I first admired this house in the late 1990’s when the photo above was taken; the house seemed well-maintained and the exterior paint was crisp and sharp… the colors were perfect for a two-story Craftsman. I wondered at the time if the colors weren’t like those that it had been painted in originally, but I never dreamed that I would one day find the answer.

Located in Russell, Kansas, the other memorable thing about the house (aside from its unaltered, authentic-looking exterior) was its very memorable address: 123 W. 4th Street! I was surprised to see the house pop up on Zillow recently… with the same paint that I remembered.

The real estate listing describes the house as a “Sears and Roebuck home” which it is not, but I did suspect that it could be a kit house by another company. It’s a common mistake people make with kit houses. No matter who produced the kit, over time fading memories invariably attribute them to Sears. With a little bit of digging I found what I was looking for… the house is an example of Wardway’s “Hampden”. While I haven’t verified this, I’m confident that this is a Wardway/GVT product.

Wardway, of course, was Montgomery Ward’s brand of kit house. The kits sold by Wards were actually manufactured by the Gordon Van-Tine Company and were virtually identical to the kits they sold under their own label. Marketed as the Hampden by Wardway and as Home No. 501 by Gordon Van-Tine, the houses were identical – except for the specified standard exterior paint colors!

The house we’re about to look at was built in reverse from the marketed plans (a common option offered by many kit house companies), so I’ve reversed some of the images so that they will better relate to this house as it was built. Let’s take a peek inside!

This image (in reverse) is from the 1924 Wardway Homes catalog. Like many kit houses, some items differ from the catalog illustration. Changes here include a single attic window in the gable, a smaller window on the interior stair landing and brick piers on the front porch (with two, rather than three, porch supports). Image courtesy of archive.org
This is a Wardway Hamden in Russell, Kansas, as it appeared in 2013. Image courtesy Google Street View.
I’ve reversed the floor plans, too, to help relate to the example built in Russell. Image courtesy of archive.org
This is how the Hampden appears in the 1924 Wardway catalog. Image courtesy of archive.org
The description of the paint colors was what really grabbed me… good evidence that the current colors are very much like the originals! The GVT version of the house offered red stain for the shingles rather than brown. Image courtesy of archive.org
Ward’s description of the many attributes of the house. Image courtesy of archive.org
The same house in the 1921 Gordon Van-Tine catalog, Home No. 501. Image courtesy of archive.org
The front of the house today. Image source: zillow.com
The living room has three windows overlooking the porch rather than the pair shown in the catalog – another customization. Image source: zillow.com
Dining room. Image source: zillow.com
The balustrade-like grille of the stairwell emphasizes the Craftsman character of the house. Image source: zillow.com
The Wardway catalog emphasizes some of the features of their homes, including this built-in linen closet. Image courtesy of archive.org
And we find the linen cabinet at the top of the stairs in the hallway! Amazingly, it appears that all of the woodwork in this house survived without being painted. How often does that happen? Image source: zillow.com
This photo is a bit small, but in the foreground you can see a cistern pump! I wonder how many years after 1924 that this was in use? I love these fascinating remnants of the past which have defied time — surviving to remind us once in a while what the past was really like…
Image source: zillow.com
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