My Very First Gordon-Van Tines

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:

Screenshot 2016-03-30 14.00.50
1921 Gordon-Van Tine Ad in the Washington “Evening Star”(advertisement images clipped from historic newspaper via Library of Congress and DC Public Library)

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:”

Gordon-Van Tine No. 542IMG_5819Gordon-Van Tine No. 542Home #2, built the same year, is a GVT “No. 707.” (Catalog scans courtesy of 1921 GVT catalog on Van-TineGordonVanTineCoGordonvantinehomes19210001_0065


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!

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