Gordon-Van Tine Barns and Farm Buildings

Architectural historians have firmly placed the Gordon-Van Tine Company of Davenport, Iowa among the leaders of the mail-order “kit-house” business of the early 20th century. [1] [2] From the 19-teens through the Second World War, customers all over the United States could order a design from a Gordon-Van Tine catalog and receive the blueprints and specifications, pre-cut lumber, millwork, cabinetry, hardware, finishes, roofing, and other building materials necessary (and desired) to complete an entire home directly from the company, eliminating the “middle man.” The RSSC Center is fortunate to have several of these catalogs in its collection; they have been used to identify some of the estimated 1000+ Gordon-Van Tine “Ready-Cut” houses built in the Quad-Cities area and elsewhere. [2]

But did you know the Gordon-Van Tine Company also sold ready-made kit barns to its customers?

Yes! Barns and several other types of farm buildings, too.

Included in the final pages of the company’s very first catalog, the 1907 Book of Plans for Everybody, were 7 different barn designs as well as the “Inexpensive Barn,” and the “Residence Barn” pictured above. Plans for a hog house, cattle shed, chicken house, duck house, granary, corn crib, and an ice house were also on offer.

Gordon-Van Tine’s Building Materials catalogs also included products of interest to farmers. These metal items, batten and ventilators “especially for barns,” were available in the 1915 Architectural Details :

The 1918 Building Materials catalog included this advertisement for the Barn Equipment Booklet:

The earliest Gordon-Van Tine mail-order catalog devoted exclusively to farm buildings (we believe) was published in 1917. It touted the “carefully, painstakingly”-assembled Farm Building Department, headed by the “Barn Man,” Mr. Kirkpatrick.

As with the houses, the Gordon-Van Tine Company’s barns and farm buildings were designed to be easily built by the average person:

The company advertised extensively in the local newspapers, as well as farm journals and magazines:

The testimonials in the booklet Photographs and Letters: Some Gordon-Van Tine Barns and What Their Owners Think of Them (SC 728.92 GORDO VAN 1919? and online) told of just how successful the barn and farm building line had become for the company in a short period of time.

Kit-barn enthusiast Robert J. “Bob” Kisken* has photographed some of these still-standing Gordon-Van Tine models and matched them with those in the book:

We are grateful to him for donating copies of his photographs and research files to the RSSC Center (Gordon Van Tine Barns Collection, #2017-26 and the Kisken Kit Barn Research Collection, #2018-26)! There are more to view at the Iowa State University Special Collections.

Stop by to peruse our original copy of the Gordon-Van Tine 1923 Farm Buildings catalog (SC 728.92 Gor) to compare with the plans from earlier years and understand more about the development of the ready-cut system.

And please let us know if you spot any Gordon-Van Tine farm buildings in our area!

(posted by Katie)


[1] Hunter, Rebecca L. “Historical Architectural Research,” kithouse.org.

[2] Wolicki, Dale Patrick. Gordon-Van Tine Company. Bay City, MI: D. Wolicki, c2002. (SC 728 Wo)

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