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More Treasures Within Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia

September 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Yesterday (September 28th), Lori Jackson Black met me and Lara Widdifield Mortimer in Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia and then gave us a first-class tour of Mathews County and Gloucester County. We spent a solid four hours driving throughout the residential areas and didn’t find as much as we’d hoped, but we did find a couple interesting houses.

And Lori even found a handful of true-blue Sears and Roebuck tombstones in a local cemetery (ordered from the tombstone catalog). Contrary to internet rumors, these tombstones were *not* zinc, but rather “blue dark vein Vermont Marble” and the stones were shipped from Vermont.

Driving through the many long and winding roads, Lori provided historical background on the community and its people. She explained that many of these families have lived in this area for generations, and that the houses were often