|From the May, 1943 edition of "The Rotarian" magazine|
This post returns to the "roots" of Instant House - post WWII housing needs. During the late '40s and through the 1950s, the Gunnison Housing Corporation churned out many prefabricated houses, billed as "Gunnison Magic Homes". These homes were built as panelized homes and were screwed together on-site, usually on a slab. Foster Gunnison, the owner, publicly acknowledged his dream of becoming "the Henry Ford of housing", utilizing mass-production techniques in his factory to create his patented stressed-skin panels that when put together would create a home with a very short amount of time-on-site. Though originally a lighting engineer (famous project included the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center).
Foster Gunnison filed for a patent in August of 1938 for a panelized system of construction. This system was specifically designed for "houses of various sizes and a plurality of floor plans [that] can be readily constructed from standard interchangeable parts." Four figure drawings from the patent are on the right, and they reveal some key features. The panels were bolted together rather than stick-built. There actually was insulation in the middle of the panels. The panels were attached to the slab by bolts. The panels were structural, but they were also FINISHED! Joints were covered by moldings--inside and out. The panels came complete with installed metal-framed casement windows and brass-fixtured pre-hung doors. Gunnison used these standardized panels in order to create 11 different models--everything from a very modest 24-foot by 24-foot 2 bedroom model to a large four bedroom 2.5 bath model.
|Pictures of the Gunnison Factory|
If you read my previous post on the Lustron home, then you know that other companies had tried the factory-mass production model. Gunnison was more successful than Lustron because of the standardized panel system. While Lustron used interchangeable parts, every house left the factory as a mishmash of parts (on a specially built company truck, no less). Gunnison stockpiled panel components which could be shipped on a standard truck with much less hassle. Also, the Gunnison homes looked more traditional and featured more traditional building materials such as.....wood and asphalt shingles.
Foster Gunnison sold his controlling interest in his company to U.S. Steel in 1944 while maintaining oversight. He retired outright in 1953 and U.S. Steel became the sole owner. U.S. Steel continued to produce panelized, stressed-skin homes until they closed their housing division in 1974.
|Interior View of a Gunnison Home|
|Present-Day Gunnison in Sayreville, NJ. Thank you to Eric Dietrich (owner/photographer).|
Bay window not original.