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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Jim Walter Homes: A Peek Inside the 1971 Catalog

December 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Recently, a fellow history lover (Carmen) sent me a photo of her 1954-built home and said that she’d heard it was a Jim Walters’ Home.

I dragged out my lone Jim Walter Homes catalog (November 1971), and didn’t find a match.

However, I had so much fun looking at the pictures, I decided to scan the catalog and share it here!

In the meantime, I’d love to find a few more Jim Walter catalogs. This Florida-based company sold more than 320,000  houses, which is more than Aladdin, Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Lewis Homes combined.

Jim Walter started his house-building business in 1946 and ceased operations in 2009. I recently purchased “Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story” (written by Alvin Moscow in 1995), and I haven’t read it all, but it’s an interesting book.

According to the book, Jim Walter was 23 when his business began, and in the mid-1980s, it was one of the top-200 largest industrial enterprises in the United States.

In 1961, Jim Walter acquired Celotex, a company that manufactured insulation materials that contained asbestos.

That didn’t end well for anyone.

According to an obit published in the New York Times , Jim Walter Homes employed 530 crews (3-5 men per crew) who would build out your home to any level of completion you wished - from shell to finished home.

At its peak, Jim Walter Homes had 25,000 employees, and annual sales of more than $2 billion.

Despite the connection with Celotex, a spokesperson for Jim Walter Homes affirmed that “asbestos was never used in any  Walter Homes.”

Jim Walter Homes filed for bankruptcy in December 1989, and in 1995, became known as Walter Industries. It closed in 2009.  Jim Walter died in January 2000.

To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

If you enjoyed reading this item, please share it on your Facebook page!

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Photo is from Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so were going to hope that Pineapple Press puts this photo under the broad umbrella

Photo is from "Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story" and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so we're going to hope that the publisher (Pineapple Press) puts this photo under the broad umbrella of Fair Use, which includes "quotation of excerpts in a review of criticism for purposes of illustration or comment" (from the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S., Library of Congress). Does this mean I need to write a short review of the book ? Haven't read it cover to cover, but it looks like a swell book. Does that count? :)

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Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

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Jim

I'm such a sap for history. I wonder what this building is used for now?

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The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers.

The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers. BTW, that 170,000 is of 1971. Does that mean they doubled their sales numbers by 2009? Hmmm...that's a little hard to believe. It's plausible, I suppose.

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Are you enjoying these photos? I am!

Men work. Women pick out swaths of fabric! Oh dear! I'm not sure what Missy is doing on the floor. Check out the text. "Your new home...will not be prefabricated in any way. Each board is cut to fit, one by one, on your building site." That's a puzzler, isn't it? I would have thought this lumber *was* precut!

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Jim

And I thought identifying the Sears bungalows in an early 1900s neighborhood was tough? Oh man! These houses are quite "simple" (to put it gently).

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Simple, but an affordable way to have three-bedrooms and a home of your own.

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F

Straight-forward design and a mere 760 square feet.

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wfe

The "Biscayne" kinda looks like the 1970s version of the cheapest way to cover air.

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House

"Can you imagine the overwhelming joy of your family?" The kid in the corner looks pretty morose, but the old man looks content. This photo is a bit creepy.

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This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog.

This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog, and it's a mere 1,142 square feet.

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Jim

The names are fancier than the houses.

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fefe

Hollywood? Is this the kind of house that Jolie Whats-her-name would buy?

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fff

I'd have named the 2nd house: "Rebel without a flaws." Grammatically messy, but cute.

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Jim

Have you noticed that the front door on each of these houses has a small diamond window?

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This house got a full-page spread.

The Oxford (description below) got a full-page spread.

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fefe

Should someone tell Mom that she's wasting water, and probably aggravating the living daylights out of Dad? Notice that the house is described as "Colonial Style"? I guess it's the coach light by the front door that does it.

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Is "The Rambler" prone to run away in the wee hours? Or does it talk excessively? Or is it the size of the house? It's hard to say that a 760-square foot house is a "rambler."

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iiiii

If you're old, you'll like this house.

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yyy

"Just plain good living...is what this plan has to offer."

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This one actually has a little bit of flair.

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Were Comanches known for their big families? The word for Comanche comes from the Ute word, kɨmantsi (enemy). What were they trying to tell us about this house?

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They look quite European.

They appear to be of European descent. Mother's right hand is disfigured. Apparently, she hides the left hand in the pocket of her atomic housecoat when photos are taken, as it's the more seriously disfigured appendage. Dad graciously tries to look in the other direction.

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house

It does have a little more "flair" than the other JW homes. Still only one bathroom, though.

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Carmine recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I cant say that I do.

Carmen recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I can't say that I do.

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To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

Do you have a Jim Walter catalog you’d love to give me for a Christmas present? Please leave a comment below!  :D

Read about The Little Tower House by clicking here.

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The Little GVT Tower House Mystery: Solved!

December 15th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Yesterday, I wrote a blog, asking who’d sent me a photo of a purported Sears House.

Weeks (or months) after I’d told the sender that it wasn’t a Sears House, I discovered that it was a kit house, from Gordon Van Tine!

Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa) was a competitor of Sears, and also sold entire kit homes through a mail-order catalog. The house was shipped by boxcar (with 12,000 pieces of house), and each kit came with a 75-page instruction book.

Last night, Tina replied to my inquiry and said it was she who’d sent me the original image, and that the house (in Herndon, VA) had been listed for sale as a Sears Maytown (oopsie).

She also provided a link, showing some interior photos of The Little Tower House.

I’ve reposted a handful the photos below (without a smidge of permission), but the direct link shows 24 beautiful pictures.

Now I’m wondering, what else is there in Herndon, VA? That’s one Virginia city I’ve never set foot in!

Many thanks to Tina for solving the mystery!

Updated to add: Herndon isn’t that far from Norfolk!  It’d be fun to visit Herndon and do a proper survey of all their kit homes!

To read the prior blog (with floorplan), click here.

Realtors seem to have a real problem with the Sears Maytown. Here’s one really wild example.

To see a real Sears Maytown, click here.

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Hernond

Again with the "Sears Maytown." Sheesh. It is a kit home, but it's NOT from Sears.

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Little Tower House in Herndon, VA.

Little Tower House in Herndon, VA.

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Tower House

Another view. BTW, that half acre of land really sweetens the deal!

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house

The stained glass windows are a lovely addition to the 2nd floor "Tower Room."

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I love that Tower Room!

I love that Tower Room! You can see a bit of the ceiling in this photo, too!

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What a pretty house!

This is the first floor view of the Tower Room. What a pretty house!

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I think Im in love.

I think I'm in love. Looks like an original light fixture to the left.

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Nicely done.

Wow. Who WOULDN'T love a space like this!

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And the back yard is just dreamy.

And the back yard is just dreamy.

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But repeat after me...this is NOT a Sears Maytown!

But repeat after me...this is NOT a Sears Maytown!

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It is a Gordon Van Tine

It is a Gordon Van Tine #143, as seen in the 1913 catalog.

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And what a fine little Tower House it is!

And what a fine little Tower House it is!

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To read the prior blog (with floorplan of The Tower House), click here.

To see a real Sears Maytown, click here.

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Was it *You* That Sent Me This Photo?

December 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 5 comments

Update! Mystery solved! The house is in Herndon, VA. Click here for more better photos!

A few weeks ago, someone sent me this photo (shown below), telling me that they’d always heard it was a Sears House. After looking through a few books, I wrote back and told them it was not a kit home (that I could find in my catalogs).

More recently, I was looking through the 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog and discovered this very house.

Ruh-roh.

As is the case 80% of the time, it was NOT a Sears House, but it was a kit home - from Gordon Van Tine.

And now, I’m not sure where this photo came from, or where this house is located, or who sent me this photo. If that was *you* that sent me this photo, please leave a comment below.

And secondly, I apologize for missing this one on the first go-round.

It is a bit humbling.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the 1913 GVT catalog with me.

