Monday, September 23, 2013

What is a "Historic Home"?
Part I

It is interesting to note that many perceive the term "historic home" as referring to a home that is a landmark or plaqued.  In the real estate industry, however, a "historic home" refers to any home that is 50 years or older.  Oh yes, that means that all those 1950s ranches are now considered "historic homes"!  Indeed, there is even a museum dedicated to this very thing--the 1950s ranch and how families lived during that era.  (rolling meadows historical museum)

The 1950s Ranch is a "Historic Home"
picture from Daily Herald

A now historic "modern-day" kitchen picture design from 1951.  So pretty in pink!

Going right down the line then are homes pre-1950s which one typically would equate with as having a more custom-type of construction, i.e., built on-site as opposed to pre-fab.  Originating in the 1600s and re-introduced again by Royal Barry Wills as an architectural style in the 1920s, the cape cod became a typical suburban home built in the 1940s.  Its exterior was in keeping with the original design of the 1600s but the interior was adapted for modern living.  Returning soldiers from WWII were in need of housing and this simple house fit the bill.

Royal Barry Wills Cape Cod
copyrighted image

This design was promoted as a "house for homemakers" which essentially is indicative of what most women were considered to have been doing during that era.

The 1930s brought in the era of Art Deco which primarily was seen in commercial applications and apartment buildings.  Art Deco consisted of geometric shapes, bold colors, and lavish ornamentation. 

Art Deco Carbide and Carbon Building
Chicago, IL (pic by Terence Faircloth)

Art Deco also influenced the interior design of the buildings as well as fashion, art, and furniture.

Art Deco Elevators Chicago

One style of home that was built in the 1930s was the "English cottage" home also known as the English Vernacular Revival, which was basically a bungalow with tudor styling.  These homes were single-story with steep pitched gabled roofs and one or more dominant front-facing gables.  

1936 Sears Roebuck Kit House

English Cottage Venacular, aka Tudor

The era of 1920s-1930s home were typical of the arts and crafts movement, aka craftsman, with the bungalow being a primary and most popular style.  The bungalow was not just an architectural style--but a way of life where all rooms were on one floor with no stairs allowing for ease of living.  

Part II next week.

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(an old Irish blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Specializing in Historic Homes
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to School History of Transporation

Did you know that the first "school bus" came into existence in 1827?  Yes, long before the automobile there existed the horse-drawn school carriage.  The very first "school bus" was designed to carry 27 children for a Quaker school in London.

First "School Bus" by Schillibeer in London

In the United States, a company called Wayne Works (and later known as Wayne Corporation) began manufacturing farm implements in 1837.  It is unclear, even in Wayne Work's own history as to when the manufacture of horse-drawn carriages began.  What is known is that by 1886 Wayne Works was manufacturing horse-drawn school carriages.  For the most part, prior to 1886, children were transported to school by farm wagons.

Wayne Works c 1868 School Hack
per WayneWorks picture from Nation's Schools

Interestingly, in Massachusetts circa 1869, the first legislation was passed to use public funds to pay farmers to transport students.  (   Horse-drawn school carriages were known as "school hacks" (hack being a certain type of carriage); "school trucks", "school cars", and "kid hacks".
Florida School Hack c 1989

The entrance to the carriages were through a rear single-door door entry so that the children would not startle the horse while loading and unloading.  

Florida School Hack c 1900

Some school districts even had a fleet of school trucks.

Early fleet of school trucks

In Northern climates during the winter children were transported by sleigh.  Believe it or not, a horse-drawn school carriage often did the job.

circa 1925, South Winn, Maine
copyright Lincoln Historical Society, item 34755

In 1914, Wayne Works put a wooden kid hack onto a automobile chassis and the fore-runner to the modern-day school bus was born.  While not the first to transport children via motor buses--they are recognized as the largest manufacturer of school buses.  Early models maintained the same design of a rear single-door entry.

Early School Bus with Rear Entry
picture from Wikipedia

Early Wayne motorized School Bus
per WayneWorks picture from Nation's Schools

Wayne Works was one of the earliest school bus manufacturer to replace the canvas window shades with windows circa 1930.

Wayne Works c 1930 School Bus
per WayneWorks picture from Nation's Schools

Even modern school buses retain the rear single-entry door now used for emergency exit.

What is your favorite memory about your trip to school?  Did you ride in a school bus, walk, or get a ride?

