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Sweet Home, Alabama (Sears Magnolia)

Sometime in 2005, the new owner of the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama sent me several dozen photos of the house. Recently, I rediscovered the CDs. Those photos reminded me that I also had a 1984 newspaper article about that Magnolia.

Unfortunately, I do not have any record of whose photos these are, so they appear below without attribution. I’m hoping someone reading this might help me figure out who took those pictures!

Below are the photos, and the 1984 article from The Anniston Star.

Piedmont boasts a Sears Catalog Mansion (November 1, 1984)

by Viveca Novak

Piedmont - When the late doctor Fain Webb and his wife filled out the order form Magnolia, the catalog description likened the Magnolia to the “famous residence at Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the poet Longfellow composed his immortal works.”

The Magnolia rolled into Piedmont in 1921 on a box car one day. Accompanying instructions told the dentist and his school-teacher wife how to assemble everythnig into the configuration of a dwelling.

“Everyone in Piedmont thought it was the prettiest house in town,” remembers Piedmont native Louise Golden. “Little did my mother dream that we would ever own the house.”

It was one day in 1964 that Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Woolf, Mrs. Golden’s parents, got a call from the Webb’s daughter who offered to sell them the homestead for the unbelievably low sum of $12,500.

At the time, Mrs. Woolf was 60 and her husband was 80, retired from years in the Inn business that included running the Piedmont Hotel in the late 1920s. With the help of a $20,000 loan from the Small Business Administration, the Woolfs made the necessary adjustments to complete their dream.

On January 1965, the Colonial Inn opened its doors for supper.

Four bedrooms upstairs were rented to help repay the loan, “but they were very careful about who they rented to, ” says Mrs. Golden, who returned to Piedmont to help her parents run the new venture.

The $2 Sunday smorgasboards attracted upwards of 100 people each week.

“We had Miss Alabama and Miss Poultry Queen for our Christmas Parade one year,” recalls Theresa Kaisor, city historian and asst school board superintendent. “We carried them over there to eat dinner.”

The Inn’s reputation spread far and wide and travelers of all kinds made the necessary detours to stop a night in Piedmont.

Two years later, Piedmont was mourning the closing of the inn, following the death of Mrs. Woolf. Though Mrs. Golden was urged to keep the inn open, it was a task she declined.

In 1970, the house underwent another rebirth with its sale - for $19,000 - to Calvin and Patricia Wingo, two history professors at Jacksonville State University who have a penchant for restoring old houses to their original grandeur.

The Wingos tore up the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors, replaced the roof and wiring, repaired the bases of some of the columns and painted the whole house. Their son was born soon after they moved in.

Two families occupied the house between 1974, when the Wingos sold it, and 1980. It’s more recent history causes residents to shake their heads sadly. Under the ownership of Charles Grissom, from 1980 to this year, the house burned twice, destroying most of the interior on the first floor and the basement.

It has gone unoccupied for many months.

But the new owner, Winford Kines, hopes it will be a dream house once again, despite the fire damage and theft of one of the mantle pieces and an old pedestal sink.

Kines has begun cleaning out the burned basement and the yard in the initial stages of his project. It may take me a few years, but I hope to live in it someday, Kines said. He has already won a community for lifting the house above the status of neighborhood eyesore.

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My #1 favorite Magnolia story here. It’s well worth the read!

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What is it about Magnolias and fire?

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The Sears Magnolia was quite a house (1922 catalog).

The Sears Magnolia was quite a house (1922 catalog).

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In 2008 I visited the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. Unfortunately, no one was home.

In 2008 I visited the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. Unfortunately, no one was home.

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I helped myself to a few good photos while I was in the neighborhood.

I helped myself to a few good photos while I was in the neighborhood.

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This Magnolia

And walked around a bit.

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And went up on the front porch.

And went up on the front porch.

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Youll notice the dormer on this house is quite different than the dormer on the other Magnolias.

You'll notice the dormer on this house is quite different than the dormer on the other Magnolias. I've no idea how that came to be. It appears that the house has its original siding, so we can't blame this on the siding salesmen.

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Some features of the house

Some features of the house remain intact, such as these oak columns in front of the living room fireplace. The inglenook window and built-in bench are missing.

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Did you read the whole article before scrolling down to look at the photos? If so, youd know that someone broke into the house and stole a fireplace mantle. Im guessing this is the mantle.

Did you read the whole article before scrolling down to look at the photos? If so, you'd know that someone broke into the house and stole a fireplace mantle. I'm guessing this is the scene of the crime. However, what they're missing in mantles, they make up for in vacuum cleaners.

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Bear

Incredibly, the windows and trim on the sunporch are all still original. Then again, all of these photos were snapped more than nine years ago. The antique oak filing cabinets are a nice touch, too, but they obstruct the windows a bit.

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Another view of the sunporch windows.

Another view of the sunporch windows.

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living room

This appears to be the dining room, in use as a parlor or den.

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living room also

From the dining room, looking into the living room.

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Looking

Remember reading about that fire? Apparently the staircase took a hit.

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A really bad hit.

A really bad hit.

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Definitely

The balustrade in the Magnolia was quite beautiful but sadly, in the Piedmont Magnolia, it's all gone. Here, it's been replaced them with 2x4s (gasp) and a planter stand (eek).

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nebraska up

As a contrast, here's a picture of a Magnolia in Nebraska that is no longer with us. You can see that it had a beautiful balustrade. This house was razed about the same time the newspaper article above was written - mid 1980s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Second floor sunporch.

It's nice to see the original doors are in place, even if the hardware didn't survive. This is the second floor bedroom (master bedroom).

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Side

It's incredible that these original paneled newel posts survive (with balls on top), and yet the house has obviously been through some hard times. I know that the house sold recently. Perhaps now it will be restored.

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My #1 favorite Magnolia story here. It’s well worth the read!

What is it about Magnolias and restaurants? Read about another Magnolia restaurant here.

What is it about Magnolias and fire?

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  1. April 28th, 2014 at 22:12 | #1

    So, Rose, who owns the house today? The same owners from 2005 or did they sell?

    That reporter did a good job on researching the house history. Nice to read!

  2. April 29th, 2014 at 04:28 | #2

    I think this house has been sold two or three times since 2005. I know it’s been sold twice and maybe more. It was most recently sold about six months ago.

  3. Rick S
    May 15th, 2014 at 15:39 | #3

    Rose,

    I have loved seeing one Magnolia after another. Even when they need restoration you can still see how beautiful they are.

    This one is a reversed plan. If you look at the front photo and compare it to the plans it is reverserd.

    The photo labled dining room looking into livingroom would be livingroom into diningroom. The sofa in the picture is in front of the doors to the porte-cochère. The stairs are also reversed from plans.

    rick

  4. Chris H
    June 3rd, 2014 at 18:30 | #4

    My mother in law currently owns this house. The pictures look to be a mixture of new and old photos from when she lived there and the previous owner.

  5. Reba Grissom
    June 9th, 2014 at 21:43 | #5

    Hello Mrs. Thornton, I was so glad to see this article :).

    It will give me the opportunity to clarify some things in Ms. Novak’s article from The Anniston Star referenced above.

    You see I am married to Scott Grissom, a Sgt. with th Anniston Police Dept. in Anniston Alabama and we live in Piedmont Alabama. My husband lived in that very home that is in these pictures.

    The address is 311 Center Ave. He was living in the home by his recollection at least 10 years. His parents purchased the home from Calvin and Patricia Wingo in December of 1976 for the amount of $34,500.00. In the above article it states that the Wingo’s had the home rewired and a new roof put on.

    This is the part that gets hinky…on the night of the fire Scott’s family went to visit relatives in Georgia. When they returned, and the state fire marshal had time to do an investigation he stated that the cause of the fire was “electrical wiring that originated in the attic”, and also stated that “the wiring was the original wiring from the 1920’s when the home was originally built.”

    Scott’s Mother is still living and also remembers all of this. She is 76 and other than having COPD is in otherwise good health. Mr. Grissom, Scott’s Daddy died in 2001.

