Instant House

A blog tribute to the manufactured, mass-produced, modular and kit homes that grace the American landscape.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Techbuilt Vacation Homes

Techbuilt Vacation Homes  

More Techbuilt homes in this post.  This time, the Techbuilt Vacation Home line!  Generally, the vacation homes did not differ that greatly from the permanent homes except in one fashion--most of the vacation homes are one story, or are one story with a loft.  They do not, as a rule, follow the Techbuilt custom of a half-basement.  An interesting find can be seen in the specifications of some of the houses--you could specify if you were intending the house for summer or winter usage (see below).  The main difference, of course, was in the amount of insulation.  See below for some notable examples.

This house, the "Northland", is a fairly typical Techbuilt vacation house that retains the Techbuilt look. Below is a front view, floor plan, some interior shots, and a specification sheet.  The spec sheet indicates the "panelized" nature of the Techbuilt house.

The next three--the "Chatham", the "Brewster", and the "Stratton"--all use the same set of specs.  The Swiss Chalet style of the Stratton is a sign of the times--and the only Techbuilt house pictured here to follow Carl Koch's "put an attic on top of a half-basement" doctrine.

I've always like A-Frames (expect a future post about Campbell & Wong's A-Frame "Leisure House"). They were VERY popular in the 1960s, so Techbuilt obviously decided to cash in on their popularity.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homart Homes

The Sears Homes of the 1950s  
Even though Sears ended the "Modern Homes" program during the depression, post-World War II prosperity (and housing shortage) convinced them to give it another go.  This led to the "Homart" series of homes.  Unlike the "Modern Homes" program where the houses were pre-cut, the Homart homes were factory built in sections, much like Gunnison homes.  The brochure touts that the homes were "Factory-built in ready-to-join sections", and claims that it only takes three men three days to assemble one full house.  Homart homes could be built with or without a basement, as you can see from the examples below.

The Homes
While the Sears Modern Homes were many and varied, Homart homes only offered five different sizes of the same basic house--there were minor variations for each plan depending on if you ordered the "basement" or "non-basement" version.  The homes were all exactly 24 feet and 7 1/4 inches wide.  The biggest Homart was only 36 feet 7 1/4 inches long.  The smallest was a mere 24 feet and 7 1/4 inches long (this house was essentially a square).  The houses did NOT come with bath or kitchen fixtures, nor did they include plumbing, wiring or heating.  But, in true Sears fashion, you could order these packages as easily as you ordered the house.  Enjoy the following grabs.

Homart Catalog Cover from 1949. 
Second-largest Homart of the non-basement variety.

The biggest Homart of the "with-basement" variety.

Cutaway view of a Homart.

The catalog has a brief "how-to-assemble" section.  I think this was more to appease skeptical buyers rather than to provide actual instructions.  The catalog indicates that detailed instructions accompanied the house.

The "extras" you could buy for your Homart home.

This was tucked into the catalog.

Another insert showing shipping rates, as of 9/15/1950.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chicago Millwork Supply Company

Catalog Cover
Another Sears Clone  
I stumbled upon some old PDFs of house plans from a company called the "Chicago Millwork Supply Company".  I can't find a date on either of the catalogs, but they appear to be from the 1920s--and many of the designs appear to resemble (drumroll please) Sears Modern Homes!  It is probably no accident that the Chicago Millwork Supply Company even titled their catalog "Modern Homes".  It's difficult to trademark such a broad name, so they most likely capitalized on it.  It is also likely that they acted as a supplier for other pre-cut home companies, hence the similarities.

Below are some grabs from the catalog, including a HILARIOUS description of their houses...

Almost Wright-ian.  Unusual to see stucco used as a selling point.

It's "modern".  Because it has indoor plumbing.

Nice design.  I've seen clones of this--usually with the 2nd story porch enclosed.

What's a sleeping porch, you ask?  Try sleeping in an unairconditioned room when it's 98 degrees out.
You'll want to sleep outside.  This was a very common "feature" of homes from this period.


