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Norvelt celebrating 85th with annual picnic

Mary Pickels
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Facebook | Westmoreland Homesteads Norvelt Historical Society
First lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Norvelt once, on May 21, 1937. She toured the community and inspected several of the homes.

Norvelt will celebrate its 85th anniversary this year and the Westmoreland Homesteads-Norvelt Historical Society is planning a community picnic to mark the occasion.

“We usually get about 85-90 former residents,” says Ann Riggen, society president.

“People like to get together and see each other. We have three or four people who are 90 years old, who are children of the original homesteaders,” she says.

Riggen, 75, whose grandfather was an original homesteader, says she is considered second generation.

Speaker for the 4-7 p.m. July 18 event at Roosevelt Hall will be recently retired District Judge Roger Eckels, whose office was located in the Mt. Pleasant Township community for decades.

“Anyone who lives in Norvelt is welcome. There is no charge. We do ask them to bring a covered dish — and to bring their memories,” she says.

Keeping history alive

The historical society formed in 2009 when the village celebrated its 75th anniversary. “We are trying to keep the history alive,” Riggen says.

The village was named for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, made construction of its 254 homes possible as part of the New Deal. During the Great Depression, Norvelt provided housing, work and a community to unemployed workers and their families.

Norvelt was the fourth of 99 planned subsistence homestead communities subsidized by the federal government as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act for dislocated miners and industrial workers. More than 1,850 people applied for 250 lots.

By the summer of 1934, the American Field Service Committee had established a work camp and started to build the subsistence project.

A “Norvelt Room” museum at the former Hurst High School is open to the public from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

Members of the historical society will attend Historic Hanna’s Town’s Frontier Court Days event this weekend. They will staff an information table from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., sharing Norvelt’s story.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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