Sunday, May 1, 2016

Custom Wardway House in Berkley, Michigan

Image from 1929 Wardway Homes Catalog
Back in November 2015, I shared the story about how I was able to authenticate a custom designed Wardway house in Ann Arbor, Michigan with the help of fellow kit house researcher Cindy Catanzaro. Once we put together the pieces of the puzzle that verified that the house was a custom design, I assumed that was the end of the story. But it turns out that there's another chapter to this house, or at least the design of the house. While the house in Ann Arbor matches the design shown in the 1929 Wardway catalog, it's not the only house that I've found that is based on this design. In Berkley, Michigan, I've found another house that also has a Wardway mortgage and also appears to match this design.

I've actually known about the Wardway house in Berkley for quite some time. I came across this house researching the mortgage records in Oakland County.

1198 West Boulevard - Berkley, Michigan - Wardway Custom
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Similar to the mortgage records for Sears Roebuck, we are able to authenticate houses from Wardway through mortgages from Montgomery Ward. Like homes purchased from Sears, prospective home buyers could finance their Wardway home with a mortgage from Montgomery Ward. I had an address for the house in Berkley from a mortgage record. But the house didn't match any of the known designs for Wardway houses. Like the house in Ann Arbor, it shared elements with the Wardway Cranford but it wasn't a match for the Cranford. As I did with the Ann Arbor house, I noted the address of the house and moved on to searching other records.

A couple of days ago, I was reviewing my list of "mystery" houses and came back across the Wardway house in Berkley. Where before I had a mystery, now I had an answer. I quickly pulled up the house in Ann Arbor and started comparing the two houses.

While they are some minor variations between the two, I'm fairly confident that the two houses share the same design. Here's another view of the the house in Berkley:

1198 West Boulevard - Berkley, Michigan - Wardway Custom
Here's a recent photo of the house in Ann Arbor:

3061 Dexter - Ann Arbor, Michigan - Wardway Custom
You can see some differences in the roofline of the main gable on the front of the house and the window on the first floor below it on the house in Berkley. There's also some differences in the size of the windows on this side of the house. But I think these differences are likely due to changes in the house over the years as windows and siding were replaced. One element you can't see in the catalog image but that both houses share is a shed dormer on the first floor on the other side of the house. Here it is on the Berkley house.

It was hard to get a clear view of the house in Ann Arbor but these two photos show the same shed dormer on the side of the house. This is an unusual element and I think helps make the case that these two houses share the same basic design.

Returning to the front of the house, from this view, you can see some elements of the Berkley house are actually a better match for the catalog image than the house in Ann Arbor. For example, you can see how the Berkley house has small windows on the front half of the side of the house like the image in the catalog.

Or how about the front porch? The porch of the Ann Arbor house doesn't match the porch and steps of the catalog image. But the Berkley house? A pretty good match!

The house in the catalog image doesn't have a covered side entrance nor does the house in Berkley. There also doesn't seem to be any sign of a fireplace chimney on the other side of the house in the catalog image. The Berkley house doesn't have a fireplace chimney but the Ann Arbor house has one. Was the Berkley house actually the one featured in the catalog and was the Ann Arbor house modeled after it?

The mortgage records sheds some additional light on this question. The Berkley house had a mortgage between Thomas P. Riordan, Trustee for Montgomery Ward, and John C. Wheaton for $3,800 in April 1928. The mortgage for the Ann Arbor house was for $4,000 in December 1928. Knowing that, it's likely that the house in Berkley was the origin of this design and was built first. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the house in Berkley is the house shown in the catalog image. The house in Ann Arbor is based on that design but is not the house shown in the catalog. If we can find older images of the Berkley house before the windows and siding were replaced, I expect they would show that the house on West Boulevard is a match for the catalog image. Hopefully, someone will be able to provide us with a photo or other information that will help us know for sure!

If you know more about the house in Berkley or any other kit houses in the area, let us know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent research, and great find!
    Love the infographics ;)