Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses that Sears Built, Part IV

February 13th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Recently, I posted several images of a customized Sears House in Glen Ellyn that we found earlier this month. Subsequently, Rachel managed to find a slew of high quality photos online, at Keller Williams Realty Company (Glen Ellyn), so it’s with a hopeful heart that they’re willing to have those photos shared here, in the interest of history. And maybe also in the interest of good publicity!

As mentioned in a prior blog, we found this house thanks to a rare document that was recently discovered, authenticating several massive and grand “kit homes” with designs and building materials from Sears. These houses were featured in Sears & Roebuck literature, promoting the company’s architectural services.

As with the other customized Sears Home we found, this house in Glen Ellyn was also owned by a high-ranking Sears employee, who started at Sears in the 1910s and remained with the company for many years.

Assessor records indicate that this house was built in 1930, and has five bedrooms and four baths.

Again, a warm thanks to Keller Williams Realty Company in Glen Ellyn for permitting me (and/or forgiving me) the use of these photos.

To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Oh my, what a glorious home in Glen Ellyn! This house came from Sears & Roebuck and both the design and building materials came from Sears.

What a beauty in Glen Ellyn! Both the design and the building materials were ordered from Sears.

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It would appear that there have been additions put on the homes rear.

It would appear that there have been additions put on the home's rear.

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The entry foyer is stunning!

The entry foyer is stunning!

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It seems likely that this is the homes original (1930s) bathroom.

It seems likely that this is the home's original (1930s) bathroom.

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I think theyve done a little updating on the kitchen.

I think they've done a little updating on the kitchen.

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Since it originally looked something like this...

Since it originally looked something like this...

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And probably had these accoutrements as well.

And probably had these accouterments as well.

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The

The living room is quite grand.

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The homes entry way

The home's entry way does have a decided "Sears Flavor"!

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It looks a lot like the entry on the Sears Jefferson in Carbondale, Illinois.

It looks a lot like the entry on the Sears "Jefferson" in Carbondale, Illinois.

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And to think it came from a mail-order catalog.

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Again, a warm thanks to Keller Williams Realty Company in Glen Ellyn for permitting me (and/or forgiving me) the use of these photos.

To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part III

February 13th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Updated! We have some beautiful photos now!!

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Click here to see the new pictures!

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Thanks to a remarkable and rare document that came into my life, Rachel Shoemaker and I have been able to find several customized Sears Homes. One of these is in Glen Ellyn (a Chicago suburb) and it’s a real beauty.

Absent this document (which wholly authenticates this as a Sears House), I’d never have known that this was a “Sears kit home.”

As with the other customized Sears Home we found, this house in Glen Ellyn was also owned by a high-ranking Sears employee, who started at Sears in the 1910s and remained with the company for many years.

According to city records, it was built in 1930 (which is probably about right) and has almost 4,500 square feet. Apparently, it hasn’t been offered for sale in many years, for there is no record of recent sales.

The photos below aren’t very good quality, and if anyone in the Chicago area would like to snap some better images, I’d be grateful!

To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Yes, this is a Sears kit house.

This beautiful Colonial Revival is a Sears kit house, ordered by a long-time Sears employee. The bay window has a copper roof and the primary roof appears to be slate (although it is hard to be sure). Thanks to the county assessor for providing such a lovely photo!

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Located in Glen Ellyn.

It's hard to tell from these low-resolution images, but I suspect that those are copper gutters and it appears to be a solid-brick home. This was (and is) a very well-built home, and spacious, with almost 4,500 square feet.

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Front door is intriguing Jefferson

Shown here is a Sears Jefferson in Carbondale, Illinois. Take a look at that entrance. It is a match to the house in Glen Ellyn - right down to the details. The Jefferson in Carbondale was built in the late 1920s.

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Match front door

Here's a close-up of that front door on the Jefferson.

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Preston

The customized Sears House in Glen Ellyn is also a little reminiscent of the Sears Preston.

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Inside

The Preston was pretty fancy inside.

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Houses 1921

It's likely that the interior of the Glen Ellyn house has a few of these extra touches, too.

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Do they know

I'd love to get some bettter images of this house in Glen Ellyn, but for now, these will have to do! And it sure would be fun to know if the home's current owners know that they have a "Sears kit house"!

