Friday, August 3, 2018

Wardway Florence In South St. Louis, Missouri

Wardway Homes Florence model • St. Louis, Missouri • 1925

The Wardway Florence, in the 1924 Wardway catalog
A reader of our Sears Modern Homes Facebook page, recently contacted us to ask what model Sears home this might be, as they had been told, when purchasing it, that it was a Sears kit house. But, instead of it being a kit house sold by Sears, we let her know that this house was actually a model sold by Montgomery Ward, through their Wardway Homes catalogs, as the Florence model.

This sweet little house has been beautifully restored, with lovely old hardwood floors, fresh paint, and a refreshed look to the kitchen. It's a simple floor plan, with two bedrooms, and, as is typical of our 1920s kit houses, it has wonderful wide Craftsman-style moulding around the doors and windows and at the base of the floors... and even around the wide openings between rooms. That is what really "makes" these houses... it's what is missing from the modern-era subdivision houses. 

The cover of the 1924 Wardway Homes kit house catalog.
A Montgomery Ward & Co. storefront on Biltmore Avenue in Asheville, North Carolina
(from the E. M. Ball Photographic Collection, 1918-1969, Special Collections, D. H. Ramsey Library, University of North Carolina at Asheville, retrieved from the Pleasant Family Shopping blog ) 
Montgomery Ward was a big, national-brand department store chain, with a popular mail-order catalog,  just like Sears. Throughout the mid-19-teens, 1920s, and up until 1932, they offered pre-cut house kits for sale, just like Sears, through their off-shoot, Wardway Homes catalogs. They also offered building supplies via catalog, just like Sears, and we can see from those catalogs, the kind of doors and kitchens and bathrooms and staircases and door-handle hardware and fireplace mantels,  and lighting fixtures (etc.!) that would have been included in Wardway homes.
Montgomery Ward 1930 Building Supplies catalog cover. (source)

Pink and green tile bathrooms, pink and yellow kitchens! Adding some color in 1930.
Both Wardway and Sears offered those iconic wooden batten-style, English-cottage-style,  doors, often rounded at the top, offered with big iron hinges ... well, they weren't really hinges (like on authentic doors from the 1600s, for example), but were referred to as "decorative iron strapping".
From the 1930 Building Supplies catalog put out by Montgomery Ward.
In fact, we researchers can sometimes pinpoint whether a house of a lookalike style is a Sears or a Wardway house, by looking at the decorative iron strapping. Sears batten doors used an iron strapping with a very distinctive curlycue at the hinge edge. No other company offered the exact look that Sears did. Here's a comparison:

Wardway batten doors on the left; Sears batten doors on the right. See the Sears curlycue?

Here is an authentic Sears batten door, with its distinctive curlycue.

And, here is an authentic Wardway batten door, with no curlycue at the hinge edge of the iron strapping.
But, I digress. Our Wardway Florence was built in 1925, according to St. Louis City records, and this batten-style, cottage-style door with iron strapping, was found more often on the 1930-era homes with that English cottage look.

The 1920s homes often offered a simple, solid, Craftsman style door, with or without some kind of window openings at the top. And, that's the case for what would have been supplied with the Florence model.
It looks like the catalog showed the Wardway Sacramento style Craftsman-style door. Our St. Louis Florence, however, looks to have that same style, but with another solid panel at the top.
From the 1930 Wardway Building Supplies catalog
Here's the door on the Florence. Those two windows on either side of the entry door make a really nice look, I think. It sets the Florence apart from the many other straight-shot models offered by every company.
Here is the Craftsman style solid-panel front door on our St. Louis Wardway Florence.
Look at those gleaming hardwood floors!
The Wardway Florence in St. Louis is full of beautiful Craftsman-style door and window trim:
From the 1930 building supplies catalog, here. (click to enlarge)
With solid-wood, two-panel Craftsman-style interior doors:

From the 1930 Wardway Building Supplies catalog, here. (click to enlarge)
What Is A Pre-Cut Mail-Order House?
If you're new to this concept, as our new buyer may well be, here's the concept: companies that sold house kits via mail-order catalog, like Sears and Montgomery Ward (there were other companies, too), shipped just about every bit of the house to you, via train, in several box-car loads. It was up to the new homeowner (or their hired construction crew, if they weren't building themselves) to go to the train depot and unload everything from the box car... then load into their own vehicle... and haul everything back to the work site, for construction. Sears instructed its buyers to be SURE to FIRST organize all of the pieces of building lumber, etc., before even THINKING of beginning construction.

