DC’s Valuable Veronas

Kit House of the Week 6/24/2016

Chevy Chase, DC
Front elevation (portico likely not original)

Manufacturer: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Model Number or Name: The Verona

Year Built: 1923 /1920

Neighborhoods: Chevy Chase, DC; Falls Church, VA

Authenticated: Yes. 1923 Sears mortgage for the Western Ave house

“Another million-dollar Sears house?!” Kit house enthusiasts from other parts of the country are usually stunned when we present them with listings of mail-order homes in Chevy Chase or some of DC’s other tony suburbs. But it’s not the fact that the home was once ordered from a catalog that determines the price. In many cases, neither sellers nor buyers are even aware of it.  Rather, the factors are the same as for any other house: the neighborhood, the size and style of the home, the updates, the condition, the location and size of the lot, as reflected in the “comps.”

This week, we have a couple of lovely examples for you. Both are Sears “Veronas” with much original detail, although from different catalog years between which the model had evolved a little. The first one is a 1923 Verona at 6019 Western Avenue in Chevy Chase/DC, currently listed for $1,195,000. The gallery below (click images for larger version) emphasizes tell-tale identifiers, but a nifty 3-D tour of the entire house, including the addition, can be seen here.

Our second Verona can be found in a Virginia suburb of DC, Falls Church, at 2468 Buckelew Drive. It predates the Chevy Chase house by a few years, and some of the differences in interior detail (like the simpler style of the stair rail) as well as the differently configured bay windows attest to that. The house itself is sitting on a huge 2.3 acre lot (not easily found in close-in the more close-in areas) and is listed for $1,399,000. It features a somewhat unusual but pretty neat family room addition. You can find a virtual tour here.

So far, we haven’t dug into the history of either house, but will be back with an update when we do!

And again, it’s the “comps,” the most recent comparable resales in an area or neighborhood that guide the pricing–for kit houses just like for any other house.  Although one thing is true: the more expensive the neighborhood, the higher the chance that potential buyers appreciate the historic value of the house, and the less likely that it has been destroy-renovated.

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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.

 

A Once Beloved Westly Worth Saving

Westly catalog house

Kit House of the Week 3/4/2016

Sears Westly Kit house in chevy chase
A Sears “Westly” with a stormy history in Chevy Chase, DC

Facts & Figures:

Manufacturer: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Model Number or Name: The Westly

Year Built: 1926

Neighborhood: Chevy Chase, DC

Authenticated:  Yes. Sears mortgage for $6,000 recorded on 1/19/1926.

To see the original Sears Catalog Page, click here. For photos of other DC area Westlys, click here. (For more photos of the house, scroll down to the gallery)

House History

This Sears “Westly” right across the street from Lafayette Elementary is not technically on the market. But since it was last year (and has been vacant for years), it’s probably still for sale. Or not. But we’ll get to that.

The house was originally bought in 1926 by Elmer and Eula Sours. Elmer was a carpenter by trade, so we can assume that he was one of the few Chevy Chase kit house owners who actually put the house together by himself.  This makes it even stranger that the mortgage was so high; the catalog price for the house was only $2,614 in 1926, and there was a second deed of trust over $3,600 for the land purchase at one of DC’s new prime suburban addresses on Broad Branch Road. The garage and plumbing or foundation cost could hardly make up the difference.

And the problems started soon: the Sours and their daughter, Margaret, only lived in the house for a year before an equity suit from a family member (more debt?! Perhaps there were gambling or other problems at play?) forced them to sell the property back to the land developer and pay off the Sears mortgage. They moved back to Virginia.

The house stayed on the books as a rental ($110 in 1930!) with Fulton Gordon.

September 1930 ad from the Washington Evening Star
September 1930 ad from the Washington Evening Star

It wasn’t until 1943 when a loving family of musical foreigners, Denise and Conrad Bernier, finally bought it and moved in with their two young sons, Claude and Jacques. The Berniers, “aliens” in the 1940 census would own the house for 66 long years. Conrad was a French Canadian organist, composer and music professor who played many concerts in DC and elsewhere. Denise was the daughter of a Spanish opera singer and a French woman. She taught both Spanish and French at Holton Arms for many years. Denise lived to be 107; she died in 2012, only a few years after selling the house to the current owner.

What happened after that, is a bit of a mystery. It seems the house was lived in from about 2009-2011, but for the past 5 years, the started renovation has come to a standstill. (I took some of the pictures here in 2012.) It is quite apparent, that the owner made great effort to preserve some of the details. According to neighbors, he did much of it by himself but must have run out of money and time. He never moved back into the house. Last year, it was on the market for a while, but at a price that didn’t reflect the current state. Local historians were concerned with the fact that the Realtor advertised the listing as a potential teardown.  We suspect that, deep in his heart, the owner doesn’t really want to let go of his “Westly.”

A savior is needed here, and as we know, it probably all comes down to the price. Doesn’t it?

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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 the Washington, DC 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.