Prefabricated housing is not a new concept. With its predictability and speed of construction it is a reputable and widely used construction method that has been utilised in many forms for decades.
While building technology has come a long way and we have greater flexibility in design, every now and then it’s nice to reflect and appreciate the exemplary professionals of bygone eras.
The Frost House is one such prefabricated home that deserves mention because of its contribution to the prefabricated housing movement.
Although named after its original owners, the Frost House was originally a display home conceived in the late 1950s by Ohio-based company, Alside Homes Corporation. Alside Homes offered ‘the industry’s first manufactured aluminium home’ to the American public – veering away from the timber constructions of prefabs past and moving towards sleek industrial materials championed by architects of the international style.
The combination of glass walls and prefabricated aluminium panels with baked enamel finishes (an industry first) fitted into a steel framework all led to the construction system and materials themselves becoming patent protected from September 1962.
Designed and engineered by Emil Tessin and manufactured by Alside Homes, the home was the sales model for this particular prefab system. The interiors were designed by Paul McCobb & Knoll Inc. and the owners even purchased the original display furniture.
Very little has changed today. “It was like walking into a museum or time capsule,” explains current owner Bob Coscarelli. Working alongside his wife Karen Valentine, the pair have been studious in their restoration and preservation of this modular beauty. Any renovation works completed remain sympathetic to its iconic modernist origins.
“It truly is a great untold American story in the architectural world,” reflected Karen.
The owners have been documenting their investigation into the history of their modular home and their research has unearthed some interesting stories and sales material from the era.
An advert in LIFE Magazine back in August 1961 proclaimed: “INSTANT HOUSE. It will come delivered in two trailer trucks and within 48 hours will be completely assembled down to the last fixture and appliance.”
Look Magazine 1962 features Alside Homes and declares, “Some are homes for the venturesome clients. Others are research houses. All demonstrate that new building materials, suited to mass production, will advance housing from the craft methods of the 19th century to the industrial techniques of the twentieth. The next 25 years will reflect these changes. In excellence of design, performance, cost and appeal, our homes will match America’s best machine-made products.”
Photographer – Bob Coscarelli via The Frost House website