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Posts Tagged ‘alabama’

Eskimo Pies and Something Like the Aladdin Villa!

September 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

It’s been known by different names: “Peacock Plantation” (in the 1960s) and more recently, “Bishop Manor Estate.”

I like to think of it as, “The Eskimo Pie House.”

The home’s builder and first owner was Fred Bishop. A transplanted Chicagoan, Fred built this house and estate in St. Elmo, Alabama, in the hopes of building a first-class dairy operation in the South. It was his hope to make and market high-quality ice cream.

As a natural consequence of this, he produced one of the greatest inventions the world has ever known: The Eskimo Pie. According to local legend, people came from far and wide to sample the tasty concoction.

Now that’s a house with a good heritage.

When the Great Depression hit, people stopped buying ice cream and Eskimo Pies and Fred lost his estate in foreclosure. The house passed through many hands and in 1985, it ended up on the National Registry of Historic Places.

At first glance, Fred’s house looks a like an Aladdin Villa, but the Villa didn’t appear until the 1916 catalog.  According to the 1960s brochure (see below), Fred Bishop started construction on his home in 1915. If that’s a good build date (and that’s a big “if”), that raises a whole bunch of questions. However, the National Registry Application gives a build date of 1925. Was that a completion date, or a build date?

If this is an Aladdin Villa, it’s been fancied up quite a bit, with a curved interior staircase, basswood paneling, cherry balustrade and marble fireplace mantle. Plus, the floorplan is not a good match to the Aladdin Villa, but “customization” was common in these grand old kit homes.

And there’s this: Fred and his family were from Chicago. They would have been well familiar with kit homes.

The only photos I’ve been able to find of this house are from the 1985 National Registry application, and studying those photos leave me scratching my head. Is this a Villa? More likely, I suspect there’s a pattern book version of the Aladdin Villa, running around out there and that Fred’s house was probably based on that plan book version.

It’d be fun to find out more about this interesting old house!

If you know anything about The Bishop Manor, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the Aladdin Villa, click here.

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The Aladdin Villa was first offered in the 1916 catalog.

The Aladdin Villa was first offered in the 1916 catalog (1919 catalog shown).

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A 1960s brochure gives quite a bit of information on the house. Image is credit 2014 some kind soul on Facebook who was a member of a the Lost Alabama group and Ill be darned if I can find their name now. Hopefully, theyll stumble across this blog and give me their name so that I can give proper credit.

A 1960s brochure gives more information on the house. Credit for this image is 2014, via some kind soul on Facebook who was a member of a the "Lost Alabama" group and I'll be darned if I can find their name now. Hopefully, they'll stumble across this blog and give me their name so that I can give proper credit.

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The back side of the brochure is full of historical information on the old house. For credit and reprint information, please see above.

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The National Registry information shows a floor plan for Freds house.

The National Registry information shows a floor plan for Fred's house.

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The floorplan (1919 catalog) has some significant differences.

The floorplan (1919 catalog) has some significant differences.

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Heres a picture of an Aladdin Villa in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's a picture of an Aladdin Villa in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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The Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

The Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

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Freds house - as seen in the 1985 National Registry Application.

Fred's house - as seen in the 1985 National Registry Application.

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Shown from the side.

Shown from the side.

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An extensively customized Villa in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

An extensively "customized" Villa in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In conclusion, I suspect there’s a pattern book version of the Aladdin Villa, running around out there and that Fred’s house was probably based on that plan book version.

If you’ve got a notion, please leave me a comment!

To see the rest of the photos of this beautiful old estate in Alabama, click here.

Eskimo Pie - Yummy!

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Own Your Own Sears Magnolia For $145,000

September 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Magnolia. The very word elicits a memory of a spreading shade tree, a sweet scent carried on a summer’s breeze and a southern gentility.

Magnolia is a great word, and it’s also the name that was given to Sears most beautiful and magnificent kit home.

There are only seven known Magnolias in the country. SEVEN! And the one in Alabama is for sale!