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To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Tudoring

February 11th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Recently, this meme made the rounds on Facebook, and it’s fast become one of my all-time favorites.

Now

Even better than the meme were the comments. One wit quipped, "Maybe they're offering free lessons in wattle and daub?" All of which served to remind me, there's another Sears Home I've always wanted to see in the world.

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The Sears Sherwood (1930).

The Sears Sherwood (1930).

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Ive been looking for this one a long time, too but without success.

I've been looking for this one a long time, but without success. It should be easy to identify with its arched door and matching arched garden entry. Plus those stepped windows on the right front gable (staircase and bathroom) are very unique. This house was offered only in 1929 and 1930, so there should be a couple of these around.

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The floorplan is shockingly small, but it does have a half bath on the first floor.

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The second floor has two modest bedrooms and one really small bedroom.

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And here's the tudoring lesson for the day: "The Sherwood is an Americanized English type..."

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Do you have a Sherwood in your neighborhood?

Forensic artists create "enhanced images" of people after the passage of 10 or 20 years. I wish someone could do an "enhanced image" of a Sherwood slathered in aluminum siding and vinyl windows. That might help a bit.

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

Click here to join our merry band on Facebook.

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Was This School for African-Americans Ever Built in Pottstown?

February 10th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

“Mr. W. L. Jones, chairman of the Williamsburg school board, said that he…purchased the bricks…[from the demolished Penniman smokestack] to build a public school building [in Pottstown] for the colored children” (Newport News Daily Press, December 22, 1922).

On December 19, 1922, the 250-foot tall smokestack at the Penniman powerhouse was taken down with 35 sticks of dynamite. According to the Daily Press, the powerhouse at the DuPont munitions plant cost more than $3 million to build. The smokestack sat on a solid concrete base that was 30 feet square, and 20 feet in diameter at its base. A DuPont employee told the Daily Press that the smokestack had more than 150,000 bricks.

As historian R. Wythe Davis quipped, “Penniman was not erased, it was dispersed” - right down to the bricks in the smokestack.

Before the smokestack was blown, W. L. Jones had agreed to purchase all the bricks within the stack. Pretty bold, considering that he really didn’t know how this would end.

Now I’m wondering, was this school ever built? Despite some searching, I can’t even find a Pottstown (outside of Pennsylvania) and it seems unlikely that a school board official from Williamsburg would buy 150,000 slightly used bricks to ship to Pennsylvania.

The day that the smokestack was blown to smithereens, the Daily Press reported that the bricks were bought by “Mr. Jones for the city school board to be used in the erection of a colored school building in Pottstown” (December 20, 1922).

I’m wondering, was Pottstown a community near Williamsburg? If so, it wasn’t mentioned in period newspapers (that I can find). Where was Pottstown? Surely these bricks weren’t shipped to Pennsylvania.  And was this school ever built? If it was built within Williamsburg, did it survive the restoration in the early 1930s?

Another mystery.

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Penniman about 1918.

A panoramic view of Penniman - in 1918. The York River is in the background, and that's Kings Creek to the hard right. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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These photos

These old black and white photos show phenomenal detail. This is the base of the smokestack, which measured 20 feet in diameter. The concrete base was 30 feet square. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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I cant even imagine how long it would take to load 150,000 used bricks into a 1920s truck.

I can't even imagine how long it would take to load 150,000 used bricks into a 1920s truck.

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Two days later, this article appeared, providing addition detail.

This appeared on December 22, 1922 in the Newport News "Daily Press."

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To read more about Penniman’s dispersal, click here.

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A Penniman Murder Mystery: Ethel and Ralph

February 7th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Ralph and Ethel were married, but not to each other.

About 7:00 o’clock, standing on a sidewalk at a busy intersection in downtown Richmond, Ralph and Ethel got into an argument. Ethel had just stepped off the train, and the two started quarreling. Ralph pulled a pistol out of his pocket and shot 39-year-old Ethel twice in the chest. She collapsed immediately. Ralph (55) then turned the pistol on himself, and managed to shoot himself twice in the chest before he fell. Splayed on the sidewalk, bleeding out from the two wounds, Ralph summoned the strength to prop  himself up on an elbow and fire the last two bullets at Ethel, with one bullet striking her in the head.

Ralph then fell back on the sidewalk, where a sailor kicked the empty pistol out of his hands.

