Wheel Estate

Wheel Estate

The Rise and Decline of Mobile Homes

Book - 1991
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Mobile homes--or manufactured housing, as they are called today--provide shelter for more than twelve and a half million Americans, and in the last two decades have accounted for one quarter of all new single family housing produced annually. Yet they have been attacked as unsafe and unsatisfactory, and critics have argued that they should be banned or restricted. But to Allan Wallis, the mobile home embodies many of the most fundamental American ideals of home and community.
In Wheel Estate, Allan Wallis offers a lively and informative history of this much-maligned form of housing over six decades. He begins with the travel trailers of the late 1920s and 1930s, describing models that were built like yachts or unfolded like Polaroid cameras. With the Second World War, Wallis writes, the industry mushroomed as trailers became homes for thousands of defense workers; he vividly portrays the communities they lived in and the trailer houses that were turned out under government contract. After the war, severe housing shortages sustained demand for trailers as year-round housing. The industry responded with new models--now called mobile homes--that tried to strike a balance between house and vehicle, even as owners built their own often fanciful additions (including one mobile home complete with Egyptian pylons). The results, illustrated in Wheel Estate, were sometimes comic, but they revealed what Americans thought their housing ought to look like.
The need for mobile homes today has only grown as the housing crisis continues to deepen. Wallis reviews recent efforts to remove barriers against the use of manufactured housing and to assure construction quality, and he discusses how some of these efforts have backfired, making mobile homes less affordable. Wallis argues that, despite moves to restrict mobile homes, they remain a useful and distinctively American form of housing. This colorful account, extensively illustrated with period photographs and vivid portraits of the people who live in mobile homes and the industry pioneers who designed and built them, will inform and amuse anyone curious about this American phenomenon.
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 1991
ISBN: 9780195061833
0195061837
Characteristics: x, 283 p. : ill. ; 24 cm

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