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Archive for May, 2011

Indiana’s $1 Million $1,600 House

May 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In all my travels, I’ve seen only one Sears Hillrose (a spacious foursquare offered by Sears Roebuck). That Hillrose was in Prophetstown, Indiana (near West Lafayette) and it was less than 10 years old. The house was re-created several years ago by architects who carefully studied the old mail-order catalog in which it was offered. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is part of a museum exhibit that offers an interpretive display of a working farm.

The first floor of the house is true to the catalog image and to the time period. The interior is filled with period furnishings, appliances and even ephemera. An old Sears catalog sits on an end table in the front room of the Hillrose. Of all the museums I’ve seen, the Hillrose is my favorite. The second floor is not true to the period, and is used for administrative offices.

To read more about this interesting project, click here.

In 2005, I traveled to Prophetstown to see this recently built Hillrose “in the flesh” and to give a talk on Sears Homes.

The people organizing my talk had made arrangements for me to give the talk in the front room of the Hillrose. There was seating for 30 people. I suggested we move the talk to a larger place, as i suspected we’d have more than 30 attendees. We ended up having the talk in the barn, and this was a real barn, with chickens and goats and sheep and cows. It was the first time my talk on Sears Homes was accompanied by bleating and mooing and clucking!  About 85 people showed up that night.

This newly built Hillrose was a pricey little affair. The 1916 Sears catalog showed the house offered for $1,649. More than 90 years later, the Hillrose’s cost exceeded $1 million. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s a bit of a jump.

In reality, there were many additional costs associated with re-creating a house based on nothing more than a catalog picture and a floor plan. And the workmanship required to make a true replica must have been very, very time consuming. And now Prophetstown has a real treasure and a tourism attraction that will endure for decades to come.

Hillrose

Hillrose as seen in the 1916 catalog.

Hillrose

By 1921, the price had nearly doubled. A portent of things to come for the Hillrose!

Hillrose

Hillrose, close-up.

Hilly

Hillrose in Prophetstown, IN.

Hillrose

Another view.

Hillrose

Close-up of the dining room bump out.

Hillrose

In the modern version, they put the house on a foundation instead of having it cantilevered.

Hillrose

From the 1916 catalog. Note the wild lambs getting ready to charge the little girl.

house

The old car tools past the Sears Roebuck chicken coop.

house

And for a mere $159, you could own this chicken coop.

House

And Sears sold live baby chicks, too!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s house, click here.

Or if you just want a few of her books you can click here.

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A New Day on Gosnold, Part 4

May 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Saturday morning, my dear husband arose at 5:30, had his morning coffee and by 6:00 am, he had started on his assigned chore: painting the kitchen in old 1925-built Colonial Revival. I helped a bit, but he did the lion’s share of the work on Saturday. Sunday morning, I arose at 3:30 am and started taking down cabinet doors and emptying drawers, so that we might get those painted quickly as well. On Sunday, he rested and I worked.

At noon on Sunday, professional painter (and good friend) Tory Newman joined us, helping expedite the process.  Yesterday at 4 pm, we were pulling up drop cloths and wiping down countertops. It was done. And the result was transformative. Never in my life have I seen three gallons of paint (ceiling, walls and cabinets) make such a difference. As Tory says, “Now you have a high end kitchen to match the rest of your high end house.”

We went from tired beige walls and tired beige cabinets to deep red walls and strikingly white trim and cabinets. And we patched a few old cracks along the way, giving the walls a more unified and solid appearance.

Pictures are below.

And what’s the reason for all this work? We’re selling this grand old manse. Asking price is $319,900. If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment please contact the Realtor.

Ready for the tour? Enjoy the photos below!

Click on links to read parts one, two and three of this story.

kitchen

The look of the new kitchen (new paint) is just dazzling. Had I known how beautiful it would turn out, I would have done this years ago!

ki

My favorite feature of the kitchen is the large windows over the sink.

ki

The gas stove was installed less than a month ago. Still shiny new!

kitchen

The cabinets have been painted bright white. Lots of work!

kitchen

kitchen

kitchen

And I'll miss this massive refrigerator with an ice and water dispenser.

kitchen

A view from the doorway.

kitchen

The long end of the kitchen has a fish in a fry pan that we bought at the Stockely Gardens Art Show in 2009. It's always been one of my favorite items, and now it matches the kitchen! Fishie does not convey. :)

kitchen

That's one happy fish!

fi

Wayne, after being permitted entry into the kitchen. Teddy is hoping Wayne is going to drop some food.

housie

The house at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

houaiw

Classic lines and high-quality workmanship make this a timeless beauty.

living

The living room is awash in light with a western and eastern and southern exposure. The living room is 25 feet long and 13 feet wide.

dining room

The spacious dining room has four windows (six feet tall!) and has beautiful oak floors.

