Archive

Archive for May, 2013

So Many Kit Homes in Charleston, South Carolina!

May 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Several weeks ago, Charleston resident and Sears House aficionado Kevin Eberle contacted me and said that there were several kit homes in Charleston, SC.

Oh sure. I’d heard that one before.

Actually, what I typically hear is, “Why, this town is just FULL of Sears Homes! As far as the eye can see!”

But Kevin wasn’t making that claim. He was saying that he’d found several kit homes in Charleston.

Did I dare to hope?

And then, when I saw the photos, I did a little happy dance.

Kevin really had found an abundance of kit homes in Charleston and most of them are in beautiful condition.

Does Charleston have even more kit homes than is shown below?

It’s possible! If you know of a kit home in Charleston, please leave me a comment!

Many thanks to Kevin for supplying *all* of the photos in this blog. I posted the pictures (below), but Kevin did all the research and legwork.

To learn more about kit homes in South Carolina, click here.

*

Roanoke 1921

The Sears Roanoke as seen in the 1921 catalog.

*

house house house

The Roanoke in Charleston is in picture perfect condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house house house

At least 80% of the time, these 90-year-old houses are missing that wooden awning over the front windows. However both of the Roanokes in Charleston still have that awning. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house 1920

The Sears Belmont is a classic 1920s bungalows (1920 catalog).

*

house house house

And there's a stunning example of a Sears Belmont in Charleston, SC. This is only the 2nd Belmont I've seen "in the flesh." Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house 1921

The Saratoga was one of their larger homes. The floorplan shows a living room that is 14' wide and 29' feet long. Both living room and dining room have beamed ceilings.

*

Saratoga

This is a fine-looking Saratoga in Charleston and in mostly original condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house house house

This Saratoga's good looks have been somewhat diminished by the substitute siding, but at least, it's still standing. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house house

Comparison of the orginal catalog image and the house in Charleston. Unfortunately, they show two different sides, but it's most certainly a Saratoga. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Aladdin 1933

The Capitol, as seen in the Aladdin catalog (1933).

*

house

Kevin even found this Aladdin Capitol, despite the fact that it was built sideways on the lot! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Aladdin Villa 1919

Aladdin Villa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

*

Aladdin Villa maybe

Is this an Aladdin Villa? I'm honestly not sure, but it'd be fun to find out! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house Roberts 192f

The Gordon Van Tine Roberts (1924 catalog).

*

house house house

The Gordon Van Tine Roberts is easy to identify because it's such a unique house and (as far as I know) this particular design was never replicated by other companies. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

GVT 534

The Gordon Van Tine 534 was a very popular house (1919 catalog).

*

GVT 2003

Kevin found this GVT #534 in Charleston. This photo was taken in 2003. The house has been remodeled since this photo was taken. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The Sterling Sentinel, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

The Sterling Sentinel, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

*

house house Charleston

This was my favorite of the whole bunch. It's just a spot-on match to the Sterling "Sentinel"! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house compare

Comparison of the two houses. What a perfect match!

*

Thanks again to Kevin Eberle for sharing all these wonderful photos!

*   *   *

So Many Kit Homes in Waynesboro!

May 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Earlier this year, I had occasion to stop and visit Waynesboro and I found a few fine-looking Sears Homes.  Several days later, fellow kit house aficionado and researcher Linda Ramsey drove to the area and found four more kit Homes! (To see pictures, scroll down.)

On Thursday, October 17th, I’ll be returning to Waynesboro to give a talk on Sears Homes. It’ll be at the WTA Gateway, 329 W. Main St at 7:00pm. For more info, click here.

And you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home?

From 1908-1940, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Each 12,ooo-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days! During their 32 years in the kit house business, Sears and Roebuck sold about 70,000 houses, offered in 370 models.

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

*  The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.”

* The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

* Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.

Hope to see you Thursday night!

Thanks so much to Linda Ramsey for driving out to Waynesboro and finding these Sears Homes (and photographing them!).

To learn more about the history of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming talk in Waynesboro, click here.

