Built to Blast - Page 5

Friendly fallout of the Cold War, Blomberg’s ‘bomb-resistant’ concrete homes represent a colorful chapter of mid-century modern Sacramento

If Blomberg homes were born as an outgrowth, almost an afterthought, of the concrete block business, so was their windows and sliding-glass doors enterprise.

Blocks were modular by nature—and standard window sizes did not fit. First they contracted with a firm to construct iron-framed windows to fit, Jerry says. Soon they switched to aluminum along with the rest of the industry. By the late 1960s, they began making their own windows. Their clients included the Streng brothers, who used Blomberg windows and sliders extensively in their Sacramento modern homes.

Basalt Rock Co., meanwhile, was acquired by Dillingham Corp. “They changed their marketing policy and no longer used us as reps,” Ralph says.

Outside the Steed home.
At home with Wes and Juju Steed in the their 924-square-foot Blomberg model, built in 1953.

Blomberg Building Materials, renamed Blomberg Window Systems, remains an active window and doors manufacturer today, still based in Sacramento.

Jerry left the firm in the late 1970s in a dispute and founded a skylight company not far from Blomberg Windows with his two sons. He was broke at the time, he recalls—one of several times during his career when that was the case—and Sunoptics struggled until landing Wal-Mart as a client.

“Our mantra, from day one, was for an energy independent America,” Jerry says. “That’s why we were doing it.”

Jerry and his sons recently sold Sunoptics. Jerry then retired to Las Vegas, but still invests in real estate.

Concrete block homes fell out of fashion once the energy codes changed, Jerry says. The Blomberg homes weren’t insulated. Today, known as ‘concrete masonry units,’ the often pre-insulated blocks seem poised for resurgence.

As it turned out, the Blomberg family never did have to huddle in fear in their Tradewinds Avenue bomb shelter. But Jerry and his three children made good use of it.

“We had pillow fights down there,” Jerry says. “It was absolutely pitch black.”

“You’d be listening, listening…‘Did I hear somebody over there?’ Whock! Maybe you’d find somebody to hit, and maybe you wouldn’t.”


Photos: David Toerge, Max Scheler, Julius Shulman (courtesy Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library, Getty Research Institute); and courtesy Jerry Blomberg, the George Muraki family, Gretchen Steinberg of Sacramento Modern, Life magazine


Spotting Blombergs

A neighborhood in South Land Park, east of Freeport Boulevard and north of Fruitridge Road, contains dozens of attractive homes ranging from traditional to ranch to modern built using Basalite blocks—though relatively few were built by the Blombergs.

Blomberg homes include, on Del Rio Road, numbers 4744, 4748, 4752, 4756, 4760, and 4790 (originally the Blomberg sales office).

Another cluster can be found on Tradewinds Avenue, where the best-preserved façade is Jerry Blomberg’s own home, the bomb shelter house, number 1440. Two homes alongside are also by Blomberg.

On Monterey Way, number 5202 and 5204 are attractive modern Blomberg homes.