Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rammed Earth Construction in Cameron Valley, Virginia, 1942

Check out these fascinating pictures from LIFE Magazine's 1942 photo archive

documenting Thomas Hibben's experimental housing project with the United States' Federal Works Agency.

Many of the innovations he made to the rammed earth construction process are still employed today,

like  steel forms and pneumatic tampers.

Not much change in mixer technology in the last 70 years, either.


Here men are laying bricks in the foreground of some completed rammed earth walls. The footing appears to be cinderblock.   Combinations of different materials such as concrete, asphalt-stabilized adobe brick, bituminous earth block, and cement-stabilized rammed earth were used in each house.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters!

The finished product, outside...
...and inside.

Sadly these buildings were demolished in the 70's.  Read more about the project at the end of Chapter One in Anthony F. Merrill's The Rammed-Earth House.


Jamal Butler said...

I Grew up In this exact house, until the whole project was torn down in the late 80's/ear;y 90's. I definitely could Identify easily with life in Israel and their dwelling structures when I visited and seen especially Jerusalem.

Rammed Earth said...

Thank you for your comment, Jamal.

Anything you could tell the readers about these houses would be most appreciated.

How were they heated? Were they easy to keep warm? Was it easy to clean the walls?

What were the conditions that resulted in the project being torn down?

Jamal Butler said...

Sure, But I can only speak for my house as there where a few others.But I am sure they where pretty much the same, allthough they where shaped slightly different. There was a Thermostat controlled ,noisy heater situated in the main corridor. It wall Knock and ping all winter nights. My mother created many ghost stories from the sounds that heater made.Tall (to me as a child) white cylindrical. in fact there where two cylinders. I dont recall what the other was for. But the system though noisy kept the home relatively warm. The walls where Bumpy and for me as a child they where never easy to clean. then agian nothing is easy for a child to clean... I was Told that Heckinger which was a near by department store had bought the entire real estate which resulted in them clearing and re doing the entire Area.

Rammed Earth said...

Thank you so much for your memories. If you come across any family photos with decent images of the house that you would be willing to share here, I'm sure they would be of interest to our readers.
Thanks again!

kim wade said...

I to grew up in Cameron Valley born and raised up until about 1 year before the tear down. The houses where fairly easy to keep warm, some structures had front and rear doors others had one way in one way out. The older units had another unit above them, which where the first to be torn down in the late seventies. We had 3 basketball court, a swimming pool, and a recreation center along with a baseball field. It also had a creek that ran through a portion of it.

Jamal Butler said...

Hi Kim, I am sure that you remember me, mother Maudie Hines, your description is exact as far as my recollection as my point of view was from a child's prospective. Allthough the neighborhood gave refuge to predominantly low income families , I still believe that we had some of the best accommodations. Not to imply that low income situations deserve otherwise but I have travelled extensively and have not seen anything that could remotely compare to what we had. So sad that it's all but a memory now.