Arthurdale Reviewed: Sustainable New Deal Housing in Appalachia

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This work in progress is connected to Eleanor Roosevelt’s passion to provide residents of an Appalachian coal-mining town an opportunity to live in a community based on principles of sustainability and social justice. Arthurdale, West Virginia was designed as an ideal community with each family receiving a new home and a plot of land with sufficient acreage to produce their own needs for food. Each home had its own above-ground root cellar and was designed to make the family as independent as possible. Local artisan workshops provided wage-earning jobs and community functions were housed in a town center building.

This work in progress revisits that town to learn from the residents how the models have transformed with time. Most houses are still in existence, but with alterations to suit changing needs. The goal of this study is to see what insights of sustainable design can be gleaned from the lived experience of its residents over time. A mixed methods approach will be used, with both surveys and interviews used as tools within both a quantitative and qualitative framework.

Expected results will find that longitudinal differences in family lifestyle are reflected in home renovations, and the demographic changes in family makeup have had a strong influence on home adaptations. As new generations of homeowners seek innovations in housing models, the historical lessons of Arthurdale can provide relevance.



housing, Appalachia