3064 stories
·
48 followers

Saving you bandwidth through machine learning

2 Comments

Photographers of all specialities, skills and genres have long made their home on Google+, sharing their work with a supportive community. Whether it’s of toys, travel or street art, each photo has a unique story to tell, and deserves to be viewed at the best possible resolution.

Traditionally, viewing images at high resolution has also meant using lots of bandwidth, leading to slower loading speeds and higher data costs. For many folks, especially those where data is pricey or the internet is spotty, this is a significant concern.

To help everyone be able to see the beautiful photos that photographers share to Google+ in their full glory, we’ve turned to machine learning and a new technology called RAISR. RAISR, which was introduced in November, uses machine learning to produce great quality versions of low-resolution images, allowing you to see beautiful photos as the photographers intended them to be seen. By using RAISR to display some of the large images on Google+, we’ve been able to use up to 75 percent less bandwidth per image we’ve applied it to.
How RAISR works

While we’ve only begun to roll this out for high-resolution images when they appear in the streams of a subset of Android devices, we’re already applying RAISR to more than 1 billion images per week, reducing these users’ total bandwidth by about a third. In the coming weeks we plan to roll this technology out more broadly — and we’re excited to see what further time and data savings we can offer.

Read the whole story
jepler
1 day ago
reply
fractal compression is reborn using the new buzzword of the day! yay!

anyway the real news here is: holy cow look how bad google's image resize algorithm does at keeping colors the same in the original and the resized image; the water in the UL corner is totally different color in the original vs the 1/4 and RAISR'd images, for instance..
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
DMack
1 day ago
reply
We've seen what their machine learning can do. How can we trust it not to turn all the surf boards into snakes and bugs?
Victoria, BC

Security Experts Rebut The Guardian's Report That Claimed WhatsApp Has a Backdoor

1 Comment
William Turton, writing for Gizmodo: This morning, the Guardian published a story with an alarming headline: "WhatsApp backdoor allows snooping on encrypted messages." If true, this would have massive implications for the security and privacy of WhatsApp's one-billion-plus users. Fortunately, there's no backdoor in WhatsApp, and according to Alec Muffett, an experienced security researcher who spoke to Gizmodo, the Guardian's story is a "major league fuckwittage." [...] Fredric Jacobs, who was the iOS developer at Open Whisper Systems, the collective that designed and maintains the Signal encryption protocol, and who most recently worked at Apple, said, "Nothing new. Of course, if you don't verify keys Signal/WhatsApp/... can man-in-the-middle your communications." "I characterize the threat posed by such reportage as being fear and uncertainty and doubt on an 'anti-vaccination' scale," Muffett, who previously worked on Facebook's engineering security infrastructure team, told Gizmodo. "It is not a bug, it is working as designed and someone is saying it's a 'flaw' and pretending it is earth shattering when in fact it is ignorable." The supposed "backdoor" the Guardian is describing is actually a feature working as intended, and it would require significant collaboration with Facebook to be able to snoop on and intercept someone's encrypted messages, something the company is extremely unlikely to do. "There's a feature in WhatsApp that -- when you swap phones, get a new phone, factory reset, whatever -- when you install WhatsApp freshly on the new phone and continue a conversation, the encryption keys get re-negotiated to accommodate the new phone," Muffett told Gizmodo. Other security experts and journalists have also criticized The Guardian's story.
Read the whole story
jepler
4 days ago
reply
Sounds like Muffett corroborates, rather than refutes, the core accusation: "Facebook [is] able to snoop on and intercept someone's encrypted messages [... that's] a feature in WhatsApp [ostensibly to allow a user to migrate handsets]"
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
Share this story
Delete

What’s So Bad about the Imperial System Anyway?

3 Comments

As a Hackaday writer, you can never predict where the comments of your posts will go. Some posts seem to be ignored, while others have a good steady stream of useful feedback. But sometimes the comment threads just explode, heading off into seemingly uncharted territory only tangentially related to the original post.

Such was the case with [Steven Dufresne]’s recent post about decimal time, where the comments quickly became a heated debate about the relative merits of metric and imperial units. As I read the thread, I recalled any of the numerous and similarly tangential comments on various reddit threads bashing the imperial system, and decided that enough was enough. I find the hate for the imperial system largely unfounded, and so I want to rise to its defense.

Did you measure that room in 'feet', or in 'flip-flops'?
Did you measure that room in ‘feet’, or in ‘flip-flops’?

What is a system of units anyway? At its heart, is just a way to measure the world. I could very easily measure the length and width of a room using my feet, toe to heel. Most of us have probably done just that at some point, and despite the inconvenient and potentially painful problem of dealing with fractionalization of your lower appendage, it’s a totally valid if somewhat imprecise method. You could easily pace out the length of the room and replicate that measurement to cut a piece of carpet, for instance. It’s not even that much of a stretch to got to the home center and buy carpet off the roll using your personal units — you might get some strange looks, but you’ll have your personal measuring stick right with you.

The trouble comes when you try to relate your units to someone not in possession of your feet. Try to order carpet online and you’ll run into trouble. So above and beyond simply giving us the tools to measure the world, systems of units need to be standardized so that everyone is measuring the same thing. Expanding trade beyond the dominion where one could refer to the length of the king’s arm and have that make sense to the other party was a big driver of the imperial system first, and then the metric system. And it appears to be one of the big beefs people have regarding the United States’ stubborn insistence on sticking with our feet, gallons, and bushels.

How Ridiculous are We Talking?

quote-definition-of-a-meterThe argument that imperial units are based on ridiculous things like the aforementioned king’s arm? That’s not an argument when a meter was originally defined as one 10-millionth of the distance from the north pole to the equator. Even rigorously defined relative to the speed of light or the wavelength of krypton-86 emissions in a vacuum, the meter is based on phenomena that are completely inaccessible to the people who will use is, and unrelated to their daily lives. At least everyone has seen a foot that’s about a foot long.

Doing the conversions between imperial units and SI units is tedious and error prone, they say. Really? Perhaps I’d buy that argument a hundred years ago, or even fifty. But with pervasive technology that can handle millions of mathematical operations a second, there’s not much meat on that bone. I’ll grant you that it’s an extra step that wouldn’t be needed if everyone were on the same system, and that it could lead to rounding errors that would add up to quite a bit of money over lots of transactions. But even then, why is that not seen as an opportunity? Look at financial markets — billions are made every day on the “slop” in currency exchanges. I find it unlikely that someone hasn’t found a way to make money off unit conversions too.

Another point of contention I often see is that imperial units make no sense. Yes, it’s true that we have funny units like gills and hogshead and rods and chains. But so what? Most of the imperial system boils down to a few commonly used units, like feet and gallons and pounds, while the odder units that once supported specialized trades — surveyors had their rods and chains, apothecaries had their drams and grains — are largely deprecated from daily life now.

Deal with It

For the units that remain in common use, the complaint I hear frequently is, “Why should I be forced to remember that there are 5,280 feet in a statute mile? And why is there a different nautical mile? Why are there 12 inches in a foot anyway? A gallon has four quarts, why does that make sense?” And so on. My snappy retort to that is, again, “So what?” If you’re not a daily user of the imperial system, then don’t bother yourself with it. Stick to metric — we don’t care.

If you’re metrified and you’re forced to use imperial units for some reason, then do what a lot of us imperials have to do — deal with it. I’m a scientist by training, and therefore completely comfortable with the SI system. When I did bench work I had to sling around grams, liters, and meters daily. And when I drove home I saw (and largely obeyed) the speed limit signs posted in miles per hour. No problems, no awkward roadside conversations with a police officer explaining that I was still thinking in metric and thought that the 88 on my speedometer was really in km/h and I was really doing 55. If I stopped at the store to pick up a gallon of milk and a couple of pounds of ground beef for dinner, I wasn’t confused, even if I slipped a 2-liter bottle of soda into the order.

