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Archive for June, 2013

Be Still My Heart: The Eighth Magnolia?

June 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Updated!! See detailed photos here!!

A few moments ago, my sleepy husband stuck his head into the room and said, “It’s 3:11  in the morning. Why are you still up?”

“Well, I think we’ve found our eighth Magnolia,” I replied.

“Oh,” he said quietly, as he toddled back to the bedroom.

No additional information was needed.

Every month, I get a handful of emails from people who are 100% certain that they’ve found the crème de la crème of all kit homes: The Sears Magnolia.

And 98% of the time, they’re wrong.

Sears sold kit homes from 1908-1940, and in that 32-year span, they offered 370 designs. Of those 370 designs, the Magnolia was the fairest of them all (and the biggest and the most expensive).

In 1918 (the year the Magnolia first appeared), 90 designs were offered, and only 13 of those homes cost more than $2,000. Not counting the Magnolia, the most expensive house in that catalog was the Preston, at $2,812.

The other 76 models offered in 1918 were under $2,000, and the overwhelming majority of those were less than $1,200.

The price tag for the Magnolia was $4,485.

Most of the Sears Homes in that 1918 catalog had less than 1,000 square feet, and the Magnolia had almost 3,000 square feet.

For years and years, it was widely believed that only six Magnolias had been built in the country, and yet their locations were not known. In time, those six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth had been destroyed by fire in Nebraska. (Of those six Magnolias, the house in Benson was the “newest” discovery, found in March 2010.)

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.

One dead (and cremated).

And then in May 2011 (thanks to this blog), someone  contacted me and said that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

I didn’t pay too much attention, because frankly, I’d heard it before, but fortunately, a friend and faithful reader (Heather Lukaszewski) did pay attention and she did a little research. She wrote me a nice note and said, “I think this may be the real deal.”

And that’s how we found the 7th Magnolia. The discovery made the local papers, and it was all pretty exciting. Click here to read the article from May 2011.

All of which brings me to this newest discovery of an 8th Magnolia!

Friday evening, someone contacted me and said that he lived in a house that was across the street from a Sears Magnolia. We exchanged several emails and I started to get pretty interested in this story. It had a lot more background and depth than the typical “There’s a Magnolia just down the street” stories.

Thanks to a lot of help from Rachel Shoemaker and Mark Hardin, we were able to see the house via Bing Maps, and I have to say, I think we’ve got a winner.

In fact, I’d be willing to say that I’m 90% certain that we’ve found our 8th Magnolia.

And the best part of all?

It’s in West Virginia.

I love West Virgina and I’m headed to Elkins in six weeks (with the aforementioned hubby) to visit family.

I’d sure love to stop by this sweet old kit house and check it out in person. Boy oh boy, would I love to see this fine house in the flesh.

Wow.

Just wow.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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Magnolia 1918

The Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog, and yet, those leaves in the border are not Magnolia leaves. What a fraud!

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1918  1918

Close-up of the Magnolia (1918)

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house house

The Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Modern Homes catalog (shown above). In 1919, the Magnolia hit its highest price: $10,000, more than double its price in 1918.

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1921

In 1921, the price of the Sears Magnolia dropped to $6,489 and one year later, it would drop to $5,849. Following WW1, prices of building materials fluctated dramatically.

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Magnolia Benson

In March 2011, a reader told me that there was a Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Janets house

The Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio was almost lost due to neglect but was lovingly restored in the 1990s. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet's Hess LaMonica and may not be reproduced without written permission.

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Syracue

Our 7th Magnolia, in Syracuse! And what a fine-looking kit house it is! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Magnolia columns

Close-up of the columns on the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama.

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To learn more about the Sears Magnolias among us, click here.

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Sears Modern Home #179: Magnifico!

June 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 12 comments

Last month, a reporter contacted me and asked if I knew of any kit homes in Jacksonville, Florida. My first thought was, Whoa boy, that might be tough finding many kit homes that far south!”

For a long time, it’s been widely believed that there just aren’t that many kit homes in the deep south.

The reporter and I exchanged a few emails, and much to my delight, she said that she’d found a kit house, Sears Modern Home #179.

Reading her email, I thought, “Suuuuuuure it is.”

Model #179 is a rarity, and neither me, nor Rebecca Hunter, nor Dale Wolicki have ever seen a Model #179.  This model was only offered for two years (1912 and 1913), and it’s a very distinctive house with a quirky floor plan.

But it turned out, this reporter was right.

And not only had she found Modern Home #179, this house was in beautiful condition!

And better yet, the home’s owners, Tami and George Lugeanbeal knew that they had a Sears House, and they love their remarkable, unique, historically significant kit home.  (Just across  the street from Modern Home #179, I found another delightful surprise: An Aladdin Georgia, and just like its pristine neighbor, the “Georgia” was also in beautifully original condition. Click here to read about that.)

George was kind enough to send me several photos of his wonderful house, so that all may see and enjoy this beautiful, rare and lovingly restored 99-year-old Sears Kit Home.

Thanks to Tami and George Lugeanbeal for sharing these pictures, and also thanks to Amanda Durish Cook (Florida Times-Union) for finding the Lugeanbeals and their beautiful Sears House!

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1913 colorized.

Modern Home #179 (offered in 1912 and 1913). George sent me this image, and it's been colorized. Not . Not sure where George found it, but it's a nice representation.

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As mentioned, the original floor plan is a little funky.

As mentioned, the original floor plan is a little funky. The bathroom is off the kitchen, and there is no bathroom upstairs (as built). Plus, the living room has nothing behind it.

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Up on the third floor, George found an original shipping label.

George found an original shipping label on that dormer window in the attic. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ship

On the left of the shipping label it reads "If not delivered in 15 days, return to 925 Homan Avenue in Chicago" (Sears headquarters). The destination for this kit house was originally Ortega Train Depot, on the CRI and P, which is the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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George has something every old house owner dreams of: An image of his house from the 1940s.

George has something every old house owner dreams of: An image of his house from the 1940s. Photo is courtesy George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Georges Modern Home #179 as seen in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Modern Home #179 as seen in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And

And here it is, in the flesh! What a beauty! And it looks much like it did when built 99 years ago. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Modern Home #179 also has the worlds most perfect front porch.

One day, I hope to visit Modern Home #179 and sit in one of those white rockers. This is surely one of the prettiest front porches in the world. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Porchy porch porch porch

Look at those columns, still as straight and true as they were when first erected 99 years ago. According to George's information, the house was built in 1914. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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One of the features that makes this house so wonderful are the details. This bracket

One of the features that makes this house so wonderful are the details. If you look at the original catalog image, you'll see this bracket on the underside of the front porch roof. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Modern Home #179, as seen from another angle.

This looks like an ad for Sears Weatherbeater Paints, doesn't it? "Weatherbeater, by Sears, for great American homes, like yours." It's the perfect encapsulation of all that was right with America 100 years ago, and it's also a beautiful home. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wow

From this angle, you can easily see that bay window on the first floor. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The interior has some interesting details, too

The interior has some interesting details, too, such as this long, cool stack of drawers. Was this built as drawers, or was it originally a linen closet, or perhaps an ironing board cabinet? Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And some cool door hardware, too!

And George's #179 some cool door hardware, too! Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More very cool door hardware, from Sears & Roebuck!

More very cool door hardware, from Sears & Roebuck! Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the pièce de résistance is a letter that George and Tami found hidden in a wall from the homes prior occupant.

And the pièce de résistance is a letter that George and Tami found tucked away in a wall from the home's prior occupant. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And here it is, in Jacksonville, Florida. And I never would have found it had it not been for that reporter from the

And here it is, in Jacksonville, Florida. And I never would have found it had it not been for that reporter from the Florida Times-Union. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks to George and Tami for sharing so many wonderful photos! And thanks to Amanda Durish Cook for finding the Lugeanbeals!

To read about the beautiful Aladdin kit home just across the street, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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When All Else Fails…

June 20th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Last Friday, we had a wind gust sweep through Hampton Roads and with that one lone gust of 65+ mph winds, we lost power here at the Ringer Ranch (as did 307,000 other households in Hampton Roads). Next, I picked up my cell phone to call my daughter Crystal. Apparently, the cell towers were overloaded. I could neither make nor receive phone calls.

