“This Old House Has Good Bones” - Please DON’T.

September 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 1 comment

If you want to have a meaningful conversation with an architectural historian, never ever never let this phrase pass your lips: “This house has good bones.”

It’s nonsensical, and frankly, I’m not sure what it’s even intended to express.

Sometimes, when I’m trapped in a doctor’s office, and I’m forced to watch a whole lot of HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized), I hear this dreaded phrase.

If we’re going forward with the “houses as living creatures” analogy, houses are probably more exoskeletal. In other words, they wear their skeletons on the outside, like roaches and ants and bedbugs, and I really don’t like comparing houses to roaches and ants and bedbugs.

Houses might be “structurally sound” and they might be “exceptionally well built” and they might have “dimensional framing lumber” or perhaps they’re “solid and strong” and maybe the framing members are of exceptionally good quality, but houses do not have good bones.

Next time you feel compelled to tell someone, “That house has good bones,” please bite your tongue, take a deep breath and instead say, “This house has an astonishingly sturdy exoskeletal structure.”

Or maybe, best of all, just say, “This is a fine old solid house.”

All of us old house lovers will thank you.

Read about the “open floor plan” and the downfall of society here.

If you enjoy this blog and want to make Rosemary smile, please leave a comment below!
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Good bones

If we're going to drag this analogy on down the road, it would have to be said that houses are exoskeletal, which means that they can not possibly have "good bones."

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meaning

Here is a student with "good bones" but will he excel in class? Probably not.

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Good

This house probably has "a good exoskeletal structure" but I would highly recommend against its purchase, because it's got a bit of a tilt.

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This

Although a classic example of balloon framing, this house does not have "good bones." It has vertical framing members that appear to be sturdy and strong. And it's going to need some stainless steel appliances. And ceiling fans. And other stuff.

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Read about the “open floor plan” and the downfall of society here.

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To The Woman at the Veterinarian’s Office…

August 29th, 2017 Sears Homes 14 comments

Yesterday, suddenly, Teddy the Dog became ill. We dashed off the the vet, and while we waited to get “worked in,” I started getting “worked up.” Sitting beside the stainless steel table in the exam room, looking at my old dog, I started to cry. In my troubled mind, I knew this was the end for my little Sheltie.

“Old dogs really are the best, aren’t they?” I asked Teddy as I gently stroked her gray-tipped Sheltie ears. She looked at me with those big brown eyes, as if to say, “I may go first, but it is love that has bonded us together, and that bond will endure forever.” (She is a writer’s dog, after all. She’s quite pithy.)

I cried a few more tears and then sobered up.

When the doctor appeared, he asked what was going on, and I explained that she’d had diarrhea and now the soft skin on her pink tummy was sloughing off.

With much gravitas, I told him, “It’s either a skin malady, or she’s dying. I need to know which.”

And then I stifled another crying jag.

He examined her thoroughly and said, “She’s not dying. She’s got a bacterial skin infection. We can get this cleared up with proper medication. She’s going to be fine.”

I don’t remember the doctor’s name, but he was a patient soul. When he said she was going to be fine, I started to cry again.

I can’t lose Teddy. Not yet. She’s the last remnant of my once-normal life. I asked my buddy Milton if she’d aged precipitously in the last 16 months. He replied quietly, “We all have. This has changed us forever.”

Teddy was there when Wayne ended his life. She heard it, saw it, and apparently tried to “wake him up” by licking him and circling the chair repeatedly.

Teddy lost both of her “people” that day. Wayne died. I lost my mind. For a time.

Both Teddy and Mother are doing better these days, but we still are struggling. We’re in rental housing and that’s not ideal, but it was the best we could do with the mess that we were left. In the first four months, Teddy had two surgeries, both of which involved life-threatening emergencies. In that same time, I had a minor outpatient surgery - the first in my life.

Before The Bad Thing™, Teddy was the most laid-back dog you’d ever meet. Thunder storms, loud noises, fireworks did not faze her one bit. Now, she’s a different dog. Loud noises cause her much anxiety. Both Teddy and I put some effort into avoiding loud noises. And when she’s on leash, she’s showing some aggression to other dogs, big or small.

Because of this, I try to keep a tight handle on her around other dogs, but yesterday in the vet’s office, some woman with her little Yorkie thought it’d be cute to let her dog sniff my dog. I was at the counter paying the bill and didn’t see her approach. Teddy snarled and her hackles went up and she bared her teeth. She was poised and ready to strike.

As I reined in Teddy, I saw the look of disgust on the woman’s face and saw her whisper something to her husband as she walked away. I’ve seen this same face when Teddy and I are out for our evening constitutionals.

I would love to grab these people by the lapels and say, “This is not my little dog’s fault. This is not my fault. This is just a result of some really ugly trauma and we’re all doing our best.”

One of my “dog people” friends told me that in Teddy’s world - Teddy probably feels like she is protecting me. She’s fine at Doggy Day Care (which we visit a couple times a month), but the trouble starts when she’s on leash with me, out in the world.

That comment helped a lot, and gave me much peace. Dear little Teddy sees me as someone that needs protecting. Endears her to me ever more, if that’s possible.

Someone else said, “She’s just reacting to your anxiety. If you calm down, she’ll be fine.”

That was not helpful. In fact, it hurt like hell.

In the meantime, Teddy and I move through the days and we are both striving to stay healthy. And the good news is, 24 hours later, Teddy’s skin infection is already on the mend.

To read more about Teddy, click here.

To learn about the big fancy Sears House - the Magnolia - click here.

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Teddy

On a rainy Tuesday in Southeastern Virginia, Teddy watches the world go by. The tips of those precious little prick ears turned white in the days following Wayne's suicide.

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To read more about Teddy, click here.

To learn about the big fancy Sears House - the Magnolia - click here.

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When Real Estate Photos Make Me Laugh Out Loud…

August 24th, 2017 Sears Homes 17 comments

As someone who spends a fair amount of time looking online at real estate listings and photos, I can tell you, some of these photos are real doozies. My favorite site, for ease of use, is Zillow. There are other websites that I frequent, but many of them are so heavy laden with graphics and ads that it bogs down the computer.

The collection below comes from the Hampton Roads area (Southeastern Virginia). Only one of the photos is from outside of this area.

Enjoy the photos below, and if you enjoy this particular blog, PLEASE:

1) Share the link on your Facebook page

2) Leave a comment below!

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

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This agent - apparently - couldnt be bothered to drive to the site to get interior photos OR exterior photos. This image appears to be a PHOTOGRAPH of a google street view, taken at his computer. At the very least, maybe someone can teach him how to do a screenshot?en from his computer

This image - the only picture available of this house - appears to be a PHOTOGRAPH of a Google street view, taken at a computer screen. At the very least, maybe someone can teach this agent how to do a screenshot?

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And it would seem that this agent was so concerned about all the signs that he/she took this picture (the lone image) from the safety of her car and kept the doors locked.

And it would seem that this agent was so concerned about the "private property" signs that he/she took this picture (the lone image) from the safety of her car. Perhaps someone could teach her how to blot out the car door frame using Photoshop.

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It appears that ET has posed

ET is living in a small house in Southeastern Virginia. And it's for sale. (The house.)

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This is my own photo, taken while I was looking at a house in the Suffolk area.

What's a sunporch without full plumbing?

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From what I can glean, a high-powered rifle and a spray of bullets caused the sink to run away so quickly that it forgot to take the faucet with it.

From what I can glean, a high-powered rifle and a spray of bullets caused the sink to run away so quickly that it forgot to take the faucet with it.

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The ad said two-zone central air.

The ad said two-zone central air.

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Wherever you go in the room, the deers eyes follow you...

Wherever you go in the room, the deer's eyes follow you...

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Seriously.

Seriously.

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Because how better to exhaust a dryer vent.

Because how better to exhaust a dryer vent?

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Yea

Gravity fed gas-pack? Oh wait, that's only going to work for cold air.

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fff

Jiffy-pop ductwork? It's growing so fast, it had to be constrained with a metal band.

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fff

If I was trying to sell a house, and the a/c compressor was in a theft-proof wire cage in the fenced-in yard, I don't think I'd put a picture of that in the listing.

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Speaking of security, this seems like a statement about the neighborhood.

Speaking of safe areas, this seems like a statement about the neighborhood.

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ggg

Doesn't everyone have a water heater in the den (and a washer hook-up)?

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gggg

The sheet-metal ducting on this furnace is very, very busy. The trunk line goes up and over and under the house. Meanwhile, the garage door is shooting laser eyes at the furnace.

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It looks like the appliances and cabinets were in the middle of a wild party when a humanoid opened the door and everyone had to freeze.

It looks like the appliances and cabinets were in the middle of a dance party when a humanoid opened the door and everyone had to freeze.

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8989

Was this used to film a television program? Not sure what to think of the red X.

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If youre going to take a picture of someones undies draped on the sink, you might want to hide from the camera.

If you're going to take a picture of someone's undies draped on the sink, you might want to make sure your image and likeness doesn't show in the mirror.

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Theres a lot happening in this back yard.

This is a very exciting back yard.

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ff

The agent asked the homeowners to step out of the way but forgot about the mirror? Either that, or they're trapped in an inter-dimensional portal and need to be rescued.

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I dont know if this is artistic brilliance or just plain goofy.

Does the hanger convey?

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And they advertised this as a fenced yard...

And they advertised this as a fenced yard...

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And yes, this picture is right-side-up. This is the lone picture that is not in the Hampton Roads area.

Because nothing says "good decorating" like children dangling from the ceiling.

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This is a for sale by owner and its a little unnerving.

It's true that Mom has left for heaven and won't need this house anymore, but can you move the oxygen cannula out of the way before snapping the photos? And please draw a face on the Teddy Bear. Ugh.

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This shot

The elegance of the entry foyer is lost with the potty shot.

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ff

Give me a winning caption on this one, and I'll send you a free book! :D

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

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Please Leave a Comment Below…

August 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 43 comments

There’s something known as “second-year grief” and experts suspect it’s occasioned by the fact that in the first year following a sudden and traumatic death, the mind is in shock. By the second year, the protective layer of shock is mostly gone, and what’s left is the ugly, raw reality.

I’m not sure what the issue is, but despite a rigorous daily exercise routine, healthy eating, gratitude lists, daily “to do” lists, and other good habits, I’m struggling to keep my head above the massive waves of despair, regret and hopelessness that keep washing over me.

Every morning, one of the first things I do is to check this website for new comments. When someone leaves a comment, it’s a lovely reminder that I am still alive, and that someone somewhere is still thinking about me. And when someone says that they’re praying for me, that lifts my spirits more than I can easily express.

I return to the “well-commented” blogs (especially the recent ones) and read through every word of every comment again and again.

So if you’re one of the 1,500+ daily readers at this blog, I’d be ever so grateful if you’d take a moment and please leave a comment below.

Thank you so very much.

Read through some of my favorite comments here.

Interested in learning more about Penniman? Click here.

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When I drove to New Martinsville, WV last week, my Garmin took me through Ohio (and why, I do not know). Whilst there, I saw this perfect Avondale in Matamora (on Grandview Street) and snapped a picture.

When I drove to New Martinsville, WV last week, my Garmin took me through Ohio (and why, I do not know). Whilst there, I saw this perfect Avondale in Matamora (on Grandview Street) and snapped a picture.

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Heres an Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Here's an Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Every comment is so precious to me. This comment made me laugh out loud and also touched me to tears.

Every comment is so precious to me, and I cherish every word and the love behind the words. This comment made me laugh out loud and also touched me to tears. And I do love that song.

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To read the full blog that Susan is referencing, click here.

Read through some of my favorite comments here.

Interested in learning more about Penniman? Click here.

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Housing Rosemary, Part III

August 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 7 comments

We’re sneaking up on 11 months since I moved into my rental home, and never in a million years did I think that I’d remain in this little rental for this long. I was quite confident that I’d find my new “forever home” lickety split.

It’s been a long and winding road, searching for my “forever home” and in that time, I’ve switched back and forth from old houses (1950s) to new (1990-2010) back to old (1930s) and every place in-between.

I’ve looked at ranches, two-story homes, foursquares, Tudor Revivals, Colonial Revivals, International Style, Cape Cods, classic Mid-Century Modern houses, Log Homes, and plain old farmhouses. There have been many interesting experiences, such as the time I crawled under a house with a licensed home inspector and pointed out a couple things he missed.

When we emerged from the crawlspace, he offered me a job with his company.

Or the time I met another inspector at a house that I was going to write a contract on, and he said, “Rosemary, is that you?” And I said, “Mortimer*, is that you?” And he said, “Why, I can’t believe I’m standing here talking to you! I haven’t seen you in 30+ years!” (The benefits of returning to your home town after a few years.)

We caught up with each other and then after a few minutes of “old home week,” he took me aside and quietly said, “You really need to be cautious if you’re going to buy this house. I was under this house 18 months ago, and it needs a whole lot of work.”

And there was the time I ran into an old high school chum when I was looking at an old house and she said, “Be careful with that one. During the last Nor’easter, there was about 12″ of water in the basement.”

And then there was that “interesting” real estate agent that I met at an open house in Suffolk. She asked me what I did for a living. I responded casually that I wrote books about old houses. She replied with, “I sold the very first Sears and Roebuck kit house ever built in this country, and it was right there in Portsmouth, Virginia” and I laughed and said, “Oh my goodness, there’s so much wrong with that seemingly simple sentence that I can’t begin to explain it, but please do tell me, how old is the roof on this house?”

In my desperate bid to find myself and start a new life, I keep hoping that this housing question will soon be settled. In the meantime, I continue to read, and write, and pray, and hope that there will be a day when my first and last thought of every single day is not “why did he do this to me?”

As always, I’ve deeply grateful for every prayer, every loving word, and every kind comment.

* “Mortimer” was not his real name.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

And I could always buy a lighthouse for $15,000!

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Houses

Today, I was looking at a neighborhood in Chesapeake, Virginia that was once populated with 1950s houses and vast expanses of farmland. Today, it's awash in these less-than-aesthetically pleasing McMansions, which are priced at $350,000 and up. Not my cup of tea.

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Toilet

In my house-hunting travels, I've seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

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In my house-hunting travels, Ive seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

Whenever I see a house with a heavy-duty cage around the a/c compressor, I know I'm in the wrong neighborhood. And I think that three deadbolts on the door is another sign. This house is in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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Were running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the bigun) is Cocoa Puffs.

We're running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the big'un) is "Cocoa Puffs."

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One of the loveliest gifts I received yesterday came from Clyde Nordan (

I've looked at homes throughout Hampton Roads and points west, but every now and then, I've dreamt of grabbing my passport and fleeing the country. The image above is courtesy Clyde Nordan of Clyde Nordan Photography in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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The First Sears House? Nope.

The First Sears House? Nope. This Sears Westly is at the corner of Winchester and King Street (Westhaven section). This house was featured on WVEC-TV several years ago (about 2004). It's been sold and remodeled and sold and remodeled a few times. Most likely, it was built in the mid-to-late 1910s.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

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

August 3rd, 2017 Sears Homes 15 comments

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

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

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

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

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

Nonetheless, I survived.

Now about that Magnolia…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

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

The original blog on this house can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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At first glance, it all looks swell.

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

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

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

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And

In fact, it looks real good!

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Inside, things look pretty good, too.

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

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But

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

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Inside the

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

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DD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But then theres this...

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

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This was

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

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Pretty nice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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fff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sears

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

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

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

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

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

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The back of the house is also a good match.

The back of the house is also a good match.

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

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

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ff

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

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ITs

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

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

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

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

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

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R

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

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Is it a Magnolia?

Is it a Magnolia?

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

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

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

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

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Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV, Part II

July 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

In my prior blog, I mentioned that HGTV’s House Hunters featured a “kit house” that was in Nashville. A Facebook friend and fellow Sears House lover shared some additional information on the program, enabling me to figure out what exactly HGVT was talking about.

Let me start off with this:  It was not a kit house. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, the motto of too many of these remodeling shows is, “Why let details get in the way of a good story?”

In fact, the house shown on House Hunters is located in Old Hickory, near Nashville, TN, which happens to be the site of a World War One munitions plant built by DuPont. You can learn more about Old Hickory here.

When America became involved in The Great War in April 1917, there was an urgent need for more munitions for the “boys overseas.” DuPont responded to this by building or modifying several plants around the country to make munitions. Old Hickory was built from scratch and was a phenomenal logistical effort, in every way imaginable. To learn more about this, you can read my book, which has much informtion on the build-up at Old Hickory.

Penniman, Virginia was also the site of a DuPont-built World War One munitions plant, and the houses at Penniman were the same models as the houses built within the Old Hickory community. These houses were the work product of DuPont. The lumber came from a variety of sources, but the designs were created by DuPont Engineering, and these models can now be found in many World War One company towns, such as DuPont, Washington; Ramsey, Montana; Hopewell, Virginia; Carney’s Point, New Jersey; Old Hickory, Tennessee; Sandston, Virginia; and Penniman.

Penniman was a city of 15,000 people that was born in 1916 and was gone by 1921, and the 200+ houses within Penniman were moved to other sites, including Norfolk and Williamsburg. In fact, I’ve written a book about this amazing place, located less than seven miles from Colonial Williamsburg.

The city that DuPont built at Old Hickory fared better. It still exists, and many of the 600+ houses that were built by DuPont are still in their same spot. These houses from DuPont were not kits, but they were based on plans that DuPont used at several other World War One munition plants around the country.

The house featured on House Hunters was known as The Florence, and was a darling cottage with many windows and something few of these plant houses had: A real masonry fireplace (see pictures below).

To summarize, the house featured on HGTV as “a kit house” was not a kit house. It was one of many houses designed by DuPont Engineering and built at several munition plants around the country.

If HGTV wants to be considered a credible source of information, they need to spend five or six minutes on Google chasing down some of these stories.

If not, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read the prior blog about this program, click here.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey, Robin Hurowitz, and Rachel Shoemaker for contributing to this blog!

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Old Nashville

Thanks to Robin Hurowitz for supplying a few screen shots of the show on HGTV. I'm not going to show the other shots from this episode because it's too depressing for words.

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House

My #1 partner in crime, Rachel Shoemaker, found the original listing of this house on Zillow, which provides some wonderful details not otherwise available. The name of this model was The Florence.

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There are several "Florences" within Old Hickory. Prior to the convergence of the construction crew, the house was in delightfully original condition. I'm not sure what all happened inside the house. Don't want to know.

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The colors, the many tall windows, the size (just under 800 square feet) all make this the perfect house for a young couple. When built, there was a small transom spanning that front door, which is one of the distinguishing features of the Florence.

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Cute front

And there's that masonry fireplace, sitting at an angle in the living room.

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HOUSE

These framing and flooring of these homes is probably Southern Yellow Pine, probably harvested from Mississippi (but that's a guess, based on what I know about the houses in Penniman). I do know that these are pine floors.

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Fireplace

Here's the floorplan for The Florence. The house in Old Hickory is "flipped" so that it's a mirror image of this house (shown above). When built, this house had several walls, which are now gone.

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The rear of the home shows that it was also a perfect match to this model.

The rear of the home is also largely original, and shows that it was also a perfect match to this Florence catalog image.

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Kitchen went bye

The kitchen was one of my favorite features of this house (as built). That right there is my dream kitchen. Absolutely, my dream. Oh, to find a house with that kitchen. It also went bye-bye in the remodel.

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catalog

The Florence, as shown in an old catalog showcasing the DuPont models.

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Florence

And here's a Florence with its original front door in Williamsburg, Virginia. This was originally located at Penniman, and moved after the war (along with 200+ houses). Williamsburg has a handful of Penniman houses.

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It's a beautiful house and in very good condition. I haven't had the heart to watch the entire episode, but I'm pretty confident that the home's exterior was undamaged by the "remodeling."

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NOT a kit Old Hick

The Florence is not a kit home, but it did come from DuPont.

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And amazingly it circles back to the story of Penniman

And amazingly, this whole thing circles back to the story of Penniman, a village outside of Williamsburg with more than 15,000 inhabitants at its peak (in late 1918). Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Whisnant in front of Florence

The Whisnant family stands in front of a Florence on the streets of Penniman (1918). Image is courtesy of the Whisnant family, and is reproduced with their permission.

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HGVT really needs to do a little research before spreading this information. However, if they don’t, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

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Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV?

July 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 13 comments

An update! It’s not a “Sears kit house,” but a Penniman house. Kind of. :D

And “Sears House” is in quotes, because we all know, 99% of the time (or maybe 100%), these horrible TV shows get it wrong. And they are horrible.

One of the first rules of old house ownership is “Thou Shalt Not Destroy Good Old Work,” and yet that is the first thing that these programs encourage.

They rip out all manner of quality workmanship in kitchens and baths, so that they can put in poor-quality plasticine (but trendy) dreck and dregs, which lack classic or traditional beauty, and will be tired and dated before this decade ends, and it’s all in the name of convincing American homeowners that “good enough” is abhorrent and ghastly, and that you shouldn’t worry about “keeping up with the Joneses” but rather, you should be focused on keeping up with the Kardashians.

For the last several months, I’ve been searching for a home and in that process, I’ve looked at several foreclosures in the $175,000+ range. I’ve yet to see a house in original condition in foreclosure. The homes I’ve viewed are either half-way “remodeled” (and how I hate that word), or they have shiny new kitchens and baths. If you have several thousand dollars that you can set fire to, try something truly avant-garde - PUT THAT MONEY IN A SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

This remodeling craze is insanity and it’s also ecological idiocy.

More than 35% of all the detritus at landfills is construction debris. Every time you rip out a full kitchen of knotty pine cabinets or destroy a pink bathroom, you’re adding to this country’s burgeoning problem of solid waste. Our landfills are filling up at a tremendous clip. As homeowners, we are caretakers. We have a responsibility to preserve the unique features of an old house. If you want shiny and fancy and new, buy a house that is shiny and fancy and new.

But I digress…

Let’s go back to HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized) and their latest discussion on Sears Houses.

According to a friend, Season 11, Episode 7 of “House Hunters” featured a Sears House in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m unable to find even screen shot of the house featured on this show, so if anyone can capture images for me, I’d be very grateful.

And in the meantime, please tell your vinyl-loving friends, if they want a new house, they should buy a new house, and leave our old houses unmolested and undamaged.

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Before there was HGTV, Bob Vila misidentified a house in California as a Sears Home. On "Home Again" he identified this house as a "Sears Craftsman Bungalow" and a "Sears Crescent." Since this house was in the Los Angeles area, you think he would have considered Pacific Ready Cut Homes first, but he didn't. Years ago, I did track down and speak with the home's owner, and sent  him a picture out of the PRCH catalog, showing him the proper model name. He was very pleased.

Before there was HGTV, Bob Vila misidentified a house in California as a Sears Home (about 1999-2000). On "Home Again" he identified this house as a "Sears Craftsman Bungalow" and a "Sears Crescent." Since this house was in the Los Angeles area, you think he would have considered Pacific Ready Cut Homes first, but he didn't. Years ago, I did track down and speak with the home's owner, and sent him a picture out of the PRCH catalog, showing him the proper model name. He was very pleased.

