Archive

Archive for April, 2012

Do You Know the Way To San Jose?

April 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Of the 370 models that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business, I’d guesstimate that the same 60 models were built about 90% of the time. Of those 370 models, there are about 80 models of Sears Homes that neither Rebecca Hunter nor I have never seen. We can’t help but wonder if some of these “super rare” models were ever built - anywhere!

One of the rarest of the Sears kit homes is the Sears San Jose. It’s billed as a “Spanish Bungalow,” and it does look like it’d be right at home in California.

Rebecca Hunter found a beautiful example of a San Jose in Blue Island, Illinois (near Chicago). It’s in pristine condition and looks much like it did when ordered out of the Sears Roebuck catalog in 1928.

To read about Rebecca’s new book, click here.

To read about Rose’s latest book, lookie here.

San Jose, from the 1928 catalog.

San Jose, from the 1928 catalog.

*

Nice floorplan

Little bit different floorplan from the traditional Sears House.

*

house house

The San Joses had the double-arched tower with a cute little gated window at the top, and a garden entry coming off the side of the house. It was a cutie!

*

more house

Rebecca Hunter found this San Jose in Blue Island, Illinois.

*

Rebeccas photo

Side-by-side comparison of the catalog image and the house in Illinois. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

To learn more about Rebecca’s newest book, click here

*

Beautiful beautifl

Close-up of the tower and little window. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter and my not be used or reproduced without permission.

To learn more about Rebecca Hunter, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

*   *   *

The crème de la crème of Sears Homes: The Magnolia

April 30th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

There are only seven known Sears Magnolias in the country. Judging by the emails I receive, you’d think there are seven Magnolias in every city in America, but that’s not quite right.

I’m always hopeful to find the eighth Magnolia, and I do suspect it’s out there. Until the discovery of the seventh Magnolia in Syracuse, it was generally regarded that there were only six Magnolias built!

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922, and it really was a grand house, with 2,900 square feet, two full baths, and two fireplaces.

The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

*

My favorite Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

My favorite Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

*

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio.

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio.

*

*The seventh Magnolia - in Syracuse, NY

The “seventh” Magnolia - in Syracuse, NY

*

A Brick Magnolia in Irwin, PA.

A Brick Magnolia in Irwin, PA.

*

Vintage photo

Vintage photo of the Magnolia in Benson, NC (about 1940).

*

And the last one is in Piedmont, Alabama.

And the last one is in Piedmont, Alabama. There was another Magnolia in Nebraska, but it was torn down many years ago.

*

The Magnolia was a fine house with the finest accoutrements.

The plumbing fixtures in the Magnolia were the finest that Sears offered (1921).

*

This old photo shows the original bathtub found in a Sears Magnolia.

This old photo shows the original bathtub found in a Sears Magnolia.

*

Pretty cool, huh?  (1921 catalog)

Pretty cool, huh? (1921 catalog)

*

If you look at the Maggy Tub above, youll see it sits in the area outlined in red.

If you look at the Maggy Tub above, you'll see it sits in the area outlined in red - window and all! The niche area is formed by the placement of the chimney chase.

*

And the sink is still there, too!

And the sink is still there, too!

*

The Sears Magnolia was a fine, fine home. This photo shows detail on the Columns on the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont.

The Sears Magnolia was a fine, fine home. This photo shows detail on the columns on the Piedmont Magnolia.

*

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To learn about the interior of the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Buster Keaton and Sears Homes

April 29th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Did you know that Buster Keaton did a short film about building a pre-cut kit house?

First released in 1920, the 20-minute film shows happy newlyweds (Buster and Sybil) receiving the gift of a “ready-to-assemble” kit home. Driven by jealousy, an old beau surreptitiously changes the numbers on the pre-cut framing members, thus wreaking havoc on Buster’s ability to build his 12,000-piece kit home.

As the saying goes, “True comedy is timeless.”

This is not only true comedy, but an awesome look back at a time when people built these kit homes. And it’s also interesting to think that - in 1920 - kit homes were such a big part of the American scene that moviegoers were expected to understand about “marked lumber.”

That “joke” would likely be lost on contemporary movie audiences because so little is known about this piece of America’s architectural history.

I first discovered “One Week” in Spring 2004, when my dear daughter highlighted this piece in a senior project. I was honored and touched that my daughter was drawn to an old movie about pre-cut kit homes - because of her mother’s career! :)

Click here to see Buster Keaton’s “One Week” on Youtube.

* * *

Buster Keatons pre-cut kit house had a few minor problems.

Buster Keaton's pre-cut kit house had a few minor problems.

*

It should have looked a little more like this.

It should have looked a little more like this. (Sears Whitehall under construction in Carlinville, IL - about 1919.)

*

Sears kit homes did come with instruction books (as shown above).

Sears kit homes did come with instruction books (as shown above).

*

The houses were ordered out of catalogs, such as this (1921).

The houses were ordered out of catalogs, such as this (1921).

*

Framing members were marked (as shown) to help facilitate construction.

Framing members were marked (as shown) to help facilitate construction.

*

To learn more about Sears Kit Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s latest book, click here.

*   *   *

Starlight, Starbright, First Kit House I See Tonight…

April 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In the early 1910s, it’s probable that the Sears Starlight was their most popular model. In the early days, it was offered with and without an indoor bathroom.

In 1921, the Starlight had a significant model change. The small shed dormer in the attic was enlarged and changed to a hipped dormer with three windows. In addition, the pitch of the attic was made more steep, creating space for an additional room (for short people with a good tolerance of summertime heat).

The pre-1921 Starlights are miserable to try and identify because they are so simple, and they look like every other little house out there. Plus, before 1920, lumber in Sears Homes was not marked. Authentication of these pre-1921 Starlights requires measuring the home’s footprint and measuring individual rooms to affirm that it really is a Starlight, and not a “look-alike.”

Click here to learn more about Sears Homes.

In the 1919 catalog,

This little ad appeared in the the 1919 catalog, showing the many sizes and shapes of the Sears Starlight. This shows the houses with a myriad of dormers!

*

In 1920, the Starlight had the shed dormer (most of the time).

In 1920, the Starlight had the shed dormer (some of the time).

*

This Starlight in Boone, Iowa has a

This Starlight in Boone, Iowa has a traditional shed dormer.

*

But this little Starlight in Painesville had

But look at the dormer on this little Starlight in Painesville. It's a gabled dormer and it's really, really tiny. And the front porch roof is flat, and it's not an integral part of the house, as it is with the traditional Starlight. How confusing!!

*

Built in Castalia, Ohio, this

Built in Castalia, Ohio, this Starlight has a different railing, and I have no idea what the floor plan is, because those windows down the side are in the wrong place.

*

Detroit

Again, the railing is different and this one has a hipped dormer (rather than shed) and this appears to be a bathroom-less model.

*

Starlight

In the 1921 catalog, these interior photos were featured.

*

house

A view of the Starlight's dining room (1921 catalog).

*

Early starlights

The bathroom-less Starlight was offered into the 1920s.

*

1921 Starlight

In1921, the Starlight sold for $1,553.

*

Sears Starlight in Alton, Illinois.

Sears Starlight in Alton, Illinois.

*

This Starlight in Duquoin, IL is in mostly original condition.

This Starlight in Duquoin, IL is in mostly original condition.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Wardway Homes, click here.

*   *   *

Did You Know About This *Other* Website?

April 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

For five years, Dale Wolicki and I labored to write a book on Wardway Homes titled, The Mail Order Homes of Montgomery Ward. My oh my, did we work hard on that book!

This incredible tome has 347 pages and more than 500 vintage and extant photos of the kit homes sold by Montgomery Ward in the early 1900s. Dr. Rebecca Hunter wrote a couple chapters for us, too. I suspect that Dale put a few thousand miles on his Mercury Mountaineer, photographing houses from Mississippi to Michigan and Kentucky to Pennsylvania.

Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs. Sears started in 1908; Montgomery Ward started in 1909. Montgomery Ward saw the writing on the wall and closed down their “modern homes” department in 1932; Sears held on another eight years until 1940.

Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit home business. Based on our best guess, we suspect that Montgomery Ward sold about 25,000 kit homes.

Dale and I maintain a website devoted to Wardway Homes here. It’s another website that’s just stuffed full of information on Wardway Homes.

To visit the website, click here.

To learn more about our book, click here.

*   *   *

Wardway Homes

Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. This is the cover of their 1931 catalog.

*

And they did have some truly beautiful homes.

And they did have some truly beautiful homes.

*

Dale and I worked for five years to research and write this book.

Dale and I worked for five years to research and write this book.

*

Teddy

Teddy especially enjoyed reading about the Wardway Newport.

*

Wayne Ringer stands in front of the

Wayne Ringer stands in front of the Norfolk and Western's 1218 (A Class), the last known 2-6-6-4. When built in 1943, this was the most powerful steam locomotive in the world. I'm including this photo here because these were the type of trains that hauled the 12,000-piece kit homes from the southern mills to waiting customers in all 48 states. And I'm also including this photo because this is just a cool photo. This train is now on display in Roanoke, Virginia at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

*

Pic

From the 1919 Pacific Ready Cut Homes catalog, this picture shows two workmen loading 12,000 pieces of kit house into a boxcar.

*

Montgomery Ward offered many kit homes, but this is one of my favorites. They named it The Kenmore.

Montgomery Ward offered many kit homes, but this is one of my favorites. They named it "The Kenmore."

Learn more about Wardway Homes by clicking here.

*   *   *

Beautiful Christiansburg, Virginia - With Sears Homes

April 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

In 2008, Dale and I traveled around Roanoke, Bedford, Lynchburg and Christiansburg looking for kit homes. We only found a handful when we went to Christiansburg, but we found them all in less than 20 minutes.

Last weekend, Hubby Dear and I returned to Christiansburg, and this time, I drove the entire city and didn’t find any more than Dale and I found in 2008!

Click here to see what we found in Roanoke.

Click here to learn a lot more about Sears Homes.

Prrinceville 1919

The Princeville, from the 1919 catalog.

*

1919  sjsjsj

It's tough to get good pictures in hilly areas, but here's the Princeville in Christiansburg. This was a fairly rare model for Sears, but easy to spot!

*

1916

Number 306, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

*

Christians

Christiansburgs' very own Sears Modern Home #306.

*

window

Close-up of the oval window.

*

windows

Again, due to those hills, it's hard to get a good shot, but here's a view of the top of that oval window.

*

house 1928

The Glen Falls from the 1928 catalog.

*

house

Is this a Glen Falls? The owner does not think so, but I suspect that it might be.

*

house

The Sears Matoka was a popular house (1919 catalog).

*

I had to snap this photo from the wrong side (due to landscaping obstructions), but it’s definitely a Matoka!

house ccompare

Detail of the vergeboard on the Matoka.

*

Roanoke Walton 1921

The Sears Walton (1921)

*

Roanoke

Headed home, we passed through Roanoke and I had to dash into this neighborhood when I heard the Sears Homes calling me. And there, I found this little Walton!

*

Westly

The Sears Westly in 1916.

*

Westly

This Westly is in the same neighborhood as the Walton above - in Roanoke!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in Roanoke, click here.

*    *   *

Six Years Ago…

April 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

It’s been almost six years since I met Wayne Ringer at the coffee shop in downtown Portsmouth (Virginia) for our first date.

Six delightful years.

At that first date, he handed me his business card, which affirmed that (just as he’d told me on that first phone call), he really was an attorney.

An impressive man with an impressive title and an impressive career.

I could hardly believe that anyone as wonderful as Wayne Ringer thought that I was the Cat’s Meow and the Bee’s Knees.

But he did.

We were engaged three months after that first date, and married four months after our engagement.

Then, and now, two thoughts have remained with me. First, I thank God for the gift of this man’s love. And secondly, I’ve often thought about that wonderful line from the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. It’s such a surprise.

Wan

Wayne Ringer at his desk in Norfolk.

*    *    *

To read the next blog, click here.

The Sears Marina: Just Add Water!

April 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

As a native of the Tidewater region (Southeastern Virginia), I’m not sure why Sears (based in the Midwest) decided to name one of their little kit homes “The Marina.”

“Marina” comes from the Latin word marinus, which means “of the sea.” It’s hard for me to get a sense of any nautical theme in this Sears house. The kit did not include a free wooden oar or a cute little life vest.

Ah well.

It’s still a darling little house.

Sears Marina, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Marina, as shown in the 1920 catalog.

*

There was also a

There was also a "Marina" with a shed dormer (1919 catalog).

*

It was a pretty small house.

Despite its being such a modest little house, it had a beamed ceiling in the dining room, and crown moldings in the spacious living room.

*

Upstairs

That large dormer on the front housed the tiny bathroom. Also upstairs were two very "cozy" bedrooms. A narrow dormer on the back provided the headroom for the staircase.

*

The photos shown here give a false impression of spaciousness.

The photos shown here give a false impression of spaciousness.

*

I doubt that many Marina owners had a baby grand in the living room.

I doubt that many Marina owners had a baby grand in the living room.

*

C

That chandelier is hanging a bit low! Looks more like a high-intensity heat lamp to keep the food warm. Notice the beamed ceiling. Also noticed the radiator in the background. Sears offered the Hercules Steam Heating Outfit as an extra for any kit home, but it was THE most expensive heating system available. Steam Heat is a very comfortable heat, but it's pricey to install (and today, it's pricey to maintain).

*

K

Did the Marina really have subway-tiled wainscoting - as is shown here? I seriously doubt it. That was a feature typically found in upscale homes. Notice the wood floors, too. Most Sears Homes had tongue-and-groove maple floors in the kitchens. Aside from all that, this kitchen was a scant 9' by 11'. Pretty small.

*

Marina

An old photo of a Sears Marina in an unnamed city (1923 catalog).

*

My favorite Marina! This pink Marina is in Alton, Illinois.

My favorite Marina! This pink Marina is in Alton, Illinois. It still retains its original siding, which is remarkable. The porch on the rear has been enclosed.

*

Four little Marinas in a row in Atlantic City, NJ.

Four little Marinas in a row in Atlantic City, NJ. Three have the gabled dormer and one has the shed dormer. I'd love to get a contemporary photo of these houses! Thanks to Mark Hardin for finding their specific address: Pennrose Avenue!

*

This Marina

This Marina is a fine match to the original catalog image. It's in West Chicago.

*

Two Marinas sitting side by side in Wardensville, WV.

Two Marinas sitting side by side in Wardensville, WV. Wardensville is a tiny town just outside of Moorefield, WV.

*

Thanks to Donna Bakke for supplying me this photo of a Marina in Mt. Healthy, Ohio.

Thanks to Donna Bakke for supplying me this photo of a Marina in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

Ive got family members living in Champaign/Urbana and Ive gone past this little Marina in Urbana too many times to count, and yet I always forget to snap a photo!

I've got family members living in Champaign/Urbana and I've gone past this little Marina in Urbana too many times to count, and yet I always forget to snap a photo! (Photo is copyright 2012 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And by the way, did you know that Rebecca has a new book out? Read about it - here!

*

Seems to be quite a few Marinas in West Virginia.

Although substantially remodeled (and added onto), there's no mistaking that this is a Sears Marina. This little house is in West Virginia (near Lewisburg).

*

To learn more about the kit homes of West Virginia, click here.

