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Archive for October, 2010

My Old House and My Old Trees

October 17th, 2010 Sears Homes 2 comments

According to descendants of my home’s original owner, the trees went up when the house was built. In other words, these three oak trees sitting pretty on three of the home’s four corners, were planted in 1925.

When we bought the house in March 2007, we had the trees trimmed so that dead limbs wouldn’t be coming down on our slate roof. Now one of the trees is showing signs of disease and has a dead limb, with missing bark. And that “dead limb” is about 1/3rd of the tree’s substance.

If anyone has any idea what this is, please let me know? We’ll be calling an arborist on Tuesday (when I can stay home all day), but that’s a long ways away.

My poor tree

The long tall limb that's missing its bark. There are no leaves at the top of this limb.

poor tree

poor tree

Sick tree

Close-up of the funky looking mess. These trees were trimmed in early March 2007, but this rot appeared in the last six weeks or so.

Tree

Close-up of trouble spot.

The second oak tree has this MUSHROOM growing in it. I dont know if this is truly a mushroom, or an evidence of some disease process.

The second oak tree has this MUSHROOM growing in it. I don't know if this is truly a mushroom, or an evidence of some disease process.

And this is whats sitting in the crook of my healthy tree.  :(

And this is what's sitting in the crook of my "healthy" tree. :(

Paying Attention the Details: How to Identify Kit Homes

October 17th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

When comparing a vintage catalog image to that cute little Neo-Tudor in your neighborhood, it’s very important to pay attention to details. Dale and I have been staring at old houses for many decades now, and one common problem we’ve discovered is this: It’s easy to overlook the subtle features that differentiate one house from the other.

We’re both inundated with emails from folks who are sure that they have a kit home, but when we examine their photos, we find houses that are not even close to the kit homes they’re purported to be. The Wardway Parkside was a fine Tudor Revival with two front gables, but not every Tudor Revival with two front gables is going to be a Wardway Parkside.

This Wardway Parkside (in Jackson, Michigan) is a nice example because it’s such a spot-on match to the original catalog image and it’s not been remodeled. Note how all the details are right: The window arrangement, the small decorative bricked arch over the front door, the height and proportion of those two gables and the flared flooples on that front gable.

When comparing suspected kit homes with original catalog pictures, details matter!

To read more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To buy the new book on Wardway Homes, click here.

House house hosue

Parkside in Jackson, MI

Photo above is courtesy of Dale Patrick Wolicki.

Is That a Sears Magnolia? Probably Not.

October 16th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

My email inbox is always full of inquiries from folks who think they’ve found a Sears Magnolia right in their neighborhood. Unfortunately 99.9% of the time, they’re wrong.

The Sears Magnolia was purposefully patterned after a popular housing style, The Southern Colonial. Here in Hampton Roads, there’s a Southern Colonial Revival in many of our turn-of-the-century neighborhoods. However, the Sears Magnolia - the real deal - has some unique features that’ll help differentiate from other homes of that period.

Below are some images from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, showing details around the roof and front porch. Take a moment and really study these images and you’ll see some of the unique architectural features. And if you want to see a real Sears Magnolia, click here and here and here.

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia - first story floor plan.

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on Sears Magnolia's front porch. Notice the distinctive roof lines and unique details around the front porch. At its core, the Sears Magnolia is a classic foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

Maggy in Benson, NC

Maggy in Benson, NC.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

An Entire Neighborhood of Sears Homes Near Philadelphia!

October 15th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

UPDATED!  Thanks to a reader, I’ve found that this blog has some errors. I’ve since re-written it and corrected it. Please read the updated version (with better pictures) HERE.

Less than 30 miles from our nation’s first capital (Philadelphia) there’s an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes. Yes, an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes in Chester, PA. Recently, I was looking through a 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog when I found this promotion in its front pages. (See photos below.)

This is quite remarkable, for there are not that many known “Sears House Communities” and finding these homes today could be a real tourism bonanza. In short, this is a real find, but where is it? And does it still exist?

The houses were built by a company known as “Sun Ship Company.”

It’s possible that this entire neighborhood was demolished and no longer exists, but if it does, I sure would like to find it. If you know the area or even a few addresses, please contact me by leaving a comment below. And if you’d like to read more about how to identify Sears Homes, please click here.

UPDATED!  Thanks to a reader, I’ve found that this blog has some errors. I’ve since re-written it and corrected it. Please read the updated version (with better pictures) HERE.

Sears Homes in Chester, PA

Sears Homes in Chester, PA

Featured in the above photos are several sytles of Sear Homes, including the Sears Gladstone

Featured in the above photos are several sytles of Sear Homes, including the Sears Gladstone

The Sears Whitehall was another house featured in Chester, PA.

The Sears Whitehall was another house featured in Chester, PA.

If you look at the vintage photo (above), youll see a little Carlin tucked in among the foursquares.

