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How to Properly Identify a Sears Magnolia

Nary a week passes that someone doesn’t send me a note, happily reporting that they’ve spotted a Sears Magnolia in their neighborhood.

And 99.99% of the time, they’re wrong.

Priced at about $6,000, the Sears Magnolia (sold from 1918-1922) was Sears biggest and fanciest kit home. And despite lots of searching, only seven Sears Magnolias have been found.

Like most of the 370 designs of houses offered by Sears, the Magnolia was purposefully patterned after a popular housing style: The Southern Colonial. Here in Hampton Roads, there’s a Southern Colonial Revival in many of our early 20th Century neighborhoods.

However, the Sears Magnolia - the real deal - has several distinctive features that distinguish from “look-alikes.”

The photos shown below give some visual clues on how to identify the Sears Magnolia (the real deal).

The Sears Magnolia was their biggest, fanciest and most expensive home. It was offered from 1918-1922. The picture here is from the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was their biggest, fanciest and most expensive home. It was offered from 1918-1922. The picture here is from the 1921 catalog. If you look closely at the badge that shows the price, you'll see that the Magnolia was also known as #2089.

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After World War One (The Great War),

After World War One (The Great War), lumber prices went sky high. Sears catalogs had about a six-week lead time (from creation to publishing). Due to the volatility of building material costs, Sears couldn't keep up on the price info. As an alternate, they just stuck price sheets into the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. See the Magnolia above? This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the Spring 1921 Sears catalog.

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The Magnolia had more than 2,900 square feet (as built). The first floor was pretty busy.

The Magnolia had more than 2,900 square feet (as built). The first floor was pretty busy.

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Heres a close-up of the kitchen

Here's a close-up of the kitchen area and butler's pantry. Notice that there''s a downstairs "lavatory." Pretty upscale for 1921.

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My favorite Magnolia. This one is in Benson, NC.

A picture-perfect Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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And this one is in Canton, Ohio.

And this one is in Canton, Ohio.

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The lumber in Sears Homes was numbered, as is shown in this graphic from the rear cover of the 1921 catalog.

The lumber in Sears Homes was numbered, as is shown in this graphic from the rear cover of the 1921 catalog. The mark is on one end of the lumber, and also on the face of it (typically about 6-8" from the end). "B" was for 2x4s, "C" was 2x6s, "D" was 2x8s.

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Heres a real life example of the marks.

Here's a real life example of the mark on the lumber.

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The Magnolia was also known as Modern Home #2089. If you look closely, you'll see the number 2089 scribbled on this 2x8. This is the basement of the Benson Magnolia. When the house was being prepared for shipment out of the mill in Cairo, Illinois, the model number was written on a few of the framing members. To the right is the name of the family that originally placed the order for this house.

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The Magnolia was offered with both Corinthian (as shown here) and Ionic columns. I havent figured out if this was an option, or if it was dependent on what year the house was ordered.

The Magnolia was offered with Ionic columns, but they're often replaced as they age. The Sears Magnolia's columns were wooden and hollow. Yet I've found that most "Southern Colonials" (with these two-story columns) have concrete columns. If you think you've found a Magnolia, go rap on the columns and if they're made of something other than hollow wood, then it is NOT a Magnolia.

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The entry hall of a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.

The entry hall of a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. The details matter. Notice over the door, there's an arched fan light. Many "look-alikes" have a square transom over the door. Learn how to pay attention to these many details.

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Noticee these very disctinctive windows on the Magnolia. Does the house youre looking at have these very samee windows? If not, its probably not a Sears Magnolia.

Notice these very distinctive windows on the Magnolia. Does the house you're looking at have these very same windows? If not, it's probably not a Sears Magnolia.

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If it dooesnt look like this, its not a Magnolia!  :0

If it doesn't look like this, it's not a Magnolia! :)

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house

Here's another example of a Magnolia (located in West Virginia).

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And another

And another beautiful Magnolia in Syracuase, NY. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really awesome story on Sears Homes, click here.

My favorite blog (an interview with a man who built a Magnolia) is here.

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  1. David Hunt
    April 4th, 2014 at 14:11 | #1

    My wife and I have a Magnolia in New Martinsville, WV.

  2. shelli Cash
    November 2nd, 2014 at 19:10 | #2

    Is the Wolfe Manor in Clovis Ca. A Sears Magnolia? My eleven-year old daughter has loved that house for years and is truly heartbroken that the city is tearing it down.

    She was trying to find pictures of how it use to look.

  3. Zee Nobles
    January 13th, 2015 at 17:28 | #3

    I believe there is a Magnolia standing on North State St. in Jackson, Ms.

    When I first noticed it, it was an antique shop.

    To the best of my recollection, I was told by someone there that it was a Sears home.

    It was bought by a lady to restore, but evidently she ran out of money or interest. It is now for sale and not in good shape

  4. January 14th, 2015 at 05:03 | #4

    Hi Zee,

    Can you give me a cross street? I am unable to find this house. And I just went through *EVERY* house for sale in Jackson, Mississippi and didn’t see anything close.

    Thanks!

  5. Kori
    May 2nd, 2016 at 14:22 | #5

    I just bought a farm in Gordonsville, Virginia. I was told by a man who used to work on the farm that the main house is a Sears Magnolia. Unfortunately I can’t find any beams with numbers on them. The floor plan looks identical.

    It has the same hollow columns but the door and windows don’t match the pictures of true Magnolias. The farm was named Magnolia farm. We checked with the local historical society and the commissioners office but they have don’t have any records or permits on file for the property after the 1700s.

    Is there anything else I can look for to help identify it?

  6. james schulenberg
    September 25th, 2016 at 22:05 | #6

    i believe there is a Maggie on woodland blvd in deland florida. owned by stetson university.

  7. Louisa Havlik
    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:53 | #7

    I believe there is one on Main St. in Reedsburg, WI.

    We pass it every time we visit my in-laws, and it looks like just like this. I have always admired it!

  8. February 4th, 2017 at 13:49 | #8

    @Louisa Havlik
    If it’s the house at the corner of Main and Myrtle it’s not a Magnolia. Starting with the roof, this house is side gabled where as the Magnolia has a hipped roof.

  9. February 4th, 2017 at 14:02 | #9

    @james schulenberg
    Approx 418? Across from Presser Hall? Looks to have been the President’s house maybe?
    Not a Magnolia, compare the column placement…for a start.

  10. Terry Blakely
    March 25th, 2017 at 11:53 | #10

    I have what looks a lot like one in Danville, VA.

    Some have said it is, and it looks very similar. However, I have yet to find any numbering on any of the floor joist and the windows are a little different.

    The sun room and carriage/breezeway (whatever the proper term is) are reversed.

    I can send some pictures to someone who knows far more than I do if it would be helpful.

    Also I have been told by a few people that it was brought in by rail car. House was built in 1917.

  11. Janie Graziani
    July 7th, 2017 at 14:25 | #11

    @Rachel J Shoemaker
    Yes, Rachel, it is the Stetson University President’s Home at the corner of W. Michigan and Woodland.

    And you’re correct, it is not a Maggie, although it is a Sears kit house. It was built in 1910 by a Mr. Steed.

    I heard he did make changes to the front porch that involved the columns, but I’m not sure exactly what the change was.

    He added the porch on the south side as well, I understand. Stetson bought the property in the mid-1940s

  12. July 22nd, 2017 at 09:42 | #12

    Look on this website http://www.jgwchpc.com our Historic Preservation Commission website. Look at unregistered location. Go down to #6 which is the Law House.

    It is suppose to be a Sears Homes, but the Magnolia is as close to it I can find. You have any idea of what plan it was?

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