It was 1989 and a home came on the market on Main Street in Rock Port. Everyone has their own view of a matter and to some it was probably just another old house for sale. But to Carol Herron it was an older home with “good bones.” What it needed was some tender loving care, and she, with her husband, Cash, were just the ones to give the stalwart lady a cosmetic make-over.
It was after Cash and Carol, along with their four sons, Reno, Rebel, Reven and Redge, moved in, that a neighbor mentioned the house was a “kit” home and scratched into the wood of a support in the basement was the year 1916.
In 1916, Model T Fords mingled with horse-drawn conveyances on Main Street. The United States had declared war as the cruise ship, Lusitania, was sunk the year before as Germany had developed a new weapon of war at sea, called a submarine. It was The Great War until World War II, and then it was referred to as WWI. For the ladies a daring suit for beach and water sports had been introduced, as well as something called “slacks” that were acceptable pants for women helping with the war effort. Dresses were no longer full length, but short, showing the leg covered with silk stockings.
The neighbor’s conversation regarding the Herrons’ recent purchase set Carol off on a quest to find out more about her house. She read about kit houses and looked for her house among Sears publications. Sears was the best known supplier of kit houses and shipped homes throughout the United States. A popular Sears kit home that tourists visit is outside Mansfield, Missouri, at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. Her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, bought a Sears home for $2,000 and managed to spend much more than that because of the rock exterior and other amenities.
One story bungalows were quite popular, especially following the housing crunch after World War II. With finances tight and growing families a do-it-yourself attitude put many in the building mode. On ordering a home it came with full description and a code. Each piece of wood was cut to the proportion needed and directions of where it would go. A puzzle of sorts. Put it together and there emerged a house. Kit homes were also made of concrete blocks and steel homes, which proved very durable, but difficult to alter. Today kit homes are “prefab” homes and can come in pieces, partially constructed, all sizes and ideas to follow.
At the discovery of a door trim discreetly placed, Carol learned her home was purchased from a company known as Gordon Van Tine Ready Cut Homes from Davenport, Iowa. Their ad states, “A Big Square Home” and “A Model of Space-Saving Convenience.” For $1,306.00 the buyer would receive “all material to build . . . including lumber, lath, shingles, finishing lumber, doors, windows, frames interior floors, and finish, nails, tinwork, finish hardware and complete painting materials . . . All material in standard grades, CUT AND FITTED, as described on pages 2 and 3 . . . COMPLETE PLAN AND DIRECTIONS are furnished FREE with each house. Every piece of material is marked and the plans show where to use it … FIRE KING FURNACE, complete with all pipes and fittings, and ready to install, extra, $112.”
The home has four bedrooms upstairs and are listed as “four fine chambers, and each supplied with a closet.” The kitchen plan shows cupboards and a place for an “ice box.” The area at the front door was a “reception hall.” Double doors at the living room and dining room made it possible to close off the rooms, a device used especially in the winter.
Eventually the “kit” house with “good bones” would shout of Carol’s love of color, openness (the doors removed between the living room and dining room) and clever decorating arrangements. Antiques mingle with modern conveniences and furnishings. The Herrons also added garages, enlarged the kitchen and made a utility room. The attic is finished and a playroom, first for her boys, and now, the grandkids. An antique playroom with many baby dolls is also a beloved play place for little girls. Every room reflects Carol’s love for yesterday, home and family.
Outside bears her touch, too. Perennials are the foundation of the yard’s landscaping and pots of blooming annuals add even more color throughout the growing season.
She was right. All the old kit house needed was tender loving care applied inside and out. Thanks, Carol, for a peek into the past and present with a unique home. It’s what can happen to a house with “good bones.”
‘Til next time.