Midcentury Housing: One Story

Car exiting the garage of a housing development. Alfred Kastner Collection, #7350, Box 45. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In the mid-20th century, the U.S. was experiencing both great economic success and a rapidly expanding population. As a result, housing and urban planning were of imminent concern to architects and city planners alike. Enter Alfred Kastner. Born and educated in Germany, Kastner immigrated to the U.S. in 1924. He collaborated with another German émigré architect, Oskar Stonorov,  to build the U.S.’s first limited, divided, self-supporting housing project financed by the Public Works Administration, the Carl Mackley Houses. These houses were built from 1933-1934, and opened in 1935.

Kastner next designed a housing settlement called the Jersey Homesteads near Hightstown, New Jersey with Louis Kahn assisting. The development was designed to provide housing for 400 families. In addition to housing, Kastner designed industrial complexes, entertainment facilities, and hotels.  He went on to serve as Director of the Bureau of Advanced Housing at Princeton University. There, he worked to develop ideas to help rationalize techniques used in housing construction.

Photograph of boys in the garden outside a housing project development, Alfred Kastner Collection, #7350, Box 45. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Alfred Kastner papers contain architectural plans and drawings, notes, correspondence, photographs, paintings, and even a planimeter! Check out the newly reprocessed Kastner papers for a glimpse into the midcentury world of American architecture!

–Kathryn Brooks, Processing Archivist

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