*   *   *

Brist

First, my #1 favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And what's so cool about this is it's not just a kit house, but it it came from Gordon Van Tine. GVT homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs (just like Sears Homes), however GVT Homes were not as popular as Sears. And the house in Waynesboro is the "Bristol," a very unusual Gordon Van Tine home!

*

First, my favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And whats so cool about this is its not just a kit house, but it it came from Montgomery Ward! Wardway Homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs, however Montgomery Ward homes were not that popular.

The floorplans could be flipped (or reversed), based on the owner's preferences. I've flipped the image above to match the house in Waynesboro. It's pretty unlikely that these homeowners know that they have a house that came from a mail-order catalog.

*

Briston

And here's the Wardway Bristol in Waynesboro! And it's just a spot-on match to the catalog! Many thanks to Linda Ramsey for getting this photo and finding this Wardway home! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were simple, boxy little affairs, and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all.

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were "simple, boxy little affairs," and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all. This is the interior view of the GVT Bristol, showing the 20' by 12' living room. Check out the vaulted ceiling and the long, tapered fireplace.

*

First, my favorite. This is the Sears Alhambra, a hugely popular house for Sears - and a beautiful one too. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog.

Next is "The Sears Alhambra," a close runner-up to the Wardway Bristol. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog. It was offered in frame, stucco and brick. Stucco was the most common siding.

*

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro!

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro! And it's in brick! And it's also perfect in every detail! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah! What a perfect match!!! Oh my goodness!!

*

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore.

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore. This house was also offered in stucoo, frame and brick, but was most often built as a frame house with clapboard siding.

*

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above!

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above! Like the Bristol, the floorplan has been reversed. Look at that distinctive front door, and the asymmetrical front gable.

*

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

*

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

*

this is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (

This is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (Waynesboro house and catalog image).

*

Sears Lynnhaven

The Lynnhaven was a very popular model for Sears. And it's also a lovely house.

*

Its hiding behind a tree, but thats definitely a Lynnhaven back there.

It's hiding behind a tree, but that's definitely a Lynnhaven back there. Look at the details around the front door.

*

Linda also found

Linda also found a Conway/Uriel. (This popular model was known by both names.)

*

And what a fine Conway it is!

And what a fine Conway it is! And in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

*

house

Again, a very nice match to the original catalog image! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And heres a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

And here's a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

*

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

*

Again, its in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

Again, it's in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

How many more kit homes are there in Waynesboro? Probably many more than I’ve found thus far.

I’ll be arriving in Waynesboro on Wednesday morning, so if you know of a Sears House in the area, leave a comment below!

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming visit, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

*   *   *

The Wardway Warrenton in West Virginia

May 27th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

In 2009, I visited the tiny town of Rainelle, West Virginia and discovered several Sears Homes on Main Street. That was a lovely surprise.

And another nice surprise was finding a Wardway Warrenton in town, too.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit-home business (1908-1940). Wardway sold about 25,000 kit homes in roughly the same time period (1909-1932). Gordon Van Tine (who manufactured the houses for Montgomery Ward) sold about 50,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats on Wardway and Gordon Van Tine.)

Because of the rarity of these Wardway Homes, it’s always a nice surprise to find one, especially so far from the Midwest (where Montgomery Wards was based).

Many thanks to Skip Deegans for traipsing out to Rainelle and getting these photos for me!

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

*

Like Sears, Wardway kit homes were also

Like Sears, Wardway kit homes also had pre-cut lumber that was marked to facilitate construction. These many years later, those marks can help identify a house as a kit home.

*

The Wardway Warrenton

The Wardway Warrenton was a "splendid home," and the accompanying text said it was "dignified and handsome." In fact, it was a six-bedroom home which was unusually large for a house of this time period. Recommended colors were cream paint (walls) with white trim. Yawn.

*

house

The house was just shy of 2,200 square feet.

*

Wardway

The Wardway Warrenton as seen in the 1921 catalog.

