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What Do George Bailey and Sears Roebuck Have in Common?

July 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Many folks think it’s a movie about one man’s life making a difference in this world, but I saw it a different way. I saw it as a movie that explained why homeownership is so important.

In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day declared that Americans had a patriotic duty to be homeowners. It was well-understood that home ownership was a boon to individuals and their families, but the “patriotic” angle made the point that homeownership also benefited neighborhoods and communities, and by extension, it benefited cities and even the country, as a whole.

To put a contemporary spin on this, what better modern-day model do we have than Detroit? How much of Detroit is now rental (non-owner occupied)? Despite 30 minutes of searching, I wasn’t able to find an answer, but I’d guess it’s a lot. (Heck, how much of Detroit’s housing is just not occupied by anyone?)

The early Sears Modern Homes catalogs made this point in a variety of ways, but in short it said this: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of prosperity, stability and peace.

In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees what Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born. Without George’s positive influence and his ever-fledgling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and many residents would have remained renters, rather than homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties.

And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family, and in a broader context, there is less stability in the community as well.

Look at Bert (the cop) and Ernie (the cab driver).

In this alternate “George-less” world, Ernie does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, he lives is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is largely to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

I’m of the opinion that Sears was, to small communities in the Midwest, what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls.

Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?

How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville, thanks to these little kit homes? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout the Midwest.

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In the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

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In the end, George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many peoples lives, enabling them to become homeowners. He saw that his town would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.

George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many people's lives, enabling them to become homeowners. The angel ("Clarence") showed George that Bedford Falls would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brother's Building and Loan.

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The value of homeownenrship was also touted in

The value of homeownership was also touted in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1921).

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Father is throwing out rent receipts - because theyre worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

Father is throwing out rent receipts - because they're worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

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Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway.

Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway. Even the little girl is lost in bliss! Is there a Hathaway in Lima, Ohio? It'd be fun to know!

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A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Learn more about the biggest and best Sears Home by clicking here!

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Mini Mystery on the Majestic Maggy: SOLVED!

July 15th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Subtitled: How Time Changes Old Houses

In a few weeks, I’m taking a road trip to visit a Sears Magnolia. In preparation for the trip, I’ve been studying the floor plan, and happened upon a little mystery that has had me (and many others in our Facebook group) stumped!

Take a look!

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Floor plan shows

This is the 2nd floor of the Magnolia. The image is reversed (flipped) for reasons that will become evident later on. The mystery is that oval within a square in the dressing room (center room on the front). The dressing room was off the Master Bedroom, and there's a spot for dresses and hats, but what does the oval/square represent?

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House

At first glance, it looks like a sink but why would there be a sink so far from the rest of the plumbing (kitchen and baths)? And on the front of the house? The bathrooms (second floor) were on top of the kitchen (first floor) to conserve plumbing runs, which is typical. Plus, I studied several exterior photos of different Magnolias and couldn't see a vent pipe in the front roof area. That, coupled with the odd placement (far from kitchens and baths) ruled out plumbing. This dressing room is directly over the entry foyer, which ruled out laundry chute. Chutes were usually found in common areas (hallways, bathrooms).

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Cinderella

And then I found the answer is an unlikely place: The Ascetic Cinderella. This was one of the simplest little houses that Sears offered in their "Honor Bilt" line. It had only one bedroom, but it recommended that fold-away beds be used in the living room and dining room, and included a dressing room for stowage of beds.

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Common

The 1921 catalog featured a two-page spread on this simple bungalow.

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sinking feeling

And there in the corner of the dressing room (which housed the fold-away beds), was a tiny corner sink.

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plumbing runs be damned

The Cinderella was a very low-priced house, and yet, they ran plumbing lines from at least 25-feet away (the kitchen) to a lone fixture at the front of the house.

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simple

In fact, a close-up of one of the images in the 1921 catalog shows the dressing room with that corner sink. Presumably, Miss Cindy Lou (aka "The Little Lady") has rinsed out her unmentionables in the small sink, and is preparing to hang them up on the closet pole to her immediate left.

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All of which leads

All of which leads me to believe that the mystery oval within a square shown on the Magnolia's floor plan is indeed a sink. In fact, judging by the way it's drawn, I'm guessing it'd be a pedestal sink. After all, if they can stick a wee tiny sink on the front corner of the Cinderella's dressing room, then it seems likely they did the same (with a better sink) in the Magnolia's dressing room.

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And take a look at this thing.

