Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wardway Winthrop in Montrose, New York

Although we are still a week away from the Winter Solstice, winter weather has made itself felt here in Michigan. The chilly winds and freezing temperatures of December herald the start of "research season" when kit house hunters hunker down with a hot beverage and a fast Internet connection and while away the hours of cold winter evenings tracking down kit houses.

One of my kit house projects for this winter is revisiting the mortgage records of Westchester County, New York. My focus the past couple of weeks has been the mortgages in the Town of Cortlandt and adjacent City of Peekskill. As I've been locating and identifying houses, I've found a few interesting examples of kit house models that we rarely see. I plan on sharing some of those houses over the next week or two. Let's check out today's example from Montrose, New York, the Wardway Winthrop!

Image courtesy of
Today's house, the Wardway Winthrop, is from Montgomery Ward, which sold houses under the "Wardway" brand. This particular model was only offered in the 1931 catalog, the last year that Ward sold kit homes. If the name sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the Sears Winthrop, which was sold around the same time period. As strange as that may seem, it's not that uncommon to find houses from the different kit house companies sharing the same name. We'll see another example of that in a future post.

A Sears Winthrop - Same name, different house!
Image courtesy of Catarina Bannier
I located this house through a mortgage record between the first owners, Nicholas and Lucy Frunzi (misspelled Frunze in the mortgage index) and Thomas P. Riordan, trustee for Montgomery Ward. Like the trustees for Sears, Riordan's name appeared on mortgages that financed homes purchased from Ward. Unlike the Sears trustees, it appears that Riordan's name appeared on mortgages in all of the states where Ward's mortgages have been located.

Because Ward only started offering mortgages in 1927, fewer of their houses were financed this way as compared to houses from Sears. While there were dozens of Sears mortgages for the Town of Cortlandt and the City of Peekskill, there were only a handful of mortgages from Ward. Unlike many of the mortgages I located, I wasn't able to track down the amount of the mortgage for this house. That information should be available on the original mortgage record kept at Westchester County.

As the Winthrop from Ward's was only offered for one year, there's only a couple known examples of this model. Earlier this year, fellow kit house researcher Judith Chabot shared a Wardway Winthrop located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In that case, Judith was able to authenticate the house, which was built as a model house, through newspaper articles from the Pittsburgh Press.

Pittsburgh Press, June 14, 1931
Image courtesy of Judith Chabot
As you can see from this image, the house in Montrose was built with a reversed floor plan. Reversed floor plans was a common option for many kit house models.

4 Oak Rd - Montrose, New York - Wardway Winthrop
Image courtesy of Google Streetview
From this view, you can see the arrangement of the gables on the front of the house and the unusual arrangement of the second story window, which matches the original arrangement as seen in the article about the model house in Pittsburgh. These elements should help you identify this house if you happen to run across a possible example.

This house was listed for sale in 2015 and Zillow has some interior and exterior views of the house. For some reason, the listing started with this photo of the back of the house. Like the front of the house, the arrangement of the windows and door on the back of the house match the catalog image.

4 Oak Rd - Montrose, New York - Wardway Winthrop
Image courtesy of Zillow
While the listing states that the house needs some work and you can see that in some of the photos, the house still retains some attractive detailing like the staircase between the first and second floor.

4 Oak Rd - Montrose, New York - Wardway Winthrop
Image courtesy of Zillow
In the basement, you'll see an element you won't see in a lot of kit houses - a natural stone foundation! No preformed cement blocks here - these stones would have been locally obtained and carefully arranged to provide a solid foundation for constructing a house.

4 Oak Rd - Montrose, New York - Wardway Winthrop
Image courtesy of Zillow
Want to see more photos? Check out the listing at Zillow.

Wardway likely didn't sell very many Winthrops in 1931. But my hope is that continued research into Wardway mortgages will turn up some additional examples. If you know of any, share that with us in the comments!


  1. Great find! It's fun when we find these Wardway homes, especially when we can authenticate them. Good work!