*

house house hosue

Is this a Wardway Warrenton? Looks like it to me! Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house

Another view of the Wardway Warrenton in Rainelle, WV. Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

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

*   *   *

The Thrift Book of a Nation

May 26th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Earlier this week, my friend Rachel posted a picture of this 1922 Sears catalog in our Facebook group “Sears Homes.”

I found it utterly enchanting.

The cover shows a little girl dashing out to the mailbox to retrieve the goodies that just arrived from Sears & Roebuck. In the background, there’s a Sears Silo, a Sears Barn, and a Sears kit home, The Silverdale.

It’s an entire farm built by Sears!

Years ago, I interviewed Joseph Origer who’d purchased a Sears Hammond (kit house) out of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog.  He was inspired to buy a Sears House by his father.

Mr. Origer explained,

My dad built a Sears kit silo in 1911 and he was so impressed with the quality of the lumber (all cypress) that he decided to buy and build Sears Modern Home #101.

I remember my father telling me that his kit home was all number one lumber and material. All the building materials cost $879 and the total expense, including all carpenter labor, was less than $1500. I still have the itemized list of materials for that house!

When I decided to marry and stay on the farm, my parents suggested we go to Chicago and pick out another Sears home. Dad said, “you know the material will be good.”

These 60-plus years The Hammond has been a wonderful house. I am glad I built it. This house has been well maintained inside and out, and it is still just as good as new.

Mr. Origer’s experience was probably fairly typical. Potential customers might have been hesitant to purchase an entire kit house, but they were ready and willing to buy chicken coops, silos, corn cribs, milk sheds, tool houses and more.

How many American farms were filled with Sears outbuildings and kit homes?

I wish I knew!

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing these wonderful images!

house hose

Cover of the 1922 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

*

ban

The barn in the background is a Sears kit barn, L2055.

*

Sears barn 1918

The Sears barn as seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

*

house ouse house house house

Unnamed, happy child with severely deformed left leg and mangled left hand rushes out to the mailbox to see what parcels have arrived from Sears and Roebuck.

*

house house house

These must be some of Sears best customers! Not only did they order a house, silo and barn from Sears, but each day they receive a plethora of packages!

*

house house

Close-up of the Sears Silverdale. But what kind of car is that?

*

silverdale

The Silverdale, as seen in the 1916 Sears catalog.

*

Hettick, IL

A real live Silverdale in Hettick, IL.

*

house hose

Thanks again to Rachel for sharing this wonderful picture!

*

To learn more about the amazing Mr. Sears, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

*   *   *

The Sears Home in Needham, Massachusetts

May 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last week, I visited Needham, Massachusetts and spent time with my daughter, Anna Rose.

After a Saturday morning breakfast, we were driving back to her house when I saw a house that caught my eye on Webster Avenue. As she pulled up to a nearby stop sign, I hopped out of the car (much to my daughter’s surprise), and said, “Circle the block and pick me up in a few minutes!”

Not only had I spotted a Sears House, but it was a Sears Ivanhoe, one of their biggest and best kit homes!  Unfortunately, due to the many trees, I was not able to get a good photo, but there’s definitely a fine-looking Ivanhoe hiding behind all those trees!

Later in the day, I drove around town a bit more, but didn’t see any other kit homes. Then again, I probably only saw 30% of the pre-WW2 neighborhoods in Needham. And Needham is a very difficult community to navigate! The streets are very narrow and the traffic is very heavy.

Did I miss a few? I’m betting that I did.

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what IS a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!). The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

In fact, Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days! When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one. In fact, based on my 12 years of experience, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

This is a piece of American history that is at great risk of being lost, which is why I travel all over the country, take photos and maintain this blog.

Do you know of more kit homes in the Boston neighborhoods? Please leave a comment below!

To read about another kit home I found in New England, click here.

*   *    *

Needham is a suburb of Boston and to the flat-lander tourist, this appears to be an incredibly prosperous community.

Needham is a suburb of Boston and to the flat-lander tourist, it appears to be an incredibly prosperous community. The architecture is thoughtfully preserved and - with few exceptions - in excellent (original) condition. It's also a town full of churches. The Baptist Church is shown above.

