In retrospect the 1970s was a peculiar decade. In 1970, under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug on the basis that it has “a high potential for abuse.” Subsequently in 1973 the DEA is formed. H.R. Pufnstuf became a popular television series in 1971. Roller rinks rose higher on the trend meter than platform shoes (which was no small feet…see what I did there?) Charlie perfume became the scent de resistence. And not to be forgotten, shag pile carpeting filled living rooms and Chevy vans everywhere. But perhaps the most peculiar thing I have seen yet was the long-forgotten SkyeRise Terrace in Vadnais Heights, MN. Located just a few minutes north of St. Paul, SkyeRise was the nation’s first multi-level mobile home park.
The SkyRise Terrace Concept was the brainchild of industrialist Elmer Frey of Marshfield Homes, a well known force of the era’s mobile home movement. Frey had an idea to build two twin towers, if you will, that would support mobile home structures on terrace parking strips. Frey was a big player and legend has it he was used to getting his way. In fact, Frey was the key player in getting the first 10′ wide homes legal for transport on our nations relatively new highway system. He then went about building the first 10′ wide home allowing room for a hallway and separated rooms, as opposed to a more traditional “shotgun” style (walking through one room to get to the next).
The style of the two identical structures would allow them to be 332 feet tall and 247 feet around. Each floor would hold 16 single wide mobile homes. Each tower would then hold 504 mobile homes on 20 floors. It was a grand plan by any design. Frey also envisioned shopping and parking on the first six floors with a restaurant on the top floor of one tower and a community center at the top of the other. The rent was originally projected to be $150-$200/month.
By 1970 an extremely reduced version of the SkyeRise Terrace concept was built by the Frey Building Company. Shy of its initial building specs, it was only three sections and three stories allowing for a total of nine mobile homes. It was however, a semi-circular design, similar to the initial SkyeRise Terrace project proposal. To this day no one really knows if Frey intended to expand on the nine home model with additional sections, floors, and mobile homes, or if this was a more realistic version or test model. Whatever the case, the project was problematic from the beginning, including its most significant issue of water pumps being unable to supply water to the upper decks during cold. winter months.