Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Manchester Buildings In St. Louis

Manchester Buildings Oakdale Model • 1103 W. Lockwood Avenue, Glendale, Missouri
I really have to thank fellow kit-homes enthusiast Shari Davenport, for this. I would never have heard
The Oakdale, on page 10 of the 1926 catalog
for Manchester Buildings

of this obscure, local building company in St. Louis, if she hadn't brought it to my attention that one of their catalogs was up for sale on eBay, back in November of 2016. I was the only bidder, and got the catalog for a good price, and was pleased to have something about a company that is St. Louis-based... since I am, too. 

When the catalog arrived, I wasn't all that excited, because the homes are all very modest -- lots of small bungalows that aren't very distinctive. The most interesting house was on the first page of the section of the catalog that was showing houses: the Oakdale model. I saw the photo, and my jaw dropped, because... not only did I recognize the model, but the house that is shown in the catalog photo --- the ACTUAL house shown in the catalog photo -- is one right in my neighborhood! It is one of those houses that always made me take a second look... every time I would drive or walk by it. It has a fun little pergola as the porch overhang at the front door, and that is flanked by two really nice full-length quadruple sets of windows... the kind that look like they are French doors. It's just a house that I have had my eye on ever since we moved into the neighborhood. I always thought that it must be a kit house by somebody. But, we kit-house-obsessed treasure hunt participants are always thinking that, so, I never really thought I'd find out that it IS a kit house... and one by a local company, to boot! 

I posted a comparison photo in our little private research group on FaceBook:
Side by side. See the concrete steps with the wrought-iron railing?  Same house. 
So, then, I took a photo of the cover of the catalog, and realized that this house is used for the house image on the cover, as well! Ahhhh, so much fun :)
Manchester Manufacturing Company's catalog of buildings, 1926 • Oakdale model

Manchester Manufacturing Company's catalog of buildings, 1926 • Oakdale model
When I took a walk over to the house one day last summer, to get new photos, it was a nice, hot day, and it looks like the family had been swimming. I feel kind of bad that the photos of their adorable house, have pool towels hanging out front, but what can you do, right? ;) It's a great little house, and people live in it, and love it. Here are a few photos, showing the sun porch on the side, and the back.



They really do it up right for Halloween! This is a Google maps screenshot from October of 2016.
This one is from 2012, thanks again to Google street view.
The floor plan is simple enough, and the kitchen has, apparently, a nice little breakfast nook:
Manchester Buildings' Oakdale model floor plan • 1926

In my newspaper research, I found quite a few ads for the company, including this one, from December, 1930, showing the Oakdale!
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) • December 7, 1930, page 9
Manchester Manufacturing Company sold other kinds of building supplies, as well as garages, and then this line of houses that they refer to as, "Permanent Sectional and Portable Buildings". So, the Oakdale model is not a kit the way the Sears pre-cut kits are... it actually may have had sections of the wall put together at the factory. I haven't really explored all of this that much, but it does seem to be a different level "pre-fabricated" than the Sears houses. All framing of Sears houses was done entirely on the job site -- it's just that the individual boards were already cut to the correct size, and labeled, for ease of construction. But, truly "pre-fabricated" buildings have a variety of levels of fabricating of parts of the house-- walls even -- done at the factory, and then shipped with those sections already assembled. I'll just show you how the catalog explains it:


The Forest Model
Now, here's something that is very ... I don't know... eery? Coincidental to a big degree? Tonight, I decided to drive home a different way than usual, so that I could stop off at a store I needed something from-- on, guess what road? Manchester Avenue! That's right! And, instead of taking McKnight Road all the way up to Manchester, as I usually do, I took a turn so that I could cut through via North Rock Hill Rd.... because there is a Sears Crescent on that little stretch of road! I've blogged about it before... here it is. Every now and then, I take that road, to see "my" little Crescent. Most of the houses on that stretch of road have seen better days. They are a mix of very modest old bungalows, slightly fixed up bungalows, cottages, and small 1950s brick veneer ranches, and a few new vinyl big houses, that are taking over house lots when they demolish one of the good, old bungalows.

