Frank da Cruz
14 May 2018
National Archives: Record Group 135: Public Works Administration; Projects Control Division; Entry 52: Indices to Non-Federal Projects; Report No. 5: Status of All Completed Non-Federal Allotted Projects, pp. 118-122: State of New York, January 3, 1940. Retrieved from the US National Archives in 2014 by Evan Kalish. Unlike the WPA, the PWA did not keep separate records for New York City; the NYC projects are mixed in with other New York towns.
These documents cover “non-federal” projects through the years 1934-1939; non-federal means projects that were conducted by states, cities, towns, counties, or institutions financed by the federal PWA. So (for example) they do not include Navy Ships built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Post Offices, etc. Bear in mind that the PWA is only one New Deal agency out of many; countless other projects were done by the WPA, Department of Treasury, Department of the Interior, etc. And also that the PWA continued to fund projects for 3 or 4 more years after 1939. See the text below the thumbnails for how to decipher these documents.
For best results, view on a wide screen and maximize your browser. On a smaller screen, click the Enlarge button in each subpage and scroll horizontally. These documents generally do not identify individual products, only the type of project, e.g. "school", "waterworks". The space for project identification is limited to 13 characters for the location and 10 for the type of project. A project's docket number should link to other records where the details of the project can be found but those records have not yet been found (reportedly some of them were accidentally discarded). Living New Deal's Evan Kalish explains how to read these documents:
In the "PWA Completed" files you can take those numbers to the bank, assuming you can keep your eyes focused and your columns straight! That's a document from 1940 detailing all PWA projects completed by the end of 1939, which is most of them. There was a 1942 document with later projects, but I didn't scan those. (Weird, huge papers, in what they call "pizza boxes".) The file number (img097.jpg) corresponds to the page number that you see in the source: "Source: National Archives: Record Group 135: Public Works Administration; Projects Control Division; Entry 52: Indices to Non-Federal Projects; Report No. 5: Status of All Completed Non-Federal Allotted Projects, page 97." There's another set of files: "PWA NNC" -- short for Not Necessarily Completed (my term). Here you can find all the projects for which the project was fundamentally approved and funding initially allocated. In many cases, however, the projects were not undertaken - engineering / cost issues, etc. So if we think that submission from a couple of weeks ago of a "WPA courthouse" in Greenfield, Missouri, was really PWA, I'll go to the completed files and go through by the number. Yep, 4610 was completed, and you can get the info there. Some newspaper records give lists of approved federal grants for projects in bigger cities (like "Brooklyn - P.S. 16, $138,045"), so that grant column in the PWA Completed boxes can be super handy. I have found entries in there like "W1234 - NEW YORK CITY - SCHOOL - $138,045," and there we go. If you're right then the grant date in the files will be like "11 3 7" - Nov. 3, 1937... and you'll see the news story is from, say, November 9. Win! Oh - as far as the numbers go, they will label the later projects with a W or X: W1234 and X1456 - and those get listed after all the plain-numbered projects (like 4610) in the list. Also, Federal PWA projects (like post offices or federal courthouses) are not included here. Enjoy your new primary source superpower!