For years, I’ve heard my buddy Dale Wolicki talk about George Barber, and while I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have, I did note that the houses that Dale pointed out as being “Barber designs” were both grandiose and glorious.
Recently, Dale sent me a digital copy of a 1901 George Barber “Modern Dwellings” catalog, and that’s when I started paying a little more attention.
Sears offered entire kit homes (plans and parts) through their mail-order catalogs, but Barber offered designs through a mail-order catalog. For a few bucks, Knoxville-based architect George Barber would send you plans for any one of the many designs offered in his catalogs. It became a wildly successful enterprise for George Barber.
Just like Sears, Barber also offered to customize plans to meet clients’ personal needs, so identifying these houses today can be challenging (just like Sears kit homes).
I’m fairly new to this game, but already enjoying the process of learning more about this fascinating piece of American architectural history.
Thanks to Dale for the original images shown below!
And thanks to Pat Spriggs for discovering and identifying a George Barber design in Norfolk!
Now, if I could just get my hands on a few more catalogs!
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Here's the cover of the 1901 catalog that Dale recently shared with me.
About four years ago, Dale told me that there was an authenticated George Barber house in Norfolk somewhere, but did I know where? I drove around in Ghent a bit and eventually found it on Fairfax Street. Last week, I found that Pat Spriggs had gone out on the same hunt, and discovered this Barber house several years earlier! The image above is about 113 years old, and is from the "Modern Dwellings" catalog (1901).
Comparison with the 1901 image and the picture I snapped last Sunday.
Full view of the George Barber house in Ghent (Norfolk, VA).
When Pat Spriggs and I were talking last week, she mentioned that there was a George Barber house in Riverview (part of Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood, where I lived for four years in Norfolk). I was incredulous, as I thought Riverview was too new to have Barber houses but then...
I drove by the house myself and took this photo, and I must say, "By George, I think she's right!" The house has had a significant addition (far right), and the porch has had some changes, but it seems likely that this is a Barber design.
Two weeks ago, I was in Alton, IL and guess what I saw...
I saw a Model #36 on Liberty Street. This house is listed at Wikipedia as a George Barber 36E (and I'm not sure what that means), but it sure is a nice match to the image shown above (Model 36).
Did I mention I’d love to find a few more catalogs?
To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.
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