Unnoticed, unprotected – concrete houses from the 1940s, built by LeTourneau, are still standing | Local news
On a street in South Longview stand three houses, unnoticed, unprotected, one even destroyed – but not yet demolished – and yet each an example of an experimental construction by Longview’s well-known late industrialist RG LeTourneau.
Known as “Tournalaid” houses, the concrete houses were built in the 1940s – each in about a day.
LeTourneau’s philosophy of “making the tool to make the thing” was famous for his heavy earthmoving machinery production and also led him to a pioneer in prefabricated building construction.
In the mid-1940s, LeTourneau patented the Tournalayer, a 60-ton machine with 10-foot tires that could produce a 30-ton concrete and rebar house in just over a day.
LeTourneau used the machine to build a small community with around 40 employee apartments near his then new plant in Longview. Three of these Tournalaid houses are still standing, but they are empty on MacArthur Street.
A former resident, Margaret Moore, said she lived in one of the concrete, flat-roofed houses with her husband David and their three children in the early 1960s.
Moore said she only had fond memories of life on MacArthur Street, but they stayed, she suspected, only about a year before she moved.
With a fourth child on the way, the two small bedroom house is just too small for her growing family, she said.
Moore recalled that the rent was about $ 40 a month.
“The floors had circulating hot water to warm them in winter,” she said. “It was really nice to get on a warm floor.”
According to research by Everett E. Henderson Jr. of the University of Florida, Tournalaid’s house plans were refined as each new house was analyzed, rethought, and refined.
“Tournalayer was an all-inclusive house-casting system,” says Henderson’s research. “While the tour layer” automated “the building process of houses, the sequence of operations required to form the house was actually quite complex.”
It found the system was unsuitable for building individual homes, Henderson says in his research.
“The number was efficient, and creating unique pieces with this machine was not a resource-saving use of materials,” he writes. “In fact, the tour layer was not a home-making tool, but a community-building tool.”
And communities were what the tour player built.
On a central construction site, the machine would be used to lift an outer form and place it over the inner form after window and door frames are placed along with electrical wiring and plumbing.
Concrete was then poured over the top to fill the voids and allowed to set. The tour layer would then transport the entire building to its final location within the residential community.
Since the first ward was built in Vicksburg, Miss., Where LeTourneau had a manufacturing facility, its second ward was near its Longview facility, now owned by Komatsu Mining Corp. belongs.
Other churches were planted in other parts of Texas, along with California, Arizona, Israel, Argentina, and Brazil.
Ron Hefley of Preservation Longview, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving significant historic sites and revitalizing neighborhoods in Longview, said he was unaware of any current efforts to preserve the remaining Tournalaid structures.
Hefley said the group had no information about the homes because Preservation Longview is focused on the area’s older, historic homes.
Longview city spokesman Shawn Hara said no current permits have been issued to demolish the properties.
Dan Flournoy, senior human resources manager at Komatsu Mining Corp., said other examples of LeTourneau’s concrete structure are still being used as on-site office buildings at the company’s Longview facility.
Flournoy also said the company is making efforts to purchase all of the properties along MacArthur Street, a move that would relieve the city of providing services to those properties.