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Posts Tagged ‘aaron montgomery ward’

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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When Did Sears Close Their Modern Homes Department?

June 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

When exactly did Sears stop selling their “Modern Homes”?

In an interesting and well-researched blog about Sears Homes (written by my friend Lara), she points out that the sale of Sears kit homes did in fact continue after 1940.

For many years, I’ve declared that if your house was purchased outside of 1908-1940 (the years Sears sold these houses), it can not be a house from Sears.

Well, I have a couple modifications to make to that statement. :)

First, based on information I’ve gleaned through the years, it seems that Sears didn’t sell any of their homes their first year in business. In other words, 1908 was a dud!  The first Sears homes were sold in 1909. And if you find a pre-1912 Sears Home, you have found a rare bird.

Very few of their houses were sold before 1912. Very few, as in, about 1,000. (In February 1911, American Carpenter and Builder magazine reported that Sears had sold 1,000 houses thus far.)

As to the “other end” of that date, Sears put out their last Modern Homes catalog in 1939. The 1940 catalog was just a straight re-print of that 1939 catalog. While 1940 was the official “end date” of the Modern Homes department, was that really when they stopped selling kit homes?

Maybe not.

In late-1938, it looked like Sears was gearing up to revitalize their Modern Homes department. That year, they introduced nine new house styles, even sticking a 3-page supplement into the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog with the note:

Nine new Sears Modern Homes, too late for publication in the catalog are shown in this enclosure. Since they represent the latest thought in architectural design and planning, we think you’ll find them especially interesting.

The nine houses were The Colebrook, The Malden, The Yates, The Branford, The Lynn, The Fulton, The Nantucket, The Medford and The Warren. All but two of the houses were Cape Cods. (These homes appeared in a catalog dated 1938, but this 3-page supplement was dated January 1939.)

The enclosure that offered these nine new houses also promised that all of Sears Modern Homes met FHA requirements and Sears even offered to assist homebuyers with the FHA mortgage application process.

The FHA was created by the National Housing Act of 1934. (The history behind the FHA is both disturbing and fascinating. Read more here.)

In September 2, 1939, an article in Business Week said the young men at Sears wanted to give the Modern Homes department another go, but that upper management wouldn’t hear of it. Business Week stated “Upper management all sweated buckets bailing the company out of the big-scale housing catastrophe that followed the slap-happy 20s. [They] would cheerfully get out of the whole department if they only knew how to get their money out.”

The money they hoped to get out included the millions of dollars Sears had invested in their lumber mills, such as the $3.5 million recently invested in Norwood, Ohio and Port Newark, New Jersey.

Based on what I know today (and admittedly, that’s subject to change), I stand by my earlier statement that Sears issued their last Modern Homes catalog in 1940, and yet, as Lara pointed out, it also seems likely that Sears continued to sell off their remaining inventory until at least Spring 1941 (based on Lara’s research), and perhaps beyond, and it’s possible that some of the millwork and building materials that Sears sold post-1940s were bits and pieces of formerly whole kits.

So, if you think you have a Sears Modern Home that was purchased post-1940, I’d have to say - it’s very possible! (Note that I said “purchased,” not built. I’ve heard many stories of people buying a kit home and then spending several years getting it built!)

And Lara found newspaper advertisements proving that Sears sold their kit homes into Spring 1941! To read Lara’s blog, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Modern Homes department, click here.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the images (shown below) of the 1940 and 1941 General Merchandise catalogs.

Want to learn more? Join us on Facebook!

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The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

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Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years.

Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years. Above is one such storefront in Ohio. If you look closely at the sign in front of the center doorway, it says, "Sears Roebuck & Co. Honor Bilt Modern Homes."

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On the inside cover of the Sears Modern Homes catalog were interior pictures of the Colebrook.

The inside cover of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed interior color pictures of the Malden. Look at the cat sleeping in the sunlight on the carpeted floor. Bliss!

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Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 and 1941 Sears General Merchandise catalog (1940 shown above).

