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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Almanac/E-House

Air Date: Week of November 7, 2003

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This week, we have facts about the first All-Electric house. It was built back in 1953 in Shawnee, Kansas for 42 thousand dollars.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Arthur Lyman Group “Yellow Bird” MUSIC FOR A BACHELORS DEN (Dcc Compact Classics - 1995) ]

CURWOOD: Okay, how about a switch in the bedroom that turns on the coffee maker in the kitchen. Or curtains that open and shut by remote control? Well, these days some folks have computers to do those and other mundane chores but back in the 1950's, you had to live in the All-Electric House in Shawnee, Kansas, to enjoy such conveniences. The Kansas City Power & Light Company built an all-electric model home 50 years ago that was typical in size and style to the ranch houses popping up across America back then. And it put the latest in luxuries at your fingertips.

(Photo courtesy of Johnson County Museums)   

STEITZ: You could push a button that could move a painting that was over the mantle and that would reveal your television set. There was a GE refrigerator that had shelves where you could push a button and they'll raise and lower so you can accommodate room for your Thanksgiving turkey.

CURWOOD: Tracy Steitz is curator of education at the All-Electric House, today part of the Johnson County Museum of History. The museum welcomes as many as 15,000 visitors each year to the house. Ms. Steitz says the most interesting reactions come from kids raised in the world of computers and video games.

STEITZ: They find something as simple as having a remote-control painting in front of a television is just amazing, and they all want to buy the house. So I think the technology that really awed people in 1953 is still doing the same thing 50 years later.

CURWOOD: But the price tag also awed potential homebuyers. With its cutting-edge technology, the All-Electric House listed for $42,000 in 1953 - more than four times the average cost of a home in those days. But, while the All-Electric House never caught on, some of its innovations have become standard in today's modern homes. Imagine suburbia without the garbage disposal, the dishwasher or the garage door opener. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC]

 

Links

The 1950’s All-Electric House

 

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