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And The Winner is… (Part II)

December 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Earlier this week, I wrote about the “contest” offered by Sears Roebuck, where they invited 100 “up-to-date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design (Modern Home #189, “The Hillrose”), and second prize was awarded to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa for Modern Home #184.

Despite a lot of traveling, I’ve never seen an original Hillrose. However, in 2005, I gave a talk at a $1,000,000 reproduction of the Sears Hillrose in Prophetstown, Indiana.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is now open to the public, and in addition to the reproduced Sears kit home, there’s also a large working farm on the site.

When there in 2005, I had a thorough tour of the inside and snapped a few photos. As I told the director, I really loved what they’d done with the place. I snapped a few photos (old 35mm slides), which you’ll see below.

In 1916, the Sears Hillrose was offered for less than $2,000. More than 90 years later, the reproduction Hillrose cost more than $1 million.

To read more about The Contest, click here.

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The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

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The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose.

The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose (1914 catalog).

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The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

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Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn. Upon reflection, Im not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when youre relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago.

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn to any known Sears kit barn designs. Upon reflection, I'm not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when you're relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago. That's my little red 2003 Camry to the right of the barn.

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Close-up of the barn.

Close-up of the barn.

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As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk in this barn.

As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk that night inside this barn. Back in the day, I toted around two slide projectors and would show the two slides on two screens, comparing extant houses with vintage catalog images. I was rather relieved when the world went to digital. Organizing all those slides for every talk was a massive undertaking. I finally gave away those slide projectors in 2011 when we moved into a new house.

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The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty.

The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty. It disappears in the shadows, but yes, that's a chamber pot under the bed. The wallpaper was gorgeous, and the rag doll was a nice touch too.

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Is that a Sears light fixture?

Is that a Sears light fixture? Not perfect, but close enough for government work. :)

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For someone whos spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, the kitchen was charming.

For someone who's spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, I'd say the kitchen was utterly enchanting. And who doesn't secretly dream of a turquoise and white cast-iron, wood-fired cookstove?

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Oh

What's not to love?

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And what proper Indiana homestead wouldnt have a Hoosier cabinet?

And what proper Indiana homestead wouldn't have a Hoosier cabinet?

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And properly stocked, too?

And properly stocked, too?

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Do you have an aunt living in one of these towns?

Even though I've never seen an original Hillrose, the 1916 catalog shows that there were Hillroses buit in these cities. Please call your cousin Bertha in Griffith, Indiana and ask her to find the Sears Hillrose there and then ask her to take a photo and send it to the lady in Norfolk. Or maybe your Aunt Beulah in Alvada, Ohio? Or Granny Kittle in Waterman, Illinois? Work with me here. I need a photo of a real life Hillrose. Really I do.

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To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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Teddy: Watchdog Extraordinaire

December 30th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

One of my all-time favorite books is, “Kinship with All Life” (by J. Allen Boone).  It’s a short but delightful read, and the book’s premise is this; dogs are a whole lot smarter (and more intuitive) than we humans can understand.

Several years ago, when Teddy was less than two years old, she came to my bedside one night and demanded that I awaken and arise.

I opened my eyes and saw my favorite quadruped standing there with an intense gaze in her eyes.

With as much gravitas as a Sheltie can muster, she lifted her snout ever so slightly and said, “Woof!”

As any dog owner knows, a dog has different barks for different occasions. This “woof” was different from the others.

I looked into her eyes for a minute and said, “What?”

She looked at me as if to say, “Listen, you need to get up and take a look outside. It’s important.”

She stood still and continued to stare intensely at me.

I arose from my soft pink bed and looked outside, and that’s when I saw two miscreants studying my car, parked in front of the house. One was especially interested in the license plate. The other was leaning over and looking in the driver’s window.

The dog stood beside me and barked incessantly. I was trying to figure out if I should holler or call 911, but Teddy’s barking was enough. They immediately stood up and briskly walked away.

Once the drama ceased, I praised Teddy. And I wondered, “How did she know? And how did she know how to get my attention with that little staring maneuver? How could she hear those muted malefactors, preparing to do heaven-knows-what to my slightly used 2003 Camry?”

Teddy just turned seven years old last month, and I recognize with some sadness that her life is half over.

For the first 30  years of my life, I didn’t like dogs. I was a cat person, through and through. When I was 36 years old, I got my first dog. When my mother met “Daisy,” for the first time, she fell in love with her. My mother told me, “I’m glad that you have discovered what a joy it is to have the love of a dog. There’s nothing like it.”

Mom was right.

PS. One of my most-popular blogs of all time (8,000 views) was this story about Teddy, but the link (from 2010) is now a “dead link.” Not sure how that happened, and this post was an attempt to repair the broken link - unsuccessfully! My apologies if you’ve heard this story before.

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Roxy (black fuzzy lumpkin) is Teddys best friend, and sometimes, they have a sleepover.

Roxy (black fuzzy cutie-pie) is Teddy's best friend, and sometimes, they have a sleepover. At first glance, you might think this is a human bed, but you'd be mistaken. It's a dog bed that humans are permitted to use.

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Teddy has also mastered the art of relaxation.

Teddy has also mastered the art of relaxation.

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Teddy also enjoys looking for kit homes in her spare time.

Teddy also enjoys looking for kit homes in her spare time.

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This is one of my favorite photos of Teddy. She loves taking me for walks.

This is one of my favorite photos of Teddy. She loves taking me for walks.

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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And The Winner Is…

December 29th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

It started out in 1913 as a contest.

Sears invited 100 “up to date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design, which came to be known as The Hillrose (Modern Home #189). In addition to having his creation featured in subsequent catalogs, he also won $50 - in gold.

Second prize ($35 in gold) went to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa. His house (Modern Home #184) didn’t last long enough to be granted a name (1918), and in fact, was gone by 1916.

Despite 14 years of wandering and researching, I’ve seen only one Sears Hillrose and that was in Prophetstown, Indiana (near West Lafayette) and it was less than 20 years old.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is part of a museum exhibit that offers an interpretive display of a working farm.

The first floor of the house is true to the catalog image and to the time period. The interior is filled with period furnishings, appliances and even ephemera. An old Sears catalog sits on an end table in the front room of the Hillrose. The second floor is thoroughly modern, not open to the public, and is used as administrative offices.

In 2005, I traveled to Prophetstown to see this recently built Hillrose “in the flesh” and to give a talk on Sears Homes.

Originally, it was planned that I’d give the talk in the front room of the Hillrose (with space for 30 attendees). Not good. These talks - even 10 years ago - often drew 100+ visitors.

The only option available at the last minute was the barn. And it was a real barn, with real critters and hay and implements.

That evening, at 7:00 pm, I addressed about 90 people, four goats, six cows and several chickens. In the barn.

This newly built Hillrose was a pricey little affair. The 1916 Sears catalog showed the house offered for $1,649. More than 90 years later, the Hillrose’s contemporary cost exceeded $1 million, due to the expense of re-creating an early 20th Century farm house.

And now Prophetstown has a real treasure and a tourism attraction that will endure for decades to come.

There’s a real-life Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia!

Read Part II here.

Click here to see inside the Hillsboro in Prophetstown.

To read more about this Hillsboro in Indiana, click here.

Want to learn more about to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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Contest

I wonder what an "out of date" farmer looks like? This image came from a promotional brochure, dated about 1914. Take a moment and read it in its entirety. It's fun!

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First prize

Modern Home #189 was the prize winner, and garnered $50 in gold for Mr. Selck of Evansville, Indiana (1914 catalog). Fine house (with more than 2,000 square feet) for a mere $1,473.

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house hosue house

W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Ohio won $35 in gold for this design (1914 catalog).

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First prize winner

Apparently, Sears asked for a letter from the first prize winner.

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Second

And the second-prize winner, too.

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house

Aladdin was actually the originator of the business of selling kit homes via mail-order catalogs, but what's a little promotional puffery between friends?.

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hillrose

A comparison of the two houses - side-by-side.

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house

I guess the woodshed was the thing that carried the day.

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house

A panoramic view of Modern Home #189, showing not only the house, but outbuildings and livestock.

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1916

A closer view of Modern Home #189 (The Hillrose).

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barn

A close-up of the Sears kit barn, as shown with The Hillrose (above).

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Round barn with

I love that dormer atop not just the round barn but the silo, too.

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cheapter

Chicken House #221 is shown next to the Hillrose.

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Long shot

Here's a long view of the 2nd prize winner. He has a chicken coop, but it's not the #221. He has a vehicle, but it's only one-horse power. He has an outbuilding, but it's a little milk house.

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house 1916

Second-prize winner got cheaped out on the chicken house.

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house house

Nice little milk house, though.

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Even though Ive never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog).

Even though I've never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog). Alvado, Ohio can't be that big. It can't be too tough to find a big old Sears foursquare in little old Alvado. Perhaps a kind-hearted Avacadoan will find this Hillrose in their town and snap a photo for moi. Or maybe someone in Griffith will embark on this mission of mercy. One can hope. I need a picture of a Hillrose.

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However, I dont know if any of these homes were ever built.

However, I don't know if any of these homes were ever built. Good news is, this house is so distinctive, it'll be easy to spot! In addition to being an L-shaped foursquare (yeah, really), it has an offset porch, small vestibule, pedimented porch roof, big gabled dormer, oversized eaves and a dainty-looking horse in the front yard.

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The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy.

The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy, and it's the only Hillrose I've seen.

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From catalog side

A view of the Hillrose from the same angle as the catalog.

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My favorite view of all

My favorite shot of the Hillrose, showing the barn in the background.

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Just a little archival storage tip: If youre going to

Just a little archival storage tip: If you're going to collect rare Sears House ephemera and sell it on eBay, don't cut it up into tiny bits and then laminate the whole caboodle with thick plastic. This photo here is to help explain why images 1, 4, 5 and 6 look like they were scanned through wax paper. Because - actually - they were. Special thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for purchasing this rare brochure and sharing it!

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To read Rachel’s wonderful blog, click here.

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A Bonnie Clyde!

December 28th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

More than 10 years ago, Dale Wolicki and I went tooling around Ohio, looking for kit homes. That was a lot of fun.

Dale was an especially patient driver, pulling over repeatedly, whenever I would screech, “STOP THE CAR!”

Back in those days, I was more likely to get out of the vehicle and walk around a bit, taking photos of the subject houses. One fine day, Dale decided I had lingered long enough at a house, and just as I was crawling back into his Mercury Mountaineer, he said…

“You need to get back in this car now, or the last thing you’re going to see are the taillights of a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer headed west.”

Well, that just slayed me.

I started laughing. And not those delicate, feminine giggles, but racking paroxysms of laughter, that left me - not only gasping for air - but unable to finish the climb into his very tall SUV. I stopped, right there in the middle of the street, half in and half out of his vehicle, looking like (and sounding like) an escapee from the local looney bin.

I don’t remember what else he said, but I do remember that every subsequent sentence that Dale spoke to me, caused me to laugh even more hysterically. In time, I regained my composure and climbed into the car and off we went.

That’s when Dale recommended that I keep my hands and feet (and body) in the vehicle at all times, and master a photographic technique he called, “the drive-by shooting.”

Ah, good times.

Many of the photos below came from that memorable adventure with Dale Wolicki.

The Sears Clyde (from the 1920s) was a modest little bungalow offered in two floorplans. It’s such a simple little front-gabled house, it might be tough to identify, except for the fact that it has a unique front porch, partially covered and partially open, with a third column base  that looks a bit out of place.

It also had five-piece eave brackets, and most Clydes had a fireplace.

It must have been a very popular house because I’ve discovered many Clydes in many parts of the country.

Enjoy the many photos below!

Read about the many kit homes of Jacksonville, IL by clicking here.

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1928

The Sears Clyde, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Two floorpalns

The smaller of the two floorplans, 9030A was a mere 20' wide.

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1928

Both houses were 38' feet long, but 9030B had an extra 4' of width.

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Cute

This image (from the 1928 catalog) shows that the bay has a single window, whereas many bungalows would have two or three windows. Notice the French door on the home's front.

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The 1922 catalog

The 1922 catalog shows a few minor differences, such as the half-timber effect on the front gables and also the gable ornament on the front porch and bay window. On this earlier model, the front porch has two levels, open wooden railings and stuccoed columns. Both 1922 and 1928 models had the two floorplans. Best of all is the potted plant on the third column.

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This sweet thing in West Lafayette, IN is my hands-down favorite.

This sweet thing in West Lafayette, IN is my hands-down favorite. They must have known we were coming because they set out a potted plant on that third column. It also has the two-level porch deck. I think I am in love.

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They have the

They have the planter but not the fern. Drat. However, what they lack in plants, they make up for in complicated downspout systems. Sadly, this sweet thing (also in West Lafayette), has replacement windows and a very unattractive front door. I suspect it's the later model (based on the lack of Arts & Crafts details).

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This Bonnie Clyde is in Norwood, Ohio where Sears had a large lumber mill. Not surprisingly, Norwood is loaded with Sears Homes (including several Clydes).

This Bonnie Clyde is in Norwood, Ohio where Sears had a large lumber mill. Not surprisingly, Norwood is loaded with Sears Homes (including several Clydes). This appears to be 9030A (note the three single windows).

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These images all come from old slides, buried in a box for the last 13 years. This was one of maybe 25 slides (out of 2,000) that had never been labeled, but I immediately recognized it as Flora, IL. The fine folks of Flori hired me to do a survey of kit homes, and it was one of my very first paid gigs. Happy memories.

This Clyde also has replacement windows, but retains a few features, such as the five-piece eave brackets and gable ornaments. These images all come from old 35mm slides, buried in a box for the last decade. This was one of maybe 25 slides (out of 2,000) that had never been labeled, but I immediately recognized it as Flora, IL. The fine folks of Flori hired me to do a survey of kit homes, and it was one of my very first paid gigs. Happy memories.

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And a beautiful Clyde that Andrew and Wendy Mutch found in Ann Arbor, Michigan! (Photo is copyright 2014 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And a beautiful *almost wholly original* Clyde that Andrew and Wendy Mutch found in Ann Arbor, Michigan! (Photo is copyright 2014 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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I learned to identify kit homes by driving around Alton/Godfrey (Illinois) where I lived for 12 years. However...I didnt discover this Clyde in Alton until several years into my new vocation.

I learned to identify kit homes by driving around Alton/Godfrey (Illinois) where I lived for 12 years. However...I didn't discover this Clyde in Alton until several years into my new vocation. And as I've been looking at this photo, I'm starting to think it's a Sears Olivia with a Clyde's front porch.

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Dayton, Ohio is home to

This Clyde in Dayton, Ohio has the two-level porch.

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And heres a gorgeous Clyde that Rebecca Hunter found in Barrington, IL. (Photo is copyright 2014 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without writtern permission.)

And here's a gorgeous Clyde that Rebecca Hunter found in Barrington, IL. (Photo is copyright 2014 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without writtern permission.)

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Lastly, there a Sears Clyde

Lastly, there's a Sears Clyde in Kansas built by Mr. O'Neil (1922 catalog).

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Thanks to an updated Google Map, we can now see the Clyde in Wamego.

Thanks to an updated Google Map, we can now see Mr. O'Neil's Clyde in Wamego! And what a cute little house it is! Mr. O'Neil apparently decided against the fireplace. Special thanks to Google for capturing an angle that matches the original catalog image above!.

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To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

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Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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Circled Head Dormer: The Happy Lorain

December 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

If a mother could have favorites, the Sears Lorain would be on my Top Ten list. I’ve always had a soft spot in my house-shaped heart for Cape Cods, and the Lorain is a classic example of a 1930s Cape Cod.

In 1933, The Lorain was offered with the rounded dormer, but in later years, the design was changed into a gabled dormer. Personally, I prefer the round design (or “circled head” as Sears called it), but I suspect it was a problematic issue for the neophyte home builder, so it was changed.

In 2005, I visited New Jersey where an independent film maker did a one-hour documentary on the restoration of her Lorain (in NJ). It was well done, but I don’t know if she ever sold the film. It was titled, “Restoring Lorain.”

The filming of that one-hour documentary was a blast, and the woman film maker and her sister showed me great kindness and respect during my time with them. Maybe that’s why the Lorain is one of my favorites! :)

To read another super-dooper blog, click here.

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To cheer up the blog’s author, leave a comment below.

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Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing this image from her 1930 Sears General Merchandise catalog! What a wonderful ad, featuring the Lorain!

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing this image from her 1930 Sears General Merchandise catalog! What a wonderful ad, featuring the Lorain!

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Now thats good writing!

Now that's good writing!

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1933 Lorain

In the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the Lorain had a "Circled Head Dormer" (as shown above). Check out the arched porch roof with pediment. Down the side there's a bedroom window (full size) and two small windows (bath and kitchen). This is another distinctive feature to help identify the Lorain.

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Hey, whats Dad doing here? Mowing the neighbors yard?

Hey, what's Dad doing here? Mowing the neighbor's yard? Why, that's not even a Sears House in the background! The humanity!!

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1936

In 1936, the Lorain still had its "circled head dormer." And lots of flowers in the flowerboxes.

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By 1938

In 1938, the round dormer was replaced with a gabled dormer. The flowers remain.

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1936

I love reading this stuff (1936 catalog).

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1936

This is a darling little house, and check out the cut-out shutters (1936).

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One fave Petersburg

And it has a star. Hmmmm. How quaint. Nonetheless, this Lorain in Petersburg, WV is in darn good condition. If only I'd remembered to pack my battery-powered chain saw to deal with troublesome landscaping. That bush is right in the way of everything.

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PETERSBUR

Another angle of the Lorain in Petersburg, WV.

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Claremont NH

Not only does this Lorain in Claremont, NH retain its original windows (and storm windows), but it has its original cut-out shutters, too. How exciting is that?

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FP 1936

Nice sized rooms, but a tiny little bathroom.

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1936

No bathroom upstairs? Eek.

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1938

The 1938 Lorain.

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house alton

Here's an example in Alton, IL. That wooden deck railing is a special kind of ugly.

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Elgin

Yikes. This poor dear in Elgin, IL needs a emergency dormer-ectomy performed.

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To see a picture of a cat dressed in a shark outfit and riding a Roomba that’s chasing a duck, click here.

To make Rose smile, please leave a comment below.

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And So This is Christmas…

December 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for providing me with the PERFECT Christmas Day photo!

And if you want to read about Sears Homes all year long, join our group of kit-home enthusiasts on Facebook!

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Rach

Rachel Shoemaker's favorite elf studies not one, but two catalogs whilst gazing upon a diminutive version of the Sears Mitchell - decorated for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy

Teddy will look back on this Christmas with many fond memories.

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To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Visit Rachel’s blog by clicking here.

Interested in learning about Gordon Van Tine? Click here!

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Christmas Comes But Once a Year…

December 23rd, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

The holidays are challenging for lots of people for lots of reasons. I have much to be grateful for but sometimes, I find the holidays a little difficult, too.

It doesn’t help that I’m a highly sensitive soul, who takes the world far too seriously and feels things way too deeply. Plus, I’m highly allergic to people, and shopping malls make me break out in hives, and blinking lights make me nervous. Short sticky people who move in erratic patterns whilst generating loud noises make me recoil in horror.

I love movies and in the movie“The Secret Life of Bees” I found a character with whom I could truly identify: “May” (played by Sophie Okonedo).

May is the consummate highly sensitive person, and in one very memorable part of the movie, she tells Lily Owens, “Sometimes not feeling is the only way you can survive.”

If someone invented an off-switch for feelings, I’d consider them worthy of the Nobel Personal Peace Prize.

In the meantime - to my fellow old house lovers and sensitive souls - I hope you have a good new year!  :D

And thank you very much for reading my blog! It brings me much joy to know that folks enjoy the stories I publish here. For that, I am both humbled and grateful.

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Teddy

Teddy The Dog hasn't told me how she feels about Christmas, but she has expressed a wish that she not be forced to sit in little red wagons again.

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And from the man who would be Santa.

One of the people in my life for whom I am grateful: Wayne Ringer, the lawyer who looks more like a logger (and a lot like Santa). Photo is copyright 2014 Morgan Ringer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Despite my fondest Christmas wish, the house featured in A Christmas Story is not a kit house. It is, however, a real house in Cleveland, Ohio.

Despite my fondest Christmas wish, the house featured in "A Christmas Story" is not a kit house. It is, however, a real house in Cleveland, Ohio. And the movie is one of my all-time favorite movies.

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To read about old houses, click here.

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“Our Architects are Bungalow Experts” (Part II)

December 21st, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

Earlier this month, I did a blog on the sweet little GVT #114 that Dale found in Manheim, Pennsylvania.

After that blog appeared, Dale was kind enough to send along two more photos of GVT Modern Home #114. I’ve never seen one in real life, but apparently this was a fairly popular house!

Thanks to Dale for the wonderful photos!

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Want to read the earlier blog on GVT #114? Click here.

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As seen in the 1913 catalog.

As seen in the 1913 catalog.

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I love this text.

I love this text: "The ultra of beauty in design."

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house

Some of these kit homes are a misery to identify, but #114 has many unique features.

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Heres the #114 that Dale found in Manheim, PA.

Here's the #114 that Dale found in Manheim, PA.

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Dale found these in Davenport, Iowa.

Dale found this one in Davenport, Iowa.

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This was

This #114 was also found in Davenport, Iowa (home of Gordon Van Tine).

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Want to read the earlier blog on Wardway #114? Click here.

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More on Jim Walter Homes…

December 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

In the last couple years, I’ve had probably about 20 requests for more information on Jim Walter Homes. As mentioned in a prior blog, the company started doing business in 1946 and ceased in 2009, having sold about 320,000 homes.

That’s a lot of houses.

Last week, Carmen Miller contacted me and asked if there was a way to authenticate a Jim Walter Home. (Carmen was interested because she had recently purchased an alleged Jim Walter Home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.)

I thought and thought about her question, and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

As it turns out, I do some of my best thinking when I’m semi-conscious. Bolting upright about 4:30 this morning, I had my answer: Grantee Records.

Jim Walter Homes (like Sears) offered a really sweet deal on mortgages on their kit homes; easy payments, unusually low downpayments and lower-than-market interest rates. Using Grantee Records (where mortgages are recorded), I could look up “Jim Walter Homes.”

I immediately awakened in-house counsel from his slumbers, who put a damper on my brilliance, and pointed out that I would need trustee names. I replied, “Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to try ‘Jim Walter Homes’ and see what happens.”

I was surprised at how much I found: Four houses within the computerized records in Portsmouth, Virginia!

If you enjoy the following information, you should thank the architecture-loving angel that whispered in my ear at 4:30 am. And thank Carmen, too!  :D

To read more about Jim Walter Homes, click here.

Thanks to Bill Inge for providing some super-fast research on a couple names!

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house house

The map book (showing a physical address for this site) is housed in Norfolk County (see red arrow) which is in Chesapeake, about 45 minutes away from downtown Portsmouth. Using the legal description and some help from my friend Milton, we figured out where this house is located. The trustees names are given as W. S. Sullivan and R. E. Kane, but the deed was found by searching for "Jim Walter Homes." At the top, this document references a "deed of satisfaction," showing that the mortgage has been paid in full. Notice the letterhead.

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Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above.

Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above. It was built in 1974, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this model in my 1972 catalog. It's endured some remodeling. Who knows what it looked like 40 years ago.

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Honestly, Im not sure what this document is, but I suspect its a cover letter for legal documents. Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouths land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

This appears to be nothing more than a cover letter for legal documents (which I did not find). Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouth's land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

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This one, I was able to identify.

I was able to identify this house on Highland Avenue. Construction started in 1988.

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Its The Oxford.

It's "The Oxford."

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Highland

Fancy name; simple house.

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match

According to city records, the house on Highland Avenue is 24 by 38 (912 square feet).

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Last

This also shows a trustee name of Robert E. Kane (for JW Homes). On another note, I can not make out the owner's last name. Is it Lyttle?

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And heres the little JW house that the Lyttles bought.

And here's the little JW house that the Lyttle's built on Holladay Street.

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As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And theres one I still cant locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that its located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, Legal description attached, but there was no attachment.

As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And there's one I still can't locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that it's located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, "Legal description attached," but there was no attachment.

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I’m on the hunt for a few more (earlier) catalogs. If you find one, please drop me a note!

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Oh MY! Look What We Found in Herndon!

December 17th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

You really should join us in the Sears Homes group on Facebook.

The old house aficionados in that group are a wild and wooly bunch who really know how to have a good time! ;)

After a recent blog on the “GVT Tower House” in Herndon and some very interesting banter amongst the night owls, Rachel Shoemaker and I started poking around the small town of Herndon (via Bing Maps) to see what else we could find.

Unfortunately, a surfeit of trees prevented us from seeing much, but I discovered a Sears Winona (seriously altered by a lot of remodeling) and Rachel found the crème de la crème of kit homes, The Gordon Van Tine, “Brentwood.”

Oh, it gets better.

The Gordon Van Tine Brentwood with matching “Ajax” garage.

Ooh la la!

And in Herndon! Who knew?

That’s two rare Gordon Van Tine mail-order kit homes in one small Northern, Virginian town.

Who in the world is Rosemary Thornton?

Maybe there’s a Sears Magnolia hiding in there somewhere!

To read about the other Gordon Van Tine home, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding the GVT Brentwood, and for supplying the GVT catalog images shown below!

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Amongst the trees and bushes of Herndon, we discovered a Sears Winona (1916 catalog).

Amongst the trees and bushes of Herndon, we discovered a Sears Winona (1916 catalog).

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Its a crummy

It's a fairly crummy image snagged off Bing Maps, but it's almost certainly a Sears Winona. From the five-piece eave brackets to the original porch railing and porch roof, it's a fine match.

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And heres the find of the MONTH!

And here's the find of the MONTH! The Gordon Van Tine "Brentwood" (Model 711).

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And you thought kit homes were just crummy little boxes?

And you thought "kit homes" were just crummy little boxes?

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house

Admittedly, it is somewhat unusual for mail-order houses to have a "Maid's Room."

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The typical mail-order kit home had 12,000 pieces and was shipped by train to its destination. The pieces and parts were carefully sorted and stacked, and would usually fit in a single boxcar. I suspect the GVT Brentwood took two boxcars!i

The typical mail-order kit home had 12,000 pieces and was shipped by train to its destination. The pieces and parts were carefully sorted and stacked, and would usually fit in a single boxcar. I suspect the GVT Brentwood took two boxcars!i

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And there it is, in the flesh, a perfect Gordon Van Tine #711.

And there it is, in the flesh, a perfect Gordon Van Tine #711. Rachel Shoemaker flew her little Bing Airplane over top of the house and confirmed (by viewing the back side) that it is indeed a GVT 711.

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And tucked away behind the house is a Gordon Van Tine garage.

And tucked away behind the house is a Gordon Van Tine garage.

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Ever wonder what those boxcars looked like? A lot like this.

Ever wonder what those boxcars looked like? A lot like this.

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Who in the world is Rosemary Thornton?

Maybe there’s a Sears Magnolia hiding in there somewhere!

To read about the other Gordon Van Tine home, click here.

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