While many of us tend to idealize the past (rightly, in many ways), the past certainly had its share of imperfections. People have been altering and remodeling old houses ever since houses were first built. Today we’ll go back in time 93 years and take a look at home remodeling trends which were popular in the 1920’s.

As I look at these images, it is apparent that the main difference between today’s remodelings and those of the past is quality. The use of stucco was promoted, for example. Today we use Dryvit or similar products. Interior walls were still plastered in the 1920’s… today we use sheets of drywall. Architects then had a deeper understanding of various architectural styles and their histories… today, not so much. Despite the fact that these homes were altered from their original character, the finished product was in many instances better than the “before” house. I don’t ever get that feeling from old houses which are newly remodeled today!

Most of the following photos come from a book of home designs published in 1927 by C. Lane Bowes. Copies were distributed as promotional material by various lumber yards and are available to us today courtesy of the amazing archive.org. Let’s look at some updates from nearly a century ago!

While the end result is perfectly delightful, I think I would have found a way to save the segmentally arched window. The “before” house really was lacking in many ways… I like this!

This house, too, is quite charming, and did not require excessive alterations. Again, the old house wasn’t much of a looker to begin with.

The application of steep and purely decorative eaves gives the illusion that the second floor sports dormers. The addition of a sunroom, small porch and shingled wall cladding took a nondescript house from boring to storybookish quaintness.

This modest Craftsman-inspired house could have been more interesting had the Craftsman style been played up, but given the fact that the style was fading then it is not surprising that the house was given a new Colonial Revival identity. It definitely looks more substantial in the “after”!

Stucco! The miracle material which smears away those embarrassing, tell-tale, signs of age! This formerly board-and-batten-clad house has lost what little charm it previously possessed with a fresh layer of stucco. The porch had already been updated by the time the house was stuccoed; I wonder what the original looked like?

This one is tougher as both the before and the after have architectural merit! Which do you like better — the early Italianate or the later Craftsman/Tudor Revival hybrid?

Here stucco, new porches and a shed dormer give a rather blasé Colonial Revival a lot more stature. Big improvement!

While the quality of this remodeling is impressive — converting it from an exuberant Queen Anne to a more sedate Colonial Revival, I think the “before” is a more interesting house. It’s ironic that the three-story tower was removed, yet a rounded and tower-like porch appears in the update. Many amputations were made here.

This one is kind of fun! A newly arcaded façade — visually extended at each side with wing walls — gives this formerly forgettable house some real gravitas! This stucco transformation reminds me of a more recent update which did not turn out so well…

This is how the 1870 Brookville Hotel in Brookville, Kansas, appeared about twenty years ago when I last photographed it. As a local landmark famous for its fried chicken dinners, the historic hotel became the subject of controversy when a dispute with the town led the owners to build a new restaurant in nearby Abilene. Despite the building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, the new owner apparently though it best to re-envision the iconic Italianate false front with a synthetic stucco fantasy…

Ta-da! This is how the hotel looked in 2013 when Google last drove through. Does the shaped parapet of the Neo-Mission Revival exterior mock the original design or pay a perverse homage to it?

Lancaster John shares a “before and after” from Pennsylvania (thanks!). This c. 1900 Colonial Revival with Queen Anne attributes was later remodeled in a presumed effort to both modernize it and to emphasize its Colonial Revival character (seen in the following photo).

The porch was quite a loss! Stucco covers the brick (or is that just paint?) while brackets and other details were removed. The blank spot over the door does not appear to have been successfully resolved. It now evokes an almost Hollywood Regency vibe!

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