During WWII the demand for housing to support the war effort jump-started the prefabrication industry, which had always held out the promise of mass produced inexpensive homes. In some cases the government created their own instant cities, with homes, schools, shopping centers and recreational facilities appearing practically overnight. A famous example of this is Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where 75,000 people were housed and employed to process the uranium needed for the Manhattan Project. To design Oak Ridge the Federal government contracted with the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), which later went on to postwar success in both modernist city planning and skyscraper design. At the end of the war some of these homes designed by SOM were loaded onto trucks and sent to Chicago, where they were reconstructed along land next to the Sanitary Canal.
|Rogers Park in West Ridge, Showing Temporary Housing Sites in Red.|
Memory of the temporary homes seemed to quickly fade. In 1957 the Chicago Park District awarded a contract to develop the area and the adjacent land to the east into what would become Rogers Park. A Tribune article notes that the property had been used as a golf driving range, truck gardens, and a site for greenhouses. But not a word about the 20 buildings that housed 120 veterans and their families for seven years.
Of the 23 sites which were utilized for temporary housing in Chicago very little evidence remains. But when I was putting together the map for this post I realized that the largest remaining trees in the park are located in the area which was between the north and south halves of the development. So there's a small nod to history for those who know to look for it.
If any readers have photos of these homes I would love to see them. You can leave a comment below or message me directly.