Have you ever noticed two historic houses side-by-side and thought they looked identical? “Twin” dwellings are common in early 20th century residential development in many Kentucky towns – often an example of small scale speculative development. Pattern books and catalogs from titans of the “mail-order home” business like Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward (among many others) made plans and illustrations available across the country. Many local builders or lumber companies adapted these plans and designs to suit the lot or the prospective new owner.
I first spotted these charming houses on a “walk-about” with my youngest nephew two summers ago (it’s never too early to try and influence the young on the marvels of historic architecture and the importance of historic preservation!). Although there are slight differences between the two, from the exterior, they do look like twins!
The two-story dwellings incorporate a gambrel roof – a necessary characteristic of the Dutch Colonial Revival style – with a brick first floor, and frame on the upper. Both houses were built between 1901-1908, replacing an earlier dwelling and subdividing its lot.
Each house has these wonderful stone posts on rusticated stone piers, and handsome stone lintels above the windows and door on the facade.
Fishscale shingles contrast with the weatherboards on the second story, while front gable dormers provide light to the upper level on the side elevations.
Unfortunately, I don’t know who built these houses, nor the origins of the design and plan. There were hundreds of catalogs – and hundreds of house designs – issued in the decades before World War II. And it would be very rare to find a mail-order or kit house today in its original condition.
The house design in the above illustration appeared in Sears catalogs in 1912, 1913, 1916-1918. It was described as suitable for 25-foot lots, with the front door opening into a “large living room, which has an attractive open stairway.”
Although there are many differences between this design and the “twins,” it is easy to see how styles like the Dutch Colonial Revival spread across the United States – and in countless communities, a design like this was tweaked, modified, and changed, becoming its own wonderful example of an early 20th century dwelling.