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On a recent episode of Property Brothers, they destroyed this delightful old bathtub and bathroom to put in some new ugly crap.

On a recent episode of "Property Brothers," they destroyed this delightful old bathtub and bathroom for no other reason than to "remodel" the space. That gorgeous basketweave tile floor is also in the landfill now.

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Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.

Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.

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Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.  The bathroom (from the same house shown above) has also been gutted and destroyed. Built in 1960, the original bathroom would have had tile wainscoting, set in 2-3 inches of thickset mortar, with complementing tile flooring. Those materials - which would have survived a nuclear holocaust - have been replaced with MDF cabinetry and engineered wood floors. In place of the tile wainscoting, someone has put up sheetrock with knock-down plaster finish. If these inferior-grade materials survive for 10 years, it will be a Christmas miracle.

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This

This is how America did bathrooms in the 1960s. This bathroom shown above (located at 1889 Rosemary Lane) is now more than 50 years old, and yet looks wonderful. And yes, that's the original toilet in the background. Today's replacement materials - in many cases - are not going to survive more than 20 years, at best.

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According to a friend, Season 11, Episode 7 of “House Hunters” featured a Sears House in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m unable to find so much as a screen shot of this show, so if anyone can capture images for me, I’d be very grateful.

To contact me, please leave a comment below.

Look at a real Sears Crescent by clicking here.

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Housing Rosemary, Part II

July 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 8 comments

In re-starting a new life at the age of 58, one of my greatest challenges is (now) decision-making. Even small decisions are very difficult, and I’m finding that larger decisions are almost paralyzing.

My nearest and dearest friends tell me that I’ve made much progress in the last few months, and I’m so grateful for every encouraging word, but when it comes to hard choices, I don’t do very well.

Last night, I looked at a house that was so appealing for so many reasons. It’s brand-new on the market and will probably sell quickly, so I need to decide soon. And yet, after seeing the house, the old familiar chest pains returned, as did the sleepless night and morning panic attack.

The house has so many good features, such as a NON-OPEN floor plan. It has rooms and walls - a big plus. It has a functional kitchen with white appliances - another big plus. I loathe stainless steel. The roof is less than five years old, so it should last the rest of my life. That’s good.

Inside, the 29-year-old home has popcorn ceilings in every room (ick), an unusually small master bedroom (drat), no sunporch (yikes) and very few windows (see pictures). I’m a solar-powered soul, and I live on light.

The mechanical systems (plumbing, electrical) are first class, but the HVAC is 15+ years old and inefficient.

The best part - the lot. It’s just the right size, delightfully landscaped and the rear is fully fenced. And - it has a massive 1,008-square-foot garage in the back corner. With an epoxy floor. And oversized doors. And a second-floor. That garage makes me swoon, and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s my inner-hoarder coming out. Maybe it’s 10 months of being stuffed inside a small rental, with all my worldly possessions in storage.

And perhaps the other “best part” is the neighborhood. It’s a lovely neighborhood and all the lots are at least 125-feet wide. It’s not in the wilderness, and yet everyone has their space.

The last bad thing - it was built in 1988, during  a housing boom in this area. It was not custom built, and I see some evidences of it being economically constructed.

But do I need a house that will last 100 years? No. I need a house that will last 20 years. After that, I’m leaving for assisted living or heaven (undecided as of yet).

So that’s the story. I welcome opinions, as I try to navigate this difficult decision.

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The best part is the lot. Its .7 acres - big enough for privacy but not overwhelming. And its all fenced and ready for me and Teddy to move right in.

The best feature of this house is the lot. It's .7 acres - big enough for privacy but not overwhelming, and well landscaped. And it's all fenced and ready for me and Teddy to move right in, and start the next chapter of our life.

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House

There's a 1-1/2 car attached garage, but there's a 1000+ square-foot garage in the back yard. The house has excellent curb appeal, and the lawn has been beautifully maintained.

