Aladdin kit homes: detailed photographic and historic clues to assist in the identification & restoration of Aladdin Catalog or Aladdin Kit homes and including references to other expert books and resources on catalog or kit homes in the United States.
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Our page top photo of an Aladdin kit house, an Edison model, is provided courtesy of museum curator Melodie Nichols. The front porch, originally an open design, has been enclosed.
Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes: Beating Sears to the kit home market, the North American Construction Company, under the kit home name Aladdin, in Bay City Michigan, 1906-1981 began selling kits in 1906. The company, pointing out that they were the originators of the knock-down system of house construction, sold "pre-cut" home kits to build cottages and later arts-and-crafts homes.
Also see Sterling Kit Homes and Lewis Liberty Kit Homes below. By 1910 the company's spring Aladdin Houses catalog advertised that they had already been in the lumber business for 19 years as the North American Construction Company in Bay City. 
The company described the product as "The original and only perfect system for the construction of knocked down houses" and further pointed out that by using mill-run lengths of No. 1 Huron Pine lumber throughout, their house design made unnecessary the cutting and waste of good lumber, reducing lumber waste to less than two percent.
The four-room Aladdin house style "D" is shown at left and sold for $296. The company went to some effort to avoid intimidating would-be buyers who might have worried that they lacked the skill to erect the house, stating:
[Click to enlarge any image]
The companies we list above eventually merged. 35 models of Aladdin knocked-down houses or kit homes were available in 1949 and over 75,000 Aladdin kit homes were sold.
By the 1960's delivery of these kit homes shifted from rail to truck delivery, which may mean that there will be more homes of this vintage and later built further from rail stations.
At left is the floor plan for the Aladdin two-room kit home, style A, from 1910. The exterior of this home is illustrated below. The two-room low-cost home was also sold in a "shotgun" design that placed all of the rooms in a row suitable for placing on a tiny narrow lot.
[Aladdin kit home photos wanted, CONTACT us]
The National Trust Library offers catalogs of these Aladdin kit houses.
According to the Clarke Historical Library:
Shown at left, the Aladdin Two-Room Dwelling House, Style A, from the 1910 Spring catalog. This home sold for $180. 
Otto and William Sovereign, the family-owned firm continued to manufacture houses until 1981. Over the firm's long history it sold over 75,000 homes to both individual and corporate customers.
The records of the Aladdin Company were donated to the Clarke Historical Library in 1996. The almost complete run of company catalogs, full set of sales records, over 15,000 post-World War II architectural drawings, and various other company records create an extraordinary historical resource.
The Aladdin Company records are open for use by the public, having been arranged and described through a grant made by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Full-text copies of the annual sales catalogs were scanned through a grant by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. 
Aladdin knocked-down house kit homes were sold for cash with a fifty-percent downpayment at the time of order and the remaining balance due cash on delivery of the home. "This is an invariable rule and is no tmeant to be a reflection on your financial standing. We absolutely will not sell houses on any other except a strictly cash vasis. All prices subject to advance in price of lumber. Discount of 5 percent allowed for full amount of cash with order." 
As we discuss at Confusion in Sears House Identification, relying only on the external architecture of a home to identify it as an Aladdin, Sears, Wards or other kit home is tricky. All of the kit home manufacturers copied or modified existing stick-built home designs that had already proven popular in the U.S.
Shown at left, the Aladdin five room house style GG from the Spring 1910 catalog .
To make a reliable identification of a kit home we start with the home's general architecture, style, appearance, and age, but we will need to confirm the specific home's origin by noting particular details such as special hardware, woodwork, windows, or hand-written or stenciled markings that make clear not only that this was a kit house but which manufacturer produced it.
In most homes a thorough and careful inspection can usually turn up one or more spots where there is visual access to these details.
At left we show the Aladdin Ventura ranch style home from the Aladdin 1954 kit home catalog. 
Rebecca Hunter says that Aladdin Readi Cut homes and also Lewis and Sterling Kit homes (see below) may be identified by grease pencil markings on lumber: "Company numbers are handwritten in grease pencil, usually in the middle of a board. They consist of numerals, usually hyphenated in groups of 2 or 3. Some of the numbers are fractions, e.g. 42-18-11 3/4. Part names may be stamped in ink."
[Note: grease pencil markings alone are certainly not the case found for all Aladdin Kit homes, as we demonstrate at Tivoli Aladdin Kit Home below - where very extensive stenciled markings and even referral to construction sketches are indicated on building framing and sheathing - Ed.]
The our page top photograph of the Aladdin shown again below was contributed by Melodie Nichols who points out that the front porch has been enclosed.
Mrs. Nichols is planning a tour of kit homes in and around Clawson MI and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
This photo is of an Aladdin Dresden model home in Clawson MI, purchased (and presumably constructed) in 1919.