Entry foyer

Visitors to our home frequently comment on the beautiful foyer.

room

Original french doors to the living room and dining room are still in place.

En

A view from the staircase.

house

Another view of the foyer.

rain

The house is also a gardener's delight, with provisions to collect and store more than 200 gallons of rain water.

garden

Your own private farm awaits: Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, carrots and lettuce will be ready for harvest in about 30 days.

garden

And they all live together in peace - in a fully enclosed living space - safe from racoons and squirrels.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

And flowers, too!

And a flower garden, too!

Finis!

Carrerra marble under radiator and toilet complement the hex flooring. Work was done in Spring 2010.

Bathroom pretty

Bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance.

House

This 1930s vintage thermostat works beautifully, controlling a 2011 high efficiency gas boiler.

New-old stock from eBay. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

It's the little things that make an old house a special home. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

view

Front entry foyer is 11 feet wide and 25 feet long.

Its done!

Spacious sunporch has built-in bookcases that are 9-feet tall.

House

Little house (address is 3916-1/2) has a floored attic, vintage windows and slate roof.

housie

Another view of the little house.

uniquely large yard for Colonial Place

Private, off-street parking and a uniquely large yard for Colonial Place make 3916 Gosnold Avenue a quiet oasis amidst a sea of classic old houses.

Street view

View from the street.

Sideyard summertime view

Sideyard summertime view.

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola. The design came from a 1924 architectural magazine. Note hipped roof with slate shingles.

Another view

Another view of the pergola. Dog does not convey.

To schedule an appointment, leave a comment below or contact the Realtor.

* * *

Sears Magnolia in Syracuse!

May 28th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

We have confirmation on our seventh Magnolia. Absolute, incontrovertible proof.

Earlier this month, I contacted the owner, and learned that she has documentation, showing that this house did indeed come from Sears and Roebuck. Between that, and the visual confirmation, we have a WINNER! :)

Let’s back up a bit. What is a Magnolia? The Magnolia was the creme de la creme of the Sears kit homes. It was bigger and grander and fancier than any of the other 370 models that Sears offered. You can learn a whole lot more about the Magnolia by clicking here and here.

In short, The Magnolia was Sears’ finest home. And it was also one of the rarest.

For years, we’d heard that there were six Magnolias built in the country. There was one in Nebraska (which burned down many years ago), and one in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Ohio. (Click on the links to read more about those particular houses).

And then in February, I got wind of a purported Sears Magnolia in Blacksburg, South Carolina. I put 897 miles on my car that weekend, driving down to Blacksburg to see that house in the flesh. It was close - real close - but it was not a Sears Magnolia. You can read more about that here.

So when I got another note Wednesday morning (May 4, 2011) that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, I was skeptical. Actually, I was many miles past skeptical. It was 2:00 a.m., and I couldn’t sleep so I went to Google and “drove” via Google Maps. And then I saw it.

“Holy cow,” I muttered under my breath in the quiet stillness of my pre-dawn bedroom. “I think that’s a Magnolia!”

By 8:30 a.m., an old-house lover and architectural angel (Mariel Proulx) responded to a desperate note I’d posted online, and jumped in her car and drove to Syracuse to photograph a 90-year-old house for a perfect stranger. She snapped a dozen photos for me.

After seeing the photos, I was 99% convinced this was the real deal. And then last night, two more architectural angels (Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley) offered to drive to Syracuse and get more photos for me!

And when I heard from the homeowner, that cinched the deal!

How delightful is that!?!

Enjoy the photos. And please leave a comment below. And thanks so much to both Ted Johnson and Heather Lukaszewski for contacting me and letting me know that there was a good reason to take a closer look at that quiet tree-lined street in Syracuse, New York. And thanks to Mariel Proulx for dropping everything and driving to the next city (in the rain) to get me a dozen good quality photos of my Sears Magnolia! :) And thanks to Scott and Jerry for driving out there today to get even more photos!

To read about the Sears Magnolia (the 8th Magnolia) in West Virginia, click here.