At the end of the day, I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Imperial and metric both have their place, and each system seems to be doing its job just fine. If your argument is that imperial units are inelegant and awkward, even though you’re correct I don’t think that’s enough to sway the imperial holdouts. And if you’re just upset because we’re being stubborn and won’t join the enlightened metric masses, then I think you’re probably going to be upset for a long time to come.


Filed under: Featured, Interest, rants



Read the whole story
jepler
4 days ago
reply
why not like the "imperial" system? Well, today's "imperial" measurements are all defined in terms of the metric system anyway, so you're relying on the definition of a kilogram anytime you say you have a pound of something anyway. What's the alternative? Let a hundred definitions of the "mile" flourish, as they did 150 years ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mile#/media/File:Wegmasse1.png (a partial list of different definitions of the "mile", but in old german script as a special bonus)
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
Share this story
Delete
2 public comments
duerig
3 days ago
reply
I have started working on projects that require me to deal with measurement more and more. The problem with the imperial system is not that there are a lot of names or that units are not round factors of 10. The problem is that there is not an imperial system at all.

When I buy a metric screw, each one is labeled by its measurements. An M3 screw is 3mm thick and an M16 screw is 16mm thick. If you know how long a mm is, you know how big the screw is.

If I buy an imperial screw, then there are some screws that are fractions like '1/4' and others that are large numbers like '10'. Guess which is bigger? The 1/4 screw is in inches, while the 10 is a gauge number. So there is not a screw size system, there are at least two. And these interact with multiple drill measurement systems. Sometimes you can find a 1/4" drill bit. But every drill bit also has a number or letter. How big is a Q bit? I don't know.

Material thicknesses are even more complicated. Some things like plywood have nominal sizes (3/4") but are systematically inaccurate because the actual size is 18mm thick. Plastic sheets have the same issue. Sometimes thicknesses are decimalized inches (0.125"), sometimes they are fractions. There is no continuity here.

But it gets even worse with metal sheeting. Metal sheeting is either a fairly accurate decimalized inches indicator or a gauge number. The gauge number does not consistently mean anything from sheet to sheet. A sheet of steel at 18 gauge is differently sized compared to a sheet of aluminum at 18 gauge. And both of these are different from an 18 gauge tube.

So the only sane thing to do is to convert everything into metric. Every time I deal with an imperial system, I just convert that measurement into mm and now I know what I am dealing with. That way I don't have to remember all of the incompatible systems that confusingly come under the name 'imperial'.
invinciblegod
3 days ago
reply
Yes, the solution is always to never improve anything and "deal" with a flawed system. This is exactly the same reasoning as "back in my day I had to calculate 5180 to calculate anything! Kids these days are too spoiled with their easy 1000 calculations!"

Also, don't mention things like a space probe burning up because of unit conversion mistakes.
digdoug
2 days ago
plus, you got 'em all wrong, since it's 5280 feet to a mile.

Wifi

1 Comment and 7 Shares
Further out to the right, it works correctly, but the reason it works still involves the word 'firmware.'
Read the whole story
jepler
4 days ago
reply
I have a friend who is in the rightward category..
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
Share this story
Delete

Weather Underground has created a whole series of posters...

1 Comment and 3 Shares












Weather Underground has created a whole series of posters celebrating and briefly explaining various weather phenomena. Many of their subjects are beautiful and unusual types of clouds like the lenticular clouds that form over mountains and hole-punch clouds created when supercooled water vapor gets disturbed. They have a few non-cloud phenomena we’ve discussed previously, too, such as dust devils and bizarre, wind-formed snow rollers. I highly encourage you to check out the full collection, which they’ve made available as phone and computer wallpapers as well as posters. Personally, these combine two of my favorite things: fluid dynamics and retro-style nature posters! (Image credit: Weather Underground)

Read the whole story
jepler
5 days ago
reply
these are awesome
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
wreichard
4 days ago
reply
Earth
Share this story
Delete

The Mail Order American Dream: An Introductory Guide to Identifying Kit Houses

7 Shares

Hello Friends! Today I will take a break from typical McMansion fare to talk about one of my most requested topics: mail-order houses and how to identify them. 