Those little cell phones we all love so dearly are actually radios, operating on less than one watt (and sometimes as low as .3 watts). But this technologically advanced system of communication has a big downside: It’s very fragile.

During a storm, cell towers can be damaged. When too many people use their phones, the system can get overloaded. During a crisis, the government has a legal authority (and ability) to commandeer cell phone towers or even cut them off (as happened with the Boston bombing).

Communications - especially in times of emergency - are so vital. How can we reach people when power is down, phone lines have fallen and cell phones aren’t working?

Ham (Amateur) Radio.

Field Day provides live demonstrations of Ham Radio in countless cities throughout the country and specifically, here in Norfolk (at Tarrollton Park on Tarrollton Drive).  This is a nationwide event, and thousands of experienced Ham Radio operators will be involved, and all will be eager, ready and able to answer any questions you might have.

The raison d’être for “Field Day” is to help amateur radio operators hone their emergency communications skills.  In other words, we’re training and practicing to help you when things get rough.

In 2003, my elderly father lost phone service and power during Hurricane Isabel. We had no way to contact him. Had I known about the availability of Ham Radio, I would have eagerly sought out an experienced ham radio operator and asked him/her to relay a message to Portsmouth, and check on this 83-year-old man who’d already had three severe heart attacks.

The American Radio Relay League (also known as the ARRL) is the largest organization of radio amateurs in the world (with 160,000 members). And the title above (”When All Else Fails”) comes from ARRL.

Want to see how this all works?  Drop by Tarrollton Park (in Norfolk) on Saturday or Sunday and learn a little bit about what Ham Radio is all about.

If nothing else, we’re good people to know. Just in case.

Just in case.

To learn more about Field Day, click here.

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

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Two years ago, I became a licensed ham radio operator. Since then, Ive obtained my Extra license (the highest level) because I believe that being able to communication in times of emergencies is vital.

Two years ago, I became a licensed ham radio operator, thanks in part to this movie, "Testament." Since then, I've obtained my "Extra" license (the highest level) because I believe that being able to communicate in times of emergencies is vital.

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My friend Milton has an awesome set-up.

One example of an awesome vintage ham radio set-up (from the 1980s).

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ham

My set-up is so simple that even a Sheltie can operate it! Okay, maybe not, but if she had opposable thumbs, that'd help. .

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Jim and Milton (fellow hams) install a new antenna.

Jim and Milton (fellow hams) install a new antenna.

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The best of both worlds: Large antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois

Ham radio antenna mounted on Sears kit home ("The Avondale) in Litchfield, Illinois. When times get rough, the people who have these antennas in their yard will be your new best friends. But not all antennas are visible from the front yard.

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To learn more about the movie Testament, click here.

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Waynesboro and Their Kit Homes, Part III

June 16th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Thanks to Staunton resident and old house lover Linda Ramsey, we’ve now made several fun discoveries of kit homes in Waynesboro, using only Linda’s photos, good work and persistence!  (To read Waynesboro Part I click here. For Part II, click here.)

And Linda’s most recent find is the very rare Gordon Van Tine “Bristol” - right there in Waynesboro, Virginia.

She sent several photos to me several weeks ago, and among those photos was a perfect Alhambra and also a Collingwood (Sears House). In my excitement, I overlooked the best one in the bunch - the GVT Bristol!

In just the last few hours, Rachel Shoemaker and Linda Ramsey have identified several more kit homes in Waynesboro.

As a native of Virginia (and resident of Norfolk), I’d love to return to Waynesboro sometime soon and do a thorough street-by-street survey of the city. Judging by Linda’s many finds, when I was in Waynesboro in May, I missed “the sweet spot.”

When you’re a flat-lander tourist driving yourself around an old town, it can be tough to 1) stay on the road, 2) not sideswipe any parked cars, 3) not impale pedestrians with your hood ornament, 4) stare intently at each and every house.

I’ve done hundreds of architectural surveys in hundreds of cities, and I’d love to get some folks in Waynesboro involved in the fun!

Lastly, I’d be willing to bet that the home’s current owners do not know what they have.

Do you live in a Sears Home in Waynesboro?

To read the prior blogs featuring the kit homes in Waynesboro, click here and here.

To contact Rose and ask about her availability, please leave a comment below.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey for finding this house and thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying the vintage catalog images.

If you’re in Waynesboro, please share this blog with anyone and everyone!!!

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The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine catalog. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker (who not only found this rare GVT model in her many catalogs, but also scanned the image and sent it along).

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Floorplan

So many of the floorplans for these kit homes were "similar" but the Bristol's unique shape afforded it a little extra flair on the room arrangement. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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I wonder if the home's current owners find that their home "commands enthusiastic admiration." It's quite unlikely that the home's owners know what they have a historically significant home. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker

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house house

This was an unusually fine home. Look at the cathedral ceiling in the living room. I know of only one other kit house that had a raised ceiling like this, and that was a house offered by Pacific Ready Cut Homes in Los Angeles. This is a most unusual (and elegant) feature for a kit home. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine. Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the catalog image!

The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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Waynesboro

Be still my heart. I went through Waynesboro in May 2013, but I surely did miss this house. Fortunately, Sears House researcher Linda Ramsey did not miss it. And, I must say, it does appear to be a GVT Bristol. All the details are just right. Photograph is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

And there's that unusually high roof. If it's not a GVT Bristol, it sure is doing a good imitation of one! Photograph is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read the prior blogs featuring the kit homes in Waynesboro, click here and here.

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Georgia, Sweet Georgia (By Aladdin)

June 12th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, a Jacksonville reporter contacted me and asked if I knew of any kit homes in the area. We exchanged a few emails, and much to my surprise, she said that she’d found a kit house, and in fact, she’d found a rare house:  Sears Modern Home #179.

Reading her email, I thought, “Sure you did. Right. And I bet that there are three Sears Magnolias around the corner and a whole block of Aladdin Villas just down the street.”

With a little digging, we found an address for this #179 and then (thanks to Google Maps), I “drove” to the address. Sure enough, it was a picture-perfect Sears Modern Home #179 (read about that here!).

Across the street from Modern Home #179, I found another delightful surprise: An Aladdin Georgia, and just like its pristine neighbor, the “Georgia” was also in beautifully original condition.

Jacksonville, Florida has two more kit homes than I would have thought likely and both are jaw-dropping gorgeous. And what a nice bonus, that this time, it was the reporter that told me about this rare Sears House!

Now about that Aladdin Georgia…

Did I mention that it’s a beauty? And the home’s owner did not realize it was a kit home prior to my discovering this house, and I would have never discovered this house if it weren’t for that resourceful reporter!

Thanks so much to Tracy and Bethany for supplying these wonderful photos!

To learn more about Aladdin click here.

The Aladdin Georgia as seen in the 1919 Catalog.

The Aladdin Georgia as seen in the 1919 Catalog.

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Aladdin Georgia was offered in two sizes, with two floorplans.

Aladdin Georgia was offered in two sizes, with two floorplans.

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floorlp

Floorplan #2 was two feet longer and two feet wider.

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In the mid-1910s, Aladdin built

In the mid-1910s, Aladdin built a "Georgia" in Bay City, documenting the progress day by day. The house was "move-in ready" in about 20 days. These were the days before portable saws, and for a small-time or novice homebuilder, the average two-bedroom bungalow would require more than 4,000 cuts with a hand-saw. (The electric portable saw was first marketed in the early 1920s.) Pre-cut lumber presented a huge savings in time and effort. To have a house ready for occupancy 20 days after construction began (not including foundation work) was a remarkable achievement.

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house

The photographic record of the fast-built Georgia (about 1915).

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Day ONe

Note, this house was framed using platform construction, NOT balloon! And the foundation was not included in the "built in 20 days" time-frame. Note the shingles in the foreground.

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Day Two

According to accompanying text, the carpentry work (framing in and sheathing) was done by one carpenter with two helpers. By day two, the house is framed in!

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Day four

By the fifth day, it's taking shape.

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Day seven

On the 7th day, the two workers saw all that they had done and they were very pleased. Note, the guy on the scaffolding is taking a smoke break.

