Home > Uncategorized > The Sears Homes in Danville!

The Sears Homes in Danville!

On Friday, I traveled to Danville, Virginia and had the good fortune to meet up with Gary, Joyce and Susan, and Tiffany (the indefatigable reporter from the local paper), and tooled around the town looking for kit homes. It was a delightful day and Danville is a city that’s heavy laden with beautiful architecture. Some day, I’d like to take some time and tour the city at a more leisurely pace!

Below are a few pictures of what we found in Danville.

The first house is the Sears Walton. This was one of 370 designs offered by Sears during their 32 years in the kit home business. The Walton was one of their most popular homes, and it’s easy to identify! Notice the large front porch, which extends several feet beyond the main wall of the house. In the front bedroom, there’s a box window with a shed roof. And in the dining room, there’s a gabled bay with three windows.

The Sears Walton

The Sears Walton

Most of the Sears Waltons Ive seen are yellow! Just like this one in Danville.

On this Walton in Danville, someone extended that dining room bay and turned it into a porte cochere! Notice the oversized front porch, with its roof line that's got a slightly different angle than the rest of the house. And you can see a piece of that box windows on the left front. Sears house designs could be "reversed" like this one in Danville. It's the mirror image of the catalog page (above).

The next house is also a kit home, but it was not sold by Sears, but by a company in Iowa known as Gordon Van Tine. Like Sears, they sold homes through mail-order catalogs. The houses were shipped in about 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days. Sears offered mortgages with their homes (75% loan-to-value, 15 years and 6% interest), and it was a requirement of the mortgage that the home be 100% assembled within four months of shipment!

From the 1921 catalog, this is the Gordon Van Tine #705.

From the 1921 catalog, this is the Gordon Van Tine #705.

And here it is, in the flesh!

And here it is, in the flesh! Notice it still has those wide bands over the second-floor windows. It's unusual for a house of this vintage (1921) to still have original railings, columns, windows and siding!

Next is my favorite find:  The Wardway Lexington! Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. Sears sold kit homes (12,000 pieces of house and a 75-page instruction book) from 1908-1940. Montgomery Ward started in 1910 and stopped about 1931. I found two “Wardway” kit homes in Danville!

The Montgomery Ward Lexington

The Montgomery Ward Lexington

A beautiful example of The Wardway Lexington!

A beautiful example of The Wardway Lexington!

Sears Lewiston

Sears Lewiston

Sears Lewiston

Sears Lewiston. This one has two windows (centered) instead of three, but these are replacement windows, and there's certainly room for three windows here. Plus, this house still retains the small windows to the left of the fireplace with their original diamond muntins!

This is a kit home from Aladdin, another kit home company that - like Sears - sold houses through mail order!

This is a kit home from Aladdin, another kit home company that - like Sears - sold houses through mail order!

From the side...

This house on Virginia Avenue is a beautiful match to the original catalog picture!

Close-up of the Hampshire (by Aladdin)

Close-up of the Hampshire (by Aladdin)

And in the flesh!

Note the original windows! When I first started learning about Danville, I was told this was a Sears Home, but it's not! It is a kit home, but it's from Aladdin (based in Bay City). This is a common mistake. About 80% of the people who *think* they have a Sears Home are wrong. Most often, they DO have a kit home, but it's from a company other than Sears.

Another Aladdin home - the Winthrop!

Another Aladdin home - the Winthrop!

This Winthrop is in wonderfully oriignal condition, and even has the same paint scheme as the house shown in the catalog!

This "Winthrop" is in wonderfully oriignal condition, and even has the same paint scheme as the house shown in the catalog!

Sears Sunbeam

Sears Sunbeam

Although its been altered (and added onto) this still appears to be a Sears Sunbeam!

Although it's been altered (and added onto with the roof being raised) this still appears to be a Sears Sunbeam!

Wardway

Wardway

Another Wardway Home: The Whatever

Another Wardway Home: The Mt. Vernon

In addition to kit homes, Danville also has prefab homes, such as this Lustron (see below).

“Never before has America seen a house like this,” read a 1949 advertisement for the Lustron, also hailed as “the house of the future.”

The Lustron was an all-steel house, with walls made of  2×2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel finish. The roof was porcelain enamel steel, and unlike traditional roofing shingles, has a lifespan of at least 60 years (and perhaps much more).

The modest ranches were designed and created by entrepreneur Carl Strandlunds to help deal with the severe housing shortage after World War II. Unfortunately, Lustrons never became very popular. Three years after the company first started (in 1947), it went into bankruptcy. Sixty years later, there’s still much debate about the reasons for the company’s collapse.  The debate over the reasons for Lustron’s demise because a topic for a fascinating documentary.

About 2,500 Lustrons were created.

Quantico, Virginia was home to the largest collection of Lustrons in the country, but those 60 houses are now gone. Some were moved, most were demolished. An interesting aside: Turns out the Marines at Quantico weren’t too keen on living in a pink house! (The houses were offered in pink, blue, brown and yellow.)

On inside walls, nails were a no-no. Instead, magnets are used to hang pictures. The porcelain enamel finish on the 2×2 panels is tough, which makes re-painting the panels virtually impossible. The Lustron (seen below) in Danville was painted, and it’s trying hard to shed this second skin. Painting porcelain enamel never works out too well.

Lustron in Danville

Lustron in Danville

Lustron

Close-up of the window on Danville's Lustron.

And then on down the road a bit in Altavista, I found this perfect Sears Whitehall.