Can someone tell me what the hell a "Freak Built House" is?  I think it's some thinly-veiled reference to pre-cut homes.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gunnison Random Finds

Smithsonian Institution Find
A recent web search for Gunnison catalogs pointed me to something in the Smithsonian Institute's American History Archives--a 1941 promotional brochure for the company that includes plans and pictures of the different models, and a press announcement from 1944 extolling the virtues of Gunnison homes.  After a brief e-mail exchange, a very helpful librarian scanned them and sent them to me.  And who says the Federal Government isn't efficient?!?

eBay Find
I found this on eBay--a matchbook advertising Gunnison homes.  Ironically, Pottstown, PA (address of the "authorized" Gunnison builder) is about 30 minutes from where I was born and raised.  Enjoy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ocean Grove Camp Meeting

The tents of Ocean Grove
The Tents of Ocean Grove, NJ  
I recently had the opportunity to take a trip to Ocean Grove, NJ.  This is a shore town immediately south of Asbury Park, but the two towns are more than a world apart.  Ocean Grove is home to a unique colony of canvas platform tents.  These tents are actually a huge part of Ocean Grove's history.  The town began as a Methodist Church Camp in 1869.  The Methodist Church built a HUGE auditorium for meetings in the center of town, which is still standing (and still very much in use).  This was the heyday of what was called the "Holiness Movement" (sometimes referred to as the Revivalist movement) and these summer communities sprung up all over the country with the idea of people coming together for worship and cleansing.  The tents of Ocean Grove were the first structures to be used at the site.  ...But why are they still there???

The inside of the ENORMOUS Ocean Grove Auditorium.  It seats almost 9,000.

St. Paul, inspecting material for his trade.
Why Tents?  (Warning--History/Religious Content)  
There is a very long history in the Christian faiths of tents as a metaphor as well as practical use.  Most people point to the fact that this is because the apostle Paul (arguably one of the most influential apostles for the spread of early Christianity) supported himself as a tentmaker.  These camp meetings are often called "revivalist" meetings or "tent" meetings.  The term "tentmaking" is used to describe someone who works for the church but supports themselves in another manner (like Paul).  Ever hear our political parties refer to their range and scope as "a big tent"?  Guess what--same root usage.  Tents can be put up quickly and can be used for a variety of uses--sleeping, cooking, worship, etc.  So tents and Christianity have a long, symbiotic relationship.

A common sight during the "Holiness" Movement.
Back to the Tents  
The tents themselves are almost all 14' wide by 21' long.  Originally there were several sizes, but now all are a standard size.  Interestingly enough, all have uniform fronts, though they are not decorated in uniform colors.  The tents are elevated on wooden platforms and are supported by wooden outriggers on either side.  The tents have wooden front doors that lock, offering a small amount of security.  The tents have a rain fly which is suspended above the actual body of the tent--this gives some protection from the rain, but also some relief from the heat.  If you talk to those who inhabit the tents, privacy is hard to come by--sound travels very freely between the tents--but that increases the feeling of community (one of the original goals of the meeting!).  The tents are rented on a yearly basis and are inhabited, as is the tradition, from May 15th to September 15th.  

Tent with the auditorium steeple in the background

Front of a tent showing the door and porch.
Close-up of the fly/roof assembly.

Outriggers provide support, as well as a means to decorate!

View of the side of a tent showing the cabin.
The "Cabins"  
The canvas tents are actually only half of a two-room structure.  Over the years, one-room cottages were added to the rear of the tents (all of them have this now).  This room acts as the kitchen.  All of the tents currently have a small bathroom and have hot water and electricity.  This is all done through the cabin.  As I was wandering through the tent community, it was about 3:00 and the temperature was almost 100 degrees.  Lots of the tents had window air conditioners installed in the rear cottage portion.  The cabin is also where the canvas tent and furnishings are stored in the winter months.

View of the rear of the tents showing the cabins.

A patriotic row.
The Tents Today  
Today, the tents are still rented by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.  As far as modern real estate law is concerned, the tents are treated like condos--some individual ownership, some communal ownership.  At one point, there were nearly 400 tents in Ocean Grove, but now there are only 114--a number that will most likely remain stagnant for the foreseeable future.  The tents are still rented on a year-to-year basis, but priority is given to families who have rented one in the past.  There are many tents that have been in the same family for three or four generations.  Modern zoning is prohibitive to such an establishment, but the tents are grandfathered.  The tents are as much a part of the identity and history of Ocean Grove as is the Auditorium, the beach, the boardwalk, or any other civic establishment.  

Patriotic Row

Unusual diagonal row.
Historic view of Ocean Grove.  My how beachwear has changed.