NOTE: This is a long article - for those who wish to open in browser/new tab, now is the time to do so! 

So, let’s get started: 

Ok, let me get this straight: you could order a house by mail? When was this even a thing? 

Before the turn of the 20th century, the detached urban or suburban single-family home was primarily the realm of the upper classes. The lower and middle classes were relegated to townhouses, tenements, or lived and worked in rural, agrarian settings. 

The new processes of mass-production meant that the overall cost of homebuilding, along with everything else, was greatly reduced, enabling those in the middle class to purchase and build homes. The invention of the horse-drawn streetcar in 1853, followed by the electric streetcar in 1888, meant that middle-class families could now expand outwards into the first generation of suburbs, the streetcar suburbs.

image

The streetcar suburb of Friendship, PA. Public Domain

Enter the kit house: a home you could order from a catalog, and have shipped via rail to your building site. Before kit houses, many homes were built from pattern books: collections of house plans with blueprints for skilled contractors and carpenters to follow. 

The kit house, a product of mass-production took the pattern-book concept even further. For each kit house, every piece of lumber, siding, doors, windows, columns, etc. were produced to exact precision in a factory, numbered for easy assembly, and sent to the site by rail and delivered to the lot via cart or truck. 

image

Instruction Manual for a Sears Ready Cut Home. Public Domain. 

The house was assembled in a paint-by-numbers sort of fashion, with detailed instructions on putting the pieces together. Many kit houses could be assembled within a couple of weeks by a lone carpenter, making the labor costs more affordable to the burgeoning middle class.

Kit houses were incredibly popular among not only the new suburbanites, but also corporations, who bought and built the kits en masse for their company housing.

image

General view of company-owned mill village - Highland Yarn Mills - High Point, North Carolina, 1936. US National Archives, Public Domain. 

Kit houses were at their peak popularity during the years 1908-1930. The Great Depression reduced the number of kit houses (and everything else) dramatically, and many kit house manufacturers ceased production during this time. Still, several companies persisted into the 1950s and 60s. The last kit house company to cease catalog circulation was Liberty Homes in 1973. 

Kit houses fell out of popularity in the 50s and 60s due to competition from development companies, who constructed entire neighborhoods en masse via teams of construction workers. The DIY aspect of the kit homes was no longer desirable in a fledgling technological era, where fewer individuals were skilled in the building trades.

Many kit houses are still standing today and continue to make wonderful, durable, desirable homes; and they’re easier to find than one might think. 

A Brief Guide to Identifying Kit Houses: Introduction

For the purpose of this guide, I will be using a location I am very familiar with: Greensboro, North Carolina (where I went to college go Spartans woo). During the 4 years I lived in Greensboro, I was obsessed with meticulously cataloging the kit houses in the area after living in one (a 1923 Sears Westly.) 

Identifying Kit Houses Step 1: The Three Common Site Locations

One of the easiest ways to begin one’s search for mail order houses is knowing where to look in the first place. Kit Houses are most commonly found in these areas:

1.) First Generation Suburbs (Streetcar and Railroad Suburbs) (1906-1930)

These are the first ring of suburbs, made possible by the streetcar. However, until the burgeoning railroad suburbs began to develop in the 1890s, most houses in the inner-circle of this area were pattern book houses rather than mail order houses. The expansion of the railroad in the 1900s enabled more kit houses to be shipped to new lots.

image

Streetcar and Railroad suburbs can be easily identified as being outside the city center. The streets are almost entirely in a grid formation. Kit houses from this period were built from approximately 1906-1930. 

2.) Company Housing (Near Industrial Sites) (varied)

Many kit houses were built as company housing for industrial sites. Industries where this was common include textile mills, energy production, steel mills, coal mines, and large factories. 

In the case of Greensboro, NC, many Sears houses were built outside of the textile mills that used to employ the vast majority of the population before the 1980s. In this example, White Oak Mills, a textile company employing mostly African American workers, can be seen with its remaining company housing. 

image

The ages of these kit houses are closely linked to the age of the industry they serve. 

