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Kit Houses 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!
Cute rental houses with a little yard, on a sweet block and in walking distance to the Red Line metro are hard to come by in Northwest Washington DC these days, let alone at a reasonable price. Thus, we have no doubt that this charming 3-bedroom, 2-bath Sears "Puritan" will be snatched away quickly. It was built in 1924 and just hit the market for rent in Shepherd Park for $2,500 per month. It's a smaller model, though perhaps not as small as it seems, but it seems to have been extremely popular. We've come across nearly a dozen of them...Continue Reading!
Painted bright yellow with sky blue shutters, you won't want to miss this little time capsule of a home, located in the Crestwood section of Bethesda... within walking distance of downtown Friendship Heights. . The exterior of this particular Winthrop could be lifted directly off of the Sears Kit House catalog page. The shutters look to be original. The porch is pristine and still sports the same thin beams. The front door looks like it might have changed, but the arc of the entryway is spot on, as are the dormers and the chimney. Inside are a bunch of markers of...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!
If Cati and I had our druthers, we would write about local kit houses on a weekly basis (this has always been the goal). Work, however, has a way of interfering with our plans. I guess we shouldn't complain! So, about three weeks ago I headed out with my trusty tape measure to pay a visit to 5414 Hawthorne Place, NW in the District, right along MacArthur Blvd. Had I been a bit speedier with my posting, some of you might have chanced a visit. As it stands now, the Sears Rodessa (see a pdf of the original catalog page here) bungalow...Continue Reading!
No matter how busy we are, we always seem to make time to feed our kit house addiction. This week, the scouting produced two fun early 20th century Sears mail-order houses that hit the market for sale. One of them is a 1925 "Rodessa" in the Kent neighborhood of upper Washington DC priced at $759,000 which Marcie visited. The other -- a listing from our own Evers & Co. office -- is a fabulous, updated 1936s "Colchester"/"Lewiston" (pictured left) with 6 bedrooms and 3 full baths in Washington's Silver Spring suburb, priced at $489,000. We'll post more pictures and some...Continue Reading!
We've got a new listing in town, and it's a Sears Kit House... a Vallonia.. perhaps. "1928 Sears Bungalow" proclaimed the listing description. I was a little puzzled when I first spied it on the MLS, because it appeared to be brick, and I've only ever seen Vallonias with wood siding. Lo and behold, when I got a closer look, I discovered that the "brick" was in fact fake brick- more like asphalt siding. Sears actually sold brick veneer, then called "face brick" since the 1910s. It's also possible the surface was added later and that, as a national kit...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!
This is the first time I've written about a kit or catalog house. Cati has a few years on me with this recent obsession, and on our drives around town names of kit houses flit off her lips like old multiplication tables... it's no longer a novelty... rather, it's ingrained. "Oh, there's an Alhambra. Oooo, look at that Americus. Isn't that a Vallonia?" I have some catching up to do. She's also very descriptive in the way she writes about these homes, having been a former journalist. I mean, how will I ever top a title like "A Sears Winona...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!