Well, as usual, I looked up and down and back and forth at the little blue-grey house that is next to the Crescent. That's another one that I have always thought looked like somebody's kit (again... we always say that). Here they are -- the one with the flag is the house I'm referring to:
North Rock Hill Road, Rock Hill, Missouri
When I got home, I worked on dinner, and checked out Facebook. I saw that someone else happened to mention Manchester Buildings in St. Louis. Wow! Who knew that anyone else even had heard of them, right? So, that inspired me to finally put together the blog post about our cute little Oakdale model right in the neighborhood. 

Of course, I decided to flip through the catalog once again, just to remind myself of the little bungalows and cottages in the catalog. When I got to page 37, I stopped in my tracks. I've seen that house somewhere! I sure have! I'll be damned. It's the house right next to the little Crescent on North Rock Hill Road! Yes it is, I swear it is. The house now has the front porch enclosed, but those brackets, that roof line, the little window on the side... that's the house!

Here they are next to each other:
1026 N. Rock Hill Rd., Rock Hill, Missouri • The Forest model, Manchester Manufacturing Building, 1926
The catalog's floor plan shows that there are just two windows on the left side elevation of the house, with a chimney up the center-- and, here we have it! :


So, I decided that this little street of modest houses might just be home to some other Manchester Manufacturing Buildings. And... sure enough, I think I found at least one more, maybe two.

The Cedar Model
Just down the street, I think we have a reverse floor plan Cedar model. See how the entry door is tucked away right in the corner of the entry porch? And, on the side of the house that extends furthest in the front, there should be a small set of windows, then a double, then another double. You can't see it perfectly, but I think we have a close match for that. The other side of the house has three windows, spaced just like the catalog. Let's take a look:
1112 N. Rock Hill Rd., Rock Hill, Missouri • Manchester Building, the Cedar, 1926 catalog
See the little entry door, tucked right up into the corner? That's kind of unusual. There's a window in the right spot, too.

The left side shows the window configuration you see shown in the floor plan, below... though on the other side, because the house is reversed.
Floor plan, Manchester Buildings Cedar model

The Cedar, in the 1926 Manchester Manufacturing Buildings catalog.
But, that's not all, folks!

The Clayton Model
On the other side of the Crescent, is what appears to be a Manchester Clayton model -- again, with a reversed floor plan. The only difference, is that the catalog shows a bump out in the dining room, and this house doesn't have one. But, it does have two windows there, as the bump out would have. The other windows and door are right, and there is a little back porch off the back of the house on the left side, as shown in the catalog (though on the other side, since this is reversed). See how there is a chimney sticking up right out of the middle of the roof of the house? Notice where I have circled on the floor plan -- that's a vent chimney... and it's in just the right spot.
1032 N. Rock Hill Rd., Rock Hill, Missouri • 1926 • Manchester Buildings Clayton model






But, you know what? It's too late for this house. These photos were from 2015 Google streetview. But, our little Clayton model has been demolished, and already has a big vinyl-and-brick-veneer replacement going up. Here's what it shows online:
Replacement for the little house that was at 1032 N. Rock Hill Road... already well under construction.
I really fear for the life of the Sears Crescent next door. The minute it ever goes up for sale, it will be snatched up by the "Prestige Custom Homes" company, that is demolishing all of the little houses on the street, one by one.

Other Models Named After Local Towns 
I'll finish up here by just showing a few of the models in the catalog, that I enjoyed seeing because of their names. They are all named after the nice towns around me that were built up especially in the 1900-1930 era. I live in Oakland... and the first house I showed here was the Oakdale (don't know why they didn't just call it the Oakland). The house above is the Clayton... a fine old town, much sought after, situated right next to Washington University.

The Oakdale house is actually in the town of Glendale -- we're all in the older suburbs of St. Louis County, right outside of the city limits, where the character houses abound, all solid and strong, with lots of nice millwork, and great hardwood floors. And, there is a Glendale model by Manchester. They also have a Kirkwood, and a Webster, and a Brentwood... all of the towns surrounding each other, in this area. I also noted that they have a model they call the Algonquin -- which is the name of the country club right down the street, in Webster Groves, and the Forest model I showed above is no doubt named in honor of our incredible Forest Park, in the city of St. Louis, where the Worlds Fair was held in 1904.





Here's the Algonquin Country Club:

That's about it! The center of the catalog shows this photograph of a whole street lined with Manchester Manufacturing homes. I have no idea where that might be. But, you can bet that I'll be back to let you know, if I find it!

Sears Houses in Glendale, Webster Groves, and Kirkwood
If you're interested in seeing some of the Sears homes in the areas I've mentioned, here are some blog posts I've written:

• A Sears Maplewood, just a street away from the Manchester Oakdale
• A Sears Milford, up at the end of the street that the Oakdale is on the corner of (and there is a Sears Hammond on that street, too)
• A Sears Clifton in Webster Groves (with links to several other Webster Groves kit houses)
• A Sears Cedars in Kirkwood





Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sears Ardara bought by a Feme Sole Trader


Authenticated Sears Ardara • 1928 • 224 N. Jarrett Avenue, Rockledge, Pennsylvania
The bumped-out triple window is not standard, and the double window that would be on the back half, has been covered.
Sears Ardara in my 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Have you ever heard of the term, feme sole trader ? I had not. But, apparently, it is a legal term used (at least in Pennsylvania, in 1928) for a married woman who takes on the responsibility of a mortgage in her own name, having declared that she is no longer supported by her husband.

This was the case, in 1928, when Anna Urban, and her son, John Urban, took on the mortgage for this nice little Sears Ardara model, on N. Jarrett Avenue, in Rockledge, Pennsylvania. Rockledge is in Montgomery County, near Philadelphia.

Let's take a look at this term, feme sole trader, to understand its origins and applications a bit further. 

One of the aspects of the feme sole trader status, is that a woman had to show that she was living separately from her husband for at least a year; that they had shared no marital relations during that time; that her husband had had no share in supporting her during that year; and that the woman and children were supported by the woman's own working, or by her own estate; or with the joint efforts of herself and her children. 
Definition source

In French, the term femme seule would translate as woman alone . The legal term feme sole surely originates in the Latin or French, then. Interestingly, in French, if you switch the placement of the words, and put seule before femme, it changes the meaning to a lone woman, meaning just one lone woman, not more than one -- some adjectives in French work that way, changing their meaning a bit depending on placement. While I'm in (French) teacher mode (which is my profession), here, let me also add that the pronunciation of femme, rhymes with mom. Many English speakers mistakenly assume that femme has a short-e sound, rhyming with phlegm or gem or hem. Remember the group, Violent Femmes? It drove me nuts hearing people pronounce that name. 

From an article on ThoughtCo.Com, by Jone Johnson Lewis; updated March 18, 2017.
In my research on this term, feme sole trader, I learned that the opposite term is feme covert ... meaning a woman who is attached, legally, to her husband, in terms of any involvement with contracts. She would need to have her husband's permission, or her husband's signature in place of hers, if she were in an ongoing marriage.  The website ThoughtCo.com gives an example using two well-known, important women in American history: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. Let's look at that example:
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Feme Sole." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/feme-sole-3529190.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, about 1881, from the same article on ThoughtCo.com.
I was also interested to learn that in present day, in Missouri (where I live), a woman retains her status of feme sole even after marriage.  That surprises me, however, because, this past year, when my sisters and I were selling our late mother's home, which we had inherited in our own names, we were required by Missouri law to have our husband's signature giving up any right to the property. What??? Yeah, we were pretty surprised (and annoyed) about that. All we needed was a power of attorney from each of them, but, still... come on.... it was 2017. She was our mother. It was our house. I guess that means that, yes, we can enter into a contract on our own, but any property a married woman owns, if it is in the state of Missouri, she owns jointly with her husband, and it can't be sold without both parties agreeing.
From the same article on ThoughtCo.com

What I don't know, however, was whether or not Anna Urban would have been given this mortgage, without her son, John (her husband's name had been John, too), being attached to it. Her name is the primary name listed, but the wording of the mortgage includes her son, John Urban, as an additional responsible party for the debt:

Snippet of the actual mortgage document. William C. Reed, Trustee, was one of the trustees for Sears, whose name we look for on mortgage documents. The names vary according to state, and year. I have found many Pennsylvania mortgages in Montgomery County, signed by William C. Reed, in the 1920s.

Other sections of the mortgage document, helped me locate the house. Mortgages and deeds do not give a street address. Sometimes, legal descriptions give ridiculous descriptions like, "starting at a point to the left of a deep ditch...", and then, "going 150 feet along the land of Bob McCrackle" (like we know where Bob McCrackle's land is, established, no doubt, in 1759 -- ha!). But, if we're lucky, the legal description includes a street name... if we're very lucky, there is a nearby cross street mentioned, too, so we can Google "drive" around the neighborhood, looking for a Sears house we recognize. If we are supremely lucky, a lot number will be given, AND the county will have a great, user-friendly assessor's website that has interactive maps and information that lets us use all of that information together, to pin down the house. That is true of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, so I was able to find this house without pulling my hair out.

Helpful information available on this mortgage document! 

One of the pages of information about each house, showed the lot #... this is just the one we needed!
The wording on the mortgage shows that Anna and her son, John, were responsible for the $4,000 mortgage. The Ardara kit, without a garage, sold for $1, 957.00. What would bring the mortgage up to $4,000? Well, there were additional charges for plumbing, heating, wiring, and electrical fixtures-- and those were offered with a few different options from which to choose, with prices varying. There were also options that could bring up the price, like sheet plaster and plaster finish, instead of wood lath -- that was available for an extra $142.00. Storm doors and windows were available for $66.00. Screen doors and windows, with galvanized steel, could be added for an additional $40.00. And, an upgrade to oak for the doors and trim, came at a price of an additional $96.00.  
The price of the Sears Ardara in 1928, as an "already cut" and fitted kit. Anna Urban opted for the house without a garage.
Click to view a larger image. You can see that there were a few options in each of the categories.

Sears offered, even in 1928, an early version of what we now call drywall, or sheetrock: Goodwall Sheet Plaster.

These are the additional options listed for the Ardara, in 1928.

And... here is what came standard with the Ardara, in 1928.
However, all of that wouldn't come up to an additional $2,043. So, we can assume that Anna Urban and her son chose to include construction costs into their mortgage. In the early 1930s, Sears advertised that they would even arrange to engage a contractor for you, but, probably in 1928, the Urbans would have arranged that themselves... Sears allowed for the cost to be rolled into the full mortgage, though. The only thing that the Urbans needed, was to have a paid-for lot already in their names.

Thanks to Google maps, we have a few views of Anna Urban's home -- sorry, no beautiful, clear, in-person shots, or real estate listing views--and, the assessor's website also has a good shot, though it's a bit over-lighted with bright sunlight. We always recognize the Ardara by that big, gracefully-curved porch roof, and nice big colonial style columns. The model also always has a pair of sidelights around the front door (the skinny glass window-like area all along the side of the door), which lends the entry a nice, bright, welcoming feel.

The tops of the windows also have an unusual little strip of window panes, going along horizontally across the top of the windows. The Google map photos I show here, of Anna Urban's Ardara, are from 2015. They show that horizontal window-panes strip still being in place above the windows. But, the more current, assessor's photo, shows those to be gone. They must have replaced the windows. That's a shame. The catalog image also shows a curved sort of trellis ornamentation over each of the front windows... it's rare for us to find those still in place, but we do, sometimes-- not on the Rockledge Ardara, however. And, obviously, Anna Urban opted for the non-garage version.


This chimney is for a fireplace that must have been added to the "music room", which is just to the left, as you enter the house. The living room is the rest of the front of the house.

Chimney for a fireplace in the music room. 

See? No more strip of window panes going horizontally across the top of the front windows.


The Ardara has a little bumped-out area for the kitchen, at the back of the house, which normally has a double window in it, but the house on N. Jarrett Avenue looks to have lost those windows to a siding job, and/or kitchen re-do. There also looks to be a bump-out style window added in the dining room, where normally those windows would be flat into the wall of the dining room.


John, Bertha, and Anna Urban
This house was built in 1928, when father/husband John Urban was no longer with the family. But, the 1920 census shows the Urban family still intact, with husband John Urban still alive, and living with the family. John and Anna (Annie) were in their late 30s, and their children (Madeleine, John, and George) were living there, along with Annie's mother.  We can also see that both John and Anna were born in Hungary, and arrived in the U.S. in 1903.
Snippet of the 1920 U.S. Census (from Ancestry.com)

I believe that this is the marriage record, in 1906, of John and Anna Urban:
Source: Ancestry.com

In January of 1930, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper included a marriage license notice for young John Urban, living at 224 N. Jarrett Avenue, to marry Bertha Clayton. He was 21, and she was 20.

Made available by Newspapers.com
The 1930 census, then, showed that newlyweds John and Bertha were living in the house with Anna, and her youngest son, George. Daughter Madeleine must have married and left home.  The census now lists Anna Urban as a widow... but, I don't think that she was, at the time of taking out the mortgage with Sears, because I have seen other Pennsylvania mortgages of this same era, wherein the woman is referred to as a widow ("Jane Creeger, a widow", for example). Since Anna was referred to as a "feme sole trader", there must have been some other explanation for that status. Somehow, husband John was still alive, but, for some reason, no longer in her life. Between then, and 1930, he must have died. Or, Anna simply listed herself as a widow, for the census questionnaire.

Snippet of the 1930 U.S. Census (from Ancestry.com)
Other Ardara Examples Around The U.S.
We have found a good many Ardaras around the country-- 41 as of today-- but, for small Sears models, it is far outnumbered by the Rodessa and Vallonia, even though it was offered for at least 10 years (Houses By Mail says 1919-1929-- though HBM is sometimes off by a year or two on either end). Lets take a look at a few that we have found.

Ardara in Olean, New York
One of my favorites, is this one in Olean, New York, at 701 Main Street. It has the front porch enclosed with lots of glass, to keep that airy, open look, and it even has the curved trellis shapes above the windows -- and the horizontal strip of window panes along the top of the windows. And, of course, this is one of the few that we have found, with a garage. This house was found by researcher Sarah Mullane, who writes about her finds in her blog, Catalog Homes of Western New York.

Probable Sears Ardara at 701 S Main Street, Olean, NY

Probable Sears Ardara at 701 S Main Street, Olean, NY

Probable Sears Ardara at 701 S Main Street, Olean, NY
Ardara in Schenectady, New York
Another New York State example, is this one, in Schenectady, New York, located by researcher Andrew Mutch, of Kit House Hunters blog.  Everything looks to follow the pattern of the Ardara, though the front windows are replacements, and the curved trellises are no longer in place. It looks like they opted for an after-build detached garage, with breezeway:
Probable Sears Ardara at 1415 Grand Blvd., Schenectady, New York
Ardara in Lansdale, Pennsylvania
This is another authenticated, 1928 Ardara, which I found the mortgage records for using the same methods--though Andrew Mutch had found a real estate listing for it in 2016. Lansdale is also in Montgomery County, and the original owners of this Ardara, were Charles B. Snyder and his wife, Anna Snyder. They had a $4,400.00 mortgage, so-- similar to Anna Urban and her son. They must have included some higher-end finishes.
Authenticated 1928 Sears Ardara • 2223 Bethel Rd, Lansdale, Pennsylvania

This view shows you the music room, on your left as soon as you come in the front door.
In Anna Urban's house, there is a fireplace in that room.
Ardara in Norwich, Connecticut
This Ardara was for sale not long ago, and so we get to see a bit of the interior--- enough to show a slightly different look to the entry of the music room, with nice colonnades added. The staircase is visible, too.
Music room of a Sears Ardara in Norwich, Connecticut

See the door hardware on that door, to the left?
That's the Stratford design hardware from Sears. It was standard with the Ardara.
Stratford design hardware in the 1928 catalog.

Closeup of Stratford door hardware, from another Sears house.

Stratford design door hardware on a house in Illinois.

Probable Sears Ardara, 55 River Avenue, Norwich, Connecticut
Ardara in Wareham, Massachusetts
This Ardara , in Wareham, has a modified look to the front porch roof. The interior still has beautiful, original hardwood floors, and the photo below shows them off nicely. Thanks go out to Kristen, the current owner, for sharing these with us on our Sears Modern Homes Facebook page.

There are those three, big windows on the right wall of the house, for the dining room.
This house was probably bought for, or by, a worker at the nearby New Bedford and Agawam Finishing Company, also known as the Bleachery. Read more about it, here.

Ardara in Scotia, New York
And, one last Ardara -- this one, again, found by researcher Andrew Mutch -- at 109 Sacandaga Road, Scotia, New York.
Probable Sears Ardara • 109 Sacandaga Road, Scotia, New York

Probable Sears Ardara • 109 Sacandaga Road, Scotia, New York
That's it! I hope you enjoyed our tour of Ardaras around the U.S., and learning about the term, feme sole trader.

Now go out there and repeat: femme • mom • femme • mom • femme • mom....