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This Day in Georgia History

November 29, 1935

FDR in Atlanta for Techwood Homes Dedication

Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt was in Atlanta for a special occasion - the formal dedication ceremonies for Techwood Homes - the nation’s first public housing project. The story began shortly after FDR took office and launched his New Deal. One of the early programs was the National Industrial Recovery Act, enacted in June 1933. Among its duties was to make funds available for clearing slums in America’s cities. In October 1933, plans for two slum clearance initiatives in Atlanta were announced. One area to be cleared was a ten-block area along Techwood Dr. ending at Georgia Tech. This had been a crime-ridden area of shanties and apartments known as “Tech Flats” or “Tanyard Bottom.” The second area slated for slum clearance was near Atlanta University. The Public Works Administration authorized a total loan of $4 million for the two projects. Construction of what would become known as Techwood Homes (for white families) and University Homes (for black families) began in early 1934. Over 1,000 construction workers were hired to level the old slums and build modern, inexpensive apartments - thus giving Atlanta’s economy a badly needed stimulus. On Nov. 29, Pres. Roosevelt drove up from Warm Springs to speak at Techwood Homes dedication ceremonies held at Georgia Tech’s football stadium. In his remarks to over 50,000 people in attendance, Roosevelt noted:

“Within sight of you today stands a tribute to useful work under government supervision–the first slum clearance and low-rent housing project. Here, at the request of the citizens of Atlanta, we have cleared out nine square blocks of antiquated, squalid dwellings for years a detriment to this community. Today these hopeless dwellings are gone and in their place we see the bright, cheerful buildings of the Techwood Housing Project. Within a very short time people who never before could get a decent roof over their heads will live here in reasonable comfort and healthful, worthwhile surroundings. Other will find similar homes in Atlanta’s second slum clearance, the University [Homes for Negroes] Project.”

After his address, FDR traveled to University Homes, where thousands of school kids were waiting to greet him, although no formal dedication ceremonies were held. While public housing would become commonplace in the succeeding decades, and Techwood Homes and University Homes later would succumb to the blight they had replaced, the two PWA housing projects at the time were seen as an outstanding success of FDR’s New Deal. For Techwood Homes, over 600 apartment units with landscaping had been built providing jobs for unemployed workers and affordable housing for struggling families. At Techwood Homes, three-room apartments went for $16.40 per month, four rooms for $20.60, and six rooms for $38.10 - an amount that included electricity and refrigeration.

Image of FDR in Atlanta for Techwood Homes Dedication View large image
Source: Georgia Department of Natural Resources