The Gordon-Van Tine Company was one of the first companies to offer fully prefabricated, mail-order houses to the American middle class. Founded in Davenport, Iowa, as a lumberyard and millworks, the company had begun retailing building materials through a mail-order catalog in 1906. Four years later, it expanded its operations with a catalog advertising more than 100 homes, 15 cottages, and 10 garages, all with a choice of stucco or wooden siding. Sears, Roebuck, and Company, which became Gordon-Van Tine’s biggest competitor, began offering plans and materials in 1909 but did not include precut lumber until 1916. Buyers received plans and all the necessary materials, aside from the masonry. Each piece was carefully marked and bundled for easy assembly. Prefabricated housing saved both labor and lumber. The Gordon-Van Tine Ready-Cut method mass-produced the millwork in an efficient assembly-line fashion. Their product represented modernity at its best: a home built with speed, accuracy, and economies of scale.
The Chases ordered the Bristol model, a French Norman house with a steeply pitched hipped roof intersected by gables. Clad with limestone, the house has an L plan. The front gable end sweeps down in front of a small turret, which provides entrance at the angle of the ell. Details like these, along with the turret’s conical roof, evoked picturesque cottages. Another rendition, also clad with limestone, is located at 164 N. State Street in Berlin in the Nathan Strong Park Historic District (GL1), and similar houses may be found throughout Wisconsin.