In the 1920s and 30s you could order your house from a catalogue.
All you had to do was pick your house out of a plan book, put in your order and pick up the pieces at the train station. Get your neighbours together and build it.
The house picture is from a Sears catalogue. But in Western Canada most of the catalogue houses were bought from Eatons.
I have renovated a few of these catalogue houses. In Calgary the most common catalogue houses are 1 ½ Storey Houses, with the steep roof slope going front and back. You can still see them in West Hillhurst, Capital Hill and Tuxedo and other inner city neighbourhoods. This one shows a front porch addition, it also had a back porch added on and the crawl space basement had been dug out into a full basement.
My experience with renovating old catalogue house kits has been determined by two things; whether or not someone with carpentry skills had built them, or just someone handy and how many times they had previously been renovated since they were built. These catalogue kit houses are very small by today's standards and so very few of them have not been added onto, had basements added or new have had windows installed. I find fairly often that DIY or careless contractor renos can damage the structure of a house if incorrectly done. This little house in the middle basically had been renovated to death, most of the structure was ruined. The owners had wanted to save the history and charm of this little house while modernizing a few things but we found that without replacing everything...it wasn't safe, so the owners opted to start fresh and we ended up building them a new house with some historical styling and charm.
It is a neat and interesting history of housing, and we can still see some of the old catalogue houses in Calgary's inner city. Follow this link Catalogue Houses to read more about it.
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