Lewis Manufacturing Company, located in Bay City, Michigan, was one of the prominent Michigan companies that engaged early in the kit home manufacturing business. Like Aladdin, with which Lewis had very close ties in its earliest years (it manufactured Aladdin's kit homes until 1914), Lewis produced high-quality homes in its facility on the shores of Lake Huron.
Shipping by rail to train depots throughout the Midwest and beyond, Lewis was able to achieve the distribution reach, if not the volume, of its competitors. Home builders, swayed by the compelling marketing of the manufacturers, were able to pick up crates of materials at the local train station and, with a little help from their friends and kin, assemble their new homes over the course of a summer.
Such kit homes were often small, but we've included a range of styles and sizes to show the variety available.
The history of Lewis Manufacturing was somewhat convoluted, but closely followed the life of its namesake, Adna G. Lewis. According to the History of Bay County, Michigan (1905), Lewis spent most of his career in Bay City in the lumber and milling industry for which that region was famous.
In 1879, George Lewis (Adna's father) formed a partnership with Albert Miller, under the name Miller & Lewis, until 1891. It was then reorganized as George Lewis & Company, a large shingle manufacturer. At the same time, Mr. Lewis became associated with G.H. Merrill & Company, which developed into Lewis Manufacturing. With the death of Merrill in 1895, the company was incorporated with George Lewis as president, and sons G. H. Lewis as vice president and Adna G. Lewis as secretary and treasurer. Adna Lewis continued as manager of Lewis Manufacturing, which by 1905 "dealt in all kinds of lumber, sash, doors, and interior finishings."
An early association with North American Construction (the Aladdin homes people) evaporated during the early 'teens. Lewis Manufacturing began distributing its homes catalog in about 1914, though advertisements for its pre-cut cottages may have appeared earlier. In the 1910 census, Adna Lewis lists his occupation as a manufacturer of doors and sash. He played an active role in growing the company throughout the 'teens, but sold out his interest in the company before 1920.
Included in our collection here is one small catalog called "Liberty Homes." It appears without a copyright or any reference to Lewis Manufacturing, so its date can't be certain. According to other researchers (Schweitzer), Lewis began publishing its own catalog in 1913–14 with a "Lewis-Built Homes catalogue, with 105 different homes, classified as "Bungalows," "Semi-Bungalows," "Cottages," ..." The records are thin, but the Liberty Homes catalog shows one plan that was included in the 1922 Homes of Character catalog.
Whatever the connection, it's clear that the Liberty Ready-Cut Homes were the surviving kits when the Depression hit. The last large home catalog may have been published in 1926; later catalogs apparently offered only the small Liberty plans.
Lewis Manufacturing was in business until 1973 when it went bankrupt. (See later Liberty home plans at Mid Century Homestyle.)
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