And take a look at this thing. It's literally up against the door frame that leads to the front balcony. What a curious place for a pedestal sink. And the wall behind the sink is a little extra thick, which probably provides a chase for the plumbing to run over to the bathroom lines and join up there.

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lady

If we place Miss Cindy Lou in the Master Bedroom of the Magnolia (she likes the Magnolia a lot better than that CLH above), you'll see that she has quite a hike over to the family bathroom. And you'll see that these two front bedrooms are isolated from each other, so she can't even take the short cut through the other bedroom and into the bath. And maybe she has "unmentionables" that she needs to wash out each night that she doesn't wish to have seen in the family bathroom.

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Magnolia

Years ago, I had an opportunity to see a Magnolia with a second floor that had been "frozen in time" after World War II. Upstairs, they had created an apartment by taking out a wall and installing this prefab kitchen sink. The door on the right leads out to the 2nd floor balcony and the window to the left is the small window that originally was part of the bedroom closet. This photo was further affirmation that there was a sink in that dressing room. This kitchen sink is placed just where the old pedestal sink would have sat. If you had to add a kitchen to an old house, you'd pull out the pedestal sink and stick in your new (1940s) kitchen unit. Which is just what they did.

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The red line represents the placement of the wall that was removed in order to install this kitchen sink.

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What they did

If you turn that floor plan around, so it's facing in the same direction as the image above, you can get a better idea of what's going on above. The Master Bedroom is to the right, and if you walked into that dressing room, you'd have a hat shelf on the left side of the dressing room and your pedestal sink would be on the far right - right up against that balcony door (which is a really quirky design). The blue line represents the placement of the 1940s pre-fab kitchen sink and the pink X's show the wall that was removed, creating a walk-through between the two rooms. The red star shows where I was standing when I took the photo above. :)

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Comparing these two images, you can get an idea of how it all went together. The red line on the left shows the placement of the 1920s wall, and the blue square shows the placement of the modern sink.

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How

And if you look at the molding above that small window, you'll see that it's missing a corner. I suspect that it was built that way, to accommodate the extra-thick chase wall there (between the bedroom closet and the Master Bedroom dressing room).

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house house house

This is an original "Family Bathroom" Sears Magnolia pedestal sink. Most likely, this was the same sink that was present in that Master Bedroom dressing room. Note how the plumbing lines come up out of the floor, rather than through the rear wall.

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The Magnolia was only offered from 1918 - 1922.

The Magnolia was only offered from 1918 - 1922 (1918 catalog shown above). We know of only eight Magnolias that were built, and one of them (in Nebraska) was razed in 1985.

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Here's a real live Magnolia in Canton, Ohio, and it's in beautiful condition! Photo is copyright 2011 Janet Hess LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In conclusion, I’m now confident that the “oval within a square” shown on the floorplan is a sink. And apparently, placing a small sink in a dressing room was not uncommon in the 1920s.

If any readers know the reasons behind placing a small sink in a front bedroom, I’d love to know!

To read more about the Magnolia, click here.

Interested in learning about the Cinderella? Click here.

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Inside the Sears Magnolia: In 1918 and 1985

July 12th, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

Last week, I did a blog on the lost Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska. One of only eight known Magnolias in the country, the Sears House in Lincoln was torn down in 1985.

Fortunately, the Magnolia in Lincoln was extensively photographed a few months before it was razed. The photos were then archived and saved by the Nebraska State Historical Society.

And nearly 30 years later, the folks at NSHS were kind enough to share these wonderful photos with me.

After studying their photos, I realized that those historically minded folks at Nebraska State Historical Society had photographed the Magnolia’s interiors from the same angle shown in a special fold-out offered in a 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

I’m in possession of two 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalogs, and yet this “special fold out” is not present in either catalog. I suspect that there were two or more revisions of the 1918 catalog, and the catalog that featured the “interior views” (shown below) was a very rare catalog.

For several years, friend and fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker has been collecting these old catalogs, and she was kind enough to share her copy of this rare 1918 catalog.

A big thank you to Rachel and also to the kind souls at the Nebraska State Historical Society. Because of them, I’m able to put together these 30-year-old photos with the 90-year-old drawings featured in the old Sears Modern Homes catalog.

And a little hint for today’s blog: Take an extra moment and read the captions thoroughly. While I was going through these images, I learned some fascinating things about old houses in general and the Magnolia in particular.

Please share the link with your old-house loving friends!  :)

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Interior

This fold-out appeared in the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I've been playing with Sears Homes for 15 years, and yet I'd never seen this page - anytime anywhere. When the Nebraska State Historical Society sent me their files on the Sears Magnolia in Lincoln, they included a faded (and repeatedly xeroxed) copy of this very same page. And it was this page that they apparently used as a guide when they took *their* photos.

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Close-up of the text box in the fold-out (1918).

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If you look closely at the floor plan, you'll see a second set of stairs off the kitchen. In tiny print, it says, "To servants' room." Remember that detail. If you look at the back wall of the kitchen, you'll also see the words, "Ice box door." This feature enabled the ice man to place 25 or 50 pounds of ice directly into the ice box - from the back porch - without entering the house. It was also known as the "Jealous Husband's Door."

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house showing

Those kitchen stairs lead into a small hallway that opens up right into a small bedroom, which leads to a bathroom. The servants' area was purposefully isolated from the rest of the family. The servants' bathroom was also smaller and more modest. Remember that detail, too. The family bathroom has a sink that says, "MC" (medicine chest). The servants' bathroom does not say MC. The poor Irish servant girl didn't even have a place to store her toiletries.

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Close-up of the Magnolia's 20-foot long living room.

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banana house living room

And here it is in real life. Those folks at the Nebraska State Historical Society did a fine job, didn't they? The fireplace mantel is not a perfect match, which is a puzzler. Notice also that the home's original owners went for the Hercules Steam Heating Outfit (which was the most expensive heating option available). Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house house

The Magnolia had a grand entry hall. The French doors at the top of the landing lead to a small balcony outside.

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The Magnolia was an elegant home with classic lines and aristocratic airs, and despite the deterioration occasioned by decades of neglect, its timeless elegance was still apparent. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house upstairs

The photographer was standing in front of the dressing room looking toward the rear of the house on the 2nd floor. These are the same French doors shown in the prior photo, which lead out to that small balcony. If you look close, you can see the balcony's railing. I believe the door on the left leads to that servants' staircase. It's an interesting arrangement, because the balcony and that door are both on a lower level than the rest of the 2nd floor. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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kitchen

My favorite image: The kitchen. Look at that darling little breakfast nook sitting in the coolest spot in the house, with pretty casement windows on all three sides. The door on the right leads to the ice box (with the "Jealous Husband's Door"). And the door on the right leads to the back porch.

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house house kitchen

The NSHS photographers outdid themselves on this image. Nice match to the picture above! The door that's partially open leads to the servants' staircase. The nook is still intact, but the little dinette is gone. The sink has been moved from the right side to the left. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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kitchen floorplan

Here's a close-up of the Magnolia's kitchen and surrounding area. This is a very complicated space! And there's a Butler's Pantry (with a sink) between the dining room and kitchen.

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the den the den

Most post-1950s homes feature a "den," but this wasn't a common concept in the late 1910s (when the Magnolia was first offered). Another unusual concept was the two fireplaces (in the living room and den). By the 1910s, wood-burning fireplaces had fallen from favor because they were considered primitive and old-fashioned. Most houses had a single fireplace so that the family could burn an occasional fire on a cold-winter evening, just for ambiance, but two? Definitely not typical. Plus, it was getting harder and harder to find cheap firewood in the cities, due to the explosive growth of residential and commercial construction.

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house house house house house

Now this mantel is a good match to the image above (minus the cracked mirror)! The floor tile wasn't original, but was probably added in the 1940s or 50s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house bathroom

This was not the maid's bathroom. This was the FAMILY'S bathroom. How do I know this? Let me count the ways. First, it has that niche created by the chimney (left corner). And it has a shower. Yes, a shower. And while we're in the bathroom, look at the subway tile on the walls and diagonal tiles on the floor. Nice, isn't it?

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shower

The shower was a pretty fancy deal for 1918. I don't know of any other pre-1930 Sears Homes that were offered *with* showers. And this isn't your typical shower. This one sits at the far end of the tub, away from the tub's drain and supply lines. Now that's curious. I wish I knew when showers came into vogue in typical American homes. If a reader could answer that, I'd be tickled pink.

