Community House a product of Roosevelt’s New Deal

©2003 Homer Index

by Mike Warner

March 2005

The Homer community has ex-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his
Depression-era Civil Works Administration (CWA) program to thank for the
Community House, which turned 70 Tuesday.

Homer received an $11,000 grant in 1933 for a baseball diamond, tennis court
and track, as well as the Community House. The village, county and state
shared in another $22,000 in costs, bringing the total project to $33,000.
A week or so later the village received word it would get another $2,000
from the CWA for a surface drainage system and to grade and beautify Leigh

Work began in December 1933 on the athletic complex, located on part of 19
acres the village purchased south of the schoolhouse. Twenty-five men were
employed that first day. Approximately 300 men registered as being
unemployed in Homer and Clarendon Township so just a handful were selected
for the job.

According to articles that appeared in the Index, construction on the
Community House was delayed, as there was much haggling over where the
building should be located, and what purpose it should serve.
A lot west of the Presbyterian Church was offered as a gift. Others,
including Walter Fogel, the editor and publisher of the Index, wanted the
Community House located on school grounds, because it was their opinion
students would get the most use out of the gymnasium, etc.

A contingent of Homer officials traveled to Lansing to meet with state
officials and reach an agreement on the details. A lot on West Adams Street,
next to the J.C. Snyder residence, and site of the former Episcopal Church
was finally selected.

According to the Index article, interest was high in the project.
“ All Homer citizens seem to be deeply interested in these projects and
certainly it is putting men back to work and getting money into circulation
in all communities,” the article noted.

Project delays Construction dragged for many reasons. The project was suppose to be
completed in 90 days. In January 1934, the Index reported the project would
be finished in February, but that date came and went. Cold weather and the
revising of CWA programs were blamed, as were allegations of mismanagement
by county CWA officials, who were criticized for not purchasing materiasl
promptly. Work stopped for extended periods because of lack of materials or
lack of money.

The project began under the authority of the CWA, but finished under the
The delays and costs didn’t sit well with some in Detroit. An article in the
Detroit Free Press was critical of the Homer project. The Index quoted the
article in its November 8, 1934 edition.
“ The village of Homer, with a population of 1,000 in Calhoun County, was
awarded a project for a $33,000 community house ... work was begun on it a
year ago and today it stands far from finished.
“ Thirty-odd men are finding employment on the job. Of this number, about 10
percent are skilled laborers, imported, in most cases, from outside
“ Experienced construction men say that by using all skilled labor, under the
supervision of properly equipped contractors, the cost of this building
could have been reduced from one-third to one-half. At the same time, they
point out, the unnecessary delays could have been eliminated and the
structure completed in 60 to 90 days.
“ With this saving of money and time, they assert other projects of a
worthwhile nature could have been undertaken, and an equal number of men
could have been employed without the necessity of being subjected to a
system of employment that is, after all, nothing but a dole,” the article
Skilled labor or not, the project continued for four more months, at which
time a celebration was planned such as the village had never seen before.
Community celebration

The public was invited to an open house and potluck on Friday, March 15,
1935. The community responded in overwhelming numbers, as nearly 1,100
people attended the dedication ceremony. Those not fortunate enough to get
seats or standing room inside, watched the proceedings through windows.
After the 6:30 potluck, Village President C.J. Waterman was presented with
the keys to the building from Dan Squier, assistant relief administrator.
Following the ceremony, dancing commenced and didn’t end until 2 a.m.
According to the Index, “All the clubs of Homer were represented in the
program and praised the president and village council, the school board,
business men and private individuals who spent time and did all in their
power to push the ERA project to completion.”

The program was emceed by Harry T. Running. The Rev. E.M. McGehee gave the
introduction, and L.S. Dye, accompanied by the Homer High School Orchestra
led in the singing of “America.”

C.F. Whetstone, superintendent of schools, gave the acceptance speech, and
Mayor Nor-man H. Weiner of Albion also spoke a few words.
A large number of singing and dancing acts were part of the entertainment,
as well as literary recitals.

Among the groups represented were HHS students, the May-be Literary Society,
Methodist Ladies Aid Society, The Bouton Ladies Aid Society, Presbyterian
Ladies Aid Society, Homer Farmers’ Club and the Woman’s Monday Club.

Community members wasted no time in making use of the Community House.
Various clubs met in the facility the next week, and a basketball game
featuring community teams from Tekonsha and Coldwater was held shortly after
the facility opened.


Read part 1 about the Community House

Back to the Homer Home Page

This article courtesy Homer Index.

used with permission

Homer, Michigan Home Page courtesy of Albion Design.

Take the Tour of Michigan!