Unique Mobile Homes – High Rises of the Past, Present and Future

There were some truly unique mobile homes in the past. Some made sense, some didn’t but all of the unique mobile homes usually had one thing in common – they were created by dreamers trying to solve a problem and they may have worked – had they not been before their time. 

Since the inception of cities, the need for affordable housing has lingered. Land is sparse in populated areas and the most affordable option is to build up instead of out. Though manufactured homes are typically single story dwellings they could be modified to meet the need. Here’s a few stacked mobile home innovations that have attempted to meet the affordable, multistory housing shortage through the years.


The SkyeRise Terrace Concept

The industrialist, Elmer Frey of Marshfield Homes, a well known force of the era’s mobile home movement had a dream to build 2 unique mobile homes or high rise structures side by side, and he was used to getting his way. Mr. Frey was paramount in getting the first ten’ wide home legal for transport on the nations highways and built the first 10′ wide which allowed enough room for a hallway and rooms that were completely separated from each other, as opposed to walking through one room to get to the one behind it.  He had pull in the industry and could get things done, but this was a very extravagant project.

SkyeRise Terrace - high rise mobile home tower

Two twin towers, each 332 feet tall and 247 feet around, would hold 16 single wide mobile homes on each floor was the plan. A total of 504 mobile homes would be housed in the 20 story structure. With shopping and parking on the first 6 floors, a restaurant on the top floor of one tower and a community center on top of the other, the residents had everything they needed within walking distance and the rent was projected to be around $150-200 a month.

The Milwaukee Sentinel July 23, 1966:

“If a dream of the Marshfield (Wis) industrialist becomes reality, Milwaukee will be the first metropolis to have a high rise apartment for mobile homes.”

The SkyeRise Terrace Corporation was formed with Frey at the helm. The board of directors included well-known members like John Horan from Foremost Insurance and Edward Dickman of Pathfinder Mobile Homes. They revealed the plan at a small meeting in July, 1966 and the politicians seemed to support it. A few years later SkyRise Terrace was indeed built but at a much smaller scale.


The SkyeRise Terrace was Built

Just a bit north of St. Paul, MN a smaller version of the SkyeRise Terrace concept was built by the Frey Building Company. It was only 3 sections and 3 stories with a total of 9 mobile homes.  Though it was a semi-circular design, similar to the  SkyeRise Terrace project, it was no where near extravagant as the unique mobile home concept.  They may have planned to extend the build with additional mobile homes and complete the circle and continue to built up but it was plagued with issues from the beginning.


Stacked Mobile Homes


stacked mobile home highrise - SkyeRise Terrace, Vadnais Heights MN 1972

Source: Streets MN

Unfortunately, the concept was considered a failure and only lasted a couple of years, in part, because the water pumps couldn’t get the water to the top floor per Dave Kenney’s article on Streets MN. Had these unique mobile homes been built a few decades later, it may have worked.

The ValleyView Apartment aka Tornado Towers

A similar concept was also built in 1972 in Mankato, MN. It housed 20 mobile homes in a rectangle shape that was 4 stories tall. Several journalists called it one of the nations ugliest buildings.

three story mobile home tower built

Valley View Apartments aka Tornado Towers was a stacked mobile home tower that housed 20 mobile homes and rented for $260 a month.

tornado towers 2 - mobile home tower built in the 1970's

The original owner went into default by the mid-1980’s and a new owner bought the property. The new owner’s son, Nathaniel Hood, reflects on the time in his article “Shipping Container Housing is a Terrible Idea.”

tornado tower writeup in the newspaper

While Nathaniel was only a child when his father owned the stacked mobile home tower, he recalls that it received the name “Tornado Towers” because it was one of the only structures in the area to survive a tornado. However, the local newspaper states in July 1994 that the structure was nicknamed that simply because of the myth that mobile homes attract tornadoes.

Valley View Apartments, aka Tornado Towers  - 3 story mobile home concept built in the 1970's

Valley View Mobile Home Apartments

The city bought the property back so they could demolish it around the end of 1994. One of America’s ugliest buildings was no more.

ugliest building article

Other Stacked Mobile Home Concepts

There’s been other stacked mobile home concepts in the media, as well. It’s always been a popular concept with urban planning but the idea was way ahead of its time. Perhaps now, with the new technologies and new knowledge, it could be made to work. You always have to hand it to the dreamers though!

 Multi-Level Mobile Home Park Planned for FL

This next photo shows the plans of a multi-story mobile home park that was planned to be built in Florida. Unfortunately, information about the planned structure is rare so I’m assuming that the project never made it off the ground.

Mobile Home Tower planned in FL

The Redneck Mansion

redneck mansion myth

One creative concept of unique mobile homes blasted through chain emails, forums and blogs labelled as the Redneck Mansion; though apparently this redneck was well off enough to afford several high end unique mobile homes. The Hoax Slayer presented the truth about the structure in March, 2008:

“An elaborate outdoor set for the Theater het Amsterdam Bos, a Dutch theater group. The set was created by Catherina Scholten for a 2005 production of Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov. “


Ready Player One Cover Art

A stacked camper concept made it to the front cover of a popular futuristic virtual game novel called Ready Player One by Earnest Cline, about a boy living in a futuristic mobile home park and finds refuge in virtual gaming.

ready player one cover art


stacked mobile home park


Felipe Campolina’s Portable Housing

stacked mobile home concept

Felipe Campolina designed a portable mobile home housing concept that involves a permanent highrise structure much like the SkyeRise Terrace. Telescoping units delivered via truck and set in place by an elaborate elevator system is used to allow the homes to be moved when needed.

portable mobile home housing unit

Luckily, there will be many more housing concepts like we’ve just seen. The sky really is the limit!

As always, thank you for reading Mobile & Manufactured Home Living!

Image Sources: A, B, C, D, E, F

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