Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 04, Number 02, Fall, 1992 Page: 29
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Texas' World War II Housing Laboratory
By Kristin M. Szylvian
N 1941 REPORTERS AND photographers from Life were sent to cover a contest
in Grand Prairie, Texas. The contest was not one of Texas' famous beauty
contests, but a home building contest. Two teams of workmen raced to complete
a home at Avion Village, a federally-funded housing development constructed by
the Federal Works Agency (FWA) for employees of the North American
Aviation Company. When the winning house was completed in 57 minutes and
58 seconds, in came furniture, a Fuller Brush salesman, and a model who
discreetly bathed in the bathtub. The competition was attended by the mayors of
Dallas and Grand Prairie and numerous curious onlookers. Another spectator
was FWA Assistant Administrator Lawrence Westbrook, whom Life photographers
happened to catch smiling at the model covered in soap suds.'
The Avion Village contest underscored the urgent need for housing in the
Dallas area during World War II. Federal housing officials seized this opportunity
for housing experimentation and thereby the creation of a model for postwar
private sector housing development.2
As early as mid-1940, housing was scarce in Dallas as well as other centers
of defense production or military activity, including Washington, D.C., Detroit,
San Diego, and numerous others. The problems workers encountered finding
suitable housing within commuting distance of defense plants adversely affected
industrial production. Industrialists and labor leaders agreed that the housing
shortage contributed to high rates of employee turnover, absenteeism, and
The editor wishes to thank Cory J. Phillips of HCB Contractors, Kenneth R. Hutchens of
F & S Architects, and Willis Winters for their assistance in obtaining illustrations for
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 04, Number 02, Fall, 1992, periodical, 1992; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35117/m1/31/: accessed March 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.