Last Sunday, national catalog home guru and author Rose Thornton (“The Houses That Sears Built”) posted a great intro to the history of Lewis Manufacturing Co. on her blog. While this comes as no suprise (I knew she has lately been doing more research and writing on Lewis, and I even contributed a couple of pictures from DC), I learned some astonishing facts. Most amazingly, Lewis actually sold MORE kit homes altogether than Sears did!
Come to think of it, I seem to have discovered as many Lewis homes in DC and the Maryland suburbs as Sears houses. (Most of them are in Chevy Chase and Shepherd Park, but I realize that is a somewhat biased finding as these seem to be the streetcar-era neighborhoods I’m most familiar with.)
I agree with Rose that, on balance, the Lewis houses were the prettiest.
Some of them don’t only look rather stately from the street but also have really generous proportions inside. This 1925 Lewis “Cheltenham” on Floral St NW for instance was largely intact, with well-maintained beautiful trim and exposed rafters, a little maid’s staircase off the kitchen, and a 13 x 25 ft living room with an adjacent sunroom. (The interior arches, however, were a modification we didn’t see in either the catalogs or other Cheltenhams.) Another one of my favorite Lewis models is the “Ardmore”.
Photos by Piers Lamb/Evers & Co; historic images from the 1922 Lewis catalog.