The history of kit houses goes back to the beginning of civilization. They were used during the Bronze Age in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). These primitive dwellings were made from wood or mud brick with no insulation.

People lived in them without any indoor plumbing, cooking facilities or electricity. They had no doors, windows or even walls. They were not meant to last very long. However, they did survive until the Middle Ages when they became obsolete due to better construction techniques and materials.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, one-room school houses were common in America. They were simple, small wooden buildings that were often made from trees on the school grounds. These tiny schools were heated with wood-burning stoves.

There was no indoor plumbing, no showers, no toilets and no drinking fountains. Literature was scarce. Blackboards were rare. The school house was a bleak place. Most of the students worked on farms and had to walk several miles to school. They were homeschooled after the age of 10.

In the poverty-ridden 19th century, Frank Lloyd Wright made a fortune building small office buildings for the new fast-growing companies in America’s industrial revolution. These buildings were very plain and made from bricks. They provided the much-needed work space for the businesses that would lay the cornerstone for the world’s mightiest industrial giant.

By the beginning of the 20th century, steel-frame skyscrapers were becoming the standard. They were cheap, fast and efficient. The workers were paid on an incentive basis and worked like slaves in a sweatshop. They needed minimum training, skill and effort to build.

The 20th century saw the rise of the middle class. Every family aspired to own their dream home. It was an essential part of the American dream.

The US government even offered tax breaks to home owners. The real estate market was hot. Large American banks and investment companies such as Fanny Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) invested in mass production of homes. The real estate boom and bust of the 1920s saw the rise and fall of several home builders, including the infamous William Levitt. He built thousands of homes in Long Island, New York. The mass-produced homes came without garages, sidewalks, lawns or even gardens. They looked exactly the same from the front. The identical houses looked like little boxes. This type of housing became known as “Levittown”.

The post-war boom saw the rise of mass production of homes in the United States. These homes were typically cheap and cheerful. They were meant for middle-class families.

They had all the basic amenities such as hot running water, gas or electric stoves, toilets and showers. Sleeping arrangements were listed in a special key kept by the real estate agent. There were no surprises. The houses had everything a family needed to live comfortably. They were similar to the tract houses of the 1920s. These houses were mass-produced and came out of factories looking exactly the same.

Home buyers loved the idea of owning a home and could easily afford the monthly payments. The real estate market was so hot, young couples could not even buy a home near where they worked. The competition was too much for them.

The young couples had to look for homes in remote suburbs far away from their workplaces. They would commute for hours every day. This trend of people moving away from city centers to suburbs triggered the rise of the automobile industry.

The rise of the suburbs created a unique problem for city centers. Large companies such as Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward and other big corporations pulled out of the city and moved to the suburbs. City centers became deserted and the crime rate went up.

Most of these old buildings were torn down and replaced with parking lots. A new word was coined to describe this strange phenomenon: “white flight”. This term was used to describe the mass exodus of white middle-class families from the cities to the suburbs.

Today, you will find that most homes have all the modern amenities. These homes can be mass-produced and yet look very attractive from the outside. Home buyers can choose to build their homes from scratch or buy a model home and personalize it according to their tastes.

There is a greater variety of homes to choose from. Home buyers can choose to live in the city, the suburbs or even in a farmhouse out in the country. The choices are many, but only if you have the money to afford a home.

 

Sources & references used in this article:

The ultimate construction toy: Applying kit-of-parts theory to habitat and vehicle design by L Griffin – 1998 – Pavilion

Prefab architecture: A guide to modular design and construction by AS Howe – AIAA Space Architecture Symposium, 2002 – arc.aiaa.org

Getting the Houses to the People: Edward Bok, the Ladies’ Home Journal, and the Ideal House by KR Bhote – 2000 – AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn