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House History Category
There's a lot of discussion in the historic kit house community about custom built kit houses, and the difficulty they pose when it comes to authenticating a mail-order home. "Custom kit" sounds like a misnomer, but it actually isn't. The customization was done not on site by the builder but before shipment by a Sears (or Lewis or Wardway, etc.) staff architect, and the kit was then cut, sorted and packaged according to those changed specifications. All the major mail-order house companies, including Sears and Lewis, the most popular brands in the DC area, offered such options to the consumer. In fact, national kit...Continue Reading!
As Marcie and I have been chasing (and writing about) kit houses for a while, we've always been interested in their history, or better: their connection to history. sometimes, I have found an old ad in the Washington Post that advertised a house we identified, or that promoted the local mail-order offices from Sears and Lewis. Sometimes information about the people who lived there in the early years can be found, about their successes or their death. Most of the time, however, there's a blank. We can only speculate (and we often do!). More often than not, current kit house owners...Continue Reading!
Ever wondered what life was like in Washington DC in the 1930s? We have -- many, many times. Perhaps it's our fascination with house history or local history in general, but this video really amazed us. It's a rare 10-minute portrait of the city and it's people, shot in the summer of 1936. Enjoy! Continue Reading!
If you ordered your house in the mail, some 90 or 100 years ago, and you had enough land (and money for a car) left, you might have wanted a garage as well. So, not surprisingly, all the major kit house manufacturers--in the DC area mainly Sears and Lewis, but also Aladdin and Gordon-Van Tine--sold garage kits in their catalogs as well. The styles often neatly matched the homes with their exposed rafters, hipped roofs, pretty cedar siding or whatever features the house itself sported. This blue garage here I spotted during the Takoma Park House & Garden Tour yesterday, in the...Continue Reading!
Cati and I had the pleasure of meeting Diana Kohn (President) and Lorraine Pearsall (VP for Preservation) of Historic Takoma, Inc.* Cati has been involved in the upcoming Takoma Park House & Garden Tour, having sold one of the houses on the tour (and discovering in the process that it belonged once to the daughter of Frederick Douglass!). Long story short, she was able to identify several houses on the tour as Sears Kit Houses (our specialty!), much to the delight of an owner or two. We were treated to a mini walking tour on Wednesday. It was a lovely...Continue Reading!
The vast majority of houses Marcie and I list, show, sell, or even talk about, tend to be traditional in form, no matter if they're two, twenty, or 120 years old. When it comes to residential architecture, much of Washington still seems to be stuck in either Colonial or Victorian times. In the eighties and nineties, new construction in the suburbs here often had the porches and roof lines of the Victorian era. Over the past decade, Arts and Crafts elements have become popular once more. and throughout the decades, the quintessential Brick Colonial has been recreated millions of times. I...Continue Reading!
On my DC House Cat blog, I regularly introduce historic kit houses that are for sale in the Washington DC area. Many of them were once ordered from the (probably best-known) Sears catalog, others came from companies such as Aladdin and Lewis Manufacturing (a particular favorite of the in-town suburbs in the 1920s). It's virtually impossible to put a sticker price on the value of house history (although we frequently get that question). What we have found is that in neighborhoods which are highly aware, and often proud, of their history and significance it makes more of a difference. In other...Continue Reading!