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Jim Walter Homes: A Peek Inside the 1971 Catalog

Recently, a fellow history lover (Carmen) sent me a photo of her 1954-built home and said that she’d heard it was a Jim Walters’ Home.

I dragged out my lone Jim Walter Homes catalog (November 1971), and didn’t find a match.

However, I had so much fun looking at the pictures, I decided to scan the catalog and share it here!

In the meantime, I’d love to find a few more Jim Walter catalogs. This Florida-based company sold more than 320,000  houses, which is more than Aladdin, Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Lewis Homes combined.

Jim Walter started his house-building business in 1946 and ceased operations in 2009. I recently purchased “Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story” (written by Alvin Moscow in 1995), and I haven’t read it all, but it’s an interesting book.

According to the book, Jim Walter was 23 when his business began, and in the mid-1980s, it was one of the top-200 largest industrial enterprises in the United States.

In 1961, Jim Walter acquired Celotex, a company that manufactured insulation materials that contained asbestos.

That didn’t end well for anyone.

According to an obit published in the New York Times , Jim Walter Homes employed 530 crews (3-5 men per crew) who would build out your home to any level of completion you wished - from shell to finished home.

At its peak, Jim Walter Homes had 25,000 employees, and annual sales of more than $2 billion.

Despite the connection with Celotex, a spokesperson for Jim Walter Homes affirmed that “asbestos was never used in any  Walter Homes.”

Jim Walter Homes filed for bankruptcy in December 1989, and in 1995, became known as Walter Industries. It closed in 2009.  Jim Walter died in January 2000.

To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

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Photo is from Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so were going to hope that Pineapple Press puts this photo under the broad umbrella

Photo is from "Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story" and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so we're going to hope that the publisher (Pineapple Press) puts this photo under the broad umbrella of Fair Use, which includes "quotation of excerpts in a review of criticism for purposes of illustration or comment" (from the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S., Library of Congress). Does this mean I need to write a short review of the book ? Haven't read it cover to cover, but it looks like a swell book. Does that count? :)

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Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

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Jim

I'm such a sap for history. I wonder what this building is used for now?

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The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers.

The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers. BTW, that 170,000 is of 1971. Does that mean they doubled their sales numbers by 2009? Hmmm...that's a little hard to believe. It's plausible, I suppose.

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Are you enjoying these photos? I am!

Men work. Women pick out swaths of fabric! Oh dear! I'm not sure what Missy is doing on the floor. Check out the text. "Your new home...will not be prefabricated in any way. Each board is cut to fit, one by one, on your building site." That's a puzzler, isn't it? I would have thought this lumber *was* precut!

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Jim

And I thought identifying the Sears bungalows in an early 1900s neighborhood was tough? Oh man! These houses are quite "simple" (to put it gently).

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Simple, but an affordable way to have three-bedrooms and a home of your own.

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F

Straight-forward design and a mere 760 square feet.

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wfe

The "Biscayne" kinda looks like the 1970s version of the cheapest way to cover air.

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House

"Can you imagine the overwhelming joy of your family?" The kid in the corner looks pretty morose, but the old man looks content. This photo is a bit creepy.

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This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog.

This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog, and it's a mere 1,142 square feet.

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Jim

The names are fancier than the houses.

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Hollywood? Is this the kind of house that Jolie Whats-her-name would buy?

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I'd have named the 2nd house: "Rebel without a flaws." Grammatically messy, but cute.

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Jim

Have you noticed that the front door on each of these houses has a small diamond window?

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This house got a full-page spread.

The Oxford (description below) got a full-page spread.

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Should someone tell Mom that she's wasting water, and probably aggravating the living daylights out of Dad? Notice that the house is described as "Colonial Style"? I guess it's the coach light by the front door that does it.

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ff

Is "The Rambler" prone to run away in the wee hours? Or does it talk excessively? Or is it the size of the house? It's hard to say that a 760-square foot house is a "rambler."