Beginning in the mid 19-teens, most all of the house kits purchased, were pre-cut. That meant that the framing lumber would have all been stamped on the ends, and on the face, of each piece, with a letter-and-number code to help sort, and then put together, the lumber pieces. The pieces were pre-cut to the size needed for their purpose, and so it was absolutely essential that everything be put together in an organized way. Sears and Wardway explained that this pre-cut system was part of what saved you money -- you didn't have to waste time measuring and hand-sawing (or hauling wood to a lumber yard's sawmill), and you also, therefore, didn't have waste, because you weren't paying for the parts of the lumber that you weren't using (well... in theory). The Florence, however, was available as either a Ready-Cut kit, or Not-Ready-Cut. If the original buyers chose Not-Ready-Cut, then they would have saved a little money on the cost of the kit, but would have added the cost, in time and money, of having to deal with standard-length pieces that needed to be measured and cut on site.  The first image, below, is from a Sears catalog, and shows where the stamps on the edges of lumber would have been:
This image is one I took, myself, of stamps on the face of lumber, found in the basement of a Sears house in Affton, Missouri. That blog post of mine, is a good source of information about the whole concept of pre-cut, mail-order homes.

And, here is a much more visible example of stamped lumber, from a Sears Sunbeam in Wilkins Twp, PA

The following images are all from a Sears instruction book, but I'm sure that Wardway must have sent the same kind of thing:

And, Wardway offered pages in their catalogs (like these from the 1924 Wardway Homes catalog), explaining the Ready-Cut system, and how it saved money:
From page 9 of the 1924 Wardway Homes catalog, available here, online.
They also offered pages outlining the quality offered in their kit homes:

These last two images are from page 10 of the 1924 Wardway Homes catalog.
Wardway also explained where their lumber mills were... but... they weren't actually Montgomery-Ward-owned mills. Montgomery Ward actually contracted with the Davenport, Iowa-based Gordon-Van Tine kit-house company, to cut and ship their Wardway Homes (which we know, thanks to research done by Dale Wolicki). Gordon-Van Tine was an off-shoot of the U. N. Roberts Lumber Company of Davenport, Iowa. In 1915, U. N. Roberts re-tooled one of their lumber companies -- the Funck Lumber Company, in St. Louis, Missouri-- to add on a section to prepare pre-cut lumber for their Gordon-Van mail-order kit homes, as I explain in a previous blog post:
This information is from a previous blog post of mine, about a Gordon-Van Tine Glencoe model kit house in South St. Louis. Scroll down through the blog post to the section titled, Gordon-Van Tine In St. Louis, if you'd like to read a bit more about GVT's lumber facility in St. Louis. It was located on Goodfellow Avenue.
Then, Gordon-Van Tine also contracted with Montgomery Ward to cut and ship the wood for the Wardway Homes. So, it is likely that this house, though bought through Wardway, was manufactured right here in St. Louis, at the Funck Lumber Company (by the 1920s, though, the lumber yard had been re-named as the Goodfellow Lumber Company, after Mr. Funck retired).
This page from the 1924 catalog, indicated that photo No. 2 was the Missouri Lumber Distributing Yard. This had to have been the Funck/Goodfellow Lumber Yard owned by Gordon-Van Tine. 
Back To Our St. Louis Florence
Because Wardway and Gordon-Van Tine worked closely together, they had some kind of agreement to both offer the same house models (most of the models were in both company's catalogs, but not all), but they offered them with different model names. Interestingly, the Florence, as offered up until 1924 or 1925, does not have a GVT equivalent. However, beginning in 1926, Wardway made a few slight changes to the Florence, and began marketing this floor plan as the Avondale... with Gordon-Van Tine offering the exact equivalent, as their GVT No. 618. Take a look at the floor plans of these three models... they are (almost) exactly alike:
The floor plans of the three models.
However, if we take a closer look inside, we see that it would be erroneous to call the Avondale and No. 618 identical to the Wardway Florence.... because the Avondale and No. 618 have had the slightest little changes made... they've had a linen closet added, and a bedroom closet added:
The post-1924 models have two extra closets added.
From the exterior, we can see the changes that were made to the number and placement of windows -- again, making the Avondale / No. 618 not an exact twin to the Florence. The distinctive windows flanking the front door, were changed -- which really takes away the one nice bit of personality that the Florence had going for it. Other spots where there were doubles, windows were changed to singles, or to separated singles, and two additional back windows were added (one in the kitchen, and one in the back bedroom). A side window was added to the front bedroom, as well.
Changes made to the number and placement of windows, from the Wardway Florence,
to the Wardway Avondale / GVT No. 618.

