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Berwyn seeks information on Kit Homes through survey

Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 5:52 p.m. CDT

BERWYN – The Berwyn Historic Preservation Commission has contracted with Rebecca Hunter to conduct an architectural street-by-street survey to match existing homes with images in mail order kit home catalogs.

Hunter has been engaged in the study of mail order buildings since 1997, searching nationwide to locate and authenticate them. Her books, "Putting Sears Homes on the Map" and "Sears, Roebuck Book of Barns" were published in 2004 and 2005 respectively. "Mail-Order Homes" was published in 2012. An architectural historian, Hunter sits on the Elgin Illinois Heritage Commission.

In 2002, Hunter identified approximately 18 mail order homes in Berwyn. Since then, much has been learned about homes marketed from 1906-1982 by other mail order companies such as Montgomery Ward, Aladdin, Gordon-Van Tine, Lewis, Sterling and Harris Brothers Companies.

Eventually, follow-up for the current Berwyn survey will include efforts to prove which homes are of mail order origin, using information including presence of part numbers or other markings on wooden elements such as joists or rafters, mortgage financing from mail order companies, correspondence, blueprints, shipping labels, oral history, measurements of the outside dimensions of the house, floor plans and room dimensions.

Information you may have about homes in Berwyn may help to complete this study.

Contact Rebecca Hunter at 847-697-4551 or Lori Thielen, Chair, Berwyn Historic Preservation Commission at 708-788-2660 x: 3225, or berwynpreservation@gmail.com.

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