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Archive for February, 2011

The Original Camp David (Presidential Retreat)

February 27th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the Spring 1906 issue of American Carpenter and Builder there’s a fascinating article about the new presidential retreat, built for president Theodore Roosevelt.

This rustic retreat was situated on a 15-acre compound in the Piedmont area of Virginia known simply as “Pine Knob.”

From what I can glean, it was very close to the Virginia/West Virginia border, not too far from Harrisonburg, Virginia.  This wonderful article also included pictures of the staff (shown below). This was a pretty rugged looking bunch, and no one had matching uniforms. And where’s the Secret Service? Maybe that’s what the bloodhounds are for?

I’ve never been to Camp David, but I’m willing to bet that it looks a little different than Teddy’s old place and I’m also willing to guess that the buildings are not heated by a cast-iron wood stove.

If you’re looking for Rose’s book, click here.

To read part II of this piece (and see more photos), click here.

Exterior of the Presidential Retreat.

Exterior of the Presidential Retreat.

Interior of the retreat. Note the wood-burning stove.

Interior of the "retreat." Note the wood-burning stove and very primitive (more than rustic) furnishings.

The staff is fairly rustic, too.

The staff is fairly rustic, too.

Close-up of the crew at Pine Knob

Close-up of the staff at Pine Knob

Another close-up

Another close-up

Last of three slices of the original photo.

Last of three slices of the original photo.

Original article as it appeared in the 1906 American Carpenter and Builder magazine.

Original article as it appeared in the 1906 American Carpenter and Builder magazine.

part 2 of the original article

part 2 of the original article

And part 3

And part 3

part 4

part 4

And I found this in the December 1905 New York Times.

Whos Kermit?

And I always thought Kermit was a made-up name for a frog!

Part II of this story is here.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now A Ham!

February 26th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In the mid-1980s, I saw the movie Testament, starring Jane Alexander and William Devane. The story is set in a fictitious town of Hamlin (near San Francisco), and tells the story of an average American family in a Norman Rockwell town. One moment, the kids are watching an afternoon show, waiting for Dad to get home so they can eat dinner. In the next moment, Mom and the kids see an emergency message pop up on the TV, warning of incoming ICBMs and a nuclear attack. There’s a flash of blinding light, and then the electricity and phone go dead.

“Testament” is a remarkable movie because there are no fireballs and no mushroom clouds in Hamlin. Neither people nor houses are damaged by the blast. Terrified neighbors pour out of their stately homes and into the street, trying to figure out what has just happened.  The people of Hamlin are cut off from the world, knowing nothing, except that a nuclear device has exploded - somewhere far away.

Before the sun sets on that first awful, post-nuclear day, the real hero of the story emerges. It’s the old man down the street, Henry Abhart, who has both a Ham radio and a small generator. In the gloaming, neighbors in the upper-middle class burg gather at his house. As they walk up the steps to his magnificent bungalow, we hear Henry in the background.

“CQ, CQ, CQ,” he says with in a voice that’s steady but urgent. “This is Whiskey Six Delta November calling. No, there’s no damage here, except all our transformers are knocked out.”

After a little more time at his Ham radio, Henry reports back to his anxious neighbors now cloistered in his living room.

Looking pensive, he reports, “Well, folks, so far I can’t raise Seattle, Portland, Sacramento or Southern California. San Francisco is silent. The entire Bay Area. North of us, now, they’re okay.”

“What about Chicago?” someone asks.

With great solemnity in his voice he replies, “So far, I can’t raise anything east of Keokuk, lowa.”

After a few more comments he adds, “We may be crippled, but we’re not cut off and we’re not dead.”

I’ve always remembered that scene. Thanks to an old man ensconced in a homemade Ham Shack in the corner of a California bungalow, people are not cut off from the rest of the world. It’s a powerful image.

The take-away message I gleaned from this powerful scene is this: Ham Radio Operators are the helpers. They’re the ones that have both the skills and the tools to keep us going when all the more modern and more complex (and more delicate) systems have failed. I believe that - in my lifetime - our country won’t suffer a nuclear event, but we may face natural disasters and severe storms and other communications-interrupting events. And when we do, the ability to communicate (which has the same root as the word “community”) will be an urgent need.

