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Do You Live in a Sears House?

November 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

As the author of several books on kit homes, I’ve given more than 200 lectures in 25 states, and the #1 question I’m most frequently asked is, “Do you live in a Sears House?”

The short answer is, no, I do not live in a Sears House. However, I love old houses and I love old things. It’s my love of old things that compelled us (me and the new hubby) to purchase a 1925 Colonial Revival home. It’s a real beauty and it’s also a real money pit. My husband and I have spent an inordinate amount of time and money restoring the grand old home to its former glory.

To read more about my house, click here.

(Story continues below the photos.)

Pretty in pink

1925 Colonial Revival Home in Norfolk ,Virginia.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

I have always loved old houses. I was born and raised in a 1925 Colonial Revival, much like the house I own now. That house was in Waterview, a 1920s neighborhood in Portsmouth Virginia.  My childhood home was built in 1925, and it was a solid brick home with a slate roof. Notice how similar it is to the house I now own in Norfolk?

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1956, when we moved in.

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1956, when we moved in.

In February 2006, my husband and I were looking for homes in Norfolk and that’s when I saw this house (see picture above) and immediately fell in love. I literally grabbed him the lapels and said, “I have to have this house.” Admittedly, it was a ridiculously emotional reaction, occasioned by the fact that it was very similar to the home in which I was born and raised.

As I’ve told many friends, it’s a breathtakingly beautiful wooden sculpture, and incredibly, we get to live and move and have our being within the four walls of this artistic creation.

Sears Barns: Just Add Critters

November 8th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Just like Sears Homes, these barns were sold as kits, complete with pre-cut lumber, nails, roofing, doors and everything that you needed. Pictured below is a barn in Mattoon, Illinois and Pulaski, Illinois. Both farms have a Sears kit home on the land.

For more information on Sears Barns, look for Rebecca Hunter’s Book of Barns. Click here to buy.

Want to learn more about Sears Homes? Click here.

Sears Barn in Mattoon, IL.

Sears Barn in Mattoon, IL.

Sears Cyclone Barn in Pulaski, Illinois.

Sears "Cyclone" Barn in Pulaski, Illinois. Notice that this barn matches the model of the cover of Rebecca's book below.

Seears barns

Rebecca and Dale's book on Sears kit barns is a wonderful resource!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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“Good Christian Man Seeks Good Christian Woman for Friday Night Booty Call”

November 4th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

The following is excerpted from Rose’s new book,  “The Ugly Woman’s Guide to Internet Dating.”

“Good Christian Man Seeks Good Christian Woman for Friday Night Booty Call.”

That’s what his profile should have said.

I found him on a well-known Christian dating site. The relationship started off so good and happy and full of hope, and it ended on a very sour note when he told me that he didn’t feel any “chemistry.”

“No chemistry between us?” I asked him. “What are you talking about? Are you certifiable?”

Date #32 and I had had so much in common on so many levels, not to mention our long talks about God and spirituality. We’d had so many interesting chats about our faith and our study of the Bible and what it meant to be a Christian. We’d had several dates and he thought I was a “the funniest woman he’d ever met.” According to him, I’d scored high marks with him in the categories of intellect, wit and good companionship.

Too many men had dumped me unceremoniously with this “no chemistry” garbage, but this guy? It was not believable. It seemed disingenuous at best, and an outright lie at worst.

Throughout his home, pictures of his beautiful ex-wife adorned the walls.  She was petite. She was short and slim and had enormous attributes and could have been a model. He’d had that once. I guess he wanted the same thing again. He wanted a girl just like the girl that he’d married once before.

But those were just the meanderings of my overtaxed and overtired brain. What I did know, beyond any doubt, was that he did not want me.

Before we parted forever, he made one last suggestion for a “special” relationship: We’ll never have a romantic relationship, he told me one night on the phone, but could we get together from time to time and just have hot sex?

Every time I see television commercials for this dating site, I want to send them my testimonial.

“Thanks to Blankety-blank.com, I got me a regular Friday night booty call!”

No thanks, was my response to Mr. Christian-in-name-only. It was a truly crummy ending to what should have been a decent relationship between two Christians. Because of this man and his abhorrent behavior, I revised my mission statement that night and removed the statement, “He must be a Christian.”

On my 33rd date, my life flashed before  my eyes. I should have refused the date when he recommended we meet in a secluded place…

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The Sears Homes of Hampton Roads (Virginia)!

November 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

For years and years, I lived in the St. Louis area and that’s where I wrote my books on Sears Homes (and where I did all the research). In 2006, I moved back “home” to Hampton Roads (where I was born and raised), and it was pure fun to spend my spare time hunting for Sears Homes.

Below are just a few of the kit homes I’ve found in the area. Heretofore, I’ve found 52 in Portsmouth, 75 in Norfolk and about 15 in Chesapeake.

To read another article about 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

Sears Westly

Sears Westly

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Suffolk, Virginia

Sears Westly in downtown Suffolk

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Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

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Aladdin is very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable.

Aladdin Kit Homes (a competitor of Sears) was very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable. Sears sold about 70,000 homes during their 32 years in the kit home business (1908-1940). However, Aladdin started in 1906 and went to 1981, selling about 75,000 houses.

This Aladdin Colonial is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed it was a Sears kit home. This is not uncommon. It *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

This Aladdin Colonial pictured below is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed the house pictured below was a "Sears kit home." This is not uncommon. This house (below) *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial. This one is in Suffolk.

