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Lynchburg, Virginia: A Colossal Caboodle of Kit Homes

UPDATED at 7.30 am (Wednesday)!  New photos added below!

Lynchburg is one of the prettiest cities in the prettiest state in the Union, and best of all, it’s blessed with an abundance of kit homes.

In 2004, 2008, and 2011, I spent several hours driving around Lynchburg seeking and finding its kit homes. (In 2008, I was with Dale Wolicki, who identified many Aladdin houses that I might otherwise have missed!)

For years, I’ve tried to stir up interest in these kit homes in Lynchburg but without success. And yet, this really is a lost piece of Lynchburg’s history! Based on my research, 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.

How many of these home’s owners (in Lynchburg) know about their home’s unique historical significance?

I love Lynchburg and I’d love to have an opportunity to give a lecture on this abundance of early 20th Century kit homes in this fine city.

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 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 known. And yet, Lynchburg has more Aladdin Homes than Sears Homes!

Finding these kit homes is just like discovering hidden treasure, and it’s time to spread the happy news of these discoveries!

Come join our group “Sears Homes” on Facebook by clicking here!

To read about the Sears Homes in Vinton, Virginia, click here.

Interested in seeing the kit homes of Bedford? Click here.

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One of my favorite finds in Lynchburg is the Sears Alhambra.

One of my favorite finds in Lynchburg is the Sears Alhambra (1921 catalog).

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And technically, it wasnt even MY find! My buddy Bill Inge discovered this Alhambra many years ago, and shared the address with me. Oh boy, what a house!

And technically, it wasn't even MY find! My buddy Bill Inge discovered this Alhambra many years ago, and shared the address with me. Bill tells me that this Sears House has undergone some significant remodeling since this photo was snapped in 2008. Pity too, because it had its original windows in 2008, even though the parapet and dormer were MIA.

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The Sears Westly was a popular house for Sears, too.

The Sears Westly was a popular house for Sears, too (1916 catalog).

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A splendiferous example of a Westly in Lynchburg!

A splendiferous example of a Westly in Lynchburg!

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The Berwyn was offered in the late 1920s and into the 1930s (1929 catalog).

The Berwyn was offered in the late 1920s and into the 1930s (1929 catalog).

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Its a super-sized Berwyn! About 30% of Sears Homes were customized and the #1 customization was enlarging the house a wee bit.

It's a super-sized Berwyn! About 30% of Sears Homes were customized and the #1 customization was enlarging the house a wee bit.

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The Kilborn was a fine-looking craftsman bungalow, and was a big seller for Sears (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

The Kilborn was a fine-looking craftsman bungalow, and was a big seller for Sears (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog). The "five or eight rooms" depended on whether or not the 2nd floor was "expanded."

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It was the photographer and not the house thats a little tilted here.

It was the photographer and not the house that's a little tilted here. That purple foundation is interesting. BTW, this was a "windshield survey" and before these homes can be declared "Sears Homes," an interior inspection would be needed.

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The Sears Sunbeam was probably one of their top-ten most popular models. The open porch on the 2nd floor (known as a sleeping porch) often gets closed in.

The Sears "Sunbeam" was probably one of their top-ten most popular models. The open porch on the 2nd floor (known as a "sleeping porch") often gets closed in.

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Pretty

And what a fine-looking Sunbeam it is. I think. As mentioned, this is a windshield survey, and while I'm 90% certain this is a Sears Sunbeam, I'd really need to know the home's exterior footprint to affirm. Note that the sleeping porch has been enclosed. It's rare to see an Sunbeam with the open porch.

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Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so not surprisingly, I often find more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia than Sears kit homes. Shown above is the Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so not surprisingly, I often find more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia than Sears kit homes. Shown above is the Aladdin "Pasadena" from the 1919 catalog.

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This is one of my favorite houses in Lynchburg. Its a *perfect* Pasadena.

This is one of my favorite houses in Lynchburg. It's a *perfect* Pasadena.

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Even has the original lattice work on the side porch.

Even has the original lattice work on the side porch.

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The Pasadena at a later date (about 2011).

The Pasadena at a later date (about 2011).

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Another Lynchburg Pasadena, just down the road.

Another Lynchburg Pasadena, just down the road.

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One of Aladdins best selling models was the Marsden (1916 catalog).

One of Aladdin's best selling models was the Marsden (1916 catalog).

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Oh yeah baby. There it is. Be still my heart.

Oh yeah baby. There it is. Be still my heart.

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The Pomona was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow and also hugely popular.

The Pomona was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow and also hugely popular.

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Flared columns and all, heres my sweet thing.

Flared columns and all, here's my sweet thing. Do they know they have a kit home? PRobably not.

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And I saved the best for last! The Aladdin Georgia, from the 1919 catalog.

And I saved the best for last! The Aladdin Georgia, from the 1919 catalog.

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Pretty house, isnt it?

Pretty house, isn't it?

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Twinkies! In Lynchburg! Two Georgias, side by side.

Twinkies! In Lynchburg! Two Georgias, side by side.

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And a third Georgia in another part of town.

And a third Georgia in another part of town.

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The Aladdin Edison was a very modest, simple house.

The Aladdin Edison was a very modest, simple house.

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Lyunch

And this one has a pretty stone wall in front.

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The Aladdin Avalon was a classic Dutch Colonial (1931 catalog).

The Aladdin Avalon was a classic Dutch Colonial (1931 catalog).

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The Assessors photo is a dandy, and it captures the Aladdin Avalon from the same angle as the old catalog image! Good job, Mr. Assessor!

The Assessor's photo is a dandy, and it captures the Aladdin Avalon from the same angle as the old catalog image! Good job, Mr. Assessor! And it's a fine exampe of the Avalon!

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And what would a city be without a kit house from Wards?

And what would a city be without a kit house from Montgomery Wards?

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Hopefully, the foundation is good and strong so it wont tip over. This is a Montgomery Ward Carlisle with a pretty big dormer added on!

Hopefully, the foundation is good and strong so the house won't tip over to the left. This is a Montgomery Ward "Carlyle" with a pretty big dormer added on! It needs a little love, but it has original siding and original windows!

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Aladdin

The Aladdin Colonial was quite a house. It was Aladdin's crème de la crème.

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This is

This is not the crème de la crème of Lynchburg housing. This house is now the poster child for insensitive remodeling. Interestingly, it's owned by Lynchburg College. This house has really had a hurtin' put on it.

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Did you enjoy the pictures? If so, please share the link with friends!

And leave a comment for Rose! I’m living on love here!  :D

To read about the Sears Homes in Vinton, Virginia, click here.

Interested in seeing the kit homes of Bedford? Click here.

There’s a missing kit home in Lynchburg. Read about it here.

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Still reading? :D On a personal note, I’ve been trying to move to the Lynchburg/Bedford area since 1994, but life had other plans. I do hope I get there - one day. It’s my favorite part of the country - and I have seen a LOT of the country!

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  1. Sherry Thrasher
    July 29th, 2014 at 10:15 | #1

    Love this! I had no idea.

  2. Katharine
    July 29th, 2014 at 10:48 | #2

    Hi, Rose! This is very cool!

    My husband lived in the second Pasadena (209) during his “bachelor year” before we got married last year (2013).

    I could tell immediately that the original floor plan had been changed a little — the bathroom was expanded and has a spa-like feel, making it the most contemporary thing in the house — but I could never figure it out exactly.

    The house even has the old push-button switches, which I loved.

    The house also has a full basement and spacious attic, both accessed by two very, very tight stairwells coming from the kitchen area.

    I’m only 5′5″ and had to duck while going downstairs!

    A small walk-in closet was added to the bedroom in the back left corner, and a narrow enclosed sun porch/storage room was added behind the room to the right of the kitchen.

    You can tell it was originally an exterior wall because they left the original windows in place (painted shut, of course). A deck was also added to the back of the house.

    The fireplace is non-functioning and there is a small built-in bookshelf to the left of it.

    The first Pasadena, which is just down the street from the one my husband rented, looks to be in much better condition.

    A family with two young kids live there now. I always wanted to go inside and see how that floor plan had been modified and what the finishes were like, because it looked so beautiful lit up at night!

  3. Denae
    July 29th, 2014 at 16:33 | #3

    How does one go about finding out if their home is a kit home?

    I’m curious!

  4. Dale Wolicki
    July 29th, 2014 at 21:02 | #4

    Oh, I remember sitting in the car arguing with you about the Wardway Carlyle!

  5. Rettmom
    July 30th, 2014 at 22:05 | #5

    We owned that yellow Pasadena for about 10 years.

    Original windows still at that time, with rope around a pulley type wheel for maneuvering up and down.

    Push buttons eventually shorted but we left ones that we could.

    Former owners expanded kitchen out towards the back and it has a really good amount of space. I still wonder if the new couple redid the attic.

    The city told us it would never pass code due to the angle and slant of the roof, but it would have been adorable to do so.

    That place was very well built.

  6. August 2nd, 2014 at 10:02 | #6

    I’m so fascinated by this post and yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly!!

    We just moved into a 1914 Arts and Crafts Bungalow.

    One of the things I love most are the high ceilings and how cool the house stays, we haven’t needed AC all summer except for one day.

    Anyway, we just moved from Lynchburg after living there 21 years! Still have family back there so I’m hoping on our next visit I can go see these homes.

  7. Alan Benson
    August 21st, 2014 at 23:49 | #7

    Love this site. Looking through these Lynchburg, Va photos was interesting.

    Oh that poor Carlyle with the humongous dormer! I own a Carlyle here in the Hudson Valley of NY. It’s a perfect house. All original (in siding, instead of stucco).

    It is like the catolog picture you show, the one without the fireplace.

    It has all original woodwork inside, and most of the original bath and kitchen fixtures. It was built in 1927 according to my deed, and has all it’s original windows and exterior trim detail.

    I could text pictures of it to anyone interested, if you care to let me know your phone number.

    I have become a bit of a sleuth, and enjoy looking for other kit homes in my area, and there are many! Several, right here in Pine Plains, NY.

    I have several of Rose’s books and The Wardway book she did with Dale. Love these GREAT homes, that were such a huge part of our history in the 20th century!

  8. Celeste
    April 13th, 2015 at 08:42 | #8

    A friend shared this link and I’m so glad she did. We own a Sears craftsman next to Randolf college.

    They are so attractive, especially when original plans are considered. I should have done a bit more research when updating the outside.

    If you ever do a lecture I would love to know!

  9. May 27th, 2017 at 12:13 | #9

    Have wondered about many houses around Lynchburg College, Sex Street, etc. Many of them appear to be a type of craftsman house.

  10. Dale
    May 27th, 2017 at 13:34 | #10

    I am 82 years young now, but I recall some of the homes in the Blue Ridge Farms section being offered like this with precut lumber.

    I think that some company in Rocky Mount or maybe Martinsville was building them.

    I had a friend who had just gotten out of the Air Force and he worked for them, so I had seen many similar brochures of homes.

    He tried to sell me one of course and most of those homes in the early 1960s were in the $8500 to $12,500 range.

  11. May 28th, 2017 at 06:52 | #11

    Sex Street?

    Please. Do go on.

  12. May 28th, 2017 at 17:27 | #12

    SEX Street? Hold on, I have to see this :)

    Google street view here I come. Sorry, no pun intended. LOL

    Oh, and that WW Carlyle - the dormer is the least worry, there are a WHOLE LOTTA things not right with it.

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