People are remarkably adaptive to new technologies. In 1896 a Duryea Motor Wagon, the first automobile manufactured for sale in the United States, was viewed as a curiosity. Montgomery Ward said that it was a fad the children should see before it passes. The Barnum & Bailey Circus gave a Duryea top billing over the albino, the bearded lady and he dog faced boy. And yet by 1902 dozens of companies were manufacturing automobiles.
In 1905, Buffalo Bill Cody took delivery of his new Michigan, an automobile manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan. By 1919 more Americans owned an automobile than had indoor plumbing. And in just one century people had abandoned the horse drawn vehicle and accepted self driving cars. They had moved from hand crank telephones and party lines to pocket size wonders that allowed for international communication in an instant.
Electricity and indoor plumbing are no longer viewed as luxury items. Likewise with air conditioning and climate control systems, modern wonders that transformed America and the world. With the post WWII acceptance of air conditioning the American southwest boomed as it was transformed into a destination.
So, how did people beat the heat before the advent of air conditioning? They endured. They suffered. They were innovative. Edsel Ford, son of legendary automobile manufacturer Henry Ford, noted in his travel journal from July 1915 that the heat in Needles, California was oppressive. So he slept on the front porch of the hotel hoping to catch a cooling evening breeze.
In the desert southwest the motel business plummeted during the months of summer. Why pay $1.50 or $2.00 for a motel room when it was cooler to sleep in the car? Conrad Minka, a Russian hard rock miner that immigrated to Kingman, Arizona found a way to beat the heat, and to profit in the process.
He built the White Rock Court along Route 66 in 1936. Under the “L” shaped auto court was a utility corridor carved from the rock. On the motel behind the motel Minka dug a vertical shaft and connected it to the utility corridors. At the bottom of the shaft was kept a tank of water with sheets of burlap hung so that they acted as a wick. Large electric fans in the shaft pushed the cool air into the rooms through floor vents.
Minka’s innovation gave him an edge, but for only a brief moment in time. In 1939, immediately to the east, the Arcadia Court opened for business. The AAA Directory of Motor Courts & Cottages published in 1940 notes, “Arcadia Court, 15-air conditioned cottages. $3 to $3.50.”
Air conditioning changed everything from lodging to entertainment as heaters that could offer patrons a cool respite from summer heat flourished. It even changed home design.
Before WWII houses were designed with a focus on airflow principles that allowed for the use of cooling cross breezes, and providing a chimney effect with cool air pulled from the cellar, and hot air exiting through a cupola or vents. Houses had more windows, higher ceilings and porches that were often shaded with the use of trellises and vines.
In the land of Dixie a popular design was known as the dog trot house. In essence it was two separate cabins under one roof and connected by a open air corridor. For home owners with a little extra money the breezeway would be screened or have windows that could be opened or closed dependent on season. One section of the house was used primarily for cooking and the other for living space including bedrooms.
Fortunately for you beating the heat is easier than designing your home around the prevailing wind directions. You simply need to call the professionals at AIRzona Comfort Solutions for all of your air conditioning needs.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America