Buying a 111-year old house is not without its challenges.
My wife and I bought a 111-year-old Craftsman home in small-town, Wyoming. Originally built in 1910, this 3-bedroom home has seen a lot of work over the years. After finding a few artifacts, we looked into its history and found it was a home passed down through 4-generations and 3-branches of the family that sold it to us, which is neat in its own way.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be putting a fresh coat of paint on everything. We will also be remodeling the bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedroom, and home office. There will be externally linked products and services in this blog, but those are for reference, only and not intended to be direct endorsements.
A home for $872 only sounds like a steal.
Using the Alioth Finance Inflation Data Calculator and the manufacturer’s estimated material and labor cost of $1,530, the cost of purchasing this kit house in 2021 would be $25,823.33, and $19,486.07 for labor, cement, brick, and plaster. A comparable lot in the area today costs $27,083. This makes the modern equivalent sale price $72,392.40.
However, according to Crookston Custom Designs’ Cost to Build calculator, the reality of concrete, brick, drywall, and the labor to install those would be closer to $60,647. Of course, that does not include building fundamentals like water, sewer, gas, insulation, plumbing, painting, electrical, windows, or HVAC. Built to its basic specifications and then brought to code, Crookston’s estimator, minus the material cost difference of Modern Home No.147’s kit, and including property, the cost would be closer to $240,212.33.
If that inspires you to build your own Craftsman home rather than wait for one to appear on the market and avoid the follies of previous owners, there are several books available online and the Sears online archive hosts complete sets of their plans from 1908 to 1940. The complete sets of designs from Craftsman architects, innovators, and evangelists, Gustav Stickley, Henry L. Wilson, and others are available elsewhere, online.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
There are many unresolved questions about the design of our Craftsman. While some features are clearly regional customizations, features presently visible and missing give us reason to pause. Fortunately, there are several Craftsman builds in this area from which we are able to make direct comparisons.
Immediately noticeable is the shape of the roof. Architecturally, this is called a Bonnet Roof. As they appear on Craftsman homes, the brothers, Henry Mather and Charles Sumner Greene fused the utilitarian designs of arts and crafts pioneer Gustav Stickley and Japanese architecture. It was they that introduced the bonnet along with Craftsman columns, and exposed knee braces and rafter tails.
Two of the four elements that might indicate a design by Greene and Greene are visible in the picture below. With the Dutch hip bringing all sides of the roof down on a slope, there is no room for the knee braces. But, by the angle of the fascia, the exposed knee braces may have been concealed.
Unfortunately, I have yet to find more than a handful of traditional bungalow designs credited to brothers Greene and by the time of this home’s construction, the brothers were only taking commissioned.
The porch area sunroom in the picture below is of particular interest to us. Many of the homes in our area have these. As Wyoming has one of the coldest climates in the lower 48 states, these rooms serve as anterooms in the winter where someone can change from their winter weather gear without tracking snow through the house. A neighbor keeps theirs smartly decorated in natural tones with polished wood trim and floor. Another opts for the sterility of white walls with polished wood trim and floor. Both keep sections of the back wall for terrific collections of coats, hats, and boots.
Our Craftsman home today.
Compared to the previous picture, we quickly see significant changes occurred in the time since. The porch sunroom has been dismantled by the previous owner along with the Craftsman columns. This has of course left the wood floor of the porch exposed to the elements for at least a year and there is significant warpage on the windowsills and where the door used to be.
But at least our new neighbors have been nice enough to stop by, discuss appearances, make suggestions, and offer assistance. I might otherwise take that with a grain of salt, but in the immediate area around the house are five other beautifully restored and maintained craftsman homes. Of course, these neighbors were happy to hear of our restoration plans and are looking forward to us fixing up the place.