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Archive for November, 2012

“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, I wrote about “The Experiment,” where Sears built two Sears Rodessas (small bungalows) side-by-side in Cairo, Illinois, to prove the superiority of the Ready-cut System. The two homes were built in the late 1910s, and now, almost 100 years later, those wonderful little houses are still standing.

Why did Sears choose the Rodessa for their experiment? I don’t know. It was a popular house for Sears, but it wasn’t that popular! If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was in the Top 50 Most Popular Designs.

However, it was, as the Sears ad promised, “a most attractive little home.” It was cute, simple and practical, which probably made it easy to build in a hurry.

In my travels, I’ve come across several Rodessas. In fact, there’s one not far from me in Urbana, Virginia. You can read about that house by clicking here.

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

Indeed, the Rodessa is a "pretty little home." And look at the price!!

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Little is right.

Look at those small bedrooms. In 2012, a room that measures 9-feet square is a walk-in closet!

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Busy kitchen

And what does that "B" stand for in the kitchen? BOILER!

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The boiler

The "boiler" (whose placement is indicated with the "B" in the floorplan) was a water heater with a water line that ran through the back of the cook stove. Pretty complicated affair.

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

In 1924, Mr. Kidwell built this Rodessa in Washington DC and sent this snapshot in to Sears and Roebuck. He was "fully satisfied" with his Ready-cut home.

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Happy 1926

In 1926, Sears put out a brochure that was titled, "Happy Homes." The Rodessa was featured within its pages. According to the accompanying text, it was built in Independence, MO.

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Happy

Not sure why Sears included a picture of corn with the testimonial.

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HeWood

It's endured some significant remodelings, but at least it's still standing. This transmogrified Rodessa is in Wood River, Illinois (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO). That salt-treated porch railing just does not work on this old bungalow.

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House

This Rodessa may look a little blue, but it's actually a very happy house with lots of good self-esteem. It's in Northern Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). Its located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana.

Here's the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). It's located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana. The plaque over the door reads, "Sears Roebuck House, 1924." I was told that the folks in Urbana didn't realize that Sears had 369 other kit home designs. This is a fairly common misconception. This 88-year-old house is in beautiful condition.

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And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL).

And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL). They were built in the late 1910s as part of an experiment to prove that "The Ready-Cut Method" was far more efficient than traditional building practices of the time.

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Ready

The house that was built using traditional building practices took 583 hours and the poor saps aren't finished yet. The yard is still a mess with scraps of lumber scattered hither and yon. The workers have collapsed on the front porch in utter despair and humiliation.

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house

Ah, but the pre-cut Sears Kit Home is all buttoned up and beautiful! They even had time to finish up the landscaping! The kitchen windows are wide open. They had so much time to spare that they went inside and cooked dinner!

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation. The clipped gables were gone, as were the dramatically oversized eaves. The unique shape of the front porch was replaced with a simpler gabled roof. In a word, its flair and panache had been replaced with pedestrian and dull.

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Learn more about the two Rodessas at the Sears Mill by clicking here.

How did Sears Homes become so popular so fast? Read about that here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? It’s just one click away!

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Hazelton: House of Threes (Part II)

November 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, the Hazelton is an easy house to spot, because of the unique window arrangement. I think of it as “The House of Threes.”

The Hazelton has three windows in that shed dormer. There are three windows on the wide of the house (in front of the bay window). And there are three windows flanking the front door (right and left). And there are six windows in that dining room bay (divisible by three).

To read the prior blog, click here.

The great majority of Sears Homes can be found in the Midwest, but Rachel Shoemaker found a bevy of these early 20th Century kit homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And she managed to get inside a Hazelton in wonderfully original condition!

Enjoy the photos below! And many thanks to Rachel for these wonderful photos.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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House

Floorplan of the Sears Hazelton.