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And in those pages

And in that 1941 General Merchandise catalog, Rachel found this! Look at the small insert, where it says, "Interior Doors, now at Chicago, Norwood (site of the Sears Millwork plant) and Newark NJ" (site of one of their main mills). There's no doubt that Sears was looking for a way to sell off some of their remaining inventory, post-1940.

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Repeated here,

The "Chicago, Norwood, Newark" theme is repeated here, with a bolder graphic (Spring 1941). The Irish Setter is a nice touch, too.

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And my favorite image features this young couple

And my favorite image features this young couple moving through the steps of buying their own Sears Home! (Spring 1940.)

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Happy

The dapper couple begins their fun excursion into the world of homeownership.

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Its the Colebrook thats caught their heart, mind and imagination.

It's the "Colebrook" that's captured their heart, mind, imagination and wallet.

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As shown in the 1940

The four-room Cape Cod "Colebrook" (as shown in the 1940 catalog).

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To dream the impsso

Close-up of the individual frames shown on the catalog page above. Dapper Donna says, "We didn't even need to hire an architect!" (Spring 1940)

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Building

Sears was happy, happy, happy to be out of the mortgage business. According to "Catalogs and Counters," Sears liquidated more than $11 million in mortgages in 1934. In today's dollars, that would be more than $190 million, a fantastic sum for a business to absorb.

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building

A blind carpenter is shown here, sifting through the pre-cut lumber.

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Kitchen

'The stoker downstairs" was a reference to a new invention: The automatic coal stoker. This ingenious device used an auger to feed coal into the furnace or boiler in the basement. It was a remarkable advance in modern heating systems. No more shoveling coal into the fire-belching behemoth. The automatic stoker was a great labor saving device.

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The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big as is shown in the picture with the happy couple, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

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Building

While the Dapper couple are arguing about what to do with all their saved money, a grifter behind them is surreptitiously pocketing some cash he quietly lifted from Dapper Dan's wallet. I think the old lady on the left is in on it, too.

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A

In the Spring 1940 General Merchandise catalog, Sears asked, "What exactly is YOUR problem?" Who knew that Sears was the source of this popular mantra?

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To visit Lara’s blog, click here.

You can read Rachel’s blog here.

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About Those Photos You Love So Much…

June 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Sears Homes are my vocation, my passion and my joy.


And if you see a photo here that makes your heart go pitter-pat, I’m flattered and honored and pleased.


However…


Please do not lift the photos from my website without first asking permission. That’s just good manners, proper etiquette, common decency and a lovely way to honor the eighth commandment.


And if you suffer from some significant mental disability that does not enable you to take the necessary 74 seconds to leave a comment and ask for permission, then at least - at the VERY least - give attribution for my photograph.


Something like, “Photo is copyright 2013 Rosemary Thornton, from her website Searshomes.org, and may not be reproduced without written permission.”


I have invested tens of thousands of dollars in obtaining many of these photos. I have traveled the height and breadth of this great country, documenting and photographing these kit homes. I have spent 13 years seeking and finding (and photographing) these old kit homes.


So please, do not take these photos and claim them as your own (which is what you’re doing if my name doesn’t appear near them). Please post my name and a copyright notice wherever these photos are used.


AFTER you ask permission to use them.


From a beleaguered historian, thank you.

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You have to admit

You have to admit, a copyright notice on each photo would take away the fun.

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To see one teensy example of how many of my photographs have been removed - with no attribution - click on this link and make a note of the images there - and then google  “identifying Sears Homes” and see how many times my photos have left home, sans consent.

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Staunton, Virginia - Here I Come! (May 2nd)

April 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Thanks the Historic Staunton Foundation, I’ll be returning to Staunton on May 2nd to give a talk on the kit homes of Staunton!

As mentioned in a prior blog, Staunton has an interesting array of kit homes of all sizes, shapes and from several companies. And at 7 pm (Thursday evening), I’ll give a powerpoint presentation, featuring the kit homes I’ve discovered in the city.