*

The Sears Home I found in Needham is an Ivanhoe, one of the largest, fanciest, and most expensive models that Sears offered (1920).

The Sears Home I found in Needham is an "Ivanhoe," one of the largest and fanciest models that Sears offered (1920). It was more than 2,000 square feet, not including the sunporches.

*

fp

The dotted lines on the floorplan represented beamed ceilings (made of oak).

*

fine

Great symmetry! And notice the side porches. Plus, there was quite a bit of space on the 3rd floor.

*

Heres

This Ivanhoe is in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

*

Another Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois.

Another Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Carol Parish and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And heres the Ivahoe in Needham!

And here's the Ivahoe in Needham! Unfortunately, due to the abundance of trees, I had a heck of a time getting a photo of the house, but it's definitely a Sears Ivanhoe!

*

Detail of the dormer on the 3rd floor.

Detail of the dormer on the 3rd floor.

*

Another classic feature of the Ivanhoe are those oversized eaves. I was delighted to see that the house in Needham has not been decimated with aluminum trim and substitute sidings.

Another classic feature of the Ivanhoe are those oversized eaves. I was delighted to see that the house in Needham has not been decimated with aluminum trim and substitute sidings. These houses were built with all cypress exteriors. Cypress was billed as "The Wood Eternal." Because it's an oily, dense wood, it's naturally resistant to wood rot and insect infestation.

*

A view from the other side.

A view from the other side. Again, the landscaping made it very difficult.

*

house

And unlike 90% of the Ivanhoes I've seen, this one in Needham still retains its original little windows in the living room. The house is currently being remodeled. I hope the windows survive!

*

Ajf

And it sits on a big spacious lot!

*

I’d love to hear from folks in Needham. Are there other kit homes in the city? Please contact me by leaving a comment below!

Want to learn more about the superior quality building materials that were used in Sears Homes? Click here.

To learn more about kit homes in Boston, click here.

To learn more about Anna, click here.

*    *    *

Some People Can Just Watch TV…

May 23rd, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

But I’m not one of them.

Since 1981, I’ve worked for myself, owning a series of small businesses, some of which have been successful and some of which have not.  Currently, I only have one small business (”Gentle Beam Publications”) which publishes a handful of my own titles (such as “The Houses That Sears Built”).

All of which goes to explain why my #1 favorite show on Prime-Time TV is Undercover Boss.

Thursday afternoon, I finally got around to watching an episode which aired sometime earlier in the month (episode: “Epic Employees”), when I saw a house in the background that caught my eye. I hit the pause button on the DVR and took a closer look.

Next, I pulled out an old GVT catalog and thumbed through it, looking for the cute little house with the clipped gables and three dormers.

Sure enough, I was right. The house on Undercover Boss was a Gordon Van Tine kit home, Model #620.

For several months, I’d been hoping to find this model, as I’ve never seen one, and there it was. On TELEVISION!

Do you have a GVT Model #620 in your neighborhood? If so, please send me a photo!

And please do tell me, what is it like to be able to watch TV without studying all the houses in the background?  :)

To read the next splendiferous blog, click here.

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

*   *   *

house house house

The house shown in this scene from "Undercover Boss" is actually a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. What's it like to watch television without studying all the houses in the background? I do wonder about that sometimes. Strikes me as a little boring, actually!

*

house house

Close-up of the cute little house with the three dormers.

*

house

After seeing the house on television, I pulled up this image of GVT #620 (1927 catalog)!

*

house house

It was a darling little house with a good floor plan.

*

house

Note the three windows on the one side and the bay window on the side.

*

house

No doubt, it's the GVT #620 in the background. If you look close, you'll see the edge of the bay window with a shed dormer (just above the gray hair). What a fine little house!

*

According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVTs Proof of the Pudding), theres a #612 in

According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVT's "Proof of the Pudding"), there's a #620 in Palisades, NJ. And in this testimonial, they even give us an address!

