One of the most elaborate advertising gimmicks a real estate developer could have ever imaged took place five stories above Naperville in the fall of 1961. Jerry Concannon, a Naperville contractor and president of the 1400-home, Scots Plains sub-division wanted to promote the fabulous “Space House” design using a 32-foot aluminum rocket and a female astronaut. A Chicagoan, Miss Patricia O’Brien was one of 75 applicants who agreed to live in a space capsule suspended above the sub-division for 26 days; or one day for every hour a Russian cosmonaut had spent in space.
“I think I can prove once and for all that American women are just as capable of standing the rigors and isolation of space travel as a man,” Miss O’Brien said in a September 30, 1961 Chicago Tribune ad, “and I’m going to stay up here just about a month to show I’m not kidding! I’m sick and tired of having the Russians beat us at every new space accomplishment.” The spaceship was fitted with a “radio, TV set, telephone, bed, heater, air conditioner, and rest room facilities. Food and water [were] sent up to the astronaut by means of an elevator system.”
Concannon’s Space House boasted 2,200 square feet of “glamorous living area, featuring the dramatic Astro Deck and Solar Room” in ranch, split and tri-level designs built on spacious quarter-acre lots. Home prices started at $14,950. The Scots Plains sub-division is located west of Route 59 just two blocks south of the East/West tollway and surrounds Longwood Elementary School.
Thomas Morrow, a Chicago Tribune reporter and columnist glibly jotted these lines in October 26, 1961, “A lady named Pat O’Brien came down after sitting for 29 days in an artificial space ship hung on cables over Naperville. This proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that a lady named Pat O’Brien can sit for 29 days in an artificial space ship hung on cables over Naperville.” Though O’Brien was dubbed “The First Female Astronaut” in numerous real estate ads, the honor of being the first female space traveler goes to Russian cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova (June 16, 1963). The first American, female astronaut was Sally Ride (June 18, 1983).