Updating formica

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The Great Depression of the 1930s depressed, among other things, home building. Housing starts plummeted 90%, from 937,000 in 1925 to barely 93,000 in 1933. In 1940 rents reached an all-time high, prompting the very first Federal Government rent controls. By the end of the war housing demand had been steadily outstripping supply for an entire generation.But, at the start of 1946 it was a bright new world.Thirteen million American men and women had just returned from wartime military service.

And, it was just a wonderful house — the American dream house, all in a row, row after row — just as far as the eye could see. There had been little new building for two decades. City treasuries during the Depression were mostly bare.Paid by the piece, not by the hour, sub­con­trac­tors do the actual build­ing using precut lumber and pre-hung doors.Fence sec­tions, flower boxes, windows and stair­cases arrive pre-assem­bled from a central warehouse.The most costly and deadliest war of all time was finally over. The total wealth of the nation had doubled in just four years.Nazi Germany, then Imperial Japan had unconditionally surrendered. Americans produced more food than they could eat, more clothing than they could wear, more steel than they could use, and pumped more than half of all the world's oil. Americans had money jingling in their pockets for the first time in a long time.Millions of families who never even dreamed of home ownership suddenly found themselves in the market for a new house. With a keen 20/20 hindsight some 70 years later, we can clearly see the many problems caused by the mass post-war migration to suburbia: the sprawl, the highway congestion, the pollution, our growing dependence on foreign oil, the row upon row of almost identical tract houses.

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