From Trailer to Modular: The History of Mobile Homes in Pennsylvania
The original “mobile home” actually made its debut in the early 1500s as traveling salesmen and their families moved across the country selling their products and services. Horse-drawn wagons – often elaborately designed and painted in bright colors – were equipped with the bare essentials of shelter and all recreation, meals, etc. took place outdoors during stops. In the United States, mobile homes didn’t become popular until the invention of the automobile in the early 1900s. From then on, mobile homes in Pennsylvania and the rest of the world
The Tent-Mobile Home
After the invention of the automobile, the first mass produced “trailer” was really a tent that could be assembled on a separate chassis. Author G. Sherman came up with the ground-breaking concept in 1928 after a camping trip with his family. As they were forced to construct a tent in the rain for over an hour, Sherman began to develop the idea of a quick assembly tent-like structure.
Using a running gear from a Model A Ford vehicle, Sherman’s first design included a 5-foot roof with a unique floor panel that could be raised and lowered accordingly. Sherman took his invention to the 1929 Detroit Auto Show and from there it was an instant success and The Covered Wagon Company was born.
The Mobile Home Manufacturers Association
By 1953, The Mobile Home Manufacturers Association was formed. During that time, Americans were desperately searching for the permanent and affordable housing that mobile homes in Pennsylvania provided. Mobile homes continued to be built longer and wider, with more luxury features and comforts of a stick-built home being added every year.
Unfortunately, a law preventing the transport of anything over 8-feet wide on the highway stalled the industry’s progress. Finally, the president of Marshfield Homes, Elmer Frey, began fighting to change the law which would allow the industry’s growth to continue. With the new “over-sized load” allowance, mobile homes continued to grow in size and Frey became regarded as the “father of mobile homes.”
The Birth of the Manufactured Home
1976 was a huge year for the mobile homes in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. Before this year, “mobile” homes tended to be a much more unsafe option than stick-built homes and the building regulations were guidelines at best. On June 15th, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) set standards that required improved quality and safety in the construction of mobile homes.
All mobile homes built after this date were instead referred to as “manufactured homes.” Not only were these homes built to a higher standard of safety, but they were built to appear more like a stick-built home as far as cosmetics.
Manufactured Homes Today
Today, manufactured homes – once set – appear much like a traditional, stick-built home. In fact, manufactured homes are now considered as a better option to traditional homes in regards to time and costs.
Most manufactured homes can be built in 7 – 10 days, not including the time needed to set the home on the land. Not only does the exponential time difference when compared to traditional homes save you money, but the need to work around the weather is eliminated, decreasing the possibility of ruined materials. Overall, the cost of a manufactured home in Pennsylvania today is, on average, 66% less per square foot than a stick-built home.