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house in Benson

This is *not* the Magnolia in Lincoln, but it's another Magnolia with a "Family Bathroom" that's in original condition. When I first saw this bathroom, I was utterly mystified by the hose bibs on the lower right. There's a bedroom on the other side of that wall. Why would there be plumbing on the far side of the tub? And I have thought about this curious plumbing arrangement ever since. Thanks to Rachel's 1918 "interior views," I think the puzzle is solved. I suspect that these water lines supplied water to that funky shower at the far end of the tub. The house bibs may have been added for a washer hook-up later on, but look at the plumbing lines that snake around the back of the tub and (perhaps) to the side where that shower once was.

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house shower

It's a not-so-great photo, but you can see the two hose bibs with two lines coming off and snaking around the back and side of the tub. And if you look close, you'll see a piece of that old subway tile behind the tub.

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house tub

If you look at the front of the tub, you see the lines here (for the bathtub faucets) are original and in use. In fact, judging from the paint, they haven't been disturbed in a very long time.

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house bathroom

The contemporary photo of the bathtub (with those awesome swans on the side) was taken almost four years ago, and yet it's only in the last 24 hours, when I saw this vintage image, that I was able to surmise why there were pipes behind the tub. Who says history isn't fun? :)

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How many Magnolias are out there? Thus far, we know of eight that were built, and seven are still standing.

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house in Nebraska

The grand old Magnolia in Nebraska was torn down in 1985 due to decades of neglect. These photos are bittersweet, because this house should have been salvaged. Instead, it's now just another pile of construction debris in a local landfill. Nonetheless, I'm unspeakably grateful for these many wonderful images. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house in neb

This framing members used in the construction of this house were first-growth lumber, #1 Southern Yellow Pine, harvested from the virgin forests of Louisiana. The exterior (siding, trim and balustrades) is Cypress, once lauded as "The Wood Eternal," because of its natural resistance to moisture, decay and insect infestation. The two-story columns were Yellow Poplar. Inside, the entire house had oak trim and mill work, with tongue-and-groove oak floors. The kitchen floor was maple. This house was built with a quality of building materials we will never again see in this country. RIP, Magnolia. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Many thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for sharing these photos, and thanks also to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the vintage images from that rare 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Read more  the “Jealous Husband’s Door” click here.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Want to see more photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska? Click here.

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One of the Most Incredible Blogs I’ve Ever Done…

July 9th, 2013 Sears Homes 11 comments
Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I have a fun update to this blog!  Click here to see it!

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Years ago, Rebecca Hunter told me that there had been a Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska (one of only eight known Sears Magnolias in the country) that had been destroyed by fire in 1985 or 1986.

And for years, all we’d ever seen was a grainy picture (a copy of a copy of a copy), but today, thanks to the foresight and wisdom of the architectural historians at the Nebraska State Historical Society, I got my first look at an amazing kit house that has been gone for almost 30 years.

The house was extensively photographed a few months before it was razed. And  there just aren’t words to express how delighted and grateful I am to see this almost-forgotten Sears house, from all angles (as shown below) and also from the inside.

If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you probably know all about the Sears Magnolia. If not, you can learn about it by clicking here, here and here.  My favorite blog on the Magnolia is this one, which tells the story of a 92-year-old builder who remembers helping build a Magnolia.

Thanks so much to the wonderful folks at the Nebraska State Historical Society for having the presence of mind to document this wonderful old house before it was razed, and so generously sharing these wonderful photos with me, three decades later.

Looking at these photos took my breath away. It’s so tragic that the house is gone, but at least we can get a good look at our “Maggy,” and remember, this was a house that someone carefully selected from the pages of a Sears Roebuck catalog and then painstakingly erected, more than nine decades ago.

Enjoy the plethora of photos.

All photos below are courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 catalog.

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The Magnolia  was the crème de la crème of  all kit homes.

The Magnolia was the crème de la crème of all kit homes (1920).

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And thanks to the foresight of theh

And thanks to the foresight of the Nebraska State Historical Society, we have some wonderful photos of the Sears Magnolia that was located at 5901 NW 20th Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Class

The classic entry of the Magnolia, as seen in 1985. The two-story Corinthian columns were made of poplar and judging from the photo above, they were in pretty rough shape here. It was said that all of the Sears kit homes could be made to fit intto a single boxcar with one exception: The Magnolia. It required two boxcars for shipping. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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An imposing view of an imposing house.

