July 11, 2013 Greenbelt

Event: Greenbelt’s Modern Prefab Homes – July 16

Parkbelt home ca 1937

Parkbelt home, circa 1937. Greenbelt Museum Collection.

Modern prefabs have gained a  lot of attention during the past few years in Dwell and other modernist shelter magazines. But the concept is not new. From the Homes of Tomorrow at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair to the concepts explored by the Case Study Houses to the work of Charles Goodman for National Homes, modern prefabs have had a place in the modern architectural landscape. The Greenbelt Museum will host a lecture July 16 at 7:30 p.m. on a local piece of the early prefab effort.  The program, “Parkbelt: Greenbelt’s Modern Prefabricated Homes,” will be led by Stephen Oetken, who holds a master’s degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Maryland. He will trace the journey of the Parkbelt’s  10  prefabricated, steel-framed, single family homes houses from a socialist vision to prefabricated reality, and he will explore why this idea of building prefabricated housing in the government’s planned community did not come to fruition.

“The Parkbelt project is fascinating on so many levels, even though it is only a small part of the exciting story of the planned community of Greenbelt,” Oetken says in a press release. “Responding to criticism of the role of the federal government in the housing business, these single-family homes were undoubtedly the talk of the new town when built. They were organized to be a small housing cooperative, reflecting the general trend towards cooperative behavior in Greenbelt. The story of their rise and fall is quite dramatic, beginning in Chicago at the 1933 World’s Fair, and ending up with litigation in federal court. And they are still there, all ten of them, though all save one have been altered significantly. They are an important part of the enduring legacy of planned community living at Greenbelt, the first round of private development that would eventually surround the original New Deal community.”  

The event will be held in Room 201 of the Community Center in Greenbelt, located at 15 Crescent Road.


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