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Archive for January, 2011

Is it Really a Magnolia?

January 31st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

For years, it’s been widely believed that only six Sears Magnolia kit homes were built in the country. Six.

They’re located in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama, North Carolina, and Ohio. There was a Magnolia in Nebraska, but it burned down many years ago. That’s six Magnolias. (By the way, the house featured in Nicholas Sparks‘ movie “The Notebook” is not a Sears House.)

Recently, someone contacted me through an internet forum and said they thought they might have a Sears House.

If only I had a penny for every time I heard that, I could buy a Magnolia of my own!  But this time, the picture I saw took my breath away. It appeared to be a Sears Magnolia. Due to my extreme excitement at this new find, I’m hoping to visit this sweet house in the not-too-distant future, but I think there’s a 97.653% chance that I’ve found my seventh Magnolia.

This is a remarkable find. For one thing, this means there could be 284 Magnolias in the country. For us Sears House aficionados, this is like Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile. Anything is now possible!  :)

What makes the Sears Magnolia so remarkable? Many things. It was the biggest and the best Sears Home that they offered. It was beautiful and grand and spacious and elegant and it was the Creme de la creme of Sears Homes. To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Below are some pictures from the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, featuring interior shots of this grand old dame.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1922 Modern Homes catalog. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1922 Modern Homes catalog. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Entry Hall of the grand house

Entry Hall of the grand house

The Living Room

The Living Room

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolias kitchen

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolia's kitchen

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To see the floorplan of the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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New Old Bathrooms

January 31st, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

When my husband and I first looked at our old house in February 2007, we loved many things about it. It was spacious and elegant and well-built and full of potential. The kitchen had five nice windows and a walk-in pantry and the upstairs bedroom was just right for our four-poster bed. It was a fine house, but…

It had a terrible bathroom.

It had been done in classic 1980s beige and it had been poorly done. Tiles were popping off the walls and the floor tile (12-inch faux marble) crunched and wiggled when we stepped on it. Redoing that bathroom was a major undertaking. We started in January 2010 and finished in May  2010. That’s a long time to have your primary bathroom out of commission.

The hex flooring (shown below) came from a floor covering company in Los Angeles. The material is very popular in Hollywood, and is often used in movie sets, when a 1910s or 1920s bathroom or kitchen set is needed in a hurry.

It creates the look of the 1920s hex tiles in a hurry. When I saw the material up close and personal, I was thrilled. You have to bend over and touch the flooring to ascertain that it’s not real tile.

Below are some photos of the project.

Update:  As of August 2011, we’ve sold this house and moved to a new house (Mid-Century Modern). Looking at these pictures of our “New Old Bathroom” reminds me of how much I love the 1920s look!

To see what I did to our 1960s bathroom (in our new home), click here.

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Ugly bathroom

If I had to pick one word to define this bathroom, it would be ugly and beige. Wait, that's two words. How about "ugly-beige"? Pictures don't do it adequate injustice.

ugly radiator in ugly bathroom

Poor old radiator in ugly bathroom. Notice how - due to two tiling jobs atop the original tile - it's slowly being swallowed up by substitute flooring materials. The vertical pipe is rusting because some moron put the tile and/or adhesive right up against the pipe, instead of using a sleeve to protect against corrosion.

Ugly bathroom vanity

This photo shows how ugly the vanity lights were. This really was a hideous affair.

Ugly floor

Originally, it was my goal to restore the old hex tile, but after spending about 2/3rds of my fifth decade chipping away the TWO layers of tile on top of this 1920s hex tile, I realized my efforts were in vain. About half way back (headed toward the back of the room), the tile floor had been destroyed.

Bathroom

A very smart flooring guy studies the mess and figures out what to do to make it all pretty again. He sat on the edge of that tub for about 20 minutes but his solution was genius.

Bathroom

The radiator was removed and taken away to be sand-blasted and powder-coated. In the meantime, the heating contractors had to chisel out 6" of concrete and replace the old pipe(s). Cost: $,1900. This was a problem, because I had promised my husband the total bath redo would be under $2,000. Oopsie.

Bathroom

More views of the ugly floor mess.

New bathroom floor goes in

New bathroom floor was installed, after vast amounts of floor leveler were floated on the surface of that old mess. The look was transformative. Everyone was surprised at how good it turned out.

bathroom walls go up

New wainscoting is installed. Dave the Contractor covered the new floor with three layers of kraft paper to protect it.

Finis!

Finis! Isn't it beautiful? Thanks to Craigs' List, I found this pedestal sink - Kohler Memoirs - and got it for $250. Brand new, never installed. Guy bought it and his wife didn't like it. So he did what any smart husband would do - sold it for 1/3rd the value on Craigs' List. We placed the marble slab under the radiator so that the if it ever needs service again, removal will be simple. Plus, we wanted to protect the vinyl floor from the weight of this 400-pound radiator. The marble slab is under the toilet because after we removed all that flooring, the pipes were too high. Plus, it's a cool look. And yes, that is real Italian marble.

