Jump to Navigation

Garlinghouse Company

231 SW Edgewood, Topeka, Garlinghouse planLewis F. Garlinghouse was a realtor and entrepreneur who wanted a way to promote his construction business. He co-founded the Garlinghouse company with his brother in Topeka. The real estate sales company expanded to handle house construction and home design publishing. His company is credited with being the first to sell home plans in the world, which eventually grew to be among the largest house plan book companies in the country.

Lewis Garlinghouse and his brother, George Lovette Garlinghouse, were born to Lucien Bonaparte and Matilda Ruth (Hanawalt) Garlinghouse on a farm near Berryton. The Garlinghouses had moved from Ohio to Kansas around 1870 and Lucien became known for his farm and stock operation.

The Garlinghouse sons started a real estate speculation business at 608 SW Kansas Avenue in Topeka on July 30, 1906. They offered farm and city real estate property sales and financial business services. In 1910 the L. F. Garlinghouse Company, Inc., was established. George Garlinghouse left Topeka and moved his family to Leavenworth, where he established a separate real estate development firm.

In Topeka and around the nation there was a growing need for small city and suburban dwellings. The Craftsman-style bungalow was a popular choice, which could be constructed as one or one-and-a-half stories, used a simple affordable design, natural materials, and welcoming front porches. The Garlinghouse company found that the popular bungalow, with its low-pitched roof and deep overhanging eaves, worked well in the Topeka subdivisions where lots were small.

To build customer interest in the construction business, Garlinghouse displayed photographs and floor plans and placed them in the window of a Topeka bank. Other businesses placed the photographs and floor plans in their lobbies as well and the public began requesting blueprints.

Garlinghouse built an eight-room bungalow that “will be different” at 224 The Drive, according to the Topeka State Journal in 1913. Then the company published its first plan book in 1916, featuring 25 bungalow designs—including a photograph, floor plan, description of the house, and approximate cost. Customers could purchase blueprints for $5 to $10. Garlinghouse is credited with being the first home plans company in the world.

An experienced builder, Lewis Garlinghouse and his firm handled construction, financing, and milling, all with an eye toward the greatest value. The company’s blueprints included an exact list of material quantities. Iva Gay Lieurance, the principal designer, was among few women designers for mail-order houses. Her layouts addressed “the needs of the housewife.” Features included a large living room, breakfast nook in the kitchen, and brick fireplace with built-in bookcases spanning the full width of the room. The company popularized what became known as the “airplane bungalow” with a glassed-in upper level sleeping porch, sun parlor, or playroom that extended from the front to rear of the house, similar to a cockpit.

“There is great demand thruout the entire country for house plans,” Garlinghouse was quoted in the Topeka Daily Capital, October 5, 1921. “Building in the East also shows a substantial increase. Marked improvement in local building conditions is visible.” At that time Garlinghouse had 24 residents under construction in Topeka, 22 of them were bungalows.

The following year the company published the 144-page “World’s Most Popular Plan Book,” which included a number of architectural styles borrowed from other companies and was used by lumber dealers and builders across the nation. As demand grew Garlinghouse sold the publications directly to individuals. The expanding designs included Southern homes, cottages, vacation homes, duplexes, garage apartment homes, Cape Cod-style homes, and the single-story ranch home, which became the most popular in new home construction. “Style and beauty, as well as convenience and quality, should be considered in your new home. We have the plans at a very nominal cost.”

Known as “America’s Pioneer Home Planning Service,” Garlinghouse added the popular ranch houses, cabins, and even concrete shelters to its plans, “No matter where you live, a fallout shelter is necessary insurance.” By 1945 Garlinghouse had sold more than 600,000 house plans across the nation; becoming one of the largest house plan book companies in the country.

Lieruance died in 1956; founder Lewis Garlinghouse died in 1965. In 1986 the Topeka-based company was selling plans to 10,000 buyers each year. The company eventually moved its business to South Carolina where it continues to operate today. Garlinghouse homes can be found across the nation and around the world.

Entry: Garlinghouse Company

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: May 2019

Date Modified: May 2019

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.