It started out as a great idea, but it never got off the ground.
The flying-saucer shaped home of the future, called a Futuro House, went bust before it really got off the ground. Still, about 100 Futuro homes were sold worldwide during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and one has been a Cape Region oddity for the past four decades. It's been renovated and sits near the Eagle Crest/Hudson airfield along Eagle Crest Road in use as a rental property.
Yes, it's that flying saucer that people stop and stare at.
“We've had a lot of fun with the building over the years,” says owner Joe Hudson.
The only other Futuro House in the region is located near Harrington. It's a model home once owned by Hudson that was sold to Barney Vincelette who has lived there for nearly 40 years.
Because of the scarcity and novelty of the homes, a global cult following has developed. The Futuro has been the subject of numerous books, magazine and newspaper articles and even art exhibits.
Homes have been sold for tens of thousands of dollars or more and today there are websites devoted to the Futuro House. The most popular was developed by an admitted Futuro addict, Simon Robson of Dallas, at thefuturohouse.com. His extensive website includes a photo and history of as many houses as he can locate, including the two in Delaware.
Christian Hudson, one of Joe's grandsons, said there isn't a week that goes by that someone doesn't stop and photograph the Futuro House. He was surprised this past winter when a German filmmaker stopped him in the Hudson Management parking lot asking him permission to film the house for a documentary.
Hudson sets up dealership
Joe Hudson became a five-state distributor in the early 1970s for the North American branch of the company headquartered in Finland. Founded by Matti Suuronen in 1968, the company marketed the Futuro as a portable ski chalet.
The round, prefabricated house with the distinctive flying-saucer shape with 16 windows was composed of fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic measuring 13 feet high and 26 feet in diameter. The homes came self-contained with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room and dining room. Some were outfitted with a fireplace. The futuristic home's front door was electric, operating like a garage door.
The Futuro was manufactured in 16 pre-fabricated pieces and could be moved intact by a helicopter or assembled on site. Once assembled, most homes were placed on a steel frame secured on four concrete piers. They retailed for $15,900.
Eventually, Hudson – a successful farmer and developer, best known for the Villages of Five Points community – had three models displayed in the area as he set up a company called New Dimensions to sell the Futuro. One of them served as his first office.
The one that attracted most of the attention was set up at Five Points where the Coastal Club lighthouse is currently located. “We had long lines of people wanting to see inside, especially on weekends. Sometimes it was so crowded inside people couldn't move,” Hudson said. “We had a lot of orders, but we also had delivery-date issues.”
Hudson recalls that he had at least 17 orders but was able to get delivery on and sell only three or four of the homes. He said he had several Rehoboth Beach residents wanting to buy a Futuro as a guest house. “I thought this could have been a great business,” he said.
There are several theories circulating on websites and chat rooms about the demise of the company. Most blame the 1973 oil crisis that not only caused shortages and forced up the price of oil; it also tripled the cost to manufacture a Futuro House, which was made of oil-based components.
While Hudson was trying to find a buyer for the North American division of the company, it went bankrupt. He went as far as to take executives from Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. to the Atlantic City, N.J.-area factory. “I think they would have liked to make a deal,” Hudson said.
House ends up in national TV ad
Hudson said he liked the homes so much that he had one constructed in Broadkill Beach, and he and his wife moved in; they lived there for about two years. That home was eventually torn down and sold for scrap. That's not before the house was used as a backdrop for a photographer who did a photo shoot with nude models.
The house sold to Vincelette near Harrington has been modified and adapted over the years. At the time he bought it, Vincelette was a teacher in Atlanta, Ga. “He was desperate to get one of the models so we took it apart and put it on a tractor trailer, but the state of Georgia would not let it in,” he said. Apparently zoning regulations would not allow placement of the house in the state.
Hudson said they hauled it back to Delaware and rebuilt it on a lot he owned outside of Harrington. “Barney said if the space ship couldn't come to Georgia then he would come to Delaware,” Hudson said. “He was a super smart guy with an exaggerated personality. He may have thought he really was from outer space.”
Hudson said Vincelette was so persistent to get one of the houses that he tracked Hudson down . Hudson said he was giving a sailing lesson on the Delaware Bay when Vincelette – who was a pilot – flew overhead. “He was diving at me waving a towel. He cut back on the throttle, opened the canopy and yelled for me to meet him at the airport,” Hudson said.
One of his model homes was displayed at Cave Colony along Cave Neck Road, one of Hudson's earliest developments. That model is the one that found a home near the Hudson airfield sometime before 1985.
The house has varied uses over the years including a family guest house and an office for Pilot Air, which provided aerial transportation for Delaware River and Bay pilots. It sat vacant for several years before the Hudsons restored it in the 1990s. Because parts were no longer available, they ended up using recreational vehicle parts for interior work.
Another one of Hudson's models ended up near Washington, D.C., not far from the Watergate complex. While there, it was used as the set for a national Cremora television ad campaign. Hudson said the flying saucer home was lifted up by a huge crane and placed down on the ground as if it had landed there.
“Then when the electric door opened, the camera peeked in and there were actors inside dressed in space suits putting Cremora in their coffee,” Hudson said. “There were thousands of people there watching this.”
Futuro House ad found in restaurant
Christian Hudson recently found an original New Dimensions advertisement featuring the Futuro House in a local newspaper framed outside the men's room at Honey's restaurant on Savannah Road in Lewes. When he asked if he could get a copy, the restaurant owners game him the original. A copy of the ad ended up on Robson's thefuturohouse.com.
At home in a flying saucer
Richard Garrett is one of the few people in the world who can say he lives in a Futuro House. He takes it all in stride. “It was a great find for me and the price is right,” he said.
Garrett, who lives in the Hudson Futuro, said it's like living in an RV on vacation. “Being plastic construction, rain sounds like Tupperware in a dishwasher,” he said, adding from time to time ducks flying to a nearby pond land on the roof.
Garrett, a contract worker, lives in Chicago but uses the Futuro House when he works in this area.
He said the plastic sheets making up the house are not heavy and are structurally weak, hence the elliptical cross-section shape which is strong. “We do get winds here in Sussex County and the space ship tolerates them perfectly well,” he said.
For more information, go to: thefuturohouse.com