Westmoreland County Historical Society

Hope in Hard Times

Hope in Hard Times

Mar 09th 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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 Authors Mike Carey, Tim Kelly, and Margaret Power will discuss their book about Norvelt.

 Recently available in paperback, the book will be available for purchase and signing by the authors.


In 1933, the federal government developed a number of initiatives to combat the ravages of the Great Depression as part of a comprehensive plan  known as The New Deal.  The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) allocated $25 million to create ‘subsistence homesteads’ for displaced and unemployed workers.   On April 13, 1934, Westmoreland Homesteads was established on 1,300 acres of farmland in Mount Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania.  The community was renamed Norvelt in 1937 in honor of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  

More than 1,800 applied to the program in the hope of transforming their desperate situation; 254 families were selected to participate. They worked with the federal government, under the guidance of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), to envision a new kind of community that would raise their standard of living through a cooperative lifestyle and enhanced civic engagement.

Norvelt stood out as a model among the nearly 100 homestead communities established nationwide during the Great Depression. Their efforts won them a nearly mythic status among those familiar with Norvelt’s history as they created a middle-class community that became one of the more successful of such programs.

Timothy Kelly, Margaret Power, and Michael Cary will discuss their book, Hope in Hard Times, and explore the many transitions faced by those who undertook this experiment. The authors will examine this still-unfolding narrative of transformation in one southwestern Pennsylvania town, and the struggles and successes of its original residents, against the backdrop of one of the most ambitious federal endeavors in United States history.

Reservations requested 724-532-1935 x210.  WCHS Members free; $7 for others.