*

And

And here's another GVT 620. This one is in Peshastin, Washington.

*

house house

The #620 in Peshastin was built by F. H. Tompkins.

*

Do you live near Peshastin or Palisades? If so, I’d love a photo!

*   *   *

Alhambra Abuse

May 14th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

The Alhambra was a fine-looking Spanish-flavored bungalow, and a very popular model for Sears.

However…

In my travels, I’ve seen these little pretties subjected to all manner of abuse.

The most egregious abuse is typically inflicted by vinyl-siding peddlers, those plastic-pushing pernicious parasites who roam the country, seeking whom they may devour with their polyvinyl chloride products of pestilence.

Not that I have strong feelings about this, mind you.

Several years ago, a vinyl-siding salesman appeared at the door of my 1925 Colonial Revival home, asking me if I was getting tired of painting the old cypress clapboards. He said he had a product that would make my house “maintenance free,” and asked if I’d like an estimate.

“Mister,” I said in a low growl, “You just need to back away very slowly, for BOTH of our sakes. Now just be on your way, and don’t ever EVER come back.”

I never did see him again. And that’s a good thing.

When applied to older homes, vinyl siding is very damaging to old houses, and can trap moisture between interior and exterior walls, causing mold, mildew, bug infestation and eventually wood rot.

In “The Vinyl Lie” (an article that can be found here),  Architectural Conservator Gary Kleier writes,

During the installation of vinyl siding a layer of styrene insulation board is applied over the wood siding, and the vinyl siding is applied to that. This insulation board forms an effective barrier to the passage of water vapor, thereby trapping it within the wall. During the winter months this water vapor will condense to liquid water and began rotting the wood materials. Over a period of years the structural integrity of the exterior walls can be completely destroyed. Further, the presence of deteriorating wood has been shown to attract termites and other wood attacking insects.

Gary specializes in restoration architecture and architectural forensic service. You can visit his website here.

To read some VERY well-done articles on the damage of substitute siding on older homes, click here.

Or read the full text of Gary’s article here.

To see a WONDERFUL documentary on the damage that vinyl causes, click here.

Click here to see some pretty Alhambras!

If you’d like to spend several days reading articles on how much damage vinyl siding does to an older home, google the words, “benefits of removing vinyl” plus “historic home.”

If you’d like to see what happens to the curb appeal of houses with vinyl siding, scroll on down.

*

The Alhambra

The Alhambra, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

*

Its unique floorplan makes it easy to identify!

It's unique floorplan makes it easy to identify!

*

Lets start by showing a VERY pretty Alhambra (in Gaffney, SC).

Let's start by showing a VERY pretty Alhambra (in Gaffney, SC). What a fine-looking house!

*

Oh man.

Oh man. that's really, really bad. And this time, it wasn't the vinyl siding salesman that ruined the home's original beauty. No, this house was attacked by an older version of the VSS. This house was attacked by a real ASS! (Aluminum Siding Salesman). Location: Ohio.

*

Eek.

Somewhere in Ohio, an Alhambra is missing its identify.

*

Ouch. Again.

Ouch. Again. By enclosing the front porch, they made those distinctive front windows disappear. They're still visible inside the house. Can this house be restored to its original appearance? Yes, but it'd be a whole lot of work. Location: Wisconsin.

*

Yikes.

Substitute sidings wreak havoc on historic homes. Location: Michigan.

*

Somewhere in Washington, DC, an architect has lost his mind.

Somewhere in Washington, DC, an architect has lost his mind. Yes Virginia, this is a Sears Alhambra. Or was. Gosh, I'm sure this house is MUCH more valuable now!!! NOT.

*

And lets close on a happy note. One of my Top Ten All-Time Favorite Alhambras. This beauty is in Lexington, VA.

And let's close on a happy note. One of my Top Ten All-Time Favorite Alhambras. This beauty is in Lexington, VA. Notice the fan light over the door! And it still has its original downspouts. Beautiful!

*

To read more about Alhambras, click here.

