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GE wall refrigerator-freezer — a 1955 innovation — 5 design photos

wall refrigeratorThe GE wall refrigerator-freezer is the vintage kitchen appliance that perhaps draws the most gasps from readers when they see one for the first time. And, it’s one of the appliances that inspires many folks to ask, “Why don’t they make this today?”  Why did it disappear? I have a few hypotheses. According to the copy in these marketing materials (part of my personal collection), the GE wall refrigerator-freezer was introduced in 1955 — the same year that GE introduced the Wonder Kitchen and a whole suite of kitchen appliances all meant to encourage the “built-in” look.

vintage-GE-wonder-kitchen-4

Here’s what the ad says about this exciting new invention:

… This magnificent refrigerator-freezer that hangs from the wall provides a completely new and advanced concept of modern living. Truly, it is the most convenient and magnificent refrigerator-freezer ever produced!

vintage-GE-wonder-kitchen-8

The advantages of this new G-E Wall Refrigerator-Freezer are obvious: there’s no need to bend or stoop for foods because everything can be seen at a glance… It can be installed directly above a work counter to provide extra counter surface. And, there’s room in the kitchen for extra base cabinets because this compact new appliance occupies no floor space.

…Six Mix-or-Match colors including white.

wall-refrigerator-6Specs: “This de luxe refrigerator-freezer has 10.7 cubic feet of storage room — 8.7 cubic feet for fresh food and 2 cubic feet for frozen foods. It is 5 feet 4 inches long, 3 feet 3½ inches high and 17½ inches deep.

  1. Long-lasting baked enamel with a wide band of textured aluminum.
  2. All 3 doors are kept shut by famous alnico magnets. No handles, no catches.
  3. Separate vegetable and fruit compartments have transparent sliding doors.
  4. Top shelf provides space for tall bottles. Shelves are adjustable to various levels.
  5. Separate compartments inside door or butter, egg rack; and door shelves for small jars and cans.
  6. Zero-degree food freezer has room for up to 83 packages of frozen foods.
  7. Four new-style Mini-Cube® ice trays.
  8. Frozen fruit juice storage rack.
  9. Dependable whisper-quite ealed-in G-E refrigeration unit is built into the refrigerator. No need to install it separately.

wall-refrigerator-4Above: Note the special hanger gear on the wall. Readers experienced with this units advise: If you find one to buy for your kitchen, Be Sure to Get The Hanger Thingie!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these “live” working in a reader’s kitchen. But I see no reason that these could not still be used. They may require some refurbishing.

mondrian kitchenMix-and-Match style: Above, this image produced to advertise Armstrong Flooring shows just how the different GE cabinets and appliance colors could be mixed and matched Mondrian-style.

pink kitchenAbove: Another interior design from Armstrong floors — Note here, how the GE wall refrigerator-freezer unit is built into an appliance wall. Cool to the max. Plus: Love that floor!

vintage-GE-wonder-kitchen-1Above: Here’s the GE Wonder Kitchen.

mies van der rohe apartment chicagoAbove: Reader Chris scored a GE Wonder Kitchen, refurbished it, and installed it in his apartment, which is in a building designed by Mies van Der Rohe.

vintage GE refrigeratorOkay, so can I now really blow your mind? Above: A full GE Refrigeration Center — combining the wall refrigerator-freezer with base cabinets refrigeration and even tucking in two Cabinettes. I don’t know the year of this ad, although this marketing image is somewhere in my files. 

partio cartAbove: And this one blows our minds too: The GE Partio Cart, introduced in 1960.

Why did GE wall refrigerator-freezers fade from the marketplace?

I hypothesize: (1) An 8.7 cu.ft. refrigerator was not “enough”, especially as manufacturers continued to offer new, larger refrigerator designs. (2) Kids could not reach the refrigerator. (3) Many women [average height was 5’4″, I remember reading once] themselves had trouble reaching. (4) I’m guessing these were expensive.

What do you think, readers?
Why did these not endure?
Would you like one for your kitchen?

