clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Save This Old House: New York Queen Anne

Invest in an early Sears kit house with charming original details

Model Queen Anne

Photo by Wendy LaVancha

Published January 2015

Price: $32,500

Location: Henderson, New York

Contact: Dawn Smith, 607-435-8243

The History: When a young sailor from Henderson named Melbourn Kilby took a job with a local captain on Lake Ontario, he may have had his eye on more than just a paycheck. After only a few years, he married the captain's daughter, Lena. The couple moved to Chicago, where Melbourn went into business as a tailor. He befriended Alvah Roebuck and Richard Sears, who were in the early stages of forming Sears, Roebuck and Co. After returning to Henderson and having a son, Melbourn and Lena built this Queen Anne in 1894 using an early version of a kit that Sears, Roebuck was just starting to sell. Fittingly, the house was delivered in pieces aboard a ship that docked in nearby Henderson Harbor. The family lived in the house until 1902, when they moved to Florida. The place has had numerous owners since and has been vacant for the past 20 years.

Shown: The four-bedroom house sits on four-fifths of an acre and abuts hayfields in the surrounding countryside.

Zillow, the real-estate marketplace, wants to see this home restored. As a Proud Preservation Partner of Save This Old House, Zillow is offering a $2,000 award to the buyer of this diamond in the rough. Contact for details. And to explore more homes for sale, visit Offer expires 2/29/2016.

Charming Original Features

Photo by Wendy LaVancha

Why Save It? The 2,300-square-foot home retains many original features, including an elaborate three-story turret and a decorated portico. The interior has its charming pine staircase, pine floors, and oak moldings and doors.

Shown: While this small stoop and portico still stand, the house lost its original wraparound porch, which extended from the back of the house to the edge of the turret.

Rare Americana Gem

Photo by Wendy LaVancha

What It Needs: The house has water and electric service but needs new systems and a new roof. Most of the siding can be salvaged, but some floor joists should be reinforced. The interior is largely gutted down to the studs, and most of the windows are missing. Henderson is a town of 1,360, about an hour north of Syracuse. As one of the earliest kit houses ever offered, this gem is a rare piece of Americana, well worth saving.

Shown: The detailed portico is an example of the intricate mass-produced trim that made kit houses so popular.

Turn-Style Doorbell

Photo by Wendy LaVancha

The front door retains its brass knob, escutcheon plate, and turn-style doorbell.

Stored Baseboard and Casings

Photo by Wendy LaVancha

The house's interior has been stripped of the original plaster, but most of the baseboards and casings—as well as spindlework from the original porch—are stored safely inside.

Pine Staircase in Need of Finishing

Photo by Wendy LaVancha

The original pine staircase is intact and awaits refinishing.

Maytown-Model House

By the time homes like Melbourn Kilby's were sold through the Sears catalog, the popularity of Queen Anne-style houses was losing ground to Colonial Revivals. His house eventually morphed into the "Maytown," seen above, which featured a scaled-back turret, a simpler porch, and a more symmetrical roofline—for $753.