The New Deal in Waterville Maine part 1

With Mayor Eugene Thayer becoming CWA and later FERA administrator in 1933, Waterville took full advantage of Federal assistance in dealing with the terrible effects of pervasive unemployment and stagnating economic activity and continued up until the New Deal programs were liquidated in 1942. Waterville had a population of 15,454 in 1930.


Mayor’s Report Eugene Thayer (local Federal Relief Administrator)


It early became apparent that the increasing demands for relief for needy citizens would impose a burden too heavy for the City to bear if proper relief were to be furnished. Accordingly, on March 8, 1933, before your present administration assumed office, I undertook steps to make available, through Governor Brann, funds for relief work from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Federal funds from this source became exhausted on May 22, and from that date assistance in our relief work has been received, through Governor Brann, from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Approximately $20,000 for this purpose was made available through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and there is no obligation on the part of the City, moral or legal, for the repayment of this money. Funds received from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration have been supplied as a direct grant for this purpose and have been disbursed, by the Mayor as local Federal Emergency Relief Director.

It early became apparent that it was desirable to disburse these funds, where possible, by furnishing work to needy, able-bodied heads of families, and through this disbursement for work relief much has been accomplished in the beautification of our parks, roadways, and sidewalks.. Our streets and country roads have been reditched and improved, and approximately three miles of new cement sidewalks have been constructed at slight cost to the City. The demands for relief are still very heavy and will so continue for some time to come.


On November 15, in the face of rapidly mounting unemployment and relief needs, a meeting was called at Washington to put into effect the Civil Works Administration. It was my privilege to receive an invitation from Harry L. Hopkins, Federal Civil Works Administrator, to attend this meeting in Washington. As a result of this meeting, Civil Works Project No. 1— the extension of Gilman Street— was the first project in the state of Maine to be approved, and on November 20 this work was inaugurated. The projects to be approved have been as follows: C.W.A. No. 1— Gilman Street; No. 1-A— Public Library repairs; No. 1-B— Averill Field and swimming Pool; No. 1-C— Skating rink; No. 1-D— Tree removal and planting; No. 1-E— Public building repairs; No. 1-F— Ornamental street lighting; No. 1-C— Gilman Street Bridge; No. 1-H— (Sewing project; No. 1-1— Sewers; No. 1-J— School records; No. 1-K— Gravel sidewalks; No. 1-L— cleaning river banks; No. 1- M— Gravel roads; No. 1-N— Street signs; No. 1-0— Airport; No. 1-P— Administrative. These projects will bring much improvement of lasting value to the City of Waterville at small expense. There has already been expended by the Federal Government, for wages alone, on these projects approximately $75,000, which has been distributed to needy unemployed persons in Waterville. The results of this work are already apparent in the improvement of morale of our citizens and in its benefits to our local merchants. Labor for this work has been furnished by the Federal Government through the local Federal Employment Office, and more than 500 persons have been employed in regular work at fair wages. There has fallen upon your Mayor, as local Civil Works Administrator, a considerable amount of work and planning to secure the approval of these projects and the inauguration of the work. This, however, is insignificant as compared with the lasting benefit which the City will receive. There are some things which I believe should be commented on in connection with this work. In order to make the construction of the Gilman Street Bridge possible, by vote of the City Government, the City has entered into a contract with the State of Maine whereby we are to construct this bridge on a contract price of $16,000, thus enabling the City to receive a contribution to the cost of materials by the State of $4,000 and by the County of Kennebec of $4,800. It is estimated that the Civil Works Administration will contribute approximately $30,000 of this cost, and the net resulting cost to the City of Waterville should be not over four or five thousand dollars. In order to secure improvement for the airport— a very desirable improvement for the community— the City has entered into an agreement of lease, with option to purchase, with the owners of the airport, this condition being precedent to any activity by the Civil Works Administration. This contract will not involve any expense to the City of Waterville but will result in securing for this locality improvements that should make this airport one of the finest in the State of Maine. I desire also to call particular attention to the many benefits which have been secured through the sewing project, supervised by Mrs. Blye Drew. Clothing of all kinds has been furnished, through the Poor Department, for the relief of needy persons. More than 400 mackinaws have been made and distributed to minimum paid Civil Works employees engaged in outdoor work, in this, the most severe winter we have experienced in a generation.