3. First Generation Automobile Suburbs (1915-1940)

These are the suburbs that sprung up when the car became wildly accessible to the middle class around the year 1915, and developed until the end of WWII. These suburbs are also relatively close to either industrial areas or the city core, and can be recognized by their more curvilinear streets. 

image

The main difference between the first generation and the second generation of auto suburbs, is that the 1st generation was not subject to the Federal Housing Administration’s community guidelines, which encouraged cul-de-sacs, dramatically curved streets, and dead ends to deter thru-traffic. 

Homes built in these neighborhoods date mostly from the late 1910s through the 1940s. 

Step 2: Common Kit House Architectural Styles

Most mail-order houses fall under a certain number of architectural styles popular during the time they were constructed. 

The earliest mail order houses came from the Aladdin Homes Company, whose first catalog was issued in 1906. Houses built before 1906 were most likely pattern-book houses or were designed by an architect. Kit houses didn’t become commonplace until 1908, when Sears Roebuck & Co issued their first catalog of Ready-Cut Homes. The houses from this period are often difficult to distinguish from their pattern book counterparts, but it can be done! 

Queen Anne Style

This ornate style of architecture popular during the mid-late 1800s was often too expensive and detailed for kit house production; however, early kit houses can be found in a more paired-down interpretation of this style. By the time 1920 rolled around, most kit homes had moved past the Queen Anne into other architectural categories; however, some catalogs include them up until the late 1920s. 

More ornate examples:

image

Note the ornate turret.

image

This example from Sears features a gambrel roof with a gambrel cross-gable, and is a blend of the Queen Anne and the contemporaneous Shingle styles. 

More Commonplace Examples:

image

Sears Modern Home No. 115 (1908). A simple layout with ornate wooden details. Simple plans like this are sometimes referred to as being of the so-called Farmhouse or National styles, though these names often refer to types of vernacular architecture in the professional literature. 

image

Note the second story window on the Harris Home in the bottom left corner: this window configuration was very common on Queen Anne and Shingle style homes. 

American Foursquare

I would wager to say that of all the house plans dating before 1930, the majority of those built were American Foursquares. There are so many different variations of this simple plan that it is almost impossible (with a few exceptions) to tell one from the other from the exterior alone. 

image

Foursquares are essentially boxes, with pyramidal roofs and a central porch. The house may or may not include a dormer, which is usually a shed dormer (on front of the above house) or hipped dormer (seen on the side of the above house.) The style was popular until around 1930, when the Great Depression greatly slashed the size of new homes being built. 

Foursquare houses often incorporate architectural details from contemporary styles. The earliest Foursquares show Queen Anne influences. Houses built after 1912 start to show early Craftsman influences. 

image

A.) The Sears Chelsea (1908-1922) was one of Sears’ most popular models. 
B.) Note the exposed rafters beneath the eaves; shows early Craftsman influences.
C.) Note the finials (pointy bits on top of roof) = very Queen Anne.
D.) A relatively style-neutral American Foursquare. 

Earlier Colonial Revival

“Colonial” is one of those architectural terms that has been bastardized until the end of time. The style this is referring to here is the “Colonial Revival Style” which reached the apex of its popularity in the 1920s-50s, and is one of the longest-running popular architectural styles. These houses are modeled after early historical American and British homes. 

Dutch Colonial Revival houses are the easiest to identify, thanks to their gambrel (”barn”) roof. These often intersect with Queen Anne, when they are front-gabled, but side gabled examples (see below) are almost always Colonial Revival. 

image

Colonial Revival houses are almost always side-gabled like the ones above, and commonly feature side porches, porticos, and shutters. Early Colonial Revival houses from the 1910s are sometimes difficult to discern from the more simplistic Queen Anne styles seen earlier. 

