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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

The Tiny Houses of the 40s

War time shortages of lumber, as well as sugar and gas affected the citizens of Central Illinois in the 40s. From the pages of the Pantagraph we have a few families moving into chicken brooder houses when there were not enough houses! They also moved into tiny houses on wheels, the first mobile homes, which had interesting features not found in the mobile homes I knew in the past.


As early as 1939, Elsie Hicks of Shirley, IL was living in a brooder house -- in 1942 the Pantagraph said she had been living in this house for four years! So, for her, this was not a short term solution. Note that the house was adapted with sash windows.


In January of 1942 Larue Elkins' home in Gibson City was featured in the Pantagraph. Larue had really tricked out his house with a decorative eave over the front door and carriage lights! Note also, TWO chimneys???


The interior of Larue's home:


During the war, the shortage of lumber was such that the available lumber was used to create prefabricated chicken brooder houses. Building chicken houses was a priority over housing people! Eventually, people were buying the prefabs to live in themselves.


The E.O. Leshers of Normal, IL moved into this prefab chicken brooder house in 1946. Prior to the brooder house, the Leshers lived in an old Pullman train carriage! (Possibly my dream tiny home.)


These experienced tiny home dwellers knew how to make a comfy tiny space:


Harry Brenerman of Minier lived in a chicken brooder prefab in 1946. He appeared to be a bachelor with bachelor minimalist tastes.



The interior was also marked as a bachelor pad. Note the linoleum flooring and the stove that looks like a shop-vac!


In their housing choices Central Illinoisians showed their innovative spirit and adaptability!


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