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Man’s dream of container home comes to fruition

Judy Clelland, the granddaughter of Roscoe Downs (former Editor of the Hancock Clarion), and her family moved to Hancock County from Maryland over a decade ago. Her husband, Bill, built the family a storage container home on land they had purchased. A previous article written by Ralph Dickerson in 2010, described in detail Bill Clelland’s vision for their dream home. The home is located 3 miles from Hancock County High School, in Hawesville.

Bill Clelland’s 500+square foot finished container home.

Bill had said Judy needed some convincing before she also became excited about his idea to build this unique kind of home. Bill was from Maryland, and although he loved this area and decided to move the family here after retiring, he knew there’d be some challenges with weather and storms and wanted to build the safest, strongest home possible. Through research he learned that container homes are around five times stronger than traditionally built homes and can stand up to winds of 150 mph. These factors along with the cost efficiency caused Judy to warm-up to his plan for their home, which at that time wasn’t as widespread in the U.S. as it is now.

How they met

When Judy first met Bill, she was working as a secretary at the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Headquarters at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. “I was living in Maryland in an apartment development,” she said. “Bill lived in the same apartment development but in a different area. I had a Volkswagen and when it was cold, my VW refused to start. When he’d hear my car ‘grinding’ and see me with my 2 little boys in the car early in the morning around 6 a.m., he would come and jump start my car for me. That’s how I first met him.

Bill worked for the phone company at that time. He had a red, Honda motorcycle and he would come in from work, and he’d be working on his bike and my 2 boys would sit on the curb and talk to him while I fixed dinner. They kept saying to me, ‘Mommy, you should go talk to this really nice man.’ But, I didn’t.

One night, he knocked on the door. He came in to visit and had told me later that he’d already made up his mind that he was going to marry me. He talked with me, and said later that he thought, ‘Yep. This is it.’ We had a very short courtship. We got married and it lasted for 43 years. We had two children together, a boy and a girl (Josh and Elizabeth).”

Maryland to Hawesville

“Bill wanted to retire,” Judy said. “He was working for the police department. He went from the phone company to the police department in Maryland. He first worked for D.C. Police, then he went to work for Prince George’s County Police Department. He was a policeman for 10, going on 11 years, in Washington, D.C. Then, he switched over to Prince George’s County because, at that particular time, Washington, D.C. had a mayor that wasn’t paying his bills so they weren’t getting their paychecks. Bill switched over and then became a Jehovah’s Witness.

When he became a Jehovah’s Witness, he made the personal decision not to carry a weapon on his hip anymore. He said he didn’t feel he could go encourage people to get to know Jesus knowing that he earned his living wearing a weapon. When he told the department that he was going to quit, they got him a job as an evidence technician (forensics). He was the guy that when the crime was committed, he went to collect the evidence, went to the morgue, went to court, etc. That’s what he was doing until he retired. He had quite a good reputation. He had hoped when we moved out here, as a part time job, that he could maybe teach forensics but that didn’t work out.

After Bill & I married, we would come to visit Dick & Trish (Holder). He fell in love; He liked Kentucky. He liked the lifestyle that we saw for the children, the wide open spaces, and that’s why when he got ready to retire, he started looking here.”

In 2010 Bill Clelland posed for the Clarion photo showing the foundation pillers he had completed where the containers would set.

Why a Container Home?

“He always wanted to do something different,” Judy said, “a challenge, something economical but different. Bill was a reader. He did an awful lot of reading. He did research and reading, and could see the advantage of a container home and how it would be less expensive because it was less expensive to build if you consider everything. At that time, the containers cost about $1K, and we paid for the shipping. The insulation he put on the outside of the house was very new at the time. The house is very warm. We had insulation blown under it. It stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”

Their 5,000 square foot, 2-story container home in Hawesville consists of 5 ISO metal, 14-gage Corten corrugated steel shipping containers, 8.5 feet high, eight feet wide by 40 feet long. The containers, including delivery, cost us around $16K altogether.

Bill started the whole process of building in 2010, and it took him 5 years to complete. The main floor is a 700-square feet, open area consisting of a large living room and kitchen, and 2 bedrooms. There are 3 bathrooms, and 2 bedrooms upstairs. The guest bedroom is 8×20, the master bedroom is 16×24, and the 2 bedrooms upstairs are each 20×20. “Bill did all the work,” Judy said.

It was in 2011 when Bill Clelland began the construction of his new home container home in Hancock County. In this photo construction crews are placing the containers on “footers’ that Clelland had built.

Container Delivery

The containers were each delivered to their land by large trucks, and Judy recalled the day when the first ones arrived. “The truck driver who delivered the first containers,” she said, “I was up on the hill [watching], and it was like a ballet. Bill had put in the concrete forms, the footers. He knew where he wanted the containers. The truck driver, I don’t remember his name, he was a nice guy and he would say to Bill, ‘Where do you want them?’ And, Bill would say, ‘Right here.’ And, he would turn that truck and bend it up and down and just put it exactly where he wanted them. All 3 of them, the first 3 – he did a great job. It was amazing to watch.”


Bill & Judy’s son and daughter, Josh and Elizabeth, along with Elizabeth’s son, Ben, have also built the addition of a nice, wooden deck as well as other improvement projects around their family home. Josh and Elizabeth have become carpenters in their own right, after years of watching and helping Bill.

Josh said more insulation was needed because Bill, unfortunately, passed away (in 2018) before he had the chance to finish it. “The first floor was always ice cold,” he said. “You could almost ice skate across it. I got with Owensboro Insulators. They are fantastic. They sent a guy out here and I told him the problem we were having. That was in the dead of winter. He came out and gave us prices that were so reasonable, and he had a crew here in 2 or 3 days.

They custom insulated all of the side skirt of the house and the pillars, then they put 2 layers of this real thick plastic down. Two guys knocked it out in no time. It made a huge difference because Mom’s utility bills were cut, almost, in half. We then did more high efficiency stuff with the propane Trane furnace. We’re always doing something.”

By Jennifer Wimmer

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