Sunday, August 11, 2019

That Gordon-Van Tine Bungalow With Two Dormers... You Know The One

314 Overdale Road, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Forest Hills) • Gordon-Van Tine No. 530
Today, I'm going to show you:
• The Gordon-Van Tine No. 530
• The Gordon-Van Tine No. 557
• The Gordon-Van Tine Hollandale
• The Gordon-Van Tine Lacey
• The Wardway Michigan
• The Gordon-Van Tine No. 607
• The Gordon-Van Tine No. 704
• The Gordon-Van Tine Pelham
• The Gordon-Van Tine Medford
• The Wardway Lexington

But ... that's actually only two different houses!

So, the background story is this: The Gordon-Van Tine company and the Montgomery Ward company, worked together beginning around 1917. But, GVT (as we like to call it for short) got its start a bit earlier than that. GVT was already producing their own kit homes before they began their relationship with Montgomery Ward.

GVT was the offshoot of the U. N. Roberts Lumber Company, owned by members of the same family, and based in Davenport, Iowa. Most of what I have learned about the background of GVT, came from reading Dale Wolicki's website about the company. That, alas, is no longer a working website, but the Arts & Crafts Society's website gives us a good synopsis of the company's development. Early on, GVT supplied some lumber needs to Sears, for their kit homes, but that relationship seems to have ended in 1912, when Sears bought the Norwood Sash & Door Company, in Norwood, Ohio. GVT then forged ahead with development of its own kit-house company, and, in 1916, offered its first major kit-homes catalogs... one, titled "Gordon-Van Tine's Standard Homes", offered kits that came with standard-length lumber, meaning that it was not pre-cut. The other catalog offered house kits with pre-cut lumber, and that catalog was named, aptly, "Gordon-Van Tine's Ready-Cut Homes".
The Gordon-Van Tine Standard Homes 1916 catalog can be see here.

The Gordon-Van Tine Ready-Cut Homes 1916 catalog, can be seen here.
Despite being based in Davenport, Iowa, GVT had major kit-producing mills based in three cities: Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Chehalis, Washington; and St. Louis, Missouri. Since I live in St. Louis, I was interested in locating that St. Louis area plant, but that was not an easy feat. Finally, however, through research in newspapers and lumber trade journals, I figured out that the GVT mill in our area did not contain the name Gordon-Van Tine -- GVT used the Funck Lumber Company's mill (already owned by parent company, U. N. Roberts) up on Goodfellow Boulevard, to create their St. Louis-produced pre-cut kits. You can read all about that in this 2015 blog post of mine. (scroll down to the section called "Gordon-Van Tine In St. Louis".)

In that first 1916 Ready-Cut Homes catalog, Gordon-Van Tine offered the two-dormer bungalow shown above: model No. 557.
Here is model No. 557, in the 1916 GVT Ready-Cut homes catalog
Let's take a look at how that really nice bungalow sitting at 314 Overdale Road, in the Forest Hills section of Pittsburgh, looks, compared to the catalog image:

It's a great match! Windows, dormer size, placement of chimney, doorway, sidelights around the door, porch railings, porch posts, roof line... all a perfect match. The only difference I see, is that the porch piers are formed concrete, instead of brick (remember, kit companies didn't ship masonry products... they hooked you up with a local supplier). Obviously, the Overdale Road house looks to be stucco on the bottom half, too.

