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American Pickers Got To Explore One Of The First Smart Homes

It's always fun to tune into "American Pickers" to see neat old items, to hear the story about them, and maybe even find out how much they're worth or how much the pickers can get for them. It's also fun to learn about the interesting places where the items are found. That's what happened in Season 23, Episode 19, when "Jersey" Jon Szalay and Robbie Wolfe drove through Caro, Michigan, on the tip that there might be some good picking to be had in the town. 

They had also heard of the one-time home of businessman W.J. Moore. Built in the 1920s, the five-bedroom Tudor revival house was already impressive from the outside, featuring an outside garage barn with a fire pit and a swimming pool. It certainly seemed to be a nice, comfortable, well-maintained old house, but at first glance, it didn't really look like anything cutting edge. In fact, it looked quite the opposite — almost quaint and Hobbit-esque. Hence the pickers dubbed it, "the wizard's castle." 

However, as many great philosophers and futurists will tell you, there is always a fine line between magic and technology. And while the house seemed like a quaint old structure without much modern appeal, the Pickers didn't realize that they were about to explore one of the first smart homes. 

One could control the whole house from a single panel

By today's standards, the technology in the home was fairly standard — fewer motion sensors and algorithms than straightforward electrical wiring. Granted, back then, simple electricity was still regarded as something of a marvel. But what really made this house a wonder for its time was how electricity was specifically harnessed, spreading control of the lights, doors, burglar alarms, and even an old-school zip line throughout this fairly sprawling estate into a main control panel at the center of the house, in addition to several other smaller ones scattered throughout. 

"At this time, people washed their clothes by hand," Jon Szalay told the camera. "There was horse and buggies still in the streets. Meanwhile, W.J. [Moore] is building the luxury of automation way before its time. It was the first smart home."

Given the house's age, as well as the years that it sat unoccupied, much of it was no longer in working condition. The wires appeared to still be intact, but they were either rusted, corroded, or simply too old to use safely. The house's new owner, Steve, however, took it upon himself to essentially reverse engineer the place, restoring it to its former glory and getting it entirely and fully functional as it was in its heyday. And that was likely no small feat.