Brevard Kit Home Receives Special Interest
Written by Lesa N. Lorusso
Image Left provided by Rachel Shoemaker, Image Right: Photo by Lesa N. Loruss
Who says there is nothing of great historic interest in Brevard County? Thanks to the open and collaborative nature of blogging, experts have recently contacted me to share information about a rare example of a kit home has been identified right here in Melbourne, FL! Experts in the field of mail order kit homes read about the kit home featured in the “Florida Preservationist” article “The Importance of Historic Designation” published Jan 6. It seems that the adorable home in the La Bertha Lawn neighborhood near Historic Downtown Melbourne it is not the “Sears Gordon” that initial research led us to believe, but is rather from a different company altogether. Bloggers Rosemary Thornton and Rachel Shoemaker contacted me via email to share that the home is actually a “Gordon Van Tine model #620.
According to Dale Patrick Wolicki, blog author of www.gordonvantine.com “Among the early manufactures of pre-cut houses, popularly known as mail-order homes, was the Gordon-VanTine Company of Davenport, Iowa. Frequently identified as a small company whose sales were limited to the central United States, Gordon-VanTine had a much more significant role in the mail-order housing industry than has previously been credited. Evidence gathered by the author, most notably from a research trip to Davenport in the summer of 2001, suggests their involvement and influence was comparable to the larger housing manufacturers Sears and Aladdin.”
Rosemary Thornton is a blogger based in Virginia and is the author of several books about kit homes. She saw our Jan 6 article on the Florida Historical Society “Florida Preservationist” blog and contacted me to share the updated information below.
“For 12 years, I’ve devoted my life to researching these little pretties, and this is a common mistake! Eighty percent of the people who think they have a Sears Home are wrong. Typically, it turns out to be a kit home, but from a different company. Sears was the most well known, but they were not the largest company selling kit homes through mail order. To see vintage pictures of the Gordon Van Tine Model #620, visit my website, www.searshomes.org
Rosemary also contacted Bob Stover with Florida Today and wrote: “I’ve written six books on kit homes and traveled to 25 states doing research, and it was long believed that there just were not that many kit homes in Florida. And yet, in Melbourne, you’ve got three in a ROW!” To people interested in this subject, “this is quite a story,” she said.
“And how many more kit homes are lurking in Melbourne? Do the owners know what they have? Probably not.”
I forwarded this exciting new information to the homeowner and to the engineer who conducted the initial research for the Melbourne, FL home. Finding accurate information on the origins of this historic home was a difficult process and everyone is ecstatic for the new information. Florida Today author Bob Stover also covered this discovery recently. Click here to read his June 3 article about the home.