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Western Home Builder

1908 Bungalows by Victor Voorhees of Seattle

Western Home Builder - CoverWestern Home Builder was first published in 1907 by Victor Voorhees, a Seattle architect of little formal training but prodigious ambition and energy. The 1908 catalog of house plans featured a fair number of Queen Anne Free Classic style homes typical of the late 18th century, some ornate Colonial Revivals, and a variety of Foursquare types including the "Seattle Box" based on the earlier work of Fred Fehren. About half of the 1908 collections, however, were bungalows ranging from the tiny worker cottage to top-of-the-line plans with innovative features.

Voorhees was born in 1876 and spent the first years of his life in Cambria, Wisconsin. At some point in the following years, the Voorhees family moved west to Minneapolis, where they appear in the 1895 state census. Victor's father, also Victor W., was a painter though he kept a carriage shop for a time. According to source material collected on Voorhees, he went to college and studied law, at least for a time, but since many of the particulars are not borne out by the historical record, it's hard to say without more research what exactly what his experience might have been.

In the 1900 census for Minneapolis, there is listed a 24-year-old Victor W. Voorhees, real estate and loan agent. He also has a wife, Antoinette, and according to the sparse data was married the previous year. By 1904, Voorhees was divorced and working in Seattle. His wife was in Minneapolis with two young children working as a milliner and living with her father. On all subsequent censuses, Antoinette claimed to be a widow. The son, Frank, who was born in 1903, appears in Seattle and lists his occupation in the 1930 census as a draftsman. Voorhees remarried in 1905.

When Voorhees arrived and precisely how he came by his architectural training is unknown. His 1908 book of house plans bears some strong similarities to the house plans shown in Fred Fehren's book, Artistic Homes: being one hundred unique designs after the Spanish-colonial style of architecture which was published in 1905. We could speculate that Fehren and Voorhees may have crossed paths since Fehren had a real estate and investment office and both were interested in the opportunities in architecture. There is certainly an opportunity for more research. One source at the city notes that Voorhees came west to work for the building department of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Line. Another states that Voorhees established his architecture practice in Ballard in August 1904 under the name Fisher & Voorhees though no one seems to know who Fisher was.

Voorhees was extremely productive designing homes and later commercial buildings in the greater Seattle metropolitan area. Several of his buildings including the Beaux Arts style Vance Hotel (now Hotel Max) are landmarks with several buildings submitted to the National Register.

While his background is opaque, his designs are everything a bungalow should be.

See additional plans by Voorhees in other period styles at Antique Home Style.

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