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September 25th + Richmond + Sears Homes + Rose = A LOT OF FUN!

September 15th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

In a few days (September 25th), I’ll be in Richmond, giving a talk at the Virginia Center of Architecture (sponsored by R Home Magazine).

It’ll be a whole lot of fun, and I’ve discovered an incredible variety of kit homes in Richmond. If you love old houses and/or you want to learn how to identify these treasures, you won’t want to miss this talk!

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what is a Sears Home?

Sears Homes were 12,000-piece kit houses, and each kit came with a a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.” The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. 

Today, these marks can help authenticate a house as a kit home.

Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.

And I’ve found a whole caboodle of kit homes in Richmond!

If you’ve always wanted to learn more about this fascinating topic, here’s your best chance! I give fewer than five lectures a year now, so this might be the last!

Below are just a few of the many unique (and even rare) kit homes I’ve found in Richmond.

Please share this link with your friends and/or on your Facebook page.

To learn more about the talk and obtain tickets, click here.

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One of the many ways to identify Sears Homes begins with slogging down to the basement (or crawlspace) and looking for marked lumber! This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, helped homeowners figure out how to put together those 12,000 pieces of house.

One of the many ways to identify Sears Homes begins with slogging down to the basement (or crawlspace) and looking for marked lumber! This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, helped homeowners figure out how to put together those 12,000 pieces of house.

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Sometimes, the markings found on lumber arent what you might expect!

Sometimes, the markings found on lumber aren't what you might expect! This was found in the basement of an Illinois Sears home, and was a remnant from the original wooden shipping crate. "Bongard, ILLS" was the name of the train depot where the house arrived. I've often found shipping crate lumber repurposed ror shelving or coal bins.

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The blueprints were specifically designed for the neophyte, and included great detail, such as how far apart to space nails! BTW, your Sears House came with 75 pounds of nails!

The blueprints were specifically designed for the neophyte, and included great detail, such as how far apart to space nails! The typical 1920s Sears House came with 750 pounds of nails!

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One of my favorite finds in Richmond is the Sears Strathmore.

One of my favorite finds in Richmond is the Sears Strathmore (1936 catalog).

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Oh my, whats not to love!

Oh my, what's not to love! Beautiful house with a Buckingham slate roof and original windows. Be still my heart!

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This was Sears Modern Home #190, offered in the early 1910s.

This was Sears Modern Home #190, offered in the early 1910 (1912 catalog).

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Perfect in every way!

Perfect in every way!

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The Sears Avalon is one of my favorite houses, and Richmond has several. I would love to know the back story on this. The Avalon wasnt that big a hit for Sears, and yet Ive found five in Richmond.

The Sears Avalon is one of my favorite houses, and Richmond has several. I would love to know the back story on this. The Avalon wasn't that big a hit for Sears, and yet I've found five in Richmond. I've seen ten of these in the United States, and five of those ten are in Richmond.

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Pic

And it's just a spot-on match to the catalog picture. Notice the small window in the front gable? And the three vents on the side gable? Picture is copyright 2014 Melissa Burgess and may not be used or reproduded without written permission. So there.

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Another Avalon in Richmond, also in beautiful shape.

Another Avalon in Richmond, also in beautiful shape. This one has the original railings. All of these Avalons have that distinctive arched pattern and faux belt course on the brick chimney.

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My favorite Avalon. Oh, what a beauty!

My favorite Avalon. Oh, what a beauty!

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Close-up

Close-up of that arched inset and belt on the Avalon in Richmond.

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In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes on a national basis, and Gordon Van Tine was one of the larger ones. Total sales were probably a bit more than 50,000, compared to Sears total sales of less than 75,000. The Sussex was one of the Gordon Van Tine models that I found in Richmond.

In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes on a national basis, and Gordon Van Tine was one of the larger ones. Total sales were probably a bit more than 50,000, compared to Sears total sales of 70,000. The Sussex was one of the Gordon Van Tine models that I found in Richmond.

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Gvt

Picture perfect, this Gordon Van Tine "Sussex" still retains many of its original features.

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This classic Craftsman Style bungalow was a popular model for Gordon Van Tine.

This classic "Craftsman Style" bungalow was a popular model for Gordon Van Tine.

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And heres a fine-looking example of Model #507. Photo is copyright 2012 Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here's a fine-looking example of Model #507. The photo was taken from a side that does not replicate the angle in the catalog , but it's clearly a GVT #507. Photo is copyright 2012 Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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One of my favorite finds was the Gordon Van Tine #124.

One of my favorite finds in Richmond was the Gordon Van Tine #124.

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Although next time Im in town, I need to bring my chain saw so I can get a better photo.

Next time I'm in town, I need to bring my chain saw so I can get a better photo. Nonetheless, I'm confident it's the real deal, as I found the original testimonial in a 1913 GVT catalog.

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Aladdin was another major contender in the kit home business. In fact, they were larger than Sears. Aladdin had a mill in WIlmington, NC which explains why - typically - Ive found more Aladdin homes in Virginia than Sears Homes.

Aladdin was another major contender in the kit home business. In fact, they were larger than Sears. Aladdin had a mill in WIlmington, NC which explains why - typically - in Virginia, I've found more Aladdin homes than Sears Homes. Shown above is The Ardmore from the 1922 Aladdin catalog.

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Ive never seen an Ardmore. I suspect its a fairly rare kit home. Is this house in Richmond an Aladdin Ardmore?

I've never seen an Ardmore. I suspect it's a fairly rare kit home. Is this house in Richmond an Aladdin Ardmore? The distinctive bracketing on that front porch roof sure suggests it might be, together with that unusual arched porch on the side. It's bigger than the Ardmore, but we know that 30-50% of kit homes were customized when built. So is it an Aladdin or not? Only her builder knows for sure.

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In addition to Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin, there was another national kit home company: Harris Brothers. They were based in Bay City (as was Aladdin), but Ive found a few Harris Brothers homes in Virginia.

In addition to Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin, there was another national kit home company: Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago , but I've found a few Harris Brothers' homes in Virginia. When HB started business, they were known as The Chicago House-Wrecking Company. One hundred years ago, "wrecking" was another word for the careful disassembly of a house. "Wrecked houses" were typically moved and rebuilt at a new site.

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Heres a fine example of

Here's a fine example of HB-1017N. And it's for sale! The side windows flanking the front door are distinctive, as are the tops of those porch columns. The stucco is in good shape, too.

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Heres another example of a Harris Brothers house.

Here's another example of a Harris Brothers' house (Model 1513).

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Oh yeah, baby. Thats what Im talking about!

Oh yeah, baby. That's what I'm talking about! Another perfect match!

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Another Harris Brothers

Another Harris Brothers' #1513, from a different side. That's two of these sweet things in Richmond.

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1928

The Sears Osborn is another beautiful bungalow (1928).

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Osborne

And here's another beautiful example of The Osborn in Richmond. Wow.

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There are also pattern book houses in Richmond. Pattern book homes were different from kit homes, because these houses didnt come with building materials. Youd browse the pages of the catalog, select a home and then youd receive full blueprints and a list of all building materials necessary to build the house. Shown here is

There are also pattern book houses in Richmond. Pattern book homes were different from kit homes, because these houses didn't come with building materials. You'd browse the pages of the catalog, select a home and then you'd receive full blueprints and a list of all building materials necessary to build the house. The image above came from the Harris, McHenry and Baker Company catalog, but these plan book houses were offered by many regional lumber companies.

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Love the stucco pattern! I've never seen this pattern before, but I suspect there's a name for it.

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Shown above is but a smattering of the kit homes we’ve discovered in Richmond. To learn more, come to the talk on Thursday night (the 25th), and meet Rose!

It’ll be a fun evening, and informative, too!

To learn more about the talk and obtain tickets, click here.

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her images from the 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

Thanks to Melissa for the wonderful picture of the Sears Avalon!

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A Kit House in Lebanon! (New Hampshire)

September 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Last week, Hubby and I traveled to Vermont to see all the pretty things up there (including the Ben and Jerry’s Factory).

Sadly, I didn’t see much in the way of kit homes, but I did discover this gorgeous “San Fernando” offered by Lewis Homes (early 1920s).

The house is just across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire in a small town known as Lebanon. (We ended up staying at the Fireside Inn and Suites in West Lebanon.)

Lewis Homes was a kit home company (like Sears and Aladdin), and it was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sears and Aladdin tend to get all the ink, the fact is that there were six companies selling kit homes on a nation-wide basis.

As you can see from the pictures below, it is a gorgeous house and has its original windows and siding. Might even be the original storm windows!

To read about the other pretty houses I found in this area, click here.

Read about my train adventure by clicking here!

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The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow.

The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow (1924 catalog).

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It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

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And with two floorplans!

And with two floorplans!

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2

These floorplans appear to be the same (mostly), but this one is two feet longer (1924).

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It really is a beautiful bungalow!

It really is a beautiful bungalow!

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House

Located on Main Street in Lebanon, NH, this is a beautiful San Fernando!

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Perfect - DOWN to the details!

Perfect - DOWN to the details!

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windows

Hard to say for sure, but these are either original storms or fine-looking replacements.

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Heres a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio.

Here's a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio. That's Dale looking at the house.

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While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. That was great fun!

While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. The water is turqouise color due to some of the minerals leeching out from the rock.

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Amtrak’s “Vermonter”: The Good, The Bad, and The Smelly

September 9th, 2014 Sears Homes 12 comments

Update! Amtrak contacted me and offered me $180 voucher for future travel! I’m not sure how they arrived at the math, but the customer service rep said it was the difference between a coach fare and the business class fare.

In last week’s blog, I mentioned my 10+ hour trip on Amtrak. In this blog, I’d like to tell a little bit about my experience on the The Vermonter between Brattleboro and Washington, DC.

When it comes to trains, I’m a hopeless romantic. I love, love, LOVE the idea of train travel. It’s an adventure, it’s relaxing, it’s environmentally sound, and “riding the rails” is an integral part of our American culture and history.

Plus, it’s a great way to find kit homes. My little pretties were often built right along the rail lines.

However, after my most recent experience on the Vermonter, I’d have to say that this country’s rail system needs some big help.

First, the good parts.

Frequent flyers will have culture shock when they board a train for the first time. The train slows down and stops at the platform, you climb on board, stow your luggage, pick a seat and get comfy.

That’s it.

No full body-cavity searches, no presentation of ID, no long wait to board. A few minutes into the trip, the conductor will walk down the aisle and ask for your ticket. Rarely do they ask for any ID. In my 20+ trips on Amtrak, I’ve been asked to produce ID only twice.

Our seats in “Business Class” were spacious and comfortable, and the long, tinted windows offered a broad and comfortable view of the world outside. There was an abundance of leg-room, and our brown-leather seats had foot rests and cup holders.

If you’re going to go Amtrak, Business Class is the way to travel. It’s been my experience that passengers in this car are usually well-coiffed, quiet, and mature  (35+). The cost to upgrade to Business Class is minimal.

Business Class is typically located within the Cafe Car, and the plus is, you have ready access to all manner of tasty treats (chips, drinks, pizzas, etc.). The downside is, Hubby spent $52 on snack food during our 10-hour ride back to DC. His sub sandwich, with a bag of pretzels and a small bottle of orange juice cost $22.

The other plus is that a train trip offers views that you’re not going to see on our highways and byways. And there’s a little splash of voyeurism too. You get a sneak peak into America’s back yards, as well as abandoned factories, dilapidated buildings and forgotten farm houses.

Train travel can be so very relaxing, and for the most part, fellow passengers are in good spirits. The rhythmic clicking of the wheels against the metal tracks soothes the weary soul. The gentle to and fro rocking can induce a meditative, almost euphoric state of mind.

With every train ticket you buy, you’re supporting an alternative to flying and driving. America desperately needs alternate modes of transportation.

Those are the good things.

Ready for the not-so-good things?

The trip from Brattleboro to DC (the trip home on Sunday) was less pleasant than the outbound trip, because every seat on the train was sold. This meant that the bathrooms saw a lot of use. Within three hours of our departure, the smell from the bathroom (within the cafe car) was horrific. And the bathroom looked worse than it smelled.

There were small puddles of urine on the floor, together with a few wads of used toilet paper. (My husband reported that on an earlier train trip, the bathrooms in coach had much bigger problems than “just” puddles of urine. Yikes.)

The bathroom trash can was filled well past overflowing. I skipped the paper towel portion of my visit so that I could avoid placing my hand into the mass of used debris stuffed into the trash receptacle. Again: Ick.

Fortunately, I had an adequate supply of disposable wipes in my briefcase.

A not-so-well-coiffed woman in Business Class threw her McDonald’s bag and an empty bottle of soda on the floor when she was finished with breakfast. And there it remained for four hours (despite several conductors stepping over it). When I arose to use the facilities, I picked up the bag and carried it to the overflowing trash can in the cafe car.