An imposing view of an imposing house. Look at the eaves and brackets, as well as the balustrades on the 2nd floor porch and porch roof. In 1985, when these photos were taken, the house was only 60 years old. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another

Didn't I tell you these were wonderful photos? Everything about this house was original, down to the exterior wooden storm door on the 2nd floor porch. Notice the leaded glass fan lite over the front door. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Side view

From this side view, you can see a bit of that unique dormer in the attic. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Straight on

A view of our Maggy from straight on. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

The trees obstruct the frontal view, but you can still see those unique front windows. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The sun porch is missing its railings. Still, it's a great view of the side of the house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another great photograph showing the porte cochere. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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There was a balcony on the rear of this Magnolia, probably off the staircase landing. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The upstairs rear corner (shown above) had a spacious "sleeping porch." Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Magnolia was on a massive lot, and was apparently on the edge of Lincoln. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the side. Note the original screen doors off the porte cochere. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even in this sad state, its grandeur still shone through. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The home's cypress exterior put up a good fight. I wonder if the house was ever re-painted after it was built (1918-1922). Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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fireplace

And my favorite part: Thee interior photos. Judging from these pictures, it appears that all the oak trim retained its natural finish and had not been covered in latex paint (a fate suffered by most older homes). Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house

As I pointed out to a friend, these photos are great, but also a little bittersweet. This house was magnificent inside, and now it's gone. Nonetheless, I'm so grateful to have these pictures. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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living

Another view of the living room. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

And a great photo of the Magnolia's entry hall. The living room was to the right and the dining room was to the left. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the staircase. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

See those double-doors at the top of the stairs? They lead to that small balcony at the back of the house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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kitchen

How awesome is this? The kitchen, probably looking much like it did when built in the early 1920s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Den

Judging by the presence of this fireplace, this is probably the den of the Magnolia. The fireplace has a coal-burning grate. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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fireplace

And the top of the stairs, showing that small balcony. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Please share this link with your old-house loving friends, and perhaps we can find the 9th Magnolia (and maybe the 10th, 11th and so on!).

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Thanks again to the Nebraska State Historical Society for having the presence of mind to document this wonderful old house before it was razed, and so generously sharing these wonderful photos with me, three decades later.

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What’s Eating Tommy Tomato?

July 9th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

About 95% of the 800 blogs at this site related to old houses, but today, I have a gardening emergency and I’m asking for some help.

My formerly lush, verdant and robust tomato plants are dying at an alarming rate, and I’ve no idea what’s wrong with them. They’ve been watered, treated with tender solicitude, fertilized with fish emulsion, bathed in soft words gently spoken and watched over with much approbation.

And yet, they’re literally withering on the vine. I’d be grateful for any insights on what’s happening. My lone theory is that the strong heat (95+ temps) several days in a row puta hurting on them, despite the adequate watering.

Thanks for any insights.

In fact, I am not growing tobacco but tomatos.

In fact, I am not growing tobacco but tomatoes. They don't look too good and I wish I knew what was wrong. Whatever this is, came upon them in a great hurry, and turned the leaves from lush green to dead brown - fast.

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Ick

Close up of the leaves. The plants (three of them) are covered with these burned-up looking brown leaves.

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And whats really odd is that the trunks have turned brown!

And what's really odd is that the trunks have turned brown! Before, they were deep green.

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Several of the tomatoes have these tiny spots.

Several of the tomatoes have these tiny spots.

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And some look much worse!

And some of the tomatoes look much worse!

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At first, we thought it was a fungus in the soil, but Ive planted two container tomatoes (on my deck now) in the same soil, and theyre thriving.

At first, we thought it was a fungus in the soil, but I've planted two "container" tomatoes (on my deck now) in the same soil, and they're thriving.

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Thanks

I'd be grateful for any ideas, because this is pretty sad.

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thanks

So, what is eating Tommy Tomato? :(

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To read about happy, happy houses, click here.

To learn about another Norfolk mystery (houses barged in from DuPont), click on one of the links below.

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

Part IV.

Part V.

Part VI.

Part VII.

Part VIII.

Part IX

Part X

Part XI

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The Sears Magnolia in “The Notebook” (Sheesh!)

July 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Some rumors just never die.

There’s a persistent (and false) rumor making the rounds that beautiful Neo-Classical Revival home featured in “The Notebook,” is a Sears Magnolia.

Nope.

Not even close.

Not even close.

Let’s go right to the photos.

