October 5, 2021

The Most Memorable Montgomery Ward Homes

Some kit house models are so generic and boring it makes it difficult to identify them out in the wild.

The Wellington from the 1929 Montgomery Ward homes catalog. No wonder nobody has ever identified one. There are thousands of houses that look like this. Scan courtesy of Daily Bungalow.

However, some of the Montgomery Ward models are unusual looking--unusual enough that if you ever came across one you would likely remember seeing it.

Here are five of the most distinctive Wards models. Have you seen any of these? Email me!

1. No. 136

Wards sold the No. 136 from 1911-1914. You can see the diamond muntin windows in the illustration, but did you notice instead of wood siding, there are logs?

The reason Wards recommends this house for customers who live by a lumber supply is because the logs were not included in the purchase price. The customer had to source those.

The No. 136 had an odd floor plan. Giant living room, six tiny bedrooms, one bath, and a library. You had to walk through the porch to access the kitchen.

2.  The Drexel
The Wardway Drexel was sold in 1930 and 1931. The model was likely named after the most exclusive of the Chicago south side boulevards, and there are several of these homes in the Chicago area. It appears that the front entrance does not match the rest of the house. Additionally, the house is oddly asymmetrical for the time.

524 E. Calhoun, Woodstock. This Drexel is authenticated and was built in 1930. Photo from Realtor site.

3. No. 177

No. 177 was sold only in 1914, and maybe you can see why. There are three dormers: one crammed in the bedroom above the porte-cochère, one with a sleeping porch, and a third thrown in next to the sleeping porch in the front. There is a lot going on here, and a No. 177 has never been located.

4. The Whitmore

The Wardway Whitmore was sold in 1930 and 1931. It has unique architectural details like the large pointed dormer, the deck above the garage, and half-timbering in various places. It appears that there is a decorative railing in front of the inset dormer.

There is only one Whitmore in Illinois at 304 S. McKinley Dr. in Belleville. Photo from Realtor site.

5. No. 165
No. 165 was sold from 1912 to 1914. It is a tall house with timbering! And tons of windows! And pillars! And giant chimneys! Wards called it Elizabethan architecture. This house has never been located.

I don't know why, but I think of this when I see the No. 165. Photo from Disney Parks

September 21, 2021

An Independent Builds a Sears House in Zion City

43346 N. Kenosha Rd., Zion. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Columbine.

The pergolas are gone, and now the house has only four columns instead of six. Flanking the front door are two triple windows. 

This authenticated Sears Columbine was built in the summer of 1927. It is just steps from the Wisconsin border. Al and Olga Larsen purchased the house (with financing from Sears Roebuck) for $2,700.

In 1927, Zion City (as it was known then), was a religious utopia and planned community. Founded in 1902, the town had (and still has) biblical street names, such as Gilead, Elim, and Hebron. Zion City also had many interesting rules. The "overseer" of the theocracy in 1927, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, was a fan of billboards that broadcast those rules to the townspeople and passers-by.

Voliva instituted many rules in Zion City. I am on board with the "no oysters" mandate.

Overseer Voliva was also a flat-earther, even in an era when planes had travelled around the globe. 

Overseer Voliva and what I think of when I hear the word "overseer".

In 1926, Voliva started selling off land outside the corporate limits of Zion to the west. As the overseer, Voliva pocketed the proceeds himself. The Larsen property on Kenosha Road (then called Route 1) was one of the parcels that were sold to outsiders during that time.

The newcomers who moved onto these properties were part of the Independent faction of Zion, as opposed to the followers, the Zionites, who lived in the city proper. 

Over time, Zion City obtained democratic governance as the Independents gradually outnumbered the Zionites. 

The Larsens lived in the Sears Columbine until November 1942.

The church of the Zionites, now called the Christ Community Church, is still active today.

September 7, 2021

The Gordon-Van Tine No. 605 is Worthy of the Attention

88 W. Franklin, Crystal Lake.


The No. 605 from Gordon-Van Tine (also known as the No. 703 in later years). Gordon-Van Tine was a kit house company based in Davenport, IA.

A view of the side dormer that houses the large master bedroom. On the first floor is the enclosed side porch. Gordon-Van Tine said it offers more privacy than a standard front porch. Screen capture from Google Streetview.



From the outside, the No. 605 in Crystal Lake seems to be a perfect match to the floor plan. 


Gordon-Van Tine said in its catalogs: "...the entire house has been so well planned that it is worthy of the attention it has attracted, and the praise bestowed upon it by those who call it home."

The No. 605 in Crystal Lake was purchased by Martin and Lena Brown. Martin bought the lot in 1922, and built the house in 1924.

Here's a photo of the house around 1927.  It never had the stucco and panels in the front gable.  Martin Brown sent a letter to Gordon-Van Tine that the company reprinted in its marketing materials. This testimonial authenticates the house as being a true No. 605. The current owners also have the original blueprints from Gordon-Van Tine. 


Martin worked as a passenger conductor for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. He retired at age 71 after more than 50 years of service.

Some of Martin's hobbies during retirement were newsworthy... for sleepy Crystal Lake.

The Browns lived in the house until 1946. 


A Sims modeler envisioned what the interior of the Gordon-Van Tine No. 605 would look like.