Monday, September 23, 2013

What is a "Historic Home"?
Part I

It is interesting to note that many perceive the term "historic home" as referring to a home that is a landmark or plaqued.  In the real estate industry, however, a "historic home" refers to any home that is 50 years or older.  Oh yes, that means that all those 1950s ranches are now considered "historic homes"!  Indeed, there is even a museum dedicated to this very thing--the 1950s ranch and how families lived during that era.  (rolling meadows historical museum)

The 1950s Ranch is a "Historic Home"
picture from Daily Herald

A now historic "modern-day" kitchen picture design from 1951.  So pretty in pink!

Going right down the line then are homes pre-1950s which one typically would equate with as having a more custom-type of construction, i.e., built on-site as opposed to pre-fab.  Originating in the 1600s and re-introduced again by Royal Barry Wills as an architectural style in the 1920s, the cape cod became a typical suburban home built in the 1940s.  Its exterior was in keeping with the original design of the 1600s but the interior was adapted for modern living.  Returning soldiers from WWII were in need of housing and this simple house fit the bill.

Royal Barry Wills Cape Cod
copyrighted image

This design was promoted as a "house for homemakers" which essentially is indicative of what most women were considered to have been doing during that era.

The 1930s brought in the era of Art Deco which primarily was seen in commercial applications and apartment buildings.  Art Deco consisted of geometric shapes, bold colors, and lavish ornamentation. 

Art Deco Carbide and Carbon Building
Chicago, IL (pic by Terence Faircloth)

Art Deco also influenced the interior design of the buildings as well as fashion, art, and furniture.

Art Deco Elevators Chicago

One style of home that was built in the 1930s was the "English cottage" home also known as the English Vernacular Revival, which was basically a bungalow with tudor styling.  These homes were single-story with steep pitched gabled roofs and one or more dominant front-facing gables.  

1936 Sears Roebuck Kit House

English Cottage Venacular, aka Tudor

The era of 1920s-1930s home were typical of the arts and crafts movement, aka craftsman, with the bungalow being a primary and most popular style.  The bungalow was not just an architectural style--but a way of life where all rooms were on one floor with no stairs allowing for ease of living.  

Part II next week.

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(an old Irish blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Specializing in Historic Homes
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to School History of Transporation

Did you know that the first "school bus" came into existence in 1827?  Yes, long before the automobile there existed the horse-drawn school carriage.  The very first "school bus" was designed to carry 27 children for a Quaker school in London.

First "School Bus" by Schillibeer in London

In the United States, a company called Wayne Works (and later known as Wayne Corporation) began manufacturing farm implements in 1837.  It is unclear, even in Wayne Work's own history as to when the manufacture of horse-drawn carriages began.  What is known is that by 1886 Wayne Works was manufacturing horse-drawn school carriages.  For the most part, prior to 1886, children were transported to school by farm wagons.

Wayne Works c 1868 School Hack
per WayneWorks picture from Nation's Schools

Interestingly, in Massachusetts circa 1869, the first legislation was passed to use public funds to pay farmers to transport students.  (   Horse-drawn school carriages were known as "school hacks" (hack being a certain type of carriage); "school trucks", "school cars", and "kid hacks".
Florida School Hack c 1989

The entrance to the carriages were through a rear single-door door entry so that the children would not startle the horse while loading and unloading.  

Florida School Hack c 1900

Some school districts even had a fleet of school trucks.

Early fleet of school trucks

In Northern climates during the winter children were transported by sleigh.  Believe it or not, a horse-drawn school carriage often did the job.

circa 1925, South Winn, Maine
copyright Lincoln Historical Society, item 34755

In 1914, Wayne Works put a wooden kid hack onto a automobile chassis and the fore-runner to the modern-day school bus was born.  While not the first to transport children via motor buses--they are recognized as the largest manufacturer of school buses.  Early models maintained the same design of a rear single-door entry.

Early School Bus with Rear Entry
picture from Wikipedia

Early Wayne motorized School Bus
per WayneWorks picture from Nation's Schools

Wayne Works was one of the earliest school bus manufacturer to replace the canvas window shades with windows circa 1930.

Wayne Works c 1930 School Bus
per WayneWorks picture from Nation's Schools

Even modern school buses retain the rear single-entry door now used for emergency exit.

What is your favorite memory about your trip to school?  Did you ride in a school bus, walk, or get a ride?

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Specializing in Historic Homes
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty pictures of Florida school trucks @

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Look Back in Time on a Hot Summer's Day

An early sleeping porch early 1900s
Today I thought I would take a look back into everyday life as it used to be.  Certainly there is a tendency at times to romanticize these "simpler" times.  Yet it is important to remember that with these "simpler" times came a lot of hard work and on a warm summer day like today--discomfort.  During the hot summer nights before the advent of air conditioning people would often create sleeping areas on outdoor porches--screened and unscreened.   In the early 1900s sleeping porches also gained popularity as it was believed that the fresh air was helpful for those suffering from tuberculosis.  The health benefits of fresh air was also touted.  In the Queen Anne style homes sleeping porches were often accessed through a window not a door.

It was Benjamin Franklin--the father of "all" inventions--who did discover the cooling effects of evaporation as early as 1758.  It wasn't until 1820 though that a Dr. John Gorrie built an ice-making machine that used compression to make buckets of ice and then blew air over them.  He patented the idea in 1851 but without any financial backing the idea went no further.  Another attempt at a cooling machine was made in 1881 and successfully lowered the air in the room by 20 degrees but utilized a half million pounds of ice in two months.  

It was not until 1902 that a economically usable system for cooling air and removing humidity was implemented by Willis Carrier for the Sackett-Willems Lithograph and Publishing Company so that the paper wouldn't wrinkle thereby keeping the ink aligned.  In 1906 a textile mill engineer named Stuart Cramer coins the phrase "air conditioning" when he adds humidity to the air of a yarn factory allowing for easier spinning of the yarn thereby reducing breakage.  Ironically the term "air conditioning" was first coined to describe adding humidity to the air as opposed to our modern-day understanding of removing it.  

Charles Gates Mansion
The first known home installation of an air conditioning unit was in the 38,000 square foot Minneapolis mansion of Charles Gates in 1914 and was approximately 7 feet high by 6 feet wide by and 20 feet long.  However as the home was never lived in, there remains questions as to whether or not it was ever put into use.

Willis Carrier and his
first centrifugal refrigeration system
In 1922, Willis Carrier added a central compressor to his system which enabled him to reduce the size of the system thereby making it practical to install in other applications other than a factory.  The system was installed in the Rivoli Theater in times square and debuted to the public.on Memorial Day Weekend in 1925.  In fact the term "summer blockbuster" arises from the large numbers of people who would pile into movie theaters on hot summer days.    

In the 1931 an individual air conditioner was invented that sits on a window ledge by H. H. Schultz and G. Q. Sherman.  These units are available for sale a year later at the cost of $10,000-$50,000 which is equivalent to $100,000 to $600,000 today.  (Popular Mechanics)  However, current calculations would put this at more like $170,000 to $850,000.  (Now that is taking luxury to new heights!)  Needless to say, it was the wealthy who were the only ones who could afford this modern-day luxury in their homes.  

Throughout the 1930s air conditioning spread to "department stores, rail cars, and offices, sending workers' summer productivity soaring.  Until then, central courtyards and wide-open windows had offered the only relief".  (Oremus)  "According to Gail Cooper's Air Conditioning America, tests of federal employees showed that typists increased their output by 24% when transferred from a regular office to a cooled one.  By 1957, the AC's early reputation for making workers lazy had been successfully inverted; Cooper writes of another study showing that, by then, almost 90% of companies cited air-conditioning as the most important factor in office efficency."  (Steinmetz)

In 1939 the first car with air conditioning rolled off the Packard production line.  The option costs $274 ($4,600 in today's money).  Yet dash controls for the device came later and the driver, if feeling too chilly, had to stop the car and disconnect the compressor.  Ah, the good ol' days. 

(Lambert/Getty image)
In the 1950s economic boom air conditioning became another way to keep up with the Joneses.  More than 1 million units were sold in 1953 alone.  However, as late as 1965, only 10% of the U.S. households have air conditioning.  "Families in the South made do by sleeping on the porch or even putting their underwear in the icebox."  (Oremus).   

By 2007 the number of households with air conditioning was 86 percent.  This ability to cool down the interior of a home resulted in a shifting of U.S. population as "Sun Belt cities that had been unbearable in the summer became more attractive places to live and work".  (Oremus)

Check out this timeline for more information about the history of air conditioning:  

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Specializing in Historic Homes
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty

A Brief History of Air Conditioning by Popular Mechanics.
A History of Air Conditiong by Will Oremus
Air Conditioning by Katie Steinmetz in Time U.S.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ever Wonder Where the Word Boycott Came From?

During the past week I ran across a post on Facebook that talked about the origin of the word "boycott" and I thought it would be interesting to share it here as it certainly is something that applies to our everyday life with a history of its own.  The word actually originated in Ireland in the 1880s after locals set about to shun Captain Charles Boycott for his eviction of Irish tenant farmers during the last main Irish famine which began in 1879.  In contrast to the Great Famines of 1740-1741 and 1845-1849, the result of this famine was for the most part hunger that was not life threatening and it was mainly concentrated in the west of Ireland.  While a series of food shortages and crop failures swept through Ireland during the 1870s and into the early 1890s, a larger scale crop shortage during 1879 led it to be called a famine and it is sometimes referred to as "An Gorta Beag" meaning mini-famine.