Street Commissioners Report

On account of frost ruining many of our streets and roads for the lack of proper ditches or drainage the entire city was ditched by the relief crews. I feel that there will be some relief from heaving of our thorofares by so doing.

Fire Department Report


The CWA laid the last section of flooring in the Central Station and built a new hose drying rack and also painted and papered the interior of Hose No. 4 house. Hose No. 3 house interior was painted last spring by the driver there. Previous to the CWA work only minor repairs were attempted.

Free Library Report

The need for a Children’s Room has been keenly felt for several years past and only lack of funds has prevented the setting aside and equipping a room of this kind. During the past year Mayor Thayer presented this project to the CWA and was able to bring about its approval. As a result of this, work was begun in December to provide an adequate Children’s Room. All of the cost for labor and nearly one half of that for material was made available through CWA funds and without cost to the City. The work is nearly complete and the room will be ready for opening in the near future. Your Trustees feel that this is a distinct step forward and will enable the library to provide a wider service than has been possible in the past.


For many years it has been the hope of some of our trustees that a children’s room might be provided in the basement of the library and in cooperation with the Mayor and the C. W. A. this hope has been realized and a very fine and attractive children’s room has been made possible. The only thing necessary to make this one of the attractive rooms of the library is the installation of shelving room for books and suitable furniture. Arrangements have been made for this equipment and within a very short time this room will be available for use.

Support of Poor Report

Supplies for N.R.A. Office___________ 100.31

The Emergency Relief and C.W.A. projects have been a great assistance to our department, but the number of unemployed during the year was so large that it brought a heavy burden on this department. In all, 496 families, 2,719 men, women and children, have been helped by this department this year, which is about 35% more taken care of than last year. We have also moved families that belonged to the City of Waterville but who were living in outside cities and towns, back to Waterville where we could take care of them cheaper and at the same time be in direct contact with them.

Report of City Park Commission

Regardless of the fact that our yearly allowance for this work was the smallest that the City Government has allowed the Commission for years, through the help of the Federal Aid Money the parks have been maintained in the usual way and have not been neglected in any manner.


Through the aid of the Federal C W A funds we were able to erect and maintain two ice skating rinks.


Also, through the efforts of our Honorable Mayor, he secured an allowance from the C W A Federal Funds for a much needed work on our trees. A crew under the engineer in charge, Mr. Wesley Marden has been trimming the trees and taking down the dangerous trees and limbs.

Department of Public Schools

Through the efforts of the city officials, funds from the Federal! government have been made available for much needed work in the building that would otherwise have remained undone for many years. During the summer months the corridor, auditorium, and gymnasium walls and ceilings were cleaned and refinished with washable paint. Early in the fall the balcony was removed from the end of the gymnasium. This permits of a regulation basketball surface, 60 ft. long and 3-5 ft. wide. Formerly the playing surface of 47 ft. square was especially inadequate for the Senior- High School basketball teams that are obliged to use the Junior High gymnasium. During the Christmas vacation twenty classrooms received the- same treatment as did the corridors in the summer. At the present writing 650 auditorium chairs have been repaired and are; being varnished. It is a source of gratification to the administration that the most recent project to be undertaken is that which is being carried on by unemployed teachers.

School Physician


A short while ago, the Federal and State Welfare associations instituted a plan whereby undernourished children in each community would be thoroughly examined for any signs of malnutrition, and then to be given more nourishing foodstuffs. After the principal of each school in Waterville had selected those whom they felt were undernourished the School Nurse and myself checked over each child brought before us and a list was made which was submitted to the Superintendent’s office. During the first week of January, 1934, these children, numbering close to 375 were carefully examined by a group of volunteer physicians and with the child went a report of their physical condition which report will be turned in to the office of our local Health Officer who will see that proper foodstuff will be given to the needy ones. I shall report more about this program in my next report to you.


