This is a bit of a different post, but this is one of my favorite topics. Plus, I’ve been rained in on my ranch and can’t buy groceries to cook wartime recipes. I hope you find this as interesting as I do.
This is the front cover of the July 1941 issue of The American Home.
I want to post the entire article and then discuss it some at the very end. There are numerous images because I wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to see everything in the article.
Here we go!
This home was obviously carefully budgeted and it is apparent from the article it cost less than a typical new build in 1941. There were some cleverly designed details, like the breakfast bar pictured above, and there was some creative budgeting applied to make this home affordable. There also were some nice touches that were surprising in a budget home.
If my math is right, this home is only a little under 700 square feet. That’s a small house. Note the front porch runs front-to-back along the garage and the front door opens directly into the living room as was common at the time. The garage doesn’t have a door that leads into the house. The only access beyond the large doors at the front of the garage is a single door opening onto the porch.
The back rooms are all connected by doorways. I wish they had included laundry room and bathroom pictures. I would have loved to see what they looked like. The door leading outside from the laundry room would have been incredibly practical for hanging out laundry and handy for accessing the backyard after a hard day of work.
I’m curious as to why they chose to put the fireplace on the front of the home instead of the end. Although, it could be that this was a corner lot. The house number is on the side of the porch facing the same way as the garage and driveway, but there is a sidewalk with decorative planters facing toward the right side–the side the single garage door faces. Perhaps they considered the “front” of the house the side where the sidewalk led away from the porch, past the planters. If that was the case, I wonder if there was ever confusion over which door led into the house.
A couple other things to note: The ceilings in the den seem to be a kind of chevron pattern. The wall paneling in the living room and den is vertical, but in the kitchen it is horizontal.
I used an United States inflation calculator and found that $2000.54 in 1941 would equal $36,635.06 in 2021. I decided to see if you could purchase a home anywhere in the United States for $35,000 to $40,000 today.
I randomly chose 14 different small-to-medium size cities across the country and looked at the current home listings on a popular realtor site. Grand Rapids MI, Duluth MN, and Ft. Wayne IN had nothing available under $50,000 except empty lots for sale. I ran into the same results in Gastonia NC, Portland ME, and Birmingham NY.
The Northwest was a little better. I found a Spokane area mobile home for $45,000, a manufactured home in Boise for $21,000 with the stipulation that it must be moved off the current site, and a 1972 manufactured home in Salem, OR for $45,000. Looking at the midwest, I found a single-wide mobile home in Lincoln, NE also for $45,000. I really wanted to find something closer to the adjusted cost of the home in this article, though.
I finally found some homes under $40,000. In Lubbock, TX there were several options. Most were older homes that were in bad need of repairs. While they don’t really compare to our new home in the article above, one example was a similarly-sized home built in 1943. The owners are asking $40,000 currently. It didn’t have a fireplace, which the magazine home did, but it did have one more bedroom. I wonder how they would have compared when they were new.
Other similarly priced homes were available in Macon, GA. Built in 1950 and 1963, they were similarly sized to the Bain’s home and were both listed at around $30,000. Columbus, GA had a home about twice the size available. It was built in 1943 and is being listed today for just under $40,000.
Reading, PA had some really cool-looking turn-of-the-last-century townhouses that are currently being listed around the $30,000 to $40,000 range. They all looked in dire need of repair work, but for someone interested in historical homes, they were fantastic.
I also found that you can purchase a new single-wide mobile home for around $40,000. It’ll be small and simple, but it is still new.
That was all a lot of words to say that it would be really difficult to find a comparable home in 2021 for the adjusted price of the 1941 home. I’ll go as far as to say that it would be impossible to find a comparable newly built home in 2021 (if you are counting homes built on-site.) I’ll also add a reminder here that this was in July 1941–before we entered the war and supplies were harder to obtain.
Let me know if you like this kind of post. I enjoy looking at housing, especially homes that were really lived in by people during the early 1940s. I think homes say a lot about the people who live in them and the way life was at the time they were built.