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Day nine

Day eleven has arrived and it's looking substantially done (exterior).

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DOne and done

Twenty days later, it's complete, inside and out.

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Finis!

Finis!

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Oh my goodness!

Oh my goodness! There's the house in Jacksonville! What a dreamie house! And it's in such wonderful condition! Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Oh baby!

Oh baby! Excuse me, haven't I seen you somewhere before, like a glossy magazine featuring the most beautiful bungalows in America? Where have you been all my life? Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house

Nice comparison of the subject house and the vintage image. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the homes owner was kind

And the home's owner was kind enough to supply some photos of the home's interior. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Homeowner pictures inside lif

It's a house filled with windows and light. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house kitchen house

From the living room, looking into the dining room. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house fireplace

This fireplace is in the dining room, and those narrow cabinets are actually pass-throughs to the kitchen. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house

What a house!

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Do you know of any other kit homes in Jacksonville? Please leave a comment below!

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

What fueled the bungalow craze? Germs!

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The Historic (Kit) Homes of Concord, Massachusetts!

June 11th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

My husband and I recently returned from the Boston area, where we visited my daughter. For Sunday lunch, we landed in Concord, Massachusetts and on the way out of town, I spotted an Aladdin kit home - The Plaza.

And what a beautiful Plaza it is!

Much to my chagrin, I was not able to get a photo of this fine home because it’s located on a busy street, and the traffic on that narrow road was unbelievably horrific!

And now, I’m wondering, how many more kit homes are there in this historic Revolutionary town?

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.

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.

In the early 1900s, there were six national companies selling these mail-order kit homes. Aladdin was one of those six companies, and it was in business longer than Sears (and sold more houses), but is not as well know.

How many more kit homes are in Concord? I’d love to know!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To read about the Sears house I found in Needham, click here.

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Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears (in terms of selling kit homes) but was not as well known. This image is from Aladdins 1914 catalog.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears (in terms of selling kit homes) but was not as well known. This image is from Aladdin's 1914 catalog.

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Roanoke Rapids, NC is an example of a town built by Aladdin.

Roanoke Rapids, NC is an example of a town built by Aladdin.

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The Plaza was a classic bungalow and a popular house for Aladdin.

The Plaza was a classic bungalow and a popular house for Aladdin.

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Aladdin Plaza

The accompanying text pointed to the Aladdin Plaza as a "woman's reward for thrift."

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Plaza

Plaza, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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The Aladdin Plaza in Concord has had a couple minor changes, but it’s still mighty close to the original catalog image. And, be still my little heart, it still has its original porch railing! Does the owner know that they live in a historically significant kit house? I’d love to know! Photo is from the assessor’s website, and I’m hoping that assessor is a friendly fellow, and doesn’t mind the fact that his lovely photo was “borrowed” for such a historical purpose.

Heres another perfect Aladdin Plaza, and this one is in Roanoke Rapids. Like the house shown above, this one also has its original porch railings.

Here's another perfect Aladdin Plaza, and this one is in Roanoke Rapids. Like the house shown above, this one also has its original porch railings.

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And heres an Aladdin Plaza in my home town, Norfolk.

And here's an Aladdin Plaza in my home town, Norfolk.

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Do you know of any kit homes in Concord? Please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

If You Like Looking at Pictures of Old Houses…

June 8th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

You should join “Sears Homes” on Facebook!

About three years ago, I started the group on Facebook to provide a public forum for answering questions about kit homes.

And I’m happy to say - to my surprise and delight - I have learned so much about kit homes from that group! Our 260+ members post a plethora of photos of kit homes from all over the country. It’s been a whole lot of fun.

If you’re interested in learning a lot about kit homes, I highly recommend joining us on Facebook.

Just look for us under the name “Sears Homes” or you can click here.

On Facebook, we talk about important topics, like how to spot subtle differences in kit homes.

"One of these things is not like the other." On Facebook, we talk about important topics, like how to spot subtle differences in kit homes. The pictures above show three Sears Magnolias (Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana) and one mis-identified Magnolia in Hopewell, VA. Can *you* see that "one of these houses is not like the other"? Then you have already pre-qualified yourself as an expert kit-house hunter!

