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Jacksonville, Illinois and Their Many Kit Homes!

November 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

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

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

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

I also found kit homes from Montgomery Ward and Aladdin.

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

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

Enjoy the pictures!

To contact Rose, leave a comment below!

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Barrington

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

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house house

Here's a beautiful Barrington in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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thishouse

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

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1940

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

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Sears Wilmore

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

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house 1919

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

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Aladdin Pomona

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

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1919 Detroit

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

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Aladdin Detroit

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

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GVT Hudson

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

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GVT Hudson

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

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househouse

Check out the elaborate doorway with its broken pediment detailing .

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GVT Hudson

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

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Twinkies Proof

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

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Twinkies

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

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GVT 1916

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

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GVT 1916 583

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

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house

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

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1926 catalog

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

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house house

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

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This is

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

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house house

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

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Cranford

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

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house house cranmore

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

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

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

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

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

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Amazon and Third-Party Vendors: A Cautionary Tale

November 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

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

No response.

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

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I am highly allergic to people.

And crowds.

And shopping malls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s where it went off the rails.

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

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

Amazon called the vendor on my behalf. No response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, $120 shy.

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

I sat down and cried out of sheer frustration.

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

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

Here’s what I learned:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rosemary is Coming to Edwardsville, Illinois!

November 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

On November 13th, I’ll be in Edwardsville, giving a talk on their kit homes!

It’ll be a fun time, and there will be many surprises, too!

After my talk when folks tell me their stories, my #2 favorite comment is, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven past that house not realizing that it was something special! You really opened my eyes to our town’s history!”  (My #1 favorite comment is, “You’re the funniest lecturer I’ve ever heard. You missed your calling as a comedian!”)

To see a preview of Thursday’s talk, scroll on down.

Details: Rose will be at the Wildey Theater (252 North Main Street) on Thursday, November 13th at 7:00. Admission is free, but come early for a good seat! For more information, contact event organizer Cindy Reinhardt at 618-656-1294.

What is a Sears House? In the early 1900s, Sears sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs. The 12,000-piece kits came with everything you’d need to build your home, including a 75-page instruction book! Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house ready for occupancy in less than 90 days. After Sears closed their Modern Homes Department in 1940, the sales records were lost, and the only way to find these homes today is literally one-by-one.

Are you on Facebook? Please share the link and spread the happy news!  :)

To learn more about identifying these kit homes, click here.

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GVT 612

In addition to Sears, there were five national companies selling kit homes through mail order. Gordon Van Tine was one of the larger companies. Shown above is the Gordon Van Tine #612. It's a beautiful home and very spacious too. People tend to think of "kit homes" as simple little boxy affairs, but that's not accurate.

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house

Here's the Gordon Van Tine #612 in Edwardsville. What a beauty!

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house house 1916

Here's the Sears Hazleton, as seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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hazleton

And a perfect example of The Hazleton in Edwardsville. Just perfect.

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1919

The Sears Maytown was a popular house (1919 catalog).

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house house

I'm told that originally, this was a Frat House for SIUE. It seems to have survived. Years ago, I talked to the homeowner and told them what they had but they didn't seem too thrilled. That was at least 10 years ago.

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1919

One of my favorites: The Sears Hollywood (1919).

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house

For years and years, I've sturggled to figure out if this is a Sears Hollywood. Still haven't decided. There's a funny story that goes with this house. I'll share it Thursday night. ;)

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Whitehall

The Sears Whitehall was one of Sears' most popular models (1919).

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house

Another perfect example in Edwardsville. This photo was taken in March 2010.

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Edwards

The Sears Crescent was another popular model (1921).

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Is this a Sears Crescent on West Park? Id love to have an opportunity to go inside and figure it out!

Is this a Sears Crescent on West Park? I'd love to get inside and figure it out!

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1919 Rose

Montgomery Ward was one of the national companies that - like Sears - sold kit homes through mail-order catalogs. Some of their houses were quite simple, such as the Wardway "Roseland" (1919 catalog).

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Thanks

Rachel Shoemaker spotted this little Roseland in Edwardsville! And its distinctive front porch is still intact! Do these folks know they have a kit home? Probably not!

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Just in case you wanted a cute graphic...

Just in case you wanted a cute graphic...

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For more information, contact event organizer Cindy Reinhardt at 618-656-1294.
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Peace Pipes and Fourplexes: The Calumet

October 24th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

The Calumet is a rare Sears kit house that was offered for a brief time in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Sears did offer a few apartment buildings (yes, as kits), and the Calumet was one of them. My favorite feature of the Sears Calumet is the wall-bed, and the Calumet had two wall beds per unit.

The bed frame was included in the kit (but not the mattress).

It’s also interesting to note that the word Calumet comes from the Latin word calamellus, meaning “little reed.”  According to my online dictionary, a calumet is a “ceremonial smoking pipe, traditionally smoked to seal a covenant or treaty, or to offer prayers in a religious ceremony.”

Next time you’re watching TV with your friends and an Indian starts smoking a peace pipe, you can exclaim, “Why, he’s smoking a calumet!”

They’ll be so impressed with your esoteric knowledge!

Want to learn more about Murphy Beds (Wall Beds)? Click here!

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The Calumet, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

I just love the math: 20 rooms in 12! How do they do it? :)

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The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

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Bs

The Calumets had four porches, each with their own coal bin, whichwas nothing more than a small bin. Not nearly as luxurious as it sounds. Plus, it has "handy closets." I wonder which model had the "unhandy closets"?

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That would have been a heck of a kit house!

That would have been a heck of a kit house!

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Bloomintong

Notice that the wall beds have their own windows - in a closet!

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bed

The Calumet - as seen in the 1918 catalog.

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The only Calumet Ive ever seen - and its in Bloomington, IL.

The only Calumet I've ever seen - and it's in Bloomington, IL. You can see those two "closet-bed windows" on the right side. Sadly, the second-story porches are long gone. That first step outside of those 2nd floor doors is a doozy!

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Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

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In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

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In the silent short film (1:00 a.m.), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed).

In the silent short film (title, "1:00 a.m."), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed). The full video (about 10 minutes) is at youtube. See link below.

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To see the Charlie Chaplin short, click here.

To read another fascinating blog, click here.

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The Dorchester: A Joy To A Woman’s Heart

October 17th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the last two years, I’ve visited Richmond three times and have seen many parts of the city, but it would seem that I missed the 5100-block of Riverside Drive all three times!

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Last month, after my lecture, a woman came up to the podium and said, “There’s a Lewis Dorchester here in Richmond.”
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If I had a nickle for every time I’d heard that…

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I’d have ten cents.

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Fellow old-house-lover Molly Dodd graciously offered to get a picture of the house for me, and lo and behold, it appears to be the real deal.

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A Lewis Dorchester in Richmond!

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This city - less than 100 miles from my home in Norfolk - has been an endless source of entertainment for me, as we’ve found kit homes from Sears, Gordon Van Tine (including an original “testimonial house”), Aladdin and Harris Brothers. And now, not only does it have a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing, but it has their biggest and best kit home - The Dorchester.

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Thanks to Dale Wolicki for providing original catalog images of the Lewis Dorchester, and thanks to Molly Dodd for taking pictures of the Richmond Dorchester.

To learn more about the kit homes in Richmond, click here.

Lewis Homes was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs in the early 1900s. Heres a cover of the 1925 Lews Homes catalog.

Lewis Homes was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs in the early 1900s. Here's a cover of the 1925 Lews Homes catalog, courtesy Dale Wolicki.

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The Dorchester was a spacious house with more than 2,600 square feet. For a kit home, thats most ununual.

The Dorchester was a spacious house with more than 2,600 square feet. For a kit home, that's most unusual. The Dorchester had a sunporch, library, 2.5 baths and four bedrooms.

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love it

"A joy to a woman's heart." How poetic!

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house

The first floorplan shows that this was a spacious and fancy home. The breakfast room was accessible from both the kitchen and dining room, which is a really nice feature!

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floor

The bedroom in the upper left was probably maid's quarters, as it was at the top of the rear staircase and had it's own tiny bathroom. Notice that there's a separate shower in the main bathroom. Very progressive for 1925.

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doges

Good golly, that's a big house.

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Dorechester molly tooddd

My oh my, Richmond has its own Dorechester! Photo is copyright 2014 Molly Todd and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the front entry.

Comparison of the catalog image (left) and extant house (right) shows that it really is a perfect match, right down to the downspouts! Only problem is, our Richmond house is missing its "hospitality benches."

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Do you know of any other kit homes in Richmond? Perhaps there’s a Magnolia lurking behind a row of wax-leaf legustrums somewhere? If so, please leave a comment below!

Learn more about “hospitality benches” by clicking here.

To read more about the kit homes in Richmond, click here.

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Montgomery Ward’s Mail-Order Homes

October 14th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

Christmas is coming.

Sooner than you think.

And I have just the thing for that “hard-to-shop-for” friend or relative.

