Launching the Chevy Chase Kit House Database

chevy chase mail-order houses - map
Click on the image for our interactive kit house map with house photos and catalog pages

It was exactly a year ago, during a talk we gave at Historic Chevy Chase DC, that the idea was born to somehow make our research public, not only to the local kit house owners, but also many other people who were fascinated with the unique concentration of larger mail-order homes here. After (not kidding here!) thousands of hours, we can now present the first results — a color-coded interactive map and a corresponding database of homes/models and historical information. We’re working on integrating the material into the Historic Chevy Chase DC website and hope to interlink it with much more house history, artifacts and oral history in the future.

Chevy Chase, DC (zip code 20015), has a unique (both in quality as well as density) collection of historic catalog houses. Nearly 100 existing homes and 61 different models have so far been authenticated, and there are several more suspects. The homes are from four different manufacturers (Sears Roebuck & Co.; Lewis Manufacturing Co.; International Mill and Lumber a.k.a. Sterling; and Gordon-Van Tine) and were built between 1915 and 1932.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the most popular models here were the Lewis “Chevy Chase,” the Sears “Americus” and the Sears “Martha Washington!” The following catalog homes show up more than once in Chevy Chase/DC:

One of Chevy Chase DC’s three picture-perfect Sears “Puritans,” decked out for Halloween

Lewis “Chevy Chase” (4 times)

Sears “Americus” (4 times)

Sears “Martha Washington” (4 times)

Sears “Rembrandt” (4 times)

Sears “Woodland” (4 times)

Lewis “Ardmore” (3 times)

Lewis “Cambridge” (3 times)

Lewis “Winthrop” (3 times)

Sears “Barrington” (3 times)

Sears “Kilbourne” (3 times)

Sears “Puritan” (3 times)

Sears “Walton” (3 times)

Lewis “Marengo” (2)

Sears “Alhambra” (2)

Sears “Lewiston” (2)

Sears “Priscilla” (2)

Sears “Rockford” (2)

Sears “Westly” (2)

The likely top runner, however, might be the Sears “Maywood” (5 times), although we don’t have full proof yet for the authenticity of those homes. (All 5 of them were built by a small builder who doesn’t name Sears Roebuck on the permits, but rather the original architect who published his rendition of the Maywood more than 10 years before Sears carried it in their catalogs!) We’re working on it, though, and will update you once we are a hundred percent sure.

In the meantime, we’d be happy for you to test-drive and explore our proud creation. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome!

The Sears Kit Houses Of Takoma Park

Kit House in Takoma Park MD
A perfectly preserved Sears “Westley” in Takoma Park, Maryland

Washington DC’s streetcar expansion years in the early 20th century went hand in hand with a construction boom and the development of the city’s first suburbs. The Palisades, Chevy Chase, Shepherd Park and Takoma Park were some of the more prominent ones, and they all have one thing in common: an abundance of Sears catalog homes and other kit houses (namely from Aladdin and Lewis Manufacturing Co.). An abundance in relative terms, that is, because so many of them turn out to be copies or look-alikes.

Others are authentic but might have been modified so much over the years that they will be hard to spot and thus will go unrecognized and forgotten. As sponsors of the Takoma Park House & Garden tour, we have been working together with Lorraine Pearsall and Diana Kohn, president and VP of Historic Takoma Inc.. Over the past couple of years, Marcie and I have started to put together a catalog (no pun intended) of mail-order homes in the Takoma Park Historic District. What could be more fun, and what could be a worse thief of sleep than poring over pictures, old listing records and piles of 1920s catalogs?

While we now a list of about five dozen candidates in North Takoma alone, only a fraction of them has been identified and authenticated beyond a reasonable doubt. There are some mysteries we have discovered together, as well as some amazing historic finds.

Historic Takoma will feature our work in a special section on their website once we feel we have enough solid information assembled.

If you think you own (or live in ) a Sears house or other kit home and would like some assistance in authenticating it, I’ll be happy to help! Just fill out this form and I’ll be in touch shortly.