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Greenbelt Community Center

Original Name: Greenbelt Center School
Year Of Construction: 1937; rehab. 1995
Address: 15 Crescent Rd. Greenbelt, Maryland 20770
Architect(s): 1937, Douglas Ellington & Reginald D. Wadsworth; 1995 rehab., Florance, Eichbaum, Esocoff, King; Vitetta Group, restoration architects
Current Status: Civic & Religious
Original Use: Civic & Religious

Greenbelt was one of three utopian green towns built by the New Deal’s Resettlement Administration. (Greendale, Wisconsin, and Greenhills, Ohio, were the other two.) The town was planned for suburban resettlement of rural migrants but also to prove the viability of garden-city planning principles. The original community was beautifully integrated into its site, a wooded crescent-shaped ridge, with careful planning to separate pedestrian and road traffic and provide open space for recreation. It was a self-contained town with a shopping center and its own school which was intended to be the focal point of the community.

While the housing was designed with the International Style in mind, the school was more Moderne, featuring a series of setbacks marked by streamlined buttresses, strips of casement windows, low relief panels, and smooth wall finishes. The design focuses attention on the notable bas-relief panels sculpted in place by Lenore Thomas that depict the preamble of the Constitution beginning with “We The People,” intended to reflect the social and economic concerns of the era. (It is often remarked that the design of the building facade and the placement of the bas-relief panels might have been inspired by the design of the Folger Shakespeare Library, also featured on the Website.) Thomas later executed a sculpture for the shopping center entitled “Mother and Child.”

The city of Greenbelt is worth a visit in its own right. In addition to the community center, the community maintains one of the original houses as a museum, and guided tours of the museum and town  are available. Contact or (301) 507-6582.