The A, B, C's of Housing in Oak Ridge
Here are the basic specs of the Alphabet Houses:
During World War II, basic building materials were in short supply. The United States needed housing and quickly for the Manhattan Project workers and their families.
The John B. Pierce Foundation and Celotex collaborated to develop a prefabrication system for building low-cost housing using Cemesto panels. Cemestos, a sturdy, light-weight, waterproof and fire-resistant composite building material comprised of a core of sugar cane fiber insulating board surfaced on both sides with asbestos and cement. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; architecture firm designed Cape Cod houses with a gabled roof to house employees at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company near Baltimore, Maryland. These houses in a development called "Aero Acres", were 24' by 28' and had large commercial-style windows. After adapting the Pierce system, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill used Cemesto panels for the designs of some 2,500 pre-fabricated homes, known by the nickname "Cemestos," erected here in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Simply named after the letters of the alphabet, there were mainly six Cemestos house designs in use in Oak Ridge (8 floor plans and finished homes pictured below). For most of the locals here they’re known as “Alphabet Houses.”