The Silver City

From the 2010 Stereoscope ; Silver City – by Susan Perry

Time: late 1945

Place: Holdrege, NebraskaSetting: Holdrege Chamber of Commerce meeting

Scenario: Severe Housing Shortage in Holdrege

The immediate problem the Chamber needed to address was: The veterans were returning and new residents were arriving to fill plentiful jobs. There was nowhere for people to live and lumber was not yet readily available.The Chamber members decided to move 40 trailers from the Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot to the block on Lincoln Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue. They determined these small abodes would provide a quick and an intermediate answer to the original situation.Various committees immediately began to function. Homer Hamilton was dispatched to Chicago to complete negotiations for the lease of the trailers. The Chamber, utilizing a part of its $10,000 industrial development fund, secured the assistance of the Federal Public Housing Administration to “move trailer houses in as a temporary means of solving shortages.” Holdrege was the first town in the country to ask for and receive the government’s assistance. While these plans were being finalized, Art Bendler, his committee, and his crew were busy laying the utilities across the entire block. Dick Brown’s committee was interviewing for a caretaker, maintenance man, and Joe Johnson was beginning the task of moving the units to the building site. As information was circulated, applications to rent these units began to arrive and it wasn’t too much later that the chamber could see that asking for 40 units would not solve the shortage. Chamber directors “expressed confidence that the entire group of trailers would be rented as soon as they became available for tenancy.”Rental contracts were to be drawn up after a unit was on site for inspection. The rental rate would be decided after figuring out accurate moving expenses and after consulting with the OPA. Preference to veterans and their families was to be given throughout the rental process. Later, after these cost had been calculated, the monthly rent was set at $27.50. One month after starting the process, the first trailers were occupied. They were described this way: “Not trailers-but expandable houses is the best description for Holdrege’s emergency solution to the housing shortage. The compact living quarters, as pictured above upon their arrival on tract, do resemble automobile trailers. However, in their expanded form with the two side rooms in place, they take on the appearance of what they really are- small, three-room houses which will accommodate a maximum of six people… Part of the central section of the house comprises a living room and the other part is taken up by the kitchen. On either side is a room for sleeping quarters, as well as space for eating and a divan. Equipment consists of two double beds, a divan which will provide sleeping space for two people, a gasoline pressure stove, oil heater, a table, four chairs, a double sink, cupboards, ice box and two clothes closets. In fact, dishes and bedding are the only things not furnished. A utility building contains both showers and bath tubs. The laundry room is equipped with a washing machine, eight single tubs and four double tubs. Around the base of the house a skirting is installed and then that sheathing is banked with dirt.”Mr. Hamilton issued a statement which introduced C.A. Adcock as the caretaker, and invited interested people to look over the houses that had been erected and were ready for occupancy. He further stated that he hoped all would recognize the efforts of the chamber as an effort to alleviate a severe housing situation. The movement was “prompted by the desire to alleviate the discomfort, inconvenience and stifling of opportunity that the housing shortage in Holdrege was causing.” This entire project moved with great rapidity to fulfill the Chamber’s goal and all the units were quickly filled. Within the next few years, procuring lumber to build homes became much easier and in the summer months over a hundred homes were under construction. Silver City–a short term solution to a bigger problem–a part of our history now on record in the research library at Nebraska Prairie Museum.

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