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Archive for September, 2010

The “Notebook” House (Nicholas Sparks) vs. The Sears Magnolia

September 28th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

There’s a rumor circulating on the web that the house featured in the movie, “The Notebook,” is a Sears Magnolia. This is not correct. I repeat, this is NOT correct. For those who are interested in a comparison, look at the house featured in the movie (click here) and compare it to the original catalog picture shown below.

These houses (the real Sears Magnolia and the not-a-sears-house shown in that link above) are radically different - IN THE DETAILS - and that’s where you must look. Just because they’re both a two-story white house with a hip roof and big columns, that’s not enough.

A good place to start comparing houses is the roofline. The porch roof over the real Magnolia is a very low hip roof. The porch roof over The Notebook House is a massive gabled roof with a half-round window within its gable. Also, the proportions are wrong. The Sears Magnolia is 2,940 square feet. The Notebook house is probably double that.

These details really do matter.

There are so many delightful things about being so deeply immersed in this avocation of Sears Homes, but trying to teach people how to pay attention to architectural details before deciding that a similar looking house is a Sears House is pretty unfun. There are about 70,000 Sears homes in the country. Judging from my mail, about 3.4 million people THINK they have a Sears House!

The real Sears Magnolia (catalog), and a picture of the Magnolia in Benson, North Carolina (below).

To learn more about how to identify a Sears Home, click here.

maggy_benson_nc

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West Point, Virginia: Sears Homes - Yes, Military Academy - No.

September 26th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Recently I made the 90-minute drive to West Point, Virginia, looking for Sears Homes. Thanks to Rebecca Hunter’s book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map,” I knew there were at least four Sears Homes in West Point. Her book is a compilation of testimonials from old Sears catalogs, organized by city and state.

Her book listed one testimonial in Norfolk, Virginia and yet I’ve found more than 50 Sears Homes here in Norfolk. “Putting Sears Homes on the Map” listed four Sears Homes in West Point. Proportionately speaking, that meant there should be at least 200 Sears Homes in the tiny town!

I’m saddened to report that I couldn’t even find the four that were listed. Her book listed the Whitehall, the Greenview, the Ivanhoe and the Avoca. I found the Ivanhoe, but couldn’t get close enough to take a photo. It sat on a supersized lot, bordering the water. Unfortunately, it faced the water, making it especially difficult to get a photo! However, I did find (and photograph) the Avoca.

An aside:  Despite the fact that I’ve lived in the Hampton Roads area for more than three decades, I didn’t realize that Virginia was not home to the famous Military Academy of West Point! Only recently did I learn that it’s in New York. Who knew? Not me, obviously.

So, where’s the Whitehall and the Greenview? More than likely, the Whitehall has been torn down. I went up and down those streets in West Point many times and if there was a Whitehall to be found, I would have seen it. The Greenview was such a simple little house that it could have been remodeled beyond recognition. Below are catalog images of these two houses. If you find them in West Point, drop me a note.

Here are the Sears Homes that I found in West Point, Virginia.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Avoca has seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Avoca has seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Crescent

Sears Avoca in West Point.

Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Crescent

Perfect Sears Crescent in West Point. This is in wonderfully original condition!

Sears Cranmore

Sears Cranmore. Kind of a crummy picture, but it was surrounded by trees and bushes and more trees and more bushes. Nonetheless, I am confident that this is a Sears Cranmore.

The Sears Homes of West Point probably rode into town on these very railroad tracks!

The Sears Homes of West Point probably rode into town on these very railroad tracks!

Sears Greenview from the Sears Modern Homes catalog. We know one of these was built in West Point, but where?

Sears Greenview from the Sears Modern Homes catalog. We know one of these was built in West Point, but where?

Sears Whitehall. We know there was a Sears Whitehall built in West Point, but I suspect its been torn down.

Sears Whitehall. We know there was a Sears Whitehall built in West Point, but I suspect it's been torn down.

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog. There's one of these on the waterfront of West Point, but no one was home at the house. I'd love to get a photo!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Have you seen these Sears Homes in Connecticut?

September 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Reading through the 1916 Sears Homes catalog, I found several testimonials from happy homebuyers in Connecticut. I’ve picked these two testimonies (see pictures below), because they purchased large, easy-to-identify Sears Homes. If you know the address of these Sears Homes, please leave a comment below. Or, if you know of another Sears Home in Connecticut, please mention that, too and SEND ME A PHOTO!  :)

Are you familiar with Sears Homes? These were true kits, sold right out of the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog, arriving at the train depot in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. These early 20th Century homes came with a 75-page instruction book and detailed blueprints. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house finished within 90 days!

