Instant House

A blog tribute to the manufactured, mass-produced, modular and kit homes that grace the American landscape.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wardway Homes

1931 Cover--The Final Wardway Catalog
Montgomery Ward Enters the Business  
The business rivalry between Sears and Montgomery Ward is the stuff that legends are made of. least, interesting reading for business history.  The similarities between the two companies are obvious--mail order companies, selling everything, both based in Chicago, etc.  In 1908, Sears started offering house plans.  Montgomery Ward followed suit in 1909.  In 1917, Montgomery Ward again followed Sears and started to offer designs that could be ordered with pre-cut lumber.  They chose the name "Wardway Homes" as their brand.  Sears already had the jump on them, so Wardway chose to expedite matters by outsourcing their product to another pre-cut housing company--Gordon-VanTine.

Gordon-VanTine started in 1908 offering plans and building materials much in the same way Sears did, although they limited themselves to the building market, as opposed to Sears who sold everything.  As you begin to look at a comparison between the two homes, it's quite clear that the Wardway homes are lifted directly from the pages of the Gordon-VanTine catalogs.  Check out the following examples:

Wardway's "The Clarendon" - from the 1925 catalog.

Gordon-VanTine's No. 548 - from their 1923 catalog.
The two homes are identical.  Even the write-ups are pretty close.  I cannot fathom why Montgomery Ward allowed Gordon-VanTine to continue to sell the same homes from their own company.  This just seems like bad business sense to me.  

The Demise of Wardway
I'll give you three guesses what closed down Wardway homes.  Say it with me folks--The Great Depression.  The final years of the Wardway homes saw very little in the way of new designs, and sales dropped so far in 1931 that the company ceased operations of Wardway, deciding instead to focus on other business prospects.  Below are some interesting plans.

Wardway offered "cottages" as well--lower cost houses without plumbing.  These were usually two to a page to save on space.

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