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One Chilly Kilbourne in West Virginia

October 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

My friend Ersela lives in a part of West Virginia that is currently getting hammered by an especially chilly version of Hurricane Sandy. Thus far, almost two feet of wet snow has fallen on her beautiful Kilbourne.

Here in Norfolk (where I live), “Sandy” only hit us with a glancing blow. We had minor power outages, some wind (gusts up to 75 mph) and some rain (about six inches locally), and some tidal flooding (about seven feet above normal) but we got off light. And we know it.

And frankly, coastal storms are just part of living on the Eastern Seaboard. We get Nor’Easters on a regular basis. In fact, the Nor’Easter of 2009 caused Hampton Roads about as much trouble as Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to Ersela, we have other family in West Virginia, and many of them live in Elkins. The entire town of Elkins is also inundated with snow. The town has lost power, and roofs are starting to collapse under the weight of the thick, wet blanket of snow.

But West Virginians are a tough breed. Most of the ones that I’ve met are true-blue “preppers.” Many (if not most) households in West Virginia have a heat source independent of traditional central heating systems, such as wood stoves or coal stoves. When the lights go out, the heat stays on.

Gosh I love West Virginia!  :)

Many thanks to Ersela for allowing me to publish these photos.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Erselas home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this Kilbourne was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Ersela's home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this "Kilbourne" was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful home. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful Kilbourne. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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COmfy

I can personally attest to the delights of sitting on the homey porch of the Kilbourne.

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homey porch

"Many have remarked about the 'homey porch.'" Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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tornade

Years ago, a tornado went through this area and did some damage to the house, and took out two small windows flanking the fireplace. In this photo, you can see that the windows have been bricked up. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

From the 1928 catalog.

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house

Here's a picture from the Sears Modern Homes catalog showing two children getting ready to blow up a Sears Kilbourne off in the distance. Or that's what it looks like to be. Looks like "Sis" has her hand on the plunger and Big Brother is just waiting for the Big BOOM!

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second

The second floor has an odd arrangement. Two dormers are dedicated to closet space.

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house

The Kilbourne had an "expandable" attic, which explains the five/eight room option.

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My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, Naturally, unaccented English.

My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, "Naturally, unaccented English."

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To learn more about West Virginia, click here.

To read more about the kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

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The Race is On! (To Build a Sears Rodessa)

October 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Sometime in late 1918, Sears conducted a “race,” building two houses, a Sears Honor Built pre-cut kit home and an identical house with no pre-cut lumber. For their experiment, they chose the Sears Rodessa, a darling little bungalow with clipped gables and oversized  eaves.

The result of this race was thoroughly documented in the 1919 and subsequent Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

It’s a very interesting story with many interesting images.

The “race” was conducted at the Sears Mill in Cairo, Illinois (at the southern most part of Illinois).

Today, those two Rodessas are still standing side by side, and they are the last remnant of the  40-acre mill that was once a substantial manufacturing center, employing more than 100 men, and cutting enough lumber every day to build 10-12 kit homes. The Sears Mill had 20 acres of outbuildings, several sidings of railroad track, and a  massive berm, built to keep out the springtime flooding of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

The pre-cut Honor Bilt Rodessa was the easy winner in this race, with 231 hours to spare (compared to the stick-built house). To learn more about the specifics, read the captions on the photos below.

To learn more about the old Sears Mill in Cairo, click here.

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hosue

Two Rodessas were built side-by-side at the site of the old mill in Cairo.

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House being built Sears Rodessa (1921)

The house they chose to build was the Sears Rodessa (1921).

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Rodessa

Perhaps the Rodessa was chosen for this experiment because it was a "Pretty little home." After all, you probably wouldn't want to build a pretty BIG home for an experiment (1919).

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Comparison of the two building techniques

A thorough comparison of the two building techniques.

