The Ready Built House Company was incorporated in May, 1911 by J. H. Fenner, F. C. Knapp, president of the Peninsula Lumber Company, and James E. Brockwa acting as secretary and treasurer.
The first home of record was a small house on College Street between 13th and 14th Street.
In 1916, there was a brouhaha that resulted in Brockway's departure amid accusations of fraud. Brockway contended that Fenner had hatched a plan to obtain his shares of stock illegally. Brockway vanishes into history and Fenner continued to build houses.
John Harvey Fenner, was born in 1868 in Michigan. According to an article in the Oregon Journal, Mr. Fenner was from Bay City, where he had been previously employed by one of the kit home manufacturers there. Which manufacturer wasn't specified, but it served to give him some credibility.
In 1912, he was a lumber dealer according to the Portland City Directory. We have what we believe is the first catalog of house plans, oddly numbered as Catalog No. 15. (Unlike most companies, the Ready Built House catalog numbering was evidently tied to the year of publication, not the number of catalogs produced.)
Even in Portland, few records exist concerning the Ready Built House Company or Fenner Manufacturing as it was known after 1918.
During the WWI period and just after the war, the company apparently achieved modest success. A large manufacturing facility was constructed in North Portland along the waterfront with easy access to both the Willamette River and the railroad yards.
No sales records exist so it's impossible to know how many homes the company sold or to gain a real idea of its reach. It's representative of the many small companies that jumped on the bungalow/kit home band wagon. Fenner and his company vanish from the record by 1928. In the 1930 census, a J. H. Fenner and his wife, all with the proper supporting data, appear in the US Census in Florida.
While no hard documentation exists to quantify the impact, we imagine the opening of the Aladdin kit house building facility in 1919 and the publicity such a large company got in the local news probably gave Fenner a run for his money.
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