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Ann Arbor: An Impressive Ensemble of Kit Homes

Many folks enjoy seeking and finding kit homes, but they’re not sure where to begin. Between Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling and Harris Brothers, there were at least a couple thousand designs.

If you want to find kit homes, how do you begin?

Well, this very blog might be an ideal starting point because as it turns out, Ann Arbor has a lovely smorgasbord of “typical” (and very popular) kit homes from Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Take a few moments and memorize these photos, and then see if you can find these houses in your town!

Be forewarned, it’s a lot of fun and highly addictive. Bet you can’t stop at just one!

If you’re able, you might even visit one of these communities that has an abundance of kit homes (as identified by this blog).  Interested in finding such a city? Go to the search box at the top of the page (right side) and type in your state and see what pops up. There are 700 blogs at this site and several thousand photos representing 32 states. That’s a  lot of places!

And what about Ann Arbor? Well, thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, we have a gaggle of photos from that city highlighting the many kit homes. One recommendation: You might want to don a sweater before gazing upon these pictures. Just looking at all those snow-covered houses gives me the shivers!

Thanks to Andrew and Wendy for supplying all these wonderful pictures of kit homes in Ann Arbor.

Did you know that there’s a “Sears Home Group” on Facebook? Join us!

To learn more about Wardway, click here.

Interested in Sears kit homes? Click here.

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The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And heres a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

And here's a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Notice the bracketing for the flower boxes (2nd floor window) is still in place. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but theyre different houses. Do you see the difference between the two?

The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but they have a few minor differences. Do you see the difference between the two? The Brookwood is smaller, and has two living room windows (and the Barrington has three). For a time, I'd get these two confused, and then it dawned on me that "Brookwood" has two syllables and two windows! Barrington has three! This is from the 1933 catalog.

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And heres

And here's a fine-looking Brookwood in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

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Heres a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor.

Here's a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor. You may notice it has two windows down the left side, where the catalog has three. This was a very common alteration. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another beautiful Dover.

Another beautiful Dover in Ann Arbor. However, this house looks really cold. The extra snow shovels on the porch are part of that "chilly look" I suppose. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

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house

Not only does it have the original windows, but it has the original wooden storm windows too, and even the half-round gutters are true to 1928. Are these original or just high-quality replacements? Tough to know, but they sure do look good. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rembrandt was one of their finer homes.

The Rembrandt, a classic Dutch Colonial, was one of their finer homes.

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Another perfect match. How cool is that?!

Another perfect match. Note that the windows on the 2nd floor are centered over those paired windows on the first floor. This single detail can help figure out - is it a Sears Rembrandt, or just another pretty Dutch Colonial? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

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Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if its a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows.

Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if it's a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows. Study this single detail, and it will help you easily differentiate the Puritan from the look-alikes. As with all these houses, also pay attention the chimney placement. Remodelings come and go, but chimneys don't move. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

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Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor.

Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor. Still has its original railings. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

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And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition!

And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Hathaway was another popular house (1928).

The Hathaway was another popular house (1928), and distinctive enough that it's easy to identify. Just look at all those clipped gables!

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Ann

Anther very fine match. Sadly, this house has been hit with some permastone (front first floor), but other than that, it's a dandy! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another fine match

Another fine little Hathaway in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ann Arbor

I wonder if the Realtor knows it's a Sears kit house? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these houses don't realize what they have. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Conway, as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Conway (also known as "Uriel"), as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor!

Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor! Notice the original bracketing under the oversized front gable, and that "phantom" brick pillar on the far right. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As seen in the 1928 catalog, The Ashland.

As seen in the 1928 catalog, "The Ashland."

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Ash

Where's a good chainsaw when you need one? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing.

As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of GVT's biggest and bet kit homes, "The #711." Quite a house!

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And what a fine 711 it is!

And what a fine 711 it is! By the way, this was a huge house, measuring 48' wide and 30' deep, giving a total of 2,880 square feet. I have to double check, but I believe this was the largest kit home that was offered by Gordon Van Tine, and size-wise, it's the same as the Sears Magnolia (also 2,880 square feet). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

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Wlak

That offset front porch is a distinctive feature of the Wardway Laurel. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Laurel as seen from the other side.

The Laurel as seen from the other side. That small side porch is original to the house, and surprisingly - in still open (as when built). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

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I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog.

I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

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I surely do love a house dressed up in pink.

I surely do love a house dressed up in pink. I really do. This Cranford is (like so many of the houses in Ann Arbor) in largely original condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

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Is this a Wardway Kenwood? />

Is this a Wardway Kenwood? Most likely it is, but the inset door is not a spot-on match. However, this house has had a substitute siding installed, and the door may have been squared off to accommodate the replacement siding. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Perhaps Wardways most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

Perhaps Wardway's most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

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Crescent

And here's a fine example of the pretty, pretty Priscilla! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so its not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so it's not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

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Ann Arbors very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesnt it?

Ann Arbor's very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesn't it? The offset front door and the tiny closet window beside it are classic defining features of the Marlboro. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

That little closet window is still in place, but it's been partially closed up. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward, and she can be a great help when were out hunting for kit homes.

Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading "The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward," and thanks to her tireless studying, she can be a great help when we're out hunting for kit homes. She's not called "Teddy the Wonder Dog" for nothing!

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To order your own copy of the “The Mail Order Homes of Montgomery Ward” click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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  1. Belle Choate
    October 21st, 2013 at 12:52 | #1

    Just seeking some direction as to where to go. I have a cabin in Michigan which my husband inherited and which I believe was a Sears prefab.

    It is still in original condition and still the sight of many wonderful summer days. Any suggestions as to how I find out more or where to start looking? Thanks, Belle

  2. April Duda
    March 30th, 2017 at 03:23 | #2

    We are currently buying a home in Belleville Michigan, 20 min from Ann Arbor.

    In a book of the history of Belleville/Van Buren Township, it says that the original structure is a Sears house.

    We are very excited and want more information on it. Disclosure states it was built in 1915. But I can’t find which design it is. Help:)

  3. March 30th, 2017 at 09:43 | #3

    What’s the address?

  4. Eric Arnold
    May 25th, 2017 at 13:35 | #4

    The picture of the white Dover in Ann Arbor looks very much like the house I grew up in.

    I don’t think that the comment about the two windows on the left side is the correct interpretation of the differences from the drawing: it is the mirror image of the drawing.

    The floor plan shown matches the mirror image of the house I grew up in, which was on South 7th at Stadium, and there is nothing in your picture of it that tells me it isn’t that house.

    We learned a bit about the Sears kit houses when we added an addition with two additional bedrooms upstairs and a family room downstairs at the back in the early 50s.

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