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Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This house - nearing the 100-year-old mark - is still in wonderfully original condition. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Commemmorative

Commemorative plaque puts the home's age at an impressive 98 years. I'd love to know more about how the owners got this house on the National Register. In my travels, being a "Sears kit house" is not enough for this unique distinctive (as defined by the Secretary of Interior). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside, the house is in mostly original condition!

Inside, the house is in mostly original condition! Notice all the wooden trim, unpainted and with a beautiful patina. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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nice

Close-up on the other side of those bookcase colonnades. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place.

Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved.

The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved. The tile floor and walls are new, but were tastefully done, in a style that's in accord with the time period. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And old

And old ad from the Sears Roebuck building materials catalog shows a typical mantel available for $15. (Notice, gas logs were available for an extra $9.33.)

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Here

The brick work was re-done but the mantel looks much like it did in the 1915 catalog (above). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror.

Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside

These three windows are fancifully adorned on the inside. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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An early building materials catalog shows an old door

An early building materials catalog shows an original oak "Craftsman" door.

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And a real live example!

And a real live example! Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining

In the dining room, those four windows (in the bump out) also retain their original wood finish. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More built-ins!

One of the best features of a Sears kit home were all the built-ins. Even small cubby holes were turned into storage space. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few Sears Homes that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

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To read about the other kit homes in Tulsa, click here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Click here!

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Hazelton: House of Threes

November 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Hazelton is an easy house to spot, because of the unique window arrangement. It was one of the first Sears kit home designs that I memorized, because it is “The House of Threes.”

Take a good look at the windows. The Hazelton has three windows in that shed dormer. There are three windows on the wide of the house (in front of the bay window). And there are three windows flanking the front door (right and left). And there are six windows in that dining room bay (divisible by three).

And “Hazelton” is a three-syllable word!  :)

Another very distinctive feature is the tiny side windows in that dining room bay. Lots of early 20th Century bungalows have a small bump-out in the dining room, but very few have that small side window.

And take a good look at where that shed dormer is positioned on the roof. It’s a bit shy of the ridge board at the tippy top.

Many folks send me photos of houses that resemble the Hazelton, but they’re not paying close attention to the details, such as the placement of that shed dormer and the positioning of the windows. Every Hazelton is a bungalow, but every bungalow is not a Hazelton!

To read Part II on The Hazelton (with many interior shots of a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma) click here.

Sears Hazleton

Sears Hazleton

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Hazelton

Hazelton

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Hazleton

Hazletons abound in Illinois!

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Hazleton

Prior to 1918, Sears homes had numbers, not names. By the way, the Hazelton shown in the first picture is apparently in Bay Shore, NY. Wonder if it's still there?

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hazleton

Floor plan shows two bedrooms downstairs. What's the difference between a "chamber" and a bedroom? I wish I knew. Some say that a chamber is just a first-floor bedroom.

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hazleton

This Hazelton in Edwardsville, Illinois has been remodeled a bit.

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hazel

This photo was taken in 2003 when I visited Chilicothe, IL.

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haz

Illinois does love its Hazeltons. This house is in Tamms.

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Tulsa

A fine-looking Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and my not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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hazleton

Another seriously remodeled Hazleton. This one is in Litchfield, IL.

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Tomorrow, Ill post several interior photos of a Sears Hazelton in beautiful condition!! Same time, same channel!  :)

Tomorrow, I'll post several interior photos of a Sears Hazelton in beautiful condition!! Same time, same channel! :) (photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy the perfect Christmas gift for your friends, family, cat and dog, click here.

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Coming Out Of The Closet: Murphy Beds

November 12th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In the early years of the 20th Century, living a simple, modest, clutter-free life was an integral part of The Bungalow Craze.

Murphy Beds were an integral part of that “space-saving” mind-set. And they were very practical, too. After one’s morning prayers and ablutions, how often did one return to their sleeping quarters?

When the sun popped up in the morning, it was time to make the bed, fluff the pillows and tuck your bed back into the wall.

