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More Treasures Within Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia

September 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Yesterday (September 28th), Lori Jackson Black met me and Lara Widdifield Mortimer in Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia and then gave us a first-class tour of Mathews County and Gloucester County. We spent a solid four hours driving throughout the residential areas and didn’t find as much as we’d hoped, but we did find a couple interesting houses.

And Lori even found a handful of true-blue Sears and Roebuck tombstones in a local cemetery (ordered from the tombstone catalog). Contrary to internet rumors, these tombstones were *not* zinc, but rather “blue dark vein Vermont Marble” and the stones were shipped from Vermont.

Driving through the many long and winding roads, Lori provided historical background on the community and its people. She explained that many of these families have lived in this area for generations, and that the houses were often passed down from one generation to another.

As I listened to Lori talk about these multi-generational homes and farms, I felt a twinge of envy, wishing that I’d had the good fortune to have some distant kin from this area.

It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by marsh, wetlands and deep water, and there’s a stunning new vista around every twist and turn in the road. If only they had a few more kit homes.  :)

You can visit Lori’s website here.

Learn more about Sears and Roebuck tombstones here.

To read the first blog I wrote on Gloucester Courthouse, click here.

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This Wardway Warrenton was my favorite find of the day.

This Wardway Warrenton was my favorite find of the day. I've only see one of these homes (in Rainelle, WV) and have never seen another - until yesterday. It was a spacious home with six bedrooms (five up, one down).

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I swear, sometimes those foursquares all look alike, but the Wardway Warrenton has a number of unique architectural details, such as that gabled-within-a-hip porch roof, and the four dramatic gabled dormers, replete with cornice returns.

Sometimes those foursquares all look alike, but the Wardway "Warrenton" has a number of unique architectural details, such as that gable-within-a-hip porch roof, and the four gabled dormers, replete with oversized cornice returns. The porch columns are also somewhat distinctive.

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The trees prevented

Lots of landscaping prevented us from getting a picture from the right angle (shown above in the catalog picture), but it's clearly a "Warrenton." The windows on this side are a good match with the lone exception of the dining room window (which originally was a double-window). Upstairs, there were three bedroom windows on this side (also a good match here).

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The Mt. Vernon was a hugely popular house for Montgomery Ward.

The "Mt. Vernon" was a hugely popular house for Montgomery Ward (1931).

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This house

Almost across the street from the Wardway Warrenton (shown above) is this Wardway Mount Vernon. There's also a pattern-book version of this house, but its proximity to the Warrenton suggests it's the Wardway house. This dear little house has also been a victim of vinyl siding. The straight gables (compared to the Mount Vernon's clipped gables) adds a bit to the puzzle of it all!

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Not far from the other two Wardway homes, we found this cute little tudor-esque home.

Not far from the other two Wardway homes, I thought that I'd found this cute little tudor-esque home. Sadly, after a close comparison of the images, I realize it was not a good match (1931).

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You can see it's close to the Wardway Berkeley, but not quite right. Drat.

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And there's a Sears Modern Home #118 in Mathews.

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When Lori first turned her massive Ford Explorer onto this residential street, I was more than a little flummoxed. It was a quiet dead end filled with post-Vietnam era houses with brick veneer and vinyl sidings. Whats she doing? I wondered. When we hit the end of the street, she turned down a private driveway and said, Never in a million years did I think thered be a Sears House on this street, but this is Model #118. She was right. I was more than a little surprised.

When Lori first turned her massive Ford Explorer onto this residential street, I was more than a little flummoxed. It was a quiet dead end filled with post-1960s houses with brick and vinyl sidings. "What's she doing?" I wondered. When we hit the end of the street, she turned down a private driveway and told us, "Never in a million years did I think there'd be a Sears House on this street, but this is Model #118." She was right. Given the "private property" signs, we didn't have the nerve to get any closer.

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Fortunately, Rachel Shoemaker had found a much better photo on Realtor.com. The house was recently for sale (and has since sold).

Fortunately, Rachel Shoemaker had found a much better photo on Realtor.com. The house was recently for sale (and has since sold). It is a beautiful Sears House in a beautiful place. It's quite amazing to see it's in original condition and even the porch railings are still in place. They're probably not original, but they're an accurate replacement. Situated right on the deep water, this house must have endured a lot of bad weather (and more than few hurricanes) through the decades.

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Modern Home #118 was first offered in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog, which was the VERY first year that Sears sold kit homes.

Modern Home #118 was first offered in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog, which was the VERY first year that Sears sold kit homes (1908 shown).

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I was driving down Main Street when this little pretty raised its hand and softly called my name.

In addition to the Wardway Homes and the lone Sears House, I also found this Aladdin Kentucky on the city's main drag. Like the #118 above, it's also in wonderfully original condition.

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But its definitely a Kentucky!

The Kentucky was one of the finest homes offered in Aladdin's early catalogs.

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And I also spotted a Gordon Van Tine #594. Like Sears and Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine was another national kit-home company that sold houses through a mail-order catalog.

During my prior visit to Gloucester Point, I'd also spotted a Gordon Van Tine #594 on Belroi Road. This house was also offered by Wardway, so - if you want to talk details - it's impossible to know if it's a Gordon Van Tine #594 or the Montgomery Ward version. For now, we'll call it a GVT.

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I love the GVT 594 because its so easy to spot. Lots of distinctive features (1924 catalog).

I love the GVT 594 because it's so easy to spot. Lots of distinctive features (1924 catalog).

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Those windows down the side always catch my eye, as does the smaller front porch roof

The Gordon Van Time #594 has a slew of unique features, such as the window arranagement, the smaller front porch roof (at a slightly different pitch) and three porch columns.

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A massive old tree obscured the views, but peeking through the branches, you could

A massive old tree obscured the views, but peeking through the branches, you could see that distinctive bumpout, with the unusual window arrangement.

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Were it not for the tree, I could have done better on the angles here, but you can see theyre a nice match!

Were it not for the tree, I could have done better on the angles here, but you can see they're a nice match! Check out the detail on the front porch! Very pretty!

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Lori drove us past this house (on a main drag), but I didnt note the address or get the photo. If anyone from the area knows where this house is, Id love to get a second look!

Lori drove us past this house (on a main drag), but I didn't note the address or get the photo. If anyone from the area knows where this house is, I'd love to get a second look! One of the distinguishing features is the three windows on the front of the second floor.

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It was Lori that discovered this authentic Sears tombstone in a local cemetery.

It was Lori that discovered this authentic Sears tombstone in a local cemetery. Unfortunately it's in terrible condition and the lambie on top has deteriorated.

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Heres a picture from the 1898 Sears Tombstone catalog.

Here's a picture from the 1898 Sears Tombstone catalog.

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Thanks again to Lori for meeting us and working so hard to discover her town’s own history. It was a delightful day!

You can visit Lori’s website here.

Learn more about Sears and Roebuck tombstones here.

To read the first blog I wrote on Gloucester Courthouse, click here.

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Covington, Virginia and Douthat State Park

September 27th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week,

Last week, a friend and I traveled to Douthat State Park in Clifton Forge, VA to visit my favorite old haunt, Cabin #1. One of 38 cabins in the park, Cabin #1 is the only cabin with vertical logs. Douthat was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and it underwent a massive restoration in the late 1990s.

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Douthat State Park is a beautiful place, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Douthat State Park is a beautiful place, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lake Douthat offers fishing, boating and swimming. The lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout and other tasty fishies.

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There are bears throughout the 4,500+ acre park, but I didnt see any. Then again, I was too much of a wuss to hike but so far on these mountain paths.

There are bears throughout the 4,500+ acre park, but I didn't see any. Then again, I was too much of a wuss to hike but so far on these isolated mountain paths.

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One day during my stay in Douthat, I visited nearby Covington (which is not as pretty as Douthat). Covington certainly looks like it should have an abundance of kit homes. Much to my chagrin, I only found three.

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One of them was The Aladdin Plaza. Aladdin, like Sears, sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs. These houses were 12,000-piece kits and were shipped by train (1919 catalog shown).

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Despite a fairly intense search (my second in three years), I found only three kit homes. The Aladdin Plaza was one of them. It was about a block away from the city park.

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The other fun find was this Sears Auburn, also known

The other find was this Sears "Auburn," also known as model 264P176 (1914 catalog).

