Home > Uncategorized > Sears Homes in Richmond! What a Bonanza!

Sears Homes in Richmond! What a Bonanza!

In early January 2013,  I traveled to Richmond to pick up my daughter at the airport. I had a little extra time on my hands so I decided to drive around in “just one” neighborhood and my oh my, I found several Sears Homes in just a few blocks!

I had only a good hour of search time, so hopefully I can return soon and do more looking.

However, Richmond, Virginia is a very large city and it’d be helpful to know where I might find the neighborhoods that were developed in the first years of the 20th Century.

And if you’re new to this site, you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home? These were 12,000-piece kits that you could order out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each “kit” came with a 75-page instruction book and detailed blueprints, specifically designed for the novice home-builder.

These were complete kits, and came with all the paint, wood putty, coat hooks, towel racks, lumber, roofing shingles, gutter hardware, and nails that you would need. Plumbing, heating and electrical systems were not included in the kit, but could be ordered separately.

During their 32 years in the kit house business (1908-1940), Sears sold 70,000 of these kits in all 48 states. Today, the only way to find them is literally one by one.

And if you’re a regular visitor to this site, you may be wondering, how did Richmond, Virginia end up with so many kit homes? That’s what I’d like to know!!  :)

And how many more are out there, just longing to be discovered!

There’s a new mystery in Richmond! (March 14, 2014)  Click here to learn more!

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And one final note, more than 90% of the folks living IN a Sears House didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them. So there in Richmond, lots of people are in for lots of pleasant surprises!!

Enjoy the photos below, and if you know of a Sears House in Richmond, send me a note!

Should I start with my favorite? Above is a picture of the Sears Sherburne, from the 1921 Building Materials catalog. It was a spacious, grand house and Ive not seen many of these.

Should I start with my favorite? Above is a picture of the Sears Sherburne, from the 1921 Building Materials catalog. It was a spacious, grand house and I've not seen many of these.

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And here it is, looking much like it did when built in the early 1920s.

And here it is, looking much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s. What a house! And it came from a kit!

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And despite this being a fairly rare model of Sears Kit House, I found a second one, within a few blocks of the first house! And its also a real beauty!

And despite this being a fairly rare model of Sears Kit House, I found a second one, within a few blocks of the first house! And it's also a real beauty! Notice the dramatic cornice returns extending well over the front porch area.

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The big surprise of this excursion was this house, the Sears Avalon.

The big surprise of this excursion was this house, the Sears Avalon. This was another unusually fine and somewhat hard-to-find kit house offered by Sears. Prior to Richmond, I'd only seen maybe five Avalons throughout the country. And yet, in Richmond, I found FIVE within one seven-block area. FIVE Avalons! What in the world??

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Heres another view of the Avalon from the 1921 catalog.

Here's another view of the Avalon from the 1921 catalog. Notice the three square vents on the gabled porch roof (far left) and the small indent in the chimney. Also notice the small attic window over the porch. See how the porch columns are mostly masonry with a little bit of wooden column? These are all distinctive features.

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And the floor plans could be reversed, to take advantage of better lighting on the site.

And the floor plans could be "reversed," to take advantage of better lighting on the site.

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Wow. Just wow. One of the most perfect Sears Avalons, right here in Richmond. Wow.

Wow. Just wow. One of the most perfect Sears Avalons, right here in Richmond. Wow.

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Wow, isn’t that exciting to see such a perfect match to an old Sears catalog page? And whomever owns this house, really loves it. Wow!  :)

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Avalon #1 was on Semmes Avenue, near 30th Street.

Avalon #2 was on Semmes Avenue, near 30th Street. This house also has those three vents on the gabled end of the porch. In that this house has stucco, the porch columns were a little different, but that's a minor alteration and not significant in identifying this as an Avalon.

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Avalon #3. Im very happy that Richmond has so many Avalons that theyre to be numbered for identification.

Avalon #3. I'm very happy that Richmond has so many Avalons that they're to be numbered for identification. This was also retains its original railings.

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How cool!

How cool! Pretty amazing, isn't it!

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Avalon #4

Avalon #4. Turns out, most of these Avalons face due West, so I was photographing right into the morning sun. Some of these pictures aren't the best, but one has to do what one has to do! This house was on Riverside Drive. That's my hand at the upper left, trying to behave like a sun shield.

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Avalon #5. Despite its modifications and alterations, Im fairly confident that this is a Sears Avalon.

Avalon #5. Despite its modifications and alterations, I'm fairly confident that this is a Sears Avalon. The roof has been raised, giving it a higher pitch, and creating a small indented space in front of that attic window, but if you look at the details, you can see this looks like a Sears Avalon. Unfortunately due to sidewalk construction, I was not able to get a better photo.

