Following on the success of the first year, the Homeowner’s Service Institute and the Democrat and Chronicle selected Fred Tosch to build the 1928 Master Model Home. The 1928 home was built just half a block down from the 1927 home, and was to be accompanied by the simultaneous construction of nine other additional homes on Wimbledon Road. This spectacle of home building activity from the breaking ground of the Master Model Home on June 7, 1928 to the conclusion of the four-week exhibition of the completed and decorative house on October 7, 1928 reportedly drew over 20,000 visitors. In similar fashion to the year before, the Democrat and Chronicle reported on the construction progress every Sunday with plentiful photographs. The design of the house was another iteration of Tosch’s modular customization, but featured more standardized national materials and appliances including Truscon steel casement windows, a GE monitor top refrigerator, and Johns Mansville asbestos tile shingles. A few of the many product ads included in the newspaper articles are included below:
To further enhance the visitor’s experience to the Master Model Home, Tosch incorporated a recreation room into the basement and commissioned Alfred Church from Sibley’s photographic department to produce a film on the home’s construction, which was shown to visitors in the rec room during the four-week exhibition. The film notably made use of Eastman Kodak’s early experimental color motion picture film, Kodacolor, which had just been debuted by Mr. Eastman that summer. The increased success of the 1928 Master Model Home and Mr. Tosch’s skill at promoting it reached beyond Rochester with the Homeowners Service Institute writing a feature article on the house and Mr. Tosch in the New York Herald Tribune in November of 1928, with a more in-depth article appearing the December 1928 issue of the New York Central Railways Magazine.
It was this abundance of coverage (20 articles in total, including the magazine feature, and almost as many period photos) that I stumbled upon a portion of during a cursory search the night before I saw our perfect little money pit in person back in January of 2014. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined owning a house with this level of historical information readily available. Once I confirmed the day of the showing that nearly all of the original features of the house still remained, I knew that we had to have it. Nevermind all of the deferred maintenance or vinyl siding, if we didn’t get this house it wouldn’t get the TLC is so rightfully deserved, and its unique history, purely manifest in physical form, would be lost forever by a well-intentioned, but all too common unsympathetic renovation.
Going back to the story…by 1929, Fred Tosch had successfully completed his development of Wimbledon Road, improving on his capabilities and expanding his growing business. He was again selected by the Homeowners Service Institute and the Democrat and Chronicle to build what would become the final Master Model Home. The 1929 model home was built on Westbourne Road, less than a mile from the previous two model homes. Westbourne Road was one of three simultaneous streets that Mr. Tosch was building in similar fashion to his wildly successful venture on Wimbledon Road (the other two streets were Netherton Rod and Cathaway Park in Rochester). It was a Colonial Revival style iteration of Tosch’s modular customization plan, whereas the previous two had been executed in the Tudor Revival style, and used similar standardized materials and appliances, but without the added enhancement of documentary film used previously.
The Master Model Home program nationally drew to a close around 1930, with many newspapers, including the Democrat and Chronicle, focusing on the practicality and affordability of renovating older homes instead of building new. The Democrat and Chronicle notably saved a signature cobblestone house in Irondequoit from demolition and developed their own Modernization Model Home under the auspices of their own Better Homes Department.
Despite the national economic downturn, Fred Tosch continued building homes throughout the Rochester region having wisely specialized in providing affordable well-built housing almost exclusively. He continued to partner with Democrat and Chronicle, H. B. Graves furniture company, the FHA and others to drum up interest and press coverage of his new residential developments that often featured a demonstration/model home for members of the public and potential clients to visit during and after construction. By the end of World War 2, Mr. Tosch had built over 300 homes across fifteen residential developments in the Rochester area. During that time he was an inaugural member of the Town of Irondequoit’s Planning and Zoning boards and co-founded the Rochester Home Builders Association. In later 1945, he moved his business to Buffalo where he built several hundred more houses until his death in 1967.
Although the Master Model Home program and its corresponding Better Homes Movement were curtailed by the Great Depression, they effected lasting change to the residential construction industry through their call for higher and consistent standards, efficiency in design, standardization of construction materials, and acknowledgement of the increasing autonomy of housewives and women in the household nationwide. In addition to these broader effects, they also catalyzed the ambition of Fred P. Tosch, a visionary contractor and home designer who left an indelible mark on our community.