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The Borough of Roosevelt, fka Jersey Homesteads

The borough of Roosevelt was established from portions of Millstone Township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 29, 1937. Originally called Jersey Homesteads, the name was changed to Roosevelt on November 9, 1945, in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died on April 12, 1945. Jersey Homesteads was created during the Great Depression as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, to resettle Jewish garment workers in a self-sustaining collective community. The town was conceived as an integrated project, with farming, manufacturing, and retail all operating on a cooperative basis. The economy of the town consisted of a garment factory and a farm. Objectives of the community were to help residents escape poverty, to show that cooperative management can work, and as an experiment in government intervention.

Many artists have been attracted to the Jersey Homesteads/Roosevelt community, beginning with Ben Shahn (1898-1969) and his partner (later wife) Bernarda Bryson (1903-2004). Shahn was invited to create a mural for the school and between 1937 and 38, Ben and Bernarda completed the famous 45-foot fresco depicting the history of the Jersey Homesteads (small detail pictured above). The mural can still be seen in the Roosevelt Public School. 

Sources:

Shahn’s Jersey Homesteads Mural.  (2018). Graphic Arts Collection, Special Collections, Firestone Library, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., July 31, 2018. Available: https://graphicarts.princeton.edu/2018/07/31/shahns-jersey-homesteads-mural/

Snyder, John P. The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries: 1606-1968, Bureau of Geology and Topography; Trenton, New Jersey; 1969. p. 182.

Works Progress Administration, Federal Writers’ Project, Stories of New Jersey: Its Significant Places, People and Activities, 1938, M. Barrows and Company, New York, co-sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Teachers of Social Studies and the New Jersey Guild Associates, Inc.

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