During tough economic times, there was an expectation that homeowners would take in needy family members. When times got really tough, homeowners took on borders, too.  (Bear in mind, this was before government became our All-in-all.)

The Murphy Bed made our little bungalows a little bit bigger, and a little more accommodating.

In the 1920s and 30s, the sale of Murphy Beds skyrocketed. In the 1950s and 60s, sales dropped, as Americans moved into bigger and bigger houses. In the 1990s and beyond, sales again are way up, due to a poor economy, high unemployment and rising housing costs.

Some of the early 20th Century kit homes offered by Sears and Aladdin featured Murphy Beds.

“The Cinderella” (so named because the house was so small it required less work), was a cute and cozy kit home offered by Sears in the early 1920s. This little bungalow made good use of its small spaces by incorporating a Murphy Bed. Take a look at the pictures below to see how they did things 100 years ago.

To learn more about built-ins in the 1920s kit home, click here.

To learn about breakfast nooks, click here.

Read about The Sorlien Ceiling Bed here!

If you enjoy the blog, please oh please, share the link on Facebook!  :)

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficient bungalow that saved the housewife

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficiently designed bungalow that saved the housewife much time and effort.

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house

Interior views of The Cinderella (1921).

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Houses

Less furniture to buy - less trouble and work. Good points, actually.

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houses

In the Cinderella, the beds were tucked into a closet during the day.

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housese

This is my favorite shot. This room was about five feet wide and ten feet deep, but it looks pretty darn spacious. And look at that sink at the end of the wall. Just a lone sink.

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house

The Cinderella assumed that both Living and Dining Rooms would be used as sleeping spaces.

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right order here

It's so easy, even a child can do it! Sort of.

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house

Floorplan shows how tiny that "bed space" really is. It was 10'11" long and - if the drawing is anything near scale, it appears about five feet wide. In modern times, the folks looking at this house probably thought, "How odd! A big walk-in closet next to the living room, and it even has a sink in the corner!"

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house house

"Dressing room and bed space." Pretty tiny space!!!

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Calumet also

"Twenty rooms in 12." Eight of those 20 rooms were closets with a bed.

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four rooms

Here are two of those eight "bedrooms." At least they have a window.

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wall

Close-up on the Murphy Bed in the Calumet.

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Bloom

And here's a real, live Calumet in Bloomington, IL.

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Aladdin Sonoma (1919)

Like Sears, Aladdin (Bay City, MI) also sold kit homes through mail order. They had a line of wee tiny Aladdin homes known as "Aladdinettes." Here's a picture of the Sonoma (1919), one of their Aladdinnette houses.

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And

The Aladdinnette's "bed space" was really tiny. Only 6'9" by 5'. You have to step out of the room to change your mind!!

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best

Close-up of the Aladdinnette's "closet bed."

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And despite those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

Despite what you've seen on those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

To read the next awesome blog, click here.

Interested in other early 20th Century space savers? Click here.

Youtube demonstration of a real Murphy Bed (1916).

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The Glendale: A Good Substantial House of Nice Appearance

November 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

World-famous Realtor and Sears House aficionado Catarina Bannier found this Glendale in the DC area, and sent me a bevy of wonderful photos, showcasing this beautiful Glendale.

Probably built in the early 1910s, this house is in amazingly original condition. And Catarina got some great photos!

The double windows situated at the corners of this foursquare make the Glendale easy to spot. The smaller windows (front and side) with the diamond muntins are also a distinctive feature.

To learn more about the Sears Homes that Catarina has found in DC, click here.

To learn more about Sears Houses in Illinois, click here.

The Sears Glendale, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Glendale, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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An unhappy Glendale in Mounds, Illinois (just outside of Cairo).

An unhappy Glendale in Mounds, Illinois (just outside of Cairo). This photo was snapped in 2010. Most likely, this house has now been torn down.

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Mounds

"Every bit of space has been used to the best advantage..." And all this for $1,748.

