Norvelt is one of two government-assisted housing projects of the New Deal era in Pennsylvania (see Penn-Craft, FA15). It provided industrial workers, who were unemployed after mines closed in the 1920s, an opportunity to own their own homes, grow subsistence crops on a small plot of land, and work in a garment factory or on the cooperative farm. In 1933, the government purchased 1,492 acres of farmland and hired Paul A. Bartholomew to plan the community, then named Westmoreland Homesteads. By 1937, a central area, with a school, athletic fields, community buildings, and a factory designed by Alfred M. Marks of Pittsburgh, was surrounded by 254 Cape Cod–style houses on curvilinear streets. The remaining 720 acres formed the cooperative farm, with two handsome barns remaining on Kecksburg Road. In contrast to the minimally sized duplexes in most mining towns, the houses ranged from four to six rooms and had indoor plumbing. Each house had one to seven acres of land, with a garage, poultry house, and grape arbor. After Eleanor Roosevelt's tour of the completed Westmoreland Homesteads in 1937, residents voted to honor her by renaming the community Norvelt, combining the last syllables of her first and last names. The community's continued popularity and success are evident in the many additions to the houses and subdivisions of original plots of land for subsequent housing.
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