Correspondence with Hugh C. McClellan
an Architect of Jersey Homesteads

By the sheerest of coincidences, as these things must happen, the Fund for Roosevelt has had the pleasure of entering into correspondence with Mr. Hugh C. McClellan, one of the architects that designed buildings of Jersey Homesteads.

Now retired and living in Connecticut, Mr. McClellan and an officer of the Fund had mutual friends and a common interest in mushrooms! This lead to Mr. McClellan sharing with us a copy of the letter he wrote to the New York Times after reading the November, 1999 article on Roosevelt that appeared in that paper.

Since then, he has written several times asking questions about the current state of the town he helped design and recounting stories from his memories of the building of Jersey Homesteads.

From an unpublished letter to the New York Times dated 16 November 1999:

I was very interested to see in yesterday's paper the review of the situation at Roosevelt, New Jersey.

The main reason I am interested is that I was employed as a young architect on the original design in 1936-37 under Louis Kahn, then an artchitect associated with Alfred Kastner (both from Philadelphia). It was part of a project of the New Deal Resettlement Administration (now defunct), and under the Department of Agriculture, then led by Henry Wallace, a great liberal.

Our design office was in the temporary "F" building on the Mall in Washington (razed many years ago).

I remember well seeing Louis Kahn (later internationally famous) sitting at his drafting table with Le Corbusier's architecture book propped in front of him as he worked on the projected designs. Especially interesting for me as I had been employed in Le Corbusier's office in Paris a few years before. So not [all of the town was] really Bauhaus influenced.

Your article illustrates the important mural by Ben Shahn, but does not mention the aluminum bas relief panel which was mounted on the outside of the school entrance door. I wonder if it was moved elsewhere if no longer there. It was an exceptional piece.... [Note: The bas relief panels were in storage for some years and were rededicated and mounted in the spacious school lobby to the right of the mural in May, 1999. They were created by Otto Wester and originally dedicated in May, 1938.]

From a letter to the Fund for Roosevelt dated 22 January 2000:

.... This cold weather reminds me of an event that occurred when I was working on Jersey Homesteads in Washington. Resettlement Administration had employed an engineer from Texas to supervise, among other things, the construction of the concrete blocks for the walls of the 200 or so houses. The blocks were poured into forms, and when hardened enough, were piled high in the unheated factory building. The temperatures dropped below freezing, and the blocks apparently froze, and then when they melted, the weight of them made the whole pile slump into an enormous mess of disintegrated concrete, which had to be hauled away and done over again by another engineer than the one from Texas, who knew about the hazards of freezing weather!

Best wishes for preserving the open spaces there, and I'm enclosing a small donation for that and other improvements.

To Fund for Roosevelt home page.

To Historic Resources of Roosevelt.