Saturday, February 26th, I sat for my “Technician’s” Ham Radio license, and to my delight (and incredulity), I passed the test, getting 33 out of 35 answers right.

It feels good to accomplish a long-cherished dream. It feels wonderful to learn a new skill. I look forward to learning how to “play” with a new-fangled, 21st Century Ham Radio. But it also feels mighty good to know that if there ever were an urgent need in my neck of the woods, I’m equipped and empowered to be “one of the helpers.”

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

Updated!  To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V of this series.

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In the movie, Testament, the old Ham Radio operator Henry Abhart is the real hero of the show. I highly recommend this movie. Its now available on Amazon.

In the movie, "Testament," the old Ham Radio operator Henry Abhart is the real hero of the show. I highly recommend this movie. It's now available on Amazon.

The best of both worlds: Large antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois

The best of both worlds: Ham radio antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois. Nice house, too.

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

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Pink Houses: They’re Not Just For Sissies Anymore

February 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

When folks asked what color I was painting my house, I smiled and told them, “The most beautiful pink in the world.”

More than a few raised their eyebrows.

In fact, my formerly beige house looks absolutely delightful dressed up in pink. Perhaps the most interesting comment came from my husband who said, “I’m secure enough in my masculinity to live in a pink house.”

Indeed he is.

Pretty in pink

1925 Colonial Revival Home in Norfolk ,Virginia.

Winter-time

Winter-time

pink

Pretty in pink.

Wow

Picket fences go really well with pink houses.

And of course, everyone should have a pergola in the back yard.

And of course, everyone should have a pergola in the back yard.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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Cairo, Illinois: When Bad Things Happen to Little Cities…

February 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

In its heyday, Cairo was a bustling river town and was home to captains of industry, shipping magnates, wealthy business people and other “people of note.” It’s even mentioned in James A Michener’s epic miniseries, “Centennial.” IT earned a spot in Michener’s book because in the late 1800s, Cairo was the gateway to the west.

The first time I saw downtown Cairo, I stopped my car in the middle of the deserted street and stared in disbelief. The entire business district, which comprised several blocks of brick streets in beautiful condition, was empty - silent, still and devoid of all movement. Had it not been for a piece of trash blowing down the middle of the street, the scene before me would have been wholly motionless.

The stillness, the quiet, the absence of any sign of life was fascinating, yet also left me wondering if the next sound I heard would be the theme from The Twilight Zone with a voice-over by Rod Serling.

In the mid-1960s, racial unrest and riots were a sad part of the American landscape, but in Cairo, things went especially badly. African-Americans, weary of Jim Crow laws and disparate treatment, threatened to boycott businesses that employed only whites. White business owners responded by closing their stores. Large numbers of families left the area and never returned. Industry left. Businesses closed. Wealthy people took their capital and moved away.

Today, downtown Cairo is a ghost town - an incredible time capsule - frozen in the 1960s. The city that once boasted of 14,000 citizens now has about 3000 people living within its borders.

Outside of downtown, things aren’t much better. The burnt out hull of old buildings remain, the architectural victims of bored miscreants.  There’s no money in the state or local budget to raze the remnants of these destroyed homes. Folks often say California is on the cusp of bankruptcy. Illinois can’t be far behind, and Cairo is the poster-child for an American city that went from princely to pauper.

In the early 1900s, Cairo was the site of a 40-acre Sears Mill, where Sears kit homes were milled and shipped out to all 48 states. It was a vibrant business, in an important southern town. Cairo’s location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers made it a natural for shipping and distribution. At the turn of the last century, Cairo (pronounced “Care-Roe”) could boast of having four major rail lines, enabling it to become a centralized shipping point for lumber harvested from the South and sent to the North.

In Spring 2010, I returned to Cairo and visited the town again. More burned out buildings, more desolation, more depressing sites.  What’s happening to our once-great land that we now have cities that are in collapse, and states that are in bankruptcy?

I’ve nothing pithy to add to this sad story. Pictures tell the story far better than I could.

Entrance to Cairo
Entrance to Cairo. The old flood dates are no longer in working, but the old rivers still work really, really well.

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Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

Hospital in Cairo

Is there a doctor in the house?

School

School's out for summer. And for the rest of time.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three houses in a row.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three burned out houses in a row.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Virgin Forests and First-Growth Lumber: A Thing of The Past

February 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Stumbling about with my flashlight in the dimly-lit basement of countless Sears Honor-Bilt homes throughout the country, I’m always dazzled by the quality of the floor joists and other framing members. Sears lumber was first growth lumber.  (”First growth lumber” is the name given to wood which grew slowly in natural forests. The slower wood grows, the denser the grain. The denser the grain, the stronger the wood. The stronger the wood, the more resistant it is to decay and rot and the longer it will endure.)

The yellow pine framing members that support these old Sears homes, now nearing the century mark, are harder and denser than most of today’s [so-called] hardwoods. Some of these houses have had only minimal maintenance, yet all these years later, they’re still as square and true and solid as the day they were built.

Sears earned a well-deserved reputation for providing the best quality lumber for both framing and millwork and they were proud of their reputation. In the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this notice appeared under the heading, “Important.”

We do not handle hemlock, spruce or inferior types of lumber. The lumber we furnish is fine, dry yellow pine, the strongest lumber for framing. Cypress for outside finish, [cypress] the wood that lasts for centuries; oak, birch or yellow pine, as specified for interior finish.

Through the years, Sears offered exterior sidings in red cedar, redwood or cypress.  Most frequently, exterior sidings were cypress, and exterior trim pieces (corner boards, door and window trim, eaves, etc.) were also cypress.

Interior floors on average-priced Sears homes were typically oak on the first floor; maple in the kitchen and bath; yellow pine on the second floor. In less expensive homes, yellow pine was standard fare throughout the house for trim moldings, floors and doors. However, you could always upgrade to oak floors for another $148.

Today, it’s so interesting to contrast and compare modern lumber (think McMansion) with the solid old lumber found in America’s early 20th Century homes. Lumber from the old homes is so dense and hard, that many homeowners report they can not drive a spike into the floor joists without predrilling a hole, lest it bend the spike!

We will never see wood like this again in our country. The few “first-growth forests” that remain are protected sanctuaries (as they should be). Large suppliers of lumber boast that - thanks to genetic engineering - they can have a tree ready for harvest after a 25-year growth cycle. The problem is, when trees grow quickly, they’re not very dense.

Try this experiment at home. Try driving a nail through a piece of 2×8 from your local big-box hardware store. Then drive the nail through a floor joist in your house - if you can. Such a simple demonstration really will “hammer the point home” (so to speak).

At the very least, when an early 1900s home is torn down, the lumber should be salvaged, and not carted off to the landfill.

Now let’s go back to looking at pretty pictures of pretty Sears Homes. Enjoy the photos below.

Learn more about Sears Homes by click here.

Or buy Rose’s book by clicking here.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of thir most magnificent homes.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of their most magnificent homes.

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

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The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

In all my travels, Ive only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

In all my travels, I've only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Bungalow Craze and The Germ Theory

February 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Did you know that, Dr. Joseph Lister - a 19th Century British physician - is largely responsible for the bungalow craze? The fact is, Joseph Lister and his germ theory dramatically changed the way Americans thought about their homes.

For so many years, mothers could only watch in helpless horror as their young children died from any one of a myriad of “common” diseases. And then in the late 1800s, Dr. Joseph Lister discovered that germs were culprit. Mothers and fathers, weary of burying their infants, had a new arch enemy: household dirt. As is explained in the 1908 book, Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’ Cook-Book:

Not many years ago disease was most often deemed the act of Providence as a chastening or visitation for moral evil. Many diseases are now known to be merely human ignorance and uncleanliness. The sins for which humanity suffers are violations of the laws of sanitation and hygiene, or simply the one great law of absolute sanitary cleanliness… Every symptom of preventable disease and communicable disease…should suggest the question: “Is the cause of this illness an unsanitary condition within my control?”

Now that the enemy had been identified, modern women attacked it with every tool in their arsenal. Keeping a house clean was far more than a matter of mere pride: The well-being, nay, the very life of one’s child might depend upon a home’s cleanliness. What mother wanted to sit at the bedside of their sick child, tenderly wiping his fevered brow and pondering the awful question: “Was the cause of this illness an unsanitary condition within my control?”

Because of Dr. Lister and his germ theory, the ostentatious, dust-bunny-collecting Queen Anne, with its ornate woodwork, fretwork and gingerbread fell from favor with a resounding thud.

Simplicity, harmony and durability are the keynotes of the modern tendency. The general intention seems to be to avoid everything that is superfluous; everything that has a tendency to catch and hold dust or dirt. Wooden bedsteads are being replaced by iron or brass; stuffed and upholstered furniture by articles of plain wood and leather. Bric-a-brac, flounces, valances and all other superfluous articles are much less fashionable (from Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’ Cook-Book).

Remember the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”? There’s a 1920s scene where George Baily and his girlfriend pause in front of the massive Second Empire house. It sits abandoned and empty, deteriorating day by day. This was not an uncommon fate for Victorian manses in post-germ theory America. Who knew what germs lay in wait within its hard-to-clean walls?

The February 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal was devoted to the new housing style: Bungalows. One headline said, “The Bungalow, because of its easy housekeeping possibilities is becoming more popular every year.”

And all because of Dr. Lister.

(By the way, Dr. Lister did not invent the popular mouthwash but it was named after him and his discoveries.)

To learn more about the bungalows sold by Sears, click here.

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Snow White Kitchen

The Snow White "Sanitary" Kitchen. This picture is from the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Germ Theory

The Clorox man's claim to fame was superior germ-killing abilities. Note the adoring women praising him. Sadly, they're all wearing aprons. Well, maybe it's not so much sad as SCARY!

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Geor

George and Mary ("It's a Wonderful Life") got into this Second Empire Victorian *cheap* because it was riddled with germs and so hard to keep clean! After the discovery of the germ theory, we abandoned Victorian homes - with all their fretwork and frippery - in quite a hurry. Prior to the discovery of the germ theory, about 20% of children didn't make it to their 18th birthday. Once we figured out that it was these tiny microbes that was killing off our children, cleanliness became the order of the day.

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To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read more about George and Mary, click here.

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A Nice Bunch of Houses in Lafayette/Winona (Norfolk, VA)

February 21st, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

When I first started playing with kit houses  in 1999, Sears Homes were my specialty. It had taken me  several months to memorize all those 370 designs that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business (from 1908-1940). Before long I realized I had to start learning the designs offered by other companies, too. Working with friends Dale and Rebecca, we made countless copies of our dusty old kit home catalogs and organized those thousands of pages into a comprehensive field guide to kit homes sold by Aladdin (Bay City, MI), Lewis Manufacturing (also Bay City), Sterling Homes (Bay City, too), Harris Brothers (Chicago), Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa), and Montgomery Ward (Chicago).

And when I moved to Norfolk in 2006, I was surprised to find a prevalence of Aladdin kit homes in the area. Aladdin, I later learned, had a mill in Wilmington, NC (a lot closer to Hampton Roads than Chicago and Bay City!).

Below are some of the kit homes I’ve found in the Lafayette/Winona section of Norfolk. The most remarkable find was the Montgomery Ward Model #101. Unfortunately, the subject house in the Lafayette area has endured a great deal of insensitive remodeling which has altered its appearance.

First, my favorite: The Aladdin Plaza on Lafayette Blvd. The catalog image (from a 1919 catalog) is shown first:

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 on Lafayette Blvd in Norfolk. It's in wonderful condition and looks much like the line drawing.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

Aladdin Pomona

Aladdin Pomona, complete with white picket fence! Unfortunately, the windows have been replaced, but it does have its original siding.

Aladdin Pomona

Trees, cars, boats, and miscellaneous little people prevented a better photo, but this is a nice little Aladdin Pomona, and it still has the original diamond-muntin window in the living room.

Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog

Little old cottage from Pasadena...

Little old cottage from Pasadena...

If you look close, youll see what the original porch looked like on this house.

If you look close, you'll see what the original porch looked like on this house.

And you can see the remnant of the beams on this house in Lafayette.

And you can see the remnant of the beams on this house in Lafayette.

The Aladdin Sheffield was a popular house. I know of three in Norfolk.

The Aladdin Sheffield was a popular house. I know of three in Norfolk.

This Aladdin Sheffield is a real treasure, and even has the bumped out vestible as shown in the original catalog drawing.

This Aladdin Sheffield is a real treasure, and even has the "bumped out" vestibule as shown in the original catalog drawing.

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

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

And its porte cochere is still in use!

And its porte cochere is still in use!

The Aladdin Winthrop

The Aladdin Winthrop. Awnings not included.

The distinguishing feature of this Aladdin Winthrop are those windows in side fo the bay and the four windows across the front. Also note how the frotn porch spans the full width of the house.

The distinguishing feature of this Aladdin Winthrop are the windows in side of the bay and the four windows across the front. Also note how the front porch spans the full width of the house. This was a special delight because I'd missed this one on prior trips through the 'hood and just found it this week!

And onto Sears!  This is the Sears Elsmore - a hugely popular house for Sears

And onto Sears! This is the Sears Elsmore - a hugely popular house for Sears

My favorite feature of this house is that its painted the same colors as the catalog picture!! Notice, it has the recessed entry way.

My favorite feature of this house is that it's painted the same colors as the catalog picture!! Notice, it has the recessed entry way.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

If anyone knows the owners of this house, Id love to find out if its a Sears Alhambra. It might be, but I wouldnt bet money on it. An interior inspection would reveal if this is indeed a true Sears Alhambra.

Sears Alhambra? Eh, maybe. Maybe NOT. If anyone knows the owners of this house, I'd love to get inside and find out if it's a Sears Alhambra. It might be, but I wouldn't bet money on it. An interior inspection would reveal if this is indeed a true Sears Alhambra.

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

**THIS** is what an Alhambra should look like! This house is in the 1500-block of County Street in downtown Portsmouth.

Sears Argyle from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Argyle from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

This Argyle has some wear and tear on it, but you can still see a sweet little Argyle hiding in there. This is just outside the border of the Lafayette Winona area.

This Argyle has some wear and tear on it, but you can still see a sweet little Argyle hiding in there. This is just outside the border of the Lafayette Winona area.

Original image from an early 1910s Montgomery Ward catalog. This is Wardway Model #101.

Wardway #101

Wardway #101. My favorite find of the day. This house has been severely aluminized and the original windows are nothing but a memory, but this house has several very unique characteristics that make me think it's probably the Wardway #101. Two of those unique features are bay windows on the front and side. The porch has been extended around to the side (fairly recently, judging by the joinery) and the substitute siding has really distorted the home's original appearance.

To see more pictures of the kit homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

To buy a copy of Rose’s book, click here.

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The Venerable, Vintage Villas of Vinton, Virginia

February 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In April 2008, my husband and I traveled to Roanoke for a vacation. While he rested at the hotel, I drove out to Vinton to hunt for Sears Homes. This was a quickie drive through, so I suspect I missed a few.

And it turns out, I was right.

About a year later, I drove through the same area with Dale Wolicki. He immediately spotted this kit home (see below) that I had missed. The Wardway Sheridan. It’s a real beauty, too.

The Wardway Sheridan, as shown in the Wardway catalog

Wardway Sheridan in Vinton, Virginia (just outside of Roanoke)

And here’s another unique house: The Harris Brother’s Ardmore. Once you’ve seen this house, it’s not hard to remember it - and find it elsewhere! Note the unique details around the front porch. Very distinctive home.

This is from the Harris Brothers catalog. Its the Ardmore, and its not hard to spot with that odd second floor sticking up out of the bungalows roofline!

