This Aladdin Needs A Magic Lamp

Kit Houses in Washington DC

It was an exciting moment last year when we discovered this inconspicuous little 1918 American Foursquare in Silver Spring, Maryland. [Click on the thumb prints for larger pictures.]

After much writing and talking about the many Sears and Lewis mail-order homes we have in the DC suburbs, we’d also been looking for evidence of Historic Aladdin kit houses for a while. In archives, we had found a series of picture ads in the Washington Post from the 1910s. They showed how the company — in the pre-cut kit house business even before Sears — had tried to charm the city’s potential home owners and builders. So clearly, there must have been a bunch of those houses built here.

Eventually, we did succeed in finding some truly amazing specimen (pictures to come soon!) as Aladdin offered some of the largest and most luxurious models  of all kit house companies.

The “Standard” was certainly a more moderate house, but the discovery was nevertheless exciting because it was the first Aladdin we spotted here. The playful, pointed yet swinging pitch of the roof and dormer and its 2-foot overhanging extension were the tip-off. They’re less common in other homes from that time, kit or not.

“BEE-UUU-TI-FUL!” cheered Rosemary Thornton, leading kit house expert and author of a bunch of books on the topic, when I shared pictures in a national kit house forum. What we were thrilled with was the fact that the house appeared – at least from the outside – preserved in almost original form. Despite the vinyl siding, it seemed likely that much of the original structure and detail was preserved.

Well, little did we know. Until a couple of days ago, that is, when I discovered that the house was for rent. Marcie and I ran off to have a look. What we saw was not at all what we had expected. The good news: the house was reasonable well maintained, comfortably and in healthy shape. Floor plan, blue grease pencil markings on the lumber and a few other little details confirmed that it was indeed the Aladdin “Standard.” The bad news: other than the walls and door trim, there was nothing left of the house inside. Absolutely nothing.

Hollow-core doors, epoxy hardware, Pergo floors all over and pseudo-contemporary glass light fixtures made it clear that the owner might have appreciated the house as such, but certainly not for its historic value or beauty. I’m not going to ruin this post with the interior pictures we took (although we ended up laughing so hard that it might warrant a follow-up piece here). You can, however, check out the listing agent’s MLS pictures here.

The “Standard” — off Georgia Ave in Downtown Silver Spring — is currently available for rent at $2,200/month by Josh Andrew of Streamline Management in Bethesda.