Hodgson Houses, the first pre-fabricated homes in the U.S.

I found this 1954 Hodgon Houses catalog at an estate sale two summers ago. As you can see, it belonged to the Herzig Brothers — builders who once operated in Lenox. But of even greater interest, a little online research immediately uncovered the bigger historical factoid that Hodgson Houses are recognized as the first, true prefabricated homes in America.

In fact, there is an excellent website dedicated to the history of Hodgson Houses. It says that the company was started by Ernest Hodgson of Dover, Mass. His first foray into prefabricated buildings was chicken coops called Peep o’ Days and as that business grew, a line called “Wigwarms.” His prefab concept was so good that he continued to expand into other structures like doghouses, tool sheds, Hodgson Camp Cottages and Summer Cottages. Once automobiles took hold, the market for garage structures sounds like it led to a huge boom and the business grew from there to include houses. There is also an excellent timeline on the site, and I believe it indicates that the company as it originated ceased to exist in 1948, when E.F. Hodgson died. The company continued other under names until 1995.

Taking my 1954 brochure as evidence, I bet there were many Hodgson houses built – especially in the Northeast. I remember exactly where the estate sale was, and as I believe that was the home of the Herzigs, I bet it was a Hodgson house.  I will take some photos to compare to the homes in the 1954 brochure. To be sure, there are many many homes in my area, especially in nearby Pittsfield, which was thriving in the immediate postwar era. 1

The other really interesting thing about the catalog is that the list prices are inked in. Taking a look at the split level above, a $15,200 house in 1954 translates to $121,000, not including land (calculations according to coinnews.net calculator.) Note, The Newton split level model above — someone colored it in, in the office copy. I love that.

There’s more: You can see a complete timeline relating the history of prefab houses on this museum website.

I’ve included all the 1954 homes from my brochure in this gallery. You can also see catalogs for 1942, 1925 and 1908 on hodgsonhouses.com. Cool stuff. Oh how I love the internet, it truly truly is an amazing thing.

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Comments

  1. John says

    Hi Pam,

    How cool is that to find a brochure for local homes. I’ve been trying to find some info on Kay-Vee Reality which built my home and many,many others in the Ryan Road/Burts Pit Road area of Florence. They also built sub divisions in Ludlow and Chicopee. Have you ever run across any info about Kay-Vee Reality in your travels?
    John aka AtomicHipster

  2. John says

    Thanks, Pam, My neighbor told me his home and mine were Model homes. That probably explains why I have fireplace,built in book cases around picture window in livingroom and other extra’s throughout my home. I can hear the realitor now “And you can add these extra features for a nominal fee”. hehe
    John

  3. gavin hastings says

    K-V was Kennedy Vadnais. They built milions of excellent capes and L-ranches throughout Western Mass after WW2. Just about every town in the area has a section created by K-V Homes.

    Here in 16 Acres, their mega-acreage development had a small billboard picturing a happy cartoon family until about 1966. I wish they were still building this type of home.

    Pam-fantastic info on these Hodgson Homes. Did you notice on page 13 of the first booklet….the lidded sink is listed as a set-tub AND it shows the drum type drain trap I was trying to describe a few days ago?

    • MaryCAtherine says

      I too wish they were building the same kind of homes with all the lovely touches that made them so special. The houses today are too big, too expensive and lack the charming features built into older homes. Like woodwork, rounded arches and doorways; special built ins and on and on. Oh well one day I will find my 1940’s dream home. It will be just the right size and have a big window over the sink

  4. Jonathan says

    Pam, how do you go about finding out who may have been the original builder of a home?

    My home looks like it’s a blend of the Falmouth, Westward, and Wayland models.

    Having just moved into my home last spring, I’m more and more curious about its history. Just yesterday, my parents helped me with removing a terribly stained white carpet that, according to my parents, is from the 1970s. We found hardwood floors. My mom thought that it’s maple. It looks so much better than the old carpet, but it still needs to be worked on. Here’s a link to the photos of my home: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71774518@N00/ (See the first five photos on that page.)

  5. gavin hastings says

    Pam, I figure you must be busy-so may I answer?

    Jonathan-go to the Registry of Deeds in your county and look up your property deed. It will give a Volume and Page number and date of the previous owner’s purchase. Write down the name and purchase price for your own records.. Look up the previous owners deed.Continue this route until the property has either been subdivided or the purchase price increases very dramatically. It should correspond with the date the home was erected.

    You now have the names of all previous owners. (for later)

    Now take a trip over to your Assesors Office. With the lot number, they SHOULD be able to tell you who the builder was. In my city, after 1935, a picture of the new structure is included with the file. You should also see the Building Permit.

    Now take a trip to your largest area library. Most towns of any considerable size publish yearly City Directories listing addresses, owners, family size and occupation. You wil get a real backround and new respect for your home. Many details that you now “just scratch your head” at- will make perfect sense after you get a profile on past occupants.

    This can be done in one afternoon. Good luck and I hope I didn’t overstep my “readership” bounds.

  6. John says

    Hi Gavin,

    Thanks for the name connected to Kay-Vee Realty. Is that a persons first and last name or two last names of partners in the business?
    Thanks, John

  7. gavin hastings says

    Mr. Keddy and Mr Vadnais.

    Today I called a friend and neighbor, Dot Lortie, well known realtor here in Springfield. She has been selling homes since the late 1950’s-owns her own company-and has seen just about everything about home sales in WMass for almost 6 decades!

    Kay-Vee…or K-V as they became more successful, were in the right place at the right time after WW2. She states that just about every town in this half of the state has a Vadnais or Keddy Street. Their office was located at Bay and Roosevelt in Springfield (oddly, it was brick, modern and flat roofed). It still stands as a landscapers office.

    In the early 1960’s, cheap, multiple acreage tracts of land became harder to come by. She remembers that the founders kids had no desire to continue and the company disolved.
    They were the Levitts of Western Massachusetts. (only without the innovation)

    So, there you go. I hope your home is still covered with the large grooved shakes. To me, they just look right on that type of house.

    • pam kueber says

      Thank you, Gavin, for your research. These kinds of companies were known at “merchant builders” — and they were in every city and decent-sized town all across America. Post-WWII was quite the busy period, to be sure.

  8. Cynthia barchard says

    Hi! We own a very typical “Wayland house” built in the 60s and we are the third homeowners and (obviously) the only ones interested in renovating it!
    I’be been searching high aND low for low cost options for renovating our kitchen. Low cost meaning aby thing that hubby can do and he is pretty takented. I’m having a hard time finding floor plans and getting ideas other than breaking the wall down betweeb living room and kitchen. I wish there was something I could resource!

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