy Dallas residents benefited from sewing projects, a toy and shoe repair program, as well as a surplus commodities redistribution program.  The city as a whole profited culturally from such WPA programs as the Federal Art Project, a public art project that employed artists who painted murals at Fair Park, Dallas City Hall, and other locations; the Federal Music Project, which hired musicians to perform at free public concerts; and the Federal Writers Project, whose participants produced The WPA Dallas Guide and History.  

​The following table shows City of Dallas projects wholly or partly funded through federal programs: 

​​​Project​New Deal Agency​Built​​​Project​New Deal Agency​Built​
​Alamo Park
WPA​​1936-38​Lagow (Mildred Dunn) Park​WPA​1936-38
​Bachman Lake​CCC​1929-36​Lake Cliff Park​WPA​1928-36
​Cedar Crest Golf Course​CCC

​Maple (Maria Luna) Park​WPA​​1937
​City Park​WPA​​1930-39​Marsalis Zoo​WPA​​1932-28
​Cochran Park​WPA​​​1936-38​Martin Weiss Park​WPA​​1936-38
​Cole Park​WPA​​​1936-38​Monument Plaza​WPA​​1936-38
​Colonial Park​WPA​​​1936-38​Randall Park​WPA​​1936-37
​Dealey Plaza
​WPA​ funds
NYA labor
​1936-41​Reverchon Park​WPA​​1936
​Exall Park​WPA​​​1936-38​Robert E. Lee Park​WPA​​1936-38
Exline​WPA​​1936-38​Stevens Memorial Park​WPA​1934-39
​Fair Park​WPA​, CCC, PWA​1936Tietze Park​WPA​​1934
​Field-Frazier Park​WPA​​​1936-38​Tenison Park​WPA​​1941
​Fretz Park (Original)​WPA​​1926-38​​Tenison Memorial Park​WPA​​​1936-38
​Grauwyler Park​WPA​​1934​Wahoo (JJ Craft) Park​WPA​​​1936-38
​Harlee School​WPA​​​1936-38​White Rock Lake​WPA​​, CCC​1935-42
​Hogg School​WPA​​​1936-38
​Kiest Park​WPA​​1935

Manuscript and Paper-Based Materials

​Dallas Park and Recreation Department-Related Records

Collection 1995-023—Department of Park and Recreation General Subject Files, 1930-1970
Administrative correspondence and records concerning the day to day operation and construction of Park Department facilities. New Deal materials are not comprehensive and, in some files, entirely absent.

Collection 1995-022—White Rock Lake General Subject Files, 1921-1953
Administrative correspondence and records concerning the day-to-day operation and construction of White Rock Lake park facilities.

Collection 1995-043—Park Department Works Progress Administration Records, 1939-1940
Administrative correspondence and records concerning Lake Cliff Park, wading pool specifications, and city landscaping requirements.

Collection 2002-001—Park and Recreation Department Plans and Drawings, 1911-1960
Construction and planting plans for City of Dallas parks; includes master plans and drawings for White Rock Lake structures and landscaping and many Fair Park Texas Centennial buildings.

Collection 2005-006—Fair Park Esplanade Conservation
Information relating to the conservation of the Fair Park Esplanade which includes buildings that were created or adapted for the Texas Centennial and Pan-American Exposition.   

​Collection 2002-007—Fair Park Mural Conservation, 1999-2000
Photographs, condition reports, and treatment details relating to the conservation and restoration of murals created for the Texas Centennial and Pan-American Exposition.

Collection 1995-027—Fair Park, 1905-1918, 1930-1952
Administrative correspondence and records concerning Fair Park. Includes federal funding information only on buildings built by the City of Dallas or deeded to the City of Dallas after the Texas Centennial.

Collection 1995-032—Park and Recreation Department Subject Files:  Dealey Plaza, 1940-1942
Records concerning the construction of Dealey Plaza.

Collection 2003-015—Report on the Dallas Park System, 1934
Includes reports and information on park facilities receiving federal relief funds.

Collection 1997-009—Public Welfare, 1938-1946
Includes a copy of the 1938 Dallas Welfare Survey with statistics on federal relief funds.

Collection 2002-002—Public Works Department, 1935-38, 1979+
Includes information on public works that received federal relief funds.

Collection 1991-120—Dallas Flood and Levee Control Districts, 1919-1968
Includes information on Trinity River bridges built with federal relief funds.


Collection 1999-001—Map Collection, 1868
Maps created mostly by City departments for various city government functions, such as planning and public works. Maps often include information about city limits, extent of neighborhood development, and transportation details such as interurban lines, bus lines, and train tracks.

Collection 2006-004—Public Works and Transportation Department Maps, Plans, and Drawings
Includes some maps, plans, and drawings of public works projects that received federal relief funds.


Collection 2003-002—Dallas Park and Recreation Department Photographs [Addition], 1942-2003
Includes modern aerial photographs of federally-funded or assisted park projects, a 1940 album documenting CCC projects at White Rock Lake, and other visual documentation.

Collection 1991-060—Dallas Water Utilities Records, 1882-Current
Includes photographs of federally funded Dallas Water Utility relief projects. 

​Collection 2003-001—Aerial Map Photographs of Dallas, Texas 1930, 1949, 1974, 1979
Five hundred black and white photographic negatives and prints.  Aerial photographs of the entire City of Dallas for use by the city’s Public Works and Planning Departments.  Maps can be used to examine existing structures.

Records of the City Council, Boards, and Commissions

​​City Secretary’s Files/Council Action Files [City Council Minutes, Ordinances and Resolutions]
The Dallas City Council’s official records, which includes information on the allocation and implementation of federal relief funds.

Landmark Commission Minutes, 1987-Present
Contained in City Secretary’s Office Files by year in both hardcopy and microfiche. Indexes by year on microfiche. This body is charged with encouraging the use and/or adaptive reuse of historic buildings and houses within the City of Dallas. Includes Information on City of Dallas/federal projects proposed for or granted Landmark protection.

Dallas Park Board Minutes, 1905-1975
Includes reports and information on park facilities receiving federal relief funds.