Changes made to the number and placement of windows, from the Wardway Florence
to the Wardway Avondale / GVT No. 618.
But, though I don't see the Florence in the 1926 catalog, it was apparently brought back (or never left... maybe my 1926 source missed a page?), because the Florence is a highlighted house in the 1929 and 1930 and 1931 catalogs. Here it is in the 1930 catalog (thanks to Andrew Mutch for scanning his catalog for us):
Wardway Florence, 1930 Wardway Homes catalog

Wardway Florence, 1930 Wardway Homes catalog

You'll notice that the post-1924 floor plans show a window in the back wall of the kitchen (which our St. Louis Florence has), and a side window in the exterior side wall of the front bedroom (which our St. Louis Florence does NOT have).

The Interior Of The St. Louis Wardway Florence
The interior views show that the St. Louis house remains faithful to the floor plan, with the front door opening into the living room, the dining room following behind that, and the kitchen behind that. Even the size of the openings between the rooms, remains correct for the original house. The entry into the short hallway, from the dining room, is visible, and you can then see that the bathroom is in the correct spot. The bedrooms look correct, as well. Everything has a nice fresh coat of a pretty, soft grey paint, with bright white woodwork. Let's take a look:
Entry, into the living room

living room, looking into the dining room

living room, looking into the dining room, looking into the kitchen

kitchen, looking into the kitchen, on the left, and into the hall and back bedroom, on the right

nicely refreshed kitchen

looking up toward the front of the house, from the kitchen

Back corner of the kitchen, I believe -- there's that back window, that is not shown on the 1924 floor plan...
And, what is that box under the window? The owner tells me that it's a box. Is that a box for ice delivery?

double widows of the front bedroom
Thanks to Bing maps (because Google street view here is too grainy), we have a (somewhat dark) photo of the side of the house, showing all of those double windows on the left side:

The Wardway Florence in St. Louis, against the 1924 catalog image.
Our National Database of Gordon-Van Tine and Wardway homes, has only two other Wardway Florence models on it --neither in St. Louis. That doesn't mean that there aren't any others in the St. Louis area, but, actually, this is the first Wardway home we have found in the St. Louis City and St. Louis County area. Of any model. This makes me think that I should be looking for them -- I didn't find any Wardway mortgages (at least not with the known Wardway trustee name that we have) in my St. Louis area mortgage searches, and, frankly, I simply don't have Wardway models in my head. This is the first time that I have really analyzed one of the Wardway models... I won't forget it, now!

