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The Greatest Architect

September 16th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In September 2010, my husband and I visited Natural Bridge (a city in its own right) and saw THE Natural Bridge. After paying our $18 per person admission fee (yikes!), we walked down the 137 steps to see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of The World. It is beautiful (as is evidenced by the photos below) and as one would expect, it’s also awe-inspiring.

Gazing upon its magnificence, I thought about this Bible verse from Hebrews 11:  “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”  (New International Version 1984).

The Indians were similarly inspired. According to a placard at the site, “Before white men came to our shores, the Monacan Indians considered this ancient wonder a sacred site and called it ‘The Bridge of God.’”

I love gazing upon magnificent architecture and I love thinking about how old houses were put together. But more than anything else, I love thinking about God as The Greatest Architect, and like the writer of  the Hebrew verse, I look forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. :)

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Buena Vista, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

Wayne resting along the way to Natural Bridge

To read another article on Sears Homes, click here.

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Sears Homes in Atlanta, Georgia

September 12th, 2010 Sears Homes 13 comments

In 2010, I visited Atlanta, Georgia (and surrounding areas), where Nancy (an old house lover, kind soul and Acworth resident) drove me many miles seeking and finding kit homes. Below are a few of the houses we found in the area.

It’s likely that there are many more kit homes in Atlanta. Nancy and I devoted one day to photographing the Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama (see photo below), and another day we went to small towns north of Atlanta. I’d love to return to Atlanta sometime soon and do a more thorough survey. If you know of a historical society and/or civic group that’d be interested in sponsoring my visit, please contact me by leaving a comment below.

Enjoy the photos!

And if you know of a Sears Home in the Atlanta area, let me know!

Do you live in a Sears Home? Click here to learn the Nine Easy Signs for identifying Sears Homes!

Read today’s blog by clicking here.

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The Magnolia was Sears biggest and best kit home. It was offered from 1918-1922. I literally traveled from my home in Norfolk to Atlanta, mainly to see this house up close and personal. See the actual house in the photo below.

The Magnolia was Sears biggest and best kit home. It was offered from 1918-1922. I literally traveled from my home in Norfolk to Atlanta, mainly to see this house "up close and personal." See the actual house in the photo below.

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One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border!

One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border. Apart from the slightly different dormer up top, this house is a good match to the catalog picture.

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Beautiful brick Alhambra in the heart of Atlanta!

Beautiful brick Alhambra in the heart of Atlanta!

This was Aladdins fanciest home: The Villa

This was Aladdin's fanciest home: The Villa. This is from the 1916 Aladdin catalog. Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears) also sold kit homes out of mail-order catalog. In Atlanta, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears kit homes. Not surprising, as Aladdin had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! This may be the prettiest Aladdin Villa that I have ever seen.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! This may be the prettiest Aladdin Villa that I have ever seen. It is perfect in every way, and a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

And heres the Aladdin Pasadena we found in Atlanta!

And here's the Aladdin Pasadena we found in Atlanta!

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta. This Pomona is in beautifully original condition! Note the details around the porch gable, and the flared columns and the original siding. It's a real beauty!

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

One of our most interesting finds was the modern Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but its too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, designed by someone who loves Sears Homes!

One of our most interesting finds was the modern Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but it's too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, designed by someone who loves Sears Homes!

If you know anything more about these houses, please leave a comment below.

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Click here to see more photos of Sears Homes!

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Sweet Home Alabama!

September 11th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

Heretofore, there are only six known Magnolias in the country. Six. And there’s one in Alabama!

What is a Sears Home? These were kit homes, sold from the Sears Roebuck catalog from 1908-1940. The houses arrived by train, in 12,000-piece kits.  (And you thought putting together a VCR stand was tough!).  Each house came with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house finished within 90 days! Sears offered 370 designs, but the Sears Magnolia was by far, the biggest.

What a beauty this is! It’s a Sears Magnolia (Sears biggest and best house) in Piedmont, Alabama! (See pictures below.)

It is a Sweet Home in Alabama!! And if you’ve seen any other Magnolias in your town, please send me a photo!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in Atlanta, Georgia, click here.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook” - NOT a Sears House!

September 10th, 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.

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).

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To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

On a prior post (Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama), I talked about photographing a Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. What I did not talk about was the trip. I traveled from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia and met up with my friend Nancy (who lives in Acworth), and then we rode together to Piedmont to photograph this house. I love Sears Homes. I love looking at them and I love photographing them and I love posting their portraits at my website.

That being said, I was mighty disappointed that I didn’t find any more Sears Homes between here and Atlanta. I’ve been searching for Sears Homes for a long, long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at this but this trip has not yielded many “finds.”

And then today, I found a note in my inbox from a nice fellow in Mobile (Alabama) telling me about an ecnclave of purported Sears Homes in Mobile. If anyone has any more information about these houses, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to see some photos of these houses. It’s been my experience that 95% of the time, these “neighborhoods” of Sears Homes are not Sears Homes or even kit homes from another company. They’re usually wild goose chases.

Please - someone from Mobile - write to me (thorntonrose@hotmail.com) and prove me wrong.

One of the best finds in Alabama: A sunflower field!

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

This (picture below) is the third Sears Magnolia I have visited in person. There were purportedly six built (but the validity of the fact is in question). Rebecca Hunter discovered that there’d been a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska (1) which had burned down many years ago. and Houses by Mail identified a Magnolia in South Bend (#2). In 2003, I appeared  on PBS History Detectives and the show featured a Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio (#3).  A few months after the show aired, someone in Pennsylvania contacted me with information about their Sears Magnolia - made of brick!

In March 2010, a “Friend of Sears Homes” emailed me and told me about a “Sears Home” in Benson, NC (#5). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Sears Home was the fifth Sears Magnolia!

This Magnolia (see below) is in Alabama. This would be the 6th known Sears Magnolia.

In my opinion, there are a few more out there. I suspect there are more than six Sears Magnolias in the world.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Beautiful Sears Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

September 8th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

What a beauty! And it’s dressed in yellow brick!

We found this Alhambra on a quiet little street, sitting high on a hill, and in a hoity-toity part of Atlanta. Wonder if the owners know it’s a Sears House?

Sears Home in Atlanta

Sears Home in Atlanta

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Babies Came Home on Friday

September 7th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Friday afternoon, my newest book (co-authored with Dale Wolicki) came home. This is my seventh book but it’s always so exciting to see a long-awaited dream come to fruition. Dale and I toiled over this book for five years. Hopefully, we’ll sell out that first printing within 90 days or so. It’s a beautiful book (347 pages!), filled with photos, vintage pictures, facts and details on the kit homes offered by Montgomery Ward.

To buy a copy, click here.

To read more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The cover of our new book.

The cover of our new book.

Schadenfreude and Mudita

September 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Ever hear of schadenfreude?  For years, I’d always called it, “The Crab Theory.”

Schadenfreude is a German word that means delighting in the misfortune of others. I had never heard of this word until I was doing some research for my book The Ugly Woman’s Guide to Internet Dating: What I Learned From 70 First Dates.

Put one crab in a five-gallon bucket and Mr. Crab will do everything in his power to scale its smooth wall and crawl out of that bucket. Put two or more crabs in a bucket and when one starts to climb up, the others will grab him and pull him back down into the bucket. Unfortunately, humans sometime exhibit the same tendencies as crabs.

In my own life, I’ve struggled mightily with envy, and I’m sorry to say that too many times, I had a decided leaning toward the crab/schadenfreude side.

And then one day, I read a story in the Christian Science Sentinel about a woman who’d spent a lifetime cultivating the habit of gratitude. She said that her mother had taught her to feel sincerely joyous and grateful for the good things that happened in other people’s lives, and to take it as a personal promise from God that, if it happened for them, it could happen for her, too.

The Buddhist have a word for this: Mudita. It’s the practice of finding joy in other people’s success and happiness.

The morning news is frequently awash in salacious and scurrilous scandals involving celebrities and their ilk. Yet we’re all “clay vessels,” and we’re all cracked pots and fallible and prone to foibles and missteps and mistakes and even lapses in good judgment. Who among us hasn’t lost our temper and said something we deeply regret? Who among us hasn’t surrendered to temptation when we could have done better? My point is, maybe the real need is to stop staring so hard at other people’s sins and take a better look at our own shortcomings and work on improving those.

Maybe we need to stop cultivating the habit of schadenfreude and work on mudita.

To read more, click here.

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Sears Alhambra in Downtown Portsmouth (Virginia)

September 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

This Sears Alhambra is in a section of town that was near Ida Barbour Park (public housing which has since been torn down). It’s been through many changes through the years, but is still in remarkably good condition. Notice how the red dumpster in the corner complements the red brick foundation. :)

The Sears Alhambra was one of their most popular homes. Note the parapet around the dormer and porch roof, and staircase wing. What a beauty!

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

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth