The Aladdin Company
"A complete home environment for employees has come to be one of the accepted principles of modern industrial management. In England this idea has most completely worked out. In fact, it has gone further and the largest English industries are erecting complete villages, or garden communities, as they are called.
The several hundred Aladdin houses now standing in Birmingham, England, were ordered by cable February 1, 1917, shipped from Bay City before March 1, 1917, exported, erected and completed under our own supervision early in June of 1917, thru special arrangement of the British Government.
A re-order of the same quantity was authorised just prior to the completion of the project - an evidence of economy, efficiency and practicality of Aladdin Service."
- Extract from Aladdin Industrial Housing Catalogue, 1921
Aladdin Homes - 'Built in a Day'
The 200 prefabricated cedarwood homes that make up The Austin Village were purchased by The Austin Motor Co. from The Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan in 1916. Founded in 1906, Aladdin were one of the largest manufacturers of mail order homes in the US and Canada and by 1918 they accounted for 2.4% of all new-build houses in the United States, some 1,800 homes. Over their 76 year history, they would sell over 75,000 homes worldwide.
As well as domestic homes sold directly to residents, the company recognised an opportunity to supply homes to industrial and manufacturing companies, which built company towns across the US and abroad. Their cheap cost and ease of construction made them ideal for worker's villages. They published two catalogues specifically for this market and would even supply ready-made banks, post offices, shops and government buildings. The 1920 catalogue makes reference to The Austin Village, citing it as one of their success stories.
Aladdin were also contracted to supply and assemble accommodation and barracks during both World Wars
For more information on The Aladdin Company, visit the University of Michigan's Clarke Historical Library, who have an extensive history of the company and an archive of Aladdin sales catalogues.
The Austin Village Design
The Austin Village homes are based on the Aladdin Company's Chester model, which was advertised as a "rich man's house, but is in reach of every working man". The design of The Austin Village homes differs in that it uses planks rather than shingles, and features an enclosed porch, which contained ninety pieces of glass and was more suited to the British climate. The houses were entirely "redi-cut" by the manufacturer - only the interior skirting boards were cut to size - and the woodwork was stained a dark brown.
The bungalows were fitted to a surprisingly high specification for the time, with a combustion boiler, central heating, gas cooker and an indoor bathroom. Initially, twenty five pairs of semi-detached brick houses were built as firebreakers, which expanded to fifty with time. Only one bungalow was damaged beyond repair by fire, reportedly during the construction of the village.
The catalogue featuring the Chester can be downloaded from the University of Michigan's archive, here.