1921 Fenner Manufacturing Ready Built Homes: Portland Kit Home Manufacturer

John Harvey Fenner, late of Bay City, Michigan, set up business as a lumber dealer in 1912. By 1916, the Ready Built House Company was providing kit homes to home buyers across the US. Few records exist of the Fenner Company.

It’s location on the Northern shore of the Willamette River is obscured by time and development. However, in 1921, Fenner Manufacturing was in a new manufacturing facility with access to both the river and the railway yards.

The homes offered are similar to those built by many of the other companies, but possibly with a bit more of a Northwestern flavor.

The Fenner Manufacturing Company was in business from about 1916 to 1928, when it disappears from the City Directory.


The Bronxville is a charming kit bungalow cottage with a clipped gable roof and casement windows. In less than a 1000 sq. ft. the homeowners have all the necessary space to make a pleasant home. The only major deficiency is the larger bedroom being accessed directly from the living room and the remoteness of the bathroom for guests.



On the outside the Indiana displays a number of bungalow characteristics including the exposed rafters, knee braces, and forward gable. However, on the inside, though it has the open floor plan, it also shows marked similarities with the foursquare house plans of the period.



The Kentucky model kit home designed and manufactured by Fenner in Portland, Oregon is an elaborate foursquare Colonial Revival. It features a den in addition to the normal living spaces on the main floor, a formal entry hall and vestibule, three bedrooms and a sleeping porch.



The Virginia is a modern Colonial Revival with about 2000 sq. ft. of living space making it a large house by 1920 standards. On the exterior, the large wraparound porch and eyebrow roof, small bay window and classic style attest to its early American antecedents.



The 1921 Fenner Carolina model kit home is a classically-inspired bungalow with massive pillars across a symmetrical facade. The forward gable and generous porch welcome the visitor. Pergolas flank both sides of the porch, which opens into a large livingroom. Kitchen and dining are located on one side with both bedrooms opening off the living room.



The Texas model by Fenner Manufacturing of Portland, Oregon is big all over. The hipped roof and broad eaves pull a few characteristics from the recent Prairie Style, which had faded in popularity and combine with the ever present Colonial Revival. The formal entry and symmetrical facade would have appealed to many home buyers of the 1920s.



Designed as a low cost family home, the Rainier kit model designed and manufactured by Fenner Manufacturing in Portland, has traditional farmhouse style with 1920 amenities. It’s a modest, simple style that is an American classic.



The Hudson home manufactured by Fenner during the 1920s is an example of the Dutch Colonial Revival style. Its gambrel roof provides the distinctive character of this Colonial Revival subtype.


St. Helens

Portland kit home manufacturer, Fenner Ready Built, offered the St. Helens model in its 1921 catalog as a home of “proven popularity”. Its a very little house of two bedrooms and a shared bath that is typical of many of their more modest plans. At just over 800 sq. ft. this tiny house is typical of the millions of small bungalows that were popular with the “blue-collar class” during the 1920s.



The Fenner Manufacturing company offered a variety of house kits in their 1921 catalog including the modern Eden touted for its convenience and beauty. It is a handsome small bungalow of about 1200 sq. ft. with two bedrooms, one bath, and an open floor plan that places a premium on convenience. The kitchen incorporates a kitchen nook and the bathroom is accessible to residents and guests without passing through private spaces.



The Hickory house kit manufactured by Fenner and offered in the 1921 catalog is unusual for its porch that wraps the living room on three sides. There is access to the porch from a bedroom on the main floor and the dining room.



The Columbia home plan is typical of the many small bungalows contained in the 1921 catalog by the Fenner Manufacturing company. It’s large front porch is common to both available floor plans which offer two bedrooms and one bath and a living room with or without a fireplace.



As with most kit home manufacturers, Fenner strove to supply homes that would meet the demands of a market that ranged from the bungalow to the classic Colonials including the Foursquare like the Nebraska model offered in the 1921 catalog. The standard configuration mandated the living spaces on the main floor and bedrooms and bath upstairs. The Nebraska offered in addition to the 3 bedrooms, a sleeping porch, considered a near necessity by the health conscious home buyers of the 1920s.



pThe 1921 Mississippi bungalow by Fenner Manufacturing is called in the catalog a “simple, dignified little home” and so it is. Available in two floor plans, it is very compact with a second floor to be finished off as the homeowner’s finances permitted. The front porch was designed to be either open or glassed in as a sun porch.



Though small, the tiny Shasta bungalow by Fenner manufacturing is one of the most charming little houses in the 1921 catalog. In just under 800 sq. ft. it manages to pack a respectable amount of functional living space. Available in either a one-bedroom or two-bedroom model, it has a lovely wraparound porch with a pergola. The roof line is sufficiently complex to give the facade the interest usually reserved for much larger homes.


Pend O’Reille

The Pend O’Reille kit home by the Fenner Manufacturing Company was a modest, compact bungalow with just enough space to accommodate a small family. It’s most unusual feature is the fire place which is placed in the dining room instead of the living room. It was an economical measure to save on having to create two chimneys that would otherwise have been needed for the fireplace and kitchen stove.



The Concord bungalow offers a full front porch, and side gables for a friendly, street facing facade. The two plans offered in the 1921 Fenner catalog include a large living/dining area and three bedrooms, or a separate dining room and two bedrooms.



With its broken roof lines the Connecticut home kit by Fenner Manufacturing is more interesting than many comparable bungalows of the period. The six gables provide ample expression of bungalow elements like the exposed rafters and knee braces. With five bedrooms this plan would have accommodated a large family comfortably in the 1920s.



The tiny Santiam kit home designed and packaged by Fenner Manufacturing in the 1921 catalog is about 500 square feet with a small bedroom and bath. The small kitchen has a built in nook however. It was a perfect little house with a minimal footprint for a single person.


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