Richmond Patrolman Walter M. Angel had just passed the couple at 14th and Main moments earlier. Upon hearing the gun shots, he rushed back to the corner, and commandeered a citizen’s vehicle. Ethel was rushed to Virginia Hospital, a modern three-story hospital about a mile away. Another patrolman rushed Ralph to the hospital, where he died less than 30 minutes later.

It was November 13, 1918. The Great War had ended two days earlier. The entire world rejoiced when Germany surrendered and hostilities ceased, except for Ralph E. Walker, as it meant that he’d soon be separated from Ethel.

The two had met each other at DuPont’s munition plant at Penniman, Virginia, about seven miles from Williamsburg. Many of Penniman’s residents regularly took the C&O train to Williamsburg when they wanted to get out of the village. Ralph and Ethel probably hoped that Richmond would be a safer bet, where it wasn’t as likely that they’d be recognized. According to newspaper articles, the story of their involvement was already well known throughout the munition plant.

In Chattanooga, Ralph’s hometown, this story of the “suicide-slayer” was headline news for several days. The Chattanooga News immediately sent a reporter to Richmond to interview Mrs. D. S. McDonald of Williamsburg, where Ralph had been a boarder. According to Mrs. McDonald, Ralph had told several people that he had “a sweetheart at the DuPont plant.” Ralph also told Mrs. McDonald that she shouldn’t be surprised if she came into his room one morning and found that he’d committed suicide.

Ethel lingered for 10 days. As soon as Ethel’s mother received the news, she rushed to Ethel’s bedside from her home in North Girard, Pennsylvania. Ethel, who was lucid part of the time, refused to make any statement about the events, admitting only that they’d been quarreling, and that Ralph had a terrible temper. Despite intense questioning from both the medical staff and law enforcement officers, both Ethel and her mother managed to keep Ethel’s true identity secret. The story made the headlines up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but - from what I can glean - nothing appeared in the newspapers around Ethel’s hometown of Girard.

At Penniman, Ethel was in a supervisory position (probably on the shell-loading line) and Ralph managed the livestock at the stables,  at the edge of the Penniman camp. Back in Chattanooga, Ralph had a wife and six children. They lived at 801 Union Avenue. His eldest child, Ralph E. Walker, Junior (30) had been in a tragic streetcar accident years earlier and was now an invalid who suffered from frequent convulsions. Ralph, Sr. came from a prominent Chattanooga family, with two judges in his immediate family (a brother and a cousin).

Before meeting Ethel at the train, Ralph had checked into Rueger’s Hotel under the pseudonym of F. H. Armstrong of Birmingham, Alabama. Letters from his wife and youngest child (Mark) were found in his suitcase.

Despite the agony that Ethel must have been experiencing, she wouldn’t give anyone her real name, identifying herself only as “Mrs. N. E. Brown.” Eventually, she told the staff that her name was Ethel Mae Brown. The newspaper articles explained that she wished to keep her identity a secret, because her husband was “a prominent physician in Pennsylvania.”

By all accounts, Ethel’s sufferings were great. With Mother at her bedside, Ethel dictated a will, bequeathing her “jewelry, diamonds and other effects” to her. On November 22, 1918, Ethel succumbed to her injuries, “with the secrets of this [story] still locked in her heart” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 23, 1918).

And for 98 years, that’s about all we knew about the murder/suicide in downtown Richmond.

Soon after I discovered this story, I asked Milton Crum, my BFF and genealogy genius if he could “spare a few minutes” to track down this mysterious Mrs. Brown. Frankly, I thought it was hopeless. But he found her, and that’s when we learned the rest of the story.

Ethel’s husband back in Girard was not a prominent physician, but a 41-year-old army doctor who enlisted in March 1918, and was serving somewhere in France. His name was Dr. Sydney R. Titsworth, and he met Ethel in the early 1900s, when she was a nursing student at J. Hood Wright Hospital in New York. Secretly married in 1905 after a very brief courtship, they had no children.

Milton first found Ethel when he discovered her death certificate. Her mother (the informant) gave false information on this document as well, stating that her daughter’s last name was “Brown,” and giving her age as 28.  A 1900 Census gives a birth date of 1879 for Ethel, which corresponds to newspaper reports, putting her age at “about 35″ in 1918.

Ethel’s mother, Carrie Grace Schneittacher, made the necessary arrangements to have her only child, Ethel Mae, buried in Girard Cemetery. Ethel’s tombstone bespeaks the deep shame her own family felt toward her. Stripped of her married name, deprived of the traditional familial connections and dates, it says only, “Ethel, dau of J.W. and C.G. Schneittacher.”

Less than 14 months after Mrs. Ralph Walker (Mary) buried her husband in disgrace, her eldest son (Ralph, Jr.) died during a convulsive fit. He was 31 years old. Mary died in 1938 at the age of 70. Her occupation was listed as “domestic.” It must not have been an easy life for either family. Four years after Ethel’s tragic death, her father (Wilford Joseph Schneittacher) died from cirrhosis of the liver.

So what is the mystery? There are many.

Did the Pennsylvania papers carry anything on this story? I’ve searched several archived newspaper sites (LOC’s Chronicling America, Newspapers.com and Find My Past) and can not find a single mention of this story. What happened to Ethel’s mother, Carrie Grace Schneittacher? She just disappeared after the death of her husband.

And what about Ethel? Did anyone in Girard ever know what happened to her? Was there an obituary for Ethel? The family had been in Girard since the 1900 Census. Surely, someone would have missed this woman.

Lastly, is Ethel buried in the family plot, or in some corner, forgotten by her family - even in death? If Girard wasn’t so far from Norfolk, I’d drive up there, just to see for myself.

There are many interesting stories we’ll find when we go digging around in history, but this story of Ethel is one that I’ve found especially sad and haunting.

Thanks so much to Milton Crum and Anne Hallerman for assisting with the voluminous research.

The above is a preview from Rose’s forthcoming book, Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost City. You can read more about Penniman here.

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Pasted

Ralph and Ethel met at Penniman, Virginia, a World War One munitions plant and village, built by DuPont. It was located about seven miles from Williamsburg. At its peak, more than 15,000 people inhabited the 6,000-acre site on the York River. Penniman was established in Spring 1916, and by 1921, it was a ghost town.

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Penniman

About 6,000 men and women worked at Penniman, loading shells for The Great War. After the war, Penniman was disassembled and in 1942, the land was purchased for use by the Navy (Cheatham Annex).

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Thanks to Hagley Museum and Library, we have many wonderful images from Penniman, but no names.

Thanks to Hagley Museum and Library, we have many wonderful images from Penniman, but no names. This shows the freight depot, where the 155mm and 75mm shells were shipped out to Newport News, for transport to France.

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Ralph had a background in buying, selling and managing livestock. At Penniman, he got a job managing the livestock.

Originally from Chattanooga, Ralph had a background in buying, selling and managing livestock, and that became his job at Penniman. In the upper left hand corner, you can see the stables for the donkeys, horses and other animals. The small square buildings at the top are chicken coops. Located on the edge of the property, this is probably where Ralph spent much of his day.

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This is the lone photo of Mrs. Ethel Brown. It was published only in the Chattanooga News, and the accompanying article described her as a good-looking woman.

This is the lone photo of "Mrs. Ethel Brown." It was published only in "The Chattanooga News" with the accompanying headline, "Same Old Story of Human Emotions Repeated in Virginia City."

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News

This article appeared in the "Richmond Times Dispatch" on 11.14.18

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Ethels mother, the informant misrepresented the true facts about Ethels name, age

It was my history loving buddy and genealogical wizard Milton Crum who figured out Ethel's real last name, and I'm still not sure how he did it, but I think it was the discovery of this death certificate that started it all. Ethel's mother, the "informant" misrepresented the true facts about Ethel's name and age.

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It was my history loving buddy and genealogical wizard Milton Crum who

This 1900 census shows Ethel is still living with her father "William" and mother "Gracie" Schneittacher in Girard, Pennsylvania. In 1918, when Ethel "disappeared" did anyone in Girard ask about her?

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Ralph Walker's body was shipped back to Chattanooga where a "family only" service was held.

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Ethels husband

Ethel's husband was discharged nine months after Ethel's death, in August 1919. He spent the next several years traveling the oceans, working as a ship's physician. He remarried in 1925.

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Most heart-breaking of all is this tombstone at the Girard Cemetery.

Most heart-breaking of all is this tombstone at the Girard Cemetery in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Stripped of her legal, married name, Ethel's marker is nondescript. It's my impression that - even in death - Joseph Wilford and Carrie Grace wanted to put a little distance between themselves and their only child.

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An interesting update - just as I was finishing up this blog, I found this article in a Pennsylvania paper, The Kane Republican.

An interesting update - just as I was finishing up this blog, I found this article in a Pennsylvania paper, "The Kane Republican" (November 15, 1918).

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Sometimes, It Takes a Village of Historians to Document a Hillrose…

February 5th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Until just a few months ago, I’d never seen a 1920s Sears Hillrose in real life. And then in August 2015, I had the delightful opportunity to visit a stunning Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. Shortly after I wrote that blog, Greg Decker and Carrie Milam (from our Sears Homes Facebook group) discovered a Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana, and took a plethora of first-class photos!

Next, Rachel Shoemaker had the presence of mind to check Rebecca Hunter’s wonderful book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map,” and found two more of this very same model in Convoy, Ohio and nearby Antwerp, Ohio. Fuzzy online images of the Sears Hillrose in Convoy really piqued my interest: It appeared to be in mostly original condition.

Next, I contacted the County Economic Development Officer in nearby Van Wert, Ohio, who forwarded my email to Adam Ries, with Main Street Van Wert Inc., who contacted Larry Webb at the Van Wert County Historical Society. Mr Webb was kind enough to run out to the house in Convoy and photograph the house from several angles.

Now if I could just get some photos of that Hillrose in Antwerp!

When the Hillrose was first offered, it was known as a “prize winner.” Read more about that here.

Thanks again to Larry Webb for these wonderful photos.
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The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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As you can see from these floor plans, it was an unusually spacious house.

As you can see from these floor plans, it was an unusually spacious house.

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Its a house with several distinctive features, making it easy to spot.

It's a house with several distinctive features, such as that slender window in the upstairs closet, the large squared bay at the rear and the off-center front door. The spacious porch with the flared columns is also eye-catching, but sometimes, porches get dramatically altered through the years.

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Many thanks to

Now that's a fine-looking house. It's so rare to find these 100-year-old houses in original condition. Yes, the house needs a little sprucing up, but it's a rarity and a real gem in a world filled with HGVT-crazed homeowners. Many thanks to Larry Webb at the Van Wert County Historical Society for providing these photos.

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My goodness, what a house.

My goodness, what a house. Once you see a house "in the flesh," it becomes infinitely easier to identify other models out in the world. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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From the homes side

These Sears Homes had cypress clapboards and window trim. Even without paint, this siding will endure for many years. However, it appears that the current owners are painting this classic old foursquare. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a glorious find on a road that literally straddles Indiana and Ohio. And quite a testament to old-fashioned paint, that would hang on through the decades! Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Mr. Webb had the presence of mind to photograph this home from the rear!

Mr. Webb had the presence of mind to photograph this home from the rear! This angle shows (again) how delightfully original this Hillrose is, with an original wooden storm door on the back porch. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you compare the floor plan to the Hillrose, you'll see how delightfully original this old kit house truly is. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And if you look really close, youll see another relic of a bygone era: A cistern.

And if you look really close, you'll see another relic of a bygone era: A cistern. See how the rounded downspout disappears into the ground, and the concrete pad on top of that area? Odds are good that this was an underground cistern (typically lined with brick) and this water was used for washing clothes, as it was the softest water imaginable. The beautiful old hand pump in the foreground may have been piped into that cistern. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, there's another Hillrose about 20 miles due north of our Hillrose in Convoy, Ohio. If someone could just hop in their Sears Allstate sedan and run up to Antwerp and get that photo...

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Thanks to Rebecca Hunter, Rachel was able to locate those two Hillroses in Ohio! This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter's well-researched book, Rachel was able to locate those two Hillroses in Ohio! This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

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Here's the Hillrose that Carrie Milam and Greg Decker found in Griffith, Indiana. Sadly, the front porch is MIA. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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When the Hillrose was first offered, it was known as a “prize winner.” Read more about that here.

Read about the Hillrose in Brandy Station here.

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The Sears Monterey - In Real Life!

February 2nd, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

Just two months ago, I wrote a blog lamenting the fact that I’d never found a Sears “Monterey.” Last night in our Facebook group, I learned that Jennifer Hoover-Vogel found one of these very rare Sears kit homes in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania!

Now as you feast your eyes upon this kit-house beauty, you’ll note it’s had some siding installed over the stucco (sad face), and the windows have been removed (oh dear), however, it’s still standing and there’s something to be said for that.

Many thanks to Jennifer for finding this treasure!

And thanks to the unknown (but delightful, generous and lovely) Realtor who posted these images when the house was for sale.

To read read about the Alhambra (a kissing cousin), click here.

To join our Facebook group, click here.

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Who doesnt love a Sears Monterey? (1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

Who doesn't love a Sears Monterey? (1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

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FP2

Same footprint as the Sears Alhambra, but slightly different exterior.

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FLoor Plan

Upstairs is a little different from the Alhambra, too!

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House

Exterior: Beautiful. Interior: Good.

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house

That is one sweet little house. Check out the parapet on the porch, dormer and staircase wing.

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Oh yea

Well, they put a hurting on that front porch, and they replaced the windows with something rather, uh, less than ideal, but other than that, it's a fine house.

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To a flat-lander tourist such as myself, that stonework is stunning.

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That is a fancy floor. I wonder if the home's original owner had a background in flooring, and did his own "upgrade" while the house was under construction.

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Another view of that beautiful floor and lovely fireplace.

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The kitchens had a real hurting put on it, but from what Ive read, there are people in the world that like this kind of thing. Honestly, I wish I was one of them. It sure would simplify my life.

The kitchen's had a real hurting put on it, but from what I've read, there are people in the world that like this kind of thing. Honestly, I wish I was one of them. It sure would simplify my life. I am intrigued by the sign on top of the cabinet that says "Home." Is that in case someone forgets where they are, and start thinking that they're at a neighbor's house? It's a puzzle.

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Another view of the kitchen.

Another view of the kitchen. I'm highly allergic to stainless steel, beige tile floors, French provincial cabinetry and granite countertops, so that explains why this kitchen would be difficult for me to visit.

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There's that "home" sign again. Other than that, great dining room.

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The bathroom is more my ss

The bathroom is more my style. That double-apron porcelain tub makes me swoon.

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The bedrooms in this house seem unusually spacious.

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house

See that step to the left? It's on the floor-plan and is an access to the attic.

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Pretty yard

Even the back of the house is lovely!

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Wait, is that a koi pond? Okay, sign me up. I want the house. And the pond.

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A comparison of the two images. Fun house, isn't it?

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Many thanks to Jennifer for finding this treasure!

And thanks to the unknown (but delightful, generous and lovely) Realtor who posted these images.

To read read about the Alhambra (a kissing cousin), click here.

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Sears Modern Home, “The Winston”

January 31st, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

It’s been 17 years since I wrote my first article on Sears kit homes, and I’ve learned a lot in those years. Yet even now, there are still lots of surprises. That’s the nature of history, and probably the #1 reason I love history so much - it’s always shifting and changing - and there’s always something new to learn.

When Bob Gentzel posted pictures of his “Sears Winston” in our Facebook group, I was skeptical. I took a moment to study the house, but then I scrolled on to the next shiny bauble on Facebook, hoping that someone else might gently explain to him that it wasn’t really a Sears House. I was running out of nice things to say to people who were similarly confused.

A couple days after he posted his photos, I was looking up something in a plan book house and I stumbled across a Standard Homes Plan called, “The Winston.” Better yet, it was a spot-on match to Bob’s house in Pennsylvania. I went back to Bob’s photos on Facebook and posted the images I’d found from Standard Homes and explained to him that it was a plan-book house and people often confused plan-book houses with kit homes.

Bob was grateful to see his house in a plan-book catalog, but he remained insistent that it was a Sears House.

I asked how he knew it was a Sears House. His reply piqued my interest: “The name ‘Sears & Roebuck’ appears on the home’s original blueprints.” Frankly, I was still a little doubtful. I asked for photos, and Bob supplied them.

That’s when I became a believer. Bob Gentzel’s custom Sears House in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a real doozy. And it’s a real Sears House!

Thanks so much to Bob Gentzel for sharing this fascinating story and providing me with the photos below.

To read about another custom Sears House, click here.

Learn more about plan-book houses here.

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Its a Sears House, they always tell me, and I have to be the one to tell them, Sorry, Charlie. Its not even close. But in this case, I was wrong - this really IS a Sears House, built with plans from Standard Home Plans.