Love vintage refrigerators? Also check out these stories:

  1. Roy Nelson says:

    We have an original one, installed in our parents custom home in 1956. It has worked flawlessly until three weeks ago (9/1/2015). We prefer to restore it and continue using it but may have to replace it if we can’t find anyone/parts to repair it. Any help would be appreciated: Campbell CA

  2. m osterman says:

    I had two of these fridges some years ago and loved them. One was pink and the other was a chocolate color. They both worked very well. I am trying to find one again for my kitchen. If you have any idea where one might be found please pass the info on to me.
    Thanks, Mike

    1. Raghu says:

      Hi Mike, I have an aqua blue one of these in my house, and I’m interested in selling it as I’m remodeling my kitchen — I just posted it on my company’s internal buy/sell email list.

      I’m located in the bay area. Let me know (and provide your contact info) if you’re interested. Looking for $1000, but willing to negotiate.

  3. Jim Kohout says:

    10-28-15. I just finished a job in Wellsburg WV and was amazed when I saw the chocolate upper wall refrigerator hanging there. I’ve never seen anything like it in person. The homeowners told me it was put in when they built the house in 1955 and they are still using it as there only refrigerator. I took a lot of photos and offered them $2500 for it , they just laughed at me.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Read all the comments, I think this has been discussed. Be Careful, Very Heavy.

      GET WITH A PROFESSIONAL

    2. Michelle P Neff says:

      Yes I had one that died a misrible death. Lift it up it takes Two strong people. after unplugging it from the wall outlet instide the compressor compartment. Then take the bracket off the wall. It really cant be easily repowered with a new comprossor GE does not support it any more.

      Its a shame too generally the kitchent they put it in were small and it hung on wall over a counter

        1. pam kueber says:

          Marilyn, I really think you need to be consulting with a professional regarding these questions. You might also try GE, which manufactured the unit. Good luck.

  4. Lisa says:

    I have a working yellow wall hung in my house along with a 1950’s nut one ventilation hood and yellow kitchen aid dishwasher. All work and are used!!!! They certainly do not make things the way they used to. It is my understanding the reason the refrigerator qorks to this day is that there are only three main components. I am going to sell the house this summer and the realtor says I should upgrade my kitchen as the retro buyer severely limits the niche he can sell the house to. Wondering if anyone know what I should sell them for and where I should advertise? I have seen the frig refurbished selling for over $15,000.

  5. Lisa says:

    I called a realtor specializing in mid-century modern but it sounds as if he is going by the comps in the neighborhood. If comps is the answer then all the other realtors are right and renovation is the only way to get the most out of the house. I can not afford to do otherwise. It is so unfortunate that buyers do not share our
    love for this style. Any idea where to post for sale? Are there classifieds that cater to modernism?

    1. pam kueber says:

      not that i know of.

      we had a story recently of someone with mid mod original features. she tidied everything up – painted over some of the more colorful walls – staged it carefully – and told me later, she got an excellent offer right away

      beware costs of updating – research indicates that, on average, homeowners do not recoup their expenditures: http://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2015/

  6. Amy says:

    I have a working 1957 wall refrigerator that is original to the house we just purchased. It still works great! We’ve had many people take pics of it because it’s such a rare thing to see. Ours is white! We also have the original 1957 GE wall oven that is in emaculate condition! It’s stainless. Our house was a one owner custom construction and we’ve been in it for two months now. It’s like a step back in time but we are thoroughly enjoying our kitchen. They do not make appliances to last these days.

  7. Marilyn Milstein says:

    Is it possible to get parts for these wall mounted refrigerators? We may need a new thermostat but can’t find the serial # to see if they are available thru GE. Any suggestions?

  8. pam kueber says:

    Folk, I am closing comments on this one, as they are becoming quite redundant.

    Stuff that came up in the thread with some frequency:

    – To buy/sell, head to ebay, craigslist, etc.
    – For fixit and parts ideas, I suggest trying The Old Appliance Club.
    – To install or take down, I suggest you (1) try GE, which manufactured the unit and/or (2) get with a licensed professional to help. These things are heavy — be careful! Get with a pro so you know what you are doing!

    And: Be Safe/Renovate Safe.!

    — Pam

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