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Testimonial

Testimonial from 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Testimonial

Testimonial, also from 1916 catalog

Sears Modern Home #119

Sears Modern Home #119, built in Putnam, CT

Close-up of house

Close-up of house

Sears Modern Home #225

Sears Modern Home #225 built in Shelton, CT

If you’ve seen these houses, please leave a comment below. Or, you can send me an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

The Magnificent Magnolia in North Carolina!

September 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks to a FOSH (Friend of Sears Homes), I found the 5th known Sears Magnolia in the country. Joy sent me a link last week to a story on a Sears Home just outside of Raleigh. When I clicked on the link, I had no idea the show would be featuring a Sears Magnolia - the Creme de la creme of Sears Homes!

The happy owners of the Magnolia allowed me to tour the inside of the house, where I found proof that it was indeed a Sears Magnolia (as if there were any doubt). Click on this link to read more about that.

This was the second Magnolia that I’ve been inside. The first was in Canton, Ohio. In 2002, PBS’s History Detectives did a segment on Sears Homes, and invited me to be part of the program.

There are also Sears Magnolias in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Alabama.

To see more pictures of Sears Homes in Raleigh, click here.

maggy_benson_nc

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

When Bad Things Happen to Nice Sears Homes

September 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

Years ago, my friend Rebecca Hunter drove me to an Midwestern suburb and showed me this Sears Westly (see pictures below). She made me close my eyes as we pulled up to the house. Sitting squarely in front of it, I exclaimed that it looked like a nice little Westly. Then she giggled a bit and pulled forward, so I could see “The rest of the story.”

I gasped in horror. Incredibly, someone built a neighborhood behind this once-darling Sears Westly. Why anyone would do this, is a puzzle. How anyone got zoning approval to do this is a BIGGER puzzle!!

To read more about the Sears Homes in the Midwest, click here.

To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

Sears Westly from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Westly from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Westly in Midwestern suburb

Westly in Midwestern suburb

Next is a the Sears Madelia. The first picture (first image) is a picture of the Madelia from the 1919 Sears Catalog. The next picture is a happy, healthy Madelia in Wood River, Illinois on 9th Street. There are 24 Sears Homes in a row, a remnant from the days of Standard Oil’s purchase of $1 million worth of Sears Homes for their refinery workers. The third picture I’ve titled, A Madelia trapped in a tavern’s body.

A happy little Sears Madelia in Wood River, IL

And here’s the Madelia trapped in a tavern’s body.

A Madelia trapped in a taverns body

Limes and Tygarts and Bears, oh my!

September 19th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

So what do Limes and Tygarts and Bears have in common? Not much, unless you’re in my world. My husband likes to eat lemons and limes, rind and all. He says it prevents scurvy. I tell him that there are easier ways to prevent scurvy.

Last year, we took a trip to see the Tygart River (in Elkins) and he ate a lime en route.  And then more recently, we took a trip to Lexington, Virginia and stayed at the House Mountain Inn. This cute little bear (see picture below) was in the dining room. During a meal, I went over to the cute bear and asked him if he’d like a bite of my food.

He smiled sweetly and said, “No thanks. I’m stuffed.”

True story. Kinda. In a way.

Bear

Bear

One Lonely Sears Crescent in Galax, Virginia

September 18th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Recently, I visited Galax, Virginia and drove around the town for a bit looking for Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, during my time in Galax, I found only one Sears Home, this little Crescent in a not-so-happy part of town, within a stone’s throw of a massive electrical substation, and very near a large industrial area. It’d be very interesting to know if the owners of this Crescent realize that their little house is a Sears House. Pictured below is the Crescent in Galax, and further below is a happy Crescent in Northern Illinois.

To read more about the Sears Homes in other parts of western Virginia, click here.

Sears House

Sears Crescent from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Note the price!

Sears House

Sears Crescent in Galax, Virginia. It's in wonderfully original condition!

Photo taken from an angle that matches original catalog image

Close-up of house in Sears Modern Homes catalog

Close-up of house in Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Crescent in Northern Illinois

Sears Crescent in Northern Illinois

Is My House a Sears Kit House?

September 18th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic. Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Sears Homes abound in Clifton Forge, Virginia!

September 16th, 2010 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the 1960s, our family  frequently traveled from Portsmouth, VA to Douthat State Park in Clifton Forge. Ensconced by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Douthat was (and remains) one of my favorite places on earth.  We’d venture into Clifton Forge to use the laundromat and to buy supplies at the local grocery store.