Both this Aladdin Dresden home and the Aladdin Edison home shown above were purchased by the same owner in 1919.
Note: kit homes built primarily of masonry (brick or concrete block) are not nearly as common as frame structures due to the higher transportation weight, but Sears also sold some masonry "kit" structures. - Ed.
This is the Aladdin Venus model from 1919. There were two floor plans offered - this is the Venus 1.
This popular model Aladdin home is the Georgia 2, also located in Clawson MI, and a very popular house.
We believe there is a second one in town, as well, but it has had some modifications and doesn't look as "original as this one - it still has the original windows and porch.
This model Aladdin home is shown from the 1910 Aladdin kit house catalog available from the Clarke Historical Library , .
The library offers Aladdin kit home catalogs for most years from 1908 through 1954. In this article on identifying Aladdin kit homes or "knocked-down" houses we include excerpts from those documents.
The 1954 Aladdin kit home catalog [drawing at left] illustrated how the entire home was packed into a single railroad box-car for shipping. 
Aladdin Knocked-down Houses as kit homes produdced by the North American Construction Company advertised that
We send you a comlete house, ready to be nailed together and live in for less than you can buy the rough lumber for.
From the 1910 Aladdin Kit House catalog we note the company's list of just what was provided with each "knocked-down" kit home: 
Every piece of lumber in every Aladdin house has been carefully selected from the highest graade of Huron Pine. Clear yellow pine is used for all inside finish. It is carefully inspected by experienced men and if not up to a high standard is not used.
This is an extremely important point and you should consider it carefully. Our facilities for buying high grades are unequaled by any manufacturer of lumber in the country.
This means much to the purchaser - to know the quality of materials used - to know that the lumber and timber are the best; that it is well seasoned; sound and of first quality throughout.
And nowhere in the world is there better pine to be found than in the great stat of Michigan. All the interior finish, doors, etc. is put through three separate sanding macines, m aking a beautiful finish.
Aladdin plaster board is the greatest single achievement in the builders' craft in the last generation. Aladdin plaster board makes a perfect wall; it is easily and quickly put on; its remarkable construction gives protection against extremes in weather; it is positively fireproof; it deadens sound.
In actual, carefully conducted comparative tests a house lined with Aladdin plaster board required 18 per cent less coal to keep it at a temperature of 70 degrees than a house of identical size and construction, but with the usual lath and plaster inside walls. The above test gave definite proof of the superiority of Aladdin plaster board over lath and plaster.
Aladdin plaster board is comprosed of four layers of wool felt and three thicknesses of the very best close grain plaster. It is manufactured under enormous pressure and the result is a perfect board, stiff, strong, and smooth. It will not crack with age nor loosen from dampness as will the ordinary plaster.
It comes in sheets 32 x 36 inches in size and is nailed directly to the studding. The plaster alone in Aladdin plaster board is equal in warmth to ordinary plaster, while the four layers of wool felt are more than equal in protection to inch lumber sheathing and building paper combined.
You paper directly onto the plaster board. We also furnish a special Plasto-filler, which when mixed with water is used to fill all joints of the plaster board, giving a smooth, perfect wall.
This photo is of an Aladdin kit home constructed in Tivoli, New York. Since its original construction, especially viewed from the exterior, it would be tough to identify this as a kit home much less as an Aladdin kit home.
But the observation of stencil marks on some framing visible in the interior of the home and research by the owners turned up the original plans for this Aladdin home.
Better still, in 2010 the owners of this home began a major renovation that led to gutting the building's interior, exposing the original Aladdin kit home stencils, markings, and even a calling card that identified the kit manufacturer and model number. The Tivoli Aladdin Kit Home case report below details these markings.
In 2010 the owners of this Aladdin home began a major renovation that led to gutting the building's interior, exposing the original Aladdin kit home stencils, markings, and even a calling card that identified the kit manufacturer and model number.
Below we include a photographic guide to the Aladdin kit home stencil markings and other construction annotations exposed on the framing and sheathing of this building.
As exterior siding and felt paper were removed during renovations (below left) blue grease-pencil / crayon markings were visible on some exterior sheathing boards (below right), perhaps as described by Rebecca Hunter (and discussed above)
But as our next two Aladdin construction photos demonstrate (below) we found the more common black inked stencil marking on exterior sheathing boards, most likely indicating their length. Plans and construction guidance for the home required the builder to find the proper framing material by type (2x lumber, sheathing boards, shims, etc.) and dimension or length. [Click any image to see an enlarged, detailed version.]
The hammer marks in our exterior sheathing photo (above right) may have been made during original construction, giving a clue about where the carpenter was standing, through what arc the hammer passed, and how many times she or he missed the nail. [The plywood at left in this photo is a new addition made during renovations.]
