March 13, 2018

A Montgomery Ward Not-a-Kit House

Like Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward sold ready-cut kit houses and also building materials.
  • Kits from Wards consisted of the blueprints for a particular house that was depicted in the catalogs, as well as almost all the materials needed to construct that house (such as pre-cut lumber, paint, shingles, and nails). 
  • Wards also sold building materials separately. You could purchase the lumber, doors, and windows from Wards, but the house did not have to be a Wardway kit house and could be a design from your local architect. 

In 1930, you could buy the Wardway Whitmore kit house for about $65 a month. You could also buy various building materials from Wards and build your own house.  Wards would finance both kit houses and building materials.

The 1933 Montgomery Ward Building Materials catalog included a photo of a house in Glen Ellyn that was built using building materials, plumbing fixtures, and a furnace from Wards. However, it was not a kit house from Wards, but a unique design.

Scan courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro.

And here's that house today.

654 N. Park Blvd., Glen Ellyn. Photo from Realtor site.

The original house, featuring new dormers and a new front porch. Photo from Realtor site.

This Colonial was built in 1932. 

Today the house has doubled in size, added a three-car garage, and even added a second front door off the driveway. The current square footage is 4,563 and it was listed for sale at $1,725,000 last year.

Let's take a look at some of the original house from Wards--or what's left of it.

New front door, new shutters, new pillar detailing, new porch structure. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

I bet this was originally a Wards telephone nook. However, the original one was scrapped. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Many Wards houses had arched built-in bookcases. Obviously the owners replaced all the original woodwork and cabinetry. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

And now we come to the kitchen, which is part of the new addition and the end of our tour. If you'd like to see the entire new appendage to the original house, it's all here. I wonder if the owners know their house was from Montgomery Ward?  Photo from Realtor site.

The original owners were Freeland and Via Leslie. Freeland owned the Leslie Welding Company in Chicago. They took out a mortgage from Wards for $11,400 in March 1932.

Freeland was from Boston originally, and was a larger-than-life character.  He was a halfback on the Harvard football team, a shot putter on the track team, and was known as the "Harvard Hercules"--the strongest man at Harvard. At the turn of the century, athletes in the Ivy League were national news. I saw a 1911 news article about Freeman's college exploits in the Lincoln, Nebraska newspaper.

In 1913, because of his national exposure, he was selected to go on an Arctic expedition.

Freeland went to MIT after Harvard, and studied engineering. He also was the star wrestler on the MIT team. He served in WWI maintaining airplanes. 

The Boy Scout camp, Camp Freeland Leslie, was named after Freeland, who was actively involved in scouting.


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