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iiiii

If you're old, you'll like this house.

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yyy

"Just plain good living...is what this plan has to offer."

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ll

This one actually has a little bit of flair.

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Pu

Were Comanches known for their big families? The word for Comanche comes from the Ute word, kɨmantsi (enemy). What were they trying to tell us about this house?

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They look quite European.

They appear to be of European descent. Mother's right hand is disfigured. Apparently, she hides the left hand in the pocket of her atomic housecoat when photos are taken, as it's the more seriously disfigured appendage. Dad graciously tries to look in the other direction.

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house

It does have a little more "flair" than the other JW homes. Still only one bathroom, though.

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Carmine recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I cant say that I do.

Carmen recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I can't say that I do.

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To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

Do you have a Jim Walter catalog you’d love to give me for a Christmas present? Please leave a comment below!  :D

Read about The Little Tower House by clicking here.

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  1. Sue
    December 16th, 2014 at 14:07 | #1

    Very interesting to see so many different designs of the small house.

    It makes me feel fortunate to have just a bit more than most of them advertise. I live in a neighborhood of 3br ranches, mostly National Homes.

    Mine, however, was 10 years later than the majority.

    At 30ft by 40ft, I always thought mine was small until I saw these.

    That said, these were the homes that were affordable. Why won’t anyone build them again? Not every dream has a 4br 2-1/2 bath with a basement.

    Thanks Rosemary for a wonderful article and the pictures.

  2. ShariD
    December 18th, 2014 at 02:29 | #2

    Rosemary ~ I think someone has been selling a stack of Jim Walter homes catalogs on eBay for a while now.

    I didn’t pay too much attention to the details ~ just that they showed the counter display box they all came in within the listing.

    It keeps popping up when I check on some of my search parameters I keep on eBay. I will check it again and see if there are any besides the 1971 issue you mentioned having already.

  3. December 18th, 2014 at 06:44 | #3

    @ShariD
    Wow, Shari, I’d **LOVE** to see those! Please let me know if you find it again?

  4. Bill
    June 3rd, 2015 at 08:57 | #4

    Greetings from Tampa, FL! Thanks for the write up and pics. A google images search of ‘Jim Walter Homes’ brought me here.

    I’m a Tampa native and can tell you Jim Walters was HUGE down here back in the day. As you mentioned in your write up they fell on some hard times in the 80’s and the company became a shell of what it used to be.

    Below your pic of the Jim Walters building you ask what the building is being used for now. Actually, this building was expanded later in the 70s, as the company continued to grow, to include 2 buildings with a raised connector between them. Here’s a pic:

    http://www.tampabay.com/resources/images/dti/rendered/2009/01/a4s_walternew011009_52231a_8col.jpg

    You can tell this photo was taken after 1995 since it shows ‘Walter Industries’, not ‘Jim Walter Homes’. This was a pretty iconic building back in the day…at least to Tampa natives. It was north of downtown so with no other tall buildings around it really stood out. It was very close to the old Tampa Stadium.

    The building was torn down 10-15 years ago (ish). The site is now a Target, a health food store and a large pet store, complete with 2 story parking garage.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Jason Konopka
    July 20th, 2015 at 20:08 | #5

    I just looked at these homes by Jim Walter. Jim is The Man.

    I absolutely LOVE The DIAMOND WINDOWS On the doors.

    I wish they still used those style windows on front doors today.

  6. melany
    November 29th, 2016 at 16:22 | #6

    Thank you for sharing this! I too, am trying to figure out what my home is. It’s very similar to the Columbia except with the entry point being where the utility closet is at and there being a staircase between the kitchen and living room.

    Where can I find more magazines?

  7. Nancy Sheridan
    March 20th, 2017 at 17:50 | #7

    I’m trying to find a picture of a Jim Walter’s one-bedroom home, with an unfinished interior.

    The model I’m looking for was about 20 feet square, and was offered in the early 1950s.

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