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Just northwest of the town of Granger is one of the earliest realizations of New Deal public-supported housing. 25One element of Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 was the Federal Subsistence Homesteads Corporation. The task of this new federal corporation was to provide low-density singlefamily housing where the plot of land would be sufficient for families to grow at least part of their own food. Granger was selected as one of these homestead communities because of the economic plight of the coal miners of the area and because of the energetic activities of the local Catholic priest, Father Luigi Ligutti. In the spring of 1934 Granger was funded for 50 homesteads, each of which would have 3 to 5 acres of land. Construction of these four- to six-room houses started in the winter of 1935, and all 50 were completed by the end of the year. In 1942 the project became a cooperative. As with other Subsistence Homestead projects across the country, the image selected for these modest one-and-a-half-story dwellings was the Colonial, in this case the Colonial Cape Cod cottage which was then very popular. These little cottages exhibit a sidehall plan, and there is a pair of narrow gabled roof dormers within the front roof plane. Many of the original 50 houses have now been modified, some expanded to well over double their original size. New single-family housing has also been injected in the area, so that it has the feel of a partially planned suburban development. The Granger homesteads can best be reached by traveling due west out of Granger on route F31.

Within town, at the northwest corner of State and Sycamore streets, is a new building that is easy to miss, the Benton State Bank, designed in 1981–1982 by Charles Herbert and Associates. The reason the building is so easy to overlook is that it reminds one of a midwestern farmhouse sited among both lawn and trees. The lower floor with its clapboard sheathing and double-hung windows seems purposely ordinary. Its Postmodern character emerges in the large stepped window placed within its street-side dormer. Within, the architects have provided a play between a Modernist open space and detailing that hints at nineteenth-century design.


Dorothy Schwieder, Patterns and Perspectives in Iowa History.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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