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Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Magnolia

The glorious Magnolia in all its splendor. (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Close up

Close up of the bracketing under the eaves. Note those awesome Corinthian columns! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

View of the side

Isn't it spectacular! What a house! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, New York

Good gracious, that's a good looking house! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Be

Incredibly, this 90-year-old house looks much like it did when built! In all my travels, this is surely the MOST perfect Magnolia of them all! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

House

And our Maggy is SO photogenic! Beautiful from every single angle! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. Note how the pilasters (flat half-columns flanking the front door) are tapered, and broader at the bottom than they are at the top.

Those tapered columns are also evident here.

Those tapered columns are also evident here. The details around the entry way are very nice. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )

Close-up of the house itself (1921 catalog)

Close-up of the house itself (1921 catalog)

And the house in Syracuse

The second floor windows are not a perfect match to the catalog page, but that's a relatively unimportant detail. More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and moving windows to and fro was one of the more common alterations. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )

Long view down the side

Long view down the side. From this angle, you can see that the dormer is also a perfect match to the catalog image, even down to the short pilasters on the dormer's corners! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )

Wow.

Wow. Just WOW! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.  (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling) Done in brick, this Sears Magnolia also is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.

Magnolia in South Carolina

The Magnolia in Alabama is also not a spot-on match to the original catalog image. Most obvious is that attic dormer, which is much simpler than the Magnolia dormer. Yet this house in Piedmont Alabama is a Sears Magnolia.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To learn about Wardway Homes (sold by Montgomery Ward), click here!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

* * *

A New Day on Gosnold, Part 3

May 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In “Driving Miss Daisy,” there’s a scene where Hoke is studying family pictures in Miss Daisy’s home and he comments “I just love a house with pictures, Miss Daisy. It do make a house a home.”

When we first moved into 3916 Gosnold Avenue, we went to great lengths to find more about the home’s original owner and builder. Thanks to Norfolk historian David Spriggs (an incredible researcher), he hit the Mother Lode. He found the grandchildren of the original, whom we contacted by mail. They responded almost immediately, and Wayne and I invited them to re-visit their family home.

Ed Barnes and his sister Laura Barnes Chappell brought with them many documents and pictures and stories and it was a bonanza for me, the old house lover - hungry to know more about my very own old house.

We learned that this house was built in 1925 (not 1920 as city records showed) by William Barnes. Mr. Barnes was part owner of Etheridge Lumber Company, located at 1225 Brambleton Avenue in Norfolk. According to local lore, every piece of framing lumber in this house was personally inspected by Mr. Barnes. It’s a story that rings true: The lumber in this house is truly extraordinary.

Mr. Barnes built this house for his dear wife, who became ill while the house was under construction. He is said to have told her, “I’m building you that beautiful house you’ve always dreamed about.”

She died six months after moving in the house, and her wake was held in the living room.

The house remained in the Barnes’ family until 1971. William Barnes bequeathed it to his son, and he remained here at the house until his death. The Barnes’ family sold the house in 1971, and then it went through a myriad of owners. We bought the house in Spring 2007.

And it’s time for the house to bless and shelter and protect another family. It’s time for me and Wayne to move on and start a new chapter in our life, and we’ve put our old house up for sale. I thought it’d be fun to share a little bit of what I learned, and show a few of the photos that tell the story of our home.

To see contemporary photos of the house, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s house, click here.

First, this photo is from the city assessors office and was taken in 1948.

This photo is from the city assessor's office and was taken in 1948.

fam

The twin grandchildren of the home's builder (William Barnes) sit on the front stoop. They were raised in this house and Laura (left) is the one who supplied the many family photos.

Wiliiam Barnes gave this home to his son (shown here with his young son), but old Mr. Barnes continued to live in the house until his death.

Wiliiam Barnes' gave this home to his son (shown here with his young son), but old Mr. Barnes continued to live in the house until his death.

The Barnes family

The Barnes' family on the front porch (about 1958).

Kids playing around in the back yard.

Kids playing around in the back yard. I used to have a firetruck just like that, and I loved it.

Kids

Matching outfits and matching trikes! In the background, you can see the old "ice box door" (below the kitchen window). This small service door allowed the ice man to load ice into the back of the ice box without tromping through the house. The ice boxes typically had a corresponding service door on the rear. The old ice box door is still in place in our house.

Kids

Hot summertime day, probably in the early 1960s. Note the open sunporch in the background.

for

Barnes' children (and one mystery kid) hanging out on the front porch.

One of my favorite photos is the

This is one of my favorite photos. It's William Barnes, the home's original builder, seated in the back yard of the house he built with love and care.

Gosnold Avenue today

Gosnold Avenue today

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

Goodwall Sheet Plaster and Sears Homes

May 28th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the 1916 Modern Homes catalog, Sears offered a new product:  Goodwall Sheet Plaster. It was promoted as being far better than traditional plaster, which involved a painstaking, labor-intensive process of nailing up thousands of pieces of wood lath (small, thin wood strips), and then applying three heavy coats of plaster (brown coat, scratch coat and finish coat).

Applying the plaster was no small ordeal, as it had to be mixed on site and then applied in stages, with adequate drying time between each coat. Animal hair (horse hair but more commonly cattle hair) was used as a binding agent. If you take a piece of old plaster and examine it closely, you’ll find tiny bits of hair mixed into it. (Old building material catalogs sold cattle hair specifically for this purpose.)

The quality of the plaster in your old house today depends largely on the quality of the weather immediately following the application of that plaster. If it was cold and rainy, your plaster may not have been as long-lasting as if it’d had been a warm sunny low-humidity day.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was an early sheetrock product and could be nailed directly to the studs, foregoing all the trouble (and expense) of nailing up 12 billion linear feet of pine lath.

Last night, someone wrote me an email asking if Goodwall Sheet Plaster had asbestos, I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV (but I am married to one). Based on my reading of Sears promotional literature, I’d say there is no asbestos in Goodwall Sheet plaster. It was fireproof, but that’s because it had gypsum, which is a naturally fireproof.

Products of the early 1900s that contained asbestos (a fireproof mineral) were heavily advertised and promoted as such. Fire was such an omnipresent hazard in early 20th Century communities, that if anything was fireproof or even fire-resistant, it would be mentioned in promotional literature. And if you read all the language in the ads for Goodwall Sheet Plaster, you’ll see there’s no mention of asbestos content. And why add asbestos to a product that is already fireproof?

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s house, click here.

Sears

Advertisement from 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears

Close-up of page showing fire test.

No mention of asbestos here.

Gypsum is naturally fire resistant.

fire

Lots of benefits of Goodwall Sheet Plaster

yay

And it won't break when nailed!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

A New Day On Gosnold, Part 2

May 27th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last night, we listed the house so it’s officially for sale. I tried the FSBO route for about 12 minutes, and then my old Realtor training kicked in, and I remembered how much it cost to advertise, and I remembered that the whole process of buying and selling a house has become so complex, that I sent up the white flag and listed the house with a bona fide Realtor.

The house is city assessed for $345,000 and the Realtor thinks we could get an appraisal for something not too far off that, but we’re ready to sell the house so we went for $319,900.

It’s a grand old house, but we need to move on.

As an old house lover, I always thought of myself as more of a caretaker than an owner, and now it’s time to pass the mantle on to someone new. And those new owners will have a treasure on their hands. The hard work and expensive projects have been completed.

Here are a few of the improvements we’ve done recently (see pictures below).

1) New super-high efficiency gas-fired boiler (94% efficient) which was installed less than 60 days ago.

2) New high efficiency central air system and all new ductwork, with electrostatic air cleaner.

3) Thorough restoration of original (Buckingham Slate) roof, with copper flashing installed at all chimneys, and copper cap at roof ridge. Life expectancy of copper flashing is 75 years or more.

4) New rubber (EPDM) roof on sunporch, and new shingles on kitchen/back porch roof.

5) Seamless 6-inch (extra large) aluminum gutters and downspouts installed around entire perimeter of roof.

6) Entire house replumbed - from basement to 2nd floor - with all copper lines in 2007.

7) Electrical service updated, and new wiring run as needed. New electrical panel installed.

8 ) Summer 2010, entire house was painted with two coats of Sherwin Williams Duration (applied by brush). Duration Paint has a 25-year guarantee. More than 40 tubes of caulk were applied to home’s exterior.

9) On the rear of the house, there are  some new high-end replacement windows (high efficiency with argon gas) installed within the last two years. Home’s original windows. were preserved on front for visual appeal.

10) Custom-built picket fence (unique design, and made on-site) surrounds property and was installed in 2009.

11) Custom-built “mini-house” is a small-scale replica of the main house, and has a floored attic, slate roof and vintage windows, and was completed in 2009.

12) Second-floor bathroom was faithfully restored with porcelain sconces, Kohler Memoirs sink, Dante brass faucets and solid brass vintage towel rack. Electrical was updated with GFI outlet added in bathroom.

