Ladies’ Home Journal House Plans

Did you know that the Ladies’ Home Journal began publishing house plans in the magazine beginning in 1895? Edward Bok, editor-in-chief of the magazine wanted to offer readers professional architects’ plans for simple, attractive, suburban homes that could be built for a moderate amount of money. He approached a number of leading architects in the United States, but they were resistant to the idea. He finally was able to convince William Lightfoot Price of Philadelphia to design a series of houses which could be built from $1,500 to $5,000. The architectural drawings could be purchased inexpensively ($5), making it possible for more Americans to not only buy homes, but to also buy well-designed houses.

The idea quickly caught on, and two more architects signed on – Ralph Adams Cram of Boston and Edward Hapgood of Hartford. As sales of the plans escalated, more and more architects signed on. The most famous architect, perhaps, was Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed three houses for the magazine. His designs included the now well-know prairie style home.

At least 169 plans were published over 25 years by 82 architects. It is impossible to know how many houses were actually built from the plans, but the magazine itself in 1916 ran a four page spread of photographs of houses built from the designs, and went on to claim that 30,000 were in existence.

My reason for writing this post is that I received an unexpected envelope in the mail last week from the great-granddaughter of the man who built my house in 1902. In it was a picture of the house, which I know to be taken after 1929 because my neighbor’s house appears in the photo, and a post card containing photos and drawings of  house plans. The card indicates that the plans were purchased for $5 from Ladies’ Home Journal. My house as built in 1902 does not look exactly like the photo on the card, but homeowners were allowed to make modifications for a slight fee. The interior layout, however, is pretty darn close to the drawings. I had no idea that plans like these existed, or that my house was built from them. But it makes me curious to learn more about the Ladies’ Home Journal homes.

Ladies' Home Journal House

National Genealogical Society Article about House Research

The National Genealogical Society has posted an interesting article on using a different methodology for house research. You can find it here. Has anyone ever tried this when researching the history of a house or building?

Using Addresses to Research House History

Directory 2

While working with the Webster Groves Historical Society on an upcoming World War I exhibit, I was asked to do some research on a house located at 9504 Big Bend Road in Crestwood, just west of Webster Groves. The house reportedly belonged to the son of Christopher Hawken, of the Hawken rifle family. As I began to do some research on the Hawken family, my first challenge was that the son also had the name of Christopher Hawken. So whenever I found that name listed I had to ascertain if it was the father or the son in the record. The early census records obviously gave me the Township but not the actual address of the family, so I turned to city directories for assistance. Because Christopher Hawken, Senior died in 1905, I knew that any reference to the name after that date was for the correct Christopher Hawken. All the directories showed Chris Hawken residing on Sappington Road, south of Big Bend. Hawken had married Mary Emily Sappington in 1895, so they had property either near or on her family’s farm. Obviously the information given to us about the house at 9504 Big Bend was incorrect since it is located about a mile east of Sappington Road. But perhaps another member of the Hawken family lived at that address.

A further search of the directories revealed that the widow of Henry Hawken (brother of Christopher Hawken, Junior) resided at 826 Big Bend, and that Harry Hawken (son of Henry Hawken) lived at 810 Big Bend. Those two house numbers no longer exist in the community of Crestwood. Is either of them now 9504 Big Bend? It is a possibility. I did not pursue the research any further because the bottom line is that we did not have a direct connection to Christopher Hawken. If I wanted to go the next step with this particular project, I would have continued to look year by year through the city and county directories to try to find if and when the address changed for that house. I bring this up just to caution you that addresses have changed over the years, so the best thing to do is to make sure that the legal description of the property matches once you find a house and a deed to go with it.