Inside this Aladdin home the first floor subflooring (below left) was un-marked common yellow pine. But the wall sheathing 2x lumber was plainly marked for its intended use (below right).
Wall framing was conventional 2x4 dimensioned lumber, 16" on center (below left) but a closer look at the under-side of the wall top framing and top plates shows that the lumber length was also marked on pre-cut 2x4's (below right).
At below left you can see the construction grade stamp on the wall 2x4 stud, and the 16'0" length indication on longer sections of exterior wall sheathing, also pre-cut for assembly. Gable-end exterior wall sheathing boards were also pre-cut and labeled as you can see marked (below right). Notice that the stenciled label refers to "Gable Fig. 11" in the instructions. We do read the instructions, right?
From the first floor we can see that joists to frame the second floor structure were plainly labeled (below left).
And while we have no doubt that the original builders would have howled with laughter at the mere thought of modern viewers romanticizing what the builders surely found was hot hard work building this home, modern viewers interested in the history of a home may enjoy noticing the hand prints of the original builders, left where oil and sweat marked roof sheathing boards (below right).
Earlier we mentioned the blue grease pencil/crayon markings on some lumber in this home. Considering the extensive stenciled identification of framing components, sheathing, flooring we have found, and based on our own construction experience, a plausible but different explanation from that offered by Hunter for these hand written markings (see the window header at below left, marked 3' 11 1/4) is that they were made by the builders during construction, marking cut-to-length materials adjusted on site, not at the factory.
At above right we show the common corner stud and and overlapping top plate design used to tie the long and short gab le end walls together.
Below left you can see that the subflooring material for the second floor was also stenciled for that use.
At below right our photo shows that the second floor joists were end-butted together over a load bearing first floor center partition wall. Rather than rely only on toe-nailing the floor joists to the partition wall top plate, 1x lumber plates were face nailed to the butted joist ends to assure that there would be no separation. This allowed use of shorter lumber lengths (more economical) and took advantage of the lower cost of pre-cutting framing lumber to length at the Aladdin kit home factory in Bay City Michigan..
Standard interior wall stud height was pre-cut to 8'- 4-7/8" (below-left) while cripple studs used in interior door frames below door headers were pre-cut to 6'-9-3/8" (below right). Other exterior wall studs were pre-cut and marked at 8'0" so you can see why clear labeling and picking up the correct pre-cut lumber lengths is important in kit home construction.
This Aladdin home included a stone fireplace with a steel firebox (below left) that may have been added later in the life of the property. Notice that leaks at the chimney had rotted the building sheathing to the left of the fireplace stone.
At below right we illustrate the second floor knee wall partition framing. The diagonal brace at the photo right was added as a temporary brace during this gut-renovation project. Although kit home framing lumber stencil marks will be mostly hidden by finish materials, take a look in the attic knee wall spaces and you're likely to find identifying markings. That's where we first saw stenciled numbers in this home, several years before this renovation project was undertaken.
Our first photo of this home (shown at the start of this article) shows that the front roof slope included a lower intersecting gable at the left end of the home. A lower-height intersecting roof gable called for some compound miter cuts to form the jack rafters (below left) that may have been difficult for amateur builders to get right - another advantage of factory pre-cut lumber used in kit homes. At below right you can see added stencil markings keying construction framing lumber to the home's assembly instructions. The home also included a larger raised dormer at the rear roof slope, shown below.
When second floor plasterboard was removed from this Aladdin home we were excited to find the Aladdin Home card stapled to a second floor doorway header and shown at below-right. This little business-card document identifies the Aladdin Co., Bay City Michigan, gives the order number for this home # 580013, and includes instructions to the original builder.
Aladdin Company Pre-Cut, Pre-Assembled door headers were provided as a pattern for use by the builders.. Aladdin included an example door header (this one with this card attached) along with instructions:
2x4 Header, to be used for any opening calling for 3'-3 1/4" Header, with a note - Assemble all headers in a similar manner using 3/8" spacer material furnished. Spacers to be cut to length on the job. All the amateur builder needed to do was read the instructions and copy this model header to frame in other doorways or windows of the same width, using framing lumber and spacers included in the Aladdin kit.
We've had less success finding details about other kit home companies selling in the United States and Canada, though Rebecca Hunter has compiled a list of a variety of kit house companies. Benefiting from Hunter's work as well as our own search we list a number of kit or catalog home manufacturers here.
For more extensive references on identifying and determining the age of buildings see Find the Age of a House How to Determine the Age of a Building from Visual Clues, Architectural Style, Building Materials, Construction Details, or Documentary Clues
Also see Brick Lined Wall Cavities - determining the age of older homes by bricks in wall cavities.
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Dear Mr. Friedman, Described below, in an e-mail attempting to establish provenance and historical importance for the Aladdin kit rental house I live in, are my house's technical similarities to the nineteen-teens-and-later Sears Simplex Sectionals, for instance, the interior and one exterior version of a Sears model called "Starlight."
