Little House on the Prairie - Backstory
Remodeling a 1920 Midwestern 'Foursquare' Farmhouse …


We don't know a lot about the history of our house, other than the fact it was built by Gordie Allen's grandfather starting sometime around 1918. Gordie told us there was another house situated not too far from the current house that burned to the ground, necessitating construction of the current house. The old hay barn was built in 1914, and I suspect the original house dated close to that.

The current house started out as a two-room building, which must have been rapidly added onto. Some of the cellar/foundation walls do not line up with the main walls above, and when repairing the sagging floor joists for the second floor bedroom, we found conclusive evidence of the house being a single story structure for a period of time.

All of the plaster work appears to have been done at the same time, and the knob and tube wiring also appeared to have been added concurrently (so to speak), as it was all consistently installed behind the same plaster constructions. Since the roof had its original layer of shingles, and we guestimated ~25 years for each layer, that dates the final construction work that brought the house to its current state at sometime in between the late 1920s and early 1940s. Our understanding is that knob-and-tube wiring was phased out (sorry) by the 1930s, but then, out here in the country, they could have still been using it for some time.

We also know that there was a Delco-Light electric plant in the cellar at one time. From the research I've done, these started showing up in the 1920s, and by 1947, production had ceased due to the Rural Electrification Act. That would again date the house as it currently sits back to the 1930s, give or take.

When we bought the house, virtually every wall had been paneled over, the living room, dining room and kitchen all had dropped ceilings, and the siding was wide-width aluminum. My guess is that these "upgrades," which I'm sure made as much sense at the time as the ones I'm making today, probably date back to the 1960s, possibly early 1970s.

Following are more photos of the house we took prior to our purchase.