Between 1933 and 1943, Americans spent $4 to $6 billion on commercial modernization, enough "to provide a new storefront for each of the 1.5 million retail establishments then operating in the United States" (Esperdy, 222). Financial institutions, merchants, and property owners "lent and spent" to improve their retail establishments, investing in signs of promise that prosperity was returning to main streets across the nation (3). In Modernizing Main Street, Gabrielle Esperdy analyzes the sponsorship of private storefront modernization, "a materially significant and highly symbolic portion of all New Deal building activity" (6––7). Her central focus is the little-remembered Modernization Credit Plan (MCP), part of Title I of the National Housing Act, a program the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) devised to stimulate recovery by encouraging privately issued "low-interest federally-insured loans to repair and improve business properties" (5). The MCP made modernized...

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