A century before modular homes were prefabricated in factories, people could order a kit home through the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog or from a company such as Aladdin Homes, which had a factory in North Portland’s Kenton neighborhood.
Boxcars filled with cut lumber and 30,000 other labeled pieces, not including nails and screws, were shipped by rail and constructed onsite.
Local builders would assemble the frame, then fill in the walls, ceilings, windows and plumbing, and craftsmen would install interior decorative woodwork like picture railings and wainscoting as well as practical built-in cabinets
One of the most popular kit models was the handsome American Foursquare. As the name implies, it’s a boxy architectural style with four large rooms on two levels. The practical and modestly adorned dwelling was an attractive alternative to ornate Victorian-era homes with gingerbread siding and small rooms.
A 1909 mail-order Foursquare house at 7415 S. Virginia Ave. in South Portland’s Johns Landing is for sale at $995,000.
“The home has all of its historic charm including the original key to the original front door,” says listing broker Grace Wadell of Eleete Real Estate.
Inside are classic features such as floors of red oak with mahogany inlays, leaded glass windows and chandeliers. Some light fixtures ran on gas or electricity. Wood pocket doors divide the living and dining rooms, and there is a passthrough to the kitchen.
The lower level also has a family room, full bathroom and enclosed porch.
On the second floor are five bedrooms, a second bathroom and a covered, east-facing porch. The attic has been converted into a bonus room, and the basement has a large wood workshop plus a laundry room, photography dark room and storage.
There is a total of 4,604 square feet of living space, says Wadell.
The 7,840-square-foot property has views of Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens, as well as the downtown skyline and the Willamette River, she says. The Oaks Park fireworks can been seen on the Fourth of July, and the Christmas Ships Parade is visible from the house in December.
Residents have enjoyed walking to shops and parks, and along the Willamette River, says Wadell.
Who would appreciate this property? “Someone who loves history and our state, and has a sense of adventure,” says Wadell, who once lived in a house built in 1890 that had been remodeled over the decades. “My house did not have all of the original details and we spent a lot of time trying to find them and put them back. This home is unique because it has it all.”