Norvelt’s History


On July 21, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted the “Substance Homesteads”, as an executive order to provide relief, reform and recovery as part of the “New Deal.”  It provided $25M for aiding in the redistribution of the overbalance of population in industrial centers by making loans and otherwise aiding in the purchase of subsistence homesteads.

Five categories of “communities to be created by the subsistence program were:

  1. Workers’ garden homesteads near small industrial centers which would further decentralize

  2. Homesteads near large industrial centers which would not further decentralize

  3. Projects for rehabilitation of bituminous coal miners

  4. Elimination of slums on lands sub marginal for agriculture

  5. Movement of largely farm families from marginal dry-farming lands to existing Federal reclamation projects

The two key issues for the subsistence-homestead communities were environmental reform (improved living conditions) and social reform.  Of all the categories for the substance homesteads act, only four were built to help “stranded” miners.  Westmoreland Homesteads in Mt Pleasant Township in Westmoreland County was one of them.

Historical Presenters

  1. Mr. Edward Bilik is the author of “The History of Westmoreland Homesteads, Norvelt” written in 1952 for Saint Vincent College.

  2. Professor Michael Cary, a professor of history & political science at Seton Hill University, is currently co-authoring a book on the history of Norvelt with Dr. Tim Kelly of St. Vincent College and Dr. Margaret Power of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

  3. Mr. James Steeley is the former Executive Director of the Westmoreland County Historical Society and Editor of the Society's magazine, Westmoreland History.

Novelt 1934-2009

Norvelt is located in the central part of Westmoreland County at the foot of the Laurel Highlands in the western part of Pennsylvania.  From the initial 250 homes, Norvelt has been expanded to over 400 homes.  From the original large farm with two barns and a chicken farm, a clothing factory and an elementary school, many businesses and a public golf course have been built within the original acreage.  Today, Norvelt has approximate 1000 residents.  No residents are still living from the original Norvelt homesteaders but their legacy lives on in the generations that followed them.



Substance Homestead Project