INGERSOLL VILLAGE: Noted architects designed the 12 original post-war homes in this Kalamazoo development.

Text  by Pam VanderPloeg, copyright 2016 West Michigan Modern.  

Early Ingersoll Village photos

Mid-century modern architectural history has, at its core, experiments with prefab housing systems, that were ahead of their time.  One such experiment still stands in Kalamazoo and can be viewed both as historical artifact and a thriving community of houses that have adapted over time to meet family needs and modern lifestyles. On a quiet little street in Kalamazoo there is there is a collection of twelve houses built in 1945 in a variety of styles from Cape Cod to modern. The homes were designed by seven of the nation's noted architects of the day, including Alden Dow, Edward Durrell Stone, George Fred Keck, Hugh Stubbins, Royal Barry Willis, L. Morgan Yost and Harwell Hamilton Harris.  This is a brief summary of how those houses came to be.  

The houses are part of Ingersoll Village in Kalamazoo's "Hillsdale Park subdivision, north of West Main Street and west of Pinehurst."   They were demonstration houses built around a prefabricated utility core housing, in a single unit, the plumbing, wiring and other mechanical systems and did not require a basement.   The utility core was invented by architect J. Fletcher Lankton of Peoria, Illinois and the systems were produced by Kalamazoo's Ingersoll Steel and Disc Division of the Borg-Warner Corporation.  Open houses were held to introduce them to the public.  Apparently Ingersoll engineers and home economics specialists were designated to live in the houses to evaluate the efficiency of the utility core.  Then the homes were sold to individual owners.  And, of course, have since faired differently with modifications made to the original designs.

It seemed likely that homes would either be "remuddled" beyond recognition or in disrepair, the owners unaware of their significance but as my husband drove and I checked addresses, I found that the street was lovely and the houses hadn't changed significantly. The Edward Durrell Stone home stood proud and modern, looking more like the 1960's than the 1940's.  The little enclave of Alden Dow houses was connected by a single driveway and was unique in that way.

The utility core concept was ahead of its time in 1945 and faced pushback from labor unions.  Along with the shortages of copper and steel at the time, the concept didn't catch on.  Years later the idea was revived in a federal multi-unit housing program .  

Link here for more about Ingersoll Village by Catherine Larson and original photos on the Kalamazoo Public Library website: .