In 1907, he was commissioned to design 100 homes on a city block to be occupied by employees of the Kirk Switchyards. The intent by the Gary Land Company was to provide owner-occupied, single family structures in order to create an instant community. This group of homes was located on a block bound by 3rd Street, Polk Street, 4th Street and Tyler Street. 90 of the homes were small, approximately twenty-two feet by twenty-five feet and costing between $1,000 and $3,000 to build. Ten additional homes were slightly larger and cost a little more.
These homes may be the most modest structures that Silsbee ever designed. Though the plans are almost identical, they are given individuality by changing window placement and the configuration of dormers, parapets, and porches on each design. It is clear from the size and proportion of the windows in each home that natural light and ventilation was a key feature of the design. There were four known designs, with mirrored “twin” designs that were arrayed in a random pattern on the street. Furthermore, at the time of construction, each home and its trim was painted with a different color to create a diverse streetscape.
The homes depicted in this entry show one of the designs, featuring a front porch to the left or right front of the home, a side gable with four regularly placed windows beneath and a single dormer in the front. A great image of this design, when initially constructed, can be found in the US Steel Photograph Collection. A design number and Gary Land Company number designation is shown with the photograph. I will blog about the other designs in subsequent posts.