Admittedly, slobs and litter bugs are not the fault of Amtrak, but Hubby and I were both surprised that the conductors walked right past it repeatedly.

More bad.

As my closest friends know, I’m highly allergic to little children, especially when they scream loudly and jump about and make lots of unexpected, dramatic movements. Less than an hour into the trip, a young father came into Business Class with two children (ages 5 and 7, I’d guess). The children crawled all over the seats and made a fair amount of noise and I don’t think they sat still for more than 20 seconds at a time. That took away a lot of the enjoyment of a “peaceful, quiet ride.”

Whey they got off the train, my husband, who’s far more tolerant of little children than said, “That’s a relief. Those kids were nerve-wracking.”

It was disappointing that the conductor didn’t ask those children to remain seated - especially in Business Class.

Which brings me to the next “Oh Dear” comment.

Some of the staff onboard the train were not pleasant. One conductor came into our car and literally yelled for all  of us to produce our tickets immediately. It was a piercing, strident voice and really not needful for the 20 passengers seated in the small section. Another employee - the cafe car attendant - made no secret of the fact that he was annoyed when someone showed up at the snack bar, and he had to get up out of his seat and wait on them.

On the north-bound journey, the Vermonter is moved onto a track at Palmer, Massachusetts and a new engine is put on. From Palmer to the end of the line (in our case, Brattleboro), the train goes backwards. If you’re in the Coach Section, you can switch seats (if there are openings) and find a backwards-facing seat. If you’re in the Business Class section, you’re kind of stuck.

Both Hubby and I have a bit of a tendency to motion sickness, so going backwards was a no-go for us. We moved to the cafe section and sat at a table, so we could face the right direction.

And there was one really big surprise.

Occasionally, the conductor would tell the passengers that they had “five minutes for a smoke break” at the next stop. Whenever these announcements were made, I’d hop out of my seat and go stand outside for a couple minutes to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. At one such stop, the rear door in the Business Section was opened. I wasn’t sure how long we’d be at that stop, so I stayed inside and admired the view from the safety of the car.

Good thing too, because without warning, that door slammed shut and the train started rolling. In other words, there was no conductor checking for passengers at the back of the train and no one yelling, “All aboard!”

I didn’t realize it until that moment, but those doors can be - and ARE - operated remotely from the front of the train. Had I stepped out of the car, I would have been left on the platform! Let me tell you, that would have taken a lot of fun out of the trip!

Factoring the four-hour drive between DC and Norfolk, the trip from Brattleboro to Norfolk took 14+ hours of travel time. (Not counting parking, and other miscellaneous travel events.) Fortunately, the train was on time both ways. However, this is a trip that takes about 9-1/2 hours by car.

The two round-trip train tickets were $566 and it cost $132 to park at DC’s Union Station.

It was an adventure, and there are some good memories, but I shant be riding The Vermonter again, for all the reasons outlined above.

To Amtrak’s credit, I must add that during the many years I lived in the Midwest, I rode the rails at least a dozen times. I’ve been on The Cardinal (2010) and the Texas Eagle (2004). In 2005, I took the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle. That was 48 hours of bliss!  I also rode the commuter train between Alton and Chicago too many times to count.

Those train rides were great fun. The service was good, the cars were clean and the trains were on time 75% of the time. In 2008, Hubby and I took the Silver Star to Orlando, and that was also a pleasant ride.

As I said in the beginning of this blog, I dearly love train travel and our country has great need of ecologically sound alternatives to flying and driving, but Amtrak has some major issues that need to be resolved. And the Vermonter’s run along the Northeast corridor has a lot of room for improvement.

As of 2008 (the last year for which I could find stats), the US taxpayers were subsidizing air travel to the tune of $13 billion per year. Perhaps it’s time to do more for Amtrak, in the hopes that they could find better staff and get the restrooms cleaned up and establish high-speed rail in more areas.

In short, Amtrak needs some re-tooling so it can be a viable contender in the transportation industry.

To read what I found in the Vermont area, click here.

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The trip to Brattleboro was a big annual vacation, and Vermont is a beautiful place, but getting there aint easy.

Vermont is a beautiful place, but getting there ain't easy.

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The Amtrak station was next door to the Latchis Hotel, which was convenient.

The Brattleboro Amtrak station was next door to the Latchis Hotel (where we stayed).

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Amtrak in 1915

The original train depot is a beautiful building in a beautiful setting. It's now a museum.

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Another view of this beautiful old train depot.

Another view of this beautiful old train depot. Kudos to Brattleboro for preserving it.

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The contemporary Amtrak station is carved out of a tiny piece of the original depot, in the back of the building. Pretty modest.

The contemporary Amtrak station is carved out of a tiny piece of the original depot, in the rear. That "does it fit?" frame in the left corner isn't used much apparently.

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New Haven

The Amtrak station in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Sometime

In New Haven, Connecticut, the pretty Amtrak diesel-electric locomotive was replaced with an electric train, which runs on catenary or overhead wire. From New Haven to DC, we were electric. (Photo is from Wikipedia.)

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A photo of our train at Penn Station in New York City.

A photo of our train at Penn Station in New York City. I'd love to know how old this thing is.

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Long view of our train at Penn Station.

Long view of our train at Penn Station.

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Busines

Hubby sitting in the Business Class section. The seats were quite comfy.

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I will always love trains, but from now on, I may stick with excursion trips, such as this one in Elkins, WV.

I will always love trains, but from now on, I may stick with excursion trips, such as this one in Elkins, WV. Ten hours on a train is too much for moi.

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I think these days are gone, but there must be a way that this country can make train travel a viable alternative for the weary traveler. Photo is from Wikipedia, showing a car on the Silver Meteor.

I know these days are gone, but there must be a way that this country can make train travel a viable alternative for the weary traveler. Check out those lamps. Photo is from Wikipedia, showing a car on the Silver Meteor.

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To read about the future of train travel, click here.

Or here.

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To Think That It Happened on Mulberry Street!

September 8th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

Yesterday, my husband and I spent 10+ hours coming back home via “The Vermonter,” an Amtrak train that runs between Washington, DC and Vermont. The train pulled into DC about 11:00 pm last night, and then we got in the car and drove 200 miles home back to Norfolk!

What a long day!

While Hubby and I were in Vermont, I couldn’t resist looking for kit homes in The Green Mountain State. Much to my chagrin, I didn’t find much.

One of the towns we visited was Claremont, New Hampshire (just across the Connecticut River from Vermont). While driving through the older parts of town, I saw a sign that said, “Mulberry Street.”

I told Hubby, “I just know there are some kit homes on Mulberry Street!”

And that’s where I found three kit homes! In fact, those were the only three kit homes I saw in Claremont, New Hampshire.

In this blog, I want to focus on my favorite find: The Sears Castleton. I sure hope the owners know what they have. And this Castleton is in beautiful shape. Despite the harsh New England winters, this house retains its original siding. Looks much like it did when built almost 100 years ago!

Enjoy the photos, and please share the link with other people who love Sears Homes and/or New England!

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

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The Castleton is an easy house to spot.

The Castleton is an easy house to spot. That unusual staircase bay on the side is very distinctive. Also notice the full-length rails on the front porch.

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Those three windows

And those potted plants on the "cheeks" are pretty distinctive too!

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This Castleton was featured in the 1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

This Castleton (built by F. W. Grisso) was featured in the 1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Fairly spacious house, too.

Little bit different from the classic four-square floor plan.

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Check out that Butlers Pantry! Pretty fancy!

Check out that Butler's Pantry! Pretty fancy!

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Those three windows

Looks like it has box gutters. This may be a not-fully-accurate line drawing, because I don't know of any other Sears House with box gutters.

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Oh yeah, baby! Isnt that a pretty thing!

What a pretty thing! And what a delight to see that it has its original siding!

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A view from the other side.

A view from the other side.

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And just down the street from the Castleton, I found this early 1930s Sears house, The Lorain!

And just down the street from the Castleton, I found this early 1930s Sears house, The Lorain! More on that later!

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Nice match, isnt it?

Nice match, isn't it?

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White the Vermont/New Hampshire area didnt have many Sears Homes, it did have a lot of covered bridges. This one is the Windsor/Cornish Bridge, spanning the Connecticut River.

While the Vermont/New Hampshire area didn't have many Sears Homes, it did have a lot of covered bridges. This one is the Windsor/Cornish Bridge, spanning the Connecticut River.

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To join our Facebook group, “Sears Homes,” click here.

Click here to learn more about how to identify Sears Homes.

Do you know the owners of these houses? Please leave a comment below!

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The Aladdin Cumberland: 100 Years Old

August 23rd, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

In May 2014, we traveled to Wilmington, DE and Philadelphia, PA to do research at the Hagley Museum (Wilmington) and at the National Archives and Records Administration (Philadelphia).

Along the way, we stopped at Carney’s Point, New Jersey to check out some of the Aladdin kit homes.

There in Carney’s Point, we found an abundance of DuPont Houses (probably DuPont designs, but built with ready-cut materials ordered from Aladdin) and also Aladdin Kit Homes (Aladdin designs and Aladdin materials).

One of the models I saw in Carney’s Point that I had never seen before was the Aladdin “Cumberland.” This is such a pedestrian  foursquare that I’m now wondering how many of these I’ve overlooked in other places. There’s not a lot to distinguish this house from the tens of thousands of foursquares that cover America.

The house was offered in the 1914 and 1916 catalog. It’s likely that these houses in Carney’s Point were built in 1916, but they’re very close to the 100-year mark!

Hopefully, now that I’ve seen one live and in person, I shan’t miss another one!

Read about some of the other houses I’ve found in Carney’s Point here, and here.

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1914

The Cumberland, as seen in the 1914 catalog.

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1914

View from the staircase side. BTW, the house was built about six minutes ago, and that lattice work uner the porch deck already looks pretty crummy.

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1914

View from another side (1914 catalog). Lattice work looks worse on this side.

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1916

The Cumberland's living room (1916 catalog). Love the couch!

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1914

Traditional floorplan for a foursquare (1914).

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1916

"Sensible" equals uh, well, "pedestrian" (from the 1916 catalog).

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uddated

An undated view of Carney's Point. That's a Cumberland on the far right (foreground).

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1914

Staircase side (1914)

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Milto

This photo shows why it's so difficult to identify these houses a few decades later! Look at all the changes this house has endured through the years. Three fine windows - gone. At least that crummy lattice work has been repaired.

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milton

Another Cumberland on Shell Road in Carney's Point. Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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other side 1914

View from the other side (1914).

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other ilton

At least this side is a better match to the original catalog image. Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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House house

That dormer is unfortunate. Who thought *that* was a good idea? :( Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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BGunches

Long view of the many Aladdin kit homes on Shell Road in Carney's Point. In the foreground is an Aladdin Cumberland, followed by an Aladdin Georgia, Aladdin Amherst, Aladdin Gerogia and another Cumberland. Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read more about DuPont and why they were in Carney’s Point, click here.

To read about Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost City, click here.

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CQ, CQ, CQ…Hopewell?

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Tonight, for the first time in months, I got on the ham radio, calling CQ on the 40-meter band.

My second contact was “Bob.”

In a flash, my buddy Milton (sitting with me) looked up Bob’s call sign on his computer, and started laughing hysterically.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “This guy’s in Hopewell!”

My oh my.

How is it that I can transmit a 100-watt signal through a magnificent antenna strung up high in the trees; a signal with the capacity to bounce off the ionosphere and travel all the way around the world, and I end up to talking to Hopewell?

Fortunately, Bob from Hopewell was a very pleasant fellow and we had a lovely chat.

He asked me if I was familiar with the many older homes in Hopewell. I told him that I was! And I suggested he check out my website.

Oh MY!

To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To visit the website for the Norfolk Ham Club, click here.

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Henry

One of my very favorite movies is "Testament," which tells the story of a small town outside San Francisco, after San Francisco takes a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. In "Testament," Henry Abhart is the hero, because he's able to talk with the outside world when all other lines of communication have been lost. I highly recommend this movie. It's a tribute to the fact that, Ham Radio will always be reliable when other communications systems have failed.

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best

The best of both worlds: A fine-looking antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Illinois.

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Sears Avondale as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To read about Hopewell, click here.

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Carnation Kit House: You’re Gonna Love It In an Instant

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

UPDATE! Rose will be giving a talk in Richmond on September 25th at the Virginia Center of Architecture! Click here for more details!

Hopewell! Alas, poor Hopewell.

They have an interesting collection of Aladdin kit homes, and yet for reasons that elude me, they’ve done nothing to promote these homes.

One example is this Aladdin “Carnation” (shown below). It sits in a working class neighborhood within Hopewell that has suffered two egregious fates: 1) These kit homes - modest, working class homes - have been largely ignored, and 2) Many of these modest homes have already been demolished.

