Kit Houses

Homebuilders Block 2

Home Builders Catalog, 1929. Courtesy of Internet Archive.

Hundreds of eye-catching, full-spread plans fill the 1928 Catalog. The editors claimed that “every illustration was reproduced from a photograph.” While closer scrutiny reveals that some of the landscaping was “improved” post production, the photographs proved to prospective homeowners that the houses could be constructed as designed. The Catalog produced skillfully designed plans in a wide range of Revival styles popular at the time, with a guaranteed resale value.










A section titled “Small Home Architecture” educated the reader on topics such as architectural styles, the importance of high-quality materials, remodeling old houses, and mortgages.

Home Builders Catalog, 1929. Courtesy of Internet Archive.



















Like many kit and plan-built house publications of this era, the source of the plans themselves is murky, with only vague references to a team of in-house architects. Many of the plans in the Catalog are identical to those in earlier publications by C.L. Bowes of Hinsdale, Illinois. Bowes had been producing these publications for several years prior to the Catalog; specific examples include Modern American Homes (Chicago, 1918), American Homes Beautiful (Chicago, 1921), and Book of Home Designs (Chicago, 1926). Bowes’s catalogs were often distributed to contractors and lumber dealers and then customized for each firm.

C.L. Bowes/Scouton Lee Lumber Co. Catalog, 1927. Courtesy of Internet Archive.


Given the wide distribution of Bowes’s catalogs, with hundreds of publications for individual firms, it is no surprise that the Catalog utilized his company’s offerings. This was a common practice in the industry, and the Home Builders Catalog Company was no exception.














According to Daniel D. Reiff, author of Houses from Books: Treatises, Pattern Books, and Catalogs in American Architecture, 1738-1950, A History and Guide, several of Bowes’s plans are identical to those in the 1928 edition. Like the Catalog, Bowes typically identified his plans with the same letter in each catalog issue; for example, all the plans with one exception in the 1927 Scouton-Lee Lumber Company Book of Home Designs had names beginning with the letter C. Similarly, most of the plans in the 1929 Home Builders Catalog have names beginning with the letter C.


This exact spread was in the 1927 Book of Home Designs by C. L. Bowes (Scouton Lee Lumber)