"It's a Sears House," is a refrain that's quite popular, but sometimes wrong, and often I have to be the one to tell them, "Sorry, Charlie. It's not even close." But in this case, I was wrong - this really IS a Sears House, built with plans from Standard Home Plans. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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When I found this image in the Standard Homes Planbook (1920s), I thought, Poor guy. Hes got a plan book house and he thinks its a kit home.

When I found this image in the Standard Homes Planbook (1920s), my first thought was, "Poor guy. He's got a plan-book house from Standard Homes and someone told him it's a kit home." Well, Bob's house is two amazing homes in one! It's a plan-book house - with blueprints and building materials from Sears & Roebuck, Chicago, Illinois.

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There's no arguing with this little tidbit, on the corner of the blueprints for Bob's house. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The describe the house as "Special Winston." Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And its special in other ways, too. The Winston (as shown in the SHP floor plan) is 26 feet wide. Bobs Special Winston is 34 feet wide, adding a lot of extra square footage to the house.

And it's special in other ways, too. The Winston (as shown in the SHP floor plan) is 26 feet wide. Bob's "Special Winston" is 34 feet wide, adding a lot of extra square footage to the house.

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Upstairs, there's a darling little alcove in that front gable.

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Bobs Special Winston has Sears La Tosca hardware.

Bob's "Special Winston" has Sears "La Tosca" hardware (1930 catalog image).

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Which

"La Tosca" was very popular in Sears Homes (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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Bob found this

Glued to the back side of the blue prints, Bob found this unique tape. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And Bob has the o

And Bob has all manner of original documentation for the house, such as this wonderful letter. My favorite line is, "If you have any irregularity of any kind, write to us and we shall take prompt action." In other words, if you find anything missing or in error, we'll make it right. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And

This list delineates the special changes made to the Special Winston. And there were quite a few. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And its even signed!

And it's even signed! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And theres this...

And there's this. All these documents were passed along to Mr. and Mrs. Gentzel when they purchased the house in 1985. The Gentzels purchased the house from the daughter and son-in-law of the original owners. God bless the home's prior owners for hanging on to all this documentation and ephemera! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Its a mighty fancy kit house!

It's a mighty fancy "kit house"! You don't often find exposed beams in a 1930 house. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The fireplace mantel is fairly unusual, too.

The fireplace mantel is fairly unusual, too. I wonder if that's rock that's been locally quarried. I'm in awe that the house retains its original varnished woodwork. It's stunning. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The entry foyer made me swoon.

The entry foyer made me swoon. Every piece and part of that staircase is breathtakingly beautiful unpainted wood. I'd be interested to know what that little door is for. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And who doesnt love a breakfast nook?

And who doesn't love a breakfast nook? Unfortunately, these darling little nooks are often removed by an aggressive remodeler. Nice to see the original nook in this old house! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Upstairs

Here's a view of the nook upstairs, in that front gable. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The house is a spacious beauty from top to bottom. Heres a view of the master bedroom, looking in to what is now a master bathroom.

The house is a spacious beauty from top to bottom. Here's a view of the master bedroom, looking in to what is now a master bathroom. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of the master bedroom, looking toward the hallway.

Another view of the master bedroom, looking toward the hallway. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Returning to the first floor, theres this little mystery.

Returning to the first floor, there's this little mystery. That's a door leading into the closet, and that's a small inward-swinging casement window inside the closet, but is that a SINK in the corner of the closet? Sure looks like it to me. But why a sink in the corner of a coat closet? Is it a graphic for a hat shelf? If so, it's a mighty odd one.

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Bob very graciously supplied a picture of the house from that angle, just to assuage my curiousity.

Bob very graciously supplied a picture of the house from that angle, just to assuage my curiosity. He also explained that his house had been modified, so that little closet wasn't present in his Special Winston. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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I found Bobs house in this reproduction of a 1920s Standard Home Plans catalog. I bought it a few years ago on Amazon. And I love that design on the front cover.

I found Bob's house in this reproduction of a 1920s Standard Home Plans catalog. I bought it a few years ago on Amazon. And I love that design on the front cover.

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And look whats next door to Bobs Special Winston.

Ruh Roe. Just look what's next door to Bob's "Special Winston."

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To read about another custom Sears House, click here.