Here's a Wardway Florence, in Columbus, Oho
Here's a Wardway Florence, in Plymouth, Michigan
If you're interested in learning more about Wardway homes, the best book out there (the only book, actually), is this very good field guide by Wolicki & Thornton, which looks to contain all of the Wardway homes, thoughout the years. It is a good resource (though, for some maddening reason, they did not include an index):
You can buy a copy of this very good filed guide, here, on Amazon. Or, here, saving a few dollars (even with the shipping), direct from one of the authors.
Whatever you do, don't go to eBay to buy it... it's outrageously priced there.
Actual original Wardway Homes catalogs pop up occasionally on eBay. Because most of them are available to look at, online, you shouldn't overpay for them. They are often labeled, "Rare!", but, honestly, they're not that rare. Especially the ones from the 1920s. Don't pay the $90 that they sometimes ask for them. There is a re-print out there, of the 1925 catalog, and it starts at something shy of $150, on Amazon... that's nuts, too.  If you want to see the available-to-see-online years, I have the links to them organized nicely, by year, on this blog post of mine... jus scroll down to the section on Wardway:

I was very happy to find out about this cute little Wardway Florence in my own home town! Thanks for asking for our help identifying your house, new owner -- and for giving me permission to blog about your home.  

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sears Hampton In Brentwood Missouri

Sears Hampton model at 2611 Rockford Avenue Brentwood MO, home of Perry M. Peat
Authenticated Sears Hampton • 1927 •  2611 Rockford Avenue, Brentwood, Missouri, St. Louis County
Sears Hampton model in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Sears Hampton in my 1928 Sears Modern Homes Catalog
This is the first Sears Hampton that I have found in the St. Louis area.  That is likely because this is a model that every company made a version of -- kit companies and non-kit companies, so when I see something like this, I usually dismiss it as a "who knows!" house. I'm sure that every lumber company and contractor offering modest building plans in the 1920s, offered something with a similar look. So, when we see a house like this, we usually hesitate to add it to our National Database of Sears Homes... it's just too likely to be a "lookalike". But, this house has a Sears mortgage record! It was bought in 1927 by Perry M. Peat, and his wife, with Sears trustee Walker O. Lewis signing off on the mortgage.

When we do run across a model like this, in the wild, we look very closely at the window and door configuration. The lookalike models from other companies will have slightly different window placement. The Hampton should have three sets of double windows on this side, with the last set being smaller... that's the kitchen, at that end of the house. With this house in Brentwood, Missouri (which is in St. Louis County), we would have hesitated, because the last two windows don't look quite right. I think that we either have a really small double window, in the kitchen, and then an added small window in the back porch entry area, or two separate windows in the kitchen.

Sears Hampton model kitchen image from the 1928 catalog
The 1928 catalog shows the look of the kitchen. There are the two shorter windows.

Sears Hampton model floor plan in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Sears Hampton floor plan, 1928 catalog
Another issue we need to look for, is the existence of an extension on the left side of the house (or whichever side has the the sets of double windows), for the back porch entry into the kitchen. If the back of the house is flat across, we know that the house may not be a Hampton... unless, of course, it had a small addition added on, after the initial build of the house. See why this is a challenge?

In this case, Google Maps Streetview did us a solid, by taking the aerial views during the winter, when the foliage wouldn't get in the way:

aerial view of Sears Hampton model at 2611 Rockford Avenue Brentwood MO showing back porch extension
Aerial view showing us the extension on the back of the Sears Hampton in Brentwood

