1912 Brentwood Beauty Beckons

Such a cool shower!
Such a cool shower!

Cati is jealous. She’s been scoping out the only known Aladdin “Brentwood” in the District for about 4+ years now, and THE WEEKEND that it hits the market, yup, she’s out of town.  Poor thing.  Her trusty sidekick had to step in and take a peek.

And what a peek. This particular Brentwood was built in 1912 (according to the public records, that is). It’s one of the earliest kit homes here, and it hasn’t changed hands since 1923. Time capsule doesn’t begin to describe it.  Click on the link-  you’ll find pages from an Aladdin Brentwood- 1917– catalog – I don’t have access to the 1912 one just yet.  It’s pretty near perfect.  Certainly some modifications have been made over the last hundred years- though some of the alterations might be original? If you would like to learn more about kit houses (aka catalog houses), click here.

The pictures really do the talking.  If you get a chance to take a look, it’s open this Sunday, September 28 from 1-3 pm.  It’s listed with Long and Foster, though we would be happy to take you in for a look. Of course!

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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.

Sears From The Palisades To Silver Spring — A Couple Of Neat New Kit House Listings

Authentic Sears “Colchester” (a 1930s brick version of the popular “Lewiston”) kit house in Silver Spring, Maryland

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 exciting details later. For now, you can get some info from the linked MLS fact sheets.

The “Rodessa,” located at 5414 Hawthorne Pl NW, has an Open House from 2 – 5 pm today — you might still make it! And if you’d like to see the “Lewiston,” just let us know!

For those of you who are celebrating the Jewish New Year tonight —  Shana Tovah!

Update on 9/21/2012: You can find the post on the Colchester/Lewiston here.

The Sears “Colchester” as seen in the company’s 1930 mail-order catalog


Sold in Five Days — How Much Is The Historic Sentiment Worth?

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 neighborhoods, where there’s more turnover, sometimes more privacy and less use of community facilities or organizations, owners seem less interested.

A lack of interest (or perhaps knowledge) leads to thoughtless renovations and modernization that strips the poor house of everything architectural history buffs and catalog house aficionados love it for. But when owners find a way to compromise between their need for comfort and updates and the one hand and the respect for the original materials and sensibilities of the home design on the other, it often pays out. My latest featured Kit House Of The Week, a 1925 Sears “Maywood” in Chevy Chase, is a good example  (check out the agent’s virtual tour). And guess what? It sold in just 5 days!