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The Sears Magnolia: A Primer

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.

  1. A. Henson
    December 10th, 2010 at 02:09 | #1

    We have one of the Magnolia homes in town here in Emporia, Kansas. I had never heard of kit homes or mail-order homes until we recently began looking to purchase our first house. After looking through Sears ads for these online, I recognized dozens of examples (or knockoffs) that we have either driven by or are for sale. Nice blog!

  2. Fran Spencer
    December 21st, 2010 at 20:36 | #2

    My very best friend purchased a home that was built in 1922. The floor plan matches the Magnolia floor plan almost purfectly. The outside of the property or elevation does not. Any idea’s of who the manufacturer could be? The property unfortunately has been sold numerous times and used at a convalescent home. The square footage is over 7,000 square feet. We are just now in process of uncovering years of paint. Good news is that the original wood work and floor plan are in tact. Any help?

    Thanks,
    Fran

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