A few Chicago-area communities have conducted comprehensive searches of county records, including Oswego and Aurora. These searches do not reveal all kit houses in a given community, because some buyers got financing from local banks and some buyers paid cash. But it's a great place to start!
Mortgage records also provide authentication for a kit house, that is, incontrovertible proof that a house is a genuine kit house.
This summer, I went through the Lake County records and learned that Lake Forest has a nice collection of kit houses that are still standing. Let's take a look at one from Montgomery Ward.
|161 Washington Circle, Lake Forest.|
|Montgomery Ward Maywood. Scan courtesy of Antique Home Style.|
|Living room. Photo from Realtor site.|
|Dining room. The French doors were originally the back wall of the house. Today there are massive additions off the back and left sides of the house. Photo from Realtor site.|
|It appears someone made the bedroom closet into a bathroom. Photo from Realtor site.|
A Closer Look at the Deed Record
What information about the house can we derive from the county records?
Thomas P. Riordan was the trustee for Montgomery Wards who is linked to loans, deeds, and foreclosure records through 1933.
Our buyers were Arthur G. Kelley "and wife". They borrowed $9,950 from Wards to build the Maywood. "T.D." stands for Trustee's Deed, which means the title for the property was transferred to Montgomery Ward, which held it as security for the mortgage loan.
The property was located in the Washington Circle Subdivision in Lake County, lot 41. This is the location of our house that is still standing today. The loan was processed in August of 1929 and the house would have been built shortly thereafter.
Arthur Kelley was a machinist and owned the house until his death in 1962.