A book with hundreds of pictures of old houses! Old Montgomery Ward Kit Houses!

To buy the book, click here.

Whether youre searching for kit homes, or maybe you just love looking at pictures of old houses, this is a thorougly enjoyable read.

Whether you're searching for kit homes, or maybe you just love looking at pictures of old houses, this 347-page book is a thorougly enjoyable read.

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Would you like to browse its pages? :D

Would you like to flip through a few of its pages? :D Scroll on down!

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What makes this

What makes this book so enchanting is that it's TWO books in one! :D Has many vintage catalog images (such as is shown above), with extant photos of Wardway homes - side-by-side. And it's also an itneresting book with lots of history about the mail-order companies of the early 1900s.

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Ext

The left-side page shows the catalog image and right-side image is the real-life example.

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Did you know Montgomery Ward sold Spanish Villa kit homes?

Did you know Montgomery Ward sold Spanish Villa kit homes?

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And they did

It's a fun read with many such examples of Wardway Houses throughout the country.

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Teddy The Dog thinks its a great read!

Teddy The Dog thinks it's a great read!

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Several decades from now, this book will be a timeless classic, like womens suits and VW super beetles!

Several decades from now, this book will be a timeless classic, like women's suits, platform shoes and 1974 VW Super Beetles!

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To buy the book, click here.

To read more about Wardway Homes, click here.

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Why I Love Ferguson, Missouri

October 5th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

In Fall 2002, I was broke, depressed, lonely and very worried about the future. Months earlier, my beloved mother had died unexpectedly and my marriage of 24 years had ended in divorce.

Those were tough times.

I had one thing going for me: My newly published book, The Houses That Sears Built.

Working 100-hour weeks, I did nothing but promote that book and send out free copies to local media outlets. I slept and I worked. There wasn’t time or money for anything else.

If the book didn’t start selling fast, I’d have to do something I dreaded: Get a real job, and jobs in Alton, Illinois were tough to find.

Sometime in late 2002, I drove around Ferguson, Missouri and found a few Sears Homes. I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten how it unfolded from there, but I hooked up with a local architect and history lover named Alan. He put me in touch with a couple folks from the city of Ferguson. In time, I was hired to do a survey of the kit homes in the city of Ferguson.

Alan drove me around to the different neighborhoods and it was great fun. Most of what I knew about architecture came from reading books. Alan graciously answered my many simple questions about architecture. I will always remember his kindness and patience.

After I’d identified a few kit homes,  the city had a lovely ceremony, and each Sears Home owner was presented with a beautiful plaque. I was invited to be part of the presentation ceremony.

It was a lovely memory for so many different reasons.

First and foremost, the folks in Ferguson - homeowners, Alan the Architect, city officials and employees  - showed me so much kindness and respect.

Secondly, this was my rubicon.

My divorce had been heart-breaking, but this experience in Ferguson showed me that my work had value and my life had purpose, and that there were people in the world who shared my passion for these old houses.

Some time later, the kit homes in Ferguson were featured on “Show Me St. Louis” (a popular TV show),  and that also warmed the cockles of my heart, and gave me new hope that I could make a career out of this vocation.

In subsequent years, my book and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, MSNBC, NPR, BBC Radio, and many more. I’ve traveled to 25 states doing surveys and giving talks.

But it all started with the grace and kindess of the many fine folks in Ferguson.

That’s why I love Ferguson so much.

BTW, if you know the addresses of these homes or even street names, please send me a note or leave a comment.  When I did this survey, I didn’t know much about the other kit home companies. I’d love to come back and do a more thorough survey.

Lastly, these images are from 12-year-old slides. The colors are off and the images are grainy.

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One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in St. Louis is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country, and these were only placed in areas where sales had been strong. And once a Modern Homes sales center opened, sales were even stronger!

One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in the St. Louis area is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country.

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And in the early 30s,

Sears only placed these "Sales Centers" in communities where sales were strong.

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Ferguson

Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Ferguson

I remember the homeowner here was just THRILLED to learn she had a Sears House!

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Leanon

The Lebanon was a popular house for Sears (1921 catalog).

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Lebanon

Lovely Lebanon in Ferguson. Notice the placement of the door next to the one window.

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Marina

Sears Marina (1916)

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Marina

A perfect Marina in Ferguson.

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Lex

The Sears Lexington was one of their biggest and most expensive homes.

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Lexington

Initially, I'd missed this stately Lexington hiding behind the hedge, but this IS a Lexington!

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compare

Nice comparison of the Lexington entryway. Although it's somewhat obscured, you can see the fan light in the 1928 image. The details on the porch are spot on!