*   *   *

How NOT to Photograph a Sears Kit House

May 13th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Several times each week, folks send me emails asking, “Is my house a Sears House?” Usually,  they send photos along with their inquiries. But sometimes, the photos don’t help with the identification process.

My poor old laptop is already heavy laden with pictures of kit homes (about 50,000 photos and counting), so I’ve deleted the great majority of not-so-good pictures I’ve received.

However, I did save a few of my favorites.  :)

This was a favorite.

This was a favorite. I laughed out loud when I saw the photo. The writer asked me, "I think I live in a Sears House. Can you tell me what this is?" I wanted to write back and say, "Yes, it's a Silver Maple."

*

Another reader photo.

This is the architectural equivalent of asking someone to identify a picture of a criminal where the bad guy is wearing a ski mask. Just doesn't work too well.

*

This is actually a photo that I took. Its an Aladdin Pasadena. Can you tell?

Is there a house back there? Yes there is. And it's an Aladdin Pasadena!

*

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

To read about the first class lumber that went into kit homes, click here.

To read about the impressive collection of kit homes in Raleigh (The Tree City), click here.

*   *   *

The Things We Do For Love (of Sears Homes)

May 9th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

As a sensitive youngster, Fred Rogers (the “Mr. Rogers”) would sometimes become alarmed when he heard about bad things happening in the world. His mother comforted Fred by telling him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

It saddens me to think about how many Sears Homes have been razed or lost to horrific and insensitive remodeling.

In the world of historic architecture, where the losses are much bigger than the wins, it’s really important to “look for the helpers.”

One such helper is a man in Georgetown, Texas named Will Moore.

Will is a builder from that area, and in 2006, he learned that a Sears Avondale was in trouble. Some local folks owned the lot underneath the Avondale, and it was their intention to move the Avondale out “to the country,” so they could build their own home on the city lot.

Will had a sinking feeling that the little Avondale would not fare well, sitting out in a field, far from town, perhaps forlorn and forgotten. He negotiated a deal with the home’s owners and purchased the house, and had it moved six blocks over to a lot he owned on Elm Street.

That was 2006. Seven years later, he’s still working on the 1,600-square foot bungalow, pouring a whole lot of time, energy and money into the old Sears House.

“It’s been a lot of work,” he told me during a recent phone conversation, “And there have been a lot of issues. Some people might say call them ‘headaches,’ but I’m glad I did this. I saved the house. I’m a real history buff and a preservationist, and that’s the reason that I did this.”

And before the house could be moved, someone had to shave off those beautiful oversized eaves.

Will explains,

The city told me the house could only be thirty feet wide for the move, so I had to cut the eaves off both sides of the house to comply.And of course, the chimney, the front porch and the brick foundation were all knocked down to make the move. Those three items, plus the rebuilding of the roof, took a couple years to complete.

Presently, the home is still under renovation. After rebuilding the roof, the chimney, the porch, and finding matching brick for the underpinning, I have concentrated on the exterior. At sometime during its past life, the home was covered with vinyl siding. When I removed that, I found the underlying siding to be in such a state that it all needed to be replaced.

That required all the old siding to be removed, along with the window, door and corner trim. Additionally, code requirements would not allow me to use the original windows, and I have replaced those with new, but using the original design.

The new siding will be Hardieplank, but with small exposure. Even with new siding and efficient windows, the facade of the home will be very much in keeping with the 1914 look. In order to allow for modern efficiency, I blew insulation into the walls while I had the exterior exposed.

Will has promised to provide more photos as the restoration continues. And I’ve also asked for a few interior photos.

I hope someday I can make it down to Georgetown and meet this fellow, who has done so much for this wonderful old kit house, and who has done so much to save a historic structure in his community.

The news of Will’s faithful restoration of this old house has brought me much joy.

Will Moore of Georgetown, Texas is definitely, one of the “Helpers.”

To read more about the Avondale, click here.

*   *   *

The Sears Avondale was one of Sears most popular homes.