It’ll be a lot of fun, comparing and contrasting original vintage images from the old catalogs with contemporary photos. And I’ll also talk about how to identify kit homes. A “windshield survey” is a good start, but even with a thorough street-by-street visual inspection, it’s still possible to overlook a few kit homes.

There are ways to identify a kit house from inside, including marked lumber, hidden blueprints, grease-pencil marks and shipping labels often found in unsuspecting places. We’ll talk about that on May 2nd.

Staunton has kit homes from Sears (the best known of the mail-order kit house companies), and Aladdin (the largest of the companies), Gordon Van Tine and Montgomery Ward.

And how did Staunton end up with so many kit homes? We’ll talk about that on May 2nd!

For a sneak preview of the beauties we’ve found in Staunton, scroll on down!

To learn more, visit the website for the Historic Staunton Foundation.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here. (BTW, that first blog has been viewed more than 2,500 times!)

Many thanks to Leslie Hayes and Linda Ramsey for not only providing the wonderful photos shown below, but in some cases, finding these Sears Homes!

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house house house

The Berwyn as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Berwyne

And here's a perfect Berwyn (in stucco) on Noon Street. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house

The Maytown was -- as the ad promised - a big seller.

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house house hosue

The Maytown in Staunton overlooks Gypsy Hill Park.

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first, a mystery

The Wilmont was not a popular house (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

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house house house

And yet, is this a Wilmont in Staunton? I've puzzled over this house for close to an hour, and I'm still undecided. That dormer window on the side is pretty distinctive. I'd love to see the inside of this house. That would help me figure it out once and for all!

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house house

The Wardway Cordova is another very distinctive house.

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house house

And here's one in Staunton. Yes, it's a little rough around the edges, but it's still standing! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sussex 1929

The Sussex was offered by Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa). The image above is from the 1929 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

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Sussex GVT

And here it is, looking picture perfect! What a fine-looking Sussex it is, too! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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My faavorite match!

My oh my, that's a sweet match!

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Gordon Van Tine

The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" (shown above) was a hugely popular house.

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Roberts

And here's a perfect Roberts on North Augusta (Staunton). Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plymouth

The Aladdin Plymouth was a classic Dutch Colonial.

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house Plymouth

And here's a beautiful example of the Aladdin Plymouth.

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Mayfield planbook

In addition to kit homes, Staunton has a few "Plan Book" houses. Plan book homes were different from ktt homes, because with a plan book house, you purchased the blueprints and a detailed inventory that showed you precisely how much lumber you'd need to order for your house. With kit homes, the lumber was included. Plan book houses 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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planbook Leslie

It's hiding behind that tree, but you can still see this is a Mayfield. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plan book

Both of Staunton's Mayfields are painted the same color.

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Gennessee

The Genessee was another plan book house found in the Harris, McHenry and Baker planbook.

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Straith

And here's a picture perfect Genessee on Straith Street in Staunton. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house hosue

The Dover is one of my favorite Sears Homes. Cute, practical and easy to identify!

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Dover in Weyers Cave

Sadly, I did not visit nearby communities in Staunton during my visit there in mid-February, but I found this house while I was driving via Google Maps. Only a tiny part of Weyer's Cave is mapped (with street views on Google), and this Dover is on the main drag. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house house

The Gladstone was one of Sears "Top Ten" most popular homes (1916 catalog).

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house house house house

It's been added onto, and yet I'm wholly confident that this is a Gladstone in Weyer's Cave. It's within 1/4 mile of the Dover shown above. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house hosue house

In all my travels, I've never seen a Sears Rosita (from the 1919 catalog).

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ramsey Deerfield

Linda Ramsey discovered this Sears Rosita in Deerfield, Virginia (near Staunton), and it's in original condition - a very rare find! Rositas were "Strong and Graceful" (sort of), but they were very simple and modest homes, which makes them difficult to identify and very prone to extensive and insensitive remodeling. To find this 94-year-old house in such pristine condition - and looking just like the old catalog page - is a real treat! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house hosue

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

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Vertona Rammsey

Linda Ramsey also discovered this picture-perfect Crescent in Verona (also near Staunton). And what a perfect match it is! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

And according to Aladdin literature, there's an Aladdin Stanhope in Staunton, but where?

