Stories from the Great Depression in Johnson County, Part 1

Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry is a national traveling exhibition and program about the causes and aftermath of the Dust Bowl.  The exhibit and programs will be held at the Central Resource Library, 9875 W. 87th Street, Overland Park, Kansas, 66212 from July 2-August 16.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to provide work for millions of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression.  In Johnson County, Gardner Lake, tourist cabins, and the beach house at the lake were constructed as part of the WPA from 1935-1938 to relieve the area’s drought conditions.  The WPA was an important aspect of President Roosevelt’s New Deal until the program ended in 1943.

WPA time card box from the Gardner Lake construction project in the late 1930s.  The box is on display at the Johnson County Museum.

WPA time card box from the Gardner Lake construction project in the late 1930s. The box is on display at the Johnson County Museum.

The beach house is one of the few remaining structures in Johnson County resulting from Depression-era relief projects.  The WPA Beach House at Gardner Lake was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 because of its historical significance.

Construction at Gardner Lake, circa 1937.

Construction at Gardner Lake, circa 1937.

The Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry exhibition was organized by the American Library Association Public Programs Office, the Oklahoma State University Library and the Mount Holyoke College Library.  It was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

Cosponsored by the Johnson County Library and the Johnson County Museum.

– Matt Gilligan, Johnson County Museum

The Gardner Lake Beach House in 2006.

The Gardner Lake Beach House in 2006.

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