Jackrabbit Homestead: Tracing the Small Tract Act in the Southern California Landscape, 1938-2008

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Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2009 - Architecture - 136 pages
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"The desert opens up beyond the proliferation of big box chains, car dealerships, fast food joints, and the bland sprawl along California State Highway 62. Out there, where signs of familiar habitation seem to fade from view, a change occurs in the landscape: small, dusty, mostly abandoned cabins dot the arid flatland. The majority of the existing cabins, historically found throughout the larger region known as the Morongo Basin, lie east of Twentynine Palms in outlying Wonder Valley. The curious presence of these structures signifies that you are entering one of the few remaining clusters of "jackrabbit" homesteads in the American West. The mostly derelict structures-many vacant, some inhabited-are the physical reminder of former occupants who were the last to form the U.S. government's Small Tract Act of 1938." "One of the many land acts designed to dispose of "useless" federal lands from the public domain, the Small Tract Act authorized citizens to lease up to five acres of desert for recreational purposes or for use as a home or business. When the applicant made the required improvements to his or her claim by constructing a small dwelling within the three-year lease, they could file for a patent-the federal government's form of a deed. This mid-century homestead movement reflects the quintessential American desire to claim territory and own a piece of land even when the property in question was deemed "worthless" from an economic and governmental perspective."--Jacket.

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About the author (2009)

Kim Stringfellow is an associate professor in the School of Art, Design, and Art History at San Diego State University. She is also the author of Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905–2005.

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