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So Many Kit Homes in Staunton, Virginia!

February 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 32 comments

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Rose is returning to Staunton May 2nd to give a talk on Sears Homes!

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Click here to learn more!

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In 2005, I stopped for a short visit in Staunton, Virginia and during that short visit, I spotted a beautiful Sears House overlooking Gypsy Hill Park. To my chagrin, I did not have my camera with me.

That was eight years ago. I’ve waited all these many years to get back to Staunton and take a photo of that wonderful old Sears House overlooking the park.

Thursday morning, I finally got my chance!

And I must say, it was worth the wait.

In addition to the house overlooking the park, I also drove around town a bit to see what else I could find. And I found quite a few interesting kit homes. Neither my husband nor myself know anything about Staunton, so we stumbled around a bit, trying to find the right neighborhoods (1920s/1930s housing within 1-2 miles of railroad tracks).

I’d love to return to Staunton when I can find a Staunton native who’d be willing to help a flatlander tourist do a proper architectural survey of all the best early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Because - I am confident that this historic mountain town has many more kit homes. Below I’ve featured just a few that we found driving through two small neighborhoods!

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what is  Sears kit home? Well…

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!). The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together  with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a  “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

In fact, Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!  When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one. In fact, based on my 12 years of experience, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

This is a piece of American history that is at great risk of being lost, which is why I travel all over the country, take photos and maintain this blog.

And on a side note, I had a terrible time getting good photos. Almost without exception, these houses were facing west, so my early morning photos were snapped looking right into the rising sun, creating a really poor photo. Alas!

To learn more about the kit homes in Staunton, please scroll on down!

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

1919 Maytown

The Sears Maytown as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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house house house

This is the Sears House that overlooks Gypsy Hill Park. It's a beautiful Maytown. Do the owners know that they have a Sears Home? More than 90% of the Sears Homeowners I've encountered do NOT realize they're living in a kit home from Sears.

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Sears Sears 1921

The Sears Westly, from the 1921 Modern Homes catalog.

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Westly Staunton

This Westly in Staunton has seen a few changes, but it's still easily identifiable as a Westly.

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house house

The Sears Lynnhaven was a popular house for Sears (1938).

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Staunton

And the Lynnhaven is all over Staunton. I found FIVE Lynnhavens in Staunton which was quite a surprise. This Lynnhaven is on N. Augusta Street, and a few hundred feet away - just across the street - is another Lynnhaven that's being used a business. The front door has been closed up, which doesn't look too attractive.

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house

The house above was at the corner of Belmont and Augusta. The Lynnhaven (a very popular house for Sears in general and Staunton in particular) was also known as "The Belmont."

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house

This Lynnhaven has a slightly altered dormer (more wide than most). Is it still a Lynnhaven? I'm just not sure on this one. It's hard to be 100% certain without seeing the home's interior. The Lynnhaven has a handful of unique features, and this house possesses most of those "unique features."

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house

Another Lynnhaven? Did one builder buy a kit Lynnhaven from Sears in 1930 and build several of these houses from one set of blueprints? Very possible, as this was often done with Sears Homes.

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house house

And yet another Lynnhaven in Staunton. Are these all the real deal? Again, no way to know without an interior inspection, but my first impression is YES.

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house

Is this a real Lynnhaven? The front gable looks a little wider than the other houses.

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Sears Vallonia

Sears Vallonia as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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house

This house has been through a lot of remodeling but despite that, my impression is that this is a Sears Vallonia. On the side of the house is a bay window with two windows, spaced a couple feet apart. That's another unique feature, seen in the Sears Vallonia. The dormer is too tall, but this is a very common modification to the Sears Vallonia. Based on my 12 years experience, I'd say it *is* a Vallonia. And I'm usually right. ;)

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house house 1927

In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes, such as Gordon Van Tine and Montgomery Ward. Montgomery Ward did not have a "Modern Homes Department" (as Sears did). Montgomery Ward turned all orders over to Gordon Van Tine for fulfillment. So a Wardway House is a Gordon Van Tine house. The Mount Vernon (shown above) was a popular house for Wards (1927).

