A Public Housing Utopia: The Greenbelt Museum (Museums in Strange Places S02 E02)

Tucked among other Maryland suburbs outside Washington, D.C., the cute little town of Greenbelt has a surprisingly radical history. It was one of three “green towns” built under the New Deal Era Resettlement Administration, and it was supposed to be a new way of living, a utopia. Was it really a utopia? And how did the model hold up over time? I discover this and more during my visit to the Greenbelt Museum, housed in one of the original 1937 low-income row homes.  

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This episode is sponsored by The Lyndhurst Group. The Lyndhurst Group is a history, museum, and nonprofit consulting firm providing community-focused engagement strategies for institutional planning, organizational assessments, and interpretive direction.

The featured song in this episode is “Good Day” by Katy Starr. Documentary clips from a 1939 documentary “The City.”

Interested in starting a podcast at your organization? Check out my new book, Your Museum Needs a Podcast: A Step by Step Guide to Podcast on a Budget for Museums, History Organizations, and Cultural Nonprofits

How to Listen to Museums in Strange Places

Welcome to Museums in Strange Places. I’m your host, Hannah Hethmon, a museum consultant specializing in podcasting for museums, and this is a podcast for people who love museums, stories, culture, and exploring the world.

In this season of the podcast, I’m visiting the museums of Maryland to discover what stories they hold and how they reflect and shape this state’s unique cultural identity.

You can find and follow me/the podcast on Twitter and Instagram @hannah_rfh (I love to hear from listeners FYI).

The podcast is available on all podcast players and apps, just search “Museums in Strange Places” on any podcast listening platform:

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Photoshoot in the Museum

I loved the Greenbelt Museum so much when I visited, that I decided to come back a few months later to do a photoshoot there with my husband! Here are a few of the photos, taken by the talented William Petruzzo of Petruzzo Photography.

More Photos of the Museum

The Greenbelt Museum’s historic house

Megan Searing Young

In the dining room/ living room

In the dining room/ living room

In the dining room/ living room

In the dining room/ living room looking out onto the garden side

The kitchen

The kitchen

Master bedroom

Inside the master bedroom closet

Children’s room

Bathroom cabinet

Interpretive sign outside the museum

Park and playground outside the museum hour

Museum house seen from the service/road side.

Propaganda brochure for the proposed Greenbelt. Original town blueprint.

Propaganda brochure for the proposed Greenbelt

Propaganda brochure for the proposed Greenbelt

Museum house seen from the garden side.

Walking through the interior paths in Old Greenbelt.

Walking through the interior paths in Old Greenbelt.

Walking through the interior paths in Old Greenbelt.

Walking through the interior paths in Old Greenbelt.

In the town center/shopping area.

In the town center/shopping area.

In the town center/shopping area.

In the town center/shopping area.

In the town center/shopping area.

In the town center/shopping area.

In the town center/shopping area.

In the town center/shopping area. The Mother and Child statue by Lenore Thomas Strauss.

The Community Center

The Community Center

The Community Center

The Community Center

The Community Center

The Community Center

From the museum exhibit space in the community center: African American workers building the community center.

From the museum exhibit space in the community center

From the museum exhibit space in the community center: Lenore Thomas Strauss working on the relief panels

From the museum exhibit space in the community center

From the museum exhibit space in the community center: the rejected panel showing a lynching scene.

From the museum exhibit space in the community center

From the museum exhibit space in the community center: Boys riding through the underpass in Greenbelt.

A multi-lingual chalk art piece in front of one of the original apartments in Old Greenbelt.

Underpass leading from the houses to the town center.

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