Bathroom pretty

The only original thing in this "vintage" bathroom is that brass towel rack. We found it in the back of the linen closet when we bought the house.

Bathroom

Close-up of bathroom faucets.

Bathroom

Now the purple bathmat matches the rest of the room! :)

To read more about Rose’s pink house, click here.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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Built-ins and Sears Kit Homes

January 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Many times, I’ve seen less-than-informed sources report that if your home has built-ins, such as built-in ironing boards and breakfast nooks and telephone niches, it’s probably a kit home.

This is not true.

Built-ins were practical space-saving ideas that became very popular in the early 1900s, which was also the years when Sears kit homes became popular. And, built-ins were big sellers in hardware catalogs, too. In other words, you could add them to your house in later years.

Both Sears and Montgomery Ward offered these built-ins in their mail-order catalogs.

Pictured below are examples of the built-ins offered in the Sears Honor-Bilt Hardware catalog.

1933 Sears Building Materials catalog

1933 Sears Building Materials catalog. Note the Sears Mitchell on this catalog's cover. Note, these aren't just building materials, but HONOR BILT building materials!

Sears Ironing Board

For $5, you could purchase this dandy ironing board that was designed to fit within the studs.

Sears

For an extra $2.25, you could upgrade to an oak telephone cabinet. The phone shown here is a 1910s/20s candlestick phone. The vented panel on the lower portion held the "ringer." Old phones did not have individual ringers, but used a central bell located somewhere in the house.

Sears

For a mere $14.95 you could have this adorable "Colonial Breakfast Alcove" in your bungalow's kitchen.

To read more about breakfast nooks, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

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My Pink House

January 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is, “Do you live in a Sears House?”

No, but I live in a pink house that was built in 1925, and it’s a beautiful house, and that’s almost as good as a Sears House.

In Summer 2010, we had the house painted pink.

Yes, Pink.

With every passing day, I love this color more and more, and that’s a good thing because this was an enormous project. We used about 35 gallons of paint and primer (field and trim) and we chose Sherwin Williams Duration ($50 a gallon, 25 year warranty).

My 1925 Colonial Revival looks stunning in pink. Black shutters will soon arrive, which will create the perfect complement for this old house. Pink field, white trim, black shutters = the prettiest house in all of Norfolk.

My daughter says it looks like strawberry ice cream. My other daughter says it looks like a sheet cake. I think it looks perfect. :)

To read about the perfect pergola in the back yard, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Side view

Side view

The process

The process

The back looked worse than the front. Its likely the front had been repainted, but the rear had not.

The back looked worse than the front. It's likely the front had been repainted, but the rear had not.

Close-up of dirty eaves

Close-up of dirty eaves

Little House

Little House

Winter-time

Winter-time

Little house in the winter

Little house in the winter

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

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Hampton Roads’ Abundance of Sears Homes

January 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few years ago, several cities in Hampton Roads hired consultants (schooled and trained in archeology) to find the Sears Homes in Hampton Roads. After obtaining a copy of the written report and reading it, I laughed out loud. The researchers missed most of the kit homes in our area. Yeah, archeology. Even though the words “architecture” and “archeology” both begin with the letters “arc,” there is a difference in the two arts.

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 Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

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.

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

One of my all-time favorite Aladdin Plazas is in Norfolk, Virginia, about three miles from my home in Colonial Place.

One of my all-time favorite Aladdin Plazas is in Norfolk, Virginia, about three miles from my home in Colonial Place.

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 Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Marsden in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

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:

Sears Magnolia: Not!

January 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The Sears Magnolia was the biggest, fanciest and prettiest home that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit home business. According to legend, there were only a few Magnolias built in the country, and heretofore, only six have been found (Benson, NC., South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana). The sixth was in Nebraska, and has since been torn down.

Everyone loves Sears kit homes. People are enchanted and intrigued by the idea that you could order a kit home out of a mail-order catalog and have it shipped (via train) to your building site. These were true kits, arriving in 12,000-piece kits (including a 75-page instruction book). Sears promised that a man of average abilities could have one assembled in 90 days.

But there’s another reason we love these homes: They’re beautiful. They’re well-designed and thoughtfully arranged, with nice profiles and proportions and lines.

Recently I was driving through a 1990s neighborhood and spotted this house. (I’m surprised no one has contacted me to report that this is a Sears Magnolia!)   In my humble opinion, this is not an attractive home. It lacks those those proportions and lines and depth that make a house remarkable. It is, to be blunt, flat and uninspiring.

Modern house in modern area

Modern house in modern area

Below is the real deal. A Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

maggy_benson_nc

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Breakfast Nooks, Part II

January 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Judging by the traffic to this website, there’s a lot of interest in built-in breakfast nooks these days, and for good reason. They’re practical, useful, attractive, and make excellent use of a small space. As the 1933 Montgomery Ward hardware catalog promised, it’s like adding “a whole new room” to the house.

Okay, that may be a wee bit of a stretch, but the built-in breakfast nook - very popular in early 20th Century kit homes (such as those from Sears and Wards) - is a grand idea whose time has come. Again!