Early Bungalows

Technically, the construction term ‘bungalow’ refers to a 1 or 1.5 story house. However, when most people talk about bungalows, they are referring to those built in the Craftsman or Prairie traditions, which will be explained later. The Bungalow originated in California as affordable, charming working class housing. 

image
image
image

Proto-Craftsman Bungalow from the 1911 Sears Catalog. The brackets (sometimes called bracing, though this is a construction term) beneath the eaves (overhanging roof) are simple. The roof pitch is not low, and the house is front-gabled with simple geometry. The porch columns are influenced by the Shingle Style. 

Craftsman Bungalows (1910-1940s)

This was the age of the first generation Craftsman bungalows. The style, popularized by the Craftsman pioneers Greene & Greene, whose 1908 Gamble House was hugely influential in the homebuilding industry. The first Craftsman-influenced bungalow kit house was the 1910 Aladdin Oakland model, inspired by the work produced by the Greene Brothers and others in California. 

image

The first Sears Craftsman bungalow was the Sears Modern Home No. 191, which first appeared in the 1912 Catalog

Craftsman style-bungalows are easy to identify:

image

Note the progression of ornamentation from 1915 to 1920:

image

“Two-Story” Bungalows

One of the most popular types of kit homes! Sears has some famous models, most notably the Westly.

image

Sears Westly (1913-1929)

image

Craftsman-Influenced American Foursquares

The Craftsman style was infectious, and spread quickly to American Foursquare houses. Examples below:

image

Prairie Style American Foursquares

However, it was the Prairie Style, popularized in Chicago by Frank Lloyd Wright and his contemporaries that was easily incorporated into the simplicity of the American Foursquare. 

image

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ingalls House (1909) by Teemu008 (CC-BY-SA 2.0) 

Prairie-Style houses are characterized by their low-pitched hipped rooflines and wide, overhanging eaves. Unlike the Craftsman style, Prairie-style eaves are enclosed, with no ornamental brackets or rafters. 

image

While Craftsman-style houses and bungalows remained popular until the late 30s, the 20s represented a more streamlined era of house design, with the Colonial Revival style becoming more and more popular. 

English influences, such as the Tudor style were present in new Revivals, and a fascination with Spanish Colonial architecture resulted in some rather strange interjections. 

English Arts & Crafts Revival (relatively uncommon)

image

The “Parkway” by Montgomery Ward (Wardway Homes) - a Mail-Order Tudor Revival design. 

image

The Small 20s Cottage

These cottages are often a blend of Craftsman and Colonial Revival. The Sears Crescent (below, 1922) was one of the company’s most popular models. 

image
image

Spanish Colonial Revival (relatively uncommon)

These styles were a short-lived phase during the 1920s and early 30s. They can be found all over the country, despite their idiosyncratic nature. 

image

Colonial Revival 

Though Colonial Revival houses had been established early in the kit house oeuvre, they were mostly overshadowed by the Craftsman-style houses which dominated the 1910s and early 20s. The Colonial Revival was in full swing in the 20s and 30s, where it often mingled with existing styles for some interesting combinations. 

image

Minimal Traditional 

After the 1929 Stock Market Crash, home sizes shrunk dramatically. A new style emerged, called the Minimal Traditional, which became the predominant style for most new housing stock in the 1930s and early 40s. It would outlive the Sears Catalog, which ceased circulation in 1940. 

Minimal Traditional houses were highly influenced by both Hollywood’s Storybook Houses, the Colonial Revival style, and the Tudor Revival Style from which it borrowed its steeply pitched front-facing gables. Often included in this style are the “English Cottage” and Cape Cod Styles.

image

Lewis/Liberty Homes, Catalog, 1935. 

image

Late Kit Houses, 1940s. 

The 1940s were the period during which most mail order home catalogs ceased circulation, (mostly because of the halt of home construction during WWII) though mail order homes continued past this point.  The 1940s kit houses mostly kept in line with the Minimal Traditional style, as these plans were convenient as they often fit within the FHA’s square-footage limitations for new home purchases under the GI Bill after WWII

image

Page from the last Sears Mail-Order Home Catalog, 1940

image

Identifying Kit Houses Step 3: Manufacturers & Individual Models

The truth is, finding exactly which kit house you’re looking at is insanely difficult, simply because there were so many companies operating simultaneously, copying one another, and working within the same stylistic framework. Luckily, there are many great resources available online just for this purpose. 

