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Home Built in 34 Minutes

The James Sadler family was proud of their little home at 1849 Lexington Avenue in El Cerrito. This building was constructed in February of 1945 and "Life" magazine ran a story and nine pictures of it in the March 26, 1945 issue. The builder was Hal B. Hayes, and it was constructed and ready for occupancy in 34 minutes. "Life" magazine set up a tower so they could take pictures looking down upon the work as it progressed. The slab had already been poured before work started on the assembly of the building. Spectators had filled the street to watch the progress of this construction, as it was unbelievable.

Besides the builder, Hal B. Hayes, they had a crane operator, carpenter, plumber, and six men to work on this proposed fireproof, waterproof, and earthquake proof building.

Mr. Sadler said that builder Hayes was experimenting with a new variety of prefabricated sections of concrete walls, floors and roof. The material could be drilled, sawed and nailed, the same as wood could be. With the crew and a crane, the sections were put into place and as the work was being done, furniture was being moved into the building and plumbing connected. The house was totally finished in 34 minutes or 2,040 seconds, including furniture, landscaping, and even a mailbox in front with occupants already moved in and a milkman delivering milk.

Mr. Sadler said the home consisted of two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and bath
On the west side of the building were sliding doors which opened out to the patio. It was shortly after the war when material was hard to get, so one of the sofas in the building was made from the seat of a Lincoln Zepper automobile, and the other from a Cadillac automobile, and they were very comfortable. Sadler said the table and some of the other furniture were handmade, including a ship's door which had been remodeled, and the setting was very attractive.

When Sadler moved into the home there were only three houses on the block. He also said the material used in his home was slowly deteriorating and did not have the holding power as the walls had cracked in several places.

Mr. James Sadler was a fireman in the local fire department, which he joined in 1949 and was a collector of old and rare cars. He was proud of his 1935 Auburn Speedster that had been driven by Ed Jenkins over 100 mph before it left the factory.

The Sadler family had to move out of this building. It was purchased by BART to make room for the parking area at the Del Norte Station and the 1800 block of Lexington Avenue was abandoned for these purposes.

Through Mr. Sadler, Mervin Belfils had acquired nine copies of the pictures taken of the constructions, "Courtesy of Life Magazine, Corp. 1945, Time Inc." for a one-time publication in the El Cerrito Historical Journal.

Copyright Mervin Belfils, October 1975
Copyright El Cerrito Historical Society, June 2006

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