This is a tiny house movement timeline… A brief history of tiny homes. How far back does the tiny house movement go? Some could argue that tiny homes have been here since the dawn of man. And it’s true, isn’t it? But for the purposes of this article, I’d like to start by skipping to the year 1854 because that’s the year that Henry David Thoreau published his book, Walden, after living in a 150-square-foot tiny cabin near Walden Pond on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s woodland property.
Little did he know, that he may be largely responsible for having sparked the giant tiny house movement that we are witnessing today. So please join me on a journey back in time, to explore the tiny homes of yesterday and see how they have inspired the tiny and small homes of today. And who knows, maybe we can figure out what the tiny homes of the future will be like? Let’s go…
Please don’t miss other incredible information on the tiny house movement – join our FREE Tiny House Newsletter with even more!
1854 – Henry David Thoreau publishes Walden while living in a 150-square-foot tiny cabin.
Perhaps he knew that a tiny space could provide such a stress-free existence to be able to have the time and energy to write and publish his works?
The 1800s – Shotgun shacks in the south (U.S.).
Image © Creative Commons CC by WhisperToMe
Image © Dave Taylor via Dave’s 396-square-foot shotgun tiny home
Late 1700’s – American Pioneer Cabin… Early Settlement of Oregon… The Original American Tiny House?
On second thought, it’s just not right to start this by skipping all the way to the late 1700s-1800s, isn’t it?
But we already started it that way, so, let’s just jump into our make-believe time travel machine…
…and stop at approximately 1000 BC.😊
1000 BC – Yurts or “Gers” in Mongolia.
These homes originated in Mongolia as a very practical and mobile home because you could literally disassemble and reassemble it anywhere you like, and you and your tribe can continue on your way according to the weather. They are built to be waterproof, heat-resistant, and can be heavily insulated too!
Image © Exploring Alternatives via Woman Living Fully Off-Grid for 2 Years in a Tiny Yurt
500 BC – Tipis or Teepees.
Image © Exploring Alternatives via Magical Four Season Off-Grid Tipi
There is evidence out there that suggests tipi dwellings have been around much longer than 500 BC. You can read up on that here.
The 1940s – Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome.
Image © ForestHotel.com via Geodesic Homes at Hotel Forest
By the way, you can see R. Buckminster Fuller and Anne Hewlett’s Dome Home in Carbondale, Illinois right here. It was their residence from 1960 to 1971. His house was one of the first residential geodesic domes ever built. You can also see it in the video below too! The RBF Dome NFP has started the Fuller Dome project and is in the process of restoring it now. More info on that project here. The blueprints are available too.
1973 – Lloyd Kahn and Bob Easton publish Shelter.
Besides publishing Shelter in 1973, Lloyd Kahn has continued to publish fascinating books on alternative homes tiny and small. See Shelter II (2010), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Home Work Hand Built Shelter (2004), Small Homes: The Right Size (2017), Tiny Homes Simple Shelter (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). It’s a beautiful collection of books, stories, and creative homes.
1987 – Lester Walker publishes Tiny Houses: Or How to Get Away From it All.
Besides Tiny Houses: Or How to Get Away From it All, Lester Walker also published Tiny Book of Tiny Houses (1993), A Little House of My Own: 47 Grand Designs for 47 Tiny Houses (2000), Housebuilding for Children (2007), among others.
1998 – Sarah Susanka publishes The Not So Big House.
1999 – Jay Shafer publishes the Small House Book and starts the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.
Besides writing and publishing the Small House Book, which helped spark the tiny house movement into what it has become today, Jay Shafer has designed and built several tiny homes, most recently, his own $5,000 tiny house.
2000 – Dignity Village, a tiny house community to benefit the homeless, is built with 43 tiny homes built using recycled materials in Portland, Oregon.
Image © DignityVillage.org
2007 – Oprah interviews Jay Shafer. The tiny house movement blows up. Tiny homes built on trailers become a popular way to overcome zoning hurdles when wanting to build tiny.
Image © Oprah.com
You can watch that over at Oprah.com.
Unfortunately, zoning is still a problem and this solution is oftentimes only temporary. Building on wheels is a great way to get around zoning laws, but many still find it very challenging to find a peaceful, suitable, and legal place to park and live in their tiny homes on wheels. The movement badly needs help to become a legitimate housing solution.
2007 – The original Quixote Community was founded as a tent camp in a parking lot. Today they have built three tiny house communities/villages.
Image © quixotecommunities.org
2007-2008 – The U.S. mortgage crisis sparks an economic downturn.
2010 – The FREE Tiny House Newsletter is born. TinyHouseTalk.com is born. Join below🙏
2012 – Second Wind Cottages starts tiny house village in Newfield, New York – 18 tiny homes completed so far to help restore lives.
Image © secondwindcottages.org
2014 – First tiny house-friendly city – Spur, Texas.
Image © Conor Mccann via Man legally living in an 84-square-foot tiny home in Spur, TX
2014 – FYI’s Tiny House Nation and HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters sparks tiny house television phenomenon.
Image © FYI/Tiny House Nation
Now, everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about when we say tiny houses.
2015 – The American Tiny House Association is formed to encourage people to work with local government agencies to gain zoning approvals.
Image © ATHA
2015 – The National Tiny House Jamboree attracts 40,000 attendees in Colorado Springs.
Image © TinyHouseJamboree.com
2015 – Zoning legislation is approved to allow some tiny homes in some areas in Rockledge, Florida. Rockledge Tiny House Community formed. The community now under development.
Image via braveheartproperties.org
Learn more at Braveheart Properties of Brevard and Cornerstone Tiny Homes.
2016 – Fresno, California passes a new zoning law that benefits tiny homes on wheels.
2019 – A tiny home for good charity builds 11 tiny homes, with another 11 underway, to prevent homelessness in Syracuse, New York.
Image © atinyhomeforgood.org
2019 – Community First! Village w/ micro homes started in Austin, Texas.
Image © mlf.org
Where will tiny homes go next?
Where do you think tiny homes will end up in the next ten, twenty, even thirty years?
What will homes and communities be like then? Will our vision of smarter, smaller, and more affordable homes finally be a common reality?
I think so. 😊
- “A tiny house movement timeline.” Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.curbed.com/2017/7/19/15974554/tiny-house-timeline.
- “Inside the Tiny Home Movement: A Brief History.” Accessed May 9, 2019. http://blog.claytonhomes.com/inside-the-tiny-home-movement-a-brief-history.
- “The history of the tiny house movement.” Accessed May 9, 2019. https://cozeliving.com/tiny-house-movement/.
- “A tiny home for good.” Accessed May 9, 2019. https://www.atinyhomeforgood.org/about.
- “Community First! Village.” Accessed May 9, 2019. https://mlf.org/community-first/.
- “See the plans for a developing tiny house community in Florida.” Accessed May 9, 2019. http://smallerliving.org/2016/08/31/see-the-plans-for-a-developing-tiny-house-community-in-florida/.
- “Fresno passes groundbreaking ‘tiny house’ rules.” Accessed May 9, 2019. https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/01/19/fresno-passes-groundbreaking-tiny-house-rules/.
- “Peacewind condominium cottages.” Accessed May 13, 2019. http://braveheartproperties.org/.
- “Henry David Thoreau portrait.” Accessed May 9, 2019. Public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_David_Thoreau.
- “Walden cover.” Accessed May 13, 2019. Public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walden.
- “American Pioneer Cabin.” Accessed May 13, 2019. Public domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_Pioneer_Cabin_(3641714830).jpg.