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Ferguson

Sears Barrington (1928).

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Pattern book

Although I initially identified this as a Barrington, I'm starting to wonder if it is a pattern book house. These many years later, I do not remember if we went inside this house.

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Gordon Van Tine

In addition to Sears Homes, I also found a Gordon Van Tine home in Ferguson.

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GVT

Very distinctive house!

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Ferguson House

The porch has been enclosed, but this is a lovely GVT #605 in Ferguson.

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Spent years

I have spent many years trying to identify this house. I've yet to find it in any pattern books, kit house catalogs or magazines. But hey - it's only been 12 years. I'm still looking!

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

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

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Nice House: Basement Sometimes Floods

September 26th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

When Hubby and I were in Brattleboro last month, we saw this old building *in* the river. I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and would love to know a little more about it.

My first impression is that it was a mill with a water wheel, but I wonder - was it BUILT in all this water, or did the waterways change a bit after the construction?

On a recent trip to Brattleboro, we saw a cool house!

On a recent trip to Brattleboro, we saw a cool house!

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house

Admittedly, I was just a flatlander tourist seeing the sites, but this structure caught my eye. Yes, that's Vermont rock at the far left, and the building was set within the river (or so it appears).

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Basement

If I were the Realtor writing up the listing for the structure, I'd include this disclaimer: "Sometimes, the basement floods." It would be fun to go fishing off the balcony.

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house

Was it built as a mill? I suspect it might have been.

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To learn more about the kit homes I found in New England, click here.

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Hopeless in Hopewell (Part 72)

September 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

“Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit house business,” I tell folks at my lectures, “but judging from my emails, you’d think that number was 70 million kit homes.”

Some people really, really, really want their house to be a kit house, but not every 1920s house is a kit house.

And if I were queen of the world (a title I aspire to), I’d make that Hopewell’s town motto.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003, I caused a stir when I proclaimed that 36 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills weren’t really Sears Homes. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well.

And the fact is, I might have made a mistake.

Rachel Shoemaker and I have reviewed some of the photos, and we now believe that 38 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes may not be Sears Homes.

Still, that leaves six Sears Homes in Crescent Hills (Hopewell).

After the “stir” in 2003, I didn’t hear back from Hopewell. But then, several years ago, I offered to help Hopewell do a proper survey of their kit homes - for FREE!

The town never responded to my emails or letters.

Eight years later, when I returned to Hopewell in Spring 2011 (wearing a wig and a fake nose), I focused on the amazing collection of Aladdin kit homes in that city. While Hopewell has only a few Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they have dozens and dozens of Aladdin kit homes near the downtown area. More on that here and here.

However, I couldn’t resist driving through Crescent Hills and photographing a few of the fake Sears Homes.

For instance, the city’s brochure states that the house at 201 Prince George Avenue is the Sears Van Jean.

Let’s make this simple.

It’s not.

It has a gambrel roof and a chimney and some windows, but that’s about it.

The photos below make that pretty clear.

Learn about the Aladdin homes in Hopewell here.

Read my favorite blog on Hopewell here.

Hopewell, if you’re listening, you can contact me by leaving a comment below!

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The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Note

Notice the double windows centered on the 2nd floor, and the double windows on the first floor. Notice also the placement of the home's chimneys. These things do matter.

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Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

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This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but its not a Van Jean.

This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but it's not a Van Jean. The 2nd floor windows are wrong, and the front porch is also not a match - for many reasons. The Van Jean has those oversized cornice returns. This house has none. I'd expect that the footprint for this house is also wrong. In short, it's *not* a Sears kit house.

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Close-up, comparing the porch.

The edges of Van Jean's porch roof are aligned with the primary roof. The Hopewell porch roof extends well beyond the roofline. The Sears House porch has a closed triangle, with a cross member at the bottom and then a fascia board below that. The Hopewell porch roof terminates at the cross member.

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Hopewells brochure explains the differences (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean.

Hopewell's brochure explains the "differences" (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean. Oopsie. They neglected a few details. And a few facts. And one big reality: This ain't no Van Jean.

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Will there ever be a day when someone in Hopewell exclaims, “Enough of this! Let’s call that gal in Norfolk and get this right - once and for all!!”?

I wonder.

In the meantime, Hopewell certainly does offer a lovely opportunity of how not to promote historic architecture.

To learn more about the real kit homes in Hopewell (and they’re not from Sears), click here.

To read about Sandston, click here.

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

September 15th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Full house at our talk on September 25th!

And a good time was had by all!

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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fe

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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