TOMS RIVER: Long time residents will usually remember a spaceship/UFO themed bank here in Toms River and Lakewood- later Seaside Heights. These structures were officially called Futuro Houses or Pods, and were round prefabricated houses designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. Fewer than 100 were built during the late 1960s and early 1970s- and even less survive today. By 1972, New Jersey-based City Federal Savings would obtain a few of these Futuro houses to use as “Spaceship Banks” to add to their growing network of bank branches in NJ. Here in Ocean County there would be two recorded City Federal Bank branches; one in Toms River and the other in Lakewood.
The Toms River Spaceship Bank would be placed, or rather delivered and lowered with a public spectacle into the then-Dover Mall with Bradlee’s & Shop-Rite. This event would take place on Saturday November 11, 1972 and entice customers to open bank accounts with those luxurious free gifts. By 1973 these City Federal Spaceship Banks would begin to open all across the area as a novelty for the time- and in April a Futuro Bank would be dropped in Lakewood. An identical advertisement would run in April of 1973 showing how the same Spaceship City Federal Bank would be built and opened in Lakewood- on US 9 @ Kennedy Boulevard.
City Federal Savings would install and open branches in Burlington County, and elsewhere- and play off the public hype surrounding outer space. The moon landing was just in 1969, so a cool futuristic UFO-shaped bank would appeal to many customers at the time. By the time the 1980s came around, the whole space theme was dying out- and these bank branches were outliving their functionality. Customers were demanding amenities in banks like drive throughs, and comfortable lobbies- among other things. The space gimmick was wearing off, and City Federal would open a regular branch in the Dover Mall, but in the actual plaza. The picture below shows the branch abandoned years later as the whole plaza awaited demolition. This branch was located in the back of the plaza facing Shop-Rite, on the far right end.
After the new City Federal was open in the plaza, the Futuro building had to go somewhere as it was becoming an eyesore. It got donated to Seaside Heights to use as a welcome center for tourists- and would live on to serve that purpose for decades later. Sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s the Futuro House/Pod – Spaceship Bank was removed from Seaside Heights. It was located in the free public parking lot bordered by Hamilton, NJ 35 N, and Bay Boulevard. OCSN has not completed our research to track down what became of the Toms River/Seaside and Lakewood Futuro structures yet- but we are trying.
Today these Futuro Houses are collector’s items- and they were made for people to live inside of. They would be built with 16 windows for houses, or the modified 8-window version for banks or commercial uses. Futuro Homes in the USA were manufactured by the Futuro Corporation of Philadelphia. Some still stand today and many of these structures existed in New Jersey. At least nine standard Futuro Houses and one Futuro House with 8 windows were constructed in NJ during the 1970s through 1980s. Unfortunately, many did not survive past the 1980s and were demolished as they were often located in shopping center parking lots.