General Resources:

Sears Houses References:

Aladdin Homes Catalog Archive 

List of Kit House Books I own via Amazon.com

How to Narrow Down the Impossible

Step 1: Where are you?

Many kit house manufacturers worked in regional areas. For example, Pacific Ready Cut Homes served the Pacific Northwest and California. First check to see if there are any regional kit home manufacturers in your area. For example, Southern Pine Co. served the Louisiana area. Some manufacturers, such as Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, served the entire US. 

If you are near a factory or industrial area, check to see what resources you can find online about said industry and the way of life of those who worked there. 

If you have a specific address, try searching Public Records for the original documents/owner history. Why? There is a list of mortgage co-signer names associated with Sears Roebuck & Co. as well as other companies for each certain location and a certain time period. A little digging can answer a lot! 

Step 2: What Style is It?

You can tell a lot by a house’s shape and style, as per this guide. A quick search of any of these online databases can help a lot, especially in the case of later kit houses - as the years go on, the smaller the pool of examples you have to choose from becomes. 

Step 3: The Devil is in the Details

Okay, you’re still stumped. Now it’s time to do the dirty work. Are there any idiosyncratic features that stick out to you? If it’s a foursquare, does it have Prairie windows? If it’s a 2-story craftsman bungalow, do the columns match the Sears Westly’s? 

Step 4: Start with Sears

A fatal mistake of kit house detectives is to assume that all kit houses are Sears houses. However, many kit houses are Sears Houses. Picking up a guide such as “Houses by Mail” can help complete a quick search for a Sears house before broadening the escapade to include companies whose records are less extensive. 

If it’s not a Sears house, another good idea is to start with Aladdin, whose entire circulation of catalogs is available in a database listed in the Reference section. 

Step 5: Compile a List

Take a picture of the house you’re searching for, and put it in an online document with pictures of house models that look similar. If you know the date of the house, this becomes a lot easier. Use the process of elimination to whittle it down to a few choices. 

Identifying Kit Houses: Easiest to Hardest

Easiest to Identify:

  • Houses built after 1940
  • Spanish Colonial Revival/Pueblo Style houses located outside the Southwest
  • Prairie Style houses (excluding Foursquares)
  • Non-Craftsman or proto-Craftsman Bungalows (built 1908-1915)
  • English Arts and Crafts Revival houses (note: most Tudor Revival houses were designed by architects; Tudor elements are common on Minimal Traditional houses, however.)
  • Front-Gabled Gambrel Roofed houses: these were popular only until around 1920, giving them a small time window. 
  • Foursquare Houses with Bay Windows - these were a thing only from around 1908-1918

Medium Difficulty:

Difficult but Not Impossible to Identify:

Impossible to Identify (without a date)

  • American Foursquares. Seriously, don’t even attempt this without a build date. They all look the same. 
  • Craftsman Bungalows. Seriously. 
  • 2-story Craftsman Bungalows
  • Dutch Colonials built after 1920. 

Anyways, that’s it for kit houses. IT TOOK ME 3 DAYS TO WRITE THIS AND I AM VERY TIRED. Please feel free to send me an email if this guide helped you in any way. I hope you all enjoy it. Meanwhile, if you live in a state whose name starts with A, please email me neighborhood suggestions for Dank McMansions! 

If you like this post, and want to see more like it (plus get sweet access to behind the scenes stuff), consider supporting me on Patreon! Not into recurring donations? Check out the McMansion Hell Store - 30% goes to charity.

Any photos used in this post are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. 

Read the whole story
acdha
7 days ago
reply
Washington, DC
jepler
7 days ago
reply
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
digdoug
7 days ago
A lot of these look like awesome homes.
angelchrys
7 days ago
reply
Overland Park, KS
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories