May 26, 2020

The Wardway Michigan: You Have Never Seen a Home Quite Like It

Montgomery Ward Michigan in Barrington  @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
119 Grant St., Barrington.

The Michigan from Montgomery Ward, from the 1925 Wardway Homes catalog. @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The Michigan from Montgomery Ward, from the 1925 Wardway Homes catalog. The house in Barrington has a bay window in the dining room that looks to be original.

Montgomery Ward sold the the Michigan model from 1924-1927. Gordon-Van Tine, a lumber and building materials supplier in Iowa, designed the kit house and fulfilled the orders from Wards. Gordon-Van Tine also sold this house under their own nameplate.

We know this particular house is from Wards and not Gordon-Van Tine because the original owners financed the purchase. (Wards began offering mortgages in 1927.)

"We will venture to say that you have never seen a home quite like it." Bungalows with two dormers are not super common in the Chicago area, that is for sure.

Montgomery Ward Michigan in Barrington  @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The Michigan is 34 feet wide and would not fit on many city or suburban lots.

floor plan for the Montgomery Ward Michigan  @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland

The Michigan is a single story house, with a huge attic. The attic was a big selling point, according to Montgomery Ward. "This extends the full width of the home and is completely floored, making an ideal space for storage, children's playroom, for drying clothes, or similar uses. Stairs to the attic are placed directly over the basement and lead up from the corner of the dining room. The two dormers and windows in each gable furnish ample light."

Montgomery Ward kitchen no. 861  @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
This is the standard kitchen cabinet set offered with the Michigan. Customers could upgrade to a bigger set if they wanted.

Niel Jensen, a Danish immigrant, got a mortgage from Montgomery Ward in June 1927 for $3,400. Niel was a carpenter, so assembling the Michigan must have been no problem for him.

The Jensen family lived in the house until 1934 or so. Niel and his wife Lottie were having marital problems and she moved to Woodstock. 

Lottie ran this ad in 1936 in the Woodstock newspaper.

Raising six kids, Lottie went to work in the repair department of a typewriter manufacturer. In her divorce filing, Lottie cited Niel's "excessive use of intoxicating liquor" and "habitual drunkenness". They divorced in 1938.

Niel lived with his parents in their Barrington home until 1942.


Seth said...

An interesting home, and even more interesting personal history. Thanks for sharing!

Architectural Observer said...

The twin dormers really are distinctive! Single dormers and elongated shed dormers are far more common. If the large attic was indeed a true selling point, it was likely because it would make future expansion of living space much easier. Having to go through a bedroom to get to the bathroom is somewhat awkward, but otherwise this looks like a good floor plan.

I understand why so many porches were enclosed, but they typically detract from the intended beauty of the design (as this one does). If restored to the appearance of the house as illustrated in the catalog this house would be a brake-slammer!

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