When Neil and Catherine McDonald set out to save a house in McLean, they had no idea they would be saving a bit of Americana: A Mail-order house.
The house, on Ingleside Terrace in McLean, was one of dozens advertised in the 1920s by the giant mail-order firm of Sears and Roebuck.
In 1926, the advertisement in the Sears catalogue offered a deal that barely anyone (who could afford it) could refuse: "The Fullerton, 'already cut' and fitted, $2,293."
The catalogue noted that The Fullerton included "six rooms and big porch" for monthly payments of "$40 to $50."
To a young man in Georgetown with a new family and a determination to own his own home, the ad was enticing.
The young man was Francis E. Allen, who with his bride, Bessie Redmond, owned a few acres of land in McLean. The Allens bought the land for $40 from a Mrs. Hautz of Spring Hill Farm.
The Fullerton seemed to be the home of their dreams. Bessie especially liked the lovely kitchen that was described in the catalogue and the soft pine mantel over the living room fireplace. Frank was impressed with clear cypress siding and the comfortable porch.
So in 1927, the Allens sent their order off to Sears. For their $2,293, they got the complete house plans and all the materials needed to build the house. Like any young couple, of course, they wanted a few extras: a claw-foot bathtub (the latest in bath design) and modern electric light fixtures instead of gas.
In June of 1927, Allen hired a team of horses and a scoop. Together with his brother-in-law Sam Redmond, he began digging out the basement. By November the house was completed, and the day before Thanksgiving, the Allens, their son Charles and infant daughter Rosalie moved into the new house.
"What a happy day that was," recalls Bessie Allen, now 92 and living in Oakton. "I fixed a big chicken dinner for everyone."
The Allens lived in the home for 50 years, until Allens Death in 1977 when the house was sold to Jim Covington, owner of the McLean Tennis Club. Covington sold the house last year to the McDonalds, who own an antique shop in McLean.
So last week, there was another move -- but this time the entire house made the trip.
The McDonalds, who plan to restore the house and live in it with their two children, have moved the home a few blocks from its present location to their property on Chain Bridge Road.
"What better way to be in touch with your heritage than this," says Catherine McDonald.
In order to move the house, the McDonalds had to clear a series of county and state hurdles: zoning had to be approved, utility companies notified that the house would be crossing power lines and cables and a new basement dug.
But last week, the green light was given and the house gently placed on a flat-bed truck for the two-block move to the McDonald property. The McDonalds held their breath until the house was resting on its new foundation as four generaions of Allens watched.
The move turned out to be a family party for the Allens. Bessie Allen brought her two children. Rosalie Breckinridge of Reston and Charles (Buddy) Allen of Great Falls. The children, of course, brought their own children.
"I'm glad it's going to be a home for children," Bessie Allen said. "Oh my! How I loved that house . . . If Mr. Allen were alive I'd be living in it now."
Rosalie and Charles have fond memories of growing up in the house, including times when childish fun got out of hand.
"i can remember Mama scolding me for doing my balancing act on the (front porch) rail," said Rosalie.
Sears did a little remembering, too. The company expects to supply some paint to help the McDonalds restore the house.
"We've painted lots of famouse old historic homes," said Ted Erfer, a spokesman from Sears' eastern regional headquaters near Philadelphia. "Why not a genuine Sears catalogue house?"