Penderlea, in northwestern Pender County is a unique agricultural community established in 1934 by the US Department of the Interior as the first of 152 subsistence resettlement projects under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Laid out in horseshoe fashion around a central community center, Penderlea was known as a “farm city,” with a school that included an auditorium, gymnasium and teacherage. Radiating off the community center were small 20 acre farms believed sufficient to provide homesteaders subsistence and cash income to purchase homesteads under a lend/lease arrangement by the government. Each homestead featured a 2-3 bedroom house, a barn, poultry house, hog house and wash house. Designed not only to provide modern new homes and land to penniless young farmers, the homestead projects employed thousands of out of work men in the Civilian Conservation Core, another of Roosevelt’s recovery measures. In 1937, Eleanor Roosevelt made a personal visit to Penderlea to boost nationwide enthusiasm for her husband’s New Deal proposals and to encourage the young farmers and their families to take advantage of the opportunity to own their own land.
Today, Penderlea, is one of Pender County’s historical tour destinations where you can visit the Penderlea Homestead Museum housed in one of the first ten homes built on the project. The original school at the heart of the community’s center remains one of the very best in the county. Three hard-surface roads connect Penderlea to the surrounding towns of Wallace, Burgaw, and Watha where railway stations once awaited shipment of produce from this viable agricultural community. Visit www.penderleahomesteadmuseum.org to find out about ongoing efforts to preserve the history of Penderlea.