Modular Home History
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It all started with the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 1800s. Following an age of excess, Americans decided to go back to their roots of simplicity, and the bungalow became their home style of choice. The bungalow comprised both natural and artistic elements, but was affordable and practical. Bungalows were known for their open living areas, built-in furniture, and indoor plumbing. They were also known for their simple exterior lines, low-pitched roofs, large porches, and exposed roof rafters.
As homes became simpler, catalogue homes came into vogue. These mail-order kit homes were initially small and intended as summer or vacation homes, until Aladdin Homes of Bay City, Michigan began making larger, year-round homes in 1910. Aladdin Homes was soon followed by Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Bennett Homes.
The purpose of these mail-order homes, according to the copy in the catalogs and other advertising materials, was to make home ownership more affordable. According to each company, the labor-saving machine construction, as well as the bulk purchasing and quantity construction, contributed to the affordability.
Early modular home styles included the two-story center entrance colonial, the Cape Cod, the Dutch farmhouse, the Queen Anne, and a stucco-finished Spanish mission-style home. In addition to choosing the style of their home, buyers were also allowed to choose paint color, wood type, masonry work, door and window design, cabinet design, and interior fixtures. For an additional fee, homeowners could also choose extras like free-standing garages, sun porches, and enclosed rear entrances with cellar stairs.
The housing boom slowed a bit, but then picked up again as GIs came home from World War II looking for a place to live. A man named Bill Levitt answered this need by producing a new breed of mass-produced homes. While Levitt's version was similar to early modular homes, one difference was that the homes were built assembly-line style. Another difference was that Levitt's homes had a cookie-cutter feel — they all looked alike — while the earlier modular bungalows were more individual.
As Americans became surrounded by urban blight — as factories kicked into high gear to make televisions, automobiles, appliances, and other symbols of the American dream — homeowners began to crave a more "hands-on" experience, looking to themselves to personalize their homes.
Today modular homes have come full circle. There is no room for cookie-cutter boxes. Home owners today want well-designed homes that reflect their individuality, but in an affordable and timely manner. Today's modular home manufacturers answer this need.
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History of Modular Homes