Kit House of the Week 10/18/2016
Manufacturer: Lewis Manufacturing Co.
Model Number or Name: The Shelbourne
Year Built: 1923/1924
Neighborhood: Chevy Chase, DC
Authenticated: Yes. Promissory note to local Lewis rep in the land records; Lewis-typical lumber markings in grease pencil; trim details, lewis catalog hardware consistent with year/model
The first owners of 3518 Northampton were George and Anna Stephens, a government economist and his wife, who had married late and moved to DC from Kansas. They were in their 40s and had a toddler son and a baby daughter when they purchased the mail-order home in 1923. They took out three mortgages, one for $2750 from Lewis’ local representative Guy Zepp, another one for $5000 (presumably for the construction) and a third from Fulton R Gordon for the purchase of the land, lots 39 and 40.
It was the narrow but deep configuration of the lot that dictated a modification from the design: The side porch was eliminated and a fireplace was put in place of the french doors. We don’t know why the Stephens put the house up for sale less than a year later, and perhaps even before moving in. The add to the left is from the Washington Examiner. Another one, placed in the Washington Post, praises the house as “a home so well-situated at such a low price. (…) convenient to Chevy Chase public school, churches, stores, moving picture theater. Ideal home for a small family with children.” The latter sentence would constitute a fair housing violation in 2016 terms, but the rest is quite applicable almost 100 years later.
The Stephens must have changed their minds, however, because they ended up raising their own “small family” there and lived in the house until 1949. They might also have been the ones who build the addition, combined two bedrooms into one larger one and added another two to the back of the house.
The current owners, only the third in the home’s history, bought the “Shelbourne” in the late 1960s and added their own touches and updates, including a comfortable sauna in the basement. It is currently on the market for $1,100,000, listed by Compass. A fabulous 3-D tour enables you to compare the current expanded and somewhat modified footprint to the original floor plan and to observe many well-preserved Lewis details. And if you happen to own VR headgear, you’re also getting a virtual reality option. Enjoy. (Or if you’d like to have a look in person, just give us a call.)
More Photos (click thumbnails to enlarge)
Are you Interested in Kit House History? We can help!
Cati and Marcie are Realtors by day and house history enthusiasts by night. We specialize in NW DC and close-in Montgomery County, MD, but cover the entire Washington metropolitan area. House History–the hidden stories behind the walls of the homes we sell or walk by every day–has long been a passion of 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, city 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 metropolitan area of 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.)
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*Catalog images provided courtesy of Internet Archive.