13) Modern kitchen is full of light with seven large windows, and has stainless steel appliances, and a new high-end Kenmore gas range.

14) Four new storm doors installed in 2008; three aluminum (Andersen) and a wooden storm door for the front. Appearances are everything.

To see more pictures of Gosnold, click here.

To see our new house, click here.

living

The living room is awash in light with a western and eastern and southern exposure. The living room is 25 feet long and 13 feet wide.

dining room

The spacious dining room has four windows (six feet tall!) and has beautiful oak floors.

Entry foyer

Visitors to our home frequently comment on the beautiful foyer.

room

Original french doors to the living room and dining room are still in place.

En

A view from the staircase.

house

Another view of the foyer.

house

Photo from the dining room, looking into the living room.

housie

The house at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

houaiw

Classic lines and high-quality workmanship make this a timeless beauty.

rain

The house is also a gardener's delight, with provisions to collect and store more than 200 gallons of rain water.

garden

Your own private farm awaits: Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, carrots and lettuce will be ready for harvest in about 30 days.

garden

And they all live together in peace - in a fully enclosed living space - safe from racoons and squirrels.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

And flowers, too!

And a flower garden, too!

Finis!

Carrerra marble under radiator and toilet complement the hex flooring. Work was done in Spring 2010.

Bathroom pretty

Bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance.

House

This 1930s vintage thermostat works beautifully, controlling a 2011 high efficiency gas boiler.

New-old stock from eBay. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

It's the little things that make an old house a special home. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

view

Front entry foyer is 11 feet wide and 25 feet long.

Its done!

Spacious sunporch has built-in bookcases that are 9-feet tall.

House

Little house (address is 3916-1/2) has a floored attic, vintage windows and slate roof.

housie

Another view of the little house.

uniquely large yard for Colonial Place

Private, off-street parking and a uniquely large yard for Colonial Place make 3916 Gosnold Avenue a quiet oasis amidst a sea of classic old houses.

Street view

View from the street.

Sideyard summertime view

Sideyard summertime view.

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola. The design came from a 1924 architectural magazine. Note hipped roof with slate shingles.

Another view

Another view of the pergola. Dog does not convey.

To schedule an appointment, contact Rose at thorntonrose@hotmail.com.

* * *

A New Day on Gosnold Avenue

May 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 10 comments

For personal reasons, we’ve decided to sell our beautiful pink house in Norfolk and move on. We’ve invested more than $45,000 doing a faithful restoration of this grand old manse. As an architectural historian, I’ve gone to great pains to make certain that all the work performed on this old house was done with painstaking care, forethought, and to my personal exacting standards.

And it might just be the most environmentally friendly old house in Norfolk. With its super high-efficiency gas boiler (94%+), high-efficiency central air (14 SEER) and a dazzling rainwater harvesting system, it’s a delightful blending of the best of old-world craftsmanship with modern technology.  In short, you’ll have the unique pleasure of living in a beautiful old house with none of the environmental guilt.  :)

17 Really Good Reasons to Buy The Big Pink House

1)  Low electric bills - average budget bill of $115/month (and we love our air conditioning!).

2)  High-efficiency central air (14 SEER) with all new ductwork, and electrostatic air cleaner (installed October 2007).

3)  High efficiency, top-of-the-line gas-fired boiler (94% efficient) installed March 2011.

4)  Thorough restoration of original (Buckingham Slate) roof, with new copper flashing and copper cap at roof ridge. Roof repairs will be required again in 2085 (or so).  (About 25% of all the construction debris found in landfills is roofing materials. Slate is the “greenest” roof in the world and with occasional maintenance, it can last forever.)

5)  Seamless 6-inch (extra large) aluminum gutters and downspouts.

6)  No worries about old plumbing! Entire house replumbed with new copper lines in 2007.

7)  Electrical service updated (some new wiring and new panel) in Spring 2007.

8)  Fresh paint, too!  Two coats of Sherwin Williams Duration (25-year warranty) cover the home’s cypress clapboards.

9)  Eleven new high-end replacement windows have been installed within the last two years. Windows on home’s front are original (to preserve architectural integrity).

10)  “Move-in ready” for your favorite quadruped! Custom-built picket fence surrounds peaceful back yard.

11)  Who doesn’t love a little house, especially one with a slate roof? “3916-1/2 Gosnold” is a custom-built “mini-house” with a 9′ ceiling, floored attic, built-in ladder and vintage windows.

