House Hunters: Town of Tomorrow

Recently, while helping a researcher, I came across fifteen brochures from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. You may ask why the Rakow Library has these brochures in our collection. Well, many of the homes incorporated glass in their design, including the Pittsburgh House of Glass, which featured Pittsburgh Plate Glass. The Library has many materials related to glass featured at World’s Fairs of the past.

It was 1939 and the Great Depression had left its mark on the world. The United States was still recovering, and the public needed something to lift their spirits. Enter the 1939 New York World’s Fair. With the slogan “Dawn of a New Day,” the fair looked to the future and allowed visitors a peek at the “world of tomorrow.” Among the many exhibitions at the fair was the “Town of Tomorrow”: fifteen demonstration homes that incorporated readily available building materials, new technology, and a variety of layouts to suit every type of homeowner. Each house was given a name like “The Small Home of Wood,” the “House of Vistas,” and “The Fire-Safe Home.” Fairgoers could tour the fully-decorated homes and imagine themselves living in the rooms – sort of like a 1930s IKEA.

Black and white photograph of the Town of Tomorrow, 15 demonstration houses built in a variety of styles.

A bird’s-eye view of the Town of Tomorrow. The New York World’s Fair, 1939/1940 in 155 photographs. R. Wurts & S. Appelbaum (1977). New York: Dover Publications, p. 81.

Imagine you had a chance to tour the Town of Tomorrow. Here are a few of the houses you would have seen:

The Dual Duty House

Front page of pamphlet showing a drawing and floor plan for the Dual Duty House

The Dual Duty House. The Town of tomorrow: New York World’s Fair 1939. [New York?: s.n., 1939]. (CMGL 112470)

This home certainly lives up to its name! The living room “combines the function of several rooms in one,” including “a living room, a library, a music room, and because of the wall-high windows . . . it is a practical solarium.” Plus the “complete utility room” has space for “heating equipment, home laundry or by simple adjustments can serve as a photographer’s dark room.” Because who doesn’t need their own personal dark room?

The Bride’s Home

Black and white photograph of the exterior of the Bride's Home

The Bride’s Home. The New York World’s Fair, 1939/1940 in 155 photographs. R. Wurts & S. Appelbaum (1977). New York: Dover Publications, p. 91.

“This house is designed to demonstrate the possibilities for living in the comfort of progressive planning enclosed by an exterior that is not too obviously modern.” Too modern is so passé.

The Pittsburgh House of Glass

Black and white photograph of the exterior of the Pittsburgh House of Glass

World’s Fair, House of Glass no. 4. General exterior (rear). Photographed by Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., 12 June 1939. LC-G612- 35261. Part of the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Okay, this is the winner, right? We do like a house with lots of windows, and this one even comes with a choice of colors: “Pittsburgh Plate Glass is the aristocrat of the flat glass family. . . [the glass is] supplied in the following tints: Crystalex Water White, Flesh Tinted, Blue and Solex (green).” Flesh Tinted?! We’ll stick with blue, thanks.

The Small Brick House of the Sheltered Workshops

Front page of the pamphlet showing an image and floorplan for the Small Brick House of the Sheltered Workshops

The Small Brick House of the Sheltered Workshops (CMGL 112470)

“It is a house in which the wife does all her own housework and the husband keeps the exterior tidy and in repair in his leisure time.” Designed with June and Ward Cleaver in mind.

The Garden House

Floor layout for the Garden Home

Garden Home (CMGL 112470)

“With its five rooms and bath it was designed for a family . . . [with] a natural leaning toward gardening.” They say the family that gardens together stays together.

The Kelvin Home

Front page of the pamphlet for the Kelvin Home. Includes an image of the home as well as a floorplan.

Kelvin Home (CMGL 112470)

“With its quaint charm and quiet hospitality, the Kelvin Home breathes the spirit of New England’s hallowed days. Yet step inside – and the world of tomorrow awaits you! Daily living brought to the effortless, automatic perfection made possible by the complete electrical home equipment of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation.” What more could a homeowner want?

The Electric Home

Floorplans for the Electric Home

Electric Home (CMGL 112470)

In the Electric Home not only do you have “electric servants [who] have taken over the tasks and time-consuming domestic drudgery of the old order” (yes, please!), you also get “the entertaining and amusing Magic Kitchen that moves, talks and tells a timely story.” But can it sing and dance? Either way, count us in!

The Motor Home

Front page of pamphlet for the Motor Home. Includes an image of the home as well as floorplans.

Motor Home (CMGL 112470)

Would you like some house with your garage? “Besides being the housing for the two cars, this motor room can easily be converted into an attractive recreation room by merely moving the cars out into the roadway.” Added bonus, “the main entrance is provided with a normal front door for the convenience of callers who do not drive in.”

Which house would you choose to live in? The Dual Duty House with the solarium and dark room? Or maybe the Electric Home with electric servants and a Magic Kitchen? Either way, let us know in the comments!


The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

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