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Archive for August, 2012

Sears House or Plan Book? Let’s Help Hopewell Figure This Out

August 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a well-publicized brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (here, here and here), I feel strongly that they’re wrong about 36 of those houses.

In my personal (and professional) opinion The Crescent Hills neighborhood in Hopewell has eight Sears Homes.

One of the houses on that “list of 44″ was this house (shown below).

Here

The brochure claimed this was a Sears House: The Newbury. Uh, no, it's not.

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According to the brochure, the house shown above was The Newbury (from Sears) with some "differences. Take a look at the list of differences. Those are a LOT of differences!!

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Heres a picture of the Sears Newbury from the 1936 catalog.

Here's a picture of the Sears Newbury from the 1936 catalog.

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And heres a picture of a real Newbury (Elmhurst, IL) shown next to the catalog image. Youll notice that the house in Elmhurst actually looks like the catalog picture!

And here's a picture of a real Newbury (Elmhurst, IL) shown next to the catalog image. You'll notice that the house in Elmhurst actually looks like the catalog picture!

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And

And here's a picture of the catalog page compared to the house in Hopewell. You may notice that the house in Hopewell looks nothing like the catalog picture.

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Ah, but thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know where this house in Hopewell came from! Its from Standard Homes Plans (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

Ah, but thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know where this house in Hopewell came from! It's from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

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Close up of the house

Close up of the house. Beautiful house!

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And, it looks a lot like the catalog picture!

And, it looks a lot like the catalog picture!

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So that’s one more house properly identified in Hopewell’s Crescent Hills neighborhood, thanks to Rachel Shoemaker.

I wonder if the homeowners of this house know that their house came from a Plan Book?

To learn more about plan book houses, click here.

To read more about Hopewell’s houses, click here.

Or here.

Or here.

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“One of These Things is Not Like The Other…” (Part II)

August 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, Sesame Street children are familiar with a toe-tapping ditty that helps them learn how to observe what makes things similar and dissimilar.

Those same life lessons are of inestimable value in identifying and authenticating Sears Homes.

In Hopewell, Virginia, they have eight beautiful Sears Homes in Crescent Hills. Unfortunately, in Hopewell, Virginia, they’re claiming to have a lot more than eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

Hey boys and girls, can you figure out which of these is different from the others?

Hey boys and girls, can you figure out which of these is different from the others?

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This example (with houses) is even easier than the example above!

This example (with houses) is even easier than the example above!

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Now there are folks in Hopewell claiming that all three of those houses (with the dormers, and the two windows flanking the front door and the symmetrical front gable and the three windows in the living room) are Sears Rochelles.

Sadly, they’re wrong.

Will the real Sears Rochelle please stand up?

The

It's been remodeled quite a bit, but this is the real Sears Rochelle (in Lombard, Illinois). You may notice that it's very different from the three Hopewell houses shown above. For one thing, it has no dormer. For another, it's got an asymmetrical front gable (around the door). The houses in Hopewell have symmetrical gables. This is a pretty substantial detail. (Photo is copyright 2012 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Rochelle shown above (in Lombard) is the only Rochelle I’ve ever seen.  This Rochelle was photographed by Dr. Rebecca Hunter (Elgin, IL). You can visit her website here.

So, what is it they have in Hopewell?

I’ve no clue, but I do know, it is NOT a Sears Rochelle!

Sears Roechelle as seen in the 1930 catalog.

Sears Rochelle as seen in the 1930 catalog.

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You may notice, the house above (catalog image) bears no resemblance to the Hopewell houses.

To read more about the many differences between these Hopewell homes and the real deal, click here.

To learn more about Dr. Hunter, click here.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here or here.

Interested in Aladdin kit homes? Hopewell has several. Click here to read about them.

“One of These Things is Not Like The Other…”

August 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

My friend Rachel reminded me of this fun little ditty from Sesame Street, and suggested that perhaps a few of the 7.5 million people who *think* they have a Sears kit home should watch this video to learn a little more about the skills of observation.

You might want to click this link (Sesame Street video) while you scroll down to see the photos, because the music is so darn toe-tapping happy.

Take a look at this photo.

Houses

You may notice that one of these things is not like the others.

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Now let’s try it with houses.

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which

One of these houses is not like the others.

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Did you figure out which one is not “like the others”?

Actually, I’m just funnin’ with you. It’s not hard to figure this one out.

The three wooden-frame houses with the big two-story columns and the hipped roof and the gabled dormer and the oversized front porch deck and the six windows across the second-floor front and the big picture windows on the first floor front and the two exterior doors stacked over each other are the Sears Magnolia.

The brick house with the one-story columns and the gabled roof (no dormer) and the small front porch deck and the three windows across the second floor front and the four double-hung windows on the first floor front and the one exterior front door is a nice house (but not a Sears House) in Hopewell, Virginia.

When I first visited Hopewell in 2003, I was told that this was a “Modified Magnolia.” More recently, I was told that someone had “identified” this house as a Sears Lexington.

The kind owners gave me a thorough tour of the home’s interior. Having inspected this house from top to bottom (literally), I’m wholly confident that this is not a Sears House of any kind.

In Crescent Hills (a subdivision of Hopewell), you’ll find eight Sears Homes. Eight. Total.

And please note, this house (the brick house above) is not one of them.

I was crestfallen to hear that Old House Journal recently did a feature story on the Sears Homes in Hopewell. I haven’t had the heart to read it. I can only hope and pray that they focused on those eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, and not the make-believe Magnolia shown above.

To see more examples of the Sears Homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read more about the misidentified homes in Hopewell, click here (Part One), here (Part Two) and here (Part Three). (There are a lot of them!)

To read about the Aladdin Kit Homes in Hopewell, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part II)

August 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

About 18 months ago, I wrote a blog about passing the Technician’s test and obtaining my Ham Radio License. That was certainly a big milestone and today there was another one: I now have a beautiful eight-foot Diamond X-200A, a dual-band vertical antenna, proudly standing beside my house and reaching toward the heavens.

Were it not for RASON (Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk), my ham radio license would be just another document, sitting at the bottom of a desk drawer and gathering dust.

I can’t imagine trying to navigate the complexities and nuances of radio equipment and antennas and power supplies and grounding rods and frequencies and on-air etiquette and more, without the ongoing support, patient tutelage and constant guidance from these experienced members.

Based on my real-life experience and a little research, most Ham Radio operators are hyper-intelligent, well-read, sagacious and perspicacious male baby boomers who built their first ham radio from a Heath Kit in the 1960s.

Generally speaking, I’m a smart cookie, but when it comes electrical systems, I’m a bit of a dullard.

After procuring my first ham radio, (a hand-held Wouxun transciever), I needed help with a couple things, such as turning it on and turning it off. And changing from one frequency to another. And plugging in the antenna. And removing the battery so it could be recharged. And putting the battery back after it was fully charged. And everything else.

And I mean everything.

When I told RASON president Mike Neal that I was ready to put up a “real” antenna at my house, he graciously offered to help me with the whole project. And wow, did he help. He provided specific guidance on everything from finding an ideal spot in the yard to measuring the length of wire needed for the new antenna, and he even provided me with a detailed shopping list, showing every piece and part I’d need.

When the antenna and associated components arrived, I excitedly emailed Mike and asked him for help installing the new antenna.

“Help” is an interesting word choice here.

The word “help” implies a partnership of sorts. In fact, I merely watched in amazement as Mike went to work assembling this thing. (Despite having read the assembly instructions several times, I was still not convinced that Universal Radio had sent me the correct order. I was feeling a little befuddled.)

I watched in silent, reverential awe as this Japanese-manufactured mass of stainless steel pieces and parts and pipes was transmogrified into something resembling an antenna.

Less than an hour after Mike arrived, the antenna was assembled, installed and ready for its first test. (And that 60-minute time frame included Mike’s muffin and coffee break.)

The antenna is - in my humble opinion - a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. The signal it produces is strong and clear.

Thanks so much to Mike and RASON for holding my hand and walking me through these very first baby steps as I enter the world of Ham Radio.

The learning curve for a late-comer like me is massive, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun ride.  :)

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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Mike Ham

I paid close attention as Mike assembled the antenna but most of it was a high-speed blur. Diamond Antennas should hire this man to create an online tutorial on how to put an antenna together because he makes it look so darn easy. And to us neophytes, it's not "easy."

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Heres a picture of the stick antenna I used prior to this. Again, it was made (and supplied) by RASON and with this little antenna (and my five-watt radio), I picked up Kilmarnock from my sunporch. According to Google maps, Im about 90 miles from Kilmarknock.

Here's a picture of the "stick antenna" I used prior to the installation of the exterior antenna. This magical little device was made (and lent to me) by RASON. With this little antenna (and my five-watt radio), I picked up Kilmarnock from my sunporch. According to Google maps, I'm about 75 miles from Kilmarknock.

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The mast for the antenna

The mast that supports the antenna was purchased from eBay. This mast is made up of several army surplus tent poles (fiberglass) and measure 40" per length. They're ideal for mounting Ham Radio antennas. Again, Mike and RASON were the source of this information.

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I have a vague memory that something about grounding rods was on my Technician License test. Fortunately, Mikes memory on this topic was better than mine.

I have a vague memory that something about grounding rods was on my Technician License test. Fortunately, Mike's memory on this topic was better than mine.

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The connection point into my sunporch was very neat and tidy.

The antenna's connection point into my sunporch/radio room was very neat and tidy.

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A close-up shows how tidy this connection really is, thanks to Mike's supervision and guidance.

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Tidy

Close-up of my "equipment," which is a Wouxun transceiver KG-UV6D. The wing chair is the official "Rosemary is playing with her new ham radio so please don't disturb her" chair. It's quite comfy.

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The best part of the instructions was the Engrish translations.

"Do not use iron ladder." Are those popular in Asian countries? Because I think they'd be pretty darn heavy. And the Japanese must be far more social than us Americans. Throughout the text, the phrase, "Ask your friends for help" appeared eight times. Apparently installing a Ham Radio antenna is a big social event over there.

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Out

And now the beauty part: The antenna itself. I'm not sure how tall it is, but I think it's about 28 feet to the top of the antenna. That Holly bush (center of photo) may have given its life for this project. It was hacked down to 30% of its original girth to make way for the antenna installation.

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Another view of that dandy antenna.

Another view of that dandy antenna.

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Darn

Reaching for the heavens, baby...

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From the front of my house, this antenna is nearly invisible. Can you see it?

From the front of my house, this antenna is nearly invisible. Can you see it?

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Now

How about now?

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To read part one of this blog, click here.

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

Click here to learn more about Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk.

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The Sears Silverdale in Headache, Illinois

August 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

Well, that’s what my husband calls it. In fact, it’s Hettick, Illinois, a small town in central Illinois, about 60 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri.

When I told Hubby about the find, the West Virginia filters on his hearing translated Hettick into “Headache.”

The Silverdale is an interesting house, because it looks like every early 20th Century farmhouse on every rural route in the Midwest. In my travels, I’ve probably seen dozens of them, but discounted most of them, because it’s so hard to positively identify them.

Do you have a Silverdale in your town? Please send me a photo!

Edited to add: Judith (see first comment below) noticed that this house in Hettick, IL is actually a better match to the GVT version (#167)! I hope to add more-better photos in a couple days! Thanks so much to Judith for pointing that out!

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The Silverdale as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Silverdale as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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1916 catalog

The Silverdale also appeared in the 1916 catalog.

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The Headache House (well, Hettick, actually).

The Headache House (well, Hettick, actually).

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house

Judith (see comment below) discovered that the Gordon Van Tine #167 was a better match to the house in Hettick, IL. The smaller window (next to the front door) provides a good clue that this house in Hettick probably is *not* the Sears Silverdale, but rather the Gordon Van Tine model.

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Another view

Another view of the Silverdale in Hettick.

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Floorplan 1921

Floorplan for the first floor.

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Second floor silverdale

Second floor of the Silverdale. Note, there's no livable space over the kitchen. Back in the day, the room over the kitchen was considered uninhabitable, due to heat and smells that wafted from the kitchen below.

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house hosue testimonial

There are more than a few Silverdales around.

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Mr. Egan and Wife seemed to be pretty happy with their Silverdale.

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Typical

Typical hinge found in Sears kit home. This was found in the Silverdale in Hettick.

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Silverdale

An old glass window (with diamond muntins) has survived the remodelings.

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

To learn more about why I was in Hettick, click here.

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Just Depressing…

August 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

There are more than 600 blogs at this website, with the great majority focused on Sears Homes. There are 3,000 photos of kit homes to be found here. As the author of all those blogs, I can tell you, this website is an incredible time sink.

And yet - since day one - the whole Sears House gig has consistently been a labor of love.

Three weeks ago, a handful of folks contacted me (via email and Facebook) to let me know that a very interesting kit home was threatened with demolition at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

For several days, I wrote blogs and I wrote emails and I even made a few phone calls, doing all within my power to save this very interesting and historically significant house.

Countless others joined the fray, and put forth a herculean effort to save the house. An online petition garnered more than 2,100 signatures in a very short period of time. And yet, the house was torn down.

In fact, BGSU tore down this kit home AHEAD of schedule.

That was August 10th, two weeks ago.

And now a new school year is starting there at BGSU, and new students will walk past the vacant lot and have no idea that their college demolished a kit home. And the house I invested so many hours in trying to save is now just another pile of scrap at an Ohio landfill.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been down this road. It’s about the fifth time that - despite my best efforts - a kit home has been bulldozed.

It’s wearying. And depressing.

The house on BGSU campus was a Montgomery Ward house, custom designed to be a spot-on match to a Sears House, The Lewiston.

The house on BGSU campus was a Montgomery Ward house, custom designed to be a spot-on match to a Sears House, The Lewiston.

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This is the Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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On Friday, August 11, 2012, it was reduced to a pile of rubble in no time at all.

On Friday, August 11, 2012, it was reduced to a pile of rubble in no time at all. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To read more about the house that BGSU destroyed, click here.

I’m Sorry, But Your Dog May Have to be Euthanized…

August 22nd, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

It was about 10:30 on Wednesday night (June 27th) when I heard those words from the Animal Control officer.

It was shocking news, to say the least.

Our dog was “Teddy,” a four-year-old Sheltie, and a much-loved pet.

The trouble started when Teddy tangled with a raccoon.

About 9:45 on Wednesday night, we’d put Teddy out in our fenced back yard for her last potty break. Typically she runs to her favorite corner, takes care of business, and then returns quickly to the door, ready for bed.

This time, she did not return quickly to the back door. We found her fixated on something, and barking incessantly.

When we went outside to investigate, we found that Teddy was barking at a sickly, blood-soaked raccoon, curled up against the chain-link fence in a corner of our yard.

The wretched animal had been in a brutal fight, and had a limb nearly severed from its body.

The animal’s sufferings were great. I called animal control, thinking that they’d show up quickly and euthanize this poor creature.

Twenty minutes later, their familiar blue and white truck arrived. By now, this raccoon had stumbled over to the shed in our backyard (about 30 feet away) and collapsed.

Using the “Noose On a Stick,” the animal control officer placed the now-unconscious raccoon into a cat carrier.

The animal control officer informed us that if the raccoon tested positive for rabies, our beloved Teddy would have to be euthanized.

Standing out there in the dark, with hubby Wayne at my side, I felt my heart sink to my knees.

I produced a rabies certificate, and explained that Teddy was current on all vaccinations. The animal control officer said it didn’t matter, and she re-stated that Teddy must be euthanized immediately if the raccoon tested positive.

Teddy has a massive white mane. The raccoon was soaked in blood. If Teddy had had any physical contact, she’d have blood on her mane. There was not one drop.

The animal control officer said that the raccoon may have hissed and spit - literally - in Teddy’s eyes, and since the saliva carries the live virus, that could “expose” Teddy to rabies.

It was a long night for me, Wayne and Teddy.

I stayed up all night, alternately crying, praying and hugging my little Sheltie. I was beside myself.

Thursday morning, I was standing at our vet’s office (”Dog and Cat Hospital“) when they opened the doors at 7:45 am.

The receptionist listened to my story and said, “Oh good grief, someone has made a mistake. Teddy’s current on her shots. Now if she was NOT current, that’d be a different matter.”

I started to tear up, from sheer relief.

Teddy and I were ushered into an exam room pretty quickly. When the veterinarian appeared, she calmly repeated what the receptionist told us.

“Teddy’s current on her rabies shots. We’ll give her a booster right now, but I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

She also explained to me that, worse-case scenario, if the raccoon tested positive for rabies, Teddy would be quarantined for 45 days, but that it would almost certainly be an “in-home quarantine.”

The veterinarian then examined Teddy from head to toe, and found no evidence of bites or scratches or contact. I told her that when we’d found Teddy and the raccoon, Teddy was excitedly barking, and running to and fro.

The vet put gently placed her hands on either side of Teddy’s head and went nose to nose with my little dog.

Speaking softly, she said, “You were just doing your job, weren’t you? You were trying to let them know that there was an intruder in the yard.”

The vet then looked up at me and said, “A sheltie will dance around and bark a lot, but they wouldn’t get close enough to a raccoon to bite or get bitten.”

The vet affirmed that the animal control officer’s information was incorrect, and she then offered to call the health department on my behalf. About two hours later, someone from the Health Department contacted me and was profoundly apologetic.

The official was humble and sincere. She told me that the veterinarian was correct.

Since Teddy was current on all her shots, state law would require - at most - a 45-day in-home quarantine. That was the worst-case scenario.

I could live with that.

And that was if the raccoon tested positive for rabies.

Friday afternoon, about 48 hours after all the brouhaha began, the health department contacted us and said that the raccoon had tested positive for rabies.

There’d be three visits from the Health Department during the 45-day period. The first would explain the rules of the quarantine and inspect our backyard. The official would also give the dog a cursory inspection. The second visit from the health department would be about mid-way through, and during the third visit, they’d examine the dog one last time and release us from the quarantine.

We were given informational pamphlets which explained the quarantine and what to watch out for.

Because of the quarantine, we canceled our big party on July 4th. We canceled an out-of-town trip. There were some other adjustments to be made. Teddy could not be left in the backyard unless we were home, keeping an eye on her. When it was dark outside (early morning/late evening), we went out with her.

It was a hassle, but we didn’t mind. We love our dog. For Christmas, Santa brought Teddy a doggy bed from L. L. Bean with her name embroidered on it. Even Teddy’s toy box is monogrammed.

We don’t have little children in our home. We have a dog. And we love her.

A lot.

Through this experience, I learned some very important things about rabies: Things that every pet owner should know.

1)  Most importantly, your dog/cat should be kept current on their rabies vaccination.

If Teddy was not current on her rabies vaccine, she’d now be dead.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, an exposure to rabies (such as occurred with Teddy and the raccoon) is enough to require that the pet be seized and destroyed immediately.

Did you know that?

I did not.

2)  An “encounter” (such as Teddy had) is enough to require the animal’s destruction.

Think about that.

And if the pet is bitten or scratched (and is not current on its vaccination), it must be destroyed. That’s the law, and given what I now know about rabies, it’s a sensible law.

3)  Rabies is one of a very few diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people. And despite all our 21st Century medical innovations, there is no cure for rabies.

By the time symptoms manifest in a human, it’s over. That’s why the state laws are so stringent. There are only three known cases of a human being surviving rabies (sans immediate treatment).

4) Treatment for rabies isn’t really treatment, in the traditional sense of the word.

After you’ve been exposed to rabies, you’ll need to have a series of shots as soon as possible after the exposure. According to the CDC, the “postexposure prophylaxis consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.

I’m the kid who skipped biology class in high school, but as I understand it, if you’re exposed to the rabies virus (which is transmitted through saliva), you’re then vaccinated for rabies. In short, your body’s immune system builds up an immunity and outruns the rabies virus, and you’re then protected from the disease. That’s why it’s so important to get treatment as fast as possible.

By the time that symptoms appear, it’s too late.

5) There is no way to test humans or animals for rabies.

