As soon as I promised the return of regular Kit-House-of-the-Week posts earlier this month, we had to put the idea on hold, at least on the DCHouseSmarts site, as we’ve been working on a new design and a new focus, perhaps even a new domain for the site. All this impairs the access a bit or makes parts of the site look awkward for a while.
In the meantime, we did make new discoveries on the historic kit house front, however. One that I’d like to share is the find of three Gordon-Van Tine mail-order homes, the very first I’ve been able to authenticate in DC, even though I haven’t set foot in any one of them yet.
Kit homes from Montgomery Ward/GVT apparently were never as popular in the DC area as those from Sears and Lewis (or even Aladdin), but we have always suspected that there might be some. A 1921 newspaper ad in the “Evening Star” identified a certain E. D. Tessier as the local “manager” for Gordon-Van Tine:
We do not know how many homes Ellsworth Tessier built or sold, but the 1920 census identifies him as a 43-year old “Contractor” in the “House Building” industry. I could only locate three homes via the DC land records. They are–where else?–in Chevy Chase, just a couple of blocks south of the District line. The three contiguous lots were all bought from Chevy Chase developer Fulton Gordon, then deeded from Tessier to the Gordon-Van Tine Company who also held the mortgages, at least in one case.
Home #1 is a beautifully preserved 1922 “No. 542:”
Home #2, built the same year, is a GVT “No. 707.” (Catalog scans courtesy of 1921 GVT catalog on archive.org.)
The third house was build a year later. It’s a stately, stucco-clad American foursquare that I have not been able to identify yet. I’ll post pictures as soon as I have figured it out!
Neither Tessier nor GVT show up elsewhere in the DC public records, at least not after 1921. It’s likely that their relationship was short-lived. The small handful of GVT ads in the Washington Post, going into 1926, show different contact addresses and phone numbers.
If you are aware of any other known Gordon-Van Tine (or Montgomery Ward) kit houses in the DC area, I’d love to hear about it!