aerial view of Sears Hampton model at 2611 Rockford Avenue Brentwood MO showing back porch extension
And here's a veiw from the back of the Sears Hampton in Brentwood
Another element that we look carefully at, is the placement of the chimney. This isn't a fireplace chimney, it's a chimney for venting the furnace. The Hampton always has one placed just where this one is shown, on the side of the house where the double windows are. Our friend Cindy Catanzaro, who is not only a Sears House researcher and blogger, but whose professional business is renovating houses for re-sale, reminds us that moving the furnace, and its vent chimney, would not be an easy undertaking, so, since these houses were pre-cut kits, we know to question a house that does not have the vent chimney in this location, on this side of the house. 
Sears Hampton model and floor plan in 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog
The furnace vent chimney is always shown on the floor plan, by a little black square, as you see here, circled in yellow.
On the right side of the house, we expect to see just three single windows, spaced pretty evenly apart, one for each of the three bedrooms:
authenticated Sears Hampton model at 2611 Rockford Avenue Brentwood MO
2611 Rockford Avenue, Brentwood, Missouri • Three windows of the Sears Hampton's bedrooms. This house has a tucked-under garage, which was not a standard element of this house.
Other elements to check out, are the placement of the front door and those two front windows, the width of the porch roof, the width of the porch itself, and the look of the front porch piers and columns. The Hampton should have a centered door, and one window on each side of it. Its porch roof should not stretch the entire width of the house, and the front porch itself should be noticeably shorter than the full width of the house. If the corner piers of the front porch are original, they should normally be made of formed concrete block, and the porch columns, if standard, should have this chunky, tapered, Craftsman-style look. Lookalike models from other companies may have the front door off to one side, may have only one window, may have a different look to the porch supports... these are the kinds of things to look for, to pin down a possible Sears Hampton, vs a lookalike.
Sears Hampton model at 2611 Rockford Avenue Brentwood MO compared to catalog image
Front elements of the Sears Hampton, offered up to 1931
(click to enlarge any image)
Lookalikes From Other Companies
Let's take a look at some of the lookalike models from some of the other companies. Pay close attention to those side windows--not just the side you can see on the house, but the other side's windows, as indicated on the floor plan. Look for where the front door is, and how close the window(s) are to it. Check out the look and size of the front porch, and its roof.

Gordon-Van Tine offered, in 1921 at least, the No. 519. I've pointed out, with blue arrows, where the windows are shown on the floor plans (in case you're not as used to looking at floor plans as we are). There is a very shallow extension off the back, and the vent chimney is in a similar location, but the location and number of windows is different than the Hampton (singles vs doubles). The porch columns are different both in style and number, and the porch railings look to be shorter in height. The opening onto the front porch is also off-center, whereas the Hampton's porch entry is centered. The GVT No. 519 also has a very deep eave, very noticeable in the front:
Sears Hampton lookalike, Gordon Van Tine No. 519 or No 915
Gordon-Van Tine No. 519, a lookalike to the Sears Hampton (source).
In 1927. GVT marketed this house as the No. 915.
In the 1925 Wardway catalog (Montgomery Ward's line of kit houses, which were, actually, supplied by the Gordon-Van Tine lumber mills), we see the Kenmore. Notice the differences in the windows (singles vs doubles), the important absence of a small window in the front, above the porch roof, the flat style of the porch roof, and the length of the porch columns (which are very similar in style to the Hampton's, but have a longer column, and shorter pier, than the Hampton has). Also, the Wardway Kenmore has this distinctive look to the brackets--the Hampton doesn't have any brackets at all:
Sears Hampton lookalike Wardway Kenmore
A similar model offered by Wardway homes, in the 1925 catalog
Wardway also offered the, slightly larger, Lawndale. Note, for one thing, the double window on one side of the front door, as well as all of the important differences:
Sears Hampton lookalike Wardway Lawndale
The Wardway Lawndale -- no little window above porch, flat porch roof, brick porch piers, a set of double windows to one side of the front door, and other side window differences. See it here, in the 1925 Wardway catalog.
Liberty Homes (offered by the Lewis Homes company) had a large selection of very modest little homes, in their 1926 catalog. Here are the two with a similar look to the Sears Hampton. Note the windows and the front door and the porch... all of those little details are important:
Sears Hampton lookalike Liberty Homes Sheridan
The very modest Liberty Sheridan, with three floor plan options.
Click to enlarge, or see it here, online.