From the 1916 Sears catalog

From the 1916 Sears catalog

Heres a Sears Whitehall, outstanding in his field!  :)

Here's a remarkable Sears Whitehall. It fact, it's outstanding in his field! :)

And one of my favorite non-house finds in Danville! A tribute to “Old 97″! After I left Danville, I took the “mighty rough road” from Danville to Lynchburg, and it wasn’t too bad - for a car.  :)

Wreck of the Old 97 is commemorated with this mural in downtown Danville.

"Wreck of the Old 97" is commemorated with this mural in downtown Danville. If you know the meaning of the little white and yellow birds (upper right), please leave a comment!

Did you enjoy reading about the houses in Danville? If so, please share this link with others! Or copy and paste the link on facebook!

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

  1. mike james
    March 21st, 2011 at 11:25 | #1

    There are several Sears Homes on Highland Ave. in the 8 and 900 blocks SE Roanoke. My aunt and uncle lived in one, and when I was little, many years ago, I remember they would show people the Sears stamp on the floor beams and in the attic beams.

  2. Lydia Landrum
    March 21st, 2011 at 12:50 | #2

    So sorry I did not know of your visit to Danville. I live in a Sears home. I’m in the county approx. 2 miles from the Danville city limit. Our house was purchased from the Seas catalog in 1925 and came to Danville by rail and dropped off at what was the “Lucky Star Depot” formerly located on Rt 41 (Franklin Turnpike) the house was then taken by horse and wagon down to what is now our property on Slaughter Avenue. The house was original bought by the Slaughter family, then sold to the Scearce family and then to our family the Landrums. We had to do major work on the house to make it habitable. We love our home. However, our house is not as elaborate as those shown on your pages. It is a typical 2 story farm house that originally had 3 rooms downstairs with a kitchen and 2 rooms upstairs. No bathrooms or heating/ac were installed in the house until we bought it in 1988.

    When we moved in we tried to find plans from the Sears catalogs of our house but were unable to. The information we got was from the daughter of the very first owners. Would love to find out more about our model.

  3. Pat Eastwood
    March 21st, 2011 at 13:11 | #3

    The birds in the mural are canaries. According to accounts of the Wreck of the Old 97, the canaries were on board in cages destined for the coal mines. In those days, they didn’t have modern devices to test for methane, thus canaries were used for this purpose. The cages broke open in the wreck, allowing the canaries to escape.

  4. Joyce Wilburn
    March 21st, 2011 at 14:55 | #4

    I loved being your driver and seeing my town through your eyes. Come back again and often. We’ll keep you busy.

  5. Jill W.
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:38 | #5

    Thank you for the great information. I’m the proud owner of the little “Hampshire” on Virginia Avenue and it was so excited to learn more about it!

  6. carol ingram
    March 21st, 2011 at 21:53 | #6

    We enjoyed all the photos and information on kit houses in the Danville area. We live in gretna and there is a sears kit home on Henry street in Gretna. Paul Scruggs bought and built this home. The kit came in to the depot in Gretna and he transported it all to the site by wheelbarrow. This is according to my husband fred ingram, and Paul Scruggs was his uncle.

  7. March 21st, 2011 at 22:35 | #7

    @mike james
    Could you send me a photo of the house you’re talking about? I’d love to see it! You can email photos to thorntonrose@hotmail.com.

  8. Jeanne Miraglia
    March 22nd, 2011 at 12:53 | #8

    It would have been nice to have known someone was coming to look at the homes in Danville so the homeowners could be available for questions and answers. I had always been told our house was a Sears built home, but according to this site, it is an Aladdin.

    Rose’s response: Jeanne, which house is yours?

  9. Jeanne Miraglia
    March 22nd, 2011 at 12:57 | #9

    Oh, by the way, our home is the one at 210 Marshall Terrace.

    Rose’s response: Thanks! :) That’s the Aladdin Winthrop! Very nice house!

  10. Mark Holland
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:11 | #10

    Rose, thanks so much for all of the information and thanks for getting in touch with the Danville Historical Society so that the members could assist you. Can you shed some light on the several kit houses in the Beverstone section of town that appear to have been made out of metal panels?

    Rose’s response: Hi Mark. I get a lot of questions about Lustrons (the metal houses). They were made with 2×2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. They really were ahead of their time, and there in Danville, you have at least one of the three-bedroom models, which is pretty hard to find. The two bedroom are more common. Fewer than 3000 of these Lustrons were ever built, and in my opinion, they were destroyed by politics. The unions didn’t like prefab metal houses that would last forever and need few repairs.

  11. Julie King
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:14 | #11

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your article and pictures of the kit homes from Danville, Va. This is concerning the birds in the upper right corner on the Old ‘97 mural from downtown. I was born in 1974, and a bluegrass musician, so all my information has been from local folklore, and what I’ve read. It seems that there were several rail cars being pulled that day were full of canaries, being shipped to the coal mines (to detect hazardous gases). As the wreckage ly below, the birds gathered in the trees and what was left of the trestle, and sung a very erie tune, as they were the only survivors. Thanks for your interest in Danville.

  12. Amy K
    June 20th, 2011 at 17:09 | #12

    I live in one of 3 Sears Homes that are located in Chatham, VA.
    A family member noticed Sears Roebuck on the boards in the attic.
    An older neighbor told us that our house was one of three in our community that came in by train in the 1920-1930s from Roanoke.

  13. June 20th, 2011 at 17:11 | #13

    Send me some photos!! Please send them to thorntonrose@hotmail.com and put, “I love your books more than anything” in the subject line. That way, I’ll be sure to read your email. :)
    Rose

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Additional comments powered by BackType