Sunday, November 22, 2015

Custom Wardway House in Ann Arbor, Michigan

One of the great things about working with fellow kit house researchers are the discoveries that come about through the collaborative effort of the group. Such was the case with a recent find in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I first came across this house in November 2014 after discovering a mortgage from Wardway (Montgomery Ward) for this house in the records of the Washtenaw Abstract Company.

Custom Wardway - 3061 Dexter - Ann Arbor, Michigan (1999)
Image courtesy of the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan

Those records are kept at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. These mortgage records have helped us authenticate well over 100 homes from Wardway, Sears and McClure in Ann Arbor and other Washtenaw County communities.

This house had a mortgage from Wardway for $4,000 in December 1928. But despite having that mortgage record, we weren't able to identify the house. It looks very similar to the Wardway Cranford, a popular Wardway model that we've seen examples of around the Detroit area. Here's a Wardway Cranford in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Wardway Cranford - 717 North Dorchester - Royal Oak, Michigan

While the two houses have some common elements, the house in Ann Arbor doesn't have the gambrel roof design of the Cranford. There's also some obvious differences in the window arrangement on the front and side of the house. We shared the house with fellow kit house researchers. But no one had seen this particular model house from Wardway. With no leads to follow, we added this to our list of houses to research in the future and moved on. 

Fast forward one year to when fellow kit house researcher Cindy Catanzaro brought this house back to our attention. Cindy was reviewing a 1929 Wardway catalog that had been scanned and shared by a fellow kit house researcher Lauren Russell when she discovered this announcement in the catalog. Does that house on the right look familiar?

Image from 1929 Wardway Homes Catalog

Close up of image from 1929 Wardway Homes Catalog

Cindy asked "Where is this house?" in reference to the image I had shared of the house at 3061 Dexter. Cindy, who clearly has a better memory than I do, not only remembered seeing this house before but was able to track down the image I had shared. Sure enough, it looks like the house at 3061 Dexter is a match for the custom house that Wardway had designed for a customer "near Detroit". Here are some more recent images of the house from Google Streetview. Although I can't be 100% sure that this is the house that Wardway featured in the catalog, if it's not that house, it was based on the same plans. 

Custom Wardway - 3061 Dexter - Ann Arbor, Michigan (2014)

Custom Wardway - 3061 Dexter - Ann Arbor, Michigan (2014)

Wardway and the other kit house manufacturers offered customers the option to customize existing designs or have the company create a custom house design. Or customers could submit their own plans and have those turned turned into finished plans for construction. 

Image from Sears Modern Homes catalog (1932)
Image courtesy of

In any case, the companies would provide all the materials necessary to turns those plans into a home. With its Wardway mortgage, we can be pretty confident that this house was one of the custom houses and it may be the house that was featured in the 1929 Wardway catalog. 


  1. Fantastic!

  2. Two things.....

    First, who would have thought that Ward's would say Ann Arbor was "near Detroit"? With that in mind, I'll have to start looking in Springfield for Dayton testimonials.

    Second - I really need to come to Ann Arbor and see all great houses you have found there. But not this week....GO BUCKS!


  3. We've lived here since 2004 and early on in our ownership I had to repair some window weights and discovered the Ward's labels in the window.