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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? If you've seen it, please leave a comment below!

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Please do join us on May 2nd for  my talk on Sears Homes. Having given more than 250 talks in 27 states, the top three comments I hear are:

“Oh my gosh, I had no idea that a talk on history could be so much fun!”

“I didn’t want it to end. I could have listened to you all night!”

“Your passion for this topic really shines through!”

And - as a nice bonus - it’s very educational evening, and I promise, it’ll forever change the way you see the houses in your city!

:)

Click here to learn more about how to get tickets.

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house

Be there or be square!

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To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

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The Cordova in Staunton, Virginia

March 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks to Staunton Sears House Aficionado Leslie  Hayes, I now have first-class photos of the Wardway Cordova in Staunton. What a thrill to find folks who love this topic as much as I do!

The Cordova in Staunton is not in great shape, but with a little love and tenderness, it could be restored to its former glory.

Thanks so much to Leslie for the photos!  Seeking and finding old kit homes surely is a lot of fun, isn’t  it?

:)

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

house house

The Wardway Cordova, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

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I love it that the #1 feature of this house

I love it that the #1 feature of this house is that it has a sink near the rear porch.

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floorplan

The floorplan shows that famous sink in the back...

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2nd floor

No bathrooms on the 2nd floor, but two good-sized bedrooms. Apparently that front dormer is in the attic portion of the 2nd floor. That's an odd use of space.

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house

The Cordova!

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photo

And here's a Cordova in Staunton. The front porch steps were removed, but you can still see one cheek! Obviously, this house is not in great shape, but it could be restored with a bit of effort. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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showing a little wear

Close-up of the front porch steps (the former front porch steps, that is). Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Its pretty amazing that this house still retains its original half-round gutters, but whats going on with this siding? Ive never seen anything like this.

It's pretty amazing that this house still retains its original half-round gutters, but what's going on with this siding? I've never seen anything like this. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another Cordova in Chesapeake, VA (on Shell Road) near my home in Norfolk.

Another Cordova in Chesapeake, VA (on Shell Road) near my home in Norfolk.

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Want to learn more about the kit homes of Staunton? Click here.

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The Dresden: An Unusually Fine Bungalow

January 29th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Apparently, Ypsilanti and nearby Pittsfield Township are “hot spots” for finding kit homes!

Kit House Aficionados Andrew and Wendy Mutch have been supplying me with a plethora of first-class photos of kit homes from Sears, Wardway, Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin and more. I’m so very grateful to them.

They’ve obviously got a keen eye for detail and heretofore, every house they’ve identified has been identified correctly and that is quite a feat (and a rarity!).

And now they’ve moved beyond Sears Homes and into kit homes from Wardway, Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin.

Below you’ll find pictures of the Wardway Dresden. Is it a Wardway house or a Gordon Van Tine house? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know from exterior appearances alone. Orders for Wardway Homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

The only way to know if it’s a Wardway Home is to inspect millwork and/or shipping labels and/or (sometimes) framing members. A Wardway House will be marked “Montgomery Ward,” and a GVT house will be marked, “G.V.T.” (No kidding.)

Thanks so much to Andrew and Wendy for supplying all the wonderful photos!

Want to learn more about Wardway? Click here.

Dale Wolicki is the master of Gordon Van Tine kit homes. You can visit his awesome website by clicking here.

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Wardway

Wardway Homes were actually manufactured by another kit home company, Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa). Unlike Sears, Montgomery Ward did NOT have an entire division devoted to selling kit homes.

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Des

The Wardway Dresden was featured in the front pages of the 1927 Wardway catalog.

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House

It was categorized as "An unusually nice bungalow" (1927 catalog).

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Some details on this "unusually fine bungalow."

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Several Wardway/GVT houses had these offset front porches, which makes identification so much easier. When I created my own field guide (from hundreds of old catalog pages), I created a section dedicated to houses with these offset porches.

Several Wardway/GVT houses had these offset front porches, which makes identification so much easier. When I created my own field guide (from hundreds of old catalog pages), I created a section dedicated to houses with these offset porches. It was - in my mind - a very distinctive feature.

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The Dresden - in all its shining splendor!

The Dresden - in all its shining splendor!

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Thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, I have an unusually fine photo of this unusually fine bungalow.

Thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, I have an unusually fine photo of this unusually fine bungalow. The house is located in Pittsfield Township (Michigan). Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. An aside: If only Andrew or Wendy kept a chain saw in the glove compartment (as I recommend), they could have easily remedied the pesky problem of this small tree blocking their view.

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Another fine photo of this fine bungalow.

Another fine photo of this fine bungalow. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Las

And it still has its original siding and railings! Be still my heart! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To learn how to identify kit homes, click here.

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The Crescent: “For Folks Who Like a Touch of Individuality”

January 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 10 comments

The Crescent was a very popular kit house for Sears, and I’d venture to guess that it was one of their top ten most popular designs.

It was offered in two floorplans (Mama-sized and Papa-sized) and with an optional extra-high roof (Grandpapa sized).

Because of this, Crescents can be found in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the pitch of the porch roof was changed to be more proportionate to the primary roof. Today, this results in all manner of confusion about whether or not a Crescent is the real deal.

Below are several examples of Sears Crescents from all over the country.

House 1

Sears Crescent, as seen in the 1929 Modern Homes catalog.

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House 2

"Interior Views" of the Crescent (1929).

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kitchen 1929

Close-up of the Crescent's kitchen (1929).

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LR 1929

Nice looking living room, too!

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Bed

The bedrooms weren't' this big but why let details get in the way of a nice story?

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The Crescent was offered with two floorplans.

The Crescent was offered with two floorplans, C33258A (shown here).

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And this

And this C3259A (the larger floorplan). Note it has THREE columns on the front porch.

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Adding a dormer to the optional finished second floor would have created a lot more space.

Adding a couple dormers (on the front) to the optional "finished" second floor would have created a lot more space. The finished second floor was only offered with the smaller Crescent. But that does not mean that someone couldn't finish off the 2nd floor on their own!

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Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn (Illinois) has a Crescent with three dormer windows.

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Ypsilanti Andrew Mutch

This dormered Crescent is in Ypsilanti. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ypsilanti Andrew Mutch

In Ypsilanti, they like their Crescents with dormers! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Godfrey

A sad little Crescent waits for death in Godfrey, IL. Again, note the unique angle of the porch roof. This has also been authenticated as a Sears Home.

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Raleigh

A picture-perfect Crescent in Raleigh. The dormers were original to the house.

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West Point

Some Crescents have very steep porch roofs and some have very shallow. This Crescent in West Point has been authenticated by Rose as the real deal.

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Atlanta Crescent

This Crescent look-a-like is in Atlanta. I suspect it is NOT a Crescent.

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Crescent Wheaton

A Sears Crescent in Wheaton, IL.

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Eastern Shore MD

Hubby and I found this Crescent on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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Elmhurst IL

Is this a Sears Crescent? It's in Elmhurst IL.

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Crescent Elgin

This poor Crescent in Elgin, IL has had a hurting put on it. Rebecca Hunter has authenticated this house as a Sears Crescent.

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Elgin

It's been remodeled, but you can still see it's a Crescent. (Elgin, Illinois)

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Elgins also

This Crescent is also in Elgin, IL.

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Elgins also

Elgin Illinois has the largest known collection of Sears Homes in the country. They have a lot of Sears Crescents, too!

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Crystal Lake

Not surprisingly, the Chicago suburbs are full of Sears Homes. This one is in Crystal Lake.

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Champaign

Another beautiful Crescent. This one is in Champaign, IL.

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house Charlotte

I stalked this house for 30 solid minutes, but the young woman on the porch never did hang up the phone, so in desperation, I snapped a photo of the house, phone caller and all. This beauty is in Charlotte, NC.

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Chharlotte

A perfect Crescent in Charlotte, NC.

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Bloomginton

This Crescent also has the less-steep pitch on the porch roof, but it's most likely a Sears Crescent. Notice the medallion inside the front porch (on the wall).

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Bloomington

This photo was taken in 2003 (and it was scanned from an old slide) and it's in Bloomington, IL.

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Wood Riiver

Is this a Crescent? The pitch of the porch roof is much less than that of the traditional porch roof in other Crescents, but I'd be inclined to say it probably is a Crescent. This house is in Wood River, Illinois.

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Alton

This Crescent has a dramatically raised second floor. To compensate for the extra steep pitch of the roof, the porch roof was also raised a bit. This beauty is in Alton, Illinois.

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Ypsilanti

Yet another dormered Crescent is in Ypsilanti. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And one of my favorites: A beautiul and well-loved Crescent in Webster Groves, MO (near St. Louis).

A beautiful and well-loved Crescent in Webster Groves, MO (near St. Louis). Again, look at the variation on the pitch of that porch roof, and yet this is an authenticated Sears Home.

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house Wilmette, IL Rebecca

Now this house has some dormers! It's in Illinois, and was discovered by Rebecca Hunter. Photo is copyright 2013 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Crescent was a perennial favorite aand was offered from 1919 to 1933.

The Crescent was a perennial favorite and was offered from 1919 to 1933. It's shown here in the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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

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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado (Part II)

December 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about the Sears Avondale in Greeley, Colorado. When that blog was posted, I had nothing more than vintage photos of this house, built by Winfred H. Senier.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums of the Greeley Preservation Historic Office, I now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier’s fine old Avondale (shown below).

Take a look at the original vintage photo below from the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. If you look closely, you’ll see Winfred’s wife (May) sitting on the front porch and old Winfred on the porch wall.

To read the prior blog, click here.

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

Noothing like old photos

This photo first appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's a great photo and you can see that - when built in 1910 or 1911, Mr. Senier's house had stained glass windows. This was an upgrade, and it's likely that the home's interior had some fancy upgrades as well.

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obi

Sharon Dunn (reporter for the Greeley Tribune) forwarded me Winfred's obit, which showed that Mr. Senier raised Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. Above is a photo of Winfred and May, and two of their dogs (about 1910 or 1911).

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Is this a Shire horse?

Is this a Shire horse? Or is this just "Pumpkin" the friendly horse who helped build the house?

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Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. In 1919, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home, and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see tha

Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. Years after the house was built, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home (with mature landscaping), and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see that the vegetation has grown up a bit! And there's Winfred and May on the front porch (still).

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1910

The Sears Avondale was first offered in the 1909 Sears Modern Homes catalog. When was Mr. Senier's house built? Well, most likely it was between 1909 - 1911. I'd love to know for sure.

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Avondale was a heck of a house

The Avondale was one of Sears nicer homes. It was spacious and fancy. The house in Greeley is probably one of the first Avondales built in the country.

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Floorplan

Look at the dimensions of the living and dining rooms. It was a very spacious house.

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Showed up at the fair in 1911

In this colorized card, you can see the stained-glass windows on the house. There are four. Two flanking the fireplace and two on the home's front.

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Interior

Another postcard shows the interior of the Sears Avondale.

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Thanks to Betsy Kellam, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Seniers Avondale.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier's Avondale. Still looks a little lonely out there in Greeley. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Its still standing but needs a smidge of paint.

It's still standing but needs a smidge of paint. Given the fact that's it's 100 years old, it's in remarkably good condition. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house

If you look at the roof lines and thee porch, you can see that the house is still square and straight and true. Mr. Senier and Sears did a fine job with this house. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house

Mr. Senier died 67 years ago, but the house that he built for his family lives on. What a remarkable testimony to the quality of Sears kit homes. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone.

Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Thanks to Sharon Dunn (Greeley Tribune) for sending me Mr. Senier’s obituary. If you have any interest in Colorado history, this obit is a fascinating read. Mr. Senier was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, two original Greeley pioneers. Winifred Senier (the Avondale builder) had only one child (a daughter), but apparently his one daughter had eight children, all of whom lived in Greeley.

W. H. Senier Dies Thursday (December 4, 1945).


Winfred Howell Senier, who for 35 years operated a stock farm east of Greeley, died early Tuesday morning at the Weld County hospital after an illness of a year and a half. He had been a patient at the hospital only a few days.

He was 73 years old. Mr. Senier was a breeder of Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, Greeley pioneers, his mother being Eva Camp, daughter of a Union Colony member.

Mr. Senier was born in Covington, Ga., and came to Greeley with his parents when he was six years old.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. May Porter Senier, and one son, Archie Camp Senier, eight grand-children and one great grandchild, Richard Glen Senier.

His grand-children are Pfc. Winfred E. Senier of Fort Lewis, Wash.; Pfc. Robert John Senier of Lamar; ARM 1/c Woodrow E. Senier of Bakersfield, Calif.; WT 1/c William A. Senior [sic] awaiting discharge from the army following overseas duty; Gloria May, June Alice, Buddy and Doral Senier, all of Greeley.

One sister, Mrs. Jeanette Noxon of Greeley, also survives.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker for their indefatiguable efforts in researching this house in Greeley, and thanks to Betsy Kellums for the wonderful photos!

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To read more about the house in Greeley, click here.

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Move it! Don’t Lose it! (Fourth Update on the Pop Culture House at BGSU)

August 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

You might be surprised to learn how often kit homes are moved from their original site to a new location.

Judging by the frequency with which these homes are picked up and moved, re-locating a kit home must be,

1) A do-able (albeit complicated) process

2) Financially feasible

3) Historically sensible

4) Environmentally brilliant.

The Sears Lewiston (which is actually a custom-built Wardway design) at BGSU is threatened with demolition. It currently houses the Pop Culture program at the college. Lovingly known as “The Popc House,” this structurally sound building may soon be reduced to a 300,000+ pound pile of rubble on August 7th, unless the college (Bowling Green State University) reverses its decision.

The Lewiston’s major crime is being in the way of a proposed college expansion. If you want to read more about the house and its history, please click here (Part I), here (Part II) and here (Part III).

Not only can kit homes be moved, but they should be moved.

The quality of lumber seen in these homes is something not easily described. In fact, I devoted an entire blog to this topic. In short, the lumber for these early 20th Century kit homes was milled from first-growth trees in virgin forests. We’ll never seen lumber of this quality again. Period.

Some preliminary research suggests that the Popc House at BGSU can be moved off campus and to another site for less than $20,000. What are the proposed costs to demolish this house? Probably not terribly far away from that $20,000 mark.

It’s time for the college to make a commitment to its own history, to its alumni, to the community, and last but not least, to the environment, and SAVE the Popc House.

The landfills of America already have enough old houses.

Don’t add one more.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos. The Lynnhaven and the BGSU house are probably similar in size and girth.

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Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

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This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, Virginia at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

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Shadow

The Shadowlawn measures 28' wide and 30' feet deep, not including the substantial porch.

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A Sears kit home (The Gordon) was relocated in Florida (forgot which city) in 2002. The story made the headlines in the local paper.

In 2002, a Sears kit home ("The Gordon") was threatened with demolition. After an uproar from the local citizens, the house was relocated to a new site. The story made the headlines in the regional papers.

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Though not kit homes, more than 50 of these bungalows were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And - this is even better - they were moved in the late 1910s.

Though not "kit homes," more than 50 of these houses (shown here) were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And they were moved in the late 1910s. Let's see: If you can move 50 houses 40 miles 90 years ago, I suspect you could move one house a couple miles today.

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OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, three of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, several of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

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Of the houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk (Virginia), one of them was this

The Penniman/Norfolk houses are shown here, being floated into Norfolk.

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The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving.

The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving. This historically significant home should not be sent to a premature grave.

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

To sign a petition to save this house, click here.

If you’d like to send an email to BGSU president (Dr. Mazey), here’s her address: mmazey@bgsu.edu

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“You Will Like the Josephine The Longer You Live In It…”

May 4th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

So promised the catalog advertisement for the “Honor Bilt” house, The Josephine.

This diminutive 840-square-foot house provides a nice example of the difference between “Honor Bilt, Already Cut” houses and the “Lighter Bilt, Not Cut or Fitted” houses.

The Honor-Bilt Josephine was offered for $1,470 while its cheaper cousin (Lighter Bilt) was $1,052. In today’s economic clime, that may not seem like a big difference but imagine a Realtor showing you two houses that appear to be the same, and both with 840 square feet. One is selling for $105,000 and the other is selling for $147,000. Which one would you choose?

And yet, the Honor Bilt really was the far better value.  These homes utilized traditional construction standards, such as double headers over the doors and windows, double floors (primary floors over subfloors), exterior sheathing under clapboard or cedar shingles and wall studs on 16-inch centers.

Lighter Bilt” was another kettle of fish. These homes were really not intended for cold-weather climates. Wall studs were on 24-inch centers, and there were single headers over doors and windows, no subfloor and no underlying exterior sheathing. Those things make a big difference.

And then there was the whole pre-cut vs. non-cut lumber. You’d have to be taking some heavy doses of laudanum to think that non-precut lumber was a good plan.

To appreciate the value of precut lumber, think back to the early 1900s. Electricity was in its infancy, and in many cities, electricity was turned off each night at 11 p.m. for six hours of repairs and maintenance! In 1910, only 10% of homes had electricity. By 1930, that number had jumped to 70%. (Source:  Electrifying America:  Social Meanings of  a New Technology, David E. Nye.)  As late as December 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine was still describing electric lights as a luxury that a builder should incorporate into a modern city home.

To cut a piece of lumber with a handsaw required time, strength and a degree of expertise (for a good square cut). Electric saws and the heavy duty wiring to handle the amperage draw were a thing of the future. In fact, the electric handsaw (a portable circular saw) wasn’t widely available until 1925. A fascinating news item in the February 1925 American Carpenter and Builder heralded the “new invention” with this commentary:  “The portable circular saw does the sawing for 15 carpenters.”

In 1921, Sears conducted an “experiment’ building two Rodessas (small frame homes) side by side at the site of the Sears mill in Cairo, Illinois. One house was erected using Sears’ precut lumber. The second house was built using traditional construction techniques; no precut lumber. The precut house was fully assembled in 352 carpenter hours and the non-precut home was completed in 583 carpenter hours.

In short, the fellow building his own Sears kit home would probably be doing his sawing with an old-fashioned, man-powered saw. The 1927 Wardway Homes catalog estimated that the average two-bedroom stick-built home required about 4,000 cuts with a saw.

That’s a whole lot of sawing that could be spared by purchasing an “Already Cut” Sears Home.

To learn more about Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt houses, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book on Sears kit homes, click here.

The Josephine, as shown in the 1921 catalog.

The Josephine, as shown in the 1921 catalog.

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Look in the difference in price between Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt.

Look in the difference in price between Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt.

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This 840-square foot house was just the right size for many families in the early 1920s.

This 840-square foot house was just the right size for many families in the early 1920s. And the living room has space for a piano and a bench!

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Heres a Josephine in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Here's a Josephine in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Cincinnatti, Ohio.

This little cutie - discovered and photographed by Donna Bakke - is in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Effingham, Illinois

Yellow seems like an appropriate color for the happy little Josephine.

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Also in Mt. Healthy, OH

Donna found this Josephine in Mt. Healthy, OH. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Cincinnatti, OH

Another one in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mt. Healthy

This is my favorite - and it's in stunningly original condition. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mt. Healthy

Look at the details around the front porch! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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My favorite one in Mt. Healthy

Close-up on the porch details.

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Awesome

And the house in Mt. Healthy is a perfect match! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see more pretty pictures of old houses, click here.

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