A Variety Of Vallonias

Sears house in Maryland
The Brookmont Sears & Roebuck “Vallonia” in 2012

Time to confess: we’re not always failproof when it comes to the authentication of historic kit houses. There’s the case of the “Vexing Vallonia” for instance, that Marcie called a possible “Sears knock-off.”  It wasn’t vexing for too long, though. A few years later, we found a Sears mortgage for the original purchase and construction of the mail-order home.

So this time around, as the house is on the market again, renovated five years ago and quite obviously cherished by the new owners since then, there’s no doubt the house is the real deal! And while the fake “brick” sheet asphalt siding might have been original, the vinyl siding that replaced it is actually a lot more becoming (hard to believe I just said that, isn’t it?). The kitchen has been opened up to include one of the first-floor bedrooms, there’s an airy “morning room” addition, and the house overall is bright and inviting. It just hit the market for $1,200,000, and the listing‘s 3-D tour (courtesy of Redfin) lets you take a closer look at a lot of the little details, old or new. (You can find a 1920s catalog image and floor plan for comparison here.)

 

The deceivingly spacious, 4-5-bedroom “Vallonia,” was one of the more popular models from the Sears catalog, at least in this area. As of today, there are six known Vallonias still standing in Washington, DC. Another seven, including the Ridge Drive one, are on our list for the DC suburbs. Incidentally, one of my weirdest real estate moments years back occurred when I was trying to show this Vallonia in College Park, MD.

Simon and Kathryn in front of their Langdon/Woodridge Vallonia

Of course, the puzzling Vallonia encounter also happened during the early years of this blog. The internet and lots of gadgets have brought researchers and resources much closer; we’ve learned so much more over the past five years. And the messages, emails, tips, and photos from our readers have educated us more, one house at a time. Just a couple of weeks ago, for instance, I got a message from a fellow Realtor, Simon Sarver, who told me he was the proud owner of a Vallonia in DC’s Langdon neighborhood. There was no mention of the home’s origins when he bought the house a couple of years ago. That it might be a kit house only dawned on him much later when he saw a similar house in a Pinterest post. There’s a lot of original detail in the house–hopefully, we’ll get to document it one day.

In the meantime, check out this  DC Vallonia which was listed for over $1M and just went under contract in the Foxhall neighborhood near Georgetown hospital. And here are a few more of our local Vallonias:

Sears house in Palisades DC
A Vallonia in DC’s Palisades
Vallonia in Bethesda
A Vallonia in East Bethesda

 

 

 

 

Vallonia in Takoma Park MD
A Vallonia in Takoma Park MD

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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.)

You can learn more about catalog homes here, “like” our Facebook page for updates or email or tweet us with questions or suggestions for houses to write about.

Join the Mailing List for our Annual Kit House Newsletter:

*Catalog images provided courtesy of Internet Archive.

Citizen Kane and the Vexing Vallonia

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 real deal! You can see pictures of other authenticated Vallonias in the DC area here.)