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 house expert likes to say, “some siding salesman had his way with it.”
Still, the charm of the house was able to shine through. The distinctive exterior posts have endured, along with some original windows and doors, and the interior remains pretty true to the catalog drawings. Things started to fall apart when I pulled out the old tape measure. Room sizes were off an inch here, a foot there. And while I could explain away the dip in the rear roof to an addition, the second double window at the front should have been my first clue. I am vexed.
According to the public record, this house was built in 1928. Back in the day all 12,000 pieces of the Vallonia (give or take) could be had for $2,071. As always, options were available for improvement (heat, electricity). An addition has been put on the back of the house, and they modified the stairway to the 2nd floor and basement somewhere along the way. I didn’t come across any grease pencil marks or identifying stamps on the exposed beams, though there was some writing on one of them… it appeared to be stained. And if I had my guess at what it said (upside down, of course) it would be: 651 FALLIED. What the heck does that mean? Might this be the kit house equivalent of “Rosebud”? We may never know.
This lovely house resides in Brookmont– one of the prettier riverside communities in Bethesda and home to a lot of kayak enthusiasts. Erich Cabe of Coldwell Banker is the listing agent. This Sears Catalog House/Sears knock-off boasts views of the Potomac (if you can see through all of the trees!). It’s got 2 bedrooms and a full bath on the main floor (like the original) and 3 bedrooms and a half bath on the second floor. The basement is walk-out, and has a few finished rooms, but needs a little more work. Also to be found: pretty hardwood floors, original trim work in most rooms, and a couple of decks. Available for $849,000.
As always, let us know if you would like help authenticating your mail-order home or if you like to live in an authentic kit house (or a close copy)! We would be happy to help you find one.
(September 2017 update: After the discovery of a Sears & Roebuck mortgage for the original construction, we are now 100% certain that the house is indeed the right thing! You can see pictures of other authenticated Vallonias in the DC area here.)