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And we talk about how to identify marked lumber in kit homes.

And we talk about how to identify marked lumber in kit homes.

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And not all marked lumber is the same!

The markings can help identify which company produced the house.

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photo

Lots of cool vintage photos, too.

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The cool vintage photos are my favorite part!

The cool vintage photos are my favorite part!

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And where else would you learn that Kris Kristofferson worked for Sears Roebuck in the early 1920s, as a professional logger?

And where else would you learn that Kris Kristofferson worked for Sears Roebuck in the early 1920s, as a logger? The fellow with his back to us is a very young Willie Nelson. According to legend, it was this experience that inspired Willie to write, "I Am The Forest."

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And we talk about cool old houses from other kit home companies, too.

And we talk about cool old houses from other kit home companies, too.

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Like this

Like this Harris Brothers Model 1512 in Raleigh, NC.

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To learn more, click here.

To listen to Willie sing, “I Am The Forest” click here.

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Where Are the Rest of the Sears Homes in Charlotte?

June 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last year, I spent several hours driving around in Charlotte, NC searching for Sears Homes, and found only a handful.

And then a few days ago, Sears House Hunter Andrew Mutch sent me a link to a Sears Corona that was for sale in Charlotte. My oh my, that was a beautiful house. You can read all about it here.

In fact, I am geographically challenged and there’s a fair chance that I spent most of my time in one neighborhood (reflected by the photos below). I’d love to know where the rest of the Sears Homes are!

What did I miss?

Further, I found two “reproduction” Sears Homes, and that’s a puzzler as well. Someone in Charlotte loves Sears Homes enough to create MODERN versions of these old bungalows and foursquares!

Who are they? And why haven’t they contacted me?  :)

If you know who built these reproduction Sears Homes, please leave a comment below.

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There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

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Heres one

A perfect Sears Crescent in Charlotte. I circled the block about 4,873 times waiting for the woman on the cell phone to hang up and go back in the house. Eventually, I gave up and just tried to get a photo of her not facing the camera. The things we do for love. Sigh.

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house house house

It's a lovely Sears Crescent in good condition, and it's not too far from its sister Crescent (above). The American flag is a lovely touch but not so much the upholstered furniture. At this point, I was just grateful there wasn't someone sitting in the upholstered furniture, talking on the cell phone.

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And the surprise was finding this Corona

The Sears Corona was a beautiful, classic bungalow, and I was so surprised to find that there is one in Charlotte! Notice how the dormer is centered on the roof, and the offset front porch (1918 catalog).

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Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

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The Maywood was a beautiful, spacious kit home offered by Sears in the late 1920s.

The Maywood was a beautiful, spacious kit home offered by Sears in the late 1920s.

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Is this a Maywood in Charlotte?

Is this a Maywood in Charlotte? It might be, or it may be a plan book house. Plan book homes were similar to kit homes, in that potential buyers browsed the pages, picked out a house they liked and sent in their payment. With a plan book, they'd receive a list of building materials needed to build their dream home, and also the blueprints, but no building materials.

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Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I recently discovered this little plan book house, The Carmen. This house is ubiquitous in North Carolina. Ive found it in Rocky Mount, Elizabeth City, several in Raleigh and now Charlotte.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I recently discovered this little plan book house, "The Carmen." This house is ubiquitous in North Carolina. I've found it in Rocky Mount, Elizabeth City, Durham, several in Raleigh and now Charlotte.

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And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

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As mentioned above, another surprise was finding a Modern Sears Westly in Charlotte. Whos building these homes? Id love to know!

As mentioned above, another surprise was finding a "Modern" Sears Westly in Charlotte. Who's building these homes? I'd love to know!

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Wow

Sure is a nice house, but I'm quite certain that this is a new house. And it's in a neighborhood of new houses, that were all built to look like old bungalows.

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Just around the block from the Westly (shown above), I found a Sears Cornell.

Just around the block from the Westly (shown above), I found a Sears Cornell.

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The Cornell

The Cornell, but it's new! Note the attention to detail. Even the belt-course is exactly where it should be, and the upper portion is shingle and the lower is clapboard. So who's building new kit homes?