Woman Gathering a Meal
From The Graphic
January 24, 1880
Both the English and American press covered the famine and there exists many stories and sketches from that particular era.  To the left is the sketch of a woman gathering a meal in the field from an article entitled "The Distress in the West" from The Graphic on January 24, 1880.

The state of the tenant farmer was poor at best.  Most lived in small thatched houses which were really nothing more than hovels.  A description of which was printed in the article "The Distress in the West of Ireland" in Harper's Weekly on February 14, 1880:

Tenant Thatched "House"
From Harper's Weekly
February 14, 1880

"At present the miserable constructions on Irish farms area a source of amazement to a visitor who knows that he is among a people that pretend to live by agriculture.  In vain he looks for specimens of the quadrangle straw yard, with surrounding buildings, which distinguishes most English farms. Except on the few large holding, there are no straw yards at all, and no farm premises beyond the small thatched houses or hovels which are here honored with the designation of barns, cow-houses, and stables--usually joined on to the farmer's dwelling-house..."

According to Harper's Weekly "the vast majority of Irish farm land (97% in 1870) was owned by men who rented the land to tenant farmers, not by those who cultivated the land themselves.  Land ownership was also concentrated in the hands of a few; in 1870, only 750 families owned 50% of the land in Ireland."  The population of the time was 5,000,000.  With impending hunger and threat of another widespread famine, a social movement in the form of The Irish National Land League, also known as the Land League, was formed in 1879.  Harper's Weekly goes on to explain that "The Land League organized agitation throughout Ireland for an end to evictions and a radical change in the land system to allow tenants to become landowners.  To enforce uniform compliance with their goals, the Land League convinced people to shun those tenants, land agents, and landlords who failed to cooperate."  The first such use of this tactic was against the landlord and agent named Charles Boycott.

Captain Charles Boycott c 1880

Charles Boycott was both a landlord and an agent who collected rents for a landlord.  He himself having entered into a 31-year lease for 300 acres in the town of Ballinrobe was a landlord.  He also worked for the landlord, Lord Erne, in the management of 1000 acres.  Lord Erne's estates had 38 tenant farmers of which Boycott was responsible for.  Due to the 1879 Famine, Lorde Erne was allowing for a 10% reduction in collecting the rents.  The tenant farmers demanded a 25% reduction.  When the tenants were unable to pay their rents, mass evictions by Captain Boycott were ordered.  In response, the implementation of shunning Captain Boycott was put into place by the Land League.  Captain Boycott's shunning was so complete that even the person delivering mail refused after being threatened with bodily harm if mail was delivered to the Boycotts.

With the implementation of the shunning, Captain Boycott could not even harvest the crops in his field.  The British state attempted to harvest his crop by calling on all Orangeman to come and assist when local labourers refused to do the same.  In the end it took the protection of 2000 drafted into the area by the British state to bring in the harvest.  According to a post from The Irish History Podcast entitled "An Introduction to the Land War 1879-1882":   "While the league did not attempt to oppose such a large force, the entire operation cost the British state 10,000 pounds to harvest a crop worth a few hundred pounds.  This was a massive victory for the League as the state authorities could not carry out similar actions across the country--the boycott was born."

Boycott Family Harvesting Their Crops
From Harper's Weekly
December 18, 1880

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
--An Old Irish Blessing

Marian McCoy Boveri
Historic Homes Specialist

Monday, August 19, 2013

"A Home in a Prairie Town"

1036 S. Third St., St. Charles, IL, painting

The story begins...c 1910 in St. Charles, IL.  This home, located at 1036 S. Third Street, was built in the Prairie style evidenced by the low-pitched roof and large overhanging eaves.  In fact, the eaves measure 40" wide according to the most recent owner of the home who purchased it in 1956.  Underneath the aluminum sheathing of the eaves can be found the original tongue and groove oak panels. Other elements of the Prairie style are seen in the square masonry that support the porch roof; the window placements and double hung original windows of which some still remain; the one-story wing; and the facade detailing of  banding which emphasizes horizontal lines.

1036 S. Third St., St. Charles, IL, picture from MLS 7/2/13

The Prairie style is one of America's few indigenous architectural styles.  Developed in sympathy with the Arts and Crafts Movement out of England, the Prairie style was a deliberate attempt to develop an American architectural style.  Interestingly, the Prairie style originated in Chicago and was mostly built between 1905 and 1915 and quickly went out of fashion after World War I.  It was actually very short-lived in popularity as far as architectural styles go.  Many of its landmark examples exist in the surrounding Chicago suburbs, in particular Oak Park and River Forest.  Locally there is a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style c 1906 home in Batavia at 637 North Batavia Avenue which can be seen in the picture below.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed Prairie Style home
637 North Batavia Avenue, Batavia
c 1906--National Landmark Home

The Prairie style earned its name after Frank Lloyd Wright's home design for the 1901 Ladies Home Journal magazine was dubbed:  "A Home in a Prairie Town".  The development of the style was ushered in by a feeling that Victorian homes were boxed in and confining and that the new industrial age with its assembly lines and mass production had lost touch with fine quality craftsmanship as well as resulting in dehumanizing workers.  Frank Lloyd Wright, along with a group of architects who called themselves "The Chicago Group" (now commonly known as the Prairie School) designed this style in relation to the prairie landscape. Low horizontal lines mimicking the prairie were evident in the low-pitched roofs and large overhanging eaves. Built-ins and custom furniture were also part of the style.  Everything about the Prairie style exuded practicality in direct opposition to the ornate Victorian home.  

The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, 
but one that makes the landscape more beautiful than before.  
--Frank Lloyd Wright.

Please stay tuned as I will be updating this blog post with more particular information about the Third Street home as it relates to the history of St. Charles.  One thing that I do know off-hand is that the builder and original owner of the home worked at the St. Charles Cable Piano Factory.  The Cable Piano Company building in St. Charles was built in 1901 and at the height of its productivity employed as many as 500 employees.

Cable Piano Company
St. Charles, IL
Photo from St. Charles Library

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Historic Homes Specialist
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty


Sources:  McAlester--A Field Guide to American Houses; Wikipedia;; MRED MLS

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blog Feature

How exciting to have my blog featured in the The Beacon-News by Joy Davis.  Please know that I will be blogging weekly and posting on Mondays.  So stop back and visit to take a stroll back into history!

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri

National Style Front Gable House with Greek Revival Influence

248 N. May St.
Hinckley, IL
The story begins...c 1890 in Hinckley, Illinois.  This property was relocated sometime in the early 1950s from its original location on Route 30, also known as Lincoln Highway. This house is a Gable-Front Folk House built in the National style according to "A Field Guide of American Houses" by Virginia and Lee McAlester.  The simplicity of the architectural features and its front-gabled placement of entry shows some Greek Revival influence.  In essence one of the remaining Greek Revival architectural influences left as the Greek Revival style home fell out of fashion in the late 1860s was the front-gable house.  This type of house was well-suited for urban lots and impacted domesticity in a way that allowed a more private portion of the home to exist.  In the past homes were built with a side gable and center entry and public and private rooms merged together.  With the Greek Revival's front-gable entry rooms in the house could be closed off for privacy.

The tip-off to the Greek Revival influence is the cornice line of the main roof as being emphasized with a wide band of trim (the trim just below the roof line).  This type of architectural feature is really more indicative of an earlier house fashion and would commonly be found on a Greek Revival home (c 1825-1860).  The National style of house was built c 1850-1890--so this home is built at the end of the National style era with Greek Revival influence.  The windows also have a simple decorative lintel with classical features once again similar to a Greek Revival home.

Wide band of trim along the cornice line

What many people may not know about Hinckley is that it was the site of the first road game for the Harlem Globetrotters on January 7, 1927, in front of a crowd of 300 which was just about half of the population of the whole town.  (1920 census population was 663.)  One of the town residents had gone to college with the owner, Abe Saperstein, of the Harlem Globetrotters and he invited them to play in Hinckley.  Despite the name "Harlem", the team was from Chicago and arrived in Hinckley in a Model "T" Ford.  While speaking with one of the volunteers, Jerry Bahl, at the Hinckley Historical Society, I was informed that at the time the Globetrotters came to Hinckley, the players were not allowed to stay in the town's hotel which was located at May and Route 30.  It was related that a kind doctor in town took the players in and allowed them to stay in the second floor of his building.  Imagine that the now world-famous Harlem Globetrotters were once turned away from lodging!

This image from the Hinckley Historical Society is the north side of Lincoln Avenue from May Street.  The caption reads:  "This is the hotel where the Globe Trotters were refused lodging-photo taken in about 1912.  In 1928 Highway U.S. 30 was constructed through the town and the streets were paved with concrete at that time.  The three buildings to the right of the hotel are still standing.  The hotel is not."  The hotel is the building in the forefront of the left side of the picture.

Hinckley remains a small rural town with a population of 2,070.  There is an active downtown and a local grocery store.  The Hinckley Historical Society has done a wonderful job in preserving their small town's history and their museum is well worth a visit.  They are located at 145 East Lincoln Highway, Hinckley, IL, and is open on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The property at 248 N. May St. had later additions put onto it and currently has 3193 square feet of living space!  The property has been converted into a 2-flat and is currently a foreclosure and listed at $119,900.  For more information about this property please contact Marian Boveri at 847-308-2424.

Until we meet again...may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Historic Homes Specialist
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty
St. Charles, IL