Of all six national kit home companies, I think that Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI) had the prettiest designs. In terms of numbers, Lewis outsold Sears by a smidge, selling about 75,000 homes (compared to Sears sales of 70,000 homes).

In 1906, Lewis Manufacturing was primarily a millwork company, and they got their foot into the kit home business when the Sovereign brothers (who owned the Aladdin Homes company) asked Lewis to supply the lumber for their kit homes.

In 1913, housing orders overwhelmed Lewis Manufacturing and the company refused to make further improvements to their mill unless they were given ownership interest in Aladdin Homes. The Sovereign brothers refused.

Lewis Manufacturing lost the Aladdin Homes contract. Some smart cookie at Lewis Homes surveyed their situation and said, “Hey, we have everything we need to produce our own line of pre-cut kit homes. Let’s make our own company! To heck with those Sovereign brothers!”

And so, in 1913, Lewis Homes was born.

Within a few years Lewis Homes became Aladdin Homes largest competitor, shipping approximately 1500 homes annually. In 1925, a fire destroyed the Lewis Homes lumberyard, and Lewis gave their company a new name, “Liberty Homes.”

Lewis survived the Great Depression by selling millwork to prominent residences, banks and office buildings. In 1938 Liberty Homes boosted sales when it introduced a new FHA-approved mortgage program.

During World War Two, Lewis manufactured military barracks, emergency housing and shipping crates. In 1944, an advertising campaign allowed customers to use Liberty Bonds as deposits on Liberty Homes, to be shipped after the war.

During the 1950s the company shipped thousand of homes throughout the United States but sales dropped as mobile and prefabricated homes replaced pre-cut homes for affordable housing. In 1975, Lewis Manufacturing closed, having sold 75,000 houses.

Of all the Lewis Homes, the Cheltenahm is one of my favorites. That’s because I have a soft spot for the Dutch Colonial, and this is a dandy of a Dutch Colonial!

The Cheltenham, as seen in the 1924 catalog.

The Cheltenham, as seen in the 1924 catalog.

Close-up on the house (1924 catalog).

Close-up on the house (1924 catalog).

The house

This sweet thing is in Washington, DC. Isn't a beauty? Oh what a fine-looking house! (Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And next door to the Cheltenham is a Lewis Marlboro!

And next door to the Cheltenham is a Lewis Marlboro (right side). (Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

The Cheltenham is a happy, happy house.

The Cheltenham is a happy, happy house. (Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Here's a Cheltenham in Bay City, Michigan.

Shown above is a Lewis Cheltenham in Bay City, Michigan. (Photo is copyright 2011 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

The Cheltenham was featured in the front pages of the 1924 Lewis catalog. Just look at those happy children!

The Cheltenham was featured in the front pages of the 1924 Lewis catalog. Just look at those happy children!

The floorplan shows what a spacious home this is! Look at the Living Room. You can run hurdles in here!

The floorplan shows what a spacious home this is! Look at the Living Room. You can run hurdles in here!

And, if you buy a Lewis Home, you know that the guys in suits visited The Axe Men to assure that you got the very best lumber (1924 catalog).

And, if you buy a Lewis Home, you know that the guys in suits visited The Axe Men to assure that you got the very best lumber (1924 catalog).

To learn more about Kit Homes, click here.

To visit Catarina’s website, click here.

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