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Houses by George (Barber)

For years, I’ve heard my buddy Dale Wolicki talk about George Barber, and while I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have, I did note that the houses that Dale pointed out as being “Barber designs” were both grandiose and glorious.

Recently, Dale sent me a digital copy of a 1901 George Barber “Modern Dwellings” catalog, and that’s when I started paying a little more attention.

Sears offered entire kit homes (plans and parts) through their mail-order catalogs, but Barber offered designs through a mail-order catalog. For a few bucks, Knoxville-based architect George Barber would send you plans for any one of the many designs offered in his catalogs. It became a wildly successful enterprise for George Barber.

Just like Sears, Barber also offered to customize plans to meet clients’ personal needs, so identifying these houses today can be challenging (just like Sears kit homes).

I’m fairly new to this game, but already enjoying the process of learning more about this fascinating piece of American architectural history.

Thanks to Dale for the original images shown below!

And thanks to Pat Spriggs for discovering and identifying a George Barber design in Norfolk!

Now, if I could just get my hands on a few more catalogs!

:)

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Heres the cover of the 1901 catalog that Dale recently sent me.

Here's the cover of the 1901 catalog that Dale recently shared with me.

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Many years ago, Dale told me that there was an authenticated George Barber house in Norfolk somewhere, but did I know where? I drove around in Ghent a bit and then found it on Fairfax Street. Last week, I found that Pat Spriggs had done the same thing and found it several years ago!

About four years ago, Dale told me that there was an authenticated George Barber house in Norfolk somewhere, but did I know where? I drove around in Ghent a bit and eventually found it on Fairfax Street. Last week, I found that Pat Spriggs had gone out on the same hunt, and discovered this Barber house several years earlier! The image above is about 113 years old, and is from the "Modern Dwellings" catalog (1901).

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Compare

Comparison with the 1901 image and the picture I snapped last Sunday.

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Full view of the George Barber house in Ghent (Norfolk, VA).

Full view of the George Barber house in Ghent (Norfolk, VA).

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When Pat Spriggs and I were talking last week, she mentioned that there was a George Barber house in Riverview (part of Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood, where I lived for four years). I was incredulous, as I thought Riverview was too new to have Barber houses but then...

When Pat Spriggs and I were talking last week, she mentioned that there was a George Barber house in Riverview (part of Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood, where I lived for four years in Norfolk). I was incredulous, as I thought Riverview was too new to have Barber houses but then...

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I drove by the house myself and took this photo, and I must say, By George, I think shes right!

I drove by the house myself and took this photo, and I must say, "By George, I think she's right!" The house has had a significant addition (far right), and the porch has had some changes, but it seems likely that this is a Barber design.

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Two weeks ago, I was in Alton and couldnt resist getting a picture of this beauty on Liberty Street.

Two weeks ago, I was in Alton, IL and guess what I saw...

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This beautiful house

I saw a Model #36 on Liberty Street. This house is listed at Wikipedia as a George Barber 36E (and I'm not sure what that means), but it sure is a nice match to the image shown above (Model 36).

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Did I mention I’d love to find a few more catalogs?

:)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. bfish
    December 3rd, 2014 at 21:44 | #1

    I’ve found that there are some followers of Old House Dreams who are real experts on George Barber designs and homes — they can ID and talk about them like you do with kit homes.

    You might be able to connect with additional catalogs through them. That’s a beautiful home in Norfolk!

  2. December 4th, 2014 at 02:15 | #2
  3. ShariD
    December 11th, 2014 at 18:26 | #3

    A little farming town sitting almost on the Indiana side of the border with Illinois, called Kentland, at the junction of US24 and US41, has at least two identified George Barber homes.

    They have been beautifully maintained and are painted in the traditional “Painted Lady” style.

    They are wonderful to behold, and sit in the older residential section amongst much smaller homes. After having lived in and traveled through many small towns like this in my 36 years of existence in Indiana, don’t seem to be too unusual.

    It seems George Barber designs were quite popular with the moneyed gentry of the small towns in the Midwest.

    Even the town I live in now has a couple at least, and have been found on Old House Dreams.

    Rosemary, I sent you a link to a home on that site, and the pictures taken and posted on flickr when he went and toured the place in person, some time back that I thought you would enjoy seeing, because of its marble sinks in the bedroom corners, among others, and that link also had some photos at the end of it of the George Barber homes in Kentland.

    If you like, I can send it back to you, so you can see more.

    I believe the individuals mentioned by bfish might be the folks who were heavily involved in discussing the home originally the purpose of that particular post.

    It seems to me that by driving through many of the larger, more well established Midwestern farm towns, that George Barber homes can be found nearer the town centers, and in the grander neighborhoods of yesterday.

  4. ShariD
    December 11th, 2014 at 18:33 | #4

    Here’s the link to that marvelous old home located in Earl Park, Indiana, on US41, on Old House Dreams ~http://www.oldhousedreams.com/2011/12/05/1880-queen-anne-earl-park-in-87550/#comment-49218 ~ and the link to the flickr album is at the top of the page on red. The other homes in question in Kentland are at the end of the album.

  5. September 9th, 2015 at 00:05 | #5

    Since you mention you are interested in more catalogs I thought I would send some information I have.

    These are not Barber homes but Radford homes, which are also fascinating.

    I ran across this resource while researching my home that I estimate was built in 1907. Design #76 is the closest I’ve found to my house: https://archive.org/stream/cu31924014082063#page/n21/mode/2up

    Here is a link to Harris Homes: https://archive.org/stream/harrishomesbeaut00harr#page/6/mode/2up
    More Radford Homes:
    https://archive.org/stream/guaranteedbuildi00radf#page/n3/mode/2up

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