Tens of thousands of homeowners turned to Plan Books for their housing needs in the early 1900s. It was similar to buying a kit home, but with a few important differences. After browsing the pages of a plan book (filled with pretty pictures of pretty homes), you’d pick a house that fit your budget and your needs, and then send off a few dollars.
Within a few days or weeks, you’d receive a full set of blue prints, plus a list of the building materials you’d need to build your dream home.
In other words, you were buying blue prints and a building materials list, nothing more.
Plan book houses are so ubiquitous and the designs are so varied that a person could drive themselves nuts trying to find and identify all the plan book houses in their neighborhood. I’ve got one book of plans from the late 1920s, and it must have more than 500 house designs. And that was one company.
That being said, I did go through a “plan book phase” in my house hunting career, and here are a few of the houses I found in Portsmouth (and surrounding areas).
Nice little Tudor from the pages of a popular early 1920s planbook.
Nice match in Portsmouth, Virginia on Rockbridge Road (Waterview section).
Kind of a funky looking house with that arched porch roof.
Also on Rockbridge Road (Waterview), this house had some big dormers added.
This is one of my favorites. Nice design and good front porch (on the side).
Poor photo, but great house. I grew up next door to this house. My home was at 515 Nansemond Street, also in Waterview.
Beautiful little Tudor Revival from the late 1920s
This is my favorite match! The house is a perfect match to the catalog image, and it's even painted in the same colors! I sent these folks a color copy of this catalog page, but never heard back from them. This house is on Riverside Drive (Waterview). Even the tiny little details are a spot-on match.
This was a four-unit apartment, and proved to be a popular design. I've seen three of these in my travels.
This one is in South Norfolk (near Portsmouth).
Pretty, pretty house.
The details around the front porch gable are a tiny bit different, but the rest of the house is a perfect match, down to the strap hinges on the front door. This house is in Park View (Portsmouth).
The Regent was also a popular plan book house.
And this one is in the Colonial Place neighborhood in Norfolk!
This last house is not in Portsmouth, but it is probably *THE* most popular plan book house I've come across.
I found two of these in Beckley, WV and I've seen countless others all over the country.
To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.
To buy Rose’s book, click here.
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