Learn more about plan-book houses here.

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Another Cutie In Kinston, NC

January 28th, 2016 Sears Homes 3 comments

Driving around Kinston, I found one elusive house that I couldn’t “match,” and yet I knew I’d seen it somewhere. I took several photos of the house and decided to figure it out later.

Through the years, I have learned that when a house beckons me, I need to pay attention.

Back home, I still hadn’t figured it out, I asked Rachel if it rang any bells for her. Last night, she sent me a note with a little smiley face that said, “Look in your Wardway book.”

Rachel had found my mystery house in my book, or more accurately, the book that Dale Wolicki and I co-authored, “Montgomery Ward’s Mail-Order Homes.”

I hastily grabbed my copy off the shelf and sure enough, there it was, right on page 188. Gosh, that’s a good book! :D

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To buy the book, click here.

Read more about the kit homes of Kinston here.

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This little cutie in Kinston beckoned me, but I didnt immediately recognize it.

This little cutie in Kinston beckoned me, but I didn't immediately recognize it.

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The fact that its been turned into a duplex didnt help.

The fact that it's been turned into a duplex didn't help.

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I asked Rachel for her help, and she suggested I look in my book...

I asked Rachel for her help, and she suggested I look in my book...

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Lo and behold, there it was on page 188, smilling back at me...

Lo and behold, there it was on page 188, smiling back at me...

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Is the house in Kinston a Wardway #139?

The house also appeared in the early 1910s Wardway catalogs (1916 shown here).

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Sure looks a lot like it!

Sure looks a lot like it!

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But the roofline looks a little different.

But the roofline looks a little different. Even zooming in on the catalog image, you can't see the details. It appears to be a "broken roof" (different elevation than the main roof), but it does not look like the porch roof tucks under the main roof (as it does on the Kinston house). What IS interesting is that closet window on the 2nd floor.

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The floorplan shows that to be a closet window.

The floorplan shows that to be a closet window tucked in under those eaves. On the line drawing (catalog image), it is a full-size window. In the Kinston house, it is a closet window. Pretty interesting.

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The house is surprisingly large - with almost 1,800 square feet of living area. The first floor has a butlers pantry!

The house is surprisingly large - with almost 1,800 square feet of living area. The first floor has a butler's pantry! Looking at this floorplan, you can see how easy it would be to add an exterior staircase on that right side (as has happened with the house in Kinston).

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Just like this...

Just like this...

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Is this cutie in Kinston a Wardway #139? Sure looks like it could be.

Is this cutie in Kinston a Wardway #139? Sure looks like it could be.

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To buy the book, click here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part II

January 27th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Thanks to the kindness of a Chicago-based FOSH (”Friend of Sears Homes”), we now have some stunning pictures of that house in River Forest, Illinois.

As mentioned in a prior blog, we have documentation establishing this residence as a “Sears kit home” built by long-time Sears employee Arthur Hoch. It was Arthur that turned to Sears’ “Architectural Service” for this beautiful spacious home.

Sometime in the 1910s, Arthur took a job with Sears & Roebuck in Chicago and quickly rose through the ranks. In the early 1930s, Arthur was living in River Forest, and sometime in the mid-1930s, he ordered this house from Sears. In 1954, Arthur Hoch retired from Sears, after more than 30 years of employment.

Arthur was a faithful employee and it appears that his faithfulness served him well. It’s no surprise that when this upper-level manager needed a home, he turned to his favorite retailer, Sears and Roebuck.

To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of architectural services to their customers (and employees).

In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of "architectural services" to their customers (and employees).

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When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses, such as this one, The Kismet in Elmhurst, Illinois.

When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses. Shown above is "The Kismet" in Elmhurst, Illinois. A small addition on the back adds some breathing room to the 520-square-foot cottage.

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Sears

This house shatters the notion of "those boxy little kit homes"! It's quite grand and in every way. In 2013, the historical society commissioned a full survey of the homes in River Forest and in the description that accompanied this house, there was no mention of its unique origins. It seems likely that they didn't know that this house was ordered by Arthur from Sears. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet

According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet but this appears to be an addition on the rear. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you look closely, you can see the differences in the brick.

If you look closely, you can see the differences in the old and new brick. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home.

Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home, probably close to 4,000 square feet. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a HOUSE!

What a HOUSE! Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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