Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Wardway Houses in Poets' Corner (Hartsdale), New York

Cover of Wardway Homes catalog (1930)
In my most recent post about the Sears houses located in the Poets' Corner section of Hartsdale, New York, I noted that based on the USGS maps available from the 1930s, many of the houses that were shown in this section of Hartsdale were homes purchased from Sears Roebuck. Using the USGS maps, I decided to look at the other houses built in Hartsdale Lawns and Hartsdale Manor that were not among the list of 18 known or possible Sears houses. As I used Google Streetview to "drive" around the area, I came across two houses that I recognized. But these houses did not have designs from Sears. Instead, they were designs I recognized as being from one of Sears biggest competitors in the mail order business - Montgomery Ward! Montgomery Ward sold kit houses under the "Wardway" brand name. It's not uncommon to find Wardway houses in close proximity to Sears houses and so I wasn't surprised to see these Wardway houses. I was just surprised that it took me this long to recognize them. Let's take a closer look!

Hartsdale Lawns
The first Wardway house I want to share is this Wardway Northbrook at 25 Stevenson Avenue in the Hartsdale Lawns section. The Northbrook was first offered in 1929 and for a couple years after. Unlike Sears, who stuck it out through the Great Depression (mostly), Ward exited the kit house business at the end of 1931. In doing so, they managed to avoid some of the financial losses that Sears suffered when home sales plummeted and customers defaulted on loans. Ward also offered loans near the end of their kit house program and I've been able to locate some of the Wardway homes in Westchester County through mortgage information. But none of those mortgages were associated with homes in Hartsdale Lawns or Hartsdale Manor. 

Catalog image of Wardway Northbrook (1930)

The Wardway Northbrook has a lot of distinctive elements and this house on Stevenson Avenue has them all, starting with the hooded porch entry.

Wardway Northbrook - 25 Stevenson Ave - Hartsdale, New York 

From the front, the house appears to have a large dormer on the right side but as you can see, that's not actually the case. 

Wardway Northbrook - 25 Stevenson Ave - Hartsdale, New York

Although not visible from these photos, as you can see in the catalog image, the house has a small second-story walkout balcony on the back of the house. This house has this feature too. Here's the other side of the house. As you can see, it matches up pretty well on this side too. 

Wardway Northbrook - 25 Stevenson Ave - Hartsdale, New York

Hartsdale Manor
The second Wardway house I identified is this Wardway Berkley at 7 Longfellow Street in the Hartsdale Manor section. The Berkley also has a distinctive design which helped me spot this house as I was "driving" down this street. 

Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Press via Sears House Seeker

Although it's a bit hidden by the front porch that was added, under it, you can see the round top entry that this model sports. 

Wardway Berkley - 7 Longfellow St - Hartsdale, New York

The Berkley has an almost identical design to the Gordon-Van Tine Rose Glen/Rosemont. Although they were outwardly competitors in the kit house business, Gordon-Van Tine designed many of the houses sold by Montgomery Ward and supplied all the building materials for Wardway homes from their mill in Davenport, Iowa. Some designs, like the Northbrook, were exclusive to the Wardway line. But many models were like the Berkley/Rose Glen/Rosemont, and were sold by both companies. Identifying which company sold a particular house can be challenging to pin down. Mortgage records and building permits can help, when they are available, but in most cases, we make a best guess or just note that the house could have come from either company.  

Wardway Berkley - 7 Longfellow St - Hartsdale, New York

Reviewing the USGS maps again, by the late 1930s, there were around 30 houses in Hartsdale Lawns and 25 houses in Hartsdale Manor. Taking into account the 18 houses that have been identified from Sears and 2 from Wardway, a significant percentage of homes at the time were kit houses. Are there any more kit houses to be found in this area of Hartsdale? I guess I know better than to say "no"!

1 comment: