Chapter 8

At Long Last, Arcadia

I believe Arthurdale has a future. It depends on us people here.

—William McNelis, Arthurdale homesteader (1942)1

If you approach Arthurdale from the north, coming down from the I-68 Interstate along Route 7, you will twist up the mountains around curves and through a number of hard-looking towns. As always, a Dairy Queen appears around one corner, a reminder that even in Appalachia you are still in America.

Just north of Arthurdale, you drive through Reedsville and turn south on Route 92, crest a hill, and now you see it laid out in front of you; it is a decided change from all you have just driven through. Say what you will about government incompetence—the town is nicely laid out; my wife immediately crowned it “pretty.” Unlike the tired miners’ shacks that squat beside the mountain roads behind you, the homes here are painted white and pleasing to look at, separated from each other by well-manicured lawns and small fields.

As you enter the town, you pass the site of the old factory buildings, unseen from the road and off to the right. A bit farther on and to your left appears Elsie Clapp’s school complex, its original buildings all long abandoned but one—the school gymnasium where FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt once gave a decade plus of high school commencement addresses. The floor of its basketball court still gleams.

Drive a bit deeper into Arthurdale and you see a stone Presbyterian church to your left, followed by the inn. Across the street on ...

Get Back to the Land: Arthurdale, FDR's New Deal, and the Costs of Economic Planning now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.