Home > Uncategorized > Post #1000 - The Sears Magnolia in New Martinsville, WV

Post #1000 - The Sears Magnolia in New Martinsville, WV

Last week, I traveled to New Martinsville, West Virginia to see what was purported to be the 9th Magnolia. Prior to this, there were only eight known Magnolias in the country. The Magnolia was the crème de la crème of Sears Homes, with countless accoutrements and fine features. To read more about the other Magnolias, click here.

The eight-hour trip to New Martinsville was quite lovely and the weather was beautiful. After examining the Magnolia in New Martinsville, I traveled to Elkins to visit Wayne’s family, and then on to Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was the trip from Elkins to home that went very badly. It should have taken less than 90 minutes to get from Elkins to White Sulphur Springs (and the interstate), but it took more than three hours.

I was as lost as I’ve ever been and frankly, utterly terrified. No cell service for three hours, and not one, but two Garmins that kept sending me around in circles, and roads that were as hazardous as any I’ve ever seen.

At one point, I went around a hairpin turn a little too fast and hit a very slick mudslide. This area had three days of non-stop rain. I hit that mudslide and lost control of the car. And - like so many places in them thar hills - there were no guardrails. In that split-second, I really thought that I was a goner. And in another split second, it was over. It was harrowing.

Had it not been for a small store in Belington (the first town I encountered), I’d probably have ended up on the back of a milk carton, lost forever in those hills, foraging for berries and edible bugs.

Nonetheless, I survived.

Now about that Magnolia…

It’s a puzzler. A real mystery wrapped inside an enigma. If you have an opinion on this house, I’d love to hear it.

Today, I’m of the opinion that the house was a custom-order from Sears, but that the framing lumber was obtained locally. I searched that house top-to-bottom for marks, stamped lumber, shipping labels and yet could find nothing.

And yet, the house has Sears hardware (see pictures below). And it was built sometime after 1930.

Please take a look at the images below and share your insights!

It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for the vintage photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, that has since been demolished. To read more about this Magnolia, click here.

The original blog on this house can be found here.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share the link on Facebook.

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In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year).

In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year). He was cooked and done after one date, but his website lived on, until 2010, when JASE GROUP redid it. (No dates were involved.) This blog on the New Martinsville Magnolia really is my 1000th post.

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The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1924, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias Ive encountered were built after 1922.

The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1922, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias I've encountered were built after 1922. The house in New Martinsville was built after 1930. The Magnolia (as designed) was 36-feet deep and 40-feet wide. The house in New Martinsville is 40-feet deep and 44-feet wide.

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At first glance, it all looks swell.

At first glance, it all looks swell. And while it doesn't have those little lites atop the first floor windows, it does have replacement windows and substitute sidings, and if I had been allowed to pull out the windows and take a good look, I suspect I'd find evidence that when built, it had the small transom lites over the windows.

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Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

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And

In fact, it looks real good!

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Inside, things look pretty good, too.

Inside, things look pretty good, too. (Left to right: Catalog image 1918, Sears Magnolia in Nebraska, and the New Martinsville Magnolia.) The only thing is, that flare at the bottom of the staircase is wrong. And the hallway is a little too wide. Those pilasters in the New Martinsville house are too close to the stairs. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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But

And yet when you go upstairs, things look good there, too. (House on right is the Magnolia in Nebraska.) Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside the

Looking toward the front door, it's a beautiful home, but is it a Magnolia? It sure is close.

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DD

With a little help from my friends, we now know that Dr. Schmied and his wife Anna occupied the house, and may have been the home's original owners. Dr. Schmied was the town mayor for a time, so he was definitely a man of some import. Given that New Martinsville is a small town, someone must know more about this house.

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Then theres this: The millwork isnt right. Sears didnt offer a volute like this at any time in their milwork catalogs.

Then there's this: The millwork isn't right. Sears didn't offer a volute like this at any time in their mill-work catalogs. And I'm not sure if that's a "volute" or just a cap. But it doesn't appear to be anything Sears offered.

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And when I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks just like a Little Debbie Honey Bun.

When I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks like a Honey Bun.

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For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right.

For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right. Then again, Sears didn't offer these tapered spindles (shown on the left) in their millwork catalog.

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And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servants quarters - is right where it should be.

And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servant's quarters - is right where it should be.

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This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldnt find them in the catalogs, either.

This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldn't find them in the catalogs, either.

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But then theres this...

But then there's this. This style knob and escutcheon was found throughout the Magnolia, and it was a model offered by Sears. Does Sears hardware make it a Sears House? It certainly does add to the intrigue.

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This was

Rhythmic door hardware was first offered in 1930, in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. And it's fairly unique. And it's "not a fad," but it is Art Deco. What's not to love! It blends into any home or building!

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Pretty nice

And then there's this, too. The garage (as shown in the 1938 catalog).

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The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

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This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

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The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed.

The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed. The inglenook is still intact. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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fff

The New Martinsville house was used for a time as a restaurant, so it's been dramatically altered, and yet those pilasters (edge of photo) are still in place.

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But the columns were moved to the back of the living room.

But the columns were moved to the back of the living room (near the front of the house).

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Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales).

Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales). Those three windows (covered in red drapes) are on the right front as you face the house.

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And the Butlers Pantry is in the right place, too. It is (as my friend James said), a butlers pantry for anorexics. Its pretty darn small.

And the Butler's Pantry is in the right place, too, between the dining room and kitchen. It is (as my friend James said), "a butler's pantry for anorexics." It's pretty darn small.

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On this side, there should be a sink, but its MIA.

On this side, there should be a sink, but it's MIA.

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Sears

As seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog - the first floor. Having seen the inside of several Magnolias, as well as this house in New Martinsville, I must say that it's a fairly good match to this unusual floor plan.

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And that tiny Butlers Pantry is right where it should be.

And that tiny Butler's Pantry is right where it should be, between the dining room and kitchen. You can also see the servants stairs on this close-up. These stairs lead to the servant's bedroom above.

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I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

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The back of the house is also a good match.

The back of the house is also a good match.

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As designed, this was an open porch. Its now enclosed. The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

As designed, this was an open porch. It's now enclosed, and you can see the French Doors leading to the servant's quarters (as per the original plan). The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

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ff

My pretty Magnolia, who has passed through your doors? Maybe they know your story!

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ITs

It's a beauty, but is it a Magnolia? As I said above, I think it's probably a Magnolia, built with local lumber and perhaps even millwork. There's so much that's right about the house, but also, there's much that is not a good match.

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The Juliet Porch on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering.

The "Juliet Porch" on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering. The spindles are right but it should have paneled columns at the corners. Was this rebuilt in later years? Also, the traditional Magnolia trim around the front door is missing.

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The trim around the Magnolias front door should look like this.

The trim around the Magnolia's front door should look like this. This Magnolia is also in West Virginia.

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R

For that shot of the Juliet Porch, I stood on top of that railing, balanced precariously and rather hopeful that I wouldn't topple to my death. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be a bad way to go. (Artistic re-creation of the actual event.)

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Is it a Magnolia?

Is it a Magnolia?

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It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

To see what makes Rose laugh out loud, click here.

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  1. Dale Wolicki
    August 3rd, 2017 at 15:07 | #1

    I have found many examples where pre-cut homes from Aladdin, Lewis, and Wardway were built years after the model was last featured in the catalog.

    The housing companies knew these older catalogs would circulate for a few years so they expected to have inquires for discontinued homes, which the housing companies looked upon as an opportunity to upsell to newer more modern and expensive model homes.

    Since it’s not possible to upsell the top of the line Magnolia the folks at Sears pulled out the old blueprints and filled the order as best they could with some modifications.

    I don’t recall that the Magnolia was ever available as a pre-cut structure.

    Given the fact the model had already been discontinued I doubt Sears would have engineered the house for the pre-cut system for just one house.

  2. Gemma
    August 3rd, 2017 at 18:25 | #2

    I agree with Dale. There’s no telling what’s under the siding, too.

  3. August 4th, 2017 at 06:23 | #3

    And there’s this: You have to think about life in 1930s New Martinsville. What resources did they have? Was there a local architect who’d be willing to duplicate a design offered by Sears? Was there a local builder that had the sophistication to read blueprints from Sears, and re-create a house?

    I’m in the process of contacting local historians to find out more about who built this house, in the hopes that I can find out more.

    We’ll see! :D

  4. August 4th, 2017 at 16:14 | #4

    We really need someone local to help us out. To authenticate this as a LATE Magnolia is a big deal. The real estate listing gives 1940 as the build date.

    I looked at the tax card for this parcel. The first date is 1956. There could be another tax card that didn’t get scanned and uploaded to the website.

    Or, 1940 could be a date that something happened on the property, it could be a land division date too.

    We need know. I called the assessor yesterday and spoke to someone in land records and gave her my story. She said someone would need to come in a look.

    So, we know there is a gap in ownership on the tax card. Anna, listed as head of household in the 1940 census died in 1948. There’s at least a six year gap between her death and the 1956 owner.

    The door hardware was first offered in the Sears catalog in 1930 and last offered in 1939 (if my memory serves me right).

    The stair work and the tapered balusters first appear in their millwork catalog in 1933. I’ve not seen a flared starting step/riser in their catalogs and I haven’t seen that newel cap. Yet.

    But, just from those items that gives us a possible date of 1933-1939.

    Take into consideration more info gleaned from the census, and the house appears to have been built in late 1935 or so.

    Right now without seeing the tax card or other info we are not aware of, this house was likely built 1936-39 sometime. This can be challenging when you are 1000 miles away. ;)

  5. Dale Wolicki
    August 4th, 2017 at 17:29 | #5

    Remember, back in the old days not everyone participated in the census and some of the census workers were hired because of their political connections, not because of their accuracy and diligence.

    And don’t get me started on the accuracy of real estate listing.

    Cant we just make sweeping generalizations without facts like HGTV does when they talk about Sears Homes?

  6. Rhonda LaPointe Frazier
    August 4th, 2017 at 22:07 | #6

    Ok, I’m fixated on the flood. What if the house was destroyed/unlivable when the flood came (1937?) and 1940 was the date it was reconstructed?

    Maybe it was never even finished before the flood hit. So it was never lived in until repaired and finished in 1940?

    Do we know when the husband died? Maybe he died in that flood. I seem to think floods hit across the country that year, and again in the mid 50s.

    Just remembering stories here in CT, and in CA and now this OH story.

  7. Rhonda LaPointe Frazier
    August 4th, 2017 at 22:46 | #7

    Saw your post on facebook - he died in 1937 “after a short illness.” Maybe flood related. Pneumonia?

  8. Dale Wolicki
    August 5th, 2017 at 00:26 | #8

    Rhonda brings up an excellent fact: the 1937 Ohio Valley floods.

    Did they reach this house and create damage that is causing us confusion? Did they reach the Court House and destroy records, thus the difficulty in back dating the structure and property?

    Having lived in Louisville, Kentucky, it is amazing how far inland the 1937 floods reached and the damage inflicted on historical resources.

  9. David Hunt
    August 5th, 2017 at 09:55 | #9

    This house is not in the 100 year flood plain. The flood zone stops at the houses across Route 2.

    I will be in contact with you, after I talk to some locals to try to find the story behind the house

  10. August 5th, 2017 at 11:12 | #10

    Thanks so much, David! There’s quite a story here, and I’d love to get to the bottom of it.

  11. August 5th, 2017 at 12:12 | #11

    To all of those making speculations as to what happened I implore you to join the facebook group where I posted research relevant to this time frame.

    All of that has been done. You can follow it there.

    We need someone THERE - in New Martinsville - to look up info.

    The answer to your question Rhonda is also in the group. The flood was January 23ish 1937, and Dr. Schmied died a month later in February 1937 following a short illness.

    Dale’s question: The house across the street has a tax record dating 1914, and it’s a pattern California bungalow.

    I went through every tax record for every house within a block of this subject house. And, according to contemporary newspaper accounts, the flood waters did not reach the courthouse. That article is also posted in the Facebook group.

    It stated that 200 people turned up at the courthouse for a place to stay that night, January 23rd.

    There are many articles on that flood in 1937 posted in the Facebook group. BTW, I spent a couple of hours reading newspaper articles about THAT flood and the devastation it caused. ;)

    The Facebook group (”Sears Homes”) really is the place to be to see how things transpire on projects like this.

  12. Dale Wolicki
    August 7th, 2017 at 23:01 | #12

    What’s the difference between speculating and guessing?

  13. August 8th, 2017 at 15:00 | #13

    I actually looked this up. Here’s one answer, as found on our best friend, “Mr. Google.”

    “Speculate typically implies that you’ve given some thought to the issue, while guess can either be a random answer, or conjecture.”
    :)

  14. August 8th, 2017 at 15:33 | #14

    The house was built prior to 1930. We know who lived there in 1930.

    From what I can see on the New Martinsville map through the years it looks like sometime after 1926.

    That still makes this late for the Magnolia, and yes, I know that can be explained ;) Nonetheless, that still makes this interesting.

    http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/ Look at that link, and enter New Martinsville and go to the corner of 3rd and Monroe and you can see how the town developed through the years.

    It’s small but it looks to me like that site (where the subject house is now) was vacant in 1924 and 1926.

    A source tells me that the 1930 occupant, Hawkins, bought the land in 1922. Which is the last year the Magnolia was actually offered in the catalog.

    We need access to Sanborn maps. Or, maybe someone else can see that tiny map I posted better than I can. :/

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