The Sears Avondale was one of Sears most popular homes. The Avondale was built as a model home for the Illinois State Fair (in Springfield) in 1909, and was wholly furnished with items from the 1,400-page Sears and Roebuck catalog. Pre-1918, Sears Homes had model numbers instead of names, so for this postcard, it was identified as merely a "bungalow."

*

Another postcard shows the fancy interior of the Avondale.

Another postcard shows the fancy interior of the Avondale (with all those furnishings from Sears). The dining room was unusually large for a typical Sears House, measuring 23 x 14 feet.

*

The 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog shows the dining room, which was massive.

The 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog shows the living room, which was 21 by 14 feet. The oak columns and screen (on the right) were an upgrade.

*

house

The Avondale was one of Sears larger (and better) homes, with two spacious bedrooms and one teeny tiny bedroom.

*

And it was praised by many thousands!

And it was "praised by many thousands"! Was that because it had a croquet set in the front yard?

*

Avondale

Sears would ask their customers to send a snapshot of the house after it was completed. Was this the photo that Mr. Logan (the home's original builder) sent to Sears? It might have been. He sure got the angle just right! BTW, is that snow on the roof, in Georgetown, TEXAS?? Photo is courtesy Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

Comparison of the Avondales, with the catalog (left) and Mr. Logan's dream home (right).

*

But wheres Mr. Logans croquet set?

But why doesn't 's Mr. Logan's house have a croquet set on the front lawn?

*

Another shot of Mr. Logans Avondale, shortly after it was built.

Another shot of Mr. Logan's Avondale, shortly after it was built (about 1914 or 1915). And there in the front yard is George Logan Junior's baby buggy. Photo is courtesy Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house

George Logan Jr., with his mother on the front porch of the Sears Avondale. The Avondale's current owner, Will Moore, told me that he was present when Mr. Logan (now 92) saw this photo recently. "It was an emotional moment for him," said Will. "He had never seen the photo before." There's so much that's wonderful about this photo, but my favorite part is that Mom is showing Junior a family photo album. And Junior appears to be wholly captivated. Photo is courtesy Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Fast forward about 91 years, and heres a photo of George Logan, Jr., sitting in the kitchen of the Avondale. Shortly after Will Moore purchased the house, Mr. Logan visited Mr. Moore. It was a happy day for both. a visit.

Fast forward about 91 years, and here's a photo of George Logan, Jr., facing the camera. Shortly after Will Moore purchased the house, Mr. Logan visited Mr. Moore. It was a happy day for both. Photo is courtesy Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

The Avondale, pre-move. Unfortunately, those beautiful eaves had to be shaved off before it could be relocated to its new lot. Photo is copyright 2006 Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

Another shot of the Avondale, before the move. Photo is copyright 2006 Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

Post move, the house is missing its eaves, but the new fireplace is finished, and looks beautiful. Will took out those four stained glass windows and put them in a safe spot. Photo is copyright 2006 Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

Tyvek wrap goes up before the new Hardiplank siding goes up. Due to local building codes, Will had to replace the original windows, but he did a good job of matching them to the old windows. The brickwork is all new as well. Photo is copyright 2006 Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house hosue

My favorite part of this story was hearing about how much George Logan Jr. enjoyed this old photo of him and his mother, on the front porch of their Avondale. I can only imagine the emotional ties he must have to this old house - the house built by his own father (George Logan Sr.) almost 100 years ago. In fact, this was the very house where George Logan, Jr. was born. These houses are such an important piece of our history, for so many different reasons. Photo is courtesy Will Moore and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read more about why Sears Homes matter, click here.

*   *   *

Next Stop, Waynesboro?

May 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

My talk in Staunton was well-organized (thanks to Historic Staunton Foundation) and well attended (standing room only!) and it was a lot of fun!

And what an unexpected delight to discover such a variety of kit homes in nearby Staunton! (Click here to read more about what we found!)

On my way to Staunton last week, I took a quickie ride through Waynesboro and found a handful of kit homes.  Some day soon, I’d love to come back and do a more thorough survey and give a talk.

