Historic photos show Sonoma County after the Great Depression
As a largely agricultural community, Sonoma County was hit especially hard by the Great Depression. From 1929 and well into the 1930s, a record-breaking stock market crash led to an economic downturn that would devastate the nation.
Millions of Americans were out of work, consumer debt was skyrocketing, and the agricultural sector was struggling due to drought and falling food prices. Hundreds of homeless people, both resident and transient, filled “hobo jungles” along Santa Rosa’s railroad tracks, and locals like “Dad” Burchell set up impromptu soup kitchens in empty lots with donations from grocers.
In 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office, he launched the New Deal - a series of programs and public work projects aimed at restoring the economy and putting Americans back to work.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided millions of American adults - mostly men but a few women, too - with gainful employment working on public works projects, from sewing clothing for the needy to the construction of schools and dams.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped America’s youth, providing thousands of young men, age 17 to 28, with employment and education opportunities.
In Sonoma County, several major construction projects were the result of these New Deal-era reforms. Santa Rosa Junior College, Analy Hall, Burbank Theater and Bussman Hall were all the fruits of government labor. In Sebastopol, WPA workers built the post office and Analy High School. In Sonoma, the historic mission and Vallejo’s home were refurbished using New Deal-era labor.
But these were just a handful of the many parks and buildings constructed as a result of FDR’s reforms. Click through our gallery at pressdemocrat.com to explore these projects and more.
Janet Balicki Weber