What Was the CCC?

Breadlines, street corner apple vendors, and families traveling cross-country in jalopies looking for employment are phenomena unknown to most alive today. As those who lived through the Great Depression continue to fall by the wayside, memories of that severe economic crisis become ever more blurred. In addition to slowly erasing the pain and suffering brought about by the worldwide economic collapse of the 1930s, the passage of time also obscures the specifics of the overwhelming federal reaction to the Depression.

While many are familiar with President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal initiative, the bevy of "Alphabet Soup" programs implemented under FDR's leadership are less widely known. Programs such as the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) are but a handful of the myriad federal agencies created during the Depression. One New Deal program of great importance to Arizona, and the Papago Park region, in particular, was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

What was the CCC? Simply put, it was a government employment effort designed to provide young, unmarried men a reliable paycheck in exchange for sometimes backbreaking physical labor such as clearing trails or erecting buildings in local, state, and federal parks. CCC efforts visible in Papago Park include several ramadas built in the "NPS Rustic" style - similar to many of the federally-constructed Depression-era projects in Phoenix's South Mountain Park. Although the Corps existed for just nine years, the legacy of this Keynesian undertaking remains in many parks, forests, and important pieces of infrastructure found across the nation to this day.

edited 12/23/2019:wt


What was the CCC? A description of the responsibilities of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of Franklin Roosevelt's many New Deal programs. Written by John Larsen Southard; narrated by Mary Manross. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11; courtesy of the Papago Salado Association. Creator: John Larsen Southard Date: 2012


Grand Canal Laterals In addition to working in Papago Park and South Mountain Park, CCC workers also helped to improve the Valley's canal system. Here, workers plaster the laterals along the Grand Canal; these smaller offshoots carry water to irrigated areas. Source: HAER No. AZ-17-11; Historic American Engineering Record, Library of Congress Date: 1937
Culverts CCC workers also constructed culverts that allowed water to flow underneath the newly constructed roads. Source: HAER No. AZ-17-11; Historic American Engineering Record, Library of Congress Date: 1937
Hard at Work Workers' participation in the CCC often required them to perform a variety of task as a particular project progressed. The improvements the CCC made to the Grand Canal certainly demanded this, as evidenced by this worker bent over as he digs laterals that will carry irrigation water throughout the area. Source: HAER No. AZ-17-11; Historic American Engineering Record, Library of Congress Date: 1937
Cover Page of Blueprints for a CCC Project at Horse Thief Basin
Although young men with varying levels of construction experience populated the CCC labor force, CCC projects were often drafted by top-notch architectural talent. The set of blueprints accompanying this cover sheet were drafted by Lescher & Mahoney, then one of the state's premier firms. The firm also designed a number of other Valley buildings that now appear on the historic register, including the Orpheum Theater and the Maricopa County Courthouse. Source: HABS ARIZ,13-CROWNK.V,1--12; Historic Arizona Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Date: 1936



John Larsen Southard, “What Was the CCC?,” Salt River Stories, accessed December 5, 2023, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/38.