Everyman’s House

Everyman's House

Everyman's House, 1925

Kalamazoo's Everyman's House was built as an entry in the "Better Homes in America" contest of 1924 and emerged as first place winner from among more than one thousand entries.

The Design

The house was designed by Caroline Bartlett Crane, a well-known civic leader in Kalamazoo to be a "home built around a mother." With that goal in mind, Crane designed a five-room cottage suitable for the average American family of small income, with two parents and two or three children.

The house was a radical departure from the homes of its day, substituting a "mother's room" where previous architects had designed a dining room. Crane believed that the space usually occupied by a dining room, and used only an hour or two each day, would be better utilized as a room where a mother could work the other twenty-two hours of the day. Not to be inflexible, she conceded that if there was not a baby in the house, the room could serve as "a dining room or library or den or whatever you choose to make of it."

Kitchen - Everyman's House

With a low gate in this doorway, Mother, at work, can watch over her baby at play.

Everyman's House, 1925 

The House

The house was built near the top of Westnedge Hill. The lot, materials and labor were either donated by local people, or were "charged," the cost to be recovered later when the house was sold. The house measures 22 x 29 and stands one and a half stories. The original cost, exclusive of the lot, was $7,249.51. This figure included many optional features, such as a basement, oak floors, brick fireplace, water softener and electric fixtures. Crane promoted her home as a little house for everyman, and felt that it could be built in most parts of the country--minus the extras--for around $5,000.

The Book

Caroline Bartlett Crane felt very strongly about her design and wrote a book, entitled Everyman's House, hoping to reach a greater audience with her new style of architecture. The book never sold well, but for one year the house received attention from all over the world. Over 20,000 visitors toured the little house when it was first opened to the public, and Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of the Commerce Department, and president of "Better Homes in America," praised the home for "reaching the mass of the people." Even President Calvin Coolidge publicly described it as having "outstanding merit."

Living Room - Everyman's house

Living-room window-seat, with leaf-table for dining.  Folded partition-screen between fireplace and door to kitchen.

Everyman's House, 1925

The Home

Everyman's House is still in active use. The fact that it has changed little in the more than 70 years since it was built is a lasting tribute to the soundness of Crane's design. It has been declared a Historic Home in Kalamazoo.

Sources

Books

Everyman's House

  • Crane, Caroline Bartlett
  • Garden City: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1925
  • H 728 C891

Files

History Room Subject File: Houses - Kalamazoo - Westnedge, S., 2026

Websites

Everyman's House Collection at Western Michigan University has digitzed images and documents relating to the house.

The Making of Modern Michigan website also has pertinent digitized information.