The Anti-McMansion

I've never been a fan of "McMansion" houses. They have spread across this country like a plague and have taken away from the unique architectural style of certain regional areas. For example, where I live in New England, we've always been known for capes, ranches, split levels and the colonial style of older homes. McMansions have no business being here. And yet, every time I see a parcel of land become available around here and a new home going up, it's always a McMansion. Always. No offense to anyone who lives in one, but I fail to comprehend their appeal--they're unnecessarily huge, expensive, lack any uniqueness and stick out like sore thumbs. And yet this behemoth has been nothing but successful since it first sprouted up in the 80s. 

Now that my rant is done, I'd like to turn your attention to the humble mid-century modern home. Ahhhh...aren't these great to look at? National Homes was at one time one of the country's largest providers of pre-fab homes. It was founded in 1940 and by 1963, had built 250,000 homes across the U.S. I think these houses are beeeeeooootiful. What I wouldn't give to find a little ranch with a carport and white fence for the right price in my area like the one in the ad above. And the designs were customizable and affordable. If only they'd make a comeback...

Not a National Homes ad, but just had to throw these in here, too. 

All advertisements came from MidCentArc on Flickr


  1. I would love to live in a "national' house like the ones in the ads - instead I live in a one storey rectangular 'shoe box'.. ;-(

  2. My Little Corner - Awww...but isn't a one story rectangular shoebox a ranch?

  3. I was raised (for the most part) in a rancher and lived in one for 17 years (my first house purchase). Took me a while to get used to NOT living in one. There's a lot to love about those simple, functional designs. With the emphasis on "green," who knows? Perhaps we'll get back to living simpler.
    Love the pics by the way.

  4. I hate McMansions too! Glad to see I'm not the only only one!

  5. Looks mighty familiar. My parents bought one of those National homes in 1961. Basically the same unit as the top one in the first picture, though the builder had 'individualized' it into a split-level.

    The interior was fairly fragile, with some walls consisting of only a sheet of paneling. But it was MODERN, which is what my parents wanted in those days.

    Despite the dubious construction the house must have been sturdy, because Google Street shows that it's still there now!

  6. I live in a split-level ranch-style home that I inherited from my mother. I'm very happy with it. Plenty of room for one person!

  7. My husband and I lived in Lafayette, IN in the late 70's, and not terribly far from there in the two years prior to that. I remember the entire neighborhoods consisting of "Nationals" of varying styles and ages, depending on when they were developed. In the much older small areas, they were extremely small, rectangular "shoe boxes" so small you had to go outside to turn around. The walls are so thin you could hear someone yawn in the next room with the door shut. (Probably the single sheet of paneling someone else mentioned.) When we first moved to Lafayette, I looked at a few that were listed for rent, of the older two bedroom type, which had been obviously been built during the immediate postwar period, during the period of rampant housing shortages, when anything with four walls and a roof looked sensational! I would have been rendered severely claustrophobic if we had attempted to live in one! And this is after we spent our first year of marriage living in a studio apartment. I was not at all compelled to rent one, and kept looking. Fortunately, being a college town, there were plenty of options. We ended up renting a two bedroom apartment which had been subdivided out of a very large two story house, and a year later got a two bedroom townhouse apartment in a Government subsidized complex which I was told had been built by National Homes some 20 years prior. It seemed more sturdy than a few of those houses I had looked at before. It was spacious enough, and served its purpose.

    We looked later at somewhat newer neighborhoods of Nationals, in other parts of town, which had been built in the later 50's, and resembled these homes shown above, with sprawling floor plans, and larger manicured lawns, and were much more expensive, even then. My husband made friends with a coworker, and he brought us to meet his parents one ti.e, and they happened to live in one of those sprawling newer Nationals, and it was very nice. Very spacious, and nicely decorated.

    We lived there for a few years, in that second apartment, and was soon ushered into the "Lafayette Shuffle" which took place on a regular basis on the main thoroughfare through town, as National Homes delivery trucks made their way out of the facility on a daily basis directly onto the thoroughfare at their own mid-block traffic light, heading to Interstate 65, which runs north towards Chicago and points north, and south towards Indianapolis, Interstates 70 and 74, and points south. It was a regular game to see if you could get across town without getting "caught" by that light! There seemed to be a fairly regular pattern to it, with other nearby factories work schedules changing shifts in addition to the many workers from National Homes and their delivery trucks - Alcoa Aluminum, Staley Corn Products, as well as smaller businesses, the mall, and university traffic from Purdue filtering through town between all the residential areas and the school.

    National went out of business and closed down some years after we moved away due to a job transfer for my husband. We have relatives who live North of Lafayette, and during travels to visit them, our journey took us through Lafayette. It was very odd to go past the closed and abandoned factory and parking lots, and not have to try and make it through the traffic light without getting caught. Or having to negotiate traffic around the slow moving big red delivery trucks as they made their way through town in any one of several directions to deliver more new homes. The homes they built in town are all still standing as far as I know, perhaps with the exception of a few individual incidents and disasters, as they always happen from time to time. National Homes contributed to the housing stock of the nation, when it came time to house the nation's young, and not so young, veteran's families, and employ the recently returned Veterans seeking jobs to support their young families.


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