Some weeks ago application was made through the Civil Works Administration for an allocation of Federal funds to be devoted to school-house repairs. This application was approved and work promptly started. Much has been done at the Junior High, North Grammar, South Grammar, Western Ave., Grove St. and Walnut St. buildings. Very recently these activities have stopped but I have no doubt they will be continued and finally completed when another appropriation is made by the Congress. The completion of these various school projects will put our buildings in better condition than they have been for many years. Nothing has been undertaken that was not necessary for the proper upkeep of the school-houses. There was a genuine need for everything that has been done thus far. Much credit for the success of this enterprise justly belongs to Mayor Thayer. He has not only shown an interest in our plans but has been very largely instrumental in obtaining the funds and seeing the work along toward completion.


Mayors Report


There never has been so great a demand upon the City’s Poor Department for relief as during the year just closed. Independent charitable organizations in the City have not been able to help very much because of lack of sufficient funds. Much less direct relief was received from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration this year than in the year previous. So the burden has fallen heavily upon the Poor Department. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, through work relief projects, such as the building of a barn and repairs to the house at the City Home, the building of concrete pavement for streets and sidewalks, the repairs to the drainage system, the repairs to public buildings, the grading and other work at the Airport, the swimming pool and Averill Athletic Field, the construction of fire prevention pools in the rural section, the removal of dangerous trees along our streets, and other useful work, has helped very materially to keep unemployed persons from being obliged to ask for support from the poor department. Much government food and clothing has been distributed from F. E. R. A. headquarters at the Walnut Street School. A sewing project and a mattress factory project have furnished clothing and mattresses to many needy cases.

The Gilman Street Bridge, since named “ Thayer Memorial Bridge” , which was undertaken as a C. W. A. project in 1933 was completed under F. E. R. A. early in 1934. Although the cost of this project exceeded the estimate by several thousand dollars, due to a sharp advance in the price of materials after construction started and to difficult working conditions because of extremely cold weather, it is a beautiful, well constructed and useful memorial to the vision and ability of the late Mayor Thayer to plan and bring to pass this project which will he an everlasting benefit to the City. The total cost of the bridge was $72,312.10 of which C. W. A. and F. E. R. A. paid $46,882.51, the State of Maine paid $2,418.61, the County of Kennebec paid $5,432.56 and the City of Waterville paid $17,578.42.


Streets and county roads have been maintained in good condition, about the usual amount of tar and chloride having been applied. Western Avenue from Elm Street to the Oakland Town Line was designated by the State Highway Commission as state aid Highway No. 8. About 800 feet of concrete pavement was laid using F. E. R. A. labor. The sewer was repaired before pouring the cement. With the State’s part of the cost which was approximately $5,326.00 very little of the City’s money was required to do this work.

Board of Finance

I recommend that the incoming administration investigate the possibility of obtaining a P. W. A. grant for the proposed addition to the Senior High School and also formulate plans for the use of federal funds alloted to Maine to construct an Armory which might be used for a community building. These are much needed projects which would give employment to many people and help business.

Street Commissioners Report


About 800 ft. of concrete paving was constructed on Western Avenue this being approved a State Aid (Road. The labor was furnished by the E. R. A., thus affecting a large saving to the city.

The sidewalk work of the Street Department this year has been confined to upkeep and repair. The E. R. A. have constructed 8232 ft. of concrete sidewalks and 14,125 ft. of gravel sidewalks in various parts of the city.

New Sewers

The sewer from College Avenue to the Kennebec River, south of the Keyes Fibre Company, was taken up and replaced with a 15 inch sewer. The sewer on lower Water Street was taken up and relaid. These two jobs were done by the E. R. A. and have been a saving to the city. At present the E. R. A. are working on Western Avenue taking up an 8 inch sewer and replacing it with a 15 inch pipe.

City Electricians Report

My term of office began in August and since that time a concrete tunnel has been constructed between the Central Fire Station and the Battery House, a distance of approximately fifty feet. This serves to house the various pipes and conduits necessary for the proper functioning of the fire alarm system. It is large enough for men to work in and any future repairs or additions can be readily taken care of. About eight thousand feet of new lead cable was laid in the underground ducts along the principal streets. Some work still remains to be done in connecting these cables and when this is finished the underground cables will be in first class condition. All labor for building the tunnel and pulling the cables was furnished by the F. E. R. A.