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If you know of any other Sears Homes in Charlotte, or you know who’s building these “new old houses,”  please leave a comment below.

I’d love to come back to Charlotte and do a proper survey! If you know how to make that happen, please contact me!

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To see interior photos of the Sears Corona in Charlotte, click here.

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One of the Prettiest Sears Homes I Ever Did See…

June 6th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last year in early June, I drove all through Charlotte, NC and despite spending more than three hours in that city, I found only a handful of kit homes.

And then yesterday, Andrew Mutch sent me a link to this kit house in Charlotte that’s currently for sale, and not only is it a Sears House, but it’s a Corona!

The Corona was described as a “True Bungalow” and that may be the most accurate description that ever appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. It was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow, and was full of quirky, unique and stunning features that would warm the cockles of any bungalow lover’s heart.

Sometime in Fall 2013, I’ll be in the Charlotte area (again) and I’d love to see this house “in the flesh.” Plus, the presence of this house tells me that despite spending three hours in Charlotte NC, I must have missed the “sweet spot” of kit homes.

Many thanks to Sharon Yoxsimer (Realtor in Charlotte, NC) for giving me permission to use these photos at my website. To visit Sharon’s website, click here.

And unspeakable thanks to the home’s owners who have done such a stellar job of keeping their home in original condition. The photos below tell a story of a painstaking, thorough and breath-taking restoration. This home is a beauty!

To read more about the other Sears Homes in Charlotte, click here.

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The Corona was one of my favorites. It truly was a classic bungalow.

The Corona was one of my favorites. It truly was a classic bungalow.

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Corona

Notice the beamed ceilings in the living room and dining room (shown here by dotted lines). In the living room, there were built-in bookcases with leaded glass doors flanking the fireplace. The kitchen had a breakfast nook (two benches and table).

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It was a very spacious house, too!

The original floorplan provided for five bedrooms, three upstairs and two down.

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Corona

The distinctive features of the Corona are that cross-gabled front porch roof and the gabled dormer that is actually centered squarely on the primary roof. Also note the lites (small panes of glass) over the living room window. These are also present on the dining room window. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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An image from the 1921 catalog shows that centered dormer.

The 1921 catalog shows that centered dormer, and the lites over the living room window.

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Beautiful front porch

The front porch looks like something out of a magazine. I'd love to know where the rock in those columns came from. Are they native stone? And check out the vintage fixtures. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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licing room

Lots of built-ins in the dining room, too. Notice the book-case colonnades that separate the living room from the dining room. The Corona also offered solid oak wainscoting for the dining room, topped with plate rail. What a fine home! (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house

A view of the fireplace shows the built-in bookcases. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Room

I'm not sure which room this in, and I doubt that this is an original fireplace, but it sure is a beauty! This particular mantel and tiled-surround is too fancy for your typical Sears House, but it fits right in with the "True Bungalow Effect." (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another fireplace thats just too nice for a little kit house, but

Another fireplace that's just too nice for a little kit house, but as with the other, it is beautiful and fits right in. Only a die-hard purist such as myself would figure out that it's not original. And in fact, it is a beautiful match to the surrounding wainscoting. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And if you look real close at the inlaid wood ove the mantel, youll see a Sears Solace.

And if you look real close at the inlaid wood over the mantel, you'll see a Sears Solace.

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house

This is the kitchen but it's been significantly enlarged. When built, the Corona had a kitchen that was a mere 8 feet by 13 feet. That's pretty tiny. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Kitchens been updated.

Older kitchens are notoriously dark but this space looks like it's awash in light. I'd love to know how they created all this extra space! (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Before the remodel, the kitchen probably looked a lot like this.

Before the remodel, the kitchen probably looked a lot like this.

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house house

This appears to be the first-floor bathroom, complete with a water-saver toilet and Kohler Memoirs sink. Nice touches, and the claw-foot tub was in vogue when this house was built. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The original Corona bathroom (as seen in the 1918 catalog) would have looked something like this.

The original Corona bathroom (1918 catalog) would have looked something like this.