12)  When it’s time for the morning’s ablutions, step into the bath and back in time. Faithfully restored second-floor bath features porcelain sconces, vintage medicine chest, and a Kohler Memoirs sink, sitting atop a restored hex floor.  Also has elegant wainscoting, Danze high-end faucets and solid brass vintage towel rack.

13)  Modern kitchen is full of light with seven large windows, stainless steel appliances and a brand new Kenmore gas range (May 2011).

14) Harvest Time is nearly here!  Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, zucchini and flowers thrive in three separate raised bed gardens in spacious back yard.

15)  Handy rain-water harvesting system already in place for those thirsty plants, with more than 200 gallons of available storage.

16)  Bibliophiles delight! Built-in bookcase on sunporch is more than 9′ tall and 6′ wide, with 27 sturdy shelves.

17)  The house was custom built in 1925 by William Barnes, owner of one of Norfolk’s largest lumber yards. His grandchildren recall that he hand-selected every piece of framing lumber that went into the house. And it shows.

House is 2,300 square feet with three bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, and a large sunporch.

Asking price is $309,900, which is $35,000+ below city assessment.  If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment please contact the Realtor.

Ready for the tour? Enjoy the photos!

To read part two (more photos!), click here.

housie

The house at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

houaiw

Classic lines and high-quality workmanship make this a timeless beauty.

kitchen

The house has 32 windows, and 7 of them are in the kitchen. One of my favorite features in the kitchen are these many beautiful windows. The gas stove (left) is less than 30 days old. The dishwasher and fridge (both stainless steel) were new in March 2007.

ki

This spacious kitchen was remodeled in Spring 2007.

ki

The gas stove was installed less than a month ago. Still shiny new!

kitchen

Really, really big refrigerator does everything but serve you buttered toast in the morning.

living

The living room is awash in light with a western and eastern and southern exposure. The living room is 25 feet long and 13 feet wide.

dining room

The spacious dining room has four windows (six feet tall!) and has beautiful oak floors.

Entry foyer

Visitors to our home frequently comment on the beautiful foyer.

room

Original french doors to the living room and dining room are still in place.

En

A view from the staircase.

house

Another view of the foyer.

rain

The house is also a gardener's delight, with provisions to collect and store more than 200 gallons of rain water.

garden

Your own private farm awaits: Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, carrots and lettuce will be ready for harvest in about 30 days.

garden

And they all live together in peace - in a fully enclosed living space - safe from racoons and squirrels.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

And flowers, too!

And a flower garden, too!

Finis!

Carrerra marble under radiator and toilet complement the hex flooring. Work was done in Spring 2010.

Bathroom pretty

Bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance.

House

This 1930s vintage thermostat works beautifully, controlling a 2011 high efficiency gas boiler.

New-old stock from eBay. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

It's the little things that make an old house a special home. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

view

Front entry foyer is 11 feet wide and 25 feet long.

Its done!

Spacious sunporch has built-in bookcases that are 9-feet tall.

House

Little house (address is 3916-1/2) has a floored attic, vintage windows and slate roof.

housie

Another view of the little house.

uniquely large yard for Colonial Place

Private, off-street parking and a uniquely large yard for Colonial Place make 3916 Gosnold Avenue a quiet oasis amidst a sea of classic old houses.

Street view

View from the street.

Sideyard summertime view

Sideyard summertime view.

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola. The design came from a 1924 architectural magazine. Note hipped roof with slate shingles.

Another view

Another view of the pergola. Dog does not convey.

To schedule an appointment, leave a comment below or contact the Realtor.

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Carlinville and Schoper, Illinois

May 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Update! This article was updated in 2013. To read the latest, click here!

I love ghost towns. All ghost towns have a fascinating history, and this one in Schoper, Illinois is no different. It’s the real deal - a boom town that went bust and literally disappeared off the map.

It started in 1918, when Standard Oil of Indiana placed a $1 million order with Sears Roebuck and Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. Standard Oil purchased the houses for their workers in Carlinville, Wood River and Schoper, Illinois. Of those 192 houses, 156 landed in Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 went to Wood River.

Standard Oil was grateful for the dandy little houses, as is evidenced by this thank-you note that they wrote to Sears.

This thank you note graced the back pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs for many years.

This appeared on the back pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs for many years.

In Schoper, Illinois (about 8 miles from Carlinville), the 12 houses were built for the coal miners at a colliery that would become known as “Schoper Mine.”

Prior to the arrival of Standard Oil, this site had been a typical early 20th Century farm with one old house and a few outbuildings. By the late 1910s, more than 1000 people were living in “Schoper” and in 1920, the 500-acre farm was incorporated as a village and named Standard City.

Standard Oil needed a steady supply of coal to fuel the stills that refined the crude oil into gasoline. Carlinville and Schoper were ideal locations because of the seven-foot thick vein of coal, and also because of its location. The Chicago and Alton rail line ran between Standard Oil’s refineries in Wood River (near St. Louis) and Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago).

Providing homes to workers was a proven tact for creating a more stable workforce, and also attracted “family men,” who were more desirable employees for a plethora of reasons. And in these pre-OSHA days, it was a nice bonus. Mining was horribly dangerous, and an article in the Macoupin County Enquirer (dated September 19, 1923) said that 18 miners died that year in Macoupin County, which was in line with the national average of “one [miner] fatality per 279,354 tons of coal produced.”

Schoper was - at its peak - the largest coal mine in the state of Illinois, employing 650 men and hoisting up to 4,000 tones of coal each day. About 450 men worked at the Berry Mine (Carlinville), producing about 2,000 tons of coal per day.

Times were good. In the early 1920s, Schoper miners worked about 298 days per year, while nationwide, most coal miners were working about 200 days per year.

By the mid-1920s, the boom had gone bust. The price of coal dropped precipitously after The Great War (1918), and Standard Oil could now buy their coal from non-union Kentucky mines far cheaper than they could mine it in Macoupin County.

In July 1925, a small column on the bottom page of the Macoupin County Enquirer said the mine was closed for good.

Nine of the 12 little Sears Houses went out the way they came in:  In pieces and loaded on a boxcar. They were disassembled (which must have been a massive project, but probably provided work for a few idle coal miners), and shipped by train to destinations unknown. Two of the Sears Homes were moved intact, to sites just outside of Standard City. The last Sears House at Schoper (The Sears Gladstone) was home to John McMillan and his wife, a supervisor with the mine. After the mine closed, he became a caretaker making sure the powerful fans kept the methane down to acceptable levels.

McMillan’s little Gladstone eventually became rental property and burned down sometime in the mid-1990s.  The last remnant at the site was the Schoper Powerhouse and Mine Offices, a massive concrete structure which was torn down in Summer 2003.

There’s something about this former boom town that is compelling and even haunting. Driving into Standard City, you turn onto Mine Road to reach the site of the old mine, or hang a left for Cinder Road (made from old cinders). And then there’s Pershing Street, undoubtedly named for General John “Black Jack” Pershing, WW1 hero and commander of the American Expeditionary Force. Another street is Rice Street, probably named for Charles Rice, who handled real estate acquisitions for Standard Oil.

Standing on the plat land beside the abandoned, vandalized powerhouse, gazing out at Schoper Lake, you can close your eyes and almost hear the steam whistle signaling the end of a shift. Listen, really listen, and maybe you’ll hear the metal cables of the hoist groan and creak as a steel cage raises three dozen coal-blackened minders from 440 feet below grade.

Einstein said, “To those of us who are committed physicists, the  past, present and future are only illusion, however persistent.”

Nowhere in my experiences have I intuitively felt that this illusion of time is more fragile and ethereal than at the site of Schoper Mine. And you if you’re not a romantic/tangential/historical fanatic dream (as I am), but just someone who enjoys visiting towns that boomed and busted, it’s still worth the trip.

Just don’t speed and don’t litter and don’t tromp on the crops. Standard City is still home to about 100 folks, and they (rightfully so) love their community.

To read more about Carlinville’s kit homes, click here.

The above was excerpted from The Houses That Sears Built. To buy the book, click here.

To read about a fascinating ghost town in Virginia, click here.

Enjoy the photos below!

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One of the only known photos of the Sears Homes in Schoper, Illinois.

One of the only known photos of the Sears Homes in Schoper, Illinois. Note that the Sears Homes shown here have tar-paper roofs. After Schoper closed down, the houses were "wrecked" (deconstructed) and put back in railroad cars and shipped on down the line. Two of the houses were moved intact to other locations.

Picture of Mine 1 at Schoper, taken from the 1921 Stanolind Record

Picture of Mine 1 at Schoper, taken from the 1921 Stanolind Record

Vintage picture of the Schoper Powerhouse, also from the 1921 Stanolind Record

Vintage picture of the Schoper Powerhouse, also from the 1921 Stanolind Record. The Schoper powerhouse consumed more than 60 tons of coal per day. The smokestack was 213 feet tall and was the second highest point in all of Macoupin County. The highest point was the spire atop the Macoupin County courthouse.

words

This picture appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, promoting their wonderful little kit homes. It was labeled "Schopper" (sic) but in fact, it's a street view of the 24 Sears Homes in Wood River. The houses in Schoper were laid out on three streets in groups of four houses per street. Further, Sears didn't seem to know how to spell "Schoper."

The Schoper Powerhouse, photographed in 2002, about a year before it was torn down. This building also houses offices for the Schoper Mine.

The Schoper Powerhouse, photographed in 2002, about a year before it was torn down. This building also houses offices for the Schoper Mine.

Another view of the Schoper Powerhouse

Another view of the Schoper Powerhouse. When completed in 1919, this powerhouse supplied electricity to the 12 Sears Homes (just across the street). In November 1919, the city of Carlinville authorized spending $2,056 to run underground electrical lines from the Schoper powerhouse to Berry Mine in Carlinville, electrifying that mine as well.

When Schoper was created in the late 1910s, a creek that ran through an area beside the powerhouse was damned to create a seven-acre, 40-foot-deep lake - which became known as Schoper Lake. Underground pipes drafted water from the lake to the powerhouse for the steam engines. It was claimed that the six dynamos in this powerhouse had the potential to create enough electricity for the entire state of Illinois.

When Schoper was created in the late 1910s, a creek that ran through an area beside the powerhouse was damned to create a seven-acre, 40-foot-deep lake - which became known as Schoper Lake. Underground pipes drafted water from the lake to the powerhouse for the steam engines. It was claimed that the six dynamos in this powerhouse had the potential to create enough electricity for the entire state of Illinois.

This photo was taken in 2002, and it shows that all the remains of John McMillans Gladstone is a little dip in the soil and a short piece of driveway.

This photo was taken in 2002, and it shows that all the remains of John McMillan's Gladstone is a little dip in the soil and a short piece of driveway.

To read more about the largest order in the history of Sears homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Carlinville: “Coming Out of The Mud”

May 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

If you could go back in time 100 years, you might find it a little challenging to understand exactly what people were talking about. In the early 1900s, some words had radically different meanings.

For instance, there’s the word “slacker.” A slacker was any able-bodied young man who did not volunteer to serve in the military (and subsequently become part of the American Expeditionary Force).

Wanting to learn more about this time period in American history, I also studied World War 1. It wasn’t called WW1 until the late 1930s, when WW2 broke out. In the late 1910s, it was known as “The Great War.” When the American government was selling the citizens on the idea of another war, we were promised that this would be “The War to End All Wars.” (Turned out, they were wrong about that.)

One of the most chilling definitions I learned was the etymology of the term “basket-case.” During the The Great War, when a soldier lost his limbs in battle, a wicker basket was used to carry the limbless figure off the battlefield. One can only imagine the mental state of such a soldier. The fellow soldiers described him as “a real basket-case.”

“Smut” was another interesting term. It was a disease of the wheat crop, and in the early 1900s, smut damaged so much wheat that it caused a nation-wide shortage of wheat.

An article in the 1920 Stanolind Record (employee newsletter of Standard Oil) said that soon Carlinville residents would be “coming out of the mud.” (Carlinville’s “Standard Addition” neighborhood has 152 Sears Homes in a 12-block area. Carlinville is in central Illinois.) For several months, I could not glean the meaning of this unusual phrase. Finally, I found a clipping that said a neighborhood had just “come out of the mud.” It showed freshly paved streets and sidewalks. “Coming out of the mud” meant the subdivision now had proper sidewalks and city streets.

Vintage photo of Carlinvilles Standard Addition before it came out of the mud.

Vintage photo of Carlinville's Standard Addition before it "came out of the mud." This photo came from the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1918).

Carlinville

Another view of Muddy Carlinville (pre-paved streets and sidewalks). This photo came from the Stanolind Record (employee newsletter for Standard Oil).

Muddy

This picture appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, and it would appear the streets are in the process of being paved in this photo.

Carlinville

Carlinville's little Sears Homes under construction in about 1918.

To read about Carlinville today, click here.

To buy Rose’s book on Sears Homes, click here.

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Is That Really a Sears Kit Home? Nine Easy Ways to Tell.

May 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic.  Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

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Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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