Harris Brothers, alias, The Chicago House-Wrecking Company

Based in Chicago, Harris Brothers got their start tearing down things. In 1893, they started business as The Chicago House-Wrecking Company. According to Dr. Rebecca Hunter (fellow researcher and author), they became “Harris Brothers’ Homes” in 1913.

Of the six national companies, selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, Harris Brothers was probably the least-well known.

Their catalogs are certainly quite interesting, with lots of vintage photos and loquacious copy.  Below are some images from the Harris Brothers’ catalogs, together with a living example of a Harris Brothers’ kit home, The La Grange.

Front

Thanks to Harris Brothers' "Wonderful Offer," this young couple can build their dream home economically, but judging by those blueprints, that's a pretty simple house. This logo appeared on the cover of the 1915 and 1917 Harris Brothers' catalogs.

Harris Brothers

Testimonial from the 1915 Harris Brothers' catalog. Mr. Dunn apparently didn't get the memo that their name was changed in 1913. Either that or, this was a really old letter.

Harris

If someone knew how to look, it'd be fun to find this house in Kansas. Mr Ketcham owned it in the 1910s. It's a real beauty, too. Classic prairie style.

harris

Did Mr. Elliot build two HB homes in a row?

La Grange from the 1917 Harris Brothers catalog

La Grange from the 1917 Harris Brothers catalog. Note the rounded porch on the home's left front (in floorplan).

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Floorplan, up close

Floorplan, up close. Note the rounded "Varanda" (sp). This is an unusual feature and is always the first thing that catches my eye on this model.

LaGrange - close up.

LaGrange - close up.

LaGrange in Ocean View section of Norfolk, VA

LaGrange in Ocean View section of Norfolk, VA. That rounded porch has been enclosed.

To learn how to identify kit homes, click here.

To learn more about Harris Brothers, click here.

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11 Comments

  1. Debbie

    My husband and I went to one of your lectures last year. Then I checked out your blog. Last week, I went to my local library book sale and found some old “Historic Illinois” magazines. One that I bought has a big article on Geo. F. Barber & Co., a mail order architectural business. Have you heard of this company? The article contains photos and a list of IL towns where these houses can or could be found. The article was published in 1998. The author did extensive research and was looking for additional information. Hard to say if he is still alive, but if you are interested in learning more, you can contact me.

  2. Russell Gallop

    I have a CHICAGO HOUSE WRECKING COMPANY 1907 Catalog No.150. The cover states “We Bought the $50 Million St. Louis World’s Fair (1904).

    Anyone interested in purchasing this catalog?

  3. Jon Keller

    I am interested in the catalog you mentioned if it is still available: Chicago House Wrecking Company 1907 Catalog No. 150.

    Any ideas where I might find this?

  4. Mark O. Dobberfuhl

    When I remodeled my northern Wisconsin home, I found tucked away in a wall an issue of the September 1908 “Farm News, published by the Simmons Publishing Company of Springfield, Ohio.

    On the back page was a full page ad by the Chicago House Wrecking Co, 35th and Iron Streets, in Chicago. They boast a 40 acre lumber yard selling lumber at “Prices Cut 40%” by the train carload lots.

    They even paid for train fare to lure upper Midwest customers to their facility in Chicago to review house plans and the like, even paying for the potential customer’s accommodations.

    I was interested in seeing this company still in existence.

  5. randy schallau

    @Russell Gallop
    Russall:
    I am looking for information on what happened to the architectural molds from the st. louis

    fair. Were there any listings in that catalog offering them for sale? I know they took everything

    that wasn’t nailed down, any info would be appreciated.

    Randy

  6. Michael Graham

    Just wondering if you could point me in the right direction or maybe help yourself.

    I have a 1897 Chicago house wrecking Co. Catalog that I can not find another like it or next to no info on this certain book. If you can that would be great.

    Thank you for your time
    Michael

  7. Eugene B. Meier, Jr., M.S.Ed.

    I am writing the first spreadsheet from the American point of view about 19th century rotunda panoramas.

    These were the biggest paintings in the world,50 x 400=20,000 square feet, housed in their own rotundas which were 16-sided polygons.

    Chicago in 1893 had 6 panorama companies and 6 panorama rotundas.

    Info to share, please send to genemeier@frontier.com

  8. Ruth McLaughlin

    While renovating our home, we found a catalog used as insulation from your company. It is a catalog of all kinds of things. From corsets to bedspread. I am assuming it was from the early 1920s. The cover is gone. Nothing on the internet reflects this kind of publication.

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