Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse, at 161st Street, Bronx NY.
This is another landmark that “everybody knows” is a
New Deal creation but it's a bit tricky to track down the definitive
reference. For now, let me just cite a New York City government page,
Built in 1933 during the Depression at a cost of $8 million, this public
project provided sorely needed jobs for the architects, sculptors and
various construction workers responsible for its creation. After the site
was chosen in 1928, construction began in 1931 and took three and a half
years to complete. In 1934, Mayor LaGuardia received a bronze key during the
building's three-day dedication and celebration.
Ironically, this might seem to cast doubt on its New Deal pedigree, since
FDR did not become president until 1933, but before that he was the governor
of New York State and had already begun the New Deal right here to provide
work relief and build worthwhile projects, such as the Bronx campus of Hunter College (now Lehman College).
The most likely source of funding in 1931-32 was the New York State
Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA)[2,3,4], established by
Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 31, 1931, with Harry Hopkins as
director, and later its president. Hopkins would go to lead the Federal
Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and the Works Progress Administration
(WPA) during the Roosevelt presidency. I would argue that Roosevelt's New
Deal began in New York State with TERA in 1931, and then when he became
President, he expanded it to the nation as a whole. But regardless, a
November 1933 New York Times article indicates a large sum of
money flowing from the federal Civil Works Administration into New York City
and State work-relief agencies, which were the ones paying the workers on
the courthouse project. This is a fairly solid indication of federal New
Deal funding for at least the last half-year of construction (it opened June
Architects: Max Hausle, Joseph H. Freedlander. Later Freedlander
designed the Bronx House of Detention, a WPA project.
Sculptors: Charles Keck, Adolf A. Weinman, Edward
Field Sanford, George Holburn Snowden, Joseph Kiselewski.
Muralist: James Monroe Hewlett. Keck's friezes are identified as
WPA, the rest of the art was financed however the building itself was
financed, "New York State New Deal", with or without federal assistance,
Publications of the New York State Temporary Relief Administration,
1931-1937, Volume 1
(628pp) and Volume 2
(634pp), NY TERA (1937), at Archive.org,
the Internet Archive. Does not list specific projects, but notes in several
places that it paid for the construction of court houses.
Million People, One Billion Dollars: Final Report of the the Temporary
Emergency Relief Administration, November 1, 1931—June 30, 1937.
Mainly employment trends, statistics, and budgets; does not mention specific
projects. However it notes that during a “typical period” (April
1935), 55.6% of work-relief man hours was spent on construction and
improvement of public properties.
Street/River Avenue Rezoning - Overview, New York City Department of
City Planning (2009); Context and History, p.3: "In 1933, New Deal public
funds allowed the construction of the Bronx County Courthouse at the
Grand Concourse and 161st Street."
Ultan, Lloyd, and Shelley Olson,
Bronx: The Ultimate Guide to New York City's Beautiful Borough, Rutgers
University Press (2015), pp.44-48 (for details about the architecture,
statuary, friezes, etc). The authors also note that the courthouse was paid
for entirely by state and city (not federal) funds, but without giving any
details. TERA was precisely the state agency that would have dispensed
these funds, given that they were used to provide "sorely needed jobs".
Also see  about bow TERA (at least starting in 1933) was funded.
On pp.45-47: "The massive carved high-relief blocks flanking each of the
staircases ... bear allegoral scultpure[s] related to each inscription.
These massive blocks were carved by noted sculptor Adolph Weinman assisted
by Edward F. Sanford, George Snowden, and Joseph Kisselewski." This
continues for a page and half, describing each sculpture group: Spirit of
Progress, Civic Fame, Majesty of the Law, Civic
Government, and so on, eight in all.
Bronx County Courthouse, LPC 1976/07/13 #2
LP-0928, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Detailed history including
descriptions of the architecture and art, but no mention of funding sources
for the building or the art, except to say "During the depression of the
1930s government-funded projects such as this courthouse provided
architects and artists with welcome large-scale commissions."
New York - Bronx County, National Register of Historic Places, listing
of registered historic places in the Bronx, including the courthouse
(Registry Number 83001636): "The PDF file for this National Register
record has not yet been digitized."
Jobs Here in Work Program - All on Federal Payroll,
New York Times, 23 November 1933, p.15. Doesn't mention any specific
projects but explains that "under the Federal civil works program" (i.e.
CWA) federal money will be funneled through the City Emergency Work
Administration and various other City and State relief agencies
Facts about Charles Keck, askART.com (accessed 14 May 2021): "Keck created
the frieze on the facade of the Bronx County Building in New York in 1933
under the auspices of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration
(WPA)." [This is not strictly true since WPA didn't start
until 1935 but it could easily have been the some other agency such
as the Public Works Art Project]
"His subjects are classical, Biblical and symbolic, including the
West Facade frieze depiction of the Civil War surrender of General Lee to
General Grant with Revolutionary pipers in uniform; images of a young,
growing and working America; as well as an allusion to slavery."
Landmarks of New York, Washington Mews Books, Sixth Edition (2016),
p.716. The courthouse was built between 1931 and 1934, so partially while
FDR was New York Governer and partially while he was President: "The Bronx
County Courthouse is a handsome example of government funded civic
architecture during the New Deal ... A frieze by Charles Keck
celebrates the activities of the universal working man. Flanking each entry
are two monumental freestanding figural groups, carved in pink marble, by
Adolf A. Weinman."
The Bronx County Court Building, Lehman College Art Gallery
(accessed 14 May 2021): "Adolph A. Weinman with collaboration by George
Snowden, Joseph Kiselewski, Max Hausle, Joseph Friedlander, Edward Field
Sanford Jr. Eight Statuary Groups 1932, marble, each 100" x 121" x 70",
entryway sculptures, WPA. The Bronx County Building is an enormous
limestone structure in the Art Moderne style. It was built in 1933 by the
architects Joseph Freedlander and Max Hausle in collaboration with the
artists Adolph A. Weinman (1870-1952) who designed the rectangular block
sculptures at the entrances to the building, and Charles Keck (1875-1951)
who designed the friezes. The Art Deco design of the building reflects the
architecture of many of the buildings along the Grand Concourse. The
project was sponsored by the Works Progress Administration."
When Government Came to Main Street, Urban Omnibus, Architectural
League of New York, 3 November 2021: "The design and construction of the
building took place amid a backdrop of political reforms under the
leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. First as Governor of New York
State, and later as President of the United States, Roosevelt undertook a
vigorous effort to modernize government by stamping out a culture of
ingrained political corruption ... in 1931, Governor Roosevelt created the
Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), a program for urgent
unemployment assistance that also pushed a reconsideration of New York
State's role in the welfare of its citizens. Rather than simply putting
impoverished people on 'the dole,' as Hoover had feared, TERA put New York
residents to work, providing them wages in return for their labor. The
legislation also cemented critical labor reforms, including the
establishment of a five-day workweek for public works projects, the
prohibition of "discrimination on account of race, color, non-citizenship,
or political connections," and the provision of workmen's compensation
insurance for relief workers. Ultimately, some of the spirit of creative
legislative reform established by TERA was taken up by later New Deal
programs, including the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA),
Civil Works Administration (CWA), Public Works Administration (PWA), and
Works Progress Administration (WPA). Several of these programs funded the
completion of the courthouse, which was still under construction when
Roosevelt left the Governor's office for the White House in 1932." Includes
20 original images, most of them of the exterior and interior of the