If you drive down South First Street to the entrance of
Fairview Cemetery in DeKalb you may notice a building near the
entrance with a two-car garage attached.
It is the cemetery office, but originally it was a display
model for a new concept in building construction, later occupied
by the caretaker.
In the early 1970s, Dura-Plex Industries of Peoria announced
a low-cost modular house, probably best known by most people
as a prefab. This unit was made with fiberglass panels with a
core of polyurethane foam sandwiched in between. The Crusader
model at the cemetery is a three-bedroom, 1,200-square -foot
building with 29 sandwich panels glued together and a roof attached.
This photo shows the front side and entry of the 1970s
Dura-Plex model home now used as an office at Fairview Cemetery
in DeKalb. (Schrader photo for ShawMedia)
The foundation is a poured cement slab that overlaps notches
in the panels to anchor it in place.
The electrical wiring and PVC plumbing were built into
the panels and cutouts for aluminum windows and door frames were
pre-cut. The house has remained on the site for more than 40
years and has needed only minor repairs and a new roof, plus
a garage was added later. It was a bargain at $9,000 plus the
cost of the lot.
The first model was erected at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds
in 1971 and then a few others around the state, including Marengo
and Belvidere, according to newspaper accounts from the time.
A second home also was reportedly built somewhere south of DeKalb,
but I drove around Gurler and Keslinger roads and could not locate
it this past weekend.
Three DeKalb men were named as distributors, Simon Schafer,
Donald J. Kohler and Lloyd E. Cooper. Cooper, now deceased, was
a cousin of mine, and his daughter, Carol Prentice, told me she
recalled her fathers involvement.
Coincidentally, a member of the Dura-Plex board of directors,
Donald R. Grubb, was my college adviser as chairman of the NIU
journalism department. He also handled public relations for the
company on the side.
Lisa Larson, the cemetery administrator, said the structure
was built in the summer of 1975. Grubbs widow, Ruby, and
daughter, Karen, said the house was a display model for showing
prospective buyers and investors, and later was turned over to
the cemetery association for its use.
Unfortunately for the stockholders and company officials,
they were not successful in marketing the prefab units. Dura-Plex
was absorbed by another company and the stock is now valueless.
I also heard that the trades unions were adamantly opposed to
these prebuilt homes because of the loss of work that would result
for their members. One of the stockholders from Sycamore told
me he sold 300 of his shares for a profit when the stock split,
but still has the other 300 shares with no value.
According to an announcement in the Daily Chronicle in
May 1972, about 1.4 million shares were being offered for sale
at $2 each. A meeting was held at the local Holiday Inn where
prospective stockholders were given the sales pitch.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of that Dura-Plex house
south of DeKalb please let me know. I would like to find out
how it has held up 40-plus years.