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, visit Dale’s website here.

house house

Fine little house, but where is it? I have no idea.

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While looking through my catalogs, I discovered that this little tower house was a good match to a readers photo.

While looking through this 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog, I discovered that this "little tower house" was a good match to a reader's photo.

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Very interesting floor plan.

Very interesting floor plan.

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Especially on the 2nd floor!

Especially on the 2nd floor! I love that "Tower Room"!

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And theres one in

And there's one in Litchfield, Nebraska!

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Close-up of the house.

Close-up of the house.

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house

So, where is this house? :)

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Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the 1913 GVT catalog with me.

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, visit Dale’s website here.

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C’mon Realtors: You Can Do Better Than This

December 11th, 2014 Sears Homes 12 comments

Despite my indefatigable efforts to provide fresh content and historically accurate information, my views are down a bit from last year.

It’s disheartening.

And then this morning, I saw a Sears House listed for sale, with a build-date of 1830.

Is it really that hard to google “Sears Homes” and find out that Richard Warren Sears wasn’t born until 1863? Or that he didn’t start publishing a mail-order catalog until 1886?

It’s time for Realtors to start paying attention to the facts regarding the history of the homes that they’re listing. And the “Well, that’s what someone told me” excuse is wearing thin.

Y’all can do better than this. And I say that as a former Realtor.

Maybe I should stay quiet. Perhaps one day, I’ll make a better living by offering expert testimony in lawsuits where unhappy homeowners are suing because they were told that their 120-year-old house came out of the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

It’s a thought.

For the record, Sears Homes were first offered in 1908. If your house was built before 1908, it can not possibly be a Sears House. No exceptions.

To cheer up the blogger, please leave a comment below. Or share this link with your favorite real estate agent!

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Lookie here: ITs a Sears Maytown, built 33 years before Richard Sears was born!

Lookie here: It's a Sears Maytown, built 33 years before Richard Sears was born!

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House

Good grief.

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Maytown

Built in 1830. Wow. Sears sold his first watch in 1886.

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Another view

Another view of the 1830-built faux Sears House.

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Maytown 1916

Here's a Modern Home #167 (Sears Maytown) as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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Heres a real Maytown, in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Here's a real Maytown, in Edwardsville, Illinois.

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Compre

If you think these two houses are a match, then I'm guessing that your cane has a red tip.

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Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Check this out.

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Wardway #166: A Most Unusual Combination of Values

December 8th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last month, I traveled to Oklahoma to visit Rachel Shoemaker, and we had a lovely couple days together.

Rachel drove me out to Chelsea (down historic Route 66), where we saw a picture-perfect Sears Saratoga. Next stop was just around the corner, where Rachel showed me a Wardway #166, a model I’ve never seen before!

And honestly, it’s a model I would have missed if I’d been on my own! It was offered only a handful of years in the mid-1910s Wardway catalogs.

And perhaps best of all, the interior of this house is in stunningly original condition, replete with solid oak woodwork, original light fixtures, windows and doors.

Many thanks to Rachel for finding this gem, and also for taking the photos!

To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

To read more about Wardway, click here.

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This Wardway Home #166 was only offered for a handful of years.

This Wardway Home #166 was only offered for a handful of years (1915 catalog).

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House

I love the "liner notes" on this house, especially the last line.

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Floor plan

What's the difference between a "verandah" and a porch? A "chamber" and a bedroom? I'm not sure. I would guess that a verandah is an open area, like a patio, and yet the verandah on the #166 is covered, not open.

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House

This bungalows is unusually spacious on the 2nd floor.

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House

Modern Home #166 is a real beauty, but the model in Chelsea, Oklahoma is the only one I've ever seen.

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Wardway House

This is one of the first pictures I've taken with my new TV-phone. Unfortunately, we were looking right into the sun, but it does show what a nice match this is to the catalog image.

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The homes exterior was stunning, but the inside was even more enchanting.

The home's exterior was stunning, but the inside was even more enchanting. Inside, we found that all the oak trim was original (and beautiful), and unpainted. The fireplace is made with glazed block. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. This means you.

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Living room

If you're a lover of solid oak trim, this house will make you swoon. Throughout the house, the quarter-sawn oak trim is unpainted, original and has a stunning patina. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Light fixture

Even the light fixtures are original. BTW, I'm sure there is a specific name for this type of fixture (at the junction of two beams), but I don't know what it is. If you do, pleave leave a comment below? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining Room or parlor

And yes, those pocket doors are also solid oak. (View into the parlor.) Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Bow swar

Leaded-glass windows abound, and are in flawless condition. Let's pause and say a little prayer that the home's next owner doesn't rip these out in favor of some shiny new plastic crap windows. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Living

Standing in the living room, looking toward the dining room. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Check out those bookcase colonnades in the dining room. Oh me, oh my. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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ffff

Will the new owner have the sense to preserve these old fixtures? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Hallway shot

Standing in the front hallway, looking toward the stairs. This staircase was captivating. It looks like a traditional staircase, and yet there's a door that swings closed on the third stair. And check out that newel post. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of that stunning staircase balustrade.

A better view of the stunning staircase balustrade. Those shallow blocks at the top of each spindle give it a real prairie-style look, and add to its majesty and elegance. I was captivated by this design. I may be in love with this house. Actually, I think I am. The design of these little bonus architectural elements is so simple, and yet also beautiful. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Staircase

Another view of that balustrade. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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usptars

There are some houses that "only a mother could love," but this house really is a shining jewel. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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upstairs

A peek into the upstairs bedroom (on the home's front). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Better view

Close-up on those windows (looking out at the street). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Original windows (and hardware) on the side of the house (2nd floor). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Bathroom

And even the bathroom is in vintage condition! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of bathroom floor tile.

I suppose I could have picked up that bit of debris on the floor, but still, it's a great shot of that floor tile, isn't it? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even the bathroom has beautiful windows!

Even the bathroom has beautiful windows and original cabinetry. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are also original. The floor is not. :) In the 1980s, I lived in a house in Portsmouth, Virginia with that same floor tile. That's an old floor! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Beautifl hardware

Close-up of the beautiful drawer pulls. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Exterior

I thought traveling to Oklahoma in November would keep me safe from the snow. I was wrong. Nonetheless, made for a nice picture of the home's exterior. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a house!

Oh little brick bungalow, you really do have a "most unusual combination of values." I do love you so! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

To read more about Wardway, click here.

Houses by George (Barber)

December 3rd, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

For years, I’ve heard my buddy Dale Wolicki talk about George Barber, and while I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have, I did note that the houses that Dale pointed out as being “Barber designs” were both grandiose and glorious.

Recently, Dale sent me a digital copy of a 1901 George Barber “Modern Dwellings” catalog, and that’s when I started paying a little more attention.

Sears offered entire kit homes (plans and parts) through their mail-order catalogs, but Barber offered designs through a mail-order catalog. For a few bucks, Knoxville-based architect George Barber would send you plans for any one of the many designs offered in his catalogs. It became a wildly successful enterprise for George Barber.

Just like Sears, Barber also offered to customize plans to meet clients’ personal needs, so identifying these houses today can be challenging (just like Sears kit homes).

I’m fairly new to this game, but already enjoying the process of learning more about this fascinating piece of American architectural history.

Thanks to Dale for the original images shown below!

And thanks to Pat Spriggs for discovering and identifying a George Barber design in Norfolk!

Now, if I could just get my hands on a few more catalogs!

:)

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Heres the cover of the 1901 catalog that Dale recently sent me.

Here's the cover of the 1901 catalog that Dale recently shared with me.

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Many years ago, Dale told me that there was an authenticated George Barber house in Norfolk somewhere, but did I know where? I drove around in Ghent a bit and then found it on Fairfax Street. Last week, I found that Pat Spriggs had done the same thing and found it several years ago!

About four years ago, Dale told me that there was an authenticated George Barber house in Norfolk somewhere, but did I know where? I drove around in Ghent a bit and eventually found it on Fairfax Street. Last week, I found that Pat Spriggs had gone out on the same hunt, and discovered this Barber house several years earlier! The image above is about 113 years old, and is from the "Modern Dwellings" catalog (1901).

