Pawnee’s WPA Bath House

by Lee Roy Chapman


Located one mile north of the city of Pawnee, Oklahoma on Highway 18, this hand-cut native stone structure was built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration [WPA] on Pawneee City Lake. Renovated in 2003, the bath house encloses two restrooms and a large deck overlooking the long staircase that winds down to the water recreation area. The WPA was a nationwide economic recovery program under FDR’s administration which utilized local talent to build structures such as libraries, recreational facilities and post offices. The WPA also employed photographers, painters and writers to document American life. Some notable Oklahomans who worked for the WPA are Jim Thompson, Ralph Ellison and Angie Debo. The controversial program received a nickname from its opponents: “We Piddle Around.”