For years, I’ve been trying to identify this particular house, as it’s smack dab in the middle of an Aladdin neighborhood (in Hopewell), but I couldn’t find a perfect match.

And then recently, while I was scanning a 1916 Aladdin catalog, I discovered this particular model.

One day - some day - I’m going to create a post of all the cool and unusual Aladdin homes I’ve found within this working class neighborhood in Hopewell. Today, I’ll just focus on my newest find: The Aladdin Carnation.

To read about the only Aladdin Brighton I’ve ever seen (and it’s within Hopewell), click here.

To learn more about the “back story” of Hopewell’s confusion on kit homes, click here.

Wondering where that title came from? Click here.

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For years, I was trying to match up the Hopewell house Id found (photo further below) with this particular model, but it just wasnt a good match.

For years, I was trying to "match up" the Hopewell house I'd found (photo further below) with this particular model, but it just wasn't a good match (1916 Aladdin Catalog).

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And then I discovered this house: The Carnation.

And then I discovered this house: The Carnation. It's very similar to the Forsythe (shown above) but it's a little bigger and has the double windows. The floorplan is radically different.

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house

Cute house, too. I love the windows flanking the door.

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Nice match, isnt it?

Nice match, isn't it?

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And lookie next door! Theres another Aladdin house, but I cant quite make it out.

And lookie next door! There's another Aladdin house, but I can't quite make it out.

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Oh, I love looking at them side-by-side!

Oh, I love looking at them side-by-side!

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The floor plan

Note the built-in "permanent furniture" in the front bedroom!

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hosue

Many of these "permanent family abodes" have already been torn down in Hopewell. It's so troubling for so many reasons, but in my opinion, the working class neighborhoods are an important part of our cultural and architectural heritage as well. More and more communities are coming to recognize that simple fact.

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Hopewell is still struggling with what is, and what is not a Sears Home.

Hopewell is still struggling with what is, and what is not a Sears Home. One of these houses is not like the other. Three of these homes are Sears Magnolias. One of these houses is in Hopewell. Which one is not a Magnolia? If you guessed the brick colonial (lower right), you guessed right. And yet in Hopewell, for many years, they claimed that this house was a Sears Magnolia, and when I tried to correct this error, I was not well received.

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To learn more about Hopewell’s booboos, click here.

Interested in learning how to identify kit homes by the marks found on lumber? Click here.

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Warning: Not For the Faint of Heart!

August 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 9 comments

Dale and Rebecca found Sears Modern Home #174 while out tooling around in Iowa City a few weeks ago.

I have nothing more to add.

I’ll let the pictures tell the sad story.

But I warn you - do NOT scroll down unless you have a strong stomach! Graphic images to follow!

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Modern Home #124 looks a lot bigger than it is.

Modern Home #174 was a rare house. I've never seen one in real life.

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In fact, its a mere 18 feet wide.

Not very big, either. In fact, it's a mere 18 feet wide.

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Upstairs, you can see what a small house this is.

Upstairs, you can see what a small house this is.

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Looks promising, doesnt it?

Looks promising, doesn't it?

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Yeah.

Oh my. Oh me, oh my. If I knew how to embed music, I'd have the music from the shower scene in "Psycho" inserted here. This house has suffered a gruesome, wretched demise, far worse than any horror flick. Photo is copyright 2014 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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At least when Buster Keaton did something similiar to a kit house, it was funny.

At least when Buster Keaton did something similiar to a kit house, it was funny.

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To learn more about Buster Keaton’s short “One Week,” click here.

To see a blog on America’s 14 Ugliest Houses (which features a Sears Kit home originally featured on my site), click here.

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Where Are You, My Little Springfield Pretty?

August 13th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

Springfield Missouri is home to Sears Modern Home #177, which is very exciting to me, because this is a model that has never been seen “in the flesh,” by me, Rachel, Rebecca or Dale.

And it’s quite an unusual house, so it should be easy to spot.

Later this year, I’ll be traveling through central Missouri, and I’m going to make a special stop in Springfield, Missouri.

Just to see this house.

But before embarking on this wild house chase, I’ve been perusing* google maps, striving to find at least a NEIGHBORHOOD where this house might sit. Heretofore, I’ve been largely unsuccessful. So if you live in or near Springfield and have any idea where I might find this house, please give me a hint?

