Sometimes it just isn’t a kit house…..but, it might be something else!

A couple of years into my mail order catalog kit house search I learned about another means of building houses from the 1900’s. Plan book houses are also known as  pattern book houses. What? Well, they are just that…. a plan or set of blueprints. What a person did was select his house from a book of several house plans and he purchased the plans and with that he received a set of blue prints and a list of needed material. He then could take that list to his local lumber yard and purchase the materials needed and with his blue prints he was ready to build a house. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Well, except the lumber wasn’t pre-cut and it wasn’t numbered for assembly either. That is what a true kit home is. And mail order means just that, ordered by mail like from a catalog.
A couple of popular plan book companies were Standard Home Plans and Home Builders Catalog. I have a good collection of both of those as well as a few other plan book companies too. Standard Home plans Company was located in Washington, DC. They put together collections of plans and lumber yards around the country could have their own name printed on the cover. I think some people may have these confused with kit homes here in town. I have two 1926 Standard Home Plans books and they are identical except the lumber yard company on the front covers are different.

Standard Home Plans 1926 from a lumber company in Marissa, Illinois

This one is from Marissa, Illinois and I have another that is identical from a group of lumber dealers in Cleveland Ohio, Wood Homes Bureau. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lumber yard here in Tulsa had them printed up with their name on the front! I say that because I have found a few Standard Home Plans homes here in Tulsa.

There was also a collection called Home Builders Catalog. I have a few of those catalogs as well. They are thick hardbound books with about 1000 pages of how to build a house and what you needed as far as heating, plumbing, electrical, so forth. They are a very interesting read. Well, I think they are LOL. I’m not your average woman, obviously. The book also includes a section with a few hundred house plans. Just like the Sears catalogs they include the image and the floor plan. You ordered your blueprints and with that came a materials list. Here again not kits, you had to go buy everything you needed. Sears always said, “hang your saw on a nail all day”. With a plan book house you needed a saw or too and I guarantee you wouldn’t get much done if you left it hanging on a nail for very long.
I discovered a house called The Abanda from my 1926 Home Builders Catalog book in Maple Ridge at 315 E. 18th Str. The original owner was Charles Irving Williams, he went by Irving. Irving was a carpenter who became a building and construction contractor. Building this plan book house was probably easy peasy for him! I wonder if he built others around town?

1926 Home Builders Catalog “The Abanda” at 315 E 18th Str

Irving built the house in 1925/26 . Irving, his wife Bertha and their daughter Betty and later Betty’s husband Harry Shockley were living here in 1940. Harry was an optician in 1940. In 1930 they had a 19 SWF residing with them as their servant and in 1940 they had a married couple to wait on them hand and foot. I imagine the servants lived in the garage apartment out back. Irving must have been doing well in the construction business!

Here is the 1926 Abanda from my Home Builders Catalog. You will notice you could get plans in two sizes. Irving opted for the larger plan, extreme width and extreme depth. The measurements match our house here perfectly. At the bottom you will see the price and what was included.

1926 Home Builders Catalog “The Abanda”

For $20.00 you received two complete sets of blue prints a list of materials as well as a set of specs and blank contract forms.  Sometimes these blue prints from plan houses and kits are stuffed in the attic somewhere after the house is completed. Wouldn’t it be cool to find them there today?

Home Builders Catalog The Abanda 1926 at 315 E 18th Str

I hope I have shed a little light on the difference between a mail order kit house and a plan book house. A mail order kit house was ordered by mail from a catalog like Sears, Aladdin or Gordon Van Tine. The lumber was pre-cut, labeled or stenciled and shipped via a train. You received nails, windows, doors, shingles, your lumber so forth and your blue prints and instruction manual. A plan book house varied in that you received nothing but paperwork basically. You had to go to you lumber yard and take your included shopping list then bring it all home and cut it yourself before you could build it.

What $20 bought you from Home Builders Catalog

I have several other mail order homes to write about still as well as more plan book homes to share. Check back often or sign up to get notifications of when I post. Most of what I have found is on facebook as well as flickr.

To learn more about Plan book homes read Rosemary’s blog.  You will see her Standard Homes Plan The Regent looks very familar.

About Rachel Shoemaker

I've been hooked on finding and or identifying mail order homes since 2008. I'm not picky, kit homes from Sears Modern Homes, Aladdin Ready Cut, Gordon Van Tine, Wardway Homes, all of the major companies as well as the popular pattern and plan book homes built from about 1900 and on. Could you be living in one of these homes? Send me an email:
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2 Responses to Sometimes it just isn’t a kit house…..but, it might be something else!

  1. I run a metal roof restoration company in six mid-Atlantic states. The embossed tin shingle era was over sometimes in the 1920s. The house shown on my blog for you ( has strips of metal shingles, of which I have seen before, but not in a “kit” house. Do you have any links to more info on 1920 – early 1930 kit-related homes that used metal roofing. Customer at (Brett) and I would be interested.
    He wants to preserve the roof to its original look, including replacing the ridge and hip ornametal extras as found at WF Norman Company (
    My email is Thanks in advance.


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