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Architectural History and “Facebook” are Just Not Compatible

January 7th, 2019 Sears Homes No comments

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

That’s a quote from Jonathan Swift, who died in 1745. (For the youngsters, that was a couple years before the internet was invented.)

There’s a photo of a purported “Sears Roebuck” house that has now had millions of views (thanks to Facebook), and people are eating it up with a spoon.

As a historian, it is painful to see misinformation spread like wildfire.

First and foremost, if it’s a “Sears kit house,” it should look like a Sears kit house. If it can’t be matched to one of the 370 designs that Sears offered in their 38 years in this business, then you’ll have to find other ways to authenticate (original blueprints, marked lumber, shipping labels, etc.). Absent that, it’s just not a Sears House.

And if it was built pre-1908, it can not be a “Sears & Roebuck” house.

Every now and then, I’ll try to jump into these frays on Facebook and I’ll state, “It’s a lovely house but it’s not a Sears House” and invariably, I’ll hear the same comments from the percipient literati of that site:

1) You don’t know everything. Maybe it’s a new model.

2) And what makes you think you’re an expert?

3) The Realtor couldn’t post that if it wasn’t true.

4) My grandmother said it is, and you say it’s not. You’re just wrong. Accept it.

5) U R a moran.

And worse. Much, much worse.

Take a gander at these photos. They’re worth a lot of words!

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FF

The listing states that this house was built in 1926. Okay, that's believable - IF they used building materials salvaged from a house built in 1885. This house predates the 20th Century. Of that, I am sure. Thin porch posts, frippery and fretwork and gable ornaments are all classic indicators of a late 19th Century house.

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FF

Yes, it's a great house but it is NOT a Sears House.

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Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.

Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.

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Nice

Nice porch on this not-a-sears-kit-home house!

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If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Heres the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image.

If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Here's the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image. Those two pictures are a good match!

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Come see Rose in person on Monday night!

Want a laugh? Check out these pictures from Zillow.

Penniman Houses in Norfolk! Enjoy the pictures!

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If I Could Wave a Magic Wand…

January 6th, 2019 Sears Homes 1 comment
Four months ago, my heart stopped for a bit and I got a glimpse of heaven. Ever since that day (September 5th, 2018), I’ve had a new view on life*, and it’s time for me to enjoy whatever remains, because some times, everything can change in the blink of an eye.
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Despite that little “hiccup,” one thing that hasn’t changed: I’m still hopelessly in love with early 20th Century American houses and automobiles and all the accoutrements.
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If I could wave a magic wand, I’d go back to the 1920s, for that is where I would love to be. Perhaps when I travel to heaven on a permanent basis, I’ll find my 1920s lifestyle!
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1921 Martha Washington

The Sears Martha Washington (1921) is one of my favorites. I've always had a soft spot for a handsome Dutch Colonial, and this one is a beauty!

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house

This is a Martha Washington on Baltimore Street in Bedford, Virginia. This house has been beautifully maintained through the decades, and is one of the prettiest examples in the country.

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This would be my kitchen, but I might update with some knotty pine cabinets.

This would be my kitchen, but I might update with some knotty pine cabinets. One day. Maybe. Or maybe not. I do like this kitchen - a lot. Just need to find a vintage stove. And a 1920s microwave. Oops.

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My favorite image is from the 1923 Gordon Van Tine catalog. Gordon Van Tine also sold kit homes, and their kitchen nooks were shown in the catalogs - in COLOR!

The kitchen might have to be altered a bit to make room for my dining nook. This is a must have. In 1969, I visited the Heeley family on Riverside Drive (Portsmouth, Virginia) and saw a kitchen nook tucked within a bay window. I was a mere lass of 10, but I was smitten. I need me a nook.

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My Living

My living room would look like this.

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Beck

And this would be my dreamy sunporch. This is a picture from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, featuring the Alhambra, but in fact, the Martha Washington and the Alhambra have the same floorplan. So...this will work! I love everything about this room.

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And

Years ago, I was at a bungalow convention in Los Angeles ("Bungalow Heaven") and I met a husband and wife that were dressed in 1920s period clothing and came into the event driving a 1920s automobile. I stared at them for the longest time and I thought that they were the luckiest (and probably happiest) couple in the world. Yes, I would wear vintage clothing too! :D

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Desuenburg 1923

And if we're busy waving that magic wand around, I'd have this parked in the driveway of my 1921 Martha Washington. It's a 1923 Duesenberg Model A, touring car. Baby will you drive my car?

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Baby, will you drive my car?

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Norfolk and Penniman: A Talk on January 14th! OPEN TO ALL!

January 2nd, 2019 Sears Homes 4 comments

Everyone loves the story of a ghost town, and the story of Penniman is especially intriguing because so little is known about this WW1-era village, which was home to more than 15,000 people at its peak!

And, it’s especially important to Norfolk, because about 70 houses from Penniman were transported by barge to Norfolk and surrounding communities.

Monday night (the 14th), I’ll be giving a fun talk on Penniman for the Colonial Place/Riverview Civic League at the Eggleston Garden Center at 110 LaValette in Norfolk (near the Norfolk Zoo).

The talk (a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 vintage photos) starts at 6:30 and there will be books to sell (and sign) after the talk.

Penniman is truly an awe-inspiring story about a World War One munitions plant in Virginia that has been forgotten and almost lost to history.

DuPont’s 37th munitions plant was staffed by mostly women, who worked assiduously to load TNT into 155mm and 75mm shells.

All are invited to come out and learn more about this lost chapter of Virginia’s history!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Learn about one of the war workers here.

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Freckles

The caption on this photo says simply, "Freckles: The Trial of All of Penniman." At a lecture someone asked me, "How do you know that the caption was referencing the DOG?"

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Thanks to Steve Beauter, we have pictures like this, showcasing life at Penniman. Steve found this on eBay.

Thanks to Steve Beauter, we have pictures like this, showcasing life at Penniman. Steve found this photo album on eBay.

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His initials are "SC" and he started work on Spetember 10, 1918, but who is this young man?

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This fob (issued by DuPont) was worn on the worker's lapel, and it also helped quickly identify him as a munitions worker when he was out and about in Williamsburg. Young men who were not at the front were known as "slackers" and it was a pejorative.

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After Penniman closed, the houses were put on barges and about 70 of the houses landed in Norfolk.

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Penniman was vital to the war effort, and yet its story has been lost to time.

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Rose will sell (and sign) books after the talk.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Built in 1907? It is NOT a Sears House!

December 28th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

Why do all the wrong things go viral?

This 1907-built farm house (shown below) is being promoted online as a Sears Kit Home and there’s so much wrong with that. And that post - with an accompanying photo - has gone viral on Facebook.

Sears didn’t offer their first “Modern Homes” catalog until 1908. And there’s this: There’s nothing about this house that has any resemblance to anything offered by any kit home company.

Ugh.

NOT a Sears House!

NOT a Sears House, and yet this image is spreading far and wide via the internet.

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Dolly and I get exasperated sometimes...

Dolly reacts to the picture above.

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Moving To The Chapel?

December 23rd, 2018 Sears Homes 2 comments

Two weeks ago, an interesting listing popped up for sale in Bedford County, Virginia. I’ve always been a fan of Bedford (about four hours west of my home in Suffolk), so I hopped in my little red car and drove out there to investigate.

It’s my hope that my next home will be even more quirky and eclectic than my current home (which is reasonably quirky).

I seem to be intensely drawn to non-traditional buildings, and this 150-year-old structure was not an exception! It was formerly an AME church and had been abandoned for almost 60 years, when a local resident purchased it and put a lot of money and time into preserving (and saving) the structure.

It was built in 1883, and had fallen into terrible disrepair. As is quoted in the article above, it had been an AME church and a community center for African-Americans. The four-acre lot included a substantial cemetery.

I was in love.

After touring the building, I realized that it wasn’t quite right for me, as it needed quite a bit of work to make it suitable as a residence.

However, having spent about an hour inside of its four walls, I can say that I could literally feel the love and the prayers that had once filled that holy space. Seems like a very good fit for someone who wants to be ensconced in happy memories, divine love and heavenly grace.

To see the listing (and more pictures) click here.

The cemetery affiliated with this property is shown here.

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Built in 1883, this former AME church has been preserved and is now for sale in Forest, Virginia (Bedford County). The four-acre lot includes a small cemetery.

Built in 1883, this former AME church has been preserved and is now for sale in Forest, Virginia (Bedford County). The four-acre lot includes a small cemetery.

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The structure had been abandoned for more than 60 years.

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Fortunately, a trust had been established for this cemetery.

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VEW

The house sat on a high spot and had many lovely views.

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The original doors were preserved in the renovations.

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Had I purchased this, I would have converted this space into a kitchen area. The stained glass window is even more beautiful in person and it's in excellent condition.

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The communion railing is probably original to the building.

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The stained glass is probably from the 1920s or 30s and it's stunningly beautiful.

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FFFE

The original windows were rotted through and through, so these replacement windows were a necessary evil. They look pretty good and they're nice and tight.

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Original pews - time period unknown.

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To see the listing (and more pictures) click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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Last Chance to Buy Before Christmas - and Maybe Ever!

December 8th, 2018 Sears Homes 13 comments

“The Houses That Sears Built” was first published in April 2002, and since then, I’ve traveled to more than 25 states, for research, surveys and lectures. It’s been a fun run.

As of today, December 8, 2018, I’ve got 52 copies of this book on hand. After they’re sold, that’s it. There won’t be more reprints.

On the heels of a health-related issue, I had the opportunity to step back and take a long look at my life, and and it’s time for new adventures.

If you’d like to purchase a book, they can be purchased here or at Amazon.

An interesting aside: After the first of the year, I’m going to take a road trip. If you have a splendiferous kit home that you’d like to share, invite me over! ;)

Want to learn more about Sears Homes? Click here.

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Richard Warren Sears would not be pleased.


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Dolly and I get exasperated sometimes...

Sometimes, it feels like Dolly and I are soul mates.

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Picture

Not a lot of books left in my capacious garage!

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Another Picture

Seabiscuit and I are ready to hit the road.

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Want to learn more about Sears Homes? Click here.

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That’s What Happens When I Don’t Pay Attention…

December 3rd, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, I spent more than three months dealing with a little health issue, and during that time, I stopped paying attention to the inventory of my books at Amazon.

Last night, I realized that I hadn’t sold any books through Amazon for a time, so I went online, and here’s what I saw:

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My book - brand new and signed by moi - is offered at Amazon (by me) for under $40. When that inventory was depleted, this was the "lowest price" offered on the book. This seems mighty steep, and it's not SIGNED by me!

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And this one is selling *USED* for $149.

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Due to the bankruptcy of Sears, I’ve had a lot of media attention, and hopefully now, I’ll sell the rest of these books. Due to my own “encounter with the divine,” I’ve decided to make some dramatic changes in my life. As these books sell off, that’s the end of an era. My days of hauling around 40+ pound boxes of books are over.

And did I mention that they make a wonderful Christmas gift?  :D

Learn more here.

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What’s Next?

November 26th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 comments

Teddy the Dog turned 10 in late October. I turned an age “greater than 10 years old” this summer. We’re both feeling like it’s time for a change, but not sure what that change is going to look like.

In late August, I had a health issue that consumed three months of my life. I have a new understanding of how every single priority in your life can be reshuffled in a moment when two doctors (in two separate opinions) tell you something scary.

I’m happy to report that now, three months later, it’s resolved - thanks be to God. Prayer brought about a dramatic change in my physical condition that left medical professionals scratching their heads and saying, “I don’t know what happened here and I can’t explain it, but you’re well now.”

Prayer also brought about a dramatic change in my spiritual and emotional state, and that’s the bigger miracle.