The Magnolia was their biggest and best kit home, with more than 2,900 square feet, four bedrooms, a den and 2.5 bathrooms!  Click here to see the detailed floorplan.

What is a Sears Home? These were kit homes, sold from the Sears Roebuck catalog from 1908-1940. The houses arrived by train, in 12,000-piece kits. Each house came with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house finished within 90 days! Sears offered 370 designs, but the Sears Magnolia was by far, the biggest.

To learn more about the house for sale in Piedmont, Alabama, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in Atlanta, Georgia, click here.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

To buy Rose’s books, click here.

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We Arrive With Red Dirt On The Wheels…

June 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The following is a guest blog by a dear friend. I thought it was one of the best things I have ever seen in print, so it’s being shared here. I’m encouraging my dear friend to continue this writing and make it into a book. Leave a comment below if you agree.

A caravan of Caravans to Hart County…we returned with red dirt on the wheels.

My grandma (Myrtle Fules - known as “Mertie”) goes to visit her family in Georgia every year. This year my father and I traveled with her for Mertie’s family reunion.

Upon arriving at the picnic/park where the reunion is held, there is a giant sign that says, “Welcome Fules.” There are lots of children and I am surprised at how many of my relatives smoke and are very overweight. My grandma is the oldest living member of the family and she looks about 30 years younger and 50 pounds lighter than everyone there. They are a rough-looking crowd but the food is really, really good.

Mystery casseroles (all with some sort of mush on the bottom and crispy covering on top), fried fish, hush puppies, PIES, cakes, fried chicken, watermelon and potatoes in every form stretch along 6 or 7 picnic tables. There is a ceremonial unveiling of the food as everyone uncovers their dish…a prayer is said and everyone attacks the food as if they have been starved for weeks. The lady in front of me is holding three plates and three forks while screaming at her grandchildren “I’m fixin’ to beat you if you don’t tell me what you want to eat!”

I wait patiently for the unruly children to choose their food. I wonder where their parents are.

I have been given a name tag and instructions to write down my name and the name of the person I am ‘kin’ to…my name tag says “Jane/Mertie”. I guess this is to weed out potential party crashers  and also to spark conversation such as this:

“Hey, Jane. You must be Mertie’s grandbaby”.

I nod and say “yes. Yes, I am”.

“You guys came from Virginia?”

“Yes. Yes, we did”

And so on and so forth….

We sit down to eat and I find myself sitting across from my Uncle Jimmy. Now that I have told you his name, you officially know as much about him as I do. He is old and very thin and we enjoy our food in complete silence. The only words exchanged were him looking up and saying “Bring me some fried pies”.

I was a little surprised at the request but I went and got them anyway. The only remaining pies were soggy ones from the bottom but he didn’t
seem to notice. He ate them and then smoked a cigarette. The end.

I will probably never see Uncle Jimmy again but our brief time together was good.

Because the children are loud and appear very sticky after the meal, I try to stay far away from them. Someone hands them all boiled peanuts in
ziploc bags, I am grateful for this as it seems to keep them all very occupied. I watch them, wondering how they can eat that nasty crap. I feel
like I’m at the zoo.

Everyone starts to leave. People leave as quickly as they came, plates are prepared for people that could not be there and for dogs. The dishes with the mystery casseroles are snatched up, I wonder how anyone can tell the difference between the many oblong glass dishes.

We retire to my Aunt Sara’s trailer. She lives on a small piece of land with 5 other trailers, all of which are inhabited by other relatives. There are three graves on this land and several inoperable cars. There are also lots of tragic looking animals and a caged-in dog that I affectionately call Cujo.

Each night, Aunt Anne drags out a slab of raw meat and tosses it over the 6 foot chain link fence that keeps Cujo contained. I can’t see the dog and Anne explains to me that they must not remove the combination of plywood and beach towels that cover the cage from view because “he gets real excited”. It’s hard to imagine having a “pet” that becomes dangerous and uncontrollable at the mere sight of humans.