The McMansion has fallen from favor and as we baby boomers get older, a rising trend is more compact, easier-to-heat, easier-to-maintain smaller homes. And with smaller homes come smaller kitchens, and better use of space.

Take a look at some of the built-in breakfast nooks that were featured in a variety of magazines, including Ladies Home Journal (1911), Popular Science (1919), Sears Modern Homes catalogs (1920s) and Montgomery Ward catalogs (1920s and 30s).

To read more “Breakfast Nooks, part I” (and see more photos), click here.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

nooks

Cover of the 1932 Montgomery Ward Building Material catalog, which featured breakfast nooks.

cover

A close-up of the built-in breakfast nook featured on the cover of the hardware catalog.

cover nook

cOn page 34 of the catalog, this "cozy corner dinette" was offered for $14.95. Not a bad deal. And it's made of clear western white pine and needed a small space of 5'6" by 3'8". Nice looking, too.

Nook room

Another room? Well, maybe. Good-looking nookie, though.

nookie from GVT

This "cozy dinette" was featured in the Wardway/GVT Modern Homes catalog.

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

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute. This little table first appeared in the February 1911 Ladies' Home Journal.

caption here

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

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, write thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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Lost in Lynchburg!

January 29th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

My dear friend Rebecca is working on a new project and asked me to find this 1910s kit home in Lynchburg, Virginia. Most folks have heard of Sears Kit Homes, but in addition to Sears, there were six companies selling kit homes through mail order. Their names were Gordon Van Tine, Montgomery Ward, Aladdin, Harris Brothers, Lewis Manufacturing and Sterling Homes.

Sterling was based in Bay City, Michigan and yet, I’ve found a few of these houses in Virginia. According to Rebecca, there’s a Sterling Windemere in Lynchburg. She found a testimonial in an old Sterling Homes catalog and the location listed for this house was Lynchburg. I’ll be driving up to Lynchburg soon to find this house. If anyone knows the address or area, it sure would be helpful to have that!

Please leave a comment below with the address or write me at thorntonrose@hotmail.com.

Note, one of the distinctive features of this house is that paired staircase landing window (midway up the side wall). That’s a fairly unusual feature, as most landing windows were single. Also note the grouped columns (three on the corners), with the brick foundations. And note how the second-floor windows come right up to the eaves of the house. Lastly, there’s a hipped dormer with two small windows.

There are a gazillion foursquares in Lynchburg, but I’m hoping to find THIS foursquare! Thanks for your help!

Sterling Homes The Windemere from the 1917 catalog

Sterling Homes "The Windemere" from the 1917 catalog.

Windemere

To prove the superiority of Sterling pre-cut homes, this Windemere was built on this lot in just 11 days. Note, this did not include the fireplace chimney and windows. This view shows the other side of the Windemere which (unfortunately) is quite non-descript.

Sterling

Sterling

Heres a real live Sterling Windemere in Bay City. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for allowing me to use his photo.

Here's a real live Sterling Windemere in Bay City. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for allowing me to use his photo. Sometimes, seeing the house "in the flesh" gives a more clear impression of the details, than a vintage line drawing.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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A&P: The Little Red Schoolhouse of Retailing?

January 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In the 1960s, A&P dominated the grocery store line-up here in Southeastern Virginia. Do any of them remain? I don’t know of any in Hampton Roads.

Below is an ad from the 1926 Ladies Home Journal for the “Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.” The “economy rules” line in the advertisement makes sense, but “The Little Red Schoolhouse of Retailing”?

To my further shock, a Google search for the term “Little Red Schoolhouse of Retailing” turned up zero results.

I’d love to know what that’s about. From my 21st Century perspective, I’d say that A&P was striving to be the antithesis of Walmart.

To see more vintage ads, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Interesting advertisement from a 1926 Ladies Home Journal

Interesting advertisement from a 1926 Ladies' Home Journal

Larger view of the same advertisment

Larger view of the same advertisement

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Sticks and Stones and All-Brick Sears Homes

January 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

From time to time, people write me and say, “I thought this was a Sears House, but it’s all brick, so I know it can’t be a kit home.”

Actually…

Sears Homes could be ordered with cypress or cedar shakes or clapboards, with stucco, or with masonry, such as cement block (not common), brick (very common) or stone (also not common). If you wanted wood siding, it was shipped from the Sears Mills in Cairo, Illinois, Newark, New Jersey or Norwood, Ohio. If you opted for masonry (block, stone or brick), you purchased it locally, to save on freight charges. Masonry weighs a lot.

sears

Inside rear cover of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears

Small graphic that appeared in the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog, below the page featuring the Sears Lewiston.

Sears Homes

At a "small extra cost" you can add brick to your Sears Galewood.

Clifton

Sears Auburn in Clifton Forge Virginia with half brick and half wood. Most Auburns were all wood, so this is an interesting alteration. Note, it is solid brick and not just brick veneer.

brick

Close-up on the brick work of the Auburn in Clifton Forge.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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

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