Furniture in Greenbelt

Satisfactory Essays
Furniture in Greenbelt

A Sign of the Tough Times

A view of the front of a typical housing project in the planned community of Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt community was built beginning in 1937 as low income housing for people who were making between $1,200 and $2,000 dollars a year. The houses were built at minimum cost and this means that the rooms are small. Thus special furniture was designed in order to fit into these small houses and to provide sturdy, economical, and good looking furnishings for the new residents. "Instead of following the conventional pattern of designing the house from the outside in, Resettlement architects have built primarily from the inside out." (House Beautiful 1937) Miss Elizabeth Hofflin, the technical consultant for the Resettlement Administration, was quoted as saying "We made the furniture to fit the small rooms of these low-rent units. We found that ordinary living room furniture would overflow from wall space and block doorways and windows." (Daily News, April 20, 1937)

"The furniture you see was built for these rooms and for these rooms alone."(House Beautiful, April 1937)

The furniture that was designed for Greenbelt needed to be very affordable. "The idea was to provide essential items of furniture which will fit into a minimum amount of space and at the same time make them attractive, low-priced and extremely durable."(Daily News, April 20, 1937) Miss Hofflin explains, "we concentrated upon strong construction and simple design, which can be made with the least expense with factory machines. We used the three cheapest woods--maple, oak and gum; we have no acquaintances at all with mahogany and walnut." The government was able to furnish the Greenbelt community for very little money with careful planning and very frugal designers.

And the furniture was affordable! In 1939 a resident of Greenbelt was able to furnish his entire household for $239.97. The full amount was paid off by the resident over a four year period at $5 a month. There was also a 3% interest charge payable in monthly installments of $2.50. This was an excellent deal for these New Deal residents. The federal government assisted the original Greenbelters, first, by building them an inexpensive home and, second, by enabling them to furnish their houses economically as well. In this way, the government provided many families with an opportunity to set up housekeeping on their own that they otherwise would not have had. Kimberly Myers expresses similar views on the government helping out the people in her exhibition on the construction of Greenbelt.
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