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Also in the 1918 catalog is a picture of the homeowners little girl, tending to Dollies croupy cough, by running lots of hot water in the dual-faucet sink. This was a big breakthrough in modern American housing, to have not only running water, but steamy hot water on tap! The old folks stories of taking a hot tub bath in the kitchen every Saturday night was based on the fact that a hot water resevoir was attached to the side of the old cast-iron cook stove.

Also in the 1918 catalog is a picture of the homeowner's little girl, tending to Dollie's croupy cough, by running hot water in the sink. This was a big breakthrough in "modern American housing," to have not only running water, but steamy hot water on tap! I love this picture, but I'm not sure if the little Mommy is dealing with Dollie's upper respiratory infection or maybe Dollie said a bad word and she's getting her mouth washed out with soap. Given Dollie's body language and facial expression, plus the bar of soap nearby, I'd say she got caught saying "the mother of all bad words."

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house in Corona

The Corona in Charlotte has two full bathrooms. This appears to be a second-floor bathroom, tucked in neatly under the eaves. Notice the hexagon tile with the black border, and the subway tile on the walls. Nice touches. The bathroom sink and faucets are a nice reporduction, but they're actually pre-Corona (1916). However, I can forgive that little detail. :) (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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bathroom

I'm not sure where this bathroom is located, but it may be another angle of the second-floor bathroom shown in the picture above. Very nicely done. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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In all my travels, I have never seen a Sears kit home with a transom on an interior door, so I suspect these were added, but they are very practical and in this case, beautifully done and a nice addition.

In all my travels, I have never seen a Sears kit home with a transom on an interior door, so I suspect these were added, but they are very practical and in this case, beautifully done and a good-looking addition. (Photo is copyright 2013 Sharon Yoxsimer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Do you love Sears Homes? Come join us on Facebook!

To read more about the Corona, click here.

To read about the other kit homes I found in Charlotte, NC, tap here.

BTW, I was kidding about that “Sears Solace” on the mantel top.  :)

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Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: In Portsmouth and Hampton, Virginia!

June 5th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Mrs. Terrell was a first-grade teacher at John Tyler Elementary School in Portsmouth, Virginia for many decades, and she was dearly loved by all. She was also our neighbor in Waterview (just off High Street).

When I started first grade, I was disappointed to learn that I’d been assigned to Mrs. Saunders’ class (the OTHER first grade teacher). I had so hoped that I would be in Mrs. Terrell’s class. She was soft-spoken and always had such a sweet smile.

As a hyper-sensitive, high-strung little girl, I preferred the familiar. I knew Mrs. Terrell. I liked Mrs. Terrell. And I really loved her house.

Mr. Terrell was a gem, too. He was always in the garage, tinkering with their two old Volkswagen Beetles (early 1960s).

Fifty years later, I found Mrs. Terrell’s house in a plan book. The house (”The Bristol”) appeared in the 1920s plan book put out by Harris, McHenry and Baker. In fact, these plan books were issued by countless lumber yards as a marketing tool to help sell more lumber. Dover Publications reprinted the book issued by Harris, McHenry and Baker (and it’s available at Amazon.com.)

Plan book homes were different from kit homes, in that when you ordered a plan book design, you received blueprints and a list of building materials needed to build the house, but the actual building materials were obtained locally.

Recently, I took a tour of Old Wythe (in Hampton) and we found THREE examples of Mrs. Terrell’s house, and that was in one neighborhood.

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

Old Wythe has their own website! Click here to see a fine bunch of vintage photos.

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Planbook

The Bristol, as seen in the 1924 planbook.

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kind of a crummy

The Terrell's "Bristol" on Nansemond Crescent in the Waterview neighborhood in Portsmouth. Ever since I can remember, their Bristol has been all "ship shape and Bristol fashion." I've always loved that neighborhood and loved this home.

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house

Close-up of The Bristol.

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One of three "Bristols" in Old Wythe (Hampton).

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Small section of Wythe

The second of the three Bristols in Old Wythe.

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plan book house

This one has fallen prey to aluminum siding, but it's still easily recognizable as a Bristol.

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To learn more about the plan book houses of Portsmouth, click here.

To read more about kit homes in Hampton, click here.