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Compare

Comparison with the 1901 image and the picture I snapped last Sunday.

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Full view of the George Barber house in Ghent (Norfolk, VA).

Full view of the George Barber house in Ghent (Norfolk, VA).

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When Pat Spriggs and I were talking last week, she mentioned that there was a George Barber house in Riverview (part of Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood, where I lived for four years). I was incredulous, as I thought Riverview was too new to have Barber houses but then...

When Pat Spriggs and I were talking last week, she mentioned that there was a George Barber house in Riverview (part of Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood, where I lived for four years in Norfolk). I was incredulous, as I thought Riverview was too new to have Barber houses but then...

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I drove by the house myself and took this photo, and I must say, By George, I think shes right!

I drove by the house myself and took this photo, and I must say, "By George, I think she's right!" The house has had a significant addition (far right), and the porch has had some changes, but it seems likely that this is a Barber design.

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Two weeks ago, I was in Alton and couldnt resist getting a picture of this beauty on Liberty Street.

Two weeks ago, I was in Alton, IL and guess what I saw...

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This beautiful house

I saw a Model #36 on Liberty Street. This house is listed at Wikipedia as a George Barber 36E (and I'm not sure what that means), but it sure is a nice match to the image shown above (Model 36).

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Did I mention I’d love to find a few more catalogs?

:)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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“Our Architects Are Bungalow Experts!”

December 2nd, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

Gordon Van Tine homes are not as well known as Sears, but they were a substantial competitor in the mail-order house business.

GVT was founded in 1866 (as a lumber supply company) and evolved into a mail-order house company about 1909 (according to GVT expert, Dale Wolicki).

By contrast, Richard Warren Sears didn’t start selling watches until 1886! Sears issued their first building materials catalog in 1895, and their first house catalog came out in 1908.

Gordon Van Tine was based in Davenport, Iowa, but they had mills in Mississippi and Washington State.

Another little interesting tidbit: Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes, but all their orders were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine. In fact (unlike Sears), GVT handled all the details for Wardway Homes, from architectural design to catalog printing to order fulfillment.

Sears hired a staff of architects to create their house designs, as did Gordon Van Tine. Montgomery Wards hired Gordon Van Tine!

And the best part - according to the advertisement for the GVT #114, the architects at GVT were “bungalow experts”!

Several years ago, Dale sent me this picture of a GVT #114, which he found in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until I started studying the very early GVT catalogs, that I actually placed the model that Dale had discovered.

We know that there were at least two of these houses built (testimonial shows one in Iowa), but it’d be fun to know if there are more than two!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for scanning the 1913 and 1916 GVT catalog!

And thanks to Dale for sharing his photos!

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“]I love these old advertisements. This is from the 1913 catalog.

This graphic (1913) explains why kit homes were typically located within 1-2 miles of railroad tracks. The logistics of moving a house from here to there typically involved a vehicle with 1-2 horsepower (as shown above).

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“]”]And GVT started when Lincoln was a young man...

And GVT first started doing business when "Lincoln was president..." (1929 catalog)

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Model #114 as seen in the 1913 GVT catalog.

Model #114 as seen in the 1913 GVT catalog.

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Good

I love this part: "Our architects are bungalow experts." Were they also foursquare experts? Colonial experts? Neo-tudor experts? Or just devout "bungalow experts"?

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Intriguing little house, isnt it?

Intriguing little house, isn't it? Notice the windows on the side and front, with the diamond muntins in the horizontal window that traverse the smaller windows. Nice feature, and makes it easier to identify.

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Flo

Only two bedrooms (as designed) with a small den on the front of the house.

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And here it is in Manheim, Pennsylvania on North Hazel Street.

And here it is in Manheim, Pennsylvania on North Hazel Street. The dormers have been enlarged, perhaps to create better light and livable space on the second floor. The house has had some other modifications, but the question is, were these changes done when the house was built? I think that's the most likely scenario. Picture is copyright 2009, Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you look at the house from a side street, you can see that unusual window on the side.

If you look at the house from a side street, you can see that unusual window on the side.

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And theres another GVT #114 in Iowa!

And there's another GVT #114 in Iowa!

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To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for scanning the 1913 and 1916 GVT catalog!

And thanks to Dale for sharing his photos!

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Jacksonville, Illinois and Their Many Kit Homes!

November 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 13 comments

In August 2014, I traveled to Jacksonville to get photos of two Gordon Van Tine homes that were built side-by-side in the early 1920s and featured in a promotional booklet. While I was there, I drove around the rest of the city and discovered several kit homes, from several different companies!

And bear in mind, this was a quick trip in search of the “low-hanging fruit,” so I’m sure there are many more kit homes in Jacksonville.

Perhaps most interesting is that Jacksonville has more kit homes from Gordon Van Tine than any other company. Gordon Van Tine was a kit home company based in Davenport, Iowa.

I also found kit homes from Montgomery Ward and Aladdin.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if Jacksonville hired me to return and do a proper survey and give a talk? Heck yes!

These blogs - which feature one city’s many kit homes - take many, many hours to prepare and write up, so if you enjoy the following pictures, please take a moment and share it with others, or best of all - SHARE IT on your Facebook page.

Enjoy the pictures!

To contact Rose, leave a comment below!

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Barrington

The Sears Barrington was a very popular house (1928 catalog).

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house house

Here's a beautiful Barrington in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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thishouse

This Barrington is another beauty. It needs some paint, but retains its original cedar shakes and wooden windows. All that's missing is the original hospitality bench (as seen in the catalog image above).

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1940

The Sears Wilmore as seen in the 1940 catalog (Sears last "Modern Homes" catalog).

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Sears Wilmore

Tihs may well be the prettiest Sears Wilmore I've ever seen. The picket fence is a lovely touch.

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house 1919

Aladdin was another kit home company, and was larger than Sears. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906 and didn't cease until 1981. Aladdin sold about 75,000 homes during their 75 years in business.

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Aladdin Pomona

Perfect Aladdin Pomona just outside of Jacksonville. It has the original windows with diamond muntins.

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1919 Detroit

The Aladdin Detroit was almost as popular as the Pomona (1919 catalog).

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Aladdin Detroit

Is this an Aladdin Detroit? I'd say it is. Probably. An interior inspection would settle the question.

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GVT Hudson

The Hudson was a fine-looking Tudoresque Gordon Van Tine house.

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GVT Hudson

As a commercial structure, this GVT Hudson is a bit garish, but it's still recognizable.

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househouse

Check out the elaborate doorway with its broken pediment detailing .

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GVT Hudson

And there it is! Looking just like the catalog image above!

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Twinkies Proof

Mr. Fernandes' Twinkies appeared in a 1920s Gordon Van Tine publication, "Proof of the Pudding." Apparently, the North Clay address was Mr. Fernandes' business address, and not the site of the two homes. The model name was "The Roycroft." Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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Twinkies

Mr. Fernandes' Twinkies in 2014. Do the folks in Jacksonville know that these two houses are Gordon Van Tine "Roycrofts"? Based on my research, odds are good that the homeowners don't know what they have.

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GVT 1916

This was an advertisement for GVT Model 583 which appeared in a 1916 magazine (courtesy Rachel Shoemaker).

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GVT 1916 583

Close-up of the Gordon Van Tine 583 (1916). Note the small window on the front gable.

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house

A perfect GVT #583 in Jacksonville! And look at the little window in the gable!

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1926 catalog

Model #603 was one of many Dutch Colonials offered by Gordon Van Tine (1926)

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house house

Despite the abundance of trees, I'm confident that this is GVT #603. It's a good match on the home's sides as well (not visible from this not-so-great photo).

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This is

The Gordon Van Tine #615 is easy to identify due to the unique window arrangement on the side, including the through-the-cornice shed dormer, and the three windows on the 2nd floor front.

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house house

And here's the Gordon Van Tine #615 looking picture perfect!

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Cranford

The Montgomery Ward "Cranford" (1930 catalog) is another house that's easy to identify because it's full of unique angles. It's a Dutch Colonial with two gables stuck on its front. Easy to spot!

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house house cranmore

Is this a Wardway Cranmore? Sure looks like it to me!

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Jacksonville certainly has many more kit homes than I identified during my 60-minute drive through town. If you’d like to contact Rose about coming to Jacksonville, please leave a comment below.

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To learn more about the GVT Twinkies I found in Jacksonville, click here.

Click here to see another impressive collection of kit homes in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

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

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Amazon and Third-Party Vendors: A Cautionary Tale

November 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Updated on November 24, 2014:  Amazon ultimately refunded that last $120 as of two days ago (but it hasn’t appeared on the credit card yet). However, the highly questionable third-party vendor is still active on Amazon with a stellar rating.

In my many letters to Amazon, I suggested they look at the reviews outside of Amazon, where they’d find that this vendor has many one-star reviews for the same questionable shenanigans.

No response.

This week, I’ve done quite a bit of Christmas shopping, and none of it through Amazon.  They’ve lost their #1 fan.

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I am highly allergic to people.

And crowds.

And shopping malls.

Large groups of loud, sticky children make me break out in hives. (And by large groups, I mean one or more.)

For these reasons and more, I’ve always been Amazon’s Number One Fan.

That is, until last month when I purchased a laptop via a third-party vendor at Amazon.

In 2002, I purchased my first laptop. It died 23 months later. Lappys II and III also died on cue, within 30 days of the two-year mark.

In August 2010, Lappy IV (Toshiba Satellite) was adopted from Office Depot, and lived to the ripe old age of 4 years and 2 months, probably (in part) because I started using a laptop cooler 100% of the time.

Last month, Lappy IV developed severe dementia and had to be replaced. I dreaded the thought of dealing with Windows 8. No one likes Windows 8, and I do not embrace change, so I went searching for a laptop with Windows 7. My #1 favorite vendor for such things (Tiger Direct) did not have any laptops big enough for my needs, so I turned to Amazon.

And that’s where it went off the rails.

I found a name-brand laptop for $600+ with Windows 7. The machine had glowing reviews, so I purchased it from a third-party vendor which promised fast delivery. I paid a significant sum for next-day shipment. That was on a Friday.

Every few hours, I checked and found that the computer had not shipped. This went on until late Monday afternoon when I attempted to cancel the order. The response to my cancellation from the website was unclear. I called Amazon and explained the circumstance, and they also attempted to cancel but explained, “Don’t worry; if you receive this item, you can send it back and 100% of your money will be refunded. It’s protected by our A-Z guarantee.”

Amazon called the vendor on my behalf. No response.

Tuesday afternoon, the machine had still not been shipped, so I contacted Amazon again, and they contacted the vendor again. Still, no response.

Wednesday morning, I got an email showing that the laptop had been shipped, a full 36 hours after the cancellation.

This lugubrious story goes on and on, and included several very long, painful phone calls to Amazon.

The laptop arrived at my home a week after I had placed the order, and I purposefully did not disturb the original seal but began writing emails to both Amazon and the vendor, asking for return authorization. The vendor did not reply for several days. More phone calls. More hours. More emails. No response.

It was maddening. Ultimately, I was promised by both companies that my full purchase price would be refunded, and instructions for returning the laptop were finally provided by the third-party vendor.

Return shipping was $36, but that was a small price to have this sad saga come to an end.

Two weeks ago, Fed Ex showed the package had been delivered. I contacted the third-party vendor and they said they never received the laptop. I provided a tracking number. Days later, the vendor finally acknowledged they received the laptop. Last week, I contacted the vendor and said, “It’s been more than a week; where’s my refund?”

Yesterday, two weeks after the vendor received the laptop, they sent an email saying that they’d “started to process” a refund, minus a 20% restocking fee.

In other words, $120 shy.

Again, I contacted Amazon and asked for protection under their “A-Z Guarantee.” They replied with, “This case is closed now because the seller issued a refund.”

I sat down and cried out of sheer frustration.

After I wiped my tears, I called Amazon and spent another hour on the phone. They said they would re-open it under the A-Z Guarantee. That was at 2:00 pm. At 6:00 pm, I received yet another email from Amazon saying that “This case was closed because the seller issued a refund.”

My husband tells me to let it go, but I have a problem with being ripped off. And it was Amazon that exposed me to this chicanery. Later, I went online and googled this company’s name (outside of Amazon). I was not surprised to find that they have many one-star reviews for this same kind of shady dealings.

Here’s what I learned:

1)  Do not deal with third-party vendors at Amazon, unless it’s an amount of money that you can afford to take out in the back yard and set on fire.

2) According to Amazon’s customer-service reps, the Amazon A-Z Guarantee is 100% contingent upon the third-party vendor’s terms for returns. If the third-party refuses returns, or has a 50% restocking fee (which is not disclosed anywhere on the product page), that’s okay with Amazon.

3)  Third-party vendors are given free rein on Amazon, and if they refund any portion of your money, Amazon considers it “Case Closed.”

4) If you write a negative review of a company, that company can sue you for libel  or slander. My lawyer-husband told me this, and I honestly couldn’t believe he was right. He was. Click here to read more.

5) Have you read that article yet?  :D Even if your review was 100% honest and truthful, the cost to defend “the truth” in court can be tens of thousands of dollars. The article recommends you check your homeowner’s insurance to see if it includes “court costs for libel cases” before you write a negative review.

6) If you contact Amazon customer service, you are referred to a call center. Good luck finding someone who can speak the Queen’s English. However, IF you have 30 minutes to kill, they WILL transfer you to a US call center if you ask (and if you can wait, and if you don’t get disconnected).

7) When an Amazon representative promises to “call you back within two hours,” don’t refuse a call from your out-of-town daughter because you naively believe the Amazon rep is really going to call you back. Three weeks later, I’m still waiting for that call.

8 ) The biggie: Sometimes, your mental health is worth more than a laptop and shady business dealings.

If you have a story to share, or if you know anyone at Amazon, please leave a comment below. I sent an email to Jeff@Amazon.com and received a response that said, “The vendor has taken care of this.”

I’m out of ideas. And frankly, thoroughly disappointed in my #1 favorite online company.

Read a happy post about Sears kit homes by clicking here.

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Oh

I guess they're waiving the 15% restocking fee in favor of a 20% restocking fee?

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Lets go back to happy thoughts, such as the Aladdin Marshfield I found in Edwardsville, IL during my recent trip to Illinois.

Let's go back to happy thoughts, such as the Aladdin Marshfield I found in Edwardsville, IL during my recent trip. This is from the 1931 Aladdin catalog, courtesy Rachel Shoemaker. See, I was far from home when I found this house, and called upon dear Rachel to supply a vintage image.

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I dont think Ive ever done a survey for a community on a day other than trash day. Nonetheless, here it is, an Aladdin Marshfield in all its glory. What a perfect match!

I don't think I've ever done a survey for a community on a day other than trash day. Nonetheless, here it is, an Aladdin Marshfield in all its glory. What a perfect match!

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Rachel found a Roseland (Wardway) in Edwardsville during her Google Tour of the city.

Rachel found a Roseland (Wardway) in Edwardsville during her "Google Tour" of the city.

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And what a lovely match! This house is on Plum Street in Edwardsville. The homes owner came to my talk in Edwardsville, and told us she had not realized it was a kit house!

And what a lovely match! This house is on Plum Street in Edwardsville. The home's owner came to my talk in Edwardsville, and told us she had not realized it was a kit house! Photo is copyright 2014 Cindy Reinhardt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As Cindy Reinhardt and I tooled along the Edwardsville countryside, I happened upon this bucolic scene and hopped out to take a photo!

As Cindy Reinhardt and I tooled along the Edwardsville countryside, I happened upon this bucolic scene and hopped out to take a photo! And to think that I found it in Edwardsville!

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