TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - Spurred in 1948 by a newly released movie starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, coupled with a growing post-World War II housing market, General Electric partnered with Hollywood’s RKO Studios to build “dream homes” throughout the country.
Seventy-six dream homes were built, including one at 2400 Ohio Blvd. in Terre Haute. That home, based on the movie “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” will be featured this month in a home tour/pool party as part of a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
Newlin-Johnson Development was the contractor on the project, which agreed to build the home according to architectural specifications from RKO Studios.
“It was built before I joined the firm,” said John T. Newlin, whose father founded Newlin-Johnson Co. Inc. in 1932. “They used steel framing for the house that was made locally at the former Stran Steel company. During the war, that company built Quonset huts for the Army and Navy.” John Newlin is chairman of the board of directors of the company.
It was the only dream home built with a steel frame, Vigo County Historical Society executive director Marylee Hagan told the Tribune-Star (http://bit.ly/TV3zIs ).
Indiana had two other sites for the dream homes, one in Indianapolis and a second in South Bend. RKO’s architectural plans had several designs, including ranch-style homes, to fit different sections of the country.
Concrete was used for the flooring of the Terre Haute dream house. An Oct. 9, 1948, newspaper account states that concrete “was poured upon a corrugated metal base which was mounted on the structural Stran Steel joists. The floors were poured to a thickness of 2 inches. The flooring is vermin proof, sound-proof and termite proof.”
Footings and walls of the house are reinforced concrete, 12 inches thick.
“It is a fortress. Except for commercially built buildings, there is nothing stronger” in Terre Haute, said Bryan Sponsler, who now owns the house with his wife, Catherine.
“The only time you hear anything is when someone is walking up or down the stairs,” Sponsler said, as the stairs are made of wood.
Sponsler, who purchased the home in 2004, said it came with the original “Mr. Blandings” blueprints.
Yet what may have fascinated most who toured the home in 1948 were GE’s newest home electronics, including automatic washer and dryer; two-temperature refrigerator; range; 8-foot home freezer; dishwasher; a sink combination complete with a disposal unit; cabinets; a flat plate ironer; water heater; vacuum cleaner; and radios.
The home also included an intercom system called “Teletalk” as well as an electric Westminster doorbell chime. Sponsler said he recently discovered a company that still makes replacement parts, and so he plans to restore the chimes. In addition, the home featured central heating and cooling.
“At the open house, it was arranged that tickets would be sold by a sorority,” Newlin said. “It was quite something,” Newlin said, “and it has proven to be an excellent home.”
The open house was held Oct. 10, 1948, and members of Tri Kappa Sorority, chartered in 1921, served as hostesses. “Their job will call for poise, patience and a fund of knowledge about the model home and its furnishings in anticipation of the many questions which will be put to them by the inquisitive visitors,” the newspaper account states.