Craftsman Style Homes in Washington DC Metro Area

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more popular style of house in Washington Metro than the enduing Craftsman. From small cottages to larger two-story homes, these early-to-mid 20th century residences have taken on an iconic American status in recent decades.

They’re not only trendy in the DC region but all across the nation, including the Midwest, Southwest and all up and down the Pacific coast from Seattle to San Diego.

For the purposes of this discussion, you’ll find these antique homes for sale throughout DC, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Maryland. Just a handful of neighborhoods with strong concentrations include Del Ray (Alexandria), Lyon Park and Lyon Village (Arlington), Takoma (Washington, DC), and Mount Rainier (Maryland’s Prince George’s County).

So just what are these houses and how did they come into being?

It’s worth noting that “Craftsman” itself is a generic moniker, loosely applied to style and manufacturer, with an emphasis on an era of catalog kit homes that were actually sold through the mail!

The name has its early roots in Britain's Arts & Crafts movement which subsequently spurred the American Craftsman offshoot. “The Craftsman” magazine founded by American furniture designer Gustav Stickley first appeared in 1901 and was dedicated to all sorts of building and carpentry tips as well as architectural designs. Stickley’s own home is often considered the first Craftsman house.

Around the same time, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School movement was taking place with its wide overhangs and horizontal concepts. And also at the same time, people across the land were thirsting for affordable home ownership and solid craftsmanship. It should also be noted that this was a time when do-it-yourself skills and ingenuity were at a high.

Enter Sears, Roebuck & Co, the popular retailer and mail-order company. Sears decided to get into the homes for sale business. Of course, it is not practical to send an actual house through the mail so Sears instead sold plans and parts—kits of precut wood, sacks of plaster and so much more. And they shipped this stuff out via the railroad to destinations all over the country. Trucks would then pick up the materials and deliver them to the buyers’ lots. And then hammers would start swinging.

At first, the homes were called the Sears Modern Home. But there were many different styles sold through the company’s mail order catalog. Somewhere between 70,000 and 75,000 kits were sold between 1908 and 1940, with 447 different models!

Sears wasn’t the only manufacturer. Montgomery Ward (Wardaway), Aladdin, and Harris Brothers also got into the act. Sears also welcomed the architectural input of everyday citizens. Blueprints would be sent in and used, resulting in many of the varied designs. Before long, these homemade homes were simply referred to as Craftsman—both from Stickley’s influence and the association with Sears line of Craftsman tools.

The typical Craftsman look features gabled roofs with broad overhangs, exposed rafters and front porches. Many of the homes also have a dormer. But the Sears Modern Homes catalog also offered a number of models that went outside the usual designs, such as Dutch Colonial, English Tudor and even Spanish models.

Also, not all Craftsman homes were the product of mail order catalogs. Many home builders and local contractors copied classic designs for their own projects. And since Sears itself relied heavily on volunteered blueprints and already established architecture, who’s to say what is a “real” Craftsman and what is not?

Regardless, the Washington Metro area was an especially fertile place for authentic Sears homes back in the day, due to the prevalence of railway lines and a number of local Sears stores including one at 911 Bladenburg Road, NE, Washington DC.

These days, you’ll not only find impeccably restored antique examples but new “Custom Craftsman” and “Custom Arts & Crafts” homes as well. Typically a lot larger than the original cottages, these homes offer all the bells and whistles along with the telltale design influences.

Of course, prices are a lot different these days. Way back when, a basic three-room Natona could be purchased for $191 dollars while larger models like the Wabash and the Osborn ranged from $500 to $2,750. Makes you long for the good ol’ days, doesn’t it? To learn more, call District Partners at Compass at 202-798-3600.

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