History Part 2.2 – Fred P Tosch and The Master Model Home Continued

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:

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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.

Figure 15_1928 Dec

Photo of the 1928 Master Model Home as pictured in the New York Central Railways Magazine

Figure 13_1928 09 09

A photo montage of the house published on the opening day in the paper.

Figure 14_1928 09 16

A follow-up montage from the next week showing the completely furnished interior of the living room, kitchen, rec room, and master bedroom.

MMH_080528

Newspaper article noting use of film to document construction. Subsequent articles make specific mention of some footage being shot on the new experimental KodaColor film.

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.

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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.

Remodel Model Home

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.

Figure 18_1940 06 23

An example of one of Tosch’s many subsequent model homes throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

In The End... All You Really Have Is Memories

One of Tosch’s model homes during his later career in Buffalo, NY.

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.

2 thoughts on “History Part 2.2 – Fred P Tosch and The Master Model Home Continued

  1. Did you learn much about Fred Tosch joining up with builder (or possibly architect) Leon L. Christ in the 1930s? Christ built our home in the Cobbs Hill Neighborhood and at least a couple of other houses nearby, but I believe this was before he joined up with Tosch.

    • Yes, I did. I wanted to keep the post/article focused so deliberately left that out. As best as I can tell from my research, Leon Christ was similar to Tosch in being a builder/developer, but I am not convinced that either him or Tosch were actually architects, and instead employed “ghost writers”. Fred Tosch and Leon Christ joined forces in 1935 and vastly expanded their vision, building several neighborhoods until their partnership ended in late 1943 due to financial hardship. I am familiar with Christ’s work in the 1920s and early 1930s before he partnered with Tosch, he built several unique homes in your neighborhood and neighboring Struckmar.

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