Milestones in American Real Estate History

History is chock full of newsworthy events – natural disasters, wartime happenings, that time Ben Franklin flew that kite…

Our favorites, of course, relate to housing. Let’s take a look back at the real estate newsmakers that defined the times. We guarantee you’ll win your next round of Trivial Pursuit, Real Estate Edition:

Image Credit: Global Property Systems
Image Credit: Global Property Systems

March 4, 1829
The President hosts the worst (or best?) open house ever.

The White House open house was introduced by Thomas Jefferson, but things didn’t go haywire until party animal Andrew Jackson took office. The inaugural soiree quickly turned into a free-for-all when over 20,000 guests ran amok, shattering crystal and dishware and damaging priceless furniture.

January 1, 1863
A Nebraska farmer is a squatter no more.

Following years of the government literally looking the other way, a Nebraska farmer filed the first claim to land in the Ol’ West. The Homestead Act, signed by Lincoln in 1862, granted citizens permission to settle on any unclaimed, surveyed, 160-acre tract of federally-held land, with the opportunity for full title ownership in five years (for a nominal fee – this is America, after all).

1866 (Date unknown)
The future boss-lady of real estate makes her move.
Former slave Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason bought a Los Angeles property for $250, completing the first of many transactions that would make her one of the wealthiest women in real estate at the time. After turning a $1,250 profit, she went on to build commercial properties, stacking up nearly $300,000 in the process. Cha-ching!

1923 (Date unknown)
The Hollywood sign makes its debut as a real estate advertisement.
Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler decided it was high time to invest in a high-end real estate development, aptly named ‘Hollywoodland.’ The sign, perched atop telephone poles, was actually a $21,000 advertisement. Today, those marketing dollars would equal upwards of $250,000!

September 29, 1953
The Russians want to be us.
In an attempt to drum up solidarity during an anti-Russian era, The New York Times penned an article stating that the average Russian wants the ‘American Dream,’ too: private property. Russians – they’re just like us!

March 19, 1957
Elvis pays a pittance for Graceland.
The King forked over a mere $1,000 down payment for Graceland, less than 10 percent of the $102,500 price tag. The home was Elvis’ second – he already owned in East Memphis, but after legions of fans descended on the neighborhood, he sought another home for his family on the outskirts of the city.

June 20, 1979
The sun shines on the White House.
The White House went green when Jimmy Carter oversaw the installation of a $28,000 rooftop solar heating system. The panels absorbed enough sunshine to heat water throughout the 132-room home. But Ronald Reagan couldn’t take the heat, and removed the system just seven years later. The panels ended up at a college in Maine and remained in good working order for another 18 years.

Source: History 

Author Bio: Suzanne De Vita is the Online Associate Editor and social butterfly of RISMedia’s Housecall blog. She counts Nixon and Khrushchev’s Cold War ‘kitchen debate’ among her favorite real estate moments in history.