Even in my childhood, I’d noticed that Clifton Forge had lots of train tracks and lots of trains coming and going.  (Today, there’s a delightful train museum in Clifton Forge - The C&O Railway Heritage Center - stuffed full of treasures and ephemera and photographs. It’s at 705 Main Street in the heart of the city.)

About 40 years after those fun family vacations in Douthat, I returned to Clifton Forge to look for Sears Homes. Take a look at what I found!

To see more pictures of Sears Homes in Virginia, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Sears Princeville from the 1919 catalog

Sears Princeville from the 1919 catalog

Sears Princeville in Clifton Forge - and what a beauty!

Sears Princeville in Clifton Forge - and what a beauty!

Sears Woodland from 1918 catalog

Sears Woodland from 1918 catalog

Sears Fullerton!

Sears Woodland!

In all my travels, I have never seen a Model #113, until I saw it in Clifton Forge!

In all my travels, I have never seen a Model #137, until I saw it in Clifton Forge!

Landscaping prevented a better photo, but you can see one side!

Landscaping prevented a better photo, but you can see one side!

From the front

From the front

The Sears Auburn is another unusual house. This is a massive house with lots of interesting details.

The Sears Auburn is another unusual house. This is, as the catalog states, a massive house with lots of interesting details. Note the interesting brickwork on the porch, and the bracketing under the eaves.

There are many trees sitting right in front of houses in Clifton Forge. This large evergreen prevented me from taking the picture I wanted to take. Nonetheless, even from this angle, you can clearly see this is a Sears Auburn.

There are many trees sitting right in front of houses in Clifton Forge. This large evergreen prevented me from taking the picture I wanted to take. Nonetheless, even from this angle, you can clearly see this is a Sears Auburn.

Another view of the Auburn

Another view of the Auburn

Close-up of the brickwork on the front porch.

Close-up of the brickwork on the front porch.

Sears Elsmore from the 1919 catalog

Sears Elsmore from the 1919 catalog

Sears Elsmore on the main drag in Clifton Forge

Sears Elsmore on the main drag in Clifton Forge

Like Sears, Montgomery Wardd also sold kit homes. Heres a Montgomery Ward Lexington from the 1927 catalog.

Like Sears, Montgomery Wardd also sold kit homes. Here's a Montgomery Ward "Lexington" from the 1927 catalog.

And in the flesh - The Montgomery Ward Lexington in Clifton Forge!

And in the flesh - The Montgomery Ward Lexington in Clifton Forge!

Aladdin was another kit home company that, like Sears, sold kit homes through mail order. Aladdin Homes are fairly common in Virginia and I found a few in Clifton Forge. However, most of the kit homes I found in Clifton Forge were Sears Homes.

Aladdin was another kit home company that, like Sears, sold kit homes through mail order. Aladdin Homes are fairly common in Virginia and I found a few in Clifton Forge. However, most of the kit homes I found in Clifton Forge were Sears Homes.

An Aladdin Sheffield in Clifton Forge

An Aladdin Sheffield in Clifton Forge

If you’ve enjoyed reading this information, please email this link to a friend!

Sears Home in Buena Vista, Virginia

September 16th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

The last time I visited Buena Vista, Virginia was 1969. Our family had been vacationing in Douthat State Park and we were awakened in the wee hours by a park ranger and told to get out immediately due to extreme flooding. Hurricane Camille had visited overnight and the torrential rains had washed out several roads and bridges in the mountains. Quickly, my parents, three brothers and myself gathered up our possessions and loaded up the 1957 Cadillac and headed home. Driving home down US Highway 60, we stopped in Buena Vista and had lunch.

That was 1969. I didn’t know how to identify Sears Homes back then.  :)

My parents, having lived in California for much of their life, always called this little town “Bwayna Vista.”

Since we started planning our trip to western Virginia some months ago, my husband and I have had an ongoing argument as to the proper pronunciation of Buena Vista. I say it’s Bwayna Vista. He says it Byoona Vista. We compromised by calling it “BV.”

Nonetheless, here’s a perfect Sears Cedars in BV, VA. Incredibly, it still has its little garden gate (far left). What a perfect match!

To read more about Sears Homes (and how to identify them) click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Sears Cedars from the 1929  Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cedars from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears  Cedars - Close-up

Sears Cedars - Close-up

Sears Cedars

Sears Cedars in Buena Vista

Sears Cedar in Buena Vista

Sears Cedars - another view

Sears Cedars - with close-up of little gate

Sears Cedars - with close-up of little gate