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So that’s FIVE Avalons in this one small section of Richmond. FIVE. Prior to this, I’d only seen five Avalons in all my travels. Now I’ve seen 10. :)

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But theres still more. This is a Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

But there's still more. This is a Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Several unusual featurse around the front door give this house a distinctive appearance.

Several unusual features around the front door give this house its distinctive appearance.

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Is this a Sears Montrose on Roanoke Avenue?

Is this a Sears Montrose on Roanoke Avenue? It's pretty close. Look at the pent roof that continues around that sunporch. And look at the details around the front porch.

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The Sears Maywood was one of their finer homes.

The Sears Maywood was one of their finer homes.

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This appears to be a Sears Maywood, tucked away behind the trees.

This appears to be a Sears Maywood, tucked away behind the trees.

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The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears.

The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears.

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And youve got a lovely Westly in Richmond!

And you've got a lovely Westly in Richmond!

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This was an interesting find: An older Sears House (pre-1916).

This was an interesting find: An older Sears House (pre-1916). This was model #190.

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And such a nice example!

And such a nice example!

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The Sears Strathmore has always been one of my favorites!

The Sears Strathmore has always been one of my favorites!

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And heres another perfect example of it!

And here's another perfect example of it!

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In addition to Sears, there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level. One of them was Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago and a much smaller company than Sears, so imagine my surprise at finding a HB house in Richmond!

In addition to Sears, there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level. One of them was Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago and a much smaller company than Sears, so imagine my surprise at finding a HB house in Richmond! This is Harris Brothers Model J-161 (1920 catalog).

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Nice match, isnt it!

Nice match, isn't it!

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In addition to Harris Brothers, there was a company called Lewis Manufacturing.

One of the more popular houses offered by Harris Brothers was this house, Model N-1000.

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Is this

Is this the N-1000 (shown above)? It's certainly a possibility. Although not visible in this photo, this house has the rounded front porch, as seen on the floorplan in the catalog image above.

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Another national kit home company was Gordon Van Tine. They were probably almost as big as Sears.

Another national kit home company was Gordon Van Tine. They were probably almost as big as Sears. Here's a picture of the Gordon Van Tine Home #507.

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And heres a perfect representation of #507. Gosh, what a fine-looking house. Photo is copyright 2010, Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced.

And here's a perfect representation of #507. Gosh, what a fine-looking house. Photo is copyright 2010, Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced.

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How many more kit homes are hiding in Richmond? Probably a bunch. These houses above represent a brief visit to Richmond.

I’d love to return to Richmond and do a more thorough job of finding these houses, but where to look?

To learn more about Rose, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. heather
    January 16th, 2013 at 23:13 | #1

    I am researching because I believe my childhood home is a sears home. Would that be a significant factor in selling?

  2. Susan m. Fisher
    February 15th, 2014 at 09:11 | #2

    I am a Richmond artist living in a 1920s city of Richmond neighborhood.

    I think we have many, many Sears houses in Richmond.

    The most unusually ornate are on Grove avenue across the street from the Virginia museum of fine art. The Bellevue and Ginter Park neighborhoods north of the river, and all around Forest hill park south of the river are chock full of kit houses.

    I live in Bellevue near Hermitage Road and Laburnum Ave.

    If you return to Richmond, I would be delighted to meet for coffee and show you on a map the most likely areas.

  3. Chelsy
    February 15th, 2014 at 11:29 | #3

    These are all in my neighborhood! Super cool to see some of the history of the homes in our area.

    Have you ever traveled to Colonial Heights, va? It’s about 20 miles south of Richmond.

    My parents live there and they have often thought that their home was a Sears home and I know for a fact that there are many in their neighborhood.

    They live in the older section near Violet Bank Museum!

  4. Carolyn F.
    March 13th, 2014 at 08:04 | #4

    If you’re ever back in Central Va., check out Hopewell, about 25 mi. south of Richmond.

    They have a tour of the Sears homes there. I would hazard to guess there’s 10-12 there, of the different models. The town was a between-war factory town (still has 3-4 factories) and I was told the company managers were provided Sears homes.

    One of the people I talked to while working for the newspaper there had a great story–he used to deliver groceries to a home he really thought was cool, and found out as an adult it was for sale and now lives there!

    Rose’s reply: Oh my! You should read this blog and then get back to me!! :D BTW, Hopewell is not on my “good list.”

    http://www.searshomes.org/index.php/2012/09/01/one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other-part-iii/

  5. March 13th, 2014 at 23:39 | #5

    I live in the neighborhood where a lot of the Richmond Sears houses that you posted are located.

    I had a suspicion that mine may be, and began research years ago.

    Not much interest was gained by folks in my neighborhood, though I’ve always been excited by a Sears house. I do have a Montgomery Ward cabin that was purchased and constructed by relatives on a wonderful site outside of town.

    I am a painter who depicts the old neighborhoods and houses of Richmond and beyond. I have enjoyed your books and would love to meet if you are ever back in Richmond.

