1961: Schuette Brothers Co. expands
The forerunner business of Wausau Homes, Housing Service Co., was poised to expand production by 50 percent just 18 months after Earl, Marvin and Clifford Schuette developed a version of assembly-line home construction, reported the April 8, 1961, edition of the Wausau Daily Record-Herald.
"The first home was turned out in May of last year," the paper reported. Housing Service Co. already was producing two homes a week and planned to increase to three homes a week in the near future.
The work crew had grown to 30 men after four positions were added that week, and more jobs would be added with the increased production schedule.
The Schuette brothers avoided the word "prefabricated" to describe their building process, the paper reported.
"We build the most conventional of homes, using the usual materials and the old time, tried methods of construction," Earl Schuette, company president at the time, was quoted as saying. "What is unique is that we build the homes in units in our factory, where we can cut costs through careful quality and cost controls. We are building a home which can be hauled to a building site in two trucks and be erected in three days."
The innovative construction style meant whole walls, sections of floors and roofs, and complete bathroom and kitchen units, were built in the factory for homes ranging in size from 864 square feet to 1,332 square feet. A builder at the home site would supervise basement foundation construction, then cranes would lift pre-built sections into place for finishing.
Housing Service Co. kept tabs on local building codes to adapt each home to the ordinances. Homeowners were able to customize their designs, choosing from two- or three-bedroom models, with or without a family room and with either one bathroom or a bath-and-a-half.
Cliff and Earl Schuette had begun their business with a sawmill in the 1940s. They expanded into a lumberyard to serve builders before developing their assembly-line production system in 1960. Marvin, the youngest brother, joined them as a salesman after he became the first member of the family to graduate from college, according to his biography available through the Marathon County Historical Society.
Today's Wausau Homes options have grown to more than 100 floor plans for homes as large as 4,000 square feet with five bedrooms, according to information online at www.wausauhomes.com.