The Vernon is a Home with Marked Personality!

August 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 9 comments

At first, I thought about titling this blog, “With a little help from my friends,” because - like so much of this research - I wouldn’t have much to write about if it wasn’t for fellow kit-house lovers who are always on the look-out for fresh discoveries.

Becky Gottschall has been finding all manner of wonderful houses in and around Pottstown, Pennsylvania. In my own opinion, the crème de la crème of these discoveries is the Sterling “Vernon” - right in the heart of Pottstown.

The other helper is Rachel Shoemaker, who provided the original catalog images shown below.

Many thanks to both Becky and Rachel for their help!

To read about a less-fortunate house in Pennsylvania, click here.

Did you know there’s a Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania?

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Sterling Homes, based in Bay City, Michigan, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, just like Sears.

Sterling Homes, based in Bay City, Michigan, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, just like Sears. The "Vernon" was featured on the cover of the 1928 catalog.

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Nice looking houses, too (rear cover, 1928).

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The Vernon was Sterlings Magnolia: Their biggest and best house.

Personality! So saith the advertising copy in this 1917 catalog. The "Vernon" was Sterling's Magnolia: Their biggest and best house, and it had shutters "savoring of New England." Love the writing!

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And it was a fine and spacious home.

And it was a fine and spacious home. The kitchen stuck out in the rear for several reasons. Primarily, it provided ventilation on three sides of the room and helped separate this room from the rest of the house. The kitchen was not only hot (due to behemoth stoves and ranges), but it was also considered a hazard to happy living, due to bad smells (ice box, soot and grease), cooking odors, and the heat. Oh my, the heat!

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The maid

In older homes (pre-1920), you'll often find that the space over the kitchen was a "storage room" or "trunk room," because this space was considered unsuitable for living space. In later years, it was often the maid's room. Guess she was made of stouter stuff than to worry over bad smells, coal soot and high heat. The master bedroom (like the living room directly below) has a fireplace. Pretty sweet!

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Even if you opted for all the extras, the Vernon would only cost a smidge more than $4,000. Pretty sweet deal - even in 1917.

Even if you opted for all the extras, the Vernon would only cost a smidge more than $4,000. Pretty sweet deal - even in 1917. It really was a grand home (1917 catalog).

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All of which explains why it was featured on the cover of Sterlings catalogs (1928 catalog shown above).

All of which explains why it was featured on the cover of Sterling's catalogs (1928 catalog shown above).

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And the one in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania is unusually stunning!

And the one in Pottstown, Pennsylvania is unusually stunning! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Thus saith the law. And the lions. Even if one is tilted just a bit. They are stoned, after all.

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Its a gorgeous house.

It's a gorgeous house, and in excellent condition. You can see the wonderful detail on the rafter tails in this photo. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another beautiful view from another beautiful angle.

Another beautiful view from another angle. I'm not sure, but that appears to be a slate roof (at least on the side of those dormers). Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wow

What a house. Do you have one in your neighborhood? (1928 catalog).

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Many thanks again to Becky Gotschall for providing an abundance of clear, beautiful photos.

Many thanks again to Becky Gotschall for providing an abundance of clear, beautiful photos.

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To read about a less-fortunate house in Pennsylvania, click here.

Did you know there’s a Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania?

To read about another Sterling Vernon in New York, click here.

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Where Are You, My Little Gingersnap?

August 25th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Sometime in the late 1990s, my then-husband and I visited this Aladdin Magnolia at a Sunday open house. We were living in Alton, IL at the time, and often we’d visit open houses in the area - purely for sport.

Of course, in the 1990s, I didn’t know much about kit homes, and it was in 2013 when I first noticed this “Aladdin Magnolia” in the 1953 Aladdin catalog (shown below) and realized that I’d visited this very house many years prior.

Since 2013, I’ve been to the St. Louis area four times, and each time, I have scoured the streets - sometimes block by block - hoping to find this little darling. When I was finished, my old Garmin was awash in blue stripey marks, showing where I’d traveled.

And yet - no Aladdin Magnolia.

If you happen to stumble upon my little gingersnap, please tell this house that I’ve been looking for her for a long time. I’ve even shown the photo to Teddy, but she tells me that she needs a ride to St. Louis if she’s going to offer any substantive help.

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The Aladdin Magnolia, as seen in the 1953 catalog.

The Aladdin Magnolia, as seen in the 1953 catalog.

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In the 1990s, I saw the Aladdin Magnolia whilst touring an open house, somewhere in the River Bend area, but I havent been able to find it since.

In the 1990s, I saw the Aladdin Magnolia whilst touring an open house, somewhere in the River Bend area, and 15 years later, I found it in this catalog (1953). Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it since then.

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Somewhere in the River Bend/St. Louis area, someones telling somebody that this house came in on a train!

Somewhere in the River Bend/St. Louis area, someone's telling somebody that this house came in on a train - and this time, they're right!

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I asked Teddy for her help, but she got distracted by the many attractive models offered in the 1953 catalog.

I asked Teddy for her help, but she got distracted by the many attractive models offered in the 1953 catalog. She was utterly captivated by the Aladdin Madison. It *is* quite attractive!

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I must say that she does take this sort of thing quite seriously.

I must say that she does take this sort of thing quite seriously.

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If you’ve seen the Aladdin Magnolia in River Bend (or in other areas!) please leave a comment below.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

You can read about my favorite Alton house here.

While in St. Louis, I did find several kit homes in Webster Groves.

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An Aladdin Westwood - in Charlottesville, Virginia

August 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog, which is curious. It’s a beautiful house and quite massive, but apparently the Sovereign brothers decided it wasn’t a keeper. In September 2013, I gave a talk in nearby Louisa, Virginia and drove over to Charlottesville to see what was lurking in Hoo-ville.

What a sweet surprise to find an Aladdin Westwood at the end of a quiet residential street!

I was with a local historian and we knocked on the doors repeatedly but no one showed up. It’s been two years since I was there. Hope this house survives! These big Aladdin houses don’t do well in college towns. In nearby Williamsburg, Virginia, an Aladdin Colonial was torn down on the William and Mary campus (about 15 years ago).

To read about the other kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

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The Aladdin

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog.

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One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans.

One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans. I just love looking at these old images, and thinking about day-to-day life in early 20th Century America. The house was about 3,000 square feet - which isn't typical for a kit home! And there's a half-bath on the first floor (1922).

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Not only does the second floor have two full bathrooms (very unusualy for the 1920s), but the front bathroom has a shower! Now that's high living! (1922 catalog)

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Sounds fancy, too!

Sounds fancy, too! And it mentions that shower on the "front bathroom" (1922).

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What a beautiful house!

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And check out that front door!

And check out that front door!

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In all

I was pretty tickled to find this sweet thing in Charlottesville. To date, it's the only Westwood I've ever seen.

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And check out the detail around that front door.

And check out the detail around that front door.

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And check out that front door!

Nice match, isn't it?

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I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

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If you look down the side, you can see its a good match.

If you look down the side, you can see it's a good match, all the windows are in the right places. It's surprising to see that the columns are still in such good shape. They're almost 100 years old now.

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The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

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But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

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Its sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives.

It's sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives. College towns are notorious "bungalow eaters."

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To read about the other kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

Here are some images of the kit homes in Louisa, Virginia.

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Webster Groves: Part V

August 20th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

Last month,

In July, I visited Webster Groves (a St. Louis suburb) and had a good time driving around and looking for kit homes. Friend and fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker knew I was headed to the St. Louis area and did a little reconnoitering for me. It was Rachel that found this GVT #535 (also known as The Roberts) in Webster Groves, sitting - literally - right next to the railroad tracks!

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One of the questions Im most often asked is, How do you find kit homes? Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits, they typically landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

One of the questions I'm often asked is, "How do you find kit homes?" Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits and were shipped by rail (in a single boxcar), they usually landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

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house

The Gordon Van Tine landed right next to the train tracks! If you look at this century-old map, you can see just how close Model #535 (with red star) sat to the Missouri Pacific Railway (yellow line)!

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Probably less than 200 yards, this commuter station

Built in 1892 by the Missouri Pacific Railway, this story-and-a-half commuter station was on the corner of Oakwood and Glen Road. It would have been a short hop (as in, less than 200 yards) from the Gordon Van Tine #535 to this darling little train station.

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The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

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The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" was hugely popular for this Iowa-based kit home company.

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And

The inset porch, 2nd-floor bay and hipped roof all work together to make this an easy house to identify. That, with this home's location (right on the tracks) made it mighty easy to find in Webster Groves. Plus, it was probably one of Gordon Van Tine's most popular homes!

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What a beauty! And it's all dressed up for July 4th! Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Webster Groves. When I talked to her about this discovery, she told me, "I always start my searches next to the railroad tracks. I found this house within seconds!!"

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And heres another Roberts that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

And here's a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

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Dale Wolicki

Dale Wolicki found this "Roberts" in State College, Pennsylvania.

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Wheeling

Another beautiful "Roberts" in Wheeling, West Virginia, and it's all dressed up for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2012 Frank Harrar and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres one of my favorite Roberts, right here in Norfolk, VA.

And here's one of my favorite "Roberts," right here in Norfolk, VA. (Pictured above is *the* woman responsible for launching "The Smiley Face™" movement!)

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Last but never least, a Roberts in Charleston, WV.

Last but never least, a "Roberts" in Charleston, WV (sans two-story porches).

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And here's a Gordon Van Tine #535 in Carlinville, Illinois. Notice that this one does not have the upstairs polygon bay, but a flat window in its place. However, it does have the cantilevered supports for the flower boxes (under the first floor windows). How easy it would be to restore those flower boxes! :)

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To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

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Thanks again to Rachel for finding that Gordon Van Tine #535! You can visit Rachel’s website by clicking here.

Learn more about Gordon Van Tine by visiting Dale’s website here.

Rebecca Hunter has an abundance of information on kit homes here.

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In the Beginning, It Was Dearly Loved…

August 9th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

Sometime in the early 1910s, William Eathen Davison of Elkland, Missouri sat down with a Sears Modern Homes catalog and studied the kit homes offered within its pages. Ultimately, Mr. Davison settled on “Modern Home #113,” a spacious home with 2,200 square feet, four good-sized bedrooms, an indoor bathroom, two bay windows and a gambrel roof.

The best part was the price: $1,270 or about $29,000 in today’s money. Building an entire house from a kit was a novel idea, and Sears had just started their “Modern Homes” department a few  years earlier, in 1908.

But perhaps Mr. Davison realized that this was a sound value, and by building his own home, he’d save more than 30%, compared to traditional construction techniques. His kit would have arrived about six weeks after he placed the order. One can only imagine the excitement and anticipation that such an event would occasion!

Finally, there came a day when he received word that his boxcar had arrived at the Lebanon Train Depot. He probably gathered up a few friends (and their wagons) and hustled down to the depot to pick up his house. If Mr. Davison was typical, he would spend the next six months building his kit home. There were 12,000 pieces, detailed blue prints (designed for the novice homebuilder) and a 75-page instruction book. Mr. Davison had quite a project on his hands.

Born in 1888, Mr. Davison was probably in his mid-to-late 20s when he built this house, and leaned on friends and family to get the house closed-in and buttoned up before the bitter-cold Missouri winds came sweeping through the open farmland.

I can only imagine the joy and deep abiding sense of satisfaction Mr. Davison felt when the house was completed and ready for occupancy.

After the house was finished, he wrote Sears a letter and said, “It’s a lovely residence and is admired by all the country around…I am highly pleased.”

Through the years, I’ve interviewed several people who built their own homes, and one consistent theme I’ve heard is this:  The Mr. Davisons of the world would often tell their children, “This is our home now. My home, and your home, and long after we’re gone, this house will still be here. It’s a good house, and I built it myself. When I’m gone, this house will be yours. Tell your children that their grandfather built this home for you, and for them.”

But something happened to Mr. Davison’s dream house along the way. We know that Mr. Davison had the house finished by 1914 (when his testimony appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog), but we don’t know how long he lived there. Mr. Davison died in Los Angeles in 1941 (age 63).

Recently on Facebook, Sandy Fowler Maness posted a picture of a Sears Modern Home #113, and I found Mr. Davison’s testimonial in the 1914 catalog. I’m saddened to report that it’s a troubling picture, for Mr. Davison’s home is now in collapse.

Scroll on down for the pictures, but be forewarned, the house is in pitiable condition.

If Mr. Davison could see his house now, the house that was built with such care and forethought, I wonder what he’d say.

To read more about the “homes built with love,” click here.

Many thanks to Dixie Dill for granting permission to use her photo, and thanks to historian and writer Marilyn Smith for finding this house!

Thanks also to Sandy Fowler Maness for sharing this information.

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House

Modern Home #113 was mighty popular for a house that was so short-lived. It was offered from 1912-1915.

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Virgils house arrived from the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with buillinger materials.

Mr. Davison's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar containing about 12,000 pieces. Loaded with much care and forethought, these massive boxcars were packed to the ceiling with building materials. Most likely, the building materials were shipped from a massive Sears mill in Cairo, Illinois.

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House

After the house was finished, Sears asked homeowners to send a snapshot of their new home, together with a short testimonial. Here's Mr. Davison's testimonial. It tells quite a story (1914 catalog).

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Others

S. B. Walters of Uniontown also built a #113.

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House

At 2,200 square feet, it was quite spacious for its time.

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The indoor plumbing was also progressive for the early 1910s. In Sears first catalog (1908), about half of the houses were offered with indoor bathrooms.

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We can only hope that the houses in Dwight, IL, Springfield, MA, Dunbar, and Harrisburg, PA are in good condition.

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It was a fine-looking house with two porches. And lots of windows.

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Sadly, today, Mr. Davison's 100-year-old house in Elkland is on the cusp of collapse. In 1914, Mr. Davison described it as being "in an open prairie" and it still sits out in the country, about one mile west of the Elkland Post Office. Photo is copyright 2015 Dixie Dill and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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It does sadden me to think about how Mr. Davison's dream home started with such promise.

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To read more about the “homes built with love,” click here.

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The Wabash: A Dog’s Eye View

August 8th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Teddy the Dog noticed a couple things about the Sears Wabash (in yesterday’s blog) that I had missed.

1) The 1920 version had “chains” on the front porch (something a dog is always cognizant of);

2) The Wabash didn’t offer indoor plumbing (something a dog well understands).

So Teddy asked me to clarify these two important points on this blog.

To read more about Teddy, click here.

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Teddy asked me to do this subsequent blog.

Being a Sheltie, she's a herding dog, and has an especially keen eye for detail.

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The Wabash was first offered in 1916 and was apparently a popular house. The price tag was under $600, which - even factoring in average costs in 1916 - was a sound value. Heres a Wabash in Alliance, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

The Wabash was first offered in 1916 and was apparently a popular house. The price tag was under $600, which - even factoring in average costs in 1916 - was a sound value. Here's a Wabash in Alliance, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The

Even the "Already Cut" version of this house was a mere $599 (1916).

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But when Teddy got to comparing the floorplan with the

But when Teddy got to comparing the floorplan with the "interior view" of the kitchen, she noticed something wasn't quite right. She was puzzled, as was I.

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Its not a match

We both stared at this image a few minutes, trying to orient ourselves. How can this room have three exterior openings? It's on the corner of the house.

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Teddy put herself in the Wabash to re-create the view shown above.

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Thats when Teddy realized we had to rotate the image 90 degrees.

The view is easier to grasp when the image is rotated 90 degrees. The "interior view" can only be seen by a Sheltie with x-ray vision and the ability to look through walls. As shown here, Teddy would need to stand on the edge of the fireplace mantel, and look through an interior wall.

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Teddy suggested I put the images side-by-side. The floorplan shows a window next to the door (upper right), but the image (left side) shows just a door. The exterior view of the Wabash shows only one window in that spot. Seems like a tricky bunch of photos, doesn't it? Maybe the architects were wondering if anyone would notice if they mixed it up a bit. Or maybe those architects just made a boo-boo.

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The view of the living room is simpler: Youre standing at the front door, looking down that 19 expanse.

The view of the living room is simpler: You're standing at the front door, looking down that 19' expanse. I do not understand why there's only a cased opening going into that bedroom (front left).

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If you look again at the floorplan,

If you look again at the floorplan, you'll see that the screened porch has a cement floor, and opens up off the kitchen. That explains how the kitchen has three exterior openings: One of them goes to the porch.

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The image from the 1920 catalog shows that theres a chain on the front porch.

The image from the 1920 catalog shows that there's a chain on the front porch. As my friend Dale would say, "That's really cheapin' it out." Teddy wants to go on record as saying that "chains" and "dogs" are a very bad mix and she thinks that those two words should never be in the same sentence.

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You may have noticed that the Wabash does not have a bathroom. In fact, if you look closely, theres only one spigot on the kitchen sink, suggesting that it was cold water only.

You may have noticed that the Wabash does not have a bathroom. In fact, if you look closely, there's only one spigot on the kitchen sink, suggesting that it was cold water only. The cost of the Wabash would include an additional $41, for this "neat, attractive, little building." Teddy has a better understanding than most of the need to go outside - slogging through the muck and the snow - just to go tinkle.

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This is disturbing. But what's even more unnerving is the third paragraph.

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Its reminiscent of the image on the cover of the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

It's reminiscent of the image on the cover of the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog. What's this fellow doing? He's exiting his shiny new Sears Modern Home to go to the outside pump and fetch a couple pails of water. His trusty Sheltie is right by his side.

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In closing, Teddy just wanted to say that she feels strongly

In closing, Teddy just wanted to say that she likes the Wabash and sees many good places for a Sheltie to lounge and enjoy life. In our own home, Teddy has a strong presence in the bedrooms, the sunporch, the living room and the dining room. She also enjoys hanging out in the bathroom (only when it's occupied) and in front of the fireplace. Her personal favorite spot is the kitchen, where there are many opportunities for her to get underfoot, and catch errant bits of food that hit the floor during meal preparation. Despite its hazards, she also likes to lay lengthwise in the narrow long hallway of our brick ranch at 3:00 in the morning, so that anyone headed to the bathroom will trip over her. I'm not sure why she does that...

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My name is Teddy, and I approve this blog.

My name is Teddy, and I approve this blog.

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To read more about Teddy, click here.

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The Sears Wabash: Economical and Popular!

August 7th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

According to the promotional literature, the Sears Wabash was “a house planned and designed by U. S. Government architects.”

I’m not sure when The Wabash first appeared, but I found it in my 1916 catalog (and not the 1914 catalog).

In 1916, it was a mere $551, and in 1920, it had gone up to $966 . If this really was “Uncle  Sam’s Idea” (as the literature suggests), it may have been created as an answer to the problem of the building material shortage during The Great War (also known as “The European War”).

It’s an interesting house, and this is the second one that’s been found in Ohio. According to the testimonials, there were several of these sold throughout the Midwest.

To read about the Sears Wabash that Donna Bakke found in Ohio, click here.

Thanks so much to Robb Hyde for finding and photographing this kit home.

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1916

In 1916, the Wabash was offered for $551.

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1920

"Planned and designed by US government architects..." (1920)

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house 1920

It has two wee tiny bedrooms, and yet a massive living room (1920).

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Apparently it was really popular in Illinois

Apparently it was really popular in the Midwest.

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That kitchen looks a lot bigger than 9x11 (1920).

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1920 house

"The Wabash," complete with screened porch (1920).

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Heres the Wabash Robb Hyde found in Somewhere.

Here's the Wabash that Robb Hyde found in Alliance, Ohio. At some point, the "sunporch" was converted into enclosed living space. With two bedrooms measuring 8x9, I'm sure the home's occupants were fairly desperate for every bit of living space they could get! Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Apparently, that porch got turned into living space.

Note the original columns, siding and verge board. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Nice shot of the home's front, which highlights the unusual window arrangement. Porch deck is new, but everything else appears to be original. Given that this house is nearly 100 years old, that's darn impressive. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And Robb had the foresight to get some photos of the other side, too!

And Robb had the foresight to get some photos of the other side, too! Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Its a perfect match!

It's a perfect match!

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To read about the Sears Wabash that Donna Bakke found in Ohio, click here.

Thanks so much to Robb Hyde for finding and photographing this kit home.

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Webster Groves, Missouri: Part IV

August 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

What do Webster Groves, Missouri and Grand Haven, Michigan have in common?

Both are home to an unusual Sears model with the pedestrian (but descriptive) name: “The Cape Cod.”

While I’d love to take credit for finding the “Cape Cod” in Missouri, it was Webster Groves resident Judith Chabot that found this house by searching grantee records.

Here’s how it works: When an existing house is conveyed to the new homeowner, the new homeowner is the grantee, but when the homeowner conveys the house back to the bank (as security for a mortgage), the homeowner is then the grantor. The mortgage company receiving the interest in the house is the grantee.

So if you’re looking for a Sears House at the courthouse, you’re going to be looking through the grantee records, but this only works on Sears Homes that were mortgaged through Sears. Still, it’s an interesting way to find a Sears House!

In searching grantee records in Illinois, I’ve found conveyances listed under “Sears,” and “Sears and Roebuck,” but more commonly, you’ll find that trustee names were used for Sears, such as Walker O. Lewis, Nicholas Wieland, and E. Harrison Powell. All of these men served as trustees for Sears. (Thanks to Dale Patrick Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for the trustee information.)

However, if you limited yourself to finding kit homes ONLY through mortgage documents (and grantee records), you’d miss about 75% of the kit homes in your community (based on some quick ciphering).

The beauty part of mortgage documents is that you might find kit homes that were customized and/or unrecognizable and/or otherwise nondescript houses, such as the “Cape Cod.”

To read the other blogs on Webster Groves, click here, here or here.

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Catalog

Sounds like Earl Suits was pretty pleased with his "Cape Cod" in Grand Haven (1938 catalog).

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In the 1932

In the 1932 catalog, it was known as The Stanford.

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The 1938 catalog has it listed

The 1938 catalog has it listed as "The Cape Cod."

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Throughout the years, it was offered in two floorplans.

Throughout the years, it was offered in two floorplans. The smaller floorplan is a miserly 660 square feet with an tiny kitchen and two walk-in-closet-sized bedrooms (1938).

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The second floorplan had a little more breathing room.

The second floorplan had a little more breathing room (and a dining room).

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It is a fine house, replete with an "expandable" attic on the 2nd floor (1938 catalog).

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Those old wooden shutters (shown in the catalog image) added a nice touch to the Sears "Cape Cod." Notice that the attic window has been enlarged, and the dormers were added.

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As you can see down the long side,

Due to the intensity of the summer sun, this is a crummy photo, but you can see this is "Floor Plan B" with the dining room and larger footprint.

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Id have to say that I probably would have driven right past this little house doing a traditional street survey.

I'd have to say that I probably would have driven right past this little house doing a traditional street survey. It's a fine home but it is rather plain and kind of disappears in a crowd.

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Here's another "impossible-to-recognize" Sears house. This doesn't match any of Sears 370 known designs, but it is a Sears House, customized by the home's original owner. Rebecca Hunter found this house (in Elmhurst, Illinois) through grantee records. It's bonafide, but it's also a puzzler!

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

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The North Honors Our Confederate Dead: Why Can’t We?

August 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

Hidden away on a quiet little side street in Alton, Illinois is a beautiful granite monument, honoring the Confederate Dead. If you didn’t know its precise location, you’d never find it. I suspect that many of the locals don’t even know about it.

The 57-foot-tall granite monument sits high atop a hill, and dominates the two-acre site on which its located. It was erected in 1909, and at its base are plaques with the names of 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned by the Union. Lost in time are the names of the dozens of civilians (Confederate sympathizers) who also died as prisoners of war.

Alton, Illinois sits on the Mississippi River, just 20 miles north of St. Louis, and during the Civil War, it was Union territory. Missouri did not secede from the Union, and yet it was categorized as a slave state. It was a conflicted state, with both Union and Confederate troops within its borders.

By all accounts, Alton was filled with Confederate sympathizers (those who fed or housed Confederates), as well as Confederate spies. Both the spies and the sympathizers ended up in the Alton prison. Many died there, due to starvation, deprivation, extreme cold, and disease.

Sometime in 1862, there was an epidemic of Smallpox at the prison and before it was over, 1,354 of the Confederates were dead. These were the “enemy” and yet Union officials made it clear that their remains were to be treated with reverence and respect.

Specific instructions were given for the burial of these soldiers: “Those who die will be decently interred, and a proper mark affixed to their place of burial.”

The Confederate dead were placed in individual coffins, and a numbered stake was used to mark each grave. A detailed ledger recorded their name and burial place.

In 1867, the federal government assumed ownership of the site, and from 1899 - 1907, efforts were made to document the placement of the war dead. Even with those meticulous records, it was decided that it was “utterly impossible to identify the graves of those buried there.”

In an effort to honor the final resting place of these 1,354 men, the monument was erected. It was to serve as a marker for the unmarked graves of the Confederate dead.

Situated on the Mississippi River, Alton is a quaint little town struggling to survive, with a riverboat casino that brings in some cash and enables the town of 30,000 people to keep the lights on and the schools open. Despite that, the grounds of the Confederate Cemetery on Rozier Avenue are beautifully maintained.

When I visited the site in July 2015, every single thing - from the manicured grounds to the CCC-built wrought-iron fence - was in pristine condition.

The historic placards placed around the cemetery and prison tell a story that honors the memory of our Confederate dead. While it’s true that the victors write the history, the story of our Confederate soldiers - the men captured by the Union Army - is told with tenderness, approbation, honesty and the utmost respect. In 1935, a Confederate veteran - a survivor of that prison - returned to the ruins and was treated as an honored guest (see photo below) and a returning son.

The monument and grave site is treated as a scared site, and is given the proper reverence and honor.

That’s how the North treats our Confederate dead. Why can’t the South be permitted to do the same?

Here in Portsmouth, Virginia, our Confederate monument is under attack, by City Council members that have publicly stated that the monument must come down. This, despite the fact that specific state legislation prohibits the removal of monuments honoring our Confederate dead.

Perhaps City Council needs to take a field trip to Alton, Illinois, so they can learn a little something about honoring our war dead.

It’s a sad commentary that we must look to the North to teach us something about Southern civility and decency and honor.

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Everything within this sacred space is kept in pristine condition.

Everything within this sacred space is kept in pristine condition.

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In Alton, they are allowed to have nice things.

It's a sad commentary that our Southern heritage is honored more in Illinois than in Virginia.

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The Confederate cemetery is located off State Street on Rozier Avenue. For 12 years, I lived in the Riverbend area and wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and yet I knew next-to-nothing about this military cemetery in Upper Alton.

The Confederate cemetery is located off State Street on Rozier Avenue, a short, quiet residential street in Upper Alton. For 12 years, I lived in the Riverbend area and wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and yet I knew next-to-nothing about this "military cemetery" in Upper Alton.

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The 57-foot tall obelisk honors the 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned in Alton, by the Union.

The 57-foot tall obelisk honors the 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned by the Union. The bronze plaques give the names of each of the 1,354 soldiers.

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One of the many plaques at the base of the monument.

One of the many plaques at the base of the monument.

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Each plague

Each plaque lists the first and last name, and their unit. Most were from Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, but many were from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia.

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This 57-foot tall obelisk serves as a grave marker for the Confederate dead.

This 57-foot tall obelisk serves as a grave marker for the Confederate dead.

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plague

The North honors our war dead. Why can't we?

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Sitting on an elevated site in a bucolic setting, it's beautiful, majestic and reverent.

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Save the

Much like our monument in Portsmouth, Virginia (and yet ours is more detailed and elegant and historically significant). Portsmouth's monument to our Confederate dead is on the National Registry, and is considered historically significant for many reasons. For one, it's one of only three monuments in the South that feature all four branches of service. Secondly, some of Portsmouth's own sons were used as models for the four zinc statues.

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About two miles south of the monument is the prison where the Confederate soldiers were incarcerated.

About two miles south of the monument you'll find the prison ruins where the Confederate soldiers were incarcerated. Located in downtown Alton, this is a popular tourism site for the city.

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In 1935, surviving Confederate soldier returned to the site.

In 1935, Confederate veteran Samuel Harrison (age 93) returned to the site of the prison and chose one of the limestone blocks as a grave marker for himself. He'd spent eight months at this prison in 1864. When released, he walked 45 miles to his home in Rolla, Missouri. When he returned to Alton in 1935, he was lauded as an honored guest. Harrison (of Dent, Missouri) said that this was the first time he'd returned to Alton since the War. Mr. Harrison related that overcrowding was endemic, and bunks were stacked "nine high, with three men to a bunk."

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The North is permitted to honor our Confederate dead. Why cant we?

The North is permitted to honor our Confederate dead. Why can't we?

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To read more about our monument in Portsmouth, Virginia, click here.

For the next 60 days, all monies received at this site will go directly to Stonewall Camp #380 for legal fees to save Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument. Click here to donate.

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Webster Groves, Missouri: Part III

August 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Webster Groves has a multitude of interesting old kit homes, and one of my favorite finds is this 1910s Dutch Colonial, offered by Lewis Homes.

Lewis was one of six national companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs in the early 20th Century. Sears was probably the best known of the kit home companies and Aladdin was probably the largest, but Lewis Manufacturing (based in Bay City, Michigan) was a serious contender.

It’s been many years since I drove the streets of Webster Groves, looking for kit homes, and I’m not surprised that I missed a few back in the day, such as this Lewis Homes Dutch Colonial (”The Winthrop”).

Last week, I was back in the St. Louis area, visiting family members and decided to revisit Webster Groves. I didn’t have time to do a thorough survey, but in the four hours I spent there, I found an abundance of kit homes.

To read my prior blogs about Webster Groves, click here and here.

Interested in learning more about marked lumber on kit homes? Click here.

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Webster Groves

What's not to love? It possesses "unusual charm and dignity"! (1924 catalog)

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The Wintrho

That inset front porch is a defining feature of the Lewis Winthrop.

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I sure do love a nice Dutch Colonial, and this one has a front porch!

I sure do love a nice Dutch Colonial, and this one has a front porch!

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Oh my, what a fine-looking home!

Oh my, what a fine-looking home!

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And it looks good from every angle!

And it looks good from every angle!

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Home

In this image, you can see those distinctive attic windows.

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house

Who wouldn't love coming home to this every evening? As philosopher Samuel Johnson wrote, "To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends."

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But heres where it gets frustrating.

But here's where it gets frustrating.

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As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons.

Here's a Lewis Winthrop I found in Toana, Virginia. Like the house shown above, it has no fireplace on the side, but rather three windows. Is this a pattern book version of the Lewis Winthrop? For now, I'm going to make an educated guess that these two homes are the Lewis Winthrop, because I haven't seen a pattern book match. But who knows! Time will tell!

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To read more about the Lewis Winthrop in Toana, Virginia, click here.

To read my prior blogs about Webster Groves, click here and here.

Interested in learning more about marked lumber on kit homes? Click here.

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