Oh, once more I feel so flattered! The mighty Rose Thornton, national authority on the history and identification of the mail-order homes of the early 20th century and author of books such as "Finding The Houses That Sears Built,"kind of featured me on her blog yesterday. Well, actually, not me, but some of the catalog houses I identified in my favorite DC neighborhoods.
I have often written about the stories behind the houses I sold or came across, from discovering they had a famous first owner to the long-forgotten murder in the basement. DC certainly has a lot of history of any kind. Last year, however, I started paying more attention to a particular group of homes with history: kit homes.
Most of the close-in DC suburbs and uptown neighborhoods go back to the 1910s and 1920s, with the simultaneous expansion of government and the streetcar network. That's when most of the Sears, Lewis and Standard Co. pre-cut homes were built as well. DC had sales offices from the largest manufacturers, and there are a lot of these houses still out here. Often, the owners have no idea their house was once delivered by rail in thousands of pieces. In many cases, local builders bought nice lots and then put a catalog homes together as a spec house, taking all the credit for themselves!
In any case, one reason my business partner, Marcie, and I are so interested in those homes is that they tend to come on the market every so often, making it easier to "inspect" them for traces of the past and point them out to the fan community. Yesterday, for instance, I introduced the "Uriel" on my local blog, DC House Cat,--a fun little Sears charmer that's currently for sale in nearby Silver Spring, MD.
Occasionally I email the link to such a post to the listing agent. Turns out that more often than not, the agent is just as surprised as the owner. We owe it to Rose and a few other kit house historians that this chapter of American residential history is not forgotten.
Therefore, if you have any kit house pictures to share, send them to Rose Thornton. (And if the houses are in the DC area, send them my way as well!)
The pictures show a 1920s Sears "Fullerton" I found in Shepherd Park, DC as well as the same model depicted in the 1922 Sears catalog. The Shepherd Park house has, at least from the outside, remained completely intact, with the original siding. The only "customization" --Sears allowed for variation orders--is the position of the chimney which was put in the "piano" space rather than the center of the house.
© 2012, Catarina Bannier