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And the ordinary way

In the "ordinary" way, the old hand saw is to blame. In fact, many carpenters would not have used a steam-powered saw at the building site, but would be stuck sawing all the wood "the old fashioned way." The electric saw didn't come into widespread use until 1925 (according to "American Carpenter and Builder" magazine).

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The full page showing the experimeent

The full page showing the experiment.

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Wow.

According to their experiment, a Sears pre-cut home could be built 231 hours faster than a stick-built version of the same house. And this was probably realistic, too. Pre-cut lumber did create a substantial savings of time and money.

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Really ture

Time and money saved - "the modern way."

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I love this. Theyre slouchers.

I love this image. Look at these guys. They're a pair of slackers. All their lumber is pre-cut and ready to use. They can take their time and start the work day with a rest break.

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But look at these poor saps.

But look at these poor saps. They have everything laid out and ready. They even have their saws stacked up against the massive piles of lumber, ready to go. In fact, it looks like they've already started! And there are three guys on this crew.

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The end result is strikingly similar

More than 230 hours AFTER the pre-cut Rodessa was finished, the stick-build Rodessa was finally done. Kinda of like being the very last soul to drag across the finish line at a 26K marathon. These folks are so pooped, they collapsed in exhaustion on the front porch. And the yard is still a mess, full of construction debris! They didn't have the time or energy to tidy things up. Why, they're sitting down before it's finished! The shame of it all!!

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These

Meanwhile, the pre-cut Rodessa was done 230 hours before the stick-built house, and the builders not only tidied up the yard but planted many fine-looking bushes! Pretty darn impressive. You think there's a little subtle message going on here? Looks like it to me! If you buy a pre-cut Sears House, you''ll have time and energy for pretty gardens!

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Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Throughout the city of Cairo, you'll find several Rodessas, such as this one. I suspect that the folks at the Sears Mill had several "practice" sessions building the Rodessa before the timed experiment actually took place at the mill.

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A

Today, those two Rodessas sit side by side, the last remnant of the massive Sears Mill that sat on this site in the early 1900s (in Cairo, IL). I'm sorry to say that I don't know which Rodessa is pre-cut and which one is stick built. If the graphic above is accurate the pre-cut kit house has a stucco foundation and the stick-built has a brick foundation. Next time I'm in Cairo, I'll check that out. BTW, these homes are located on Sears Road.

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To read more about Sears and Roebuck Road, click here.

To read more about the history of the Sears Mill, click here.

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WLS Radio and Sears Roebuck

October 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

What is the connection between the famed Chicago radio station - WLS - and Sears Roebuck?

In 1924, WLS began life as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for “World’s Largest Store.”

On April 9, 1924, Sears own radio station signed on with 500 watts, with offices on the 11th floor of the Sears 14-story “skyscraper” at Homan and Arthington Street in downtown Chicago.

In 1925, the front pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog promised that, “WLS was conceived in your interests, is operated in your behalf and is dedicated to your service.”

It was a short-lived experiment for Sears. Four years after its creation, WLS was sold to the Prairie Farmer Magazine. The studios were moved to the Prairie Farmer Building  (also in downtown Chicago).  In 1960, WLS was sold to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

Click here to learn more about the history of WLS.

Hey, is that a Sears House? Click here to learn more about identifying kit homes.

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In 1925, Sears published its first employee newsletter, known simply as "WLS" (World's Largest Store). Inside the newsletter was a detailed account of The Kelly Family buying and building their own kit home.

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To read more about the Kelly’s kit home, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

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

October 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

About five weeks ago, I passed my “General” (Ham Radio) test which gave me operating privileges on the HF (High Frequency) bands.

VHF and UHF frequencies are principally line of sight, but on HF, short radio waves can skip thousands of miles, reflecting (and bouncing) between the mirror-like ionosphere and the earth’s surface. Radios producing as little as five watts (which is very, very low power) take advantage of this “propagation” (as it’s called) and can send signals from Norfolk to England, Australia (and more!).

Pretty exciting!

A few days after obtaining my General license, I purchased an HF radio (Yaesu 450D), and then last week, my Comet CHA-250BX antenna arrived.

And now, both antenna and radio are together.

Getting the antenna installed was a bit challenging - physically. It required snaking wires through the walls and climbing on the roof (over and over and over) and crawling around in the attic, out toward the eaves where there is very little headroom and no flooring. It was a real adventure!

According to the manufacturer, the 23-foot-tall Comet CHA-250BX needs to be at least 20′ off the ground. After much consideration, we decided to mount it on the chimney of our brick ranch.

To accomplish this, we had to buy a chimney mount.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s, most of the houses in our neighborhood had an antenna on the roof. With the advent of cable TV and satellite, it’s getting harder and harder to find the necessary hardware for mounting antennas outside.

Thanks to Amazon.com, I was able to find a chimney mount that was designed for extra chubby chimneys, like ours.

Scroll on down to see photos of the installation process.

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.

Updated! I’m now an “Extra”!

To learn about the Sears Homes in Norfolk, click here.

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worst part was

The worst part of this project was the kneecap pain. I had to crawl out to the attic's hinterlands to drop the RG-8X down the wall (between the studs) with the hope that it would (eventually) end up near my sun porch. While standing upright in my spacious sunporch, "deciding" on the perfect spot for this coax, I neglected to factor in the low clearance between the roof and floor joists out at the edges of our attic.

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ouch

Saturday morning, I spent about 20 minutes with my knees precariously balanced on these joists, drilling holes in these plates, looking for the "sweet spot" where I could drop the coax cable down into the den/sunporch. Years ago, I purchased a set of fiberglass rods that are used for pulling wire through wall cavities. They worked like a charm.

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The sunporch was originally a screened-porch, so we had to penetrate a brick (exterior) wall to get the coax out there.

The sunporch was originally a screened-in porch, so I had to penetrate a brick (exterior) wall to get the coax out there. While hubby was away at work, I put a "smallish" hole through the 5/16" thick paneling in the den, and also through the exterior sheathing. I tried drilling through the brick with a $25 masonry bit but that went nowhere fast. That 1960s brick is tough stuff. My friend David Strickland came by and used his hammer-drill to get through the brick. He drilled from the sunporch side toward the den, because (as he explained) the hammer drill had a tendency to "explode" the back side of the brick. He was right.

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Fme

The hammer drill did create a messy exit wound on the back of the brick. I placed a small piece of plywood across the backside of the brick wall, so that the nylon washer and metal nut would have a good tight fit. The "through-the-wall" fitting is an 8-inch bulkhead connector, with a 90-degree elbow attached.

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other side

The other side came out real pretty.

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A three gang

A three-gang, no-device blank wall plate provided a nice and tidy cover-up on the den side of this wall. Plus, the connection points for the coax are still easily accessible. My husband suggested that I take a black magic marker and write "Ham Radio Antenna Access" on the plate. I was headed for the markers when he said, "No, don't do that. I'm only kidding."

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When the antenna arrived, Teddy the Wonder Dog had to give an inspection of the unit. The Comet CHA205BX did pass the sniff test.

When the antenna arrived, Teddy the Wonder Dog had to inspect the unit. The Comet CHA-205BX successfully passed "the sniff test."

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Mike Neal (President of RASON) and Jim Silverstorf (Treasurer of RASON) came by to help with the assembly of the new antenna.

Mike Neal and Jim Silverstorf (both members of RASON) came by to help with the assembly of the Comet CHA-250BX antenna. Jim brought an SWR meter to check the performance of the new antenna. By the way, I highly recommend that everyone in Hampton Roads join RASON (Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk). It's not the biggest group in the area, but the people are first-class and they are VERY kind to 53-year-old women who ask the really tough questions like, "Where's the volume button on this thing?"

