What We Are Grateful For

Sears Woodland Nevada Avenue
One of Chevy Chase DC’s stately 1920s “Woodlands” from the Sears mail-order catalog

Well, first off, there are so many things we are grateful for here at the DC HouseSmarts — our loved ones, our health, our diverse, interesting and energizing clientele, our supportive bunch of colleagues at Evers & Co., and to live in a place that has always valued social responsibility and freedom of speech and expression, and–of course–our homes.

But since a great part of our day (or let’s say, many of our days) is devoted to city history and historic  homes, we’re ever so grateful to live and work in a place where this history is valued and preserved.

Last week, we were lucky enough to give a talk about kit houses and the state of our research at the Chevy Chase Community center. It was not only well-attended, but we also counted a total of 10 actual Chevy Chase kit house owners on the guest sign-in! Several others called or emailed in advance of the event, telling us they were sorry they couldn’t attend but they would still be interested in participating in Historic Chevy Chase’s kit house project. In the latter, we will cooperate in documenting, authenticating and cataloging (!) Chevy Chase’s catalog homes.

(Built in 1925)
A 1925 Lewis “Marlboro” on Military Road

Chevy Chase, especially the part on the DC side, is unique in terms of its collection of well-preserved kit houses, most of which are from the government expansion years in the 1920s and many of which were larger, more stately models. To date, we have identified about 20 homes from the Lewis Manufacturing Co., nearly 50 from Sears Roebuck and four from Gordon-Van Tine. The majority of those have been authenticated either via mortgage records, original building permits or unmistakable brand identifiers. (We have to thank kit house historians from other parts of the US, such as Michigan researcher Andrew Mutch for much of this work.) We’re also sure there are a bunch we haven’t discovered yet.

Before the talk, we had sent out letters to almost all of those owners we could track down, and the response was amazing. Some had no idea their home once came in a box car by rail but were intrigued to find out more.  Others provided anecdotes, letters and pictures, all of which we will eventually scan and make available as part of the project. But almost everybody we heard from is interested in helping us assemble and preserve this amazing piece of DC and national history. It’s definitely something that goes on our list of things to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and stay tuned for more!

(You can find many more posts about the area’s mail-order houses here and here.)

DC Area Mail-Order Homes

Holdover of the past: early 20th century house in downtown Bethesda, MD
Holdover from the past (on Bethesda’s Montgomery Ave): With a little help, this house might still “remember” where it came from

House History–the hidden stories behind the walls of the homes we sell or walk by every day–has long been a passion of the House Smarts. ours. (In fact, for Cati, a former journalist, it was what ultimately brought her to the world of DC real estate.)

We have written about many house-stories in our individual blogs over the years, and we sometimes have surprised (and delighted!) clients with our research findings. When the time allows, we love digging in archives, land records and historic collections. What we find, is sometimes funny, sad or scary, but it’s always a part of the DC area’s story as well. And when it comes to history of any kind, there could not be a better place for that than the Nation’s Capital!

If you have followed us for even a short while, you probably know that one of our special interests are the mail-order homes of the early 20th century. In many Washington, DC, neighborhoods and in the city’s older suburbs, we can find an abundance of those historic kit houses. (More often than not, the owners have no idea that some 90 or 100 years ago, their house arrived neatly packaged on a railroad car, in thousands of numbered pieces.) You can learn more about catalog homes here.
Alhambra-1301.Floral.St_The authors of this blog share a passion for house history and historic kit homes. (Scroll down for a slideshow with several dozen Sears kit houses in the DC area.)

We are part of a national network of kit house historians and have been involved in comprehensive research into the history, documentation, and preservation of early 20th-century kit homes in the DC area. Cati has been featured as a Sears and Lewis house expert in the Washington Post, on WTOP and in the Wall Street Journal as well as on many national research blogs. You can find a regularly updated selection of previous posts and articles here as well as here on Cati’s DCHouseCat blog.

We are available for local presentations on historic mail-order homes in a variety of DC neighborhoods. We also are happy to assist historians or individual home owners in identifying or authenticating their catalog house. Quite often, however, we find that a suspected or reported kit house actually did not come from a kit. (Read Marcie’s virgin post on the Kit House That Wasn’t here.) Or click here for a sample Kit House brochure for the Cleveland Park Historic Society)

Cati’s dchousecat stream at Flickr features a large number of historic catalog homes from Sears, Lewis and Aladdin from the DC Metro area as well as many helpful architectural details.

To read about the kit houses of Takoma Park, click here.

To read about the Cleveland Park, DC, kit houses, click here.


Some of our earliest posts on local specimen also contain catalog images and examples:

February 8th, 2013, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Woodland” in Silver Spring for sale at $699,900

September 21st, 2012, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Colchester” for sale in Silver Spring

August 11th, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Martha Washington” for Sale in Shepherd Park

July 15th, 2012, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Hamilton” in close-in Silver Spring for sale at $475,000

June 25, 2012, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Cornell” or “Haven” in Arlington for sale at $750,000.

April 20, 2012, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Maywood” in Chevy Chase, DC, for sale at $899,000

April 3, 2012, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Winona” in Arlington, Virginia, for sale at $649,000

March 29, 2012, Kit House Of The Week, a Sears “Brookwood,” and an update on last week’s Sears house

March 21, 2012, Kit House Of The Week: 1923 Sears “Vallonia” for Sale in College Park

March 9, 2012, On the History of Mail-Order homes in Washington, DC (with link to Rosemary Thornton’s Sears House blog)

March 8, 2012, Kit House Of The Week: Adorable 1923 Sears “Uriel” in close-in Silver Spring for sale at $425,000

February Lesson On Lewis Kit Homes

January 27, 2012, Kit House Of The Week: A 1928 Sears “Americus” in Chevy Chase, DC

January 15, 2012, Kit House Of The Week: Sears “Honor” in Shepherd Park, DC

December 22, 2011, Kit House Of The Week: Vampire Of Homes–Sears “Fullerton” in Brookland, DC

December 12, 2011, When Men Were Still Handy

December 10, 2011, The House In The Post

(If you own (or live in) a Sears house or other mail-order/ kit house, please click here)

Examples of kit houses in and around DC:


Other Resources and Blogs On Catalog and Kit Houses