MISHAWAKA, IN (WTHI) — For the second year in a row, Great Depression-era masonry has been found at Eberhart-Petro Golf Course, revealing the results of the famous Works Progress Administration program, which provided jobs to millions of Americans during the Great Depression.
An island, stone bridge, fork of a creek, and cobblestone paths were discovered during normal maintenance of Willow Creek by personnel from the St. Joseph County Drainage Board, according to Mayor Dave Wood’s latest social media post.
When an underground conduit carrying Willow Creek began to fail about a year ago, stone walls built by the WPA in the 1930s on Hole No. 16 were uncovered.
Wood had asked county workmen to dig up the pipe and open up the creek at the time.
While the current discovery is historic, the dig at the golf course was done to support flood control activities there, according to John Law, construction supervisor with the drainage board.
Crews spent three days unearthing the construction around two weeks ago, probing the ground to identify the WPA structures beneath the dirt.
“Normally, we’d just dig it up,” Law explained, “but we took metal rods and discovered the walls and tagged them.”
The historic aspect of the WPA walls, according to Wood, provided an educational opportunity to demonstrate the results of Depression-era labor at the golf course and around the city.
History of Petro Park
The WPA stonework on the golf course is a Petro Park original feature.
Petro Park was built in 1934 and expanded in 1936, according to a designation by the Mishawaka Historic Preservation Commission. Former Mayor Mason Petro received financing from the Civil Works Administration (a short-lived predecessor to the WPA) to build a second public park on the north side of the St. Joseph River for citizens.
The park was united with the then-private nine-hole course to the west in 1949 or 1950, according to Wood, to form the city’s current 18-hole public course. While no paperwork exists to show how Petro Park was altered for the Eberhart-Petro course layout, he claims that much of the park’s masonry was covered and Willow Creek was rerouted through the layout via underground pipes.
Between 1935 and 1941, the WPA built streets, sewers, and recreational facilities across Mishawaka, employing people who had lost their employment during the Great Depression.
Battell Park’s rock garden, the Monkey Island bridge, and the numerous walls along Wilson Boulevard near the St. Joseph River are some of the other WPA constructions in Mishawaka.
When the WPA was in effect, the federal government covered 90% of the labor costs for the projects, but cities and municipalities were responsible for purchasing the materials.
‘A distinguishing trait’
Wood grew up near the recently discovered masonry, he added.
The city will attempt to sustain the work, and Wood said a plaque will be erected to commemorate the newfound structures’ accomplishments.
Because of the historical value of the stonework, despite its location on the golf course, he is also looking into ways to invite the public to view and join in the discovery.
Discovered more 1930s WPA stonework along Willow Creek at Eberhart GC as part of routine ditch maintenance. Unearthed an island, fork of creek, stone bridge & cobble paths. One of a kind, historic treasures made by Mishawaka citizens. So cool! Thanks County Drainage for work. pic.twitter.com/f4GwJgzrsH
— Dave Wood, Mayor (@MishawakaMayor) February 20, 2022
“This is a one-of-a-kind, one-of-a-kind trait,” Wood said of the findings. “These are priceless treasures, constructed by Mishawaka residents attempting to put food on their tables.”