James Fenderson House

Imagine if home buying were as simple as flipping through a catalog filled with fashionable, affordable options and picking out your favorite. That’s what many people did in the early 1900s (and some are doing today on the internet). Among them: Saco jeweler James Fenderson, who selected his Modern Home #124 from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. mail-order catalog and assembled it on Main Street. Kit houses from businesses like Sears and The Aladdin Company were popular because they met the high demand for affordable housing during the World War I years and offered anyone the opportunity to own an attractive, well-made home. Fenderson chose a trendy bungalow style, clearly represented in the building’s low-pitched roof with overhanging eaves and large columns; the interior is rendered in the more traditional Colonial Revival style. The house was completed in 1914 — perhaps within the 90-day construction window promised by Sears — just in time for Fenderson to win the 1915 Saco mayoral election.

Portland-based writer Julie Senk holds degrees in history and historic preservation and provides property surveys and architectural analyses to homeowners and businesses. To learn more about her work, visit northernvernacular.com.