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This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

Here's a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

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Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Heres an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Here's an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

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Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog. Note, this Shadowlawn has a porte cochere.

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

A darling Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA, just across from Lowes Hardware Store on Portsmouth Blvd West. This house was moved from another location, about a mile due east on Portsmouth Blvd and it appears to be in harm's way yet again - with all the retails shops that have sprouted up around it.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

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The Beckley (from Sears)

The Beckley (from Sears)

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sextants Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sexton's Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

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Ive also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

I've also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeakes Deep Creek area.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeake's Deep Creek area.

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And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, its been turned into a duplex.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, it's been turned into a duplex.

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Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

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Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolks Colonial Place

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolk's Colonial Place

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Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Here it is, right in Norfolks Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

Here it is, right in Norfolk's Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

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As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and heres the Aladdin Edison

As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and here's the Aladdin Edison

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

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Aladdin Detroit

Aladdin Detroit

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

To read the next article, click here:

West Point’s Darling Collection of Sears Homes

November 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

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, organizing those testimonials 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 could only find one of the four houses 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.

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

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Crescent

Sears Avoca

Avoca

Avoca

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

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

And there's a Sears Ivanhoe on the waterfront, but no one was home. I'd love to get a photo! This image is from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Of Pipes and Men

November 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

My husband has a large collection of pipes. I do not understand the appeal and I do not understand pipes, but if I liked pipes, this one would be my favorite.

Now if I could just find him a little hat with horns and a human skull on top…

To learn more about the 70 first dates I endured to find my pearl, click here.

A man and his pipe

Mr. Green Flannel (aka my 70th first date) and his pipe

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About 1920s Breakfast Nooks

November 1st, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Built-in breakfast nooks were a popular item in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have. (As Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson is purported to have responded, “I think one simplify would have been enough.”)

Bungalows were a fine idea whose time had come, but there was one problem: space! Creative builders and architects improvised by creating intimate spaces in small areas, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was far easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than frittering away the hours dealing with meal preparation at the formal dining room table.

Below are pictures from catalogs and magazines of the time, showing the breakfast nook of the early 1920s. At the bottom is a picture from a 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, showing a “convertible” breakfast nook!  Table by day, stiff-as-a-tabletop bed by night.

Hopefully, some history loving old-house homeowners will be able to use these vintage photos to restore the breakfast nooks in their own homes.

To read more about breakfast nooks (and see more pictures), click here.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute. This image is from the February 1911 Ladies' Home Journal.

caption here

This simple breakfast table was offered with the Sears kit home, The Verona.

caption here too

This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!

Nook

This page features the breakfast table offered in the Sears Magnolia. These seats have backs!

Breakfast

This "breakfast alcove" came with the Sears home, The Honor.

nookie

The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

The image below appeared in the June 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics and provided the ultimate space saver. By day, it was a cute little trestle table with matching benches. By night, it was an extra sleeping space for your overnight guests.

nookie ps

Easy to make and simple to use, this "convertible" breakfast table provided extra sleeping space for visitors.

nookie

As seen in the 1919 Popular Mechanics, this breakfast nook could be folded out into a bed. Overnight Guests - it's what's for dinner!

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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The Sears Magnolia: A Primer

November 1st, 2010 Sears Homes 2 comments

Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t contact me to let me know that they’ve found a Sears Magnolia right in their neighborhood. Unfortunately 99.9% of the time, they’re wrong. Priced at about $6,000, the Sears Magnolia, offered from 1918-1922 was Sears most expensive house, and the biggest, too!

Right after WW1 (The Great War) ended, prices went sky high. Sears couldnt keep up with the volatility in the cost of building materials, so they started inserting price sheets into their catalog. This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the late 1920s.

Right after WW1 (The Great War) ended, prices went sky high. Sears couldn't keep up with the volatility in the cost of building materials, so they started inserting price sheets into their catalog. This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Like so many of those 370 designs of Sears homes, the 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 it 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 the Sears Magnolia's front porch. The two-story columns are an eye-catching feature. Also 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

Maggy in Benson

If you really think you’ve found a Sears kit home, look for stamped lumber in the basement, like this:

And in the flesh, it looks like this:

The mark appears on two places: The butt end and also on the tall face, about 2-6 inches from the end of the lumber.

The mark appears on two places: The butt end and also on the tall face, about 2-6 inches from the end of the lumber.

Old Kit Homes in New England

November 1st, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

Recently, I was reading the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog and found this testimonial, written by D. S. Chase of Grafton, Massachusetts. He built his Sears Maytown somewhere in Grafton, Massachusetts.

The Maytown was one of their better homes and fairly distinctive with that cantilevered turret on the front. It’d be interesting to know if this house is still standing in Grafton!

If you know of it, and/or have an address, please leave a comment below.

BTW, notice that Mr. Chase’s home has a shake roof and shingled siding (instead of clapboard)?

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

If you’re here to learn about Aunt Addie mysterious murder, click here.

Sears Maytown

Sears Maytown in Grafton, Mass, as pictured in the 1921 Sears catalog.

Testimonial as it appeared in the 1921 catalog

Testimonial as it appeared in the 1921 catalog

Testimonial of D. S. Chase from 1921 catalog

Testimonial of D. S. Chase from 1921 catalog

Sears Maytown

Sears Maytown as shown in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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