The first couple of decades of the twentieth-century were exciting times for house builders and architects. Many of the house styles that came to dominate 20th-century architecture were first introduced in the 1900s, the teens, and the 1920s. Craftsman bungalows were the most popular houses of the 1910s, and continued in popularity through the 1930s. Frank Lloyd Wright launched his Prairie style in 1900. American Foursquares were built all over the country, and were especially popular in city residential neighborhoods. Sears offered its first mail-order kithouses. Colonial Revival styles surged in the 1920s and have been popular ever since (the style became so ubiquitous that most in the real estate field have taken to calling any two-story boxy gable-ended frame house a “colonial”).
The first half of the twentieth-century marks a major dividing line as builders shifted away from the European-inspired styles of the late nineteenth-century (like the frilly Victorian Queen Anne), and moved toward a more uniquely American “modern” style. Though the house styles are labeled “modern,” the houses are still more than 50 years old and thus could be considered “historic homes.” Many refer to homes in this period as “vintage homes.” Whatever you call them, there are quite a few of them. According to Census figures, approximately 15% of all houses still standing in the country were built between 1900 and 1950- that’s almost 16 million houses.
Now, there’s a great website resource that captures the flavor and feel of housing in the first half of the twentieth-century. You’ll find AntiqueHome.org useful if you’re trying to come up with marketing materials and other background information for one of these “vintage” homes (and with 16 million out there, chances are good that you’ll find yourself marketing a Foursquare, Bungalow, Colonial Revival or other “modern” house sooner or later).
The site includes complete scans of over 30 catalogs of homes built from 1903-1953. You’ll find hundreds of floor plans, lots of descriptive details, some interesting sale sheets, and many cool photos and drawings. Offerings range from Sears kit homes (and other kithome competitors like Aladdin & Gordon-VanTine) to Radford cement houses (built with cinder blocks and very popular around the 1910s). The floor plans are also useful to figure out what kinds of modifications and changes might have been made to a home over the years. The site also has a great architecture glossary, articles on early twentieth-century moldings and millwork, “modern” home decorating and landscaping articles from popular magazines, and a detailed but concise overview of each of the styles of the period.
Another great resource that you shouldn’t miss if you’re interested in this period is American Bungalow magazine. Their site includes many of the most popular articles from the magazine, tables of contents for all issues (along with an order form to get back issues), and lots of great photos. They also sponsor an active forum (over 20,000 posts) for devotees of the Craftsman bungalow. And, you can check out what the latest issue has in store for you, and even where you can get your copy at the newstand !