For those newbies here, what is a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. These 12,ooo-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days!  From 1908-1940, Sears sold about 70,000 of these kits, and finding them is just like looking for hidden treasure.

OOOH, there are MORE Sears Homes in Waynesboro! Click here to see the rest of the photos!

To read about the kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

To see what I found in Waynesboro, scroll on down!

*   *   *

*

house

The 1920s were the hey-day for the Sears Modern Homes program. At its peak, the Sears Modern Homes catalog had almost 150 pages, with 100 models offered. Shown here is the cover of the 1930 catalog, with a Sears Lewiston on the front cover.

*

If you buy a Sears Modern Home, even your little dog will be happy!

If you buy a Sears Modern Home, even your little dog will be happy!

*

The Lewiston was a hugely popular house for Sears.

The Lewiston was a hugely popular house for Sears.

*

Its missing the happy dog and the little girl, but its definitely a Sears Lewiston, and its in Waynesboro.

It's missing the happy dog and the little girl, but it's definitely a Sears Lewiston, and it's in Waynesboro. Unfortunately, the original windows were replaced and the vinyl siding has obliterated some of the unique detail. However, it's still identifiable as a Sears Lewiston.

*

And you can tell its a Sears Home because it has an S on the chimney.

And you can tell it's a Sears Home because it has an "S" on the chimney. Ah not really. That's a tired old myth that's been lurking around on the internet since Al Gore first invented it. Oh wait, that's another old story. In fact, that "S" on the chimney has nothing to do with Sears. It's just a stylistic detail often found on Neo-Tudors. And I don't think Al Gore had much to do with inventing the internet, either. :)

*

But it does look

The Lewiston was remodeled, but it looks like the front door was spared! :)

*

The Sears Lynnhaven was a very popular house (1938 catalog).

The Sears Lynnhaven was a very popular house (1938 catalog).

*

house house house

And it was also a very pretty house.

*

The owners obviously love this house, but I wonder if they know that it *might* be a Sears kit house?

The owners obviously love this house, but I wonder if they know that it *might* be a Sears kit house?

*

And I found a Del Rey in Waynesboro, too, and this Del Rey is in beautifully original condition!

The Dely Rey I found in Waynesboro, is in beautifully original condition (1919 catalog).

*

Check out the floorplan for the Del Rey.

Check out the floorplan for the Del Rey.

*

house house

Notice the little railings in front of the casement windows? In all my travels, I have never seen a Del Rey that actually had these little railings in place. Until Waynesboro...

*

Be still my quivering heart!

Be still my quivering heart! It's a picture perfect Del Rey!

*

And it even has the little bump out (as seen above in the floorplan) for the kitchen area.

And it even has the little bump out (as seen above in the floorplan) for the kitchen area.

*

And original windows!

And not only does it have its original windows, but its original wooden storm windows!

*

Love those little railings!

Do these folks know that they have a Sears House? About 90% of the time, the people living in these historically significant homes did not realize what they had, until they were contacted by me (or someone *like* me!).

*

Next on the list is the Sears Westwood.

Next on the list is the Sears Collingwood (1930 catalog).

*

The Westwood is another kit home that I had never seen before in the flesh until I went to Waynesboro.

The Collingwood is another kit home that I had never seen before "in the flesh" until I went to Waynesboro. Notice the unusual bay window in the dining room with its hipped roof.

*

house

Wow, what a match! Unfortunately, I didn't have my chain saw with me, so the view was blocked by a Japanese Maple. I also forgot to bring along a tow truck to get that Ford Explorer out of the way. Seriously, the house was blocked by a myriad of obstacles. And the windows have been replaced - sadly.

*

The dormer is also a spot-on match. And apparently, it gets REALLY hot upstairs. Ive never seen dueling air conditioners before.

Apparently, it gets REALLY hot upstairs. I've never seen dueling air conditioners before. That aside, the details on this attic dormer are also just right.

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

To inquire as to Rose’s availability, please leave a comment below.

If you enjoyed the blog, please send the link to a friend!

*   *   *