Thanks!

Hopefully, a few weeks from now, I’ll be able to post a picture of Sears Modern Home #177!

To read about the cool houses I recently found in Jacksonville, IL, click here.


What do those marks on the lumber of a kit house really mean?

*Perusing is one of the MOST misused words in the English language. It means “to study intensely.”

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Sears Modern Home 177, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

Sears Modern Home 177, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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Quite a house, and its one Ive never seen.

Quite a house, and it's one I've never seen.

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And theres one in Springfield, Missouri, but WHERE?

And there's one in Springfield, Missouri, but WHERE?

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Nice floorplan, too!

Nice floorplan, too!

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this

There's a Niota, too but it's not nearly as exciting as the #177!

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And thanks to Rachels ability to sniff out a Sears House from 200 miles away, weve already located the Niota!

And thanks to Rachel's ability to sniff out a Sears House from 200 miles away, we've already located the Niota! She found this on Webster Avenue, but no sign of Modern Home #177!

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So where is Sears Modern Home #177?

I’d love to know!

Contact Rose by leaving a commment below!

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What do those marks on the lumber of a kit house really mean?

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The Roycroft Twins in Jacksonville, Illinois

August 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

Sears gets all the ink, but fact is, Gordon Van Tine was a very substantial (and impressive) kit home company, too. You can learn a lot about GVT by visiting Dale’s website here. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes, and Gordon Van Tine - based in Davenport, Iowa - sold about 50,000.

Both Dale and Rachel (another dear friend) managed to get their hands on a wonderful old original GVT brochure, filled with testimonials from Gordon Van Tine’s happiest customers, and shared it with me.

One ad in particular caught my eye: It was a pair of Gordon Van Tine homes built next door to each other in Jacksonville, Illinois. Well shoot, Jacksonville was only 90 minutes from Alton, where I often visit family.

Last week when I was in Alton, I drove out to Jacksonville and got some pictures of The Roycroft Twins!

I would love to return to Jacksonville and give a talk on the many other kit homes I found! Contact Rose and let’s make a date!

Tomorrow (or later this week), I plan to write a blog on the REST of the kit homes in J-ville.

Special thanks to Rachel for finding the street address of these two homes. Rachel has her own wonderful blog, and it can be found here.

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The Roycroft, as seen in the 1929 GVT catalog.

The Roycroft, as seen in the 1929 GVT catalog.

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Small house, but good floorplan.

Small house, but good floorplan.

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house

It's a fine-looking house! Other than the twins in Jacksonville, I've never seen one - that I know of. After the vinyl-siding salesmen have their way with a house like this, it has the potential to be transmogrified into a homogenized, faceless, pedestrian, monotonous, dull, featureless front-gabled bore, so I may have missed the others.

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Both Dale and Rachel managed to score this vintage 1920s brochure full of testimonials from happy GVT buyers.

Both Dale and Rachel managed to score this vintage 1920s brochure with testimonials from happy GVT buyers. It's a fun brochure and chocked full of photos.

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I must say, I dont think Id eat much pudding if it looked like this.

I must say, I don't think I'd eat much pudding if it looked like this.

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Inside the brochure, is this fun image.

Inside the brochure, is this fun image. Turns out that 440 North Clay was a business address for Mr. Fernandes, and not the site of the Roycroft Twins.

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But Rachel turned on the ignition to her Google Car and did some virtual driving and found the twinkies on Church Street.

But Rachel turned on the ignition to her Google Car and did some virtual driving and found the twinkies just off West College Street in Jacksonville. (The image above is from the 1929 'Proof in the Pudding' brochure.)

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And here they are today.

And here they are today. Fortunately, the porches and some other details have survived.

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Twinkie #1.

Twinkie #1.

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Twinkie #2.

Twinkie #2.

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Just across the street from the Roycroft Twins, I found this!

Just across the street from the Roycroft Twins, I found this! Did Mr. Fernandes build this too?

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And its in mostly original condition! What a fine-looking house!

And it's in good condition! What a fine-looking house!

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Sears Wilmore, as seen in the 1940 Sears catalog.

And I found several Sears Homes in Jacksonville, too.

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Perfection

Perfection. This was my favorite "Sears House" find, The Sears Wilmore, complete with white picket fence.

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To visit Dale’s website, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, just put Mr. Mousie right here.

If you know Mr. Fernandes, please leave a comment!

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