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And heres Catarinas Glendale in the DC area.

And here's Catarina's Glendale in the DC area. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view.

Another view. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Did I mention that this house is in wonderfully original condition?  WOW, look at the details!

Did I mention that this house is in wonderfully original condition? WOW, look at the details! How many hands have brushed past the finial on this newel post in the last 100 years? Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up from the original catalog page.

Close-up of the newel posts from the original catalog page.

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Original windows, too!

Original windows, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Out

The Glendale had two small fixed sashes on the first floor.

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Inside, it looked like this!

Inside, it looks like this! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The newel posts inside are even prettier!

The newel posts inside are even prettier! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And further down the staircase, youll see the distinctive plinth block that is typically found in Sears Homes. The problem of matching up difficult compound joints was solved with this simple block.

And further down the staircase, you'll see the distinctive plinth block that is typically found in Sears Homes. The problem of matching up difficult compound joints was solved with this simple block. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And theres an original light fixture in one of the bedrooms.

And there's an original light fixture in one of the bedrooms. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Built

This massive built-in China hutch retains its original finish. And it's beautiful! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Original hardware, too!

Original hardware, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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original

If you look closely at the floorplan, you'll see the built-in hutch in the dining room. Also, take a look at the lone column in the doorway between the "parlor" and the dining room.

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wino

The second floor shows four tiny bedrooms and a very long hallway.

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A view of those original windows from inside.

A view of those original windows from inside. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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I

Inside, there's a column and small shelf on just ONE side of the living room/dining room entry. This is also shown on the floorplan (above). Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the PERFECT Christmas gift, click here. You’ll be glad you did!  :)

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A Very Presidential House: The Garfield

November 5th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Okay boys and girls: What was the remarkable fact of James A. Garfield’s presidency?

Here’s some nice music to get you in the mood for answering questions.

Give up?

Hmmm.

James Abram Garfield became our 20th president on March 4, 1881 and was shot by an assassin on July 2, 1881. He died from his wounds on September 19, 1881. Only one president (William Henry Harrison) had a shorter term as president.

Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau, was a special kind of crazy.

Guiteau’s murder weapon was a .442 Webly caliber British Bulldog revolver, purchased with $15 he’d borrowed from an acquaintance. The large caliber gun was offered with wooden or ivory grips. Giteau chose ivory, because he thought that would look nicer on display in a glass case in a museum.

At Guiteau’s trial, an expert, Dr. Spitzka, testified that Giteau was quite insane.

“Guiteau is not only now insane, but he was never anything else,” Spitzka testified.

He also said that Guiteau was a “moral monstrosity,” and “a morbid egotist, who misinterpreted and overly personalized the real events of life.”

Guiteau was enraged by this “crazy talk.” He believed that he’d ascend to the presidency after Garfield’s death.

Repeatedly ignoring his lawyers’ pleas to keep his mouth shut, Guiteau argued to the judge that it was the “the doctors that killed Garfield. I just shot him.”

There was a wisp of truth in that statement. In all the probing and poking for one of the bullets that had lodged in Garfield’s abdomen, the doctors introduced all manner of germs which in turn caused infections.

President Garfield died two months shy of his 50th birthday. The only other American president to die so young in office was President Kennedy.

To learn more about Giteau, click here.

To see pretty pictures of the Sears Garfield, scroll down.

Garfield

The Garfield was a two-family house (1928 catalog).

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Garfield also

Pretty distinctive looking with that wide porch and those sturdy columns. Note the unusual window arrangement down the side.

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Garfield

"A pleasing exterior and modern interior..."

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Garfield

The Garfield was an upstairs/downstairs duplex.

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Garfield

The hallways on the far right led to the second floor apartment.

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Garfifeld

This is the only Garfield I've ever seen, and it's in Janesville, WI.

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Janesville

Another view of the Garfield in Janesville.

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Janesville

Side by side, they're a sweet match!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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