But, wait! You may have noticed that the catalog house I showed for comparison, is not labeled No. 557, but, rather, as No. 530. Same house! Same model! But... Gordon-Van Tine changed the model number of many houses, at certain points in the life of the company. By 1919, this model was offered as either "Ready-cut No. 2557" or "Standard-cut No. 1374":
From the Gordon-Van Tine 1919 catalog
In 1920, the model was once again going by a new name: Model No. 530, offered as either ready-cut or not ready-cut:
Thanks to our friend at Daily Bungalow, we can see the full 1920 GVT catalog, online, here
And, so it continued, with this bungalow being offered as No. 530, for several more years... all the way, in fact, until 1931, when it was given a name, instead of a number, and was marketed as the Hollandale:
Here it is, the Gordon-Van Tine Hollandale model, offered under this name, in GVT's 1931 catalog.
In fact, by this time, GVT had also changed the name of its pre-cut plans, to market them as "Plan Cut" homes, as you can see on the cover of this 1931 catalog:
GVT's 1931 Plan-Cut Homes catalog
This change appears to have taken place beginning with the 1927 catalog. Here, we see the inside pages of the 1926 catalog still referring to the system as "Ready-Cut":
From the 1926 GVT catalog on, here
But, here, inside the 1927 catalog, the reference is to the "Plan-cut" method:
From the 1927 GVT catalog, on, here
No difference in system or product, just a new name for the method.

The Wardway Years
So, what's all this about the Wardway Michigan model?

The information on the relationship between Gordon-Van Tine, and Montgomery Ward, is a little shaky, in part because the sources that we researchers have relied on, do not fully cite what their sources are. As a result, we have a little bit of variation in the starting date of when, and to what extent, these two companies began working together. Between information stated on Dale Wolicki's now-defunct website (available now only through the WayBack Machine), and information written by Rosemary Thornton, on pages 9 and 11 of their jointly authored book, Montgomery Ward's Mail-Order Homes: A History And Field Guide to Wardway Homes ), we understand that they have surmised that Montgomery Ward began, in 1917, or 1918, to sub-contract their orders for pre-cut kit-homes, to Gordon-Van Tine, and, at that point, Montgomery Ward only offered about half of its kit homes with the pre-cut option. According to both Thornton and Wolicki, however, between 1921 and 1922, Gordon-Van Tine fully took over the production and marketing of Montgomery Ward's kit homes (marketed since 1917 as Wardway kit homes) offering almost all of the homes in the catalog, as pre-cut:
page 11, Wolicki/Thornton Field Guide To Wardway Homes
source, again, Thornton, page 11, Field Guide To Wardway Homes
As I've explained in previous blog posts, such as this one, about a Wardway Florence model, in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, this relationship between Wardway Homes and Gordon-Van Tine homes, resulted in at least a decade of catalogs in which both companies offered many of the same models, just marketed with different names and prices (I think that there are a few GVT models that were not offered in Wardway's catalogs, during those years, but many of the houses offered by Wardway during that period, were also offered by GVT-- one interesting resource that illustrates this, is the 1926 Wardway catalog offered online by Daily Bungalow, at this link, which provides the name or number of the corresponding GVT model, in the comments, and, additionally, the Wolicki/Thornton Wardway Field Guide points out which Wardway models were GVT designs). Wardway homes were never marketed with model numbers... they always gave a name to their houses. So, true to form, when Wardway began offering this two-dormer bungalow, they marketed it with the name, the Michigan:

Wardway's The Michigan, as offered in its 1924 catalog
The Development of the Wardway name
Montgomery Ward's earlier kit-house catalogs were not marketed under the Wardway name. In those early years, Montgomery Ward's homes did use a number system for their models... that changed when the marketing began under the Wardway Homes name, in 1917 (page 9, Montgomery Ward's Mail-Order Homes-- A History and Field Guide to Wardway Homes, Thornton/Wolicki). Here, for instance, is the cover of the 1916 Montgomery Ward, Book Of Homes, with no mention of the term Wardway, on the cover, or inside the catalog:
Here it is, on • 1916 catalog
The cover of the 1917 catalog does not mention the term Wardway, either:
Montgomery Ward Book of Homes, 1917 catalog
However, inside the catalog, we see the first mention of the new branding: Wardway Homes:
page 4 of the 1917 Montgomery Ward Book of Homes, showing the Wardway moniker
After Wardway Homes ceased operations, in 1932, Gordon-Van Tine continued in business for a number of years. And, once again, they changed the name of all (I think all) of their models. So, our GVT 530/557/Hollandale, became the Gordon-Van Tine Lacey model, in the 1936 catalog:
The model, as shown in the 1936 Gordon-Van Tine catalog, marketed as the Lacey .