Nascar is on the TV in Sara’s trailer but the sound is turned off so that everyone can talk about the reunion. I hate Nascar but I’m unable
to look away from the TV.  The conversation becomes heated as scandalous topics are discussed: Alma took an entire pecan pie home even though she didn’t bring anything. Mattie sat at the dessert table by herself and therefore, is faking diabetes.

Louise’s husband hasn’t left her yet. The fried fish was bad and John Thomas doesn’t know how to cook OR make homemade blueberry ice cream.

I can only imagine what the other families are saying about us in their trailers. Weight gain, weight loss, health, professions, monetary status, clothing and more; the discussion goes on for a long time. Occasionally, I yawn. Someone, each time, looks at me says , “Aw, you tired baby?”

I say, “No, I’m ok,” and smile.

I look at my dad across the room. He sits and stares vacantly into space.  He looks as if he has had a frontal lobotomy.

The only thing he has contributed to the conversation is this: “I had some banana pudding, it was very good.”

His input went unnoticed so I help him out by saying: “I had chicken and ritz cracker casserole, it was also very good”.

We leave the next day. I feel strangely sad. Georgia, Hartwell in Hart County, is a nice place with nice people and even though a very small
amount of matching dna is all that ties me to it, I enjoyed my time there.

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Sweet Home Alabama!

September 11th, 2010 Sears Homes 8 comments

Heretofore, there are only six known Magnolias in the country. Six. And there’s one in Alabama!

What is a Sears Home? These were kit homes, sold from the Sears Roebuck catalog from 1908-1940. The houses arrived by train, in 12,000-piece kits.  (And you thought putting together a VCR stand was tough!).  Each house came with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house finished within 90 days! Sears offered 370 designs, but the Sears Magnolia was by far, the biggest.

What a beauty this is! It’s a Sears Magnolia (Sears biggest and best house) in Piedmont, Alabama! (See pictures below.)

It is a Sweet Home in Alabama!! And if you’ve seen any other Magnolias in your town, please send me a photo!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in Atlanta, Georgia, click here.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

On a prior post (Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama), I talked about photographing a Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. What I did not talk about was the trip. I traveled from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia and met up with my friend Nancy (who lives in Acworth), and then we rode together to Piedmont to photograph this house. I love Sears Homes. I love looking at them and I love photographing them and I love posting their portraits at my website.

That being said, I was mighty disappointed that I didn’t find any more Sears Homes between here and Atlanta. I’ve been searching for Sears Homes for a long, long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at this but this trip has not yielded many “finds.”

And then today, I found a note in my inbox from a nice fellow in Mobile (Alabama) telling me about an ecnclave of purported Sears Homes in Mobile. If anyone has any more information about these houses, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to see some photos of these houses. It’s been my experience that 95% of the time, these “neighborhoods” of Sears Homes are not Sears Homes or even kit homes from another company. They’re usually wild goose chases.

Please - someone from Mobile - write to me (thorntonrose@hotmail.com) and prove me wrong.

One of the best finds in Alabama: A sunflower field!

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

This (picture below) is the third Sears Magnolia I have visited in person. There were purportedly six built (but the validity of the fact is in question). Rebecca Hunter discovered that there’d been a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska (1) which had burned down many years ago. and Houses by Mail identified a Magnolia in South Bend (#2). In 2003, I appeared  on PBS History Detectives and the show featured a Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio (#3).  A few months after the show aired, someone in Pennsylvania contacted me with information about their Sears Magnolia - made of brick!

In March 2010, a “Friend of Sears Homes” emailed me and told me about a “Sears Home” in Benson, NC (#5). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Sears Home was the fifth Sears Magnolia!

This Magnolia (see below) is in Alabama. This would be the 6th known Sears Magnolia.

In my opinion, there are a few more out there. I suspect there are more than six Sears Magnolias in the world.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog