Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gordon-Van Tine No. 535 in Webster Groves, Missouri

207 Oakwood Avenue, Webster Groves, Missouri • suspected Gordon-Van Tine No. 535 • 1922
Sometimes, houses just pop up right in front of you, and you can't help but laugh out loud at the irony.

I've been away on vacation. But, I'm back, and back to work, and today, I needed a good walk. I also wanted to enjoy some time looking for houses in the town next to mine, Webster Groves, Missouri. So, I headed over that way by car -- about a mile from my house -- and drove around the streets of Webster Groves for a while.  I found a house or two to check out, decided I had had enough of driving around, house hunting, and stopped off at the Webster Groves public library for a bit.  Since I was already parked, and there is a great neighborhood with gorgeous houses behind the library, I decided to take my walk there.

By that time, it was late in the day.  It was kind of hot.  And, I wasn't sure I really felt like a walk anymore.  So, I walked a few blocks, and took a right, intending to head back to my car.

It's amazing how you just sometimes get a feeling... and I got that feeling.  I spied a creamy dark beige house with a dark purple door (just like my house colors!), through the foliage. I could only see a bit... but, I knew.  I had stumbled upon the Gordon-Van Tine house I had been hoping to find one day! Right here in Webster Groves: a Gordon-Van Tine No. 535.

This model by Gordon-Van Tine goes by many names--numbers, usually.  It's been the subject of four of my previous blog posts.  You can read all about how this house began in the 1916 catalog as the No. 560 (with only first-floor side sun porch), and, in its various formations, is also known as the 536, 535, 535B, and Glencoe (as well as a few longer numbers), in this blog post I wrote in June of this year.  In this post, I wrote about a testimonial house that I (and others) found, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  In that post, you can learn more about the different changes in floor plans over the years, too. There was also a family by the name of Parsch, in Ohio, that owned this model, and sent in a testimonial about it, and you can read alllll about that family, and the house, in this post. And, finally, if you want to read about Edward C. Roberts, president of the Gordon-Van Tine company in 1916, and the No. 535 in which he (however briefly) lived, go here.

You can see the stairway right inside the door... that was left open as guests began to arrive for today's party.  I spoke to the sister-in-law of the owners,  as I was standing there gawking at the house when she arrived.  I asked her if the owners knew that this was a historically significant home, and explained its background to her, and gave her my name.
The No. 535 as it appeared in my 1919 catalog. Notice the 9-pane square window sidelights on each side of the door.
Nice match to the catalog image.
Even though the front porch columns have been changed, it sure looks to be a No. 535.
(click to enlarge)
In 2010, the home was for sale (see the listing here), so I was able to find a few interior photos... sadly, they are not the best quality, but they nonetheless give a wonderful idea of the open feeling of this spacious home.

Entry foyer from the Zillow listing.
The shape of the staircase shows us that this is the early floor plan, the No. 535, because the later, 535B floor plan, had a straight staircase.  The image below shows a comparison of the two plans:
Remember, you can learn more about the different floor plans, in this post of mine.

Here's the living room that you get a glimpse of from the spacious entry foyer.
From this view of the front of the living room, you get a glimpse of the side sun porch, to the left of the living room.
This all follows the original No. 535 floor plan.
The lovely dining room, just where it should be, across the hall from the large living room.
Gordon-Van Tine In Saint Louis
So, why did I think that I might find this house -- or some GVT house -- in Webster Groves? Well, I didn't realllly think that I'd necessarily find one in Webster Groves, but I sure felt that I should be finding more GVT models in Saint Louis (Webster Groves is, by the way, in the suburbs of Saint Louis County). Why? Because Gordon-Van Tine had a major plant in Saint Louis.  It's mentioned all over the place in my 1919 catalog.




In fact, most of the lumber for a large portion of the states to whom GVT sold, came from our Saint Louis lumber yard.
From the 1919 catalog.  A huge number of states to which GVT sent lumber, got that lumber from Saint Louis.
Just a month or so ago, I said to one of my house-hunting friends, that you'd think there would be tons of Gordon-Van Tine houses around Saint Louis, since there was a plant here-- yet, I'm not running across them left and right.  I was looking more for bungalows, though, and not so much for spacious, expensive homes, like the No. 535.

In any case, Gordon-Van Tine assured its buyers -- in Saint Louis or anywhere!--that they were getting first-rate architects designing their homes:


Who Lived Here?
It did occur to me, that, given the year of this house (1922), the original owner might have been an executive with the GVT plant here in Saint Louis.  And, it may have been. But, I wasn't able to verify the residents at this address before 1930.  I couldn't find a 1920s City Directory for Webster Groves, and the 1920 census did not have a listing for this address -- makes sense, since it turns out that the city tax records are incorrect.  The building permit shows that the house was built in 1922.

I did, however, find a 1930 and 1940 census listing for this address: Frank C. Hunt, his wife, Eura, and their daughter, Laura, lived here as early as 1930, and perhaps earlier than that. In 1920, they lived in nearby Maplewood, so the move must have happened sometime between 1920 and 1930. Frank was a bank teller in 1930, and his GVT No. 535 home at 207 Oakwood Avenue, was listed as having a worth of $20,000.  By 1940, Mr. Hunt had become a bank executive (despite having only an 8th-grade education!), and he gave his yearly salary as over $50, 000... and the home's value as $10, 000--- so, either his estimation of the worth became more realistic, or the years of the depression had drastically affected the Saint Louis housing market.  He and his wife included a live-in "servant" by 1940, as well (though not in 1930, according to the census): 21-year old Ethel Threlkeld, from a farm somewhere outstate in Missouri.

Here in this snippet from the 1940 census, you can see the Hunt family at 207 Oakwood Avenue.
Footprint: A Concern?
Of course, we don't even know if this home is a Gordon-Van Tine No. 535, because I haven't been able to document it with a mortgage, or a visit inside to check for marked lumber or blueprints. I've written before about the dangers of mis-identifying homes based solely on a "windshield survey" drive-by id.  And, in fact, even in 1919, you could order this house as either ready-cut, or not ready-cut, so we don't know if there would be marked lumber in the house at 207 Oakwood Avenue.
This is the listing number for the two-porch model of this home, in my 1919 catalog.
Notice that you could buy the house as either ready cut, or not.
So, perhaps all of this excitement is for naught... because the footprint from the Saint Louis County Department of Revenue, shows a size that is only close to the GVT No. 535, not a perfect match... and, those front porch columns were not like the ones shown in the catalog.

207 Oakwood is 26' deep, and 39' wide, whereas the GVT catalog shows 24 X 38.
Also, the catalog shows that we should expect a 21-foot deep first-floor porch, and
the tax records show this one to be only 18 feet deep. 
But... we'll probably never know for sure!  But, one thing that I do know: I'll not forget the day that I laughed right out loud, as I turned the corner and came upon this bigger-than-life house, sitting happily at 207 Oakwood Avenue.

17 comments:

  1. What a lovely house which is located in perfect area. American houses are much more bigger and more comfortable I think..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is lovely, Gosia! But, not all American houses are like these big beauties that I tend to blog about :) This is a very expensive home, in a beautiful neighborhood.

      Delete
  2. How strange Rose Thornton does a blog on this very house and you "discover" it a few days later... Credit should be given to where it is due.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Manser, you have things confused. Rose Thornton's blog came out on August 20. I found this house and blogged about it on August 15, publishing it in the wee hours of August 16.

      I had no way whatsoever of knowing that this house, at this address, was one of the houses that the woman from Oklahoma had found for Rose Thornton to drive by in Webster Groves, and photograph for a later blog post. How could I? As Rose knows from the comment I left her on an earlier Webster Groves blog post, I was excited to know that more historic homes had been discovered in Webster Groves, and was anxious to see them (and, as I live in the area, I would also be interested in working toward actually authenticating them, as I have local access to building permits and mortgage records). I imagine there will be more homes brought to light (perhaps even some Sears models?), and I look forward to seeing them. As for this house, apparently two of us found it this summer, in a completely unrelated coincidence.

      It is really time for this odd and unnecessary competitiveness to cease. It is unprofessional and foolish. I was excited to find this house for the same reason others should be: to continue the documentation of these historic homes, and build a resource for future generations to reference. Other serious researchers with whom I work would never think to belittle or undermine the continued work toward this end.

      To that end, I will add that it is important to refer to models by the names they are given in the catalogs, and not by the convenient nickname a few friends came up with to refer to it in their private conversations. It is not accurate to refer to this model as "The Roberts" -- please see my blog post of July 2, 2015 for clarification.

      Delete
    2. A public list of kit houses that have already been discovered would end this duplication of resources and effort. Judith, did you add this house to the Gordon-Van Tine list?

      Delete
    3. James Manser, I find your comment strange. I, myself, am very familiar with Rose Thornton's manner of giving credit where it is due. There is much more to that story than you know. I think perhaps you are just one of her small band of followers who prefer to discredit other researchers of this subject instead of focusing on presenting this unique piece of our Architectural history in a positive manner. The more serious researchers of this subject there are, the better chance we have of educating the public and bringing new information to light.

      Delete
    4. Good point, Lara, and, yes, I have put this house on our Gordon-Van Tine list-- as the GVT #535.

      Thank you, too, Cindy, for your informative comment.

      Delete
  3. If I'm not mistaken, the picture Rose took of the house was posted to Facebook on 7/29.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James, you seem to have a strange vested interest.

      Rose hasn't posted here, and since she is a supporter of kit house preservation, I'm sure she would be pleased that folks in Webster Groves might read Judith's post and learn about a historic house in their community.

      Why do you care so much, if you don't mind me asking?

      Delete
  4. Not to mention that Rose's photo had all of the July 4th decorations in it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear heavens, Mr. Manser, give it a rest. You just don't get it. No one is suggesting that Rose Thornton's friend didn't find her that house earlier in the summer, now that she has blogged about the house and posted a 4th of July-era photo. But how on earth you think that I would have known about it, and its location, before I found it, is beyond me.

      The fact remains, for heavens sake, that I turned a corner last Saturday and found this house. Do you understand that plain English? If someone else found it before then, and shared it with you, well that is fine, but the existence of a GVT No. 535 at 207 Oakwood Avenue in Webster Groves was not shared with me, or in any way that would have allowed me to know of its existence there. Have you even looked closely at that photo of Rose's? It has a different house number on it. Even if Rose herself had sent me the photo and said she had found that house in Webster Groves, how on earth would I have known where it was?

      If it was posted or discussed in your group, I am not a member, and have the admins blocked, so I see neither hide nor hair of that group -- I don't even see the group listed anymore, so I wouldn't even know that it still exists, let alone would I see content from it. If Rose or the Oklahoma woman posted it on their FaceBook pages, I wouldn't have seen it, either, as I have them blocked, as well (you might ask yourself why people would block them, but some day, you'll understand). Have you ever known Rose Thornton to post an address with a house? Ever? So how on earth would I have known that this model house was at that location? The fact that Rose told the world, in her blog, that she and the Oklahoma woman had found some interesting houses in Webster Groves, is all that I could possibly have known, so, what are you suggesting? That every single house in Webster Groves can now be claimed by one of them, because some vague pronouncement was made about finding Webster Groves homes, and never telling what or where they are? I will continue to look for, and document, significant, historic homes that I find. If someone else finds the same house before me, they need to make that publicly known, and with an address.

      Again, this is not about competition, or playing games at collecting photos of houses before someone else. It's about documenting historic homes. That's all. That's the point.

      Delete
  5. We're watching Judy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pretty cryptic. Want to elaborate?
      By the way, are you declaring that you are watching "Judy", or did you mean to use correct punctuation, and get my attention, as "Judy", to tell me that you are watching me? That would be written, "We're watching, Judy." Note the comma. Whew.

      Or... wait... I get it! This is a threat? Really? In public? You two really are nuts.

      Delete
  6. As the homeowner of the house in question-I can tell you that I did not remove the 4th of July decorations until August 13th. I was having a party the day Judith took her picture on August 15th. My sister in law spoke to her and my daughter saw her taking the picture. On August 17th I googled our house to see what she may have posted (per Judith's conversation with my sister in law) and found her blog. I did not see any other blogs regarding my home on this date. That said, I have seen others taking pictures of our house over the 5 years we have owned it and always wondered why! Please enjoy your interesting hobby and leave the mean spirited competition alone-the house has been sitting at this location for 93 years. Thank you to the Gordon-Van Tine company for designing #535-We love it and its very comfortable and open floor plan!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So nice to hear from you! I really enjoyed our visit (and I'm sorry that you've had to witness this silliness about the house finding) -- you've made a beautiful home. I'm still working on linking the architect with either Gordon-Van Tine, or with the plan-book company that also had an exact likeness to this model (with the floor plan that you have, the #535... the later 535B may not have a copycat version).

      Delete
  7. This is funny - a Sears House mafia trying to enforce some sort of "I posted first".
    I came here because I just bought a Sears Craftsman home and am trying to learn about it. Whoever James Manser is I sincerely hope I never meet the man - what a loss to spend so much effort on reprimanding a blogger for such a great article.
    I will continue to read this blog because it is informative, well written, well researched, and on a topic that interests. I hope you are not too burdened by the ridiculous few who do not add to the knowledge of the world but simply detract with complaints over articles they could never write.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your kind words!

      We have a Facebook page called, "Sears Modern Homes" (there is another with a much longer name... that one is affiliated with the man you commented about above, as is the "Sears Homes" group on Facebook) -- we'd be happy to help you with your house -- note that it's a "Page", and not a "group", so you can just post your comment, and it will go to the side area of the page. The moderators will read and respond :) Do you know what model it is that you've bought? We've been working hard on documenting all of the homes we've found, and have a National Database of Sears Homes -- we may even have your house on the list!

      Delete

Your comment will appear after it has been previewed and approved by the blog author. Thanks for your interest!