Gardner Lake History

Gardner Lake today is a 100 acre lake, located just north of the city of Gardner, in Johnson County, Kansas. This man made lake is the result of a 1935-38 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The WPA was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as a response to the massive unemployment caused by the stock market crash in 1929. The WPA was established to provide basic work for the high number of unemployed. It was the largest of twelve WPA projects commissioned in Johnson County during the 1930s, employing over 200 people.

Lake front lots began selling before the project was completed, as early as 1934. By 1937 one hundred twenty lots had been sold for $100 per lot.

Originally, the lake was planned to be donated to the State of Kansas to operate as a state park, but the state was unable to accept the property. Some early documents refer to the property as the Gardner State Lake. 

Prior to building the lake, a camp was built to house the 200+ transient workers who would live there during construction. It was called “Transient Camp # 9”. The camp buildings included a mess hall, bath houses, barracks, a kitchen, hospital, waterworks and recreation hall.  The laborers were provided food shelter, clothing, and medical care, and were paid $1 to $3 per week. Excavation began in 1935. By May 1936 there were 225 men working three daily shifts to build the dam. In 1937 KCPL installed the first electric lines around the east side of the lake.