One home, however, represented the hopes of the entire community for an economic resurgence. It was built for one purpose, and one purpose only: to save the economy of Sacramento during the bottom of the Great Depression.
Nationally, the real estate market had collapsed. The banking crisis of the early 1930s had forced all banks to retrieve due mortgages – forcing home foreclosures. Refinancing was not available. Real estate values tanked as people lost their homes. Few home loans were issued during this time, and few new homes were purchased.
The National Housing Act of 1934 sought to reverse all this. Uncle Sam was going to sweep away “that old barrier of money worry” by offering Americans the first Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loans. These loans could be used to build or purchase a new home, or to make improvements to an existing home.
Sacramento immediately organized the Modernize Sacramento Committee, chaired by Allyn L. Burr. The board of directors included community leaders of the day, including Clarence H. Breuner. The committee had representatives of the city, county and state governments, as well as leaders in the retail and building fields.
Together, they built four demonstration houses to educate Sacramento area residents about the programs available through the FHA. The most famous of these was “Lucky Manor,” located at 1701 11th Avenue in the College Tract of Land Park, in 1935.
First home of kind
Lucky Manor was significant because it was the first home in the United States to be completed to stimulate interest in the federal government’s long-term home financing program. Built by the leading builders of the day, the retail value of the home was $12,000 – a value of $177,000 in today’s dollars. Leading local retailers, including Breuner’s, Weinstock-Lubin & Co., Vogt Electric and others, furnished the home with examples of how “home happiness” could be achieved with modern furnishings and appliances.
It was the first “model house” ever. The Sacramento Bee devoted virtually the entire front section of the May 23, 1935 edition to the opening of the home to the public the next day.
Tickets to view the home were sold six weeks in advance, for 35 cents a ticket or 12 tickets for $3.50.
Home of hope
And the most amazing thing of all was that this home would be raffled off to one lucky winner. The public went wild to see the home and have a chance at winning large.
“Once upon a time, you would visit a home like ‘Lucky Manor’ and leave with a sigh of regret…because such comfort seemed so far beyond your reach. You’d wonder: Will we ever be able to enjoy anything half as nice?” stated the 16-page pamphlet each visitor to the home received. “But now! You can drink in every detail of ‘Lucky Manor’ and leave with your HEAD IN THE AIR…because that old barrier of money worry has been swept away by Uncle Sam.”
English rustic design
Lucky Manor was designed “along the lines of an English country home, with all the rustic beauty of its gabled roof and dormer windows,” the Bee said. “Its classic simplicity immediately calls to mind the English manor immortalized in the romances of John Galsworthy and the poet, Shelley.”
Visitors to the home could see idealized settings in each room and quality craftsmanship in the architectural details throughout the interior and exterior of the home. The 2,209 square-foot home featured three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, an entrance hall, living room, living room “terrace,” dining room, breakfast nook, kitchen, service porch, service basement and a detached two-car garage – a novelty for the day, and considered very modern. The 8,712 square-foot corner lot featured professional landscaping.
A Dutch Colonial double door welcomed visitors to the home. To their left was the living room “the heart of the home,” furnished through the courtesy of Weinstock-Lubin & Co. – complete with a grand piano from Breuner’s. Visitors learned that – with a housing act loan – they could add to their own homes: a fireplace and chimney for $4/month, a built-in mantle for $3/month and hardwood floors for $3/month. All these loans would be paid off in just three years.
The kitchen featured a brand-new 1935 Super-seven Frigidaire electric refrigerator and a Spark cabinet gas range, a double basket-drainer Crane Co. sink, and hand-crafted cabinetry.
The upstairs bathroom was decked out in red, white, black and chrome. The built-in recessed shower was considered a novel note, with its glass door with chrome details.
The bedrooms were large, and closet space was ample.
“One of the most desirable features of any home is incorporated in this master bedroom of Lucky Manor,” the Bee said. “This is the abundance of space in the wardrobe closet with recessed shoe racks and hanging rods and shelves, making it easy to keep everything in order.”
The landscaping of Lucky Manor was designed to last by East Lawn Nursery. In fact, many of the seasonal shrubs and evergreens continue to grow, bloom and thrive at the home.
Thousands of tickets to view Lucky Manor were sold – some 25,000 by opening day, in fact. On June 29, 1935, one very lucky ticket was drawn – to the astonishment of the winner, Mrs. Lucy D. Griffey, 64. Mrs. Griffey was a widow of some 43 years, whose husband was killed in a Southern Pacific Railroad accident in 1892, leaving her to raise an infant son (who died in 1923) and later a nephew and two nieces, on her own. She made her living as a dressmaker until her eyesight failed, and lived in the home she built at 2920 ½ G Street with her nieces, Mrs. Allemand and Mrs. Reilly.
Winning the Lucky Manor meant new opportunities for the widow who had experienced such misfortune in her life.
“I was so excited when they told me I had been awarded the house I couldn’t dress myself,” she told the Bee with a laugh. “They sent a taxi for me as soon as they told me about it, so I could go out to Lucky Manor. But the taxi finally had to go on – it was an hour before I could get myself ready.”
Mrs. Griffey planned to remain in her home, and contemplated selling Lucky Manor so she could retire.
“I guess I’ll stay right here,” she said. “I might travel just a little and not far from home. My life is here. But I’m not going to work.”
Lucky Manor has stood the test of time well. “Quality will show out,” as the old saying goes. The original architectural features of the home are still there, and the home continues to have a cheerful, “new” feeling to it – this after over 75 years and thousands of visitors, quite literally.
On the March market
Those interested in viewing this historic home will have a unique opportunity in early March, when Lucky Manor goes on the market. Yes, it is offered for sale to that special individual or family that will appreciate it for its quality construction, good schools and convenient nearby parks (it is just a few blocks from Sacramento’s historic William Land Park). The asking price is $649,000.
Interested parties may contact Janet Gatejen at (916) 420-8418, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.luckymanor.com.