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This is a spacious house and has a lot going on.

The Auburn was a spacious house with more than 2,500 square feet (not counting the porches). It has two parallel staircases (main staircase and servant's staircase), each with a small landing window. The many distinctive features make it easier to identify.

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Upstairs, it has

Upstairs, it has spacious bedrooms and a sleeping porch.

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All in all, its quite a house.

All in all, it's quite a house.

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The house in Covington is quite a match.

The house in Covington is a perfect match.

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Put the two images side-by-side and youve got something.

Put the two images side-by-side and you've got something.

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And from this angle, you can see the two small stair-case landing windows.

And from this angle, you can see the two small stair-case landing windows. Towards the right rear, there was a double window which has been replaced. You can see the "repaired" brick. Along the second floor right-side wall, there are only two windows (at the front and rear of that long wall), which is as it should be. Also the distinctive bracketing is spot-on.

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Oh my little

This view shows the detail on those brackets, and the porch columns.

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Way up above these worker homes I found the managers houses, high in the hills.

In another section of town, high above the neighborhood that houses the Aladdin Plaza and Sears Auburn, I found the fancy homes on the curvilinear streets (and with the beautiful views). It was up there that I found a single Sears kit home, "The Lynnhaven."

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All in all, I was very surprised to find only three kit homes in the entire city. This was my second visit, and between the two visits, I dont think I missed very much!

All in all, I was very surprised to find only three kit homes in the entire city. This was my second visit, and between the two visits, I don't think I missed very much!

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By the way, while youre in Clifton Forge, you should stop and see the train museum there. Its well worth the visit and the $8 admission supports a very worthy cause. Ive been there four times, and I highly recommend it!

By the way, while you're in Clifton Forge, you should stop and see the train museum there. It's well worth the visit and the $8 admission supports a very worthy cause. I've been there four times, and I highly recommend it!

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The merry widow

By the way, if anyone knows what happened to "The Merry Widow" (shown above) please let me know? I couldn't find it on this most-recent trip. It's been sitting in this spot since 1952.

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If you know anything about Covington, please leave a comment. I’d love to know where you’re hiding the kit homes! And I’d also love to know more about the status of the Merry Widow (steam engine).

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To read about my prior trip to Covington (in 2012), click here.

I’ve found an abundance of Sears Homes in Clifton Forge (next door to Covington).

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The Sherman Triplets

September 24th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Several years ago, dear friend and co-author Dale Wolicki gave me and Rebecca Hunter a first-class tour of Bay City, Michigan. One of the homes he pointed out to us was “The Sherman,” a kit home built on one of the many tree-lined streets of this historic city in Northern Michigan.

The Sherman was a kit house offered by Lewis Manufacturing, a kit-home company that was based in Bay City. Like Sears, Lewis Manufacturing also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog in the early 1900s. These houses were shipped in 12,000-piece kits and arrived by box car. Each kit included detailed blueprints and a lengthy instruction manual that told you how all those pieces and parts went together.

It was estimated that “a man of average abilities” could have a house assembled in 3-4 months.

Not surprisingly, Bay City is home to a surfeit of kit homes from both Lewis Manufacturing and Aladdin Kit Homes (which was also based in Bay City).

Thanks to Dale Wolicki for being such a good friend and tour guide and also for sharing so many vintage catalogs with me, including a 1927 Homebuilder’s Catalog!

Lewis sold some big fancy homes, as well as the more modest Sherman. To read more about that, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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Heres the Lewis Sherman that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan.

Here's the Lewis "Sherman" that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan. I do wish I'd made a note of the street, but I remember that I was located in Bay City!

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The Sherman in Bay City is a nice match to this 1920 catalog image.

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Floorplan

It's a simple but practical floorplan. The living room is quite spacious given the size of the house.

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The Sherman has a twin in the 1927 Homebuilders Catalog (a plan book catalog).

The Sherman has a "twin" in the 1927 Homebuilder's Catalog (a plan book catalog). Plan book houses were a little different from kit homes. Kit homes were complete kits (blueprints and building materials) whereas plan book houses were just blueprints and a LIST of the building materials you'd need to buy.

