You know, concrete can be used for just about anything. In fact, just last month we wrote a blog on how concrete has been made into furniture, rings, phone cases, and even canoes. But as much as we love stamped concrete (and concrete in general) there have been some bad ideas that have come along. And one of the biggest came from the most popular inventor of all time, Thomas Edison.

So What Are We Talking About Here?

Concrete houses. Not just concrete foundations, not just concrete driveways and patios. Not even houses constructed from concrete panels. We’re talking about a single-piece concrete house.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

It all started in the 1880s with when Edison spent millions of dollars using huge rollers to crush rock that contained iron ore. He then used magnets to extract the iron, but it turns out that no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get it to work profitably. Most of us would have given up, but Edison had other ideas for the massive rollers.

And Then Life Gives You More Lemons…

Edison was ahead of his time in one way: he saw the multitude of uses for concrete, but at the time the world was not ready for it. Edison bought a cement factory and used the rollers to make cement. But within a few years the cement factory was also in the red because of the sparse need for cement. So instead of giving up…

Those Are Some Sweet Imaginary Lemons

If you’ve got a lot of something and nobody needs it, the best thing to do is create a demand for it! So, you’d want to build something large that everyone needs. How about houses? That was Edison’s idea, and it kind of made sense. Concrete lasts a long time. It can’t be eaten by termites. It’s fire proof. The tint would be permanently bonded to the concrete, ensuring you’d never have to repaint the exterior. You’d never have to replace your shingles again, because, well, concrete. The same form could be adjusted to add additional stories onto the house. Because concrete cures quickly, a house could be poured in a day, and at just over $1,000 (around $25,000 today), anybody could afford one. What could go wrong?

Here Come All The Lemons!

Just because there are many advantages to something doesn’t mean that they outweigh the disadvantages. First of all, contractors were less than thrilled. The equipment needed to pour a house cost more than $4,000,000 in today’s money, and that had to be spent before a single house was made. Oh, and let’s talk about the molds. To build a house, the mold consisted of 2,300 pieces. The idea of pouring a house in a day is more daunting when you have to deal with the world’s largest 3-D puzzle!

Another problem was with the sheer problem of dealing with something so permanent. What if you want to remodel? What if styles change (they always do) and the bathtub looks antiquated? You’re certainly not going to be able to replace it. Want to hang a picture on the wall? Get out a sledgehammer, because you’re going to need it to hammer that nail in! In the end, not many concrete houses were made; only a dozen remain, and in many ways they look surprisingly normal.

Even after the idea of concrete homes failed, Edison was still determined to get concrete into every home. He experimented with furniture, pianos, phonograph cabinets, and refrigerators. When those failed to materialize, he still wouldn’t sell the cement factory. It lost millions of dollars, but the one big contract it landed was for something iconic: the original Yankee Stadium (1922-2010).

In the end, Edison spent more time in concrete than he did on his most famous inventions, including the lightbulb and movie camera. He saw that concrete had a future, but he couldn’t quite see where that future was heading. Did he ever imagine stamped concrete driveways? How about stained concrete patios? Probably not, but they’re something you don’t have to imagine…you can have one in no time! Contact Marrocco’s to see what we can do for you!