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As you can see from the rear, it just doesnt have many windows.

As you can see from the rear, it just doesn't have many windows. There are only two windows on the side of the house, and only one on the second-floor rear. And yet, it does have a new roof...and that's how these internal conversations go - back and forth.

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You can read one of my most popular blogs here.

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Defining a Dream…

July 8th, 2017 Sears Homes 8 comments

Several kind souls have asked - what are you looking for in a house?

In an effort to nail that down myself, I’ve looked at many houses listed for sale and also houses that have sold (which also helps give an insight on value).

In my opinion, Zillow is the easiest online real estate website, and I’ve spent many an hour, reviewing the possibilities.

Initially, following Wayne’s death, I decided it was time to fulfill my long-awaited dream of a “house in the country,” and attempted to find a suitable home on a couple acres out in Suffolk, Zuni, Windsor or some place west of Hampton Roads. Subsequently, I’ve come to realize that I need something a little more manageable.

Earlier this week, that became even more clear, after I was completely bedridden with a virus of some kind.

I was born and raised in Portsmouth, and it’s an area that I know very well. For a dozen years, I lived in St. Louis, and for the next 10 years, I lived in Norfolk. Several kind folks have suggested Norfolk, but for many reasons, I’ll never live there again.

I’m open to Portsmouth, and also to Northern Suffolk (contiguous to Portsmouth).

There are days when discouragement sets in, but that’s when I return to this house in Portsmouth (pictures below), in a neighborhood known as Green Acres. (Yes, that really is the name of the neighborhood.) And this house - this one house - absolutely sends me. It fills me with an unspeakable glee and joy. I’ve spent many an hour studying these photos.

Unfortunately, it sold eight months ago. I’ve even thought about knocking on the homeowner’s door, and asking if they have any interest in selling. Problem is, all the unique and vintage features that are so charming are probably long gone now. I hope I’m wrong, but…

So at least - after this long journey - it’s become clear to me what I truly want in a home:  Beauty, elegance, refinement, character, peace, and best of all, at least a splash of something vintage.

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This house has it all. The lot is .6 acres, which is just right and big enough for a koi pond!

This house has it all. The lot is .6 acres, which is just right and big enough for a koi pond (or a raccoon feeding station, as my buddy Dale calls it). This house is so classic for so many reasons. And it's in Green Acres!

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In addition to the courtyard in the front, theres another small garden wall in the rear.

In addition to the courtyard in the front, there's another small garden wall in the rear.

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Whats not to love about this back yard?

A better view of the courtyard in the home's rear.

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These massive windows define this Mid-Century Modern home, where the outside spaces are brought into the home.

These massive windows define this "Mid-Century Modern" home, where the outside spaces are brought into the home. Very Californian and very wonderful.

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I swear, if I ended up with a house this delightful, I'd cherish it every day and make it a testament to the Mid-Century Modern movement. I'd even buy a 1950s car for the driveway - if I could find a good deal. :)

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And heres where my heart just melts into a puddle.

And here's where my heart just melts into a puddle.

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There's so much that's wonderful about this kitchen, I'm not sure where to start. So I put little hearts on the good stuff. First, the metal cabinets appear to be in wonderful condition, with their enamel finish still shining so pretty. Next, that red formica with the stainless steel trim. Heaven on earth - right there. And that Frigidaire "Flair" Stove. I might just swoon. And then there's the refrigerator - also original. In a former life, I owned an appliance shop in Portsmouth and am pretty good at repairing old appliances. I'd dedicate my life to keeping these old appliances in working order.

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So thats my dream house - sitting on .6 acres in Green Acres in Churchland in Portsmouth. Could there be another one of these lurking somewhere in Portsmouth? Lets hope.

So that's my dream house - sitting on .6 acres in Green Acres in Churchland in Portsmouth. Could there be another one of these lurking somewhere in Portsmouth? Let's hope.

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To see more pictures of a dream kitchen, click here.

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