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After

After it was assembled, we had to stand it up and give it a test run. Teddy is on guard, waiting for the radio waves that'll soon come charging into *her* yard.

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Maybe

Yes, that's a bungie cord and nylon ties holding it secure against the deck railing. Mike said that all we needed now was an old couch and a cooler of beer to complete the ambiance.

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The instructions that came with the chimney mounting kit were as clear as mud. We were not sure what they were trying to tell us.

The instructions that came with the chimney mounting kit were as clear as mud. We were not sure what they were trying to tell us. A few more words would have been helpful.

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Ultimately, we figured it out. Took some time though.

Ultimately, we figured it out. Took some time though.

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Roofie

We placed a brick at the bottom of the steel mast, because the chimney mounts aren't really intended to support weight, as much as prevent lateral movement of the mast. And the brick also protects the 17-year-old roofing shingles from additional damage. Unfortunately, I seem to have grabbed the most crooked brick in America.

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mast

Another view from the top. When it was time to heft that antenna up to the roof, another member of RASON (Milton Crum) graciously came by and offered to help. While Wayne and I had expended some mental energy in figuring out how to get this 23' whip antenna up to the roof, Milton had a better way. While I was verbally reviewing the different ways of getting the antenna to the roof, Milt took hold of the antenna and just walked right up the ladder with it. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of this part of our adventure.

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gloves

The antenna mount is a "Channel Master CM 9067," which cost about $30 (from Amazon). It took eight days to arrive, which seemed like a long time, but it does seem to be well made. The bands are 3/4" wide stainless steel and 18' long. The brackets seem sturdy and strong, and provide a 4" offset (which we needed, due to the flare in the brick courses).

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Getting from the roof to the attic took a little thought. I didnt want 50 feet of coax cable draped across my roof, and I also didnt want it coming over my new aluminum gutters.

Getting from the roof to the attic took a little thought. I didn't want 30+ feet of coax cable draped across my roof, and I also didn't want it cascading down over my new aluminum gutters. I also wasn't too fond of the idea of cutting holes in my soffit or facia. This pipe vent served as an ideal solution. It's 1-1/2" PVC pipe with a traditional pipe collar (where it enters the roof). To prevent rain intrusion, I put a 90-degree elbow on the top.

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Inside

Inside the 1-1/2" PVC pipe is a small stub of 3/4" pipe, with 1/2" round weather stripping wrapped around it. I visited four hardware stores, looking for a 1-1/2" to 3/4" reducer, but couldn't find such a thing, so this was the next best choice. Ultimately, I'll put a little more of that 1/2" round weather stripping in the 3/4" pipe to close up the hole.

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My Ham Radio friends tel me this iis the first time theyve seen such a conduit as this, but it realy worked out well.

My Ham Radio friends tel me this is the first time they've seen such a "conduit" as this, but it really worked out well. We spaced it out about two feet from the chimney so we'd stay far from the chimney flashing. From the ground, it looks like just another bathroom vent.

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The ground wire (10 gage stranded) is connected to

The ground wire (10 gage stranded) is connected to the fiberglass mast (at the roof's edge) and continues down the mast to connect to a grounding rod below. The fiberglass mast supports my Diamond X-200A (dual band) antenna.

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Back in the attic

Back in the attic, the PVC pipe provides a nice clean conduit for my RG-8X coax.

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end

And here's the other end of that coax, poking out through the brick wall. The whole affair (and a lot of wires) are well hidden by this antique oak table.

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Annd I bet Im the only Ham Radio operator in Tidewater with Hello Kitty decor!

And I bet I'm the only Ham Radio operator in Tidewater with a pink radio room with Hello Kitty decor!

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What radio room is complete without Hello Kitty lights?

What radio room is complete without Hello Kitty lights?

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The antenna

The Comet CHA-250BX is on the left, standing at about 45 feet at the tippy top.

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front

From the front of the house, it's really not *that* noticeable.

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What a thing of beauty!

What a thing of beauty!

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To learn about RASON, click here.

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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The Aladdin Colonial: Many Admirers!

October 16th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Years ago, someone told me about a “big fancy Sears House” in Suffolk, Virginia. After visiting the house, I could only conclude that it was not a Sears House, but what was it? I sent a photo to my dear friend Dale Wolicki and he replied quickly, “It’s an Aladdin Colonial!

Dale knows more about Aladdin than anyone else in the world!

The Aladdin Colonial was touted as being a house “with many admirers” (see photo below). And I count myself as one of those many admirers!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To read more about Dale, click here.

The Aladdin Colonial, in the 1920 catalog.

The Aladdin Colonial, in the 1920 catalog.

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house

The first floor featured a living room that was 15 by 30 feet. And in the back, there was room for a small library! Notice the butler's pantry. This was a fine home.

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It was a big spacious house, with several distinctive features.

It was a big spacious house, with four spacious bedrooms and two baths upstairs.

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Beautiful, too.

Beautiful, too.

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Heres the big fancy Sears House in Suffolk. In fact, its an Aladdin kit home - the Colonial.

Here's the "big fancy Sears House" in Suffolk. In fact, it's an Aladdin kit home - the Colonial.

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This Colonial is in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

This "Colonial" is in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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This Colonial was photographed by a Sears House afficianado, but sadly, I cant find her name amongst my many emails. Nonetheless, its a beautiful house.

This Colonial was photographed by a Sears House aficionado, but sadly, I can't find her name amongst my many emails. It's a beautiful house and a wonderful photo, and it's on the corner of Capital Blvd and Scott Street, in a city not too far from Cairo, IL but that's all I remember.

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The 1920 catalog showed this interior shot of the Colonial living room.

The 1920 catalog showed this "interior" shot of the Colonial living room.

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Aladdin actually started offering kit homes in 1906, two years before Sears Roebuck. And Aladdin persisted until 1981, a full 41 years beyond Sears.

Aladdin actually started offering kit homes in 1906, two years before Sears Roebuck. And Aladdin persisted until 1981, a full 41 years beyond Sears. This is my favorite Aladdin advertisement. I just love this image (1914 catalog).

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Sears Homes had a letter and three-digit number on their framing members, but Aladdin kit homes had words (as is shown here).

Sears Homes had a letter and three-digit number on their framing members, but Aladdin kit homes had words (as is shown here). This rafter is in a house in Roanoke Rapids, NC which has an abundance of Aladdin kit homes.

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To learn about the Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

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Who Are These Old Ham Radio Guys?

October 15th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

While doing some research on Norfolk’s historic architecture, my friend Bill at the Sergeant Memorial Room (Norfolk Public Library) found this old booklet (dated 1951) for me, promoting Norfolk’s public schools. One of the pictures showed three boys working on what appears to be an old Ham Radio set.

It sure would be fun to figure out who these boys are, and if they remained interested in Ham Radio through the decades.

Do you recognize them?

Who

Who are these guys? This picture appeared in a 1951 promotional brochure for Norfolk Public Schools. No name or photo credit was given. I'm not even sure which high schools were in existence in Norfolk in 1951. If they were juniors or seniors in 1951, they'd be 79 or 80 years old today.

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This

Someone must know who this young fellow is!

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More

This is the cover of the brochure which featured the young men shown above.

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On a more modern note, Teddy the Wonder Dog examines the new Comet CHA-250Bx antenna that arrived Friday afternoon. Shes puzzled by the size of the resistor at the end of this 23 vertical antenna.

On a more modern note, Teddy the Wonder Dog examines the new Comet CHA-250Bx antenna that arrived Friday afternoon. She's puzzled by the size of the resistor at the end of this 23' vertical antenna.

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If those boys above could look into the future and see Ham Radio today, theyd be shocked to know that in 21st Century America, Japanese-made radio products are considered to be top notch.