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In fact, there are two houses in the 1927 Homebuilder's 's catalog that bear a stunning resemblance to the Lewis "Sherman." The Cadott is mighty close, with a few minor differences (1927 catalog).

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Whats really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side.

What's really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side. Far left is the Cadott (Homebuilder's) and the Lewis Sherman (center image) and the Catalpa (Homebuilder's). The Cadott is 28' deep, the Sherman is 30' deep and the Catalpa is 29 feet deep. Through these very minor changes, the companies hoped to avoid the appearance of "stealing" one another's designs. Interestingly, the Sherman is the only one without a fireplace.

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Side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also interesting.

A side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also entertaining. The Cadott is on the far left, Lewis Sherman in the center and the Catalpa is on the far right. There are some minor differences on the exterior, such as window arrangement. Plus, the corbels on the front porch are different. And they all need landscaping!

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The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

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All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis Sherman in Bay City!  :D

All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis "Sherman" in Bay City! :D

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To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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Be Still My Heart - A Carroll!

September 20th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Way too often folks will tell me, “We’ve got dozens of those little Sears kit homes in our city,” and when I ask, “How do you know that?” the response is always the same: “You can just tell by lookin’ at ‘em! They’re the square boxy little things.”

Oh man.

That’s one of those comments that’s grown fairly wearisome (and worrisome).

For more than 15 years, I’ve been mired in this niche topic and I can say with some authority, you can not identify Sears Homes thusly.

The Sears “Carroll” is a classic example of this. It’s hard to define the specific housing style of the Sears Carroll, but I’d say it’s a splash of Modern and a heaping helping of Minimal Traditional. In short, it’s not one of those “square boxy little things.”

Perhaps it’d be easier to just say - it’s a unique house and yet is most certainly is a Sears kit home.

Thanks so much to Mary Perkins for sharing the photos of her “Carroll” in Cincinnati.

Enjoy the photos.

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The Carroll, as shown in the 1932 Sears catalog.

The Carroll, as shown in the 1932 Sears catalog.

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Ive been traipsing around the country for a long time, but have never seen a Carroll in the flesh.

I've been traipsing around the country for a long time, but have never seen a Carroll in the flesh. The Perkins' home in Cincinnati is "flipped" and the mirror image of the floorplan shown above.

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2ds

Upstairs, there are three good-sized bedrooms, and double closets in two bedrooms.

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The Carroll was offered in 1932 and 1933.

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Now that's one fine-looking house, and it's a Sears House! Mary (the home's happy owner) says that her husband found authenticating marks on the lumber in the attic. This Carroll was built in 1932. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of Mary's "Carroll" - before it's most recent paint job. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The homes rear is also a good match to the Carrolls floorplan.

The home's rear is also a good match to the Carroll's floorplan, and there's a small addition to the kitchen. If you go back and look at the floorplan (above), you'll see that the 2nd-floor bathroom extends a little bit beyond the first floor's footprint. By the way, that does NOT appear to be a Sears & Roebuck hot tub. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Perkins added this dreamy solarium to the house.

The Perkins' added this dreamy solarium to the rear of the house. Mary said that there was no delineation between the living room and the original sunroom (as is shown in the floorplan above). Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Perkins bought the house in 1987, and it was shortly thereafter that a neighbor told them it was a Sears kit house.

The Perkins bought the house in 1987, and it was shortly thereafter that a neighbor told them it was a Sears kit house. The wood trim in the dining room and living room retains its original varnished finish. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A lovely view of the Carroll's original batten door (unpainted, thank goodness) and what appears to be an original light fixture. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In the Carrolls living room, the Perkins did some repair work to the existing brick fireplace and added this beautiful Walnut mantel.

In the Carroll's living room, the Perkins did some repair work to the existing brick fireplace and added this beautiful Walnut mantel. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a fine-looking house - from front to back and top to bottom!

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Thanks again to Mary Perkins for sharing these photos.

To read more about Sears Homes in Ohio, click here.

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Cradock: One of America’s First Planned Communities (Portsmouth, VA)

September 13th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

In 1918, while the War to End All Wars was raging in Europe, Cradock (a neighborhood in Portsmouth, VA) was born.

The US Government funded the creation of Cradock, and the implementation of the Garden City Concept (originally developed in the United Kingdom in 1898) was carried out by the United States Housing Corporation.

The USHC modeled their designs and standards for neighborhood planning on the Garden City model, which were self-contained, purposefully designed neighborhoods with a balance of residential housing, churches, schools, physicians, businesses, and other commerce.

In Cradock, a trolley down the main street (Prospect Parkway) carried workers to the nearby Norfolk Naval Shipyard (also in Portsmouth, despite the misleading name).

According to a National Registry application for this historic community, early advertisements for Cradock described it as “The Garden Spot of Tidewater.”

Named after British admiral Christopher Cradock, it was  hoped that the independent community would blend the positive features of city living with the quiet enjoyment of country life.

At the height of the war, the NNSY employed more than 11,000 people. By 1923, that number had returned to pre-war levels (about 2500). In 1920, the US government decided that Cradock was costing taxpayers too much money, and The US Housing Corporation abandoned the city. In local periodicals, Cradock became known as “The Orphan City.” In 1922, Norfolk Couny annexed the community.

In subsequent years, more homes were built in Cradock and that’s what piqued my interest. Cradock is home to several kit homes from Sears, Aladdin, and other early 20th Century kit homes.

What is a kit home? In the early 1900s, you could order almost anything out of a mail-order catalog. From 1908-1940, you could order a kit home from Sears and Roebuck! The 12,000-piece kits were shipped by rail and came with a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together!

Today, the only way to find these homes is literally one by one. And Cradock has several!

Through years of research, I’ve learned that more than 75% of all Sears Homeowners had no idea about the historic origins of their home until they talked to me and/or discovered their home on this website. Do these homeowners in Cradock know what they have?

Thanks so much to Lara for driving me around on her day off! :)

Enjoy the photos and please share the link on your Facebook page.

To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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Cradock

Cradock was based on "The Garden City" model, which became hugely popular in the early 1900s. Neighborhoods were self-contained with residential housing, businesses, banks, doctors, schools and post offices - all within one walkable area.

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A green-space and communal area was part of Cradocks original design.

A green-space and communal area was part of Cradock's original design. I'd love to know if the bandstand was original to the area, or was a modern-day addition.

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Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, Ive found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. The Aladdin Capitol was one of their fancier homes (1937 catalog).

Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, I've found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. Aladdin was based in Michigan, but had a huge mill in Wilmington, NC. The Aladdin Capitol (shown above) was one of their fancier homes (1931 catalog).

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Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin Capitol is in wonderful condition.

Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin "Capitol" is in wonderful condition.

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And its a perfect match to the old catalog image.

And it's a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes dont realize what they have.

Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes don't realize what they have.

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The Aladdin Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears.

The Sears Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears (1928).

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Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess it - probably - but its hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell.

Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess is - possibly - but it's hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell. In addition, there were a couple "plan book" houses that resembled the Sears Mitchell. It'd be fun to get inside this house and figure out if it is a Sears Mitchell.

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The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

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Picture perfect in every way.

Picture perfect in every way. Notice it has the three-window bay (partially hidden by a pine tree) and the box window on the home's front. The home's attic is a bit higher than the Walton, which was a common "customization" intended to create additional living space.

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The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans.

The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans and for several years.

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Close-up of the three-bedroom floorplan.

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Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, Floorplan C with the three bedrooms.

Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, "Floorplan C" with the three bedrooms. That front porch addition is unfortunate.

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On the main drag through Cradock is the Alhambra.

On the main drag through Cradock (where the trolly line once ran) is the Alhambra.

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This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didnt promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home.

This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didn't promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home. This Alhambra had been built by the owner's own father, and the family had always cherished and appreciated this home.

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The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

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This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that its almost 90 years old.

This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that it's almost 90 years old. That assymetrical gabled entry with small window is a distinctive feature of the Montrose. On this house, the front window and entry were "swapped" and if you study the home's floorplan, this is a simple switch to make. More than 30% of Sears Homes were modified when built.

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The Sears Conway (also known as The Uriel) was another popular model.

The Sears Conway (also known as "The Uriel") was another popular model. Like so many of these kit homes, it also had an expandable attic.

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The substitute siding on this house doesn't do it any favors, and many of the home's unique features went bye-bye when that siding went up, but it's still identifiable as a Sears Conway.

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THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling Avondale (1920 catalog).

THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling "Avondale" (1920 catalog).

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Is this a Sterling Avondale? It sure looks like it!

Is this a Sterling "Avondale"? It sure looks like it! The privacy fence on the left hides the details, but the windows down the left side are a perfect match.

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Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

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Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod.

Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod: Squared columns, pilasters, gabled porch, sidelights by the front door and cut-out shutters.

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Now thats a nice match!

Now that's a nice match!

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You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs.

You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs to its porch gable. Notice that it's now made of plywood. It would not have been built with a plywood front in the 1930s.

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Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, its come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some homeowner pride in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmonds archives.)

Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, it's come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some "homeowner pride" in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmond's archives.)

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To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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San Jose in Boonton, New Jersey - and it’s on Kenmore Road!

September 9th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Some time ago, Vera Peterson saw my blog on the San Jose in Blue Island, Illinois and contacted me. She said that she owned a San Jose in New Jersey, and offered to send pictures. Such lovely bonuses make the hassles of blog-writing all worthwhile!

And perhaps most interesting:  When Vera and Chris Peterson bought this house more than 10 years ago, it was in mighty rough shape and was at risk of being demolished.

Through the years, they invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears (and money) restoring this piece of architectural history. As part of their restoration, they updated the kitchen and bath (which had been remodeled into something hideous in the 1960s) and and they also turned their back yard into a showplace.

The fact that this house is on Kenmore Road is just a an added plus! And, for a limited time only, this house is for sale.

Thanks so much to Vera and Chris Peterson for sharing these photos of their wonderful Sears kit, “The San Jose.”

To read more about the history of Sears and Kenmore, click here.

Want to buy one of the prettiest little Spanish Revival homes in all of New Jersey? Click here.

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The San Jose 1928

The San Jose - "a splendid floor plan"! (1928 catalog)

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Buce floorplan

I love the irregular shape of the exterior living room wall.

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Who doesn't love a Spanish Revival? And this one is extra cute!

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What a fine-looking house! Thanks so much to Vera for contacting me! By the way, did you notice that the vent window in the attic is turned 45 degrees from the window in the catalog picture? I wonder if that was by accident or on purpose? Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Or maybe I should, "Photo es copyright 2015 Chris Peterson y no puede ser utilizada o reproducida sin el permiso escrito."

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House

Now that's a fine addition to any house - a massive screened porch. Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And beautifully decorated! Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Love the tapered fireplace. Notice the original light fixtures and original wood trim. Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And here's the San Jose that Rebecca Hunter found in Illinois. As someone else commented, the snow around this house is a little off-putting! Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read more about the history of Sears and Kenmore, click here.

Want to buy one of the prettiest little Spanish Revival homes in all of New Jersey? Click here.

Still reading? I was wondering how in the world someone came to name this small town “Boonton” and learned that it was originally named after a Colonial-era governor, Thomas Boone and was known then as “Boone Towne.”

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“Colonial House with a Bungalow Effect” - And Maid’s Quarters!

September 7th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

It’s two, two, TWO houses in one! The catalog page featuring the Sears Arlington promoted it as a “Colonial House with a Bungalow Effect.”

Maybe we should just call it, “The Colongalow”! [Kah-lon-ga-low]

And what’s not to love about the melding of two housing styles?

Everyone who loves old houses has a soft spot for the Bungalow and the Colonial, and the Arlington features elements of both (or so the ad promises).

And our Colongalow has a maid’s room, which isn’t something you’d expect to find a kit home. There were a handful of Sears Homes that offered maid’s quarters, but the Arlington is one of the most modest (within that grouping).

Thanks again to Becky Gottschall for finding and photographing the Arlington in Pottstown shown below.

To learn more about The Bungalow Craze, click here.

You can read more on Pottstown here.

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Im not sure where the Colonial element comes in.

I'm not sure where the "Colonial" element comes in. Classic Colonial Revival architecture features symmetry inside and out, with a centered front door, central hallway and staircase, and symmetrical windows on the home's front. If someone can point out the Colonial influence on this classic Arts & Crafts bungalow, I'd love to see it! (1919 catalog)

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As you can see from the floorplan, it doesnt boast of a center hallway with a center staircase.

As you can see from the floorplan, it doesn't boast of a center hallway with a center staircase. And yet if you look at the room on the back left, you can see it boasts of a "maid's room."

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Howe

However, it is a spacious home with fair-sized bedrooms.

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That maids room is pretty tiny.

That maid's room is pretty tiny, but at least it has a closet.

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In the Baxters home, Hazels room was also right off the kitchen.

In the Baxter's home, Hazel's room was also right off the kitchen and yet look at the size! But Hazel wasn't your average maid, so maybe that's why she got such a suite deal. (Image is from "TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes," Mark Bennett, copyright 1996, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.)

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In addition to the spacious bedroom, she also had a walk-thru closet and her own attached bath. Plus, Mr. Bee bought her a great big color television for that nice en suite. Hazel had a good arrangement in the Baxter's home, and both "Sport" and "Missy" loved her dearly. But I digress. There are only a handful of Sears Homes that featured "Maid's Quarters" and our "Colongalow" was one of them. (Image is from "TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes," Mark Bennett, copyright 1996, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.)

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Becky Gotschall found this Arlington in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania.

Becky Gotschall found this Arlington in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania. The porch was enclosed, but it was tastefully done. And it's the only brick Arlington I've seen. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The large gabled dormer still retains its original siding. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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That appears to be a kitchen window that's been enclosed toward the home's rear. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Rachel Shoemaker found this Arlington in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Rachel Shoemaker found this Arlington in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2015 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Is this an Arlington on Deep Creek Blvd in Chesapeake? Im inclined to think that it probably is, even with the differences in the front porch.

Is this an Arlington at 212 George Washington Highway North in Chesapeake, Virginia? After studying it for a bit, I'd say probably not. It appears to have a broken porch roof, and that is NOT something a buyer would ever have customized! (The angle on the Arlington's front porch is the same as the primary roof.) Photo is copyright Teddy The Dog 2010 and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Admittedly, she did not take the photo, but she did find the house.

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One of the worlds most perfect Arlingtons in Gordonsville, VA.

One of the world's most perfect Arlingtons in Gordonsville, VA.

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The floorplan showing The Baxters Home came from this book, which is a mighty fun read. It features all our favorite TV homes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Personally, I love looking at floorplans and this book answers a few questions about the Petries home, and the Taylors home and the Baxters home.

The floorplan showing The Baxter's Home came from this book, which is a mighty fun read. It features all our favorite TV homes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Personally, I love looking at floorplans and this book answers a few questions about the Petrie's home, and the Taylor's home and the Baxter's home and more.

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To learn more about The Bungalow Craze, click here.

You can read more on Pottstown here.

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Eskimo Pies and Something Like the Aladdin Villa!

September 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

It’s been known by different names: “Peacock Plantation” (in the 1960s) and more recently, “Bishop Manor Estate.”

I like to think of it as, “The Eskimo Pie House.”

The home’s builder and first owner was Fred Bishop. A transplanted Chicagoan, Fred built this house and estate in St. Elmo, Alabama, in the hopes of building a first-class dairy operation in the South. It was his hope to make and market high-quality ice cream.

As a natural consequence of this, he produced one of the greatest inventions the world has ever known: The Eskimo Pie. According to local legend, people came from far and wide to sample the tasty concoction.

Now that’s a house with a good heritage.

When the Great Depression hit, people stopped buying ice cream and Eskimo Pies and Fred lost his estate in foreclosure. The house passed through many hands and in 1985, it ended up on the National Registry of Historic Places.

At first glance, Fred’s house looks a like an Aladdin Villa, but the Villa didn’t appear until the 1916 catalog.  According to the 1960s brochure (see below), Fred Bishop started construction on his home in 1915. If that’s a good build date (and that’s a big “if”), that raises a whole bunch of questions. However, the National Registry Application gives a build date of 1925. Was that a completion date, or a build date?

If this is an Aladdin Villa, it’s been fancied up quite a bit, with a curved interior staircase, basswood paneling, cherry balustrade and marble fireplace mantle. Plus, the floorplan is not a good match to the Aladdin Villa, but “customization” was common in these grand old kit homes.

And there’s this: Fred and his family were from Chicago. They would have been well familiar with kit homes.

The only photos I’ve been able to find of this house are from the 1985 National Registry application, and studying those photos leave me scratching my head. Is this a Villa? More likely, I suspect there’s a pattern book version of the Aladdin Villa, running around out there and that Fred’s house was probably based on that plan book version.

It’d be fun to find out more about this interesting old house!

If you know anything about The Bishop Manor, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the Aladdin Villa, click here.

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The Aladdin Villa was first offered in the 1916 catalog.

The Aladdin Villa was first offered in the 1916 catalog (1919 catalog shown).

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A 1960s brochure gives quite a bit of information on the house. Image is credit 2014 some kind soul on Facebook who was a member of a the Lost Alabama group and Ill be darned if I can find their name now. Hopefully, theyll stumble across this blog and give me their name so that I can give proper credit.

A 1960s brochure gives more information on the house. Credit for this image is 2014, via some kind soul on Facebook who was a member of a the "Lost Alabama" group and I'll be darned if I can find their name now. Hopefully, they'll stumble across this blog and give me their name so that I can give proper credit.

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The back side of the brochure is full of historical information on the old house. For credit and reprint information, please see above.

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The National Registry information shows a floor plan for Freds house.

The National Registry information shows a floor plan for Fred's house.

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The floorplan (1919 catalog) has some significant differences.

The floorplan (1919 catalog) has some significant differences.

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Heres a picture of an Aladdin Villa in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's a picture of an Aladdin Villa in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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The Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

The Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

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Freds house - as seen in the 1985 National Registry Application.

Fred's house - as seen in the 1985 National Registry Application.

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Shown from the side.

Shown from the side.

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An extensively customized Villa in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

An extensively "customized" Villa in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In conclusion, I suspect there’s a pattern book version of the Aladdin Villa, running around out there and that Fred’s house was probably based on that plan book version.

If you’ve got a notion, please leave me a comment!

To see the rest of the photos of this beautiful old estate in Alabama, click here.

Eskimo Pie - Yummy!

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Pottstown - Where Have You Been All My Life?

September 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Becky Gotschall initally contacted me through Facebook, and said that she’d found “a few kit homes” in her neck of the woods.

Inspired by her enthusiasm, I started “driving the streets” of Pottstown, Pennsylvania (via Google Maps™) and discovered this masculine-looking foursquare.

The house tickled a memory but I couldn’t quite remember where I’d seen it before. Next, I sent an email to Rachel and asked her to take a “quick peek” through her 23,939 catalogs and see if she could find this foursquare.

And amazingly, she did.

Rachel found it in her 1917 Sterling Homes catalog, and even emailed me the original scan.

As with the last blog, this house was also “discovered” through a collaborative effort involving myself, Rachel and Becky, who not only got this whole thing started, but went out and got some beautiful pictures of the grand old house.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Becky for discovering a Sterling “Imperial” which is one house I’ve never seen before!

To read about our other discoveries in Pottstown, click here.

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

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Sterling Something

The Sterling "Imperial" was one fine-looking foursquare (1917).

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1917

The pantry has a little access door for the ice box (1917). This was known as "the jealous husband's door," because it obviated the need for that dapper ice man to enter the home, and provided access through a small door on the porch. The Imperial was a traditional foursquare, with four rooms within its squarish shape. There's also a spacious polygon bay in the living room.

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Check out the "Maid's Room" on the second floor. As with the Vernon, it's directly over the kitchen, because that's the worst room on the second floor.

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Close-up of that "interior view" shown above.

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My, but that's a handsome home. That three-window dormer must be pretty massive inside that attic. What makes it striking is that horizontal wood belt course just above the first floor, with clapboards below and shakes above.

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Looks like it walked off the pages of the Sterling catalog! The columns and railing are original and in good condition. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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Looks majestic from all angles! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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HOUSE HOUSE

From this angle, you can see that cute little house in the back. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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Hey wait a second. Did that cute little tree come with the kit?

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The same tree shows up in the current image! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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If you’d like to visit another very fun kit home website, click here.

Want to read more about “The Jealous Husband’s Icebox Door”?

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