Richmond, Virginia Continues to Amaze

UPDATE! Rose will be giving a talk in Richmond on September 25th at the Virginia Center of Architecture! Click here for more details!

April 4th of this year, I had a delightful time riding around Richmond in a Lexus SUV filled with several knowledgeable, intelligent and interesting women, who also happened to be history buffs and old house lovers.

It was purely enjoyable.

We began our adventure with a single-minded purpose: Looking for kit homes.

On my previous two trips to Richmond, I’d driven myself around town, finding a few treasures here and there, but searching for kit houses is tough when you’re the driver and the watcher.

There were several fun discoveries yesterday, but my #1 favorite was a rare pre-WW1 kit house that I had never seen before. It was a Gordon Van Tine Model #124, and it was on a main drag through town.

And better yet, once I pulled out my books at home and did a little research, I learned that this house in Richmond was featured in a 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog! Scroll on down to learn more!

Thanks so much to Barb, Melissa, Anne and Jessica for making Friday such a fun day, and thanks especially to Molly for her deft navigation of Richmond’s old neighborhoods!

To read about our other finds in Richmond, click here.

And thanks to Rachel for sending me a copy of her very rare 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog! You can find Rachel’s blog here!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

1913 Gordon

Many folks have heard of Sears kit homes, but not too many have heard of Gordon Van Tine. This was another national kit home company that - like Sears - sold entire kit homes through mail order. The company was based in Iowa, but we've found several GVT homes in Richmond. Shown above is a 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog.


house 1913 124

GVT Model 124 was called "A Beautiful Stucco Home" (1913 catalog).


let me not be put to shame

Stucco "gives an air of distinction and an artistic effect..." (1913 catalog).



Number 124 had spacious rooms, lots of windows and a built-in window seats in the living room!


houdr house

Not sure about the lavendar paint and green roof, but it is a fine-looking house.


Its well hidden by the verdant landscape, butthe greenery,

It's well hidden by the lush greenery, but there's little doubt that this house is a Gordon Van Tine #124. Of all the fun things we discovered on Friday, this was my #1 favorite discovery. But it gets better...


house hvirginia

Seems that a fellow named Mr. Farley built a #124 in Virginia.



Mr. Farley says his house was "modified," but the only difference I can readily see is this half-timber effect on the porch gable. I didn't see that on the other images in this catalog.


And yet, here it is in the house in Richmond.

And yet, if you can peek around the flying flag, you can see this half-timber effect within that porch gable. Could it be? Is this Mr. Farley's house that was featured in the 1913 catalog?



According to the Richmond City Directory, Ernest W. Farley, Jr. and his wife Lucille were living at this address in 1944. Ernest Watson Farley Sr. married Maude Starke on April 12, 1911, and their son (Junior) was born in Feburary 1912. Given that this testimonial appeared in the 1913 catalog, it's likely that E. W. Farley built this house for Maude soon after their wedding, and then deeded the house to his son in later years.


What an unexpected delight!

What an unexpected delight to find *the* house featured in a 100-year-old testimonial! And there's a brass plaque on the front of Mr. Farley's home. If anyone knows what's inscribed on it, please let me know.


To learn more about kit houses in Richmond, click here.

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Update! Thanks to Anne, I have a little more information on the Farley Family. The first name of both father and son was Ernst (not Ernest, as it appears in the city directory), and Ernst Watson Farley, Jr. was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1968-1971. Delegate E. W. Farley was born in February 1912, and it seems likely that he was born in the GVT #124.

Father (Ernst Watson Farley Sr.) was born in 1879, and was the founder of RECO Industrial Pressure Vessels (in 1914), which was originally located on Brook Street. I wonder if Father started the new business in his new home?


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  1. Shari D.

    Glad to hear you had such a fun and productive day touring one of our great Virginia cities!

    I can’t say I’ve been there “in town” per se since probably 1975, but have made countless trips through it on I95 as we traveled to visit home and back again since moving to Indiana with my (then new) husband in 1978!

    With the massive railroad presence there it would seem highly likely that there would be countless kit homes present due to the massive recovery after the destruction of the Civil War.

    After all, it was only 45 years from the end of that destructive bebacle until 1910, and the take-off of the kit home business, and some areas took quite a while to rebuild themselves. Hope you find more soon!

  2. Rachel Shoemaker

    The “lavendar” paint job is my fault. Blame me. LOL.

    When I scanned this catalog I had to tweak the coloring and it over saturated the color images and their color is off somewhat.

    The actual catalog image of this house is a grayish color. My bad!

  3. Donna Boatman

    So happy to see that you, Rose, are still smitten. Wish I could entice you back this direction soon.

  4. Jim Guy

    My wife Judy and I bought this house in 1998. We are the third family to live in the house. We bought it from architectural historian Jack Zehmer who had purchased it with his wife in 1977.

    We were told the house was built in 1910 and that the addition on the back was added in ’12. I suspect some of the modifications mentioned are interior.

    We’d been told it was a kit house, but had never found any documentation to support. So your post had a lot of new information for us.

    We’re tickled to see your posting, and I’d be glad to chat with you about the house or show you around next time you’re in Richmond.

  5. Sears Homes

    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for your note! I’m sure I’ll be returning to Richmond at some point, and I’d be grateful to see the interior of your unique home.

    And I’m also happy to know that this post gave you some additional insight about your wonderful old house.

  6. Robert Farley

    Thanks for this post, my grandfather Ernst W. Farley Sr. built this house from a kit, and another as well in Chesterfield county that has since been razed for the River’s Bend Development near Enon, Va.

    I never knew Grandfather as he died too early in the ’30, but we grew up know it as “Rosie’s House”.

    It is interesting to find that it was actually in my father’s, Ernst W. Farley Jr, name.

    It is across the street from Ginter Park Baptist Church, where my grandparents were charter members, and a house on that property, fronting Laburnum Avenue, is called the ‘Farley house’ My Cousin Carl lives a scant block and a half away on Wilmington Ave and his wife, two daughters and himself are active members there.

  7. Allison

    My husband and I just purchased a home in Ginter Park area and I believe we may have a Sears home. If I send you a picture, would you be so kind as to identify if it is or not?

  8. Judith Chabot

    The house is currently for sale, and there are gorgeous interior photos. We’ve posted the house on our Sears Modern Homes FaceBook page, with a link to your blog post, so I suspect you’ll be getting an influx of hits on this post. Here is the Zillow listing.