To learn how to identity Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Wardway Homes, click here.

*   *   *

The Halfway House, by Sears & Roebuck

April 22nd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In 2002, someone called to tell me that they had a Sears House.  (This was way back in the day when my business cards included my personal phone number.)

The caller said, “I live in Washington, DC and I own a Sears Home.”

I asked if she knew which model it was.

She replied, “I sure do. It’s the Halfway House.”

“The Halfway House?” I asked, hoping I’d merely misunderstood.

“Yes, that’s right,” she said.

I asked if she could spell that for me, and she did. I had heard her correctly the first time.

I knew that Sears sold “The Morphine Cure,” in the early days (a patent remedy for breaking a morphine addiction),  and I knew that Sears offered “The Heidelberg Electric Belt” (guaranteed to restore men’s “vitality”).

But I was not aware that Sears had offered any 12,000-piece reformatory kit houses.

I asked the caller to send me a photo. A few days later, a picture arrived in the mail. It was a picture of the Sears Hathaway.

Sears Hathaway (1921 catalog).

Sears Hathaway, first offered with two bedrooms. (1921 catalog).

*

It was also offered in a three-bedroom model (1928).

In later years, they offered in a three-bedroom model (1928).

*

Floorplan

The third bedroom was created by adding that little bump to the right rear.

*

Sears Hathaway in Elmhusrt Illinois

Sears Hathaway in Elmhurst Illinois - in brick!

*

Perfect little Hathaway in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Perfect little Hathaway in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm guessing the address is 1627 but I suppose it could also be 1267 (or 2716 in some Mideastern countries). (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

Another Cincinnati Hathaway, courtesy of Donna Bakke.

Another Cincinnati Hathaway, courtesy of Donna Bakke. Not sure why it has two doors. Surely this tiny house has not been turned into two apartments! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

Sears Hathaway in Wyoming, Ohio.

Sears Hathaway in Wyoming, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

And heres a Halfway House in Hampton!

And here's a Halfway House in Hampton, Virginia!

*

My favorite Hathaway is this one in Newport News, Virginia.

My favorite Hathaway is this one in Newport News, Virginia. It still has its original lattice work on the porch! Every detail is perfect.

*

Comparison of the two images.

Comparison of the two images.

*

Look at the details on the porch!

Look at the details on the porch!

*

And compare it to the original catalog picture!

And compare it to the original catalog picture!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Addie Hoyt, click here.

*   *   *

The Sears Newcastle: A Fine Little Colonial

April 18th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Post-1930s Sears Homes aren’t too common, and the Sears Newcastle wasn’t offered until the 1930s.

And yet, it seems to have been one of their more popular post-1930 models. It was a classic center-hallway Colonial, and yet it was shockingly small, with just a smidge more than 1,200 square feet of living area and three small bedrooms upstairs.

Sears Newcastle, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

Sears Newcastle, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

*

Look at the floorplan!

Look at the floorplan! The home's "foot print" was a mere 20' by 31' or about 620 square feet per floor. The dining room is 10' by 12' which seems quite small.

*

The

The second floor has three small bedrooms. I've highlighted the windows on the side, as this can help identify the Sears Newcastle. Most Colonials have a pair of windows (spaced a few feet apart), but the Newcastle has a single window (or pair of windows) on this side.

*

jfjfjf

One of the distinctive features of the Sears Newcastle is the small niche atop the front door.

*

Sears Newcastle as seen in the 1940 catalog.

Sears Newcastle as seen in the 1940 catalog.

*

Sears Newcastle in Annapolis, MD.

Sears Newcastle in Annapolis, MD. Notice the lone window on the second floor (right).

*

This Newcastle is in Geneva, Illinois.

This Newcastle is in Geneva, Illinois.

*

Crummy picture (from an old slide) but this is a Newcastle in Sterling, Illinois.

Crummy picture (from an old slide) but this is a Newcastle in Sterling, Illinois.

*

To learn more about Sears kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *