Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – the Detroit News Plan Book Homes of Grosse Pointe

Last year we ran a series of blog posts on the kit homes of Grosse Pointe. Several of these homes were authenticated, while others were identified as ‘probable kit homes’ due to the lack of supporting evidence.

Given that none of the traditional kit house companies are still in business, and because many of the kit home records were either lost or destroyed it can be extremely difficult to authenticate these homes.

This week we can add another chapter to our kit home story – the Detroit News Plan Book Homes – of which there are at least four (that we know of) found in Grosse Pointe. Thanks to research on the wonderful blog ‘American Kit Homes’ we are able to present the story of these four residences.

From information found of the blog we understand that ‘for many years, newspapers and other news publications sold home plans, some through their own publication, and others via a homebuilders catalogue’.

During the early 1920’s, the Detroit News sold home plans. The plans sold through this publication, other similar publications, along with the Home Builders catalogue, allowed people to purchase home plans in order to build their own home.

During the 1920’s the ‘build your own home’ market was arguably in its hey day with many companies competing in this sector – from the various publications selling home plans through to the major kit home manufacturers who had the substantial share of the market.

Many of the homes available in the home build sector bore similarities to homes sold by competing firms. The design were, after all, influenced by the architectural trends of the era, and many clients were looking to purchase homes of similar style, size and price. This particular home plan sold by the Detroit News was no exception, bearing similarities (internal and external) with several kit homes from the leading manufacturers – Sears BarringtonSears BrookwoodAladdin NewcastleAladdin Sovereign, or Wardway Maywood.’ Source: American Kit Homes.

Based on the exceedingly popular English Cottage style, this trend could be found throughout the Grosse Pointe communities during the 1920’s – an approach that had been replicated in many of the kits/plans sold by the companies listed above.

The Detroit News Plan Book Homes of Grosse Pointe display the typical characteristics found in English Cottage style homes. Located at 710 Rivard, 1325 Grayton, 886 Washington, and 1260 Bishop (which has not been officially authenticated as a Detroit News Home) – the overriding design of these four homes is almost identical, featuring– stucco on cinder block, half timbering on the second floor, the triangular Tudor inspired entrance on the front elevation, and the steeply pitched roof.

We believe all four of the homes were built around 1925, are roughly 1,700 sq ft, and contain three bedrooms and two bathrooms. As you can see from the photo’s below there is little variation in style.

It is unclear home many Plan Book Homes the Detroit News sold, but many can still be found around South Eastern Michigan – please click here for further details of their location(s).

However, the story does not stop there. Research from the American Kit Homes blog suggests the original architects, of this particular house plan, were from the Home Building Department of the Detroit News – a fact verified by a set of blue prints for 710 Rivard. Research on the blog also states that the rights to the Detroit News home (described above) were sold to the ‘Home Builders’ catalogue (sometime after 1925), and the model subsequently became known as ‘The Channing’ – first appearing in the ‘Home Builders’ catalogue in 1927. Please see the product page below – as you will see there are obvious similarities between the designs.

From 1928 Home Builders catalog on archive.org.

The Detroit News Plan Book Homes of Grosse Pointe are a rare and interesting find. Given the propensity to construct large homes in the community during this era, it is refreshing to think the number of ‘build your own homes’ continued to grow.

With thanks to American Kit Homes Blog.

*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.


Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2017 Katie Doelle