1921 North 21st St. began its life as one of the late model Sears and Roebuck kit homes. This specific kit home was known as the Alden, and it was produced and sold from 1934 until 1940. Originally this model sold for $2,418.00, and it strived to emulate the colonial style while avoiding severe lines. The overhung second floor was ironically labeled as an individualizing characteristic of this home. Because the home was completed in 1941 it was most likely one of the last kit homes to be produced, and built, in the Boise area. This is due to the fact that Sears ended production of kit homes in 1940, as this is the year that they stopped issuing their Modern Homes catalog. Furthermore, Sears made it difficult to identify the homes as kit homes because they did a cooperate cleanout that resulted in the destruction of most records surrounding kit homes and their sales. Despite the destruction of the paper documentation of the Sear’s kit homes, they are easy to identify in this area, as there are five models of the Alden within a block of this house.
The Alden has a few identifying cosmetic features, such as the slight overhang of the second floor, the “bleeding brick” that covers the outside of the first level, and the simple rectangular design of the house as a whole. Stylistic elements were divided between the two levels of the Alden, the top story had white shingles with shuttered windows whereas the first story was sided with brick and stone and the windows were left without shutters. Sears actually recommended that buyers use a variety of bricks and stones on the bottom level in order to virtually lengthen the house and to provide a greater spectrum of color and visual texture.
Although this house is obviously an Alden model, it has gone through a series of renovations that set it apart from the other Aldens in the area. It is not documented, but the current owners, Margie and Paul Baehr, believe that a small add-on was done very early in the houses history. It is thought that previous owners added a sleeping porch to the back left of the house, adjacent to the garage. Where this sleeping porch would have connected to the house, there is a slight inconsistency in the floor, and this has led to the preservation of this idea. This original add-on seemed to begin the long trend of renovations that mark the history of this home.
Though Margie and Paul think that there have been many renovations before it (possibly one in the 60s extending the side of the home and adding a second fireplace), the first documented renovation occurred in the 1980s. This renovation added a bathroom to the main floor, as, despite original floor plans, the only bathroom was on the second floor. This renovation also extended the secondary living area of the house, but the roof was made flat, causing it to be hazardous and stylistically disharmonious. When the current owners bought the house the previous renovations were all outdated. The “newer” bathroom on the main floor was obviously from the eighties, and was its entrance was inconveniently positioned (this was a side-job renovation that was done before employing architect Emily Stegner-Schwartz).
The problems continued, as the previously renovated section of the roof was low and flat. Because the roof was flat, whenever it rained, water collected on the roof and journeyed down through the electrical system that ran into the ceiling lights. The water would then drip out of the ceiling lights in the section below the roof, causing a hazardous gas, Freon, to poor into the living space below. The flat, leaky ceilings were replaced with the massive renovation in 2007. The renovators were able to push the ceilings of the home up; this allowed for more headroom, a more inviting feeling, and a continuation of the original gabled roofline. Finally, the backyard/property was poorly shaped, restrictive, and unkempt. To fix this Margie and Paul bought an extra piece of property that borders theirs, creating an “L” shaped lot. This gave the lot more interconnectedness, and pushed the fence line back enough to fit the extended rear end of the house.
Today this home retains many of the original stylistic elements. However, through multiple renovations it has taken on a slightly different architectural style. The most significant changes occurred in 2007 under the close supervision of the current owners. These renovations were carried out by local architect Emily Stegner-Schwartz and were made with the intent of sticking to the colonial design of the house. As previously stated the architect worked hard to retain the houses gabled styled roof and the structure in all of the additions that she made to the home. At the beginning of the 2007 renovations, some blueprints were made that significantly altered the roofline of the home, but it was decided that they should not be used in the final design. Margie and Paul also made sure that they kept the same contrasting outside shutters, but added shutters on the lower level in order to make the two stories more cohesive. The hue of the house and the materials of the siding were kept in the older colonial style. A white wooden siding remains on most of the home, and the front of the first floor is made of a painted, white brick.
While many of the colonial characteristics were kept, a neo classical style emerged as well. Tuscan pillars support the majority of the overhangs of the house; this makes the neo classical style obvious to the untrained eye. Furthermore, the renovation removed the turned wood drops that hung from the original second story overhang, and removed the extra grout that was between the bricks (bleeding brick style). In addition, both the garage and the pool house were renovated to continue the style that the architect developed in the main house (i.e. siding, pillars, shutters). Despite a handful of stylistic changes, the home retains its roots and is easily defined as an Alden kit home. The last renovation truly made this house a timeless home, by mixing the styles of the age to create a homey, luxurious, and simply style.
The Sears kit home has proven itself to be a sturdy and reliable home in the North End neighborhood. Despite its conformity, each home in this neighborhood is truly individual, but Margie and Paul’s home stands out as a beautiful modern take on the Alden kit home.