    I can also tell you that a Thomas and Deborah Dornbush purchashed the home in July of 2005 and the last purchase was made by John and Nikki Rosser in February of 2013. This of course is all public record. The sale price is also public record but for the privacy of the purchaser’s I will leave that to your curiosty.

    Also, about the burning when my husband lived there, the only thing that burned was the attic and there was some smoke damage. So the attic was the only thing that had to be rebuilt and the home had to be rewired because it did not meet fire code.

    My husband and his family continued living in the home a few more years and then sold it to Winford and Doris Kines. Also, a little more information you might be interested in knowing, the home was once used as a funeral parlor !

    That was before my husband’s family lived there. A Dr. bought the home out of the Sears catalog and had it come in on the railroad that you may have seen when you visited Piedmont. (It is no longer in use.)

    He had it built right down the road from the railroad from where it came off of the tracks. We think his name was Dr Sheffield.

    We are not sure but will check on that and get back with you on that. Tax records that I have access to don’t go back that far. Also, to my husband’s knowledge and everyone else that he has talked to here in Piedmont that was the only time the home ever burned.

    Oh another thing , Scott said that the mantle was beautiful. It was hand carved and and also the storage or fireboxes are missing in the pictures.

    There were one on each side of the fireplace. So sad. He said there was also a fireplace in the back room. I could just go on because Scott keeps talking to me, but he said, it is so sad.

    One thing is for sure, the fire that happened while he lived there did not damage anything but the attic and when they sold the home, everything was still there when they left, to include the mantle, the balustrade, the storage or fireboxes.

    There are witness’s to these facts. Thank you, and we so enjoyed we enjoyed seeing these pictures :) Reba

  6. Chris H
    June 10th, 2014 at 11:18 | #6

    I should clarify my comment. My mother in law is Deborah Dornbush. She is owner financing the house for the current residents so technically she does own the house until they get actual bank financing.

    Reba, your history of the house is great but there were at least 2 fires in the house.

    When Tom (Thomas) and I pulled up the subfloor when we remodeled the “powder room” on the main floor there was fire damage to the joist.

    That would mean the other fire was in the basement, however if I remember correctly you could not see any of the damage from the basement.

  7. Samantha
    July 19th, 2015 at 22:49 | #7

    Thank you so much Reba for the back story a little more. :)

    I too live in Piedmont. We have been here for 10 years and this home has always fascinated me.

    It is just stunning…Well it used to be. I am not sure if you have taken a drive down Center Ave lately but its sitting abandoned and just looks sad.

    The grass is knee high. I spoke with a man today who lives down the road from it and he stated that the lady who lived there just picked up and moved out at least 6 months ago.

    Someone has got to save this home and bring her back to her former glory! There is too much history and love there to end up rotting and ending up in a landfill somewhere.

  8. Robert ” Bobby ” Bullard
    November 8th, 2015 at 14:48 | #8

    First of all, thank you everyone on the background on this house.

    I remember this house as the Colonial Inn back when Ms. Golden and her family lived there. I was good friends with her son Claude. I remember a lot of good days in and around the Inn with him. Even back then I was interested in older structures and building methods. I had no idea this house was a ” Sears Kit. ”

    My Daddy, ” Bob Bullard, ” would take us for after Church lunch there. We would go to a different local restaurant every Sunday as Daddy believed strongly in supporting the local business’s in Piedmont.

    I have long since left Piedmont and now reside in North Idaho.

    I was in commercial construction for many years. I was living in Santa Ana CA (Orange County) when I started a company doing historical renovation on commercial buildings before I got out of construction altogether.

    Just from the information and pictures, It looks restorable. Of course it would have to be throughly inspected by someone professional in this particular genre of construction.

    Thank you so much for posting this old house. It brought back some good memories.

    My Best Regards,

    Robert Bullard

  9. Amber
    January 26th, 2017 at 18:40 | #9

    This is such a beautiful home. Unfortunately, Mrs. Rosser passed away in November of 2015.

    The house is in desperate need of repairs. Mr. Rosser has started a Go Fund Me account to help with funding those repairs.

    If you love historical homes as much as I do, please go to this website and type in Aaron Rosser in the search bar to find the listing and please donate.

    Thank you.

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