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Staunton, VA

And here's a perfect example of the Mount Vernon in Staunton, Virginia.

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Wardway 1930

The Wardway Kenwood was another popular Wardway Home (1930).

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house house

And this appears to be a Kenwood!

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In addition to Sears, there was also a kit home company known as Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of their most popular homes, The Montawk.

In addition to Sears, there was also a kit home company known as Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of their most popular homes, The Montawk (1920 catalog).

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Lewis Montawk? Maybe.

Is this a Lewis Montawk? Probably. Maybe!

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Sears

As mentioned above, Montgomery Ward didn't sell their own homes. Orders placed with Montgomery Ward were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine. Gordon Van Tine also created and published the Wardway Homes catalog. In 1931, Wardway Homes closed, but GVT continued on until the early 1940s. (Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing this scan!)

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Montgomery Ward didnt sell their own homes. Orders placed with Montgomery Ward were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine.

"The Roberts" (shown here and on the cover of the 1916 catalog) was one of their most popular models. It was spacious, grand and priced at under $1,300.

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Its another really poor photo, but this shows a beautiful Roberts on Augusta Avenue in Staunton, VA.

It's another really poor photo, but this shows a beautiful "Roberts" on Augusta Avenue in Staunton, VA. The house is in stunningly beautiful (and original) condition.

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Best for last.

I saved the best for last. Aladdin was a bigger kit home company that Sears, but not as well known. Aladdin is more prevalent in Virginia, because there was a large mill in North Carolina. Shown above is the Aladdin Plymouth - a "perfect home."

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Staunton

And here's a perfect example of the perfect home - the Plymouth! (In Staunton, Virginia)

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And this is not a kit home but a plan-book house. These were also quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was The Mayfield.

And this is not a "kit home" but a plan-book house. These were quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was "The Mayfield," (offered in a plan book titled, "Harris, McHenry and Baker").

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This Mayfield is in wonderful condition.

This "Mayfield" is in wonderful condition.

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Whilst driving through Staunton (via Google Maps), I found another kit home, The Cordova (Wardway/GVT).

Whilst "driving" through Staunton (via Google Maps), I found another kit home, The Cordova (Wardway/GVT) on Williams Street. It's had some rough remodeling, but its original features are still present. What a nice match!

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And

And on Straith Street, I saw a "Genessee" found in the "Harris, McHenry and Baker Planbook" (1920s). Look down the right side, and you'll see what a nice match it is!

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Thanks to Sarah (commenter), for telling me about this kit house on Route 11 in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Thanks to Sarah Puckett (who left a comment last night below), for telling me about this kit house on Route 11 in Weyer's Cave, Virginia. It's a perfect Sears "Dover" and a very nice find! Please keep those cards and letters coming!! :) BTW, I'd love to have a better photo of this "Dover"! Anyone willing to get me a picture?

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Today, February 25, I found yet another perfect little Sears House (The Berwyn) on Noon Avenue!

Today (2/25), I found yet another perfect little Sears House ("The Berwyn"). It's on Noon Avenue! The image above is from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And look what fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker found in the Aladdin records! Its an Aladdin Stanhope

And look what fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker found in the Aladdin records! It's an Aladdin Stanhope, sold to William Alfred Linkenhoker of Staunton, VA. Does this mean there's a Stanhope in Staunton? Probably so. Now the question is, how do we find Mr. Linkenhoker's home in the mid-1920s? Rachel checked out the 1920 and 1930 census. In 1920, William Alfred Linkenhoker was a renter and by 1930, he was living in Summers, WV. (Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

Wherefore art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

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Heres a

Here's a perfect Aladdin Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids). Where is the Stanhope in Staunton? Please leave a comment below!

I’d love to return to Staunton soon and do a proper survey and maybe even give a talk on this topic. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to contact me and/or learn more about these kit homes.

To learn more about Rose and her obsession with kit homes, click here.

To read about the kit homes in nearby Harrisonburg, VA, click here.