If there is any way you can help me in this matter, I should be extremely delighted to have found a way to save the house from a bad future. Here follows the e-mail to Sears. Not incidentally, I'm a little over 15 years younger than the house. - L.H. Subject: Sears Simplex Sectionals My 1910 (King County, WA, county record) rental cottage, very small, exactly matches some of the Sears Simplex Sectional specifications--2-1/2-inch-thick walls made of panels 36" on center, bolted together, same room dimensions, window placement, interior fittings, chimney placement, hip roof, house-wide front porch, dormer at the front (since removed by my now-foreclosed landlord--he said "It might leak.").
But it is not a Simplex Sectional, instead having in 1910 come out from Michigan in a railroad flatcar package, numbered parts, detailed instructions, evidently before the birth of Simplex Sectionals. It is an Aladdin kit house, and may be the last extant pioneer specimen of the type in the Pacific Northwest or maybe anywhere. It is historically significant in several ways, standing within ten minutes of downtown Seattle, at the northern crest of the last visible remnant of the once commercially and sociologically important route between "suburb" Renton and the flourishing new city.
I have rented here for nearly twenty-eight years, in an old-timey, diversely populated, historically significant area. To save the house from destruction, I very much want to establish it as a candidate for historic preservation. It has passed from bubble-loan landlord to the Bank-lender, then to Fannie Mae, and lastly, by "repurchase," back to the Bank. The Bank wants to raise the rent by $240, not an option for me. It is on a non-conforming-use lot said to be 7600 sq. ft., and to be worth $260,000 to $278,000. Does this indicate an immanent odor of bulldozer?
Here is what I need from Sears. By e-mail [or for forwarding to the original reader who asks for this information contact InspectAPedia.com using our CONTACT link at page top, left, or bottom], could you please send some early Simplex Sectional plans with pictures, floor-plans, and interior views that might corroborate my findings.
The reason I know that the house is by Aladdin Kit Homes is because the house came from Michigan (Bay City), and Sears Simplex Sectionals did not exist until later than 1910. Years ago an archivist told me that even back then everybody latched on to available good ideas (hence same dimensions and procedures), and that Aladdin records had been donated to the University of Northern Michigan. Unfortunately, those records did not pre-date 1915, though Aladdin had been in business for much longer than that. I will be very thankful if you can be of help.
- Louise Hotaling, 3811 Renton Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98108. tele 206-723-3811. Email: email@example.com
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help identify the origin of a home and its manufacture.
That said, if you missed our article on identifying Aladdin kit homes, take a look at ALADDIN KIT HOUSES [the article just above] and our other kit house references and identifcation aids at left. The same process described at SEARS KIT HOME IDENTIFICATION can help identify the origin of other kit homes.
I'm doubtful you'll find someone at modern Sears Roebuck & Co. that can answer your identification questions about your home, but there are several published authors on Sears Kit Houses, as we cite in our references at SEARS KIT HOUSES - and also at Books on Sears and other Kit or Catalog Houses. you might try contacting Rosemary Thornton, for example.
I'd like to be identified. Somebody who knows more than I do about the Aladdin provenance question may catch my name at your site and tell me what he/she knows. I have already said that I talked to a Sears-interest archivist who directed me to Northern Michigan University. Nothing further back than 1915 had been donated to NMU. This house is documented 1910. I'm sending you a photograph of it when I can get it to go.
This very night I'll write to Rosemary Thornton. I found out only today that she also has some interest in Aladdin houses. I read her book on the Sears houses many years ago when I still believed the house was a really early Sears Simplex Sectional. I tried to get Sears to investigate it--same panel measurements, hip roof, dormer, window and door placement, same livingroom and diningroom configuration, as the Sears "Starlight" (Thornton, page 76, fig. 75). But I was told that Sears had lost their 1910 catalog, and that seemed to be that.
Until researcher-archivists told me that it was probably an Aladdin. Do you know of anyone here who might be considered an expert onsite inspector? It's too late for my informant, lifelong Seattle resident Steve Potteiger, the foreclosed landlord's former factotum, who died of old age more than several years ago. He knew everything there was to know about early Seattle and its environs and history and denizens.
(May 15, 2014) LORRy Harbaugh said:
We own an Aladdin home in Pittsburgh, PA. It is the Brewster and was built by my father-in-law in 1948. It's a perfect small home and we love it.
Wonderful Lorry. If you like, you can send along some photos (use the CONTACT link at page bottom) we'd be glad to add them to the publication above to assist other readers.
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We recommend all three of these publications. Item #1 is a great reference catalog of home designs, organized to help as a field guide. Rosemary Thornton's two books contain additional specific details which you will find instrumental in identifying Sears Catalog Homes.