Robert W. Shoppell was one of many successful plan book publishers in the late nineteenth century.  Surviving houses built from the mail-order plans he sold through his New York-based Co-operative Building Plan Association can be found throughout the country.   In addition to his design No. 216, he offered a very similar plan numbered 344.   The two houses differ in that their roof lines — at least on the main facade — are not the same:   No. 216 reads as a story and a half while No. 344 appears as a full two-story house.

I suspect that Shoppell published other versions of these designs or that his plans were “borrowed” and slightly altered by competing plan book publishers.  The following two examples — one in Abilene, Kansas, and another in suburban Chicago, Illinois — each have an angled chimney (reflecting the octagonal shape of the parlor) and appear to have been built from the same plans.  When compared to each other, the two houses offer powerful evidence of the value of retaining architectural integrity.

The house in Abilene appears to be a hybrid of plans 216 and 344.  The plan as built may have its own distinct design number, but if so I’m not aware of it.

Shoppell’s design No. 216 as it appears in one of his plan books. Note that the angled chimney is to the left of the tower-like room in the attic; the houses shown below were built in reverse of this plan. Image source:

The house seen above as built in Abilene, Kansas. The porch was remodeled in the early twentieth century to reflect prevailing Colonial Revival tastes, but the rest of the exterior remains substantially intact.  Note the angle of the chimney is like that shown in the first illustration above, but on the opposite side.  Image courtesy of Google Street View.

The double doors at left differ from published plans I’ve seen and may be an early alteration.

The bay window seen here is shown at the ground floor level in both design No. 216 and No. 344.

In the 1880’s, S. E. Gross was busy hustling real estate in the Chicago burbs… this is the cover of one of his catalogs promoting his new suburb, Grossdale, presumably named after himself. Today the close-in suburb is known as Brookfield.  Image source:

This is an illustration from the catalog Gross published; it illustrates many fine buildings in his development including this house which appears to be Shoppell’s design No. 216. Fortunately, the location is given and the house still survives. Though an angled chimney is shown, there is now fireplace in the parlor.  The chimneys shown on the plan do not appear to be angled.  Hmmm….  Image source:

Here it is — the same house as it looks today. Replacement siding, a remodled porch and other alterations (including corner boards) have significantly altered the character of the house. But its still recognizable!  It retains an angled chimney (not seen, at right) suggesting a parlor fireplace.  Image courtesy Google Street View.

Shoppell’s design No. 216 has a parlor fireplace and angled chimney. Image source:

Shoppell’s design No. 344 has no fireplace in the parlor. Image source:

This illustration from the catalog promoting the town of Grossdale best matches the houses in Abilene.  The artistry differs from illustrations in the Shoppell publications which I have seen, however.  Could this be a rip-off of his work or is it more likely that it is just another of Shoppell’s own variations?  Let me know what you think (or know)!  Image source:

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