This is the Harris Brothers Ardmore, and it's not hard to spot with that odd second floor sticking up out of the bungalow's roofline!

HB

This Ardmore is in Vinton, Virginia, a small town just outside of Roanoke.

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In Vinton, I also found an Aladdin Marsden.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden in Vinton

Aladdin Marsden in Vinton

The Sears Sunbeam was one of their most popular kit homes.

The Sears Sunbeam was one of their most popular kit homes.

Dressed up in brick, this Sears Sunbeam is in very good condition.

Dressed up in brick, this Sears Sunbeam is in very good condition.

To read about the kit homes in Roanoke, click here.

To learn how to identify a kit home, click here.

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

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The Kit Homes of Colonial Place (Norfolk, Virginia)

February 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

From 2002-2006, I gave about 200 lectures in 24 states and the #1 most frequently asked question I received was, “Do you live in a Sears Home?

No, I don’t, but I do live amongst them.  :)

In January 2007, I was married to a Norfolk resident and in February 2007, we moved into a 1925 center-hallway Colonial Revival in Colonial Place.

It’s not a kit house, but there are several here in Colonial Place and Park Place (and one in Riverview). Most of the kit homes in Norfolk are not from Sears, but Aladdin. Based in Bay City, Michigan, this was another mail-order kit house company. They had a large mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, so it’s not surprising to find so many Aladdin kit homes in our area.

Enjoy the photos!

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia!

Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia! This is one of my favorite kit homes - ever. It's in wonderful condition and it's a spot-on match to the original catalog image! Part of what makes this house such a treasure is that it's in original condition.

Wow.

Wow.

Wow

What a beauty.

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Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza as seen in the 1919 catalog.

An interesting aside: The Pungo Grill in Virginia Beach is also an Aladdin Plaza. Click here to learn more.

Perfect Aladdin Plaza. Just perfect.

Perfect Aladdin Plaza. Just perfect.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

This Pomona has seen some changes in its many decades of life, but still retains its classic lines.

This Pomona has seen some changes in its many decades of life, but still retains its classic lines. Notice the eave brackets, and compare them to the original catalog picture.

The Aladdin Venus was one of their most popular houses.

The Aladdin Venus was one of their most popular houses.

Close-up of the Aladdin Venus

Close-up of the Aladdin Venus

Looking a little rough around the edges, this Aladdin Venus still retains many original features.

It's had siding added and original railings removed, but this Aladdin Venus still retains many original features. There's a second Aladdin Venus in Park Place on 35th Street.

Notice the original wooden casement windows are still in place, now hidden behind double-hung aluminum storm windows.

Notice the original wooden casement windows are still in place, now hidden behind double-hung aluminum storm windows.

Aladdin Sheffield

Aladdin Sheffield

Despite the fact that the front porch on this house is quite different from the Aladdin Sheffield (pictured above), Im still quite certain this house is an Aladdin kit home. The Sheffield has a number of quirky details that are unusual, and the subject house has each and every one of those quirks.

Despite the fact that the front porch on this house is quite different from the Aladdin Sheffield (pictured above), I'm still quite certain this house is an Aladdin kit home. The Sheffield has a number of quirky details that are unusual, and the subject house has each and every one of those quirks. Unfortunately, this is not a great photo, and the angle is wrong. One of the funny features of the Sheffield is the fireplace chimney on the other side. It cuts right through the eaves of the second-floor dormer window (as does this Sheffield in CP).

Aladdin Lamberton

Aladdin Lamberton

Its done up pretty in brick, and its had many modifications, but Im 97.736% certain that this is an Aladdin Lamberton.

It's done up pretty in brick, and it's had many modifications, but I'm 97.736% certain that this is an Aladdin Lamberton.

This is the only Wardway House I know of in Colonial Place. Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit home business. Montgomery Ward sold about 25,000 homes. Not surprisingly, there are very few Wardway Homes in Hampton Roads area.

This is the only Wardway House I know of in Colonial Place. Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Seems like this house should be located on Michigan Avenue, since it is the Wardway Michigan. Ive always wondered how we ended up with a Michigan Avenue in a neighborhood named after the 13 original colonies.

Seems like this house should be located on Michigan Avenue, since it is the Wardway Michigan. I've always wondered how we ended up with a Michigan Avenue in a neighborhood named after the 13 original colonies.

In addition to kit homes, we also have pattern book houses in CPRV, such as this Regent from a 1926 pattern book. Interested homebuyers would order blueprints from a pattern book. Typically, your purchase price would also include a detailed inventory of all the building materials youd need for your new home.

In addition to kit homes, we also have "pattern book houses" in CPRV, such as this "Regent" from a 1926 pattern book. Interested homebuyers would order blueprints from a pattern book. Typically, your purchase price would also include a detailed inventory of all the building materials you'd need for your new home.

This Regent is a perfect match to the pattern book page (above). THeres another Regent in Larchmont.

This "Regent" is a perfect match to the pattern book page (above). THere's another "Regent" in Larchmont.

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Wardway, there was also Lewis Manufacturing. Heres a Lewis Manufacturing kit home, The San Fernando. BTW the bungalow craze started (in the early 1900s) in California, hence all the Californian names for these bungalows!

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Wardway, there was also Lewis Manufacturing. Here's a Lewis Manufacturing kit home, The San Fernando. BTW the bungalow craze started (in the early 1900s) in California, hence all the Californian names for these bungalows!

Is this a Lewis San Fernando? Hard to tell for sure, but it sure looks like it. However, this is precisely why its so difficult to identify kit homes. Closeness does not count. Precision does.

Is this a Lewis San Fernando? Hard to tell for sure, but it sure looks like it. However, this is precisely why it's so difficult to identify kit homes. Closeness does not count. Precision does.

And onto the kit homes in Park Place…

Like Colonial Place, Park Place also has several kit homes. This house (see picture below) was from Gordon Van Tine, a kit home company based in Davenport, Iowa. As you can see from the original catalog picture, it was a fine and spacious home.

Park Place

The ad promises that this is an "exceptionally well planned" home!

Is this a Gordon Van Tine #703? Again, without inspecting the homes interior, its hard to be sure.

Is this a Gordon Van Tine #703? Again, without inspecting the home's interior, it's hard to be sure.

Another spacious foursquare is the Aladdin Wenonah.

Another spacious foursquare is the Aladdin Wenonah.

The Wenonah was an unusual home and this is the only one Ive seen in my many travels. Its in Park Place.

The Wenonah was an unusual home and this is the only one I've seen in my many travels. It's in Park Place.

Whitehall

Sears Whitehall, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Whitehall

Whitehall in the flesh on 26th Street.

Sears Lebanon. Note the flowerbox in front of the second floor windows.

Sears Lebanon. Note the flowerbox in front of the second floor windows.

Lebanon in Park Place area

Sears Lebanon on 26th Street. This Lebanon is missing its flower box, but still has the wooden support brackets jutting out from the wall.

Sears Americus

Sears Americus

Americus in nearby Park Place

This Sears Americus still retains so many of the unique features that make it so distinctive. Notice how the front porch roof extends well beyond the home's width? And the second floor juts out a bit (on the right) but the first floor is flat across the front. Unfortunately, those eave brackets have been covered in great gobs of aluminum. Ick. This house has been converted into a duplex (sigh) and is on a main drag in Park Place.

My pretty pretty house on Gosnold

My pretty pretty house on Gosnold is not a Sears House.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

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Nice Surprises

February 19th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

This morning, my dear friend and co-author Dale told me that the new Old House Journal had a blurb about my latest book. As Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

I’m very proud of that book - The Sears Homes of Illinois - and it was a lot of work!

I’m also very proud of the other new book, co-authored by Dale Wolicki.

Wardway Book

Wardway Book

The graphics and pictures in this book are so great that even Teddy the Dog loves to sit down and browse the pages.

The graphics and pictures in this book are so great that even Teddy the Dog loves to sit down and browse the pages.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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