Fire Department Report


A concrete wall was put under the wet side of Hose 4 house and the roof of Central .Station is being repaired and the upstairs of Central Station is being painted by the E. R. A. Other than that only minor repairs were made.

Free Library Report

It is a pleasure to report the fact that the Junior Room has been completed and is now an important factor. The Children’s Room Committee, Mrs. Mary S. Heath, Chairman, and the Treasurer George D. Hegarty have been untiring in their efforts to hasten its completion and to make it most attractive. Only by visiting this room may one fully realize how great was the need for such a department and the enthusiastic use which our children now make of it.

The Children’s Room Project undertaken by the C.W.A. and the City in December 1933 has been successfully completed. The room with its warmly tinted walls and gay curtains needed only the furnishings from the old children’s room and a new charging desk to make it usable. To accommodate the increasing number a desk and bench for the younger children and stools were designed and made by C. W. A. workers.

Support of Poor

The City Home, under the able management of Mr. and Mrs. Napoleon Bisson, in spite of increasing demands and improvements made at the home, by close cooperation with the department, made a saving of over $1,500.00 over last year. Steam heat, and a toilet were installed on the third floor of the home to make it inhabitable for the old people. We bought the materials and the E. R. A. furnished the labor. Another long felt need for the farm was a barn. Heretofore they had no suitable place to store the hay or keep the cattle. A new barn was built as a relief project by the E. R. A. They furnished labor and material so that now, we have a modern barn at almost no cost to the city.

Of course, the controlling factor in keeping our expenses as low as they were is the thousands of dollars expended for relief by the E. R. A. They have given us the closest cooperation and our relations have been most pleasant. Without the E. R. A. no one could tell how we could have survived the year. Our thanks to Mrs. Blye Drew supervisor of the E. R. A. sewing room, who has worked hard to cooperate in saving money for this department.

Transportation of C. C. C. b o y s____ $179.54

Report of City Park Commission


Several consultations were held with the Mayor and the State CWA Administrator at Augusta, effecting a very liberal appropriation from the Federal Government for the construction of a concrete dam and the rebuilding of the swimming pool. The fencing of the athletic field was completed and at the present time thru the efforts of the local ERA Administrator a large crew is engaged in excavating, grading, ditching and enlarging the summer playgrounds adjoining the swimming pool. All the above work will be completed by early spring giving our City one of the best and largest outdoor swimming pools and playgrounds in the State. A very needy undertaking is also carried on thru the office of the ERA Administrator in the care and trimming of the City’s shade trees and the removing of the old stumps and dead trees throughout the City. All of this work being carried on by the Federal Appropriation and under the supervision of our local Administrator.


Mayors Report


Our streets, roads, sidewalks, sewers and bridges have been well maintained and are in good condition. With the joint state aid fund and the assistance of WPA labor, College Avenue from the Elmwrood Hotel to the first railroad crossing was resurfaced.

United States work program project number WPMS 352 has constructed 64-100 of a mile of road on the west River Road or Sidney road about two miles from the Emerson Memorial Bridge. The only cost to Waterville in connection with this project was for land damage caused by changing the course of the highway. This amounted to approximately $700.00. The work gave employment to a crew of Waterville men for a period of several weeks. It consisted of rebuilding the culvert over Lowe Brook making a large concrete box long enough to carry a big fill which raised the road bed several feet at the bottom of the hills. The road was straightened and the top of the hills on both sides cut down so that a great improvement was effected, and a danger spot eliminated. This is one step in improving the road from Waterville to Augusta on the west side of the Kennebec River.

Fire Department

The several fire prevention pools which were constructed by WPA in the rural section of Waterville have already proved their value in furnishing a water supply which doubtless has already saved two houses. Some of these pools were partly filled with dirt and otherwise damaged by the freshet last spring. I recommend that this dirt be removed and other necessary repairs be made as soon as practical in order that this water supply may be ready at all times for use in case of fire.


The west wing addition to the Senior High School has been completed. The four class rooms have been furnished and some tools and machines purchased for the machine shop. The total cost is $42,270.00 of which a PWA grant covers 45% and the balance was given by interested Waterville people so that the expense paid from the City Treasury is negligible. This additional room was much needed and is now all in use. The gymnasium auditorium wing on the east end is also much needed and should be built as soon as funds are available.


The Works Progress Administration has carried on several useful projects during the year. Among them was a Public Records Project under the supervision of Edward A. Simoneau. They did valuable work in arranging and cataloging Police and Court records, vital statistics, school records and records of the Treasurer and Tax Collector. The Sewing Project under Mrs. Blye Drew makes clothing for needy families especially children. The Cemetery Project under the general supervision of Mr. Edward G. Crosby has developed a new section of Pine Grove Cemetery making available several new burial lots. Road building and sewer construction projects have been working on newly accepted rights of way running through the Mayflower Hill development of Colby College. These projects have been very helpful to the City and to the College in the preliminary work necessary to prepare this new site for the College. A mapping project under the supervision of Mr. Francis Y. Armstrong has done some very valuable work in mapping the City, marking lots and obtaining pictures and description of property suitable for use of the assessors in making the assessment for tax purposes. Aside from giving employment to about 250 people much work of value to the City has been accomplished which could not be done by our regular departments.

Department of Education


Taking advantage of the offer of the Federal Government to donate forty-five per cent of the cost of two additions to the Senior High School building, a group of citizens under the leadership of Dr. Franklin W. Johnson, President of Colby College, organized and conducted a campaign to raise by public subscription sufficient funds to meet the Government’s offer. In spite of the tremendous effort on the part of the committee only enough money was raised to provide for one addition, the one containing the class-rooms and the machine shop.

The total amount made available by local effort and by Government grant was $42,270. This amount has been expended under Federal approval as follows:

Preliminary Expense ….. $ 306 86

Architect …………………… 1,625 86

Engineer ……………………… 380 00

Contractor……………….. 32,517 13

Insurance………………………… 21 62

Equipment………………….. 7,418 53

Total…………………………$42,270 00

The plans were drawn by Bunker & Savage of Augusta and the general contract awarded to Milliken & Shea of Ellsworth. Specifications for furnishing the equipment were prepared and submitted for bids. No awards were made except on Federal approval, first by the Assistant State Director and finally by the Regional Office at Concord, N. H.

School Health Departments

A considerable number of children have received prophylactic treatment from the P. W. A. dental hygienist working with the children of those parents doing P. W. A. work.

Support of Poor

Again, we must not forget or fail to be thankful for W. P. A. At present, there are 315 men and women at work on projects in our city. It is true it would be of much more value to the Poor Department if the clerk could assign those who work, but it does help and let us be thankful for that. Mrs. Blye Drew, supervisor of W. P. A. sewing again commands our thanks for her close cooperation with this department.

Mention of W. P. A. again forces me to call to your attention the fact that with all of our industries working at almost full capacity there are still 565 families being supported by public funds in the city as the fiscal year closes, 250 in the Poor Department and 315 on Federal projects. Unless some industry is brought to Waterville, sooner of later, these people will all be supported by the city.

Report of Street Commissioner

Western Avenue was nearly completed to the Bridge with cement at a cost of about $7000.00. WPA labor was used on both streets. Had we been able to get this labor in June, as we tried to do, Western Avenue would have been completed to the Bridge. The use of this labor affected a large saving to the city.


55,512 gallons of Tar were used on the streets this year and one car of calcium chloride. The appropriation for this work was $8000.00. We secured WPA labor as far as possible to do this work. The cost of material used was approximately $7600.00.


The sewers which were under construction a year ago by the WPA were finished this year and a new sewer was built on Hillside Avenue about 200 ft. long.

Report of City Engineer

On Mayflower Hill several new streets were laid out and others discontinued to allow the W. P. A. to continue the Street and’ Sewer work.


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