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Black River

The house featured in "The Notebook" is the Black River Plantation House in Georgetown County (South Carolina). It is a beauty, but it's not a Sears House. And yes, I'm 100% certain. :) The photo above is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

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Benson

Here's the real deal: A Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Comparison

Now let's compare them side-by-side. At first glance, both homes have four walls, a roof, two-story columns and some windows. But that's where it stops. The Black River Plantation (on the left) has that massive front-gable atop that porch. The window arrangement on the non-Magnolia house is also quite different. And Black River Plantation is much larger than the Sears Magnolia. And look at how tall the Black River Plantation is! Notice how much space exists between those second-floor windows and the roofline. Those are important details. If you still think these houses are identical, drop me a note and I'll send some biscuits for your seeing-eye dog. The photo on the left is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

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Heres a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

Here's a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

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Heres the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Here's the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Heres a color photo of the Black River Plantation.

Here's a color photo of the Black River Plantation. Again, notice how much space there is between the first and second floors, and the second and third floors. It is a stunningly beautiful house, isn't it? (Photo is copyright 2008 Brandon Coffey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Oh my!

Oh my! The Black River Plantation doesn't look like this, does it?

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Where did this nutty rumor get started? Apparently, here (see below). In 1994, the Black River Plantation was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Note the highlighted text below.

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In 1994,

The author wrote that it's possible that Waddell "utilized one of these sources" (kit homes or plan book home). Well, I can't rule out plan books, but I can rule out "kit house." The Black River Plantation is most assuredly not a kit house. Of that, I am sure. At least they admitted that it was definitely NOT a kit home from Montgomery Ward.

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And don’t get me started on the “Honor Built Homes marketed…during the late 19th Century…”

Whew boy!

In all fairness, not as much was known then (in 1994) as is known now about Sears kit homes. However, this pernicious rumor - that the house featured in The Notebook is a Sears Magnolia - seems to have taken on a life of its own.

On a happier note, look at some pictures of real Magnolias here.

And if you know of any REAL Magnolias, please leave a comment.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Wanted: More Better Pictures of the Lincoln Magnolia!

July 6th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Updated! I got my “more better pictures”!  Click here to learn more!

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Thanks to Rebecca Hunter, I now have a picture (albeit a little faded) of the Sears Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately, the house burned in 1985 or 1986, and shortly afterwards, it was razed.

The Magnolia in Lincoln was one of eight known Magnolias in the country, and (as far as we know), the only one that has been demolished.  (An eighth Magnolia in West Virginia was recently discovered.)

Last night as I was thinking about this old house in Nebraska, I realized that someone somewhere is bound to have a better photo of the Magnolia, and perhaps a photo of the house in its prime. This house was in the state’s capitol (Lincoln), and it must have been fairly well known in the community, and hopefully, well photographed!

The house was owned by a family named “Benza,” and it was probably built between 1918 and 1922. It was located at 5901 NW 20th Street in Lincoln.

If you have any information on this house, or any photos, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about the Magnolia, click here.

To read about the building of a Magnolia, click here.

To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

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Sears Magnolia Lincoln

This is the only known photo of the Sears Magnolia in Lincoln. The house was torn down in 1985 or 1986, and in this photo, the house appears to be in very rough shape. I have no idea what year this photo was taken. There's a car in front of the house, but I can't see much of it. Somewhere, there's a better photo of this house. I'd love to see it.

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Sears Magnolai

The Sears Magnolia in Alabama (Piedmont) is also in need of a little love.

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Magnolia 1918

The Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

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Magnolia 1918

In 1918, it was offered for $4485, and if you wanted to just buy the plans, those were a scant $10.

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Magnolia 1920

Due to post-war hyperinflation, the price of the Magnolia hit $7,998 in 1920.

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Magnolia 1921

By 1921, the price had dropped to about $6,500.

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prices

After World War One, the cost of building materials and lumber went sky high. Sears catalogs had a six-week lead time (from creation to publishing). Due to the volatility of building material costs, Sears couldn't keep up on the price info. As an alternative, they just stuck price sheets into the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. See the highlighted entry above? This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the Spring 1921 Sears catalog. In fact, the catalog page (shown above) has a price of $6,488 but this insert shows the price as $10 cheaper.

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Magnolia 1922 (last year)

The Magnolia made its final appearance in the 1922 catalog. The price was now $5,849, or about $1,000 more than when first offered in 1918. Did anyone buy their Magnolia when it cost $10,000?

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Magnolia in South Bend

One of the eight known Magnolias is in South Bend, IN. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Magnolia in Canton, OH

The Magnolia in Canton, OH was almost lost (roof had collapsed into the 2nd floor), but it was painstakingly restored to its original splendor. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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Do you know the location of another Magnolia?  Please leave a comment below!

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