Home > Uncategorized > Charlottesville Kit Homes: The Good, The Grand, and The Ugly

Charlottesville Kit Homes: The Good, The Grand, and The Ugly

On March 23, 2013, I traveled from Norfolk to Charlottesville to take my ham radio test (and I passed!). Along the way, I stopped at Mineral, Gordonsville and Louisa to look for kit homes.

The best part of finding and documenting these old kit homes is that more than 3/4ths of the people living in these historically significant kit homes did not realize what they had until they discovered that information here at my website (and/or received a note from me). This is a piece of America’s architectural past that’s at risk of being lost to the ages.

Click here to learn more about  how to determine if you have a kit home.

*

First, the good.

First, the good. The Sears Glen Falls was a beautiful Dutch Colonial and spacious, too (1928).

*

glen falls

At 2,900 square feet, the Glen Falls was just a little smaller than the biggest Sears House of them all - The Magnolia. The Glen Falls was also the second most expensive house that Sears offered (The Magnolia being the most expensive). Notice the butler's pantry (between the dining room and the kitchen). These were unusual features for an early 1920s kit home.

*

Is this a Sears Glen Falls?

Is this a Sears Glen Falls? With the paired french doors, it sure looks like s a good match, but I'd need to know the home's exterior footprint to authenticate it.

*

First, the good.

And on to the grand! This is a Sears Rockford, one of Sears finer homes. This majestic foursquare was offered only in brick. It's shown here in the 1928 catalog. I've only seen three other Rockfords and all three of them were in Virginia.

*

house house

Notice the detail on the columns, and the eave brackets. Also notice the window arrangement.

*

house house

And here's a picture-perfect Rockford in Charlottesville. What a grand find! Do the owners know it's a Sears Rockford? I'd love to know.

*

house house house

Oh my, what a lovely match!

*

Rockford

The astute observer might notice that the dormer on the Charlottesville Rockford is just not a perfect match to the original catalog image. I've seen three Rockfords (all in Virginia) and each of these Rockford had a much smaller dormer than is depicted in the catalog's line drawing. Shown above is the Rockford in Cape Charles, Virginia.

*

Thanks to K. Edward Lay, Ive learned that theres a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

Thanks to K. Edward Lay, I've learned that there's a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

*

Also thanks to Ed Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville!  And its the Aristocrat of bungalows!

Also thanks to K. Edward Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville! And it's the "Aristocrat of bungalows!" Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

*

Another view!

Another view of the "Aristocratic Bungalow" in Charlottesville, VA. Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

*

Before we get to the ugly, lets talk about the mysterious.

Before we get to the "ugly," let's talk about the mysterious. This is a Sears Barrington, a hugely popular house for Sears (1928 catalog). Notice the cornice dormer, the front-gabled foyer and the darling little windows within that gable.

*

Well lookie here! Is this a Sears Barrington?

And here's where it gets mysterious. Is this a Sears Barrington in Charlottesville? It sure looks like it could be. Oooh, but wait, look at the half-round door! And the darling little window is squared, not angled (as is shown in the image above). And there's no light over the door. Hmmm. So, maybe it's not a Sears Barrington? Tough to know for sure. It's another house that bears more investigation.

*

Here in Virginia, Ive found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses.

Here in Virginia, I've found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses. Shown here is an Aladdin Newcastle, which looks a lot like a Sears Barrington, except, the Newcastle does have that rounded entry door, and there's no light over the door. However, the darling little windows are still not quite right.

*

So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington?

So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington? I don't know. I'd love to get inside the house and look at the framing members. You can learn a lot by looking at framing members.

*

For instance, if it has a mark like this, its a Sears kit home.

For instance, if it has a mark like this, it's a Sears kit home. This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, told the novice homebuilder how all those 12,000 pieces and parts went together.

*

If it has a mark like this, its an Aladdin.

If it has a mark like this, it's an Aladdin.

*

And now, the ugly.

*

Westly

The Sears Westly was surely one of their most popular designs, and was proably one of their top ten best-selling models. It's a very cute house and has a good floor plan. However, sometimes bad things happen to good Westlys. Image is from 1916 Sears catalog.

*

Before we hit the ugly, heres a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is.

Before we hit the ugly, here's a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is. And it's in original condition, too. Not bad for a 90-year-old home.

*

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

*

Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, Im 98.765% certain that it is. Ive seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, I'm 98.765% certain that it is. I've seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

*

Poor little Westly.

Poor little Westly. There's so much that's wrong with this house. It's kind of an anachronism of bad remodeling practices through the decades. From the T-111 siding on the exterior to the 1980s picture windows to the fake stone facade to the mismatched lanterns on the home's front, this poor house has suffered pretty much every architectural indignity imaginable.

*

Whew. That was rough. Back to the good.

*

And theres this.

In addition to the kit homes, Charlottesville also has a few "Plan Book" houses. These were different from kit homes. With plan books, you'd browse the pages of the catalog and pick out a house and send off for the blueprints. A complete inventory of all building materials that you'd need came with the deal. The lumber and hardware could then be purchased locally.

*

Shown above is a plan book house, The Somerset.

Shown above is a plan book house, "The Somerset."

*

And Charlottesville has two of them!

And Charlottesville has two of them!

*

Do you know of a kit home in Charlottesville? Please leave a comment below and Rose will respond as soon as possible.

To learn more about how to identify a house based on the lumber markings, click here.

To read about the delightful collection of kit homes in Staunton, click here.

*   *   *

  1. Dale Wolicki
    April 3rd, 2013 at 19:29 | #1

    I think you may have over-stepped your authority. You cant throw caution tape and a “No Trespassing” sign on house just because someone defaced it.

  2. April 3rd, 2013 at 21:54 | #2

    @Dale Wolicki
    You are SO funny!!! I laughed out loud - literally - when I read your comment.

    Oh, how I wish it *was* me that put out the caution tape and “No Trespassing” sign!! I need to start carrying some of that in my trunk!!

  3. PAULA NANIA
    March 13th, 2017 at 09:58 | #3

    It’s 339 Meade Avenue, Charlottesville, VA.

    I believe I own a Winona.

  4. March 13th, 2017 at 12:26 | #4

    @PAULA NANIA
    Paula, I think you’re right. It certainly does look like one. I’d like to see a picture of that left exterior wall and the bay window. Can you send that to me?

    rosethornton@cox.net

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Additional comments powered by BackType