Well, let me restate that. There is a way. Only one way. The animal is decapitated and its head is sent to the state health department (in our case, Richmond). Medical staff check the animal’s brain for the presence of the rabies virus.

Nasty bit of business.

Short of decapitation, there is no way to test humans or animals for the presence of the rabies virus.

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Our 45-day in-home quarantine is now over and Teddy and I are mighty relieved.

Yes, she’s “just a dog,” but she is dearly loved.
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After the rabies incident, Teddy asked for a good book on the efficacy of the vaccine. Teddys favorite auntie (Sandi Daniels) sent this book along to Teddy for some light bedtime reading.

After the rabies incident, Teddy asked for a good book on the efficacy of the vaccine. Teddy's favorite auntie (Sandi Daniels) sent this book along to Teddy for some light bedtime reading.

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The city put out a press release on our rabid raccoon incident and distributed this pamphlet to our neighbors homes. Ick.

The city put out a press release on our "rabid raccoon" incident and distributed this pamphlet to our neighbors' homes. Ick.

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As my friend Sandi said, Raccoons are little rabies factories. Raccoons are no longer on my good list.

As my friend Sandi said, "Raccoons are little rabies factories."

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Teddy

Here's a photographic re-creation of the event. "Hello Kitty" is playing the part of the rabid raccoon. Fortunately for "Hello Kitty," she will not be decapitated and have her head sent to Richmond, which was the fate of the raccoon. The raccoon wasn't nearly this cute. In fact, it looked like something from a horror flick.

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Soon after its encounter with Teddy, the raccoon stumbled over to the shed and collapsed.

Soon after its encounter with Teddy, the raccoon stumbled over to the shed and collapsed. Due to the inherent limitations in Hello Kitty's physiology, she can't quite replicate the position of the now-deceased raccoon.

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Like any good southern lady, Teddy uses a broad-rimmed hat to preserve her flawless complexion.

Happier days for Teddy. Here, she's showing off her new hat.

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To read more about Teddy, click here.

To read about old houses, click here.

Please share this link with other pet lovers.

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In Memoriam: BGSU Popular Culture House

August 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Sears Lewiston/Wardway kit home at Bowling Green State University was destroyed last Friday - and in quite a rush.

This demolition went forward, in spite of an impressive groundswell of support, imploring BGSU president Mazey to delay the demolition for a few days. An online petition (asking Mazey to spare the house) quickly garnered 2,000+ signatures.

Others wrote and called the president’s office, begging them to have the house moved rather than destroyed. The cost to move the structure would have been about $18,000 (not a lot more than the cost of demolition).

All to no avail.

The college administration is probably hoping that all the upset over this old house will die down and be forgotten.

Please, don’t prove them right. Don’t let this singular act of wanton destruction and callous disregard for America’s history be forgotten.

Please think about the Popular Culture program at BGSU, which was housed in this old kit home. Many current and former students left comments at this blog and at the Facebook page, sharing happy memories of their time in this historically significant house.

Please think about Virgil Taylor, who spent countless hours poring over old mail-order catalogs, choosing just the house he wanted. Don’t forget Virgil’s dad (Jasper), who gave him the lot so that Virgil could build his fine Wardway Home.

Don’t forget about those two men, toiling side by side to unload the boxcar that arrived at the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931. The house in that boxcar, a custom order from Montgomery Ward, contained 750 pounds of nails, 10 pounds of wood putty, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 840 square yards of plaster lath, and more. In all, Virgil’s kit home came in a boxcar with more than 12,000 pieces of building materials.

Don’t forget how Virgil and Jasper lugged all those building materials out of the boxcar and into a wagon, and then onto the building site.

Working with a 75-page instruction book, Virgil and his father (and probably other family and friends) worked long hours, assembling their 12,000-piece kit home.

They started work on the house in early November and by late February (1932), they were mostly done. I’m sure a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” went into that house.

And last week, it took one big bulldozer less than a couple hours to reduce Virgil’s home to 1,500 tons of debris, soon to be buried and forever preserved at the local landfill. (By the way, that estimate of 1,500 tons is the approximate weight of the original structure, exclusive of all additions.)

To read earlier blogs on this topic (and learn more about Virgil’s house, click on the links below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

The Sorry Ending

Above all, please don’t forget about the little house that Virgil built.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylors beloved home.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylor's beloved home. As my friend used to say, it takes someone special to build something special. Any jackass can tear down a barn. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house a few days before President Mazey had her way with it.

Virgil's house a few days before BGSU administrators had their way with it. Notice the clean, straight angles on the roof. The house is still square and true, and it's truly reprehensible that the college decided to demolish, rather than relocate the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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It was a fine-looking house. And now its just a memory.

It was a fine-looking house. And now it's just a memory. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house.

Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

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There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house.

There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Despite some serious searching, Ive not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs.  Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is a match to the pattern on the brick exterior.

Despite some serious searching, I've not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs. Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is also seen on the home's brick exterior. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Brick

See the brick pattern over the window? This was found on the lintels (over the window) and also in the front gable, and the fireplace. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another view of the homes interior.

Another view of the home's interior. Note the build-in china hutch. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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In Virgils home, this would have been the dining room.

In Virgil's home, this would have been the dining room. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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An old light fixture in the hallway.

An old light fixture in the hallway. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house arrived from the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with buillinger materials.

Virgil's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with building materials.

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mortgage

When Virgil bought his house, he also obtained a 15-year mortgage from Montgomery Ward. Sadly, he lost his house when Montgomery Ward foreclosed on him (and his wife) in 1936.

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A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures.

A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures. At the center of the page is the traditional Wardway fireplace.

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Virgils house in 1932, soon after completion.

Virgil's house in 1932, soon after completion.

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Virgils house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Virgil's house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Lumber from Virgils house. Photo is

Lumber from Virgil's house. It reads, "29722 (probably a model number), V. H. Taylor, Bowling Green Ohio, 128 No Church Street. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, click here.

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Destroyed. For No Good Reason.

August 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 12 comments

It’s gone.

The historically significant Pop Culture Building at Bowling Green State University has been torn down.

The behavior of the administration in this sorry affair (and their lack of response to a groundswell of support to save the house) has been abysmal and inexcusable.

It’s my hope and prayer than anyone who loves old houses and American history will not provide another dollar of financial support to this “institute of higher learning.”

If you’re already on the BGSU donations list, call the Alumni Center and ask to be permanently removed from the “Donation Call List.” It’d be wise to explain (briefly) why you wish to be removed. The phone number is 888-839-2586.

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BGSU should adopt a new school motto: “Destroying our history: One piece at a time.”

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Photo is copyright

Based on research done by Rachel Shoemaker, we've learned that it took Virgil Taylor about four months to turn his 12,000 pieces of kit house into a home (in 1931/32). This solid, sturdy, well-built and well-maintained home couldn't offer much resistance to the heavy equipment. With this single act, BGSU has destroyed a significant piece of their history. Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Despite an outpouring of support from faculty and staff at BGSU and folks throughout the community and throughout the country, the "powers that be" at BGSU destroyed this iconic piece of American history. Photo is copyright 2012 Allan Shillingburg and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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pho

A petition with 2,100+ signatures was presented to college president Mary Ellen Mazey, urging her to consider alternatives to the destruction of this unique Montgomery Ward kit home. This is the result. Photo is copyright 2012 Allan Shillingburg and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Im too disgusted to be eloquent.

I'm too disgusted to be eloquent.

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The Kit House at Bowling Green State University (Part V)

August 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 17 comments

Depressing update: The house was demolished this morning (Friday, August 10, 2012).  If you’re on the BGSU donations list, PLEASE call the Alumni Center and ask to be permanently removed from the “Donation Call List.” It’d be wise to explain (briefly) why you wish to be removed. The phone number is 888-839-2586.

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Earlier this week, I received an email response from BGSU, explaining why the historically significant kit house on their campus must be destroyed.

The loquacious note I received made two points, both of which make no sense to me.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

Point two: Moving the house to another site is not possible, because (and I’m quoting here), “it would simply fall apart if we attempted such an action.