Sears Hampton lookalike Liberty Homes National
The Liberty Homes National model, with its three floor plans. (See it here online.)
Aladdin Homes offered a number of small, shotgun style houses like this. Some are really tiny.
Sears Hampton lookalike Aladdin Erie Aladdin Selwyn
The super small Aladdin Erie and Selwyn (here, online)

Sears Hampton lookalike Aladdin Chester
The Aladdin Chester (go here to see it online)
Sears Hampton lookalike Aladdin Raymond
The Aladdin Raymond, with no front porch, and two possible floor plans.
(see it here, online)

Sears Hampton lookalike Aladdin Roseland
The Aladdin Roseland, with a similar first-glance look to the Raymond, but with a pergola-style covering over the front porch (Sears didn't offer any model with this pergola-style over the front porch). It also offeres three different floor plans, so there are lots of possible side-window configurations. See it here, online.
Bennett Homes offered the Laurel in their 1925 catalog--actually very similar to the Stirling Ellnwood , shown just below it. Notice that it has eave brackets:
Sears Hampton lookalike Bennett Homes Laurel
Bennett Homes Laurel model had a solid-walled front porch, and eave brackets on the front.
(see it here, online)
Stirling Homes had the Ellnwood in the 1920 catalog:
Sears Hampton lookalike Stirling Ellnwood
See the Ellnwood online, here
Not to mention, that all of these companies, like Sears, as well, offered similar style houses but with the addition of some kind of side bumpout, or with a gabled front porch roof, instead. I'm not going to show all of those, but here is one example, by Stirling Homes, that has the same side and front window patterns as the Sears Hampton, and the same look to the rail, piers, and columns of the front porch, but with a very different look to the porch roof... a peaked gable there:
Sears Hampton lookalike Stirling Springfield
The Stirling Homes Springfield looks quite a bit like the Sears Hampton (if it had a different porch roof!), but there is no extension on the back, and it has eave brackets). See it here, online.
The Sears Grant, and the Sears Crafton
But, wait! Not only did other companies offer lookalikes to the Sears Hampton, Sears did, too. For one thing, during the Hampton years (through 1929), Sears offered the lower-priced, "Standard Built" buddy to the Hampton: The Grant. The Standard Built homes were "lighter built", as they are described in one year of the catalog, with, for example, wider spaces between the rafters and the wall studs, and other cost-saving changes that used a bit less lumber. You can see an explanation of the differences, in this previous blog post of mine, about a Sears Josephine.  The Grant is hard to distinguish from the Hampton, but one difference is that there is only one window in the kitchen, instead of a small double, and it looks like the front porch piers are brick, instead of formed concrete. Here it is, in the 1929 catalog:
Sears Hampton lookalike-- Sears Grant Standard Built
The Sears "Standard Built" Grant model, in the 1929 catalog, is almost the exact twin to the sturdier Hampton.
(My copy of the 1929 catalog is courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro, scanned for us by our friend at Daily Bungalow/Antique Home).
Sears really changed things up in 1932, discontinuing the Hampton, and offering the Crafton... with three different floor plans, so the side window arrangements are different on each of them. Oy vey!
Sears Crafton --Sears model after Sears Hampton
1932: Sears replaces the Hampton, with the more versatile Crafton.
Notice that the porch piers are brick, now, instead of formed concrete, but, otherwise, the porch is pretty much the same.
The Crafton was offered with three basic floor plans, A, C, and D, shown below (yup, no B plan!). But, plans C and D were also offered without a front porch, as floor plans E and F. Additionally, Sears referred to their Crafton X floor plan, which was the D plan, offered with a heightened roof, to add upstairs bedrooms.
Sears Crafton floor plan options
Sears Crafton floorplans in the 1932 catalog, available online, here. (click to enlarge)

Sears Crafton floor plan X
The Crafton X plan, as described in the 1938 catalog.
Researcher Andrew Mutch, did a good explanation of the evolution of the Sears Hampton into the Crafton, in this post of his blog, Kit House Hunters. I refer to it often!