Two weeks ago, I drove six hours out of my way (enroute to Elkins, WV) to visit a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania.
Irwin, it turns out, is not a thriving metropolis but a small town just off the beaten path. However, it does have an Americus, an Alhambra (on the main drag) and a Lewiston. And best of all, it has a Sears Magnolia dressed up in brick.
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 North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Ohio. (Click on the links to read more about those particular houses).
And then in February, I was told about 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.
In May, I learned about the seventh Magnolia in Syracuse, New York! So how many Sears Magnolias are there? Perhaps billions and billions and billions.
How delightful is that!?!
And what about our Magnolia in Irwin? Unfortunately, I was not able to get inside despite a lot of serious door-knocking. However, it appears that our wonderful Maggy has been turned into an apartment building.
First, the original catalog image from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.
Unfortunately, there were many obstacles to a good picture, such as a utility pole and stop sign. This Magnolia looks quite different from the traditional Magnolia, plus the third-floor dormer has a full-size door with coach lights flanking it! The Magnolia typically has a gabled dormer, whereas the Irwin house has a hipped dormer. That's one of about a dozen minor differences between this house (above) and the Sears catalog page (below).
Another view of the Magnolia in Irwin
From the rear, it surely looks like this old house has been turned into several apartments. I hope someone from Irwin will tell me that I'm wrong!
This is another view from another time. This photo was sent to me several years ago by Bob Keeling, who then owned the house. As I recall, he was in the process of selling the house at that time. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)
And here's a picture of the Sears Magnolia in Syracuse! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. Notice the many differences between this porch (shown in this catalog page) and the house in Irwin!
Close-up of the house itself (1921 catalog)
A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio
Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.
Sears Magnolia in South Bend. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
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.
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