History of the Chicagoland Prize Homes Competition
Merely weeks after the close of World War II, the Chicago Tribune announced an ambitious project to promote affordable, well-designed houses for average families. On September 30, 1945, the paper invited design submissions. Architects and builders who juried the contest included Paul Gerhardt, Jr.; John Merrill; and A. N. Rebori.
The contest invited designers to consider three categories of homes:
1. A dwelling of not more than 1,100 square feet of floor area, suitable for a site 30 feet wide and 150 feet deep, and adequate for a family of three: father, mother, and 6-year-old son.
2. A dwelling of not more than 1,400 square feet of floor area, suitable for a site 50 feet wide and 150 feet deep, and adequate for a family of four: father, mother, 12-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter.
3. A dwelling of not more than 1,700 square feet of floor area, suitable for a site 75 feet wide and 150 feet deep, and adequate for a family of five: father, mother, 16-year-old and 6-year-old daughters and 12-year-old son.
Giving contestants only a few weeks to submit, the contest closed on December 10, 1945. In fewer than ten weeks, the Tribune received nearly 1,000 submissions.
In January of 1946, the Tribune began announcing 24 winning designs (eight from each category), through a series of Sunday edition spreads featuring drawings of house elevations and floor plans. In addition to the publicity garnered through the Tribune, Chicagoans also got to see designs when the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited the 24 winners plus 148 other designs in a month-long 1946 show that drew 90,000 visits.
The 1948 publication of 92 submissions, Prize Homes, indicates that some houses—at least 13—were built from winning designs. Our research has uncovered, so far, 19 homes built from winning designs.
Ten went up all at once, in an area then called Deer Park and now known as West Rogers Park.
The builder of those ten paired with local department and furniture stores, who furnished and decorated the homes; thousands toured open house events at those homes.
A few other houses were built within Chicago city limits and in the surrounding suburbs, and we have located them on our map of prize homes locations.