by Kristi Hawthorne, Oceanside Living Magazine
During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a works program in 1935 to help millions of unemployed Americans by creating building projects to provide jobs. The Works Progress Administration (or Works Projects Administration) was commonly known as the WPA. Throughout the U.S. these jobs put over 8 million people to work by building 650,000 miles of roads, thousands of parks and bridges, hundreds of airports, and over 100,000 public buildings. In addition, The Federal Arts Project employed artists to create public art.
In Oceanside the WPA was responsible for building Oceanside’s first permanent Post Office building in 1935. This historic building also contains two projects commissioned by the Treasury
Section of Fine Arts, which like the Federal Arts Project, provided murals and other art forms to decorate public buildings. A beautiful 16' x 6' mural of the San Luis Rey Valley and its Mission,
entitled “Air Mail” by Elise Seeds hangs in the lobby. A carved wooden eagle and grille over the front entrance was done by Stuart Holmes.
In 1936, a WPA project was approved to build a beach stadium. The government allocated $5200 to pay the cost of labor and also a portion of the construction materials.
The stadium seating was completed in 1937 and is still used today.
Also completed that year, was the building of a “ramp” from Pacific Street to the Strand. This was actually an extension of First Street (now Seagaze) providing vehicle access. The First Street extension brought vehicles directly to the Strand providing easy access to the beach near the pier plaza and stadium. Prior to this, the closest access was north on Sixth Street (now Surfrider) or south at Wisconsin Avenue.
Other projects in Oceanside included Recreation Park, a large park along the east side of Mission Avenue between Brooks and Barnes Streets. Along with several playing fields for baseball, it included bleachers, dressing rooms and a playground, enclosed by an expansive adobe wall. The $22,862 project employed 51 men for six months in 1939 and 1940.