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 (namely from Aladdin and Lewis Manufacturing Co.). 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 sponsors of the Takoma Park House & Garden tour, we have been working together with Lorraine Pearsall and Diana Kohn, president and VP of Historic Takoma Inc.. Over the past couple of years, Marcie and I have started 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?
While we now a list of about five dozen candidates in North Takoma alone, only a fraction of them has been identified and authenticated beyond a reasonable doubt. There are some mysteries we have discovered together, as well as some amazing historic finds.
Historic Takoma will feature our work in a special section on their website once we feel we have enough solid information assembled.