If they were pitching this “information” to some first-year architecture student, their prolix palaver might be more palatable, but I am not a first-year architecture student.

I am the author of six books on the topic of kit homes. My expert advice has been solicited and provided in two multimillion-dollar lawsuits. My books and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC and BBC Radio. I’ve been interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and 300 other newspapers and magazines.

Turns out, I know a little something about old houses in general, and early 20th Century kit homes in particular.

So let’s review these two points.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

There’s so much that’s wrong with this statement, I’m not sure where to begin.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a solid old building made from superior quality materials harvested from virgin forests is one good reason to save this structure. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a classic example of a Wardway House (sold by Montgomery Ward in 1931) is yet another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of the very last homes that was sold before Wardway Homes closed down their department is - again - another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason…

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of only 25,000 Wardway Homes that were built in the entire country is a good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular (well, you get the idea)…

And perhaps the most important reason is this: The BGSU house was a custom design from Wardway, and the BGSU Popular Culture Building was created in the perfect image and likeness of the Sears Lewiston.

It’s a Sears design (The Sears Lewiston), milled and manufactured by Montgomery Ward.

How many of those have I seen in my travels to 25 states?

Let me think about this for a minute.

Oh wait, there’s only ONE and there’s now a bulldozer poised in front of the house, just waiting to destroy it.

And what about moving it?

Experts have examined the structure and determined that it can be moved for less than $20,000.

Moving this house is a viable, realistic, win-win alternate solution.

So what about this “falling apart” business?

I don’t buy it.

I do not believe that this house would “fall apart” if it were jacked up and moved. Kit homes from this time period were extremely well built and incredibly solid. As mentioned in another blog, these framing members in this house are #1 Southern yellow pine, milled from trees that grew slowly in first growth forests. Slow-growing trees equals very dense lumber.

I’ve examined the lumber in dozens of old kit homes, and it is very dense, hard lumber. Homeowners report that they can’t drive a nail into the old floor joist without pre-drilling a hole. You’d have to see it to appreciate it.

And the “lumber” (and I use that word loosely) that you see stacked high at today’s big box stores doesn’t compare to the quality of lumber present in these pre-WW2 kit homes.

And that’s just the framing members.

The floors in these kit homes were typically oak (first floor), with hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths.

You read that right.

Maple. Solid, hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths. In the late 20s/early 30s, it was known that maple would take a beating in those humid, high-use rooms and last forever. I’ve met homeowners who pull up the old floor coverings in the kitchen and sand down those original maple floors.

They’re mighty pretty when they’re refinished.

That’s what BGSU is getting ready to knock down and send off to the landfill.

And it’s a sickening thought.

If BGSU really wants to destroy this historically significant house, there’s little I can do from my home in Norfolk, Virginia to stop them.

But I do know that they’re wrong about the home’s value: That house still retains a great deal of historical significance to the school, to the community and to the country.

And this house can be moved.

Tomorrow or perhaps early next week, this rare bit of Americana (handcrafted by a rugged individualist who went to the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931, and picked up 12,000 pieces of building material and turned it into a beautiful home), will be transmogrified into 1500 tons of ugly construction debris at an Ohio landfill.

It’s a damn shame.

Just a damn shame.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the homes original builder, stands in front of the house thats now on death row.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the home's original builder, stands in front of the house that's now on death row. You'll notice that the roofline has no sags and no dips. You'll also notice that the body of the house is in remarkably good condition. This house appears to be square and true. And - sans additions - it would not be difficult to move.

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A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

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Disgusting and disturbing.

Disgusting and disturbing. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unb

How many cans and bottles will BGSU have to recycle to compensate for the house they're sending to the landfill? Gosh, I can't count that high. The Wardway House - as offered in 1932 - weighed about 300,000 pounds, not counting the bricks. Id' say that BGSU will probably have to spend 20 years recycling everything in the college to offset this massive house dump they're getting ready to do. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sigh

Unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Just unbelievable.

Just unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If any readers have any ideas what can be done to save this house, please contact me immediately. Leave a comment below and I will respond within the hour.

To read more about the house, click here.

Kit homes get moved surprisingly often. Read about that here.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

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