If those boys above could look into the future and see Ham Radio today, they'd be shocked to know that in 21st Century America, Japanese-made radio products are considered to be top notch.

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To learn more about Ham Radio in Norfolk, click here.

Want to read more about the Sears Homes in Norfolk? Click here.

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Will The Real Sears “Del Rey” Please Stand Up?

October 11th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Sears Del Ray was patterned after a popular design that popped up in several places in the late 1910s/early 1920s.

One hundred years later, it’s hard to figure out who deserves credit for designing this attractive bungalow.

The Sears Del Rey, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. From what I can glean, it first appeared in 1920 or 1919.

The Sears Del Rey, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. From what I can glean, it first appeared in their catalog in 1920 or 1919.

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If I were a better woman, Id say that it started here.

In February 1922, this design won The "Blue Ribbon Award" in the popular building magazine, "American Carpenter and Builder."

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The accompanying article in American Carpenter and Builder states, “I am a student at Sanford University, and I erected and completed this charming little residence with the assistance of one carpenter during my summer vacation. It was sold as soon as finished. I will build more during the coming year.”

In other words, in the early 1920s, a California college student spent his summer vacation building the Del Rey’s clone in the San Jose area.  (Reminds me of a song!  “Do you know the ‘Rey in San Jose?“)

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Oopsie. Heres another one. This is Pacific Ready Cut Homes Moderl #385. Gosh, it looks just like a Del Rey too!

Oopsie. Here's another one. This is Pacific Ready Cut Homes Model #385. Gosh, it looks just like a Del Rey too! (1919 Pacific Ready Cut Homes.)

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Personally, I find breathing houses worrisome.

Personally, I find "breathing houses" worrisome.

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And heres a real San Jose in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here's a Del Rey in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Maybe. Or maybe it's the 1922 "Blue Ribbon Winner." Or maybe it's Pacific Ready Cut! Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ah, but here we have a bona fide Sears Del Rey, authenticated by Rebecca Hunter. This darling house is in Elgin, Illinois.

Ah, but here we have a bona fide Sears Del Rey, authenticated by Rebecca Hunter. This darling house is in Elgin, Illinois. The photo was snapped in 2002 (at Halloween)!

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Floorplan for the Del Rey shows a sleeping porch that is usually converted into another bedroom (1921 catalog).

Floorplan for the Del Rey shows a screened porch (right rear) that is usually converted into another bedroom (1921 catalog).

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Heres

In the 1924, Mr. Gray built this Del Ray in Ohio (from a testimonial published in the 1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog). Sure would be fun to find out if this REAL Del Rey is still standing.

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According to the 1924 catalog, this Del Ray was built in Ohio.

Accompanying text gives the name and city. Is it still there?

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Heres a Del Rey in Wheaton, IL.

Here's a Del Rey in Wheaton, IL.

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This one is in Rocky Mount, NC.

This one is in Rocky Mount, NC.

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Dale and I found this little house in Fullerton, California (oops, I THINK it was Fullerton). Most likely, this is the Pacific Ready Cut Home Model #385.

Dale and I found this little house in Fullerton, California (oops, I THINK it was Fullerton). Most likely, this is the Pacific Ready Cut Home Model #385 with a modified shed roof over the porch.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read the next blog, click here.

To learn more about Pacific Homes, click here.

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Douthat State Park (Clifton Forge)

October 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Our family first visited Douthat State Park in 1960. In fact, thanks to my father’s meticulous note-taking, I know that our first visit was on June 13th, 1960, which was also my father’s 41st birthday.

Last week, my “new” family (Hubby and I) returned to Douthat and stayed at Cabin #1, the very cabin that the Fullers stayed at throughout their annual pilgrimage in the 1960s. Our last visit was 1969, when Hurricane Camille chased us out, a couple days ahead of our scheduled departure date.

Enjoy the photos - old and new.

To read about the amazing collection of Sears kit homes in Clifton Forge, click here.

Our family first visited Douthat State Park in 1960. Heres a picture of my youngest brother with our mother, Betty Mae Brown Fuller.

Our family first visited Douthat State Park in 1960. Here's a picture of my youngest brother with our mother, Betty Mae Brown Fuller. They're standing in front of the boat rental area by Lake Douthat. Mother was a big believer in life vests, anytime her children were within 200 yards of a body of water (June 1960).

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Apparently, Mother was a big believer in life vests when her children were digging for worms, too, lest he hit an undiscovered body of water hidden just below the forest floor.

Apparently, Mother was a big believer in life vests when her children were digging for worms, too, lest he hit an undiscovered body of water hidden just below the forest floor.

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My eldest brother Tommy fishing on Smith Creek (June 1960).

My eldest brother Tommy fishing on Smith Creek (June 1960).

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My father giving it a go on Smith Creek.

My father giving it a go on Smith Creek.

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Close-up of Tom Fuller (June 1960).

Close-up of Tom Fuller (June 1960).

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Mother and my youngest brother standing on a pretty ricket bridge over Wilson Creek.

Mother and my youngest brother standing on a pretty ricket bridge over Wilson Creek. He looks pretty worried. I would be too.

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Tommy Fuller - more than 52 years ago - at the boat docks by Douthat Lake.

Tommy Fuller - more than 52 years ago - at the boat docks by Lake Douthat.

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Last week (September 2012), my husband and I visited Douthat and we stayed at Cabin #1, the very cabin where our family spent some very happy times. It was quite surreal returning to the very same cabin. The last time I was inside that cabin was 1969, and our family vacated it in a hurry when a park ranger knocked on our door in the wee hours and told us that we had to evacuate immediately, due to torrential rains and flooding from Hurricane Camille.

Last week (September 2012), my husband and I visited Douthat and we stayed at Cabin #1, the very cabin where our family spent some very happy times. It was quite surreal returning to the very same cabin. The last time I was inside that cabin was 1969, and our family vacated it in a hurry when a park ranger knocked on our door in the wee hours and told us that we had to evacuate immediately, due to torrential rains and flooding from Hurricane Camille.

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Inside, the cabin was just as I had remembered. The cabins were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The fireplace was made from native stone from the Blue Ridge mountains.

Inside, the cabin was just as I had remembered. The cabins were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The fireplace was made from native stone from the Blue Ridge mountains.

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The living room was smaller than I remember...

The living room was smaller than I remember...

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And my parents bedroom was teeny tiny!

And my "parent's bedroom" was much smaller! In fact, it was teeny tiny!

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The porch hasnt changed much in the last 50 years.

The porch hasn't changed much in the last 50 years.

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A placard by the front door commemorates the CCC.

A placard by the front door commemorates the CCC.

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In

The doors and hardware are - for the most part - original to the cabin.

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Sadly, the condition of the cabins has been deteriorating. We saw roof leaks and mildew on several ceilings inside the cabin. For all the money our government wastes on overseas spending, youd think they could throw a few thousand at this historic treasure and try and preserve it. As Norm says on This Old House, once a house loses its boots and hat, it wont last long.

Sadly, the condition of the cabins has been deteriorating. We saw roof leaks and mildew on several ceilings inside the cabin. For all the money our government wastes on overseas spending, you'd think they could throw a few thousand at this historic treasure and try and preserve it. As Norm says on "This Old House," once a house loses its boots and hat, it won't last long.

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During our visit, we didnt do any fishing, but we did go fishing for a good signal from the local Appleton Mountain repeater.

During our visit, we didn't do any lake fishing, but we did go "fishing" for a good signal from the local Appleton Mountain repeater (Ham Radio). Hubby toted this stick antenna around for a bit, helping me find the "sweet spot."

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Sweet

The sweet spot turned out to be about 30 feet in front of the cabin, hanging on a tree branch. There's a lot of high tech equipment in this picture. That's a stick antenna, on loan from RASON (Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk), hanging on a piece of clothesline rope, held in place by a log which served as a counter-weight. Incredibly, we got a very clear signal from the Appleton Repeater, about 60 miles away in Bedford, Virginia. I'd LOVE to know where that repeater is located! Is it atop the Peaks of Otter?

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I highly recommend a visit to Douthat State Park. About 15 minutes from the park (in Clifton Forge), you can visit the C&O Railway Museum, and see this beautiful steam locomotive up close and personal!

About 15 minutes from the park (in Clifton Forge), you can visit the C&O Railway Museum, and see this beautiful steam locomotive up close and personal! Byron from the C&O Railway Museum gave us a first-class tour and we relished every moment. It was a highlight of the trip. Both Hubby and I were very impressed with Byron. He was a wonderful tour guide and regaled us with countless *amazing* stories.

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And Hubby got to play engineer!

And Hubby got to play engineer!

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To read more about the C&O Train Museum in Clifton Forge, click here.

To learn about RASON, click here.

To read about those splendiferous kit homes in Clifton Forge, click here.

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“The Merry Widow” Is Near Death (In Covington, Virginia)

October 1st, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Clifton Forge, Virginia (to visit Douthat State Park).

While there in Clifton Forge, we drove over to Covington (to look for kit homes of course). While in Covington, we discovered an old steam locomotive, sitting at the end of Main Street. Now the property of Allegheny Historical Society, Locomotive #701 was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake & Ohio.

It’s lovingly referred to as “The Merry Widow.”

The merry widow

The Merry Widow was built in 1911 by the Richmond Locomotive Company. It's looking a little rough these days, but it must have been a beauty in its prime. Note the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. This locomotive came to rest here in 1952.

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This year, The Virginia Rail Heritage region announced that The Merry Widow won the “honor” of being selected as one of the Top Ten Endangered Artifacts in the state. (The competition was sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums and the Virginia Collections Institute.)

And this beautiful old train is truly an endangered artifact. To see a youtube video of its interior, click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShFUejzd-4Y

The Chesapeake and Ohio steam engine is a 2-8-0 “Consolidation Class” locomotive. From 1911 to the 1920s, #701 huffed and puffed its way up and down the rails between Ohio and the Great Lakes region. In 1930, it was dedicated to pulling Pullman cars full of happy tourists to a famous historic landmark, The Homestead Resort (in nearby Hot Springs).

The moniker “Merry Widow” came from her single-minded devotion to that task of carrying folks north to Hot Springs, Virginia from Covington. From 1930  to 1952, #701 was the lone engine that ran on that line.

In 1952, a shiny new diesel electric stepped in and #701 was donated to Covington. She has patiently waited in that one spot - literally rusting in her tracks - for half a century.

The condition of this once-grand piece of machinery is precarious, at best. Hopefully, she’ll be restored and reclaimed, rather than relegated to the trash heap. Her placement on the Top Ten List bodes well for her future. Perhaps now she’ll get the attention she deserves.

It’s a beautiful train. I hope it’s not too late to save her.

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Merry

A placard commemorates the dedication.

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Miss

Another view of #701.

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rusty

Can this engine be saved?

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It's looking pretty iffy.

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What a beautiful thing. Hopefully one day, her tender will be filled with coal and water and that old boiler will be fired up again.

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dirty

The air quality in Covington can NOT be helping this artifact. What is billowing out of all those smokestacks? Is this a paper plant?

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houose

Despite three hours of wandering around in Covington, i found only one kit home: The Aladdin Plaza. Ironically, this was found within a block of #701.

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house

The Aladdin Plaza (1919 catalog).

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plague

A badge on the side of the engine shows a manufacture date of 1911.

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plaque

There must be a way to save this old engine.

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about #701, click here.

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