Dozens of small, medium, and large lumber companies and mills jumped on board the home building business from 1905 and 1925.
Most were like the Harris Bros. Company of Chicago. Having an earlier corporation in a related business, the Harris Brothers were quick to see the possibilities of profit in the kit home business. Unlike many of its competitors however, the Harris Brothers were in the business of wrecking and salvage instead of milling and manufacturing. They got their start at the conclusion of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and had the interesting distinction of being the company that destroyed the first, and very spectacular, Ferris wheel.
With their success at destruction, which was reasonably profitable, the brothers turned their attention to what was rapidly becoming a booming business ... kit home manufacturing.
Their first catalog was published in 1910. By 1918, the Company had established themselves with "The Harris Way" and its distinguishing details which included liberal terms and "money back for waste" as well as unconditional guarantees.
Like other companies, Harris offered a service to produce "special plans to order," which meant that they would take a customer's sketches and create plans to their specifications. Customers ordering in sufficient quantity could negotiate cut-to-fit manufacturing as well "when houses are ordered in quanities, sufficiently large to warrant" production.
Most of the Midwest kit home manufacturers delivered their products regionally, so the vast majority of the homes designed and manufactured by Harris are found in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan though testimonials shown in the catalog range from builders as far flung as Maine to Kansas.
In addition to kit homes comparable to Sears and Aladdin, the Harris Brothers also sold sectional housing manufactured and loaded onto a box car for rapid assembly. The Presto-Up houses were offered in single, double, and triple-walled construction.
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