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Wanna Buy MN’s Only ‘Care-Free Alcoa Home,’ One of Just 24 Ever Built?

Beautiful, purple, and glassy, this rare throwback just hit the market in St. Louis Park.

Jared Martin Photography and Edina Realty

By the 1950s, industrialists were taking big swings to satisfy post-war demand for housing in the U.S.

Some examples, like the single-story ramblers that saturate Richfield and Bloomington, took off. Others, like the shiny Lustron homes you see concentrated at 50th & Nicollet in south Minneapolis, fizzled out.

Far fewer examples of another ill-fated metallic housing model, this one from aluminum manufacturing giant Alcoa Corp., ever made to city streets. Only two dozen Alcoa Care-Free Homes were ever created across 16 states, and a prime example of the 1958 concept sits in St. Louis Park.

"I mean, I knew it existed and had researched it quite a bit, but I was blown away when I first walked inside," says Edina Realty listing agent Jessica Buelow, who also happens to co-chair the Minnesota chapter of modern architecture advocacy org Docomomo. "It just hits every mark that you want in a mid-century modern home, and especially one that is so rare. This Alcoa home is probably the most restored one that's still standing."

As of Monday, 8000 Westwood Hills Drive—a dazzling historic time capsule and work of mid-century modern architectural art—can be yours for $925,000.

In his wonderful 2015 book, Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury, local architectural historian Larry Millett devotes 10 pages to the 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 3,690-square-foot house in St. Louis, and for good reason: Alcoa commissioned famed Washington, D.C., architect Charles M. Goodman to design its Care-Free Homes, which arrived arrived as kits featuring 75,000 pounds of aluminum materials. Here's Curbed, writing on the 60th anniversary of Goodman's creation:

To put it in suburban terms, the Care-Free Home wasn’t an ascetic metal-and-glass neighbor turning up its nose at vulgar vinyl surroundings; it was a barbecue host wearing a loud shirt—the facades featured prominent purple aluminum panels, gold doors, and swirling teal-aluminum window screens—and somehow pulling it off. Grilles of brick surrounding half of the house offer some balance against chromatic excess.

That ambitious, highly stylized design diminished the market for Care-Free Homes, but their advertised price tag of $25,000 proved to be unrealistic and, ultimately, dooming. In reality, Curbed writes, homeowners had to spend around $60,000 to construct their homes ($644,000 in today's dollars), which lead to contractors filing a class-action lawsuit against Alcoa.

The example in St. Louis Park was purchased out of foreclosure for $280,000 in 2011, according to county records. Its current owners, Whitney and Rob McChane, said it had fallen into major disrepair.

"It was a total dream home," Whitney told the Star Tribune at the time. "[But] the outside was a hot mess. It had not been tended to in years."

So, with emotional support from their two toddlers, the McChanes fixed the place up—repainting the exterior its original bright purple, remodeling the bathrooms from '58, and refinishing the basement. They viewed themselves as "stewards" of its history, and even managed to track down vintage Alcoa brochures for guidance.

Among its eye-catching features: floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides of the home, sliding glass doors that walk out to the amazing breezeway (that tree!), redwood-paneled ceilings and walls, original pegged hardwood floors, two fireplaces, and a large deck overlooking the .51-acre lot.

Now the family is simply ready to pass the property on to its next stewards, Buelow reports. Multiple showings are already scheduled, she says, and one offer has already come through since the listing went live Monday.

"I think it's gonna take a specific buyer, it's not just buying a house—it's buying a piece of history and, frankly, a piece of art," Buelow says. "Some people can get overwhelmed by that, but others will get really excited. I count my blessings everyday that people entrust me to sell these amazing homes."

Let's take a photo tour of 8000 Westwood Hills Drive, courtesy of Jared Martin Photography and Edina Realty.

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