To see an incredible video about the importance of the Sears catalog in early America, click here (PBS Experience, 1991).

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In Memoriam: BGSU Popular Culture House

August 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Sears Lewiston/Wardway kit home at Bowling Green State University was destroyed last Friday - and in quite a rush.

This demolition went forward, in spite of an impressive groundswell of support, imploring BGSU president Mazey to delay the demolition for a few days. An online petition (asking Mazey to spare the house) quickly garnered 2,000+ signatures.

Others wrote and called the president’s office, begging them to have the house moved rather than destroyed. The cost to move the structure would have been about $18,000 (not a lot more than the cost of demolition).

All to no avail.

The college administration is probably hoping that all the upset over this old house will die down and be forgotten.

Please, don’t prove them right. Don’t let this singular act of wanton destruction and callous disregard for America’s history be forgotten.

Please think about the Popular Culture program at BGSU, which was housed in this old kit home. Many current and former students left comments at this blog and at the Facebook page, sharing happy memories of their time in this historically significant house.

Please think about Virgil Taylor, who spent countless hours poring over old mail-order catalogs, choosing just the house he wanted. Don’t forget Virgil’s dad (Jasper), who gave him the lot so that Virgil could build his fine Wardway Home.

Don’t forget about those two men, toiling side by side to unload the boxcar that arrived at the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931. The house in that boxcar, a custom order from Montgomery Ward, contained 750 pounds of nails, 10 pounds of wood putty, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 840 square yards of plaster lath, and more. In all, Virgil’s kit home came in a boxcar with more than 12,000 pieces of building materials.

Don’t forget how Virgil and Jasper lugged all those building materials out of the boxcar and into a wagon, and then onto the building site.

Working with a 75-page instruction book, Virgil and his father (and probably other family and friends) worked long hours, assembling their 12,000-piece kit home.

They started work on the house in early November and by late February (1932), they were mostly done. I’m sure a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” went into that house.

And last week, it took one big bulldozer less than a couple hours to reduce Virgil’s home to 1,500 tons of debris, soon to be buried and forever preserved at the local landfill. (By the way, that estimate of 1,500 tons is the approximate weight of the original structure, exclusive of all additions.)

To read earlier blogs on this topic (and learn more about Virgil’s house, click on the links below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

The Sorry Ending

Above all, please don’t forget about the little house that Virgil built.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylors beloved home.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylor's beloved home. As my friend used to say, it takes someone special to build something special. Any jackass can tear down a barn. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house a few days before President Mazey had her way with it.

Virgil's house a few days before BGSU administrators had their way with it. Notice the clean, straight angles on the roof. The house is still square and true, and it's truly reprehensible that the college decided to demolish, rather than relocate the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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It was a fine-looking house. And now its just a memory.

It was a fine-looking house. And now it's just a memory. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house.

Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

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There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house.

There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Despite some serious searching, Ive not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs.  Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is a match to the pattern on the brick exterior.

Despite some serious searching, I've not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs. Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is also seen on the home's brick exterior. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Brick

See the brick pattern over the window? This was found on the lintels (over the window) and also in the front gable, and the fireplace. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another view of the homes interior.

Another view of the home's interior. Note the build-in china hutch. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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In Virgils home, this would have been the dining room.

In Virgil's home, this would have been the dining room. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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An old light fixture in the hallway.

An old light fixture in the hallway. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house arrived from the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with buillinger materials.

Virgil's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with building materials.

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mortgage

When Virgil bought his house, he also obtained a 15-year mortgage from Montgomery Ward. Sadly, he lost his house when Montgomery Ward foreclosed on him (and his wife) in 1936.

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A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures.

A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures. At the center of the page is the traditional Wardway fireplace.

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Virgils house in 1932, soon after completion.

Virgil's house in 1932, soon after completion.

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Virgils house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Virgil's house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Lumber from Virgils house. Photo is

Lumber from Virgil's house. It reads, "29722 (probably a model number), V. H. Taylor, Bowling Green Ohio, 128 No Church Street. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, click here.

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