Alcoa Care-Free Homes

In January of 1957 the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) announced the formation of a "Residential Building Products Sales Division" to manage its expansion into the home-building market.  To jump-start sales in this newly formed division as well as explore and encourage new uses for aluminum in home-building, Alcoa also announced they would be sponsoring the construction of 50 "Care-Free" aluminum model homes priced under $25,000. The company stated its aim was to create a lower maintenance home and achieve the "greatest change in residential building materials in centuries." (Scroll down to see full announcement article)

Alcoa hired prominent architect Charles M. Goodman to design the "Care-Free" home; the standard model had post and beam style construction with 1,900 square feet of living space and included 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. The design integrated the use of 7,500 lbs of colorful aluminum details throughout the house, including a sky-blue roof, gold front door and its signature purple siding and blue window grilles.

By the end of 1957 approximately 24 of the Alcoa "Care-Free" homes were completed across the US. Unfortunately for Alcoa, they never made it to the planned 50 model homes; I have read conflicting information on how many were actually built, the lowest being 24 and the highest 46 (if anyone out there knows the for sure please let me know!). From what I could gather from my research, the final cost of the homes were much higher than expected, ranging from $35K to $60K, which I speculate led to the projects eventual demise.

To quote the Alcoa Care-Free Home national sales brochure-
"You're about to take a pictorial tour through your dream house, now made real"

An Alcoa Care-Free model home was featured in the October 1957 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Below are some images from that article.

Article announcing the Alcoa Care-Free homes program in The News Dispatch, Jan 16, 1957

Below are images of the Alcoa aluminum home located in Brighton, NY,  taken by the current home-owners who purchased the house in 2007 and began an extensive restoration project on the 50 year-old home.

 Image courtesy: Los Angeles Times

Thanks to the current home-owners restoration efforts, the home has been brought back to its former glory and earned its place on the cover of the Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors book published in 2012.

Built in 1958, the Alcoa Care-Free Home in St. Louis Park, MN, is also going through renovations, which can be followed on the new home owners' blog "Our Care-Free Home". Below are some images of that home.

Below are images from the St. Louis Park home real estate listing, more can be seen at Retro-Renovation

Alcoa also built a model home in Miami, FL.  Read the original 1957 newspaper article about it here.  Below are some photos of the property posted on Modern Capital; see the rest here.

Alcoa Care-Free Home architect Charles M. Goodman in his office; note the trademark woven window grille from the Alcoa homes leaning against the wall on the right.  Image courtesy Dwell Magazine.

On a related subject- Alcoa was also looking to get into the prefab house market and and chose five architects to submit design proposals. The sketch above was by Charles W. Moore and William Turnbill. You can read more about this here.

Additional Information and Sources:
The complete Alcoa Care-Free Home sales brochure can be seen here
For The Better Homes and Gardens article on the Alcoa homes click here
More photos by the current owners of the Brighton, NY home can be seen here
Follow the St. Louis Park home renovations on Our Care-Free Home
For a St Louis Park Historical Society article on the Alcoa aluminum house click here
For images and information on another Alcoa home located in Perrysburg, OH click here
For various old newspaper articles about the Alcoa Care-Free project click here
For more on architect Charles M Goodman click here and here
For the Charles M Goodman Flickr group click here

Artist Charles Green Shaw

Soft Guitar, 1937. via Spanierman Modern 

Musical Composition, 1935. via D. Wigmore Fine Art

Open Secret, 1939. via D. Wigmore Fine Art 

Untitled, 1939. via Christie's 

Homage to Klee, c. 1940. via Forum Gallery 

Orbit, 1940. via Spanierman Modern 

Untitled, 1940. via Christie's

Day and Night Polygon, 1936. via D. Wigmore Fine Art 

Flying Figure, 1941. via Christie's 

Rooftops and Pennants, 1942. via Heather James Fine Art

Black into Yellow, 1970. via Spanierman Modern 

Black and White Against Yellow, 1969. via Spanierman Modern 

Flight in Space, 1968. via Spanierman Modern 

Interior Number 2, c. 1966. via Spanierman Modern

Charles in military dress, 1918. Photo: Smithsonian Archives

Author, journalist, poet and artist, Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974) was an important figure in early American abstract art. He was born into a wealthy New York family and lived a life of privilege "earning" him a place in the group known as the "Park Avenue Cubists." 

Though Shaw took an interest in art as a child it wasn't until 1927 that he began to focus on developing his talent; studying under artist George Luks and enrolling in the Art Students League in New York.  Intent on further honing his skills, Shaw traveled to Europe from 1929-1932 where he immersed himself in the arts. 

It wasn't until after returning to New York in 1932 that Shaw considered himself a painter. Though inspired by the European styles of art that he was exposed to in his travels, notably Neo-plasticism and Cubism, Shaw sought to create a style of abstract art that was uniquely American and his own; what he soon developed was the style he called "Concretionist".

In 1933 he began what many consider his most important work, a series of paintings in the "Concretionist" style called "Plastic Polygons", which were inspired by the New York skyline.

In 1936 Shaw helped form the Abstract American Artists group, which contributed to the development and acceptance of abstract art in the United States and still exists today. His works are in the collections of many prominent galleries and museums including MOMA, Guggenheim and The Met.

Charles c. 1945. Photo: Smithsonian Archives

For more biographical information on Charles Green Shaw, click here, here, here, here and here.