As World War II drew to a close, Alden B. Dow actively participated in the design of badly-needed, low-cost housing. Seeking an efficient and economical way to build homes, the Ingersoll Steel and Disc Division of the Borg-Warner Corporation of Kalamazoo produced a prefabricated, all-in-one utility unit that could be manufactured off site and rolled into a house to provide furnace, water heater, plumbing, electrical circuits, kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. It was 30 inches wide, 77 inches high and 90 inches long, and would fit through any standard door. The unit saved scarce metal, eliminated the need for a basement, and shortened construction time.
In 1945, Ingersoll invited eight nationally-known architects, including Mr. Dow, to design demonstration houses using the utility core. The twelve houses that were built in Kalamazoo were collectively known as Ingersoll Village. Mr. Dow designed two houses in a cul-de-sac at 1101 and 1103 Crown Street, a two-bedroom model and a 1500 square foot three-bedroom model.
Although referred to as “corn-crib houses” because two of the exterior walls in each slope outward toward the top, the design was intended to create a feeling of spaciousness inside without having to enlarge the footprint, while shading the lower portion of the house from direct sunlight.
He also specified the interior colors and selected movable furniture from Herman Miller and Artek-Pascoe. Living, dining, and kitchen floors were blue linoleum, and the bedrooms were yellow linoleum. The living room featured a Dow-designed round table with red linoleum top and two Saran-covered chairs. The wall behind the light gray sectional sofa was to be completely covered with colored maps. The birch dining table had yellow leather chairs around it. An eating counter was painted Nile Green, with natural wood finish shelves above it. Potted plants were to be suspended from the rafters in designated areas.
While many have been modified in various ways, all the original Ingersoll Village homes are still in active use.
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