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Specializing in Historic Homes
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty pictures of Florida school trucks @

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Look Back in Time on a Hot Summer's Day

An early sleeping porch early 1900s
Today I thought I would take a look back into everyday life as it used to be.  Certainly there is a tendency at times to romanticize these "simpler" times.  Yet it is important to remember that with these "simpler" times came a lot of hard work and on a warm summer day like today--discomfort.  During the hot summer nights before the advent of air conditioning people would often create sleeping areas on outdoor porches--screened and unscreened.   In the early 1900s sleeping porches also gained popularity as it was believed that the fresh air was helpful for those suffering from tuberculosis.  The health benefits of fresh air was also touted.  In the Queen Anne style homes sleeping porches were often accessed through a window not a door.

It was Benjamin Franklin--the father of "all" inventions--who did discover the cooling effects of evaporation as early as 1758.  It wasn't until 1820 though that a Dr. John Gorrie built an ice-making machine that used compression to make buckets of ice and then blew air over them.  He patented the idea in 1851 but without any financial backing the idea went no further.  Another attempt at a cooling machine was made in 1881 and successfully lowered the air in the room by 20 degrees but utilized a half million pounds of ice in two months.  

It was not until 1902 that a economically usable system for cooling air and removing humidity was implemented by Willis Carrier for the Sackett-Willems Lithograph and Publishing Company so that the paper wouldn't wrinkle thereby keeping the ink aligned.  In 1906 a textile mill engineer named Stuart Cramer coins the phrase "air conditioning" when he adds humidity to the air of a yarn factory allowing for easier spinning of the yarn thereby reducing breakage.  Ironically the term "air conditioning" was first coined to describe adding humidity to the air as opposed to our modern-day understanding of removing it.  

Charles Gates Mansion
The first known home installation of an air conditioning unit was in the 38,000 square foot Minneapolis mansion of Charles Gates in 1914 and was approximately 7 feet high by 6 feet wide by and 20 feet long.  However as the home was never lived in, there remains questions as to whether or not it was ever put into use.

Willis Carrier and his
first centrifugal refrigeration system
In 1922, Willis Carrier added a central compressor to his system which enabled him to reduce the size of the system thereby making it practical to install in other applications other than a factory.  The system was installed in the Rivoli Theater in times square and debuted to the public.on Memorial Day Weekend in 1925.  In fact the term "summer blockbuster" arises from the large numbers of people who would pile into movie theaters on hot summer days.    

In the 1931 an individual air conditioner was invented that sits on a window ledge by H. H. Schultz and G. Q. Sherman.  These units are available for sale a year later at the cost of $10,000-$50,000 which is equivalent to $100,000 to $600,000 today.  (Popular Mechanics)  However, current calculations would put this at more like $170,000 to $850,000.  (Now that is taking luxury to new heights!)  Needless to say, it was the wealthy who were the only ones who could afford this modern-day luxury in their homes.  

Throughout the 1930s air conditioning spread to "department stores, rail cars, and offices, sending workers' summer productivity soaring.  Until then, central courtyards and wide-open windows had offered the only relief".  (Oremus)  "According to Gail Cooper's Air Conditioning America, tests of federal employees showed that typists increased their output by 24% when transferred from a regular office to a cooled one.  By 1957, the AC's early reputation for making workers lazy had been successfully inverted; Cooper writes of another study showing that, by then, almost 90% of companies cited air-conditioning as the most important factor in office efficency."  (Steinmetz)

In 1939 the first car with air conditioning rolled off the Packard production line.  The option costs $274 ($4,600 in today's money).  Yet dash controls for the device came later and the driver, if feeling too chilly, had to stop the car and disconnect the compressor.  Ah, the good ol' days. 

(Lambert/Getty image)
In the 1950s economic boom air conditioning became another way to keep up with the Joneses.  More than 1 million units were sold in 1953 alone.  However, as late as 1965, only 10% of the U.S. households have air conditioning.  "Families in the South made do by sleeping on the porch or even putting their underwear in the icebox."  (Oremus).   

By 2007 the number of households with air conditioning was 86 percent.  This ability to cool down the interior of a home resulted in a shifting of U.S. population as "Sun Belt cities that had been unbearable in the summer became more attractive places to live and work".  (Oremus)

Check out this timeline for more information about the history of air conditioning:  

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Specializing in Historic Homes
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty

A Brief History of Air Conditioning by Popular Mechanics.
A History of Air Conditiong by Will Oremus
Air Conditioning by Katie Steinmetz in Time U.S.