World War I to World War II (1917-1945)
Manufacturing remained the mainstay of the Fredericksburg economy into the twentieth century. Local agriculture simply had not recovered after the Civil War. During the 1920s, the rural county of Spotsylvania could not even provide sufficient food for the local populace. The County, including Fredericksburg, had to import food and animal feed. The market was certainly present, but the soil could not meet the demand. In 1934, an economic survey of Spotsylvania County observed many fields still left uncultivated.
Looking south down the 600 Block of Caroline Street, circa 1920s
During this period, the provision of electricity in Virginia became increasingly centralized. Previously, hydroelectric facilities served local regions, but larger corporations began to buy out these smaller entities. These larger firms had the technical expertise and the investment capital to incorporate advances in the industry. In 1926, the Virginia Electric Power Company (VEPCO) bought the smaller Spotsylvania Power Company, which had acquired the Fredericksburg Power Company and built the Embrey Dam. VEPCO maintained the Embrey Dam and operated the power station into the early 1960s.
By the Great Depression, Fredericksburg's regional population included many thousands, many of whom were employed by large factories located south of town. This included the Sylvania Company and the G&H Clothing Plant. Although times were tough, many of these factories were able to keep their doors open during the tumultuous 1930s. However, government programs to relieve the economic effects of the Great Depression had a significant impact on area historic resources. During the 1930s, for instance, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped to make the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park accessible to visitors. The CCC built roads and bridges and stabilized earthworks.
The future Walker-Grant School (constructed in 1934) would comply with the 1898 U.S. Supreme Court decision that institutionalized the notion of separate but equal. This type of Jim Crow policy was challenged but not overturned until the 1950s and 60s.