Several days ago, I wrote a blog about an old Gordon Van Tine “Roberts” somewhere in Wheeling, West Virginia. The house was built in the 1920s by a fellow named Otto Friebertshauser. I found out about this house when I obtained a copy of Gordon Van Tine’s promotional booklet, “The Proof of the Pudding” (1927), a collection of testimonials from happy homeowners.
It was a beautiful house and a well-written testimonial but no mention of where in Wheeling this house was built! Almost 90 years had passed since Otto turned that 12,000-piece kit into a spacious home. Had the house been torn down? Was it still alive? And if it was still alive, was it still well?
Too many times to count, I’ve written and published such blogs, only to find that the subject house had subsequently been destroyed and/or was in pitiable shape and/or had been cut up into several apartments.
After the blog was finished, I sent a link to Jeremy Morris, Executive Director of the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation. In less than a day, Jeremy wrote back, saying that he’d found the house. And not only had Jeremy found the house, but he’d talked with the owners and he got me a photo of the house!
The owners and I were soon in contact, and I’m delighted to report that they love this house just as much as Otto Friebertshauser did. In fact, they’ve done an exemplary job of restoring it to its former grandeur. And they did not realize it was a kit house (as is the case about 90% of the time).
Thanks so much to the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and to Jeremy Morris (Executive Director) for going out and searching for this house, and thanks to the home’s current owners for doing such a first-class job of preserving this fine old house.
As mentioned in the previous blog, Wheeling is apparently awash in kit homes, and I’ve already spotted a PERFECT Sears Crescent on National Street, almost across the road from the Dairy Queen. I’d be ever so grateful if some good soul could snap a photo of that house for me!
Click here to see the other kit homes I saw in Wheeling, WV.
To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, visit my buddy Dale’s website, devoted to Gordon Van Tine homes.
I’d love to come out to Wheeling soon and do a proper survey and give a talk. Please leave a comment below to contact Rose and let’s figure out how to make it so!
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In the 1927 promotional brochure, Otto Friebertshauser wrote, "All of my friends who have seen this house are in love with it." Otto even included a snapshot of his home.
Close-up of the text that appeared in the 1927 brochure.
Otto's home as seen in the 1920s.
In 1916, the "Roberts" (Otto's house) appeared on the cover.
Close-up of that pretty, pretty house.
The original catalog page showing "The Roberts" (1924).
According to this text, there's a Roberts in every state in the US.
As kit homes go, this one was unusually spacious.
A small room upstairs was devoted to space for the live-in maid! And that dressing room doesn't make much sense, as it was accessible only through the main hallway.
Ah, but here's the most interesting photo of all. This is the Roberts in Wheeling, then and now. Photo (on left) is copyright 2013 Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Photo on right was taken by Otto Freibertshauser, and it's also a dandy photo.
Otto would be so pleased to see his house today! What a breath-taking beauty and it's been lovingly and thoughtfully maintained. And perhaps best of all, the original windows are still in place. Photo is copyright 2013 Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.
Otto's house dressed up for Christmas! Now this belongs on the cover of a Christmas card! Photo is copyright 2012 Frank Harrar and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.
To learn more about the kit homes I’ve found in Wheeling, click here.
Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.
Can you snap a photo of that Crescent and send it to me? Please leave a comment below and I’ll contact you.
Here's a photo of the Sears Crescent (1928). The one in Wheeling is way up on a hill, across the street from the Dairy Queen. I found it while "driving" via Google Maps.
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