An enthusiastic owner of this attractive semi-bungalow wrote saying: “The more I see the Detroit and the longer we live in it the greater becomes our love for it. After a year, we cannot suggest how your architects could make it more attractive or your designers improve the arrangement. This I believe you will admit is exceptional because usually after giving a house that most sure test of actually living in it, you have some improvement or changes you would make. We have none.”
These happy homeowners were talking about the Aladdin Kit Home, The Detroit, found in Aladdin’s 1917 “Build In A Day” Catalog.
Like Sears Home Kits, the Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan, designed and sold house kits for thousands of Americans across the country. Their 1917 catalog showcased over 60 home designs, from a plain four-room cottage to an impressive four-bedroom Colonial Revival, ranging in price from $475 to $1,900. All the materials needed to build yourself a home were shipped to your address, and then it was up to you to do the rest. The Detroit came in at $1042, but if you paid cash, 5% was discounted for the phenomenal price of $989.90!
Per the catalog:
“Notice how the porch extending the entire width of the house has been made not a seemingly attached part, but a real part by carrying over the main roof lines, while the double porch columns seem to give just the right stability for this style of construction. Artistic grouping of different style windows; open cornice, exposed rafters, straight line dormer, and an especially artistic porch rail construction seem to leave nothing to be desired.”
“In interior arrangement the Detroit is equally pleasing. The pleasant living room has opening off from it at the left the downstairs sleeping room for those who wish, or the den or library for those that desire only sleeping rooms on the second floor. The broad arch way gives easy access to the well lighted dining room.”
“Notice the combination of kitchen exit, basement and grade entrance. Compact, convenient and protected. The well lighted kitchen with abundant wall space is especially pleasing to the housewife. Our attractive semi-open stairs lead to a central hall on second floor off from which open the sleeping rooms and bath. Notice the size of the bed rooms – each of which has a large clothes closet. After in your imagination you have inspected the interior with our beautifully grained knotless fir finish, and again studied the artistic exterior, we believe you will agree with the many delighted Detroit owners.”
Authenticated Aladdin homes are not that easy to find. Many of the models may have been lost to foreclosure during the Great Depression, many more fell into disrepair, and some were demolished. Below are few of The Detroit kit homes that are still around.
The home above, located at 5811 Pontiac St,. Berwyn Heights, Maryland, was built on three lots owned by William H. Willard who sold them to the Berwyn Heights Company in December 1919. From 1919 until 1922 the Berwyn Heights Company constructed numerous kit homes in town, which they subsequently rented out or sold. In 1921, the Detroit was listed for sale for $6,500, but was rented out for two years before being sold to Anna M. Myers for $5,750. Sadly, she only owned it for six years before losing it to foreclosure in the 1929 stock market crash. It was auctioned off and leased out until 1938 when it sold for $5,000 to Fred Frost, a former Town Commissioner, and his wife. The Detroit changed hands several times over the decades and more recently sold in 2016 for $254,900.
Except for the paneling, the Berwyn Heights Detroit living room looks much the same with its brick fireplace and flanking windows as the 1917 catalog depicted above.
Owned by William H. and Ellen Brown in the 1920s and 1930s, this Detroit model is located at 1443? Washington Ave., Northampton, Pennsylvania. William worked as an engineer in a cement mill. He was 18 years his wife’s senior, and they lived here with Ellen’s young daughter, Elizabeth, by her first marriage. After Ellen was widowed in the 1930s, she continued to live in the home with her daughter well into the 1940s. Per the 1930 US Census, the home was valued at $5,000 that year. It last sold in 1991 for $74,000, and is worth about $120,000 today.