Agincourt’s original townsite was optimistic, providing more than a hundred blocks for single-family housing. In the 19th century, it was the proportion of families, parents and children, that hinted at any community’s chances for stability, longevity, permanence. Of the growing list of contributors to Agincourt’s buildings, however—students, faculty, friends and yours truly—the majority have been “architected”. I can think of fewer than ten single-family houses imagined by us, and most of those were conceived in the spirit of real historical architects like Lawrence Buck and Gustav Stickley (though he is appreciated for other things). What does that say about those blocks of homes we all know are there but can’t quite see?
Writing a report on an historic house in Grand Forks several years ago—in preparation for a National Register nomination, I suppose, though I was never asked to write it—I considered housing stock from the 1880s into the 1930s and came away with a more diverse view than I had at the outset. My preconception imagined that architects designed big houses on prominent streets for what then constituted the One Percent and the rest of us lived in hovels from the lumber yard. It turns out to be far more nuanced than that, thankfully.
Yes, there are those large, sometimes pretentious homes for bankers and such (and sometimes for architects themselves as testament to their skills). And, yes, there are large numbers of largely anonymous houses at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum. But it turns out there are a significant number of options between those two extremes. I was surprised to discover that in Fargo, for example, early architects were involved with many modest houses and even generic designs for real estate speculation. Then there are pattern books—published by architects, material manufacturers promoting their products, periodicals (especially aimed at women, keepers of the home fires) and organizations promoting home ownership like the American Small Homes Service Bureau (of which I’ve just been reminded)—that have yielded a dizzying variety of single-family detached houses. My experience here in the Red River Valley must be typical of other communities from the same time period. So how might Agincourt have been shaped by something like this 1923 publication by the Morgan Sash and Door Co.—Building with Assurance.
Consider these three suggestions for houses you might build with their products:
Any of them could be across the street from where you were born. And each of them, I suspect, exists somewhere in Agincourt.