Washington DC’s streetcar expansion years in the early 20th century went hand in hand with a construction boom and the development of the city’s first suburbs. The Palisades, Chevy Chase, Shepherd Park and Takoma Park were some of the more prominent ones, and they all have one thing in common: an abundance of Sears catalog homes and other kit houses. An abundance in relative terms, that is, because so many of them turn out to be copies or look-alikes.
Others are authentic but might have been modified so much over the years that they will be hard to spot and thus will go unrecognized and forgotten. As a sponsor of this year’s Takoma Park House & Garden tour, I got to meet Lorraine Pearsall and Diana Kohn, president and VP of Historic Takoma Inc.. I’m excited to report that I’m helping them to put together a catalog (no pun intended) of mail-order homes in the Takoma Park Historic District. What could be more fun, and what could be a worse thief of sleep than poring over pictures, old listing records and piles of 1920s catalogs?
Already I have a list of about five dozen candidates in North Takoma alone, and so far, I have identified barely ten of them… We shall see.