If you look at the vintage photo (above), you'll see a little Carlin tucked in among the foursquares.

Again, if you know where these homes are, please leave a comment below, or you can write me directly at thorntonrose@hotmail.com. Please put “Chester PA” in the subject line.

Dirty Smut and Shocking Wheat and Building Delays

October 12th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In 1918, Standard Oil of Indiana made mail-order history when they placed a $1 million order with Sears Roebuck & Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. It was purported to be the largest order in the history of the Sears Modern Homes department. Standard Oil purchased the houses for their refinery workers in Southwestern Illinois.

Of those 192 houses, 156 went to Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 were sent to Wood River. Throughout the 1920s, pictures of these homes were prominently featured in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

Construction of the 156 houses took nine months, not six as expected. The reason? A nationwide shortage of wheat. Charles Fitzgerald, spokesman for Standard Oil and Manager of Houses explained to The Chicago Daily Tribune (November 3, 1919) what happened.

“The company (Standard Oil) purchased a forty acre wheat field and the government would not permit the destruction of the crop,” he said. “On the first home, we were erecting the studding while the harvesters were shocking wheat twenty yards away.”

According to the papers of the day, “smut” was another reason for the wheat shortage. When I first read about smut and the wheat shortage, I imagined a large group of idle field workers, sitting cross-legged in the expansive fields, poring over magazines with pictures of scantily-clad women.

Smut, I later learned, is a particularly nasty fungus that creates black, odious spores and ruins wheat crops. In 1919, smut damaged a large proportion of America’s wheat fields.

And “shocking” was another interesting term. As a city girl, I’d never heard that phrase before. “Wheat shockers” are the field workers who bundle up the wheat.

While doing research for my book The Houses that Sears Built, I read hundreds of newspaper and articles from the early 1900s and learned that there is a wholly different vernacular for that time period. Words have different meaning in different times.

One of the Sears Homes in Wood River, Illinois - part of that $1 million order that Standard Oil placed in the late 1910s.

One of the Sears Homes in Wood River, Illinois - part of that $1 million order that Standard Oil placed in the late 1910s. There are 24 of these Sears Homes in a row on 9th Street in Wood River. The 12 Sears Homes built in Schoper, Illinois were torn down in the 1930s.

Rediscovering Innocence

October 11th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

On June 10, 2011, my 91-year-old father passed on. Almost to the day - one year prior - we’d moved him into an assisted living facility. This blog (below) was written soon after that event.

In June 2010, my 91-year-old father moved into assisted living. It’s been a flurry of activity, closing up his house, moving him to a new place, getting things settled, and dealing with the 101 details of his life. As his POA, the details seem to be endless.

Making all this ever more difficult is the fact that my father made many poor choices in life, such as walking out on my mother and me in 1974. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, Forgiving our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves was one of the best books I ever read. I highly recommend it.

In 2001, after my father’s second wife died, my father reentered my life bit by bit. He was 82 years old.

Now he’s 91, and old and frail and needs a lot of help on a lot of fronts. Sometimes, despite my daily prayers and best efforts and dogged determination, there are days when I still feel angry with him.

When we were cleaning out his house, we found a baby book - his baby book - from 1919.  I’d expected to find a few loose photos stuck within its brittled pages. Instead, I found an incredibly detailed record of a little boy’s life from June  1919 to sometime in 1926.  The “baby book” was filled with vintage photos and detailed information and stories and even a locket of baby’s hair, safely ensconced in a tiny envelope with a delicate blue ribbon.

Looking at the handwritten notes, I saw my father in a new light. More than 90 years ago, he was someone’s beloved baby boy. This cute little baby, smiling back at me from the faded-pages of an antique book, warmed my heart and softened the wrath I’d felt.

I’ve heard it said that the kindest thing we can do for our heavenly Father is to be kind to his children. It occurs to me that - in addition to the divine command - perhaps the kindest thing I can do for my paternal grandparents is to be kind to their youngest son, their beloved little boy, Thomas.

Baby Boys in 1919

My father was a twin, born ten minutes after his brother "Junior." Here's their picture from Fall 1919. The caption (written by my grandmother) said, "In their buggy, Junior always reaches out to hold Thomas' little hand."

babies

"Junior" and Thomas at the park. Apparently, Thomas doesn't like the fact that Junior (left) has a toy and Thomas does not. Thomas is so rattled, he's on the verge of falling over.

babies

Thomas and Junior (front and rear) with their maternal grandparents, the Whitmores.

moew babies

Edward Atkinson Fuller Junior (left) and Thomas Hoyt Fuller (right)

more and more

A wicker basket built for two!

more yet again

Awesome necklace

more more more

Junior (Ed) on left, Mom (Florence Whitmore Fuller) and Thomas.

Thomas with his horsie

Thomas with his horsie

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children.

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children.