1940s – 1950s and the Post-War Boom

World War II virtually halted construction of homes, except for war worker housing. By the end of the War, house building boomed. The 1944 Veterans Administration loan program, part of the Veterans Bill of Rights, and tax benefits for home ownership boosted the demand for new houses.

In addition to the economic prosperity of the 1940s and ‘50s, the U.S. saw major cultural and social changes. For the first time the majority of the U.S. population lived in urban, rather than rural areas. The average family, especially with assistance for veterans, could afford a home of its own.


New house designs focused on values such as privacy, efficiency, the embrace of new technologies and materials, an informal style of living, and an easy proximity to the outdoors. The postwar suburban residence was portrayed as a refuge from the cares and stresses of the city. It was to be a self-contained world with all the comforts and amenities one could desire and afford. [1]


In 1946 Los Angeles developer Fritz Burns and the architecture firm of Wurdeman & Becket researched, designed, and built a single-family residence in Los Angeles called "The First Postwar House." This model home served as an experimental showcase to display all the desirable hallmarks of suburban living. A one–story U-shaped building facing away from the street, the home had large windows and doors of glass that opened onto several outdoor patios. Labor-saving devices such as dishwashers and freezers, electronic gadgets such as intercoms, and stereo and radio equipment were found throughout the house. Ample closet space and hidden storage compensated for the home's lack of a basement or attic.


Other designers and builders embraced similar ideas, such as an open floor plan. Cliff May popularized the one-story ranch house. May and others experimented with moveable walls and built-in furnishings for optimal flexibility. Movement between rooms was fluid, and access to the outdoors easy. Durable materials like plywood, polished concrete, glass blocks, linoleum, and plastics kept costs down and maintenance low.


[1] Andrew Shanken’s 194X: architecture, planning, and consumer culture on the American home front, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009, provides an excellent account of the planning and development of the post-war house.


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1940s – 1950s and the Post-War Boom