    Sincerely,
    M. Burgess

  6. Frank S
    March 14th, 2014 at 06:06 | #6

    Nice article! The houses on Grove Avenue in Richmond, across from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, are not Sears houses or kit houses of any kind.

    At least one of them was designed, built and lived in by noted architect Charles Robinson, who designed Richmond’s Mosque, Stuart Circle Hospital, and many schools and universities here and elsewhere.

  7. Jeanne H. Morrow
    March 14th, 2014 at 07:03 | #7

    These homes remind me of my grandmother’s house in Highland Park.

    It is in Richmond off of Laburnum Ave. somewhere near the fairgrounds area. There were some grand old homes in that area. She lived on Arnold Avenue.

    I think hers was like the first model. It could have been a Sears kit.

  8. Courtney Spencer
    March 14th, 2014 at 08:19 | #8

    A contractor who renovated our bathroom said that he thought our home might be a Sear’s Kit home for the date it was built, the way it looks and it’s proximity to railroad lines, but I can’t find any markings that would confirm it’s a sears kit home.

    Would love to know! We’re in the Forest Hill Park neighborhood in Richmond.

  9. Kenny
    March 14th, 2014 at 09:53 | #9

    Check out the Westwood Community hidden away between Grove and Oatterson street and between Libby ave and Willowlawn drive. There a lot of the really small Sears kit homes in that area.

  10. Brandy Wood
    March 14th, 2014 at 11:25 | #10

    Yes, I think you will find loads of these in Richmond’s Northside, both within the city limits, and just across into Henrico - off Lakeside Ave. I didn’t know about this. Thank you!

  11. Christine
    March 14th, 2014 at 11:35 | #11

    I live in the Battery Park section of Northside, where we have a bunch of Four Squares. I wonder if these are Sears Homes?

    I’ve looked at the beams under my house and they aren’t marked, so it’s hard to tell.

  12. Jill Mount
    March 14th, 2014 at 12:01 | #12

    I was raised in a Sears House in Kingwood WV — it was the Hollywood model.

    Have you found any examples of this model in Richmond? It was such a grand house!

  13. Erik
    March 14th, 2014 at 12:24 | #13

    I would love as well to know if my house is a Sears. It looks similar to a Westly, but has the full pitch at the back.

    I’m in a 1930s bungalow in Montrose Heights, a lot of these homes were built for CSX railroad employees as the railyard is just downhill from us, to the southeast.

  14. m.a.allen
    March 14th, 2014 at 22:10 | #14

    @Jeanne H. Morrow
    I grew up in the 600 block of Arnold Ave. I can’t think right offhand where a Sears home might have been. Perhaps on the corner of Napoleon and Arnold?

  15. Ann
    March 16th, 2014 at 11:13 | #15

    Hi, Rose!

    Thanks for this blog! It is a treasure trove of information on the Sears houses.

    I just bought a “Georgia” model in Norfolk, and am amazed how well it has held up (built in 1918).

    My Mom is going to get both of your books for me, and I’m going to order an Abstract of Title on the house which will (hopefully) take me all the way back to when/where the house was built.

    My understanding is that some of the houses along the Lafayette River were actually built elsewhere and then put on a barge for movement to their final location.

    I’m not sure if that is true or not, but it will be interesting to find out.

    I will also research the original floor plan, as this one has been altered somewhat in the interior to accommodate modernization. The hard wood floors are all still there, though, and look beautiful!

    Thanks again for such a great blog!

    -Ann

  16. Shawn
    March 18th, 2014 at 09:25 | #16

    Yes, if you have the time and interest, you should check out the Walnut hill section of Petersburg, VA (esp. Berkeley Ave area) and Colonial Heights in the area near Petersburg.

    There seem to be a LOT of kit homes in these places as well.

  17. Andrew Mutch
    March 19th, 2014 at 10:43 | #17

    @Ann Is it an Aladdin Georgia? If so, you can contact the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University to see about finding the sales record for your home.

  18. Katherine
    August 8th, 2014 at 17:28 | #18

    I live in Staunton now but am originally from Richmond!

    There are quite a few potential Sears homes in the neighborhoods in the Northside.

    Here in Staunton there are a few Sears homes as well, and many that fit the style and time period but that haven’t been confirmed!

    We just bought a craftsman style bungalow, but have no way of knowing if it was a kit home or not. You should come check them out next time you are in VA.

  19. Katherine
    August 8th, 2014 at 17:35 | #19

    Correction…..until now I have not been able to find one similar to my house but the Westly is almost exactly the same, the dormer on the front is a bit different but everything else is exact! Thank you for that…..now I have to do some investigating!

    @Katherine

  20. Allison
    October 23rd, 2014 at 19:26 | #20

    We just bought a 1939 cape cod style home in the North side of Richmond that I *think* might be a Sears home. May I send you a picture for information?

    Amazing blog, btw!

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