To God be the glory.

The spiritual transformation put the whole “Wayne Mess™” in razor sharp focus. Again, thanks to the infinite grace of God, I was gifted the spiritual energy to forgive him, and also given the spiritual stamina to forgive him every day.

He made his choices and he has the whole of eternity to ponder the consequences. That’s all between Wayne and his Creator now. I’m out of the loop.

Throughout our marriage and even after his death, I felt spiritually responsible for him. My “encounter with the divine” helped me see clearly that this is a devilish trick. As adults, we’re spiritually responsible for ourselves and for no one else.

I still think about him a lot, but these thoughts no longer eviscerate me. That’s the grace of God showing up in my heart, mind and soul. I’m sure of it.

And what’s next?

A dear friend suggested that I become a home inspector. I’m seriously considering that. I’m also contemplating a move out of this area (southeastern Virginia) and into the Midwest. There are just too many memories here in Hampton Roads.

This I know: It’s time for some new scenery and some “unexpected delights”!

For those of you who have prayerfully supported me, I am immensely grateful. Now, I hope to discern God’s wisdom in moving forward.

TTE

Teddy asked for a golf cart so that she can enjoy her "walkies" in a comfy ride.

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Id like to enjoy however many years of the remainder of my life.

I yearn to see more of the beauty in this world. I hope my next home has views like this. There's something about the quietude of nature that soothes my soul. (This photo was taken during an early morning bike ride in Northern Suffolk, about a mile from my home.)

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Fifteen

In 2002, I posed with my dear friend Donna at her bookstore in Carlinville. That was 16 years ago. Thus began a friendship that endured through three husbands (one of hers and two of mine), nine books, and a lot of good times. Donna passed on shortly before Thanksgiving, but the memory of her unconditional love will last forever.

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Want to read about Sears Homes? Click here.

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My Beautiful Daughter Singing a Beautiful Song

October 23rd, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

One of my top three favorite people is singing one of my top three favorite songs: “God is Love.”

I was in Boston recently and got to see my middle daughter and my grandson, and it was a little bit of heaven. I have so many reasons to be proud of her, but one of the highlights was watching in awe as she pulled out her tools and disassembled an electric piano, disconnected some internal electrical wiring and replaced several stuck keys on the keyboard. She then reassembled the piano and when she was done, it worked flawlessly.

She’s an accomplished pianist and pianist repair person!

To read more about Sears kit homes, click here.

And heres a beautiful picture to go with a beautiful song.

And here's a beautiful picture to go with a beautiful song. It's from Douthat State Park.

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Teddy’s “Evening Constitutional”!

August 28th, 2018 Sears Homes 4 comments

A few people have asked me why I bought a golf cart. The truth is, it’s something I’ve always wanted, and more importantly, it’s something that Teddy wants and needs.

Her arthritis is slowing her down quite a bit these days. On our walkies, she’s good for about a 1/4 mile and then she wants to go home. There have been times when she simply sits down in the grass, and then I have to wait with her, or call a friend to come get us.

It seemed like a golf cart might be just the thing. And it is.

Now she rides in style around our neighborhood, snuggled up next to me with her nose in the air, taking in all the unique smells on our drive - from the 500-acre nursery to the horse farm down the road and out to the 200-acre cotton field just around the corner. We drive out to the marina at the western edge of the neighborhood and sometimes we just watch the sun set over the Nansemond River.

In a few short nights, it seems as though it’s become her favorite part of the day. As soon as I reach for the keys, she gets quite excited as if to say, “oh boy, let’s GO!”

This little red electric cart is a way for Teddy to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of her world, even when her little legs won’t carry her as far as they once did.

Tonight, Teddy and I were driving around on a pleasant summer evening, she leaned against me and nuzzled me as if to say, “Thanks, Mom.”

In the last two years, we’ve been through hell and we’re both ready for a little ease and quiet.

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FTR

Teddy on Tuesday evening, ready for her evening ride.

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To read about Sears Homes, click here.

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