A Few Examples Of This Model
As a result of all of this co-mingling, when we see one of these models out "in the wild", we usually don't know whether the house was bought as a Gordon-Van Tine model, or as a Wardway model.... unless we have something like mortgage research linking the house to Wardway (Gordon-Van Tine did not offer financing, but Wardway homes did). That's the case with this beautiful two-dormer bungalow, in the Pittsburgh area (found by keen-eyed researcher Karen DeJeet--thanks, Karen, for allowing me to blog about your find!). We do know, though, that Gordon-Van Tine marketed heavily in the Pittsburgh area, so it's quite probable that this was a Gordon-Van Tine kit (we can't really go by the assessor's build date for this house, unfortunately, because Allegheny County's build dates are very unreliable). Here, for example, is an ad for GVT in the March 27, 1927 issue of the Pittsburgh Press newspaper, touting the expansive building of GVT homes in the greater Pittsburgh area:
Page 25 of the March 27, 1927 issue of the Pittsburgh Press newspaper
Although Wardway homes were also marketed in the Pittsburgh newspapers, a quick search comes up with only a handful of advertisements, all beginning in 1928, whereas the Gordon-Van Tine company was in business in Pittsburgh at least as early as 1917, and I think I got about 185 hits for their advertisements in Pittsburgh newspapers:
from page 35 of the October 28, 1917 issue of the Pittsburgh Press
For some reason, I have a preference for Gordon-Van Tine, over Wardway... crazy, and "random", I know... so I like to think of this house as a Gordon-Van Tine kit.... bought either as a No. 557, a No. 530, or a Hollandale... or a Lacey. In reality, of course, it could be a Wardway Michigan. Let's get a few more looks at this super nice bungalow in Forest Hills:
Here we can see the details that make it a good match for our kit-house model possibilities.

Not a shot that shows a whole lot of the house, but it's always important to see as many sides of a house, as possible, when we are trying to ID it.

I just love the way it's situated, on that nice, lushly landscaped lot.
Unfortunately, I don't have any interior photos of this model, but I can show you the floorplan from the catalog, and a few other examples of this model, out in the wild:
Here it is, described, and illustrated, in the first year that it was offered, in the GVT 1916 Ready-Cut Homes catalog
And, that floorplan, enlarged -- Gordon-Van Tine Model No. 530 / 557/ Hollandale
The Wardway Michigan shows the same floorplan:
Floorplan for the Wardway Michigan, in the 1924 Wardway Homes catalog
On our recent meet-up trip in the Cleveland area (read about it here, here, and here) , a few of my research buddies and I, stopped by to see an example of this multi-named model, in Cleveland Heights, and I snapped a few photos. It's not in as nice a condition on the exterior, as the Overdale Road house in Forest Hills, PA, but it's always cool to find a model you recognize (and this one does have the expected brick porch piers):

3631 Randolph Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio • Probable Gordon-Van Tine No. 530 

Add caption

(By the way, if you followed the Google maps link, above, you may have noticed that there is a Sears Wayne just two doors to the right of this house, aat 3639 Randolph Road.)

Here's another example, this one in St. Matthews, Kentucky, which is in the greater Louisville area. I have only very limited images for you, from Google maps Streetview, but I show this one, because this is one that we know for certain to be a Gordon-Van Tine model... because it was the "Testimonial House" of Sam G. Barr. Sometimes, customers wrote in to the kit home companies, to praise their new kit house, and one such "testimonial" appeared on the page of the No. 530, in some years. Here is Sam G. Barr's, for example:

And, here, sitting at 189 St. Matthews Avenue, St. Matthews, Kentucky, is the GVT No. 530 bought and built by S. G. Barr:

This Gordon-Van Tine No. 530 is set far back from the street-- no chance of getting a good, full view.
And, just because I'm a stickler for showing sources to back up my research, here is the listing of the Barr family, in the 1930 U.S. Census, showing them living at this address:
Here is the Barr family: Sam G. Barr, his wife, Irene, and their daughter, Ruth. It looks like Ruth is labled as "adopted daughter", so perhaps she was biologically Irene's daughter, before becoming Sam's adopted daughter. I had not realized, until now, that the U.S. Census ever labeled children as "adopted"!
But, wait, there's more...
I did mention that this list of ten kit-house names, would result in only two actual different models, and I have only shown you one. But... across the street from the GVT No. whatever, at 314 Overdale Road, I spied, behind LOTS of foliage, what looks to be an example of the other kit-house model I wanted to present in this post. Once again, though, we can't tell whether it was bought as one of the Gordon-Van Tine models, or as the Wardway model. In any case, it was a favorite of the Wardway models, because it was depicted on the cover of their 1924 catalog. Wardway called it the Lexington (yup, Sears had a model... two different models, actually... by the same name).
Wardway Homes, 1924 catalog, available here, on
This is the Wardway Lexington model.
Here it is inside the 1924 catalog:
Wardway Lexington model, inside their 1924 homes catalog

Of course, Gordon-Van Tine offered the same model. I honestly haven't checked thoroughly enough to know in what year the model was first offered, but here it is, in the GVT 1920 catalog, as the model No. 704 (thanks to Daily Bungalow / Arts & Crafts Society/ Antique Home, for the image):

Daily Bungalow's Flickr album of the Gordon-Van Tine 1920 catalog, showing GVT model No. 704
Sometime between 1920 and 1924, the model was changed to No. 607:
GVT No. 607 in my 1924 GVT catalog, but you can also see it online as the No. 607, in Daily Bungalow's 1926 catalog.

In 1931, Gordon-Van Tine marketed this model as the Pelham:
Source:'s page of the 1931 Gordon-Van Tine catalog, available here.
And, finally, beginning in 1936, the new name of this house was the Medford:
Gordon-Van Tine Medford model, in their 1936 catalog, on
Here's what we can see of the house across the street, sitting at 313 Overdale Road, Forest Hills, Pennsylvania:
2011 Google Streetview: 313 Overdale Road, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Forest Hills) • Probable GVT 704/607/Pelham/Medford or Wardway Lexington

2007 Google Streetview: 313 Overdale Road, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Forest Hills) • Probable GVT 704/607/Pelham/Medford or Wardway Lexington
I have no better photos, and no interior photos, of this house. But, Lara Solonickne, of Sears Homes Of Chicagoland, has authenticated a 1927 Wardway Lexington, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Her research showed a mortgage for $5,400.00, signed off on by Wardway trustee, Thomas P. Riordan, for the lot where this house is built. Fortunately for us, the house has a presence on Zillow, in their "Make Me Move" listings, so we have some nice photos to see. Additionally, the owners mention, in the listing, that they have seen the original plans on file at the Glen Ellyn Village Building Department:
source: Zillow Make Me Move listing for 713 Kenilworth, Glen Ellyn, Illinois
The overhang for the front porch entry has been modified, and a large 1960s addition has been built onto the house, but here are a few images from the original sections of the house. These images show the solid woodwork, the big windows, the solid-wood doors, and the great look of our favorite 1920s-era kit homes:

So, there you have it! The tale of how 10 model names across two kit-house companies, boil down to two mail-order kit-house models.

To see more kit house catalogs online, don't miss my Catalogs Online blog post, which lists links to online catalogs for numerous companies, as well as resources for reproduction catalogs and recommended books about mail-order kit houses in the United States.