Return with us now to the days of yesteryear, when the country was gripped by the Great Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration was trying all sorts of social and economic experiments to get the country moving again. One of the results was the planned community of Greenbelt (sister federal "greentowns" are Greendale, Wis., and Greenhills, Ohio). And we mean planned.
Not only was the town designed to be a child- and pedestrian-friendly utopia, the art deco exteriors of the houses were complemented by custom-designed furniture. Groundbreaking was in 1935, and the project included 574 masonry town houses, five prefabricated detached houses and 306 garden apartments, plus shops, a theater, a school, parks, playgrounds, a swimming pool and even a 23-acre lake.
The first residents moved in two years later. During World War II, 992 frame dwellings were added to house war workers. In 1949 the government sold off the properties, with preference to residents, and Greenbelt became self-governing, with a number of businesses operated as co-ops. The museum is in one of the original houses, which has been restored to its 1930s furnishings, including Depression glass, Fiesta ware and Bakelite.
The Greenbelt Community Center (15 Crescent Road) presents temporary and permanent exhibitions on the city's history and culture.
-- Hank Burchard