Wednesday, May 13, 2020

McClure Homes - A Timeline


The McClure Company sold kit houses to customers in the Midwest and Eastern United States. Examples of homes from McClure have been documented in at least 4 states and Washington DC. Newspaper ads and articles imply that McClure houses were built in other states but examples from those states have not yet been documented.

The McClure Company was based in Saginaw, Michigan. It had an established history in the lumber and manufacturing business prior to entering the kit house manufacturing business. Nationally, McClure was best known for silos that they marketed and sold to farmers in the United States. Located upriver from Bay City, Michigan, the home of three of the largest kit house manufacturers - Aladdin, Lewis and Sterling - McClure appeared to use its experience in the lumber, mail order and manufacturing business to sell kit houses from 1917 to around 1926. In addition to its headquarters in Saginaw, McClure appears to have used its mill in Cairo for fulfilling orders. That facility predated McClure entrance to the housing business.

McClure houses were marketed under the "National Builders" and "National Homes" names. However, quite a bit of the advertising by McClure and representatives in various cities simply referenced the McClure Company or McClure homes. McClure appears to have had sales representatives in several major US cities including New York and Detroit. Some firms appeared to have agreements with McClure to sell its homes.

The most prominent of those identified were the “Ann Arbor Home Builders Association” based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which reported selling over 125 McClure homes in and around Ann Arbor and the McVey Company, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which reported selling a number of McClure homes as well as assisting in the sale of large orders of McClure homes to industrial companies in Pennsylvania. McClure offered homes in a variety of styles and sizes from modest one story models to large 2 story Colonial and Dutch Colonial homes.

The earliest examples of advertising for homes from McClure appeared in 1917. Ads for McClure appeared in a number of major cities as well in some smaller cities. McClure seemed to enjoy brisk sales through the early 1920s including sales to corporate customers as well as numerous individual homeowners. When International Mill and Timber, which sold kit houses under the "Sterling Homes" name, teetered on bankruptcy in the early 1920s, the family that controlled International Mill and Timber are alleged to have diverted orders for Sterling homes to McClure to fulfill. No examples of advertising or homes sales for McClure homes have been found after 1926.

Like Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward (Wardway Homes), McClure offered financing for its homes. The financing terms offered by McClure appear to be less generous than Sears but examples of houses financed through McClure have been found in multiple states. Typically, these mortgages appear as "McClure Co." although one example was found under "Charles W. McClure", one of the principals of the McClure Company.

Corporate records of the McClure Company are available at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. However, based on past research through those materials, there’s a fairly limited amount of information available including just one catalog showing kit homes. The dated records for the company end in 1928 which may indicate that was when the company ceased operations.

1917
  • March - Ad in Lansing, Michigan newspaper for “National Builders Inc. 
  • Spring - Ads in Detroit and Lansing, Michigan newspapers for “National Builders Inc.” (connection to McClure noted in 1919 ad). Both locations list a local office address.
  • December - Earliest ad in Lansing, Michigan newspaper for McClure Houses

1918
  • August - Ad in Lansing, Michigan newspapers for the "McClure Company" that mentions "McClure Houses". 
  • September - Ad in Detroit, Michigan newspapers for the "McClure Company" that mentions "McClure Houses". 

1919
  • 50 homes built for Youngstown Tube and Steel Company in Akron, Ohio. These homes were featured in numerous ads for McClure. (The houses featured in the ads are still standing.)
  • May - Ad in Lansing, Michigan newspaper featuring houses built in Youngstown, Ohio.

1920
  • April - 30 houses to be built in Carlisle, Pennsylvania by the Carlisle Homes Company for employees of the under construction C.H. Masland plant. Orders through the McVey Company of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Houses have been demolished)
  • April - 10 houses to be built for the Thomasville Lime and Stone Company in Thomasville, Pennsylvania. Orders through the McVey company of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Houses are still standing)
  • April - McVey Company to build 50 McClure homes in Harrisburg.
  • May - Ad for the McVey Company features a McClure model and offers a discount on the first 10 homes built in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
  • August - Ad for “National Homes” by McClure Company.
1921
  • May - Ad in Detroit newspaper for homes from McClure.
1922
  • April - First recorded mortgage for homes in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • April - Large ad in Detroit newspaper listing a sales office in Detroit, Michigan.
  • April - Large ad in New York City newspaper listing a sales office in New York City, New York.
  • May - Building permits for McClure houses in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • August - Building permit for McClure house in Baltimore, Maryland.
1923
  • January - Article in Lansing, Michigan newspaper about opening of an office for the "McClure Home Building" service in Lansing, Michigan. 
  • March - Ads in Canton, Ohio newspaper for a local representative selling McClure homes in Canton, Ohio. 
  • April - First ad for the Ann Arbor Home Builders’ Association promoting McClure Homes in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • April - Ad in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania newspaper announcing opening of an office for the "McClure Home Building" service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • May - Ad in Washington DC newspaper announcing opening of Washington DC sales office.
  • May - Ad in Chicago, Illinois newspaper announcing "Cowles and Taylor, Inc." as distributors of McClure homes in the Chicago, Illinois area. 
  • September - Mortgages for McClure houses in Flint, Michigan. 
1924
  • August - Mortgages for McClure houses in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • August - Mortgage for McClure house in Washington DC. 
  • December - Mortgages for McClure houses in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1925
  • January - Ad for the Ann Arbor Home Builders’ Association stated over 125 McClure homes built in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • January - Article in Lansing, Michigan newspaper references the construction of over 50 McClure homes in Ann Arbor in the previous year and “nearly a dozen have been built in this city”.
  • February - Four mortgages with Washington Suburban Realty Company for homes in Cheverly, Maryland.
  • February - Article in Lansing, Michigan newspaper references the construction of two new McClure homes and plans for more.
  • April - Mortgage for a McClure house in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • April - Mortgage for a McClure house in Norwood, Ohio
  • August - Two mortgages in Prince George’s County, Maryland
  • September - Article in Lansing, Michigan newspaper references twenty six homes financed for construction that summer.
  • October - Two mortgages in Prince George’s County, Maryland
  • November - Newspaper article that 600 cottages were ordered by the Miami Chamber of Commerce for shipment to Miami, Florida.
1926
  • March - Last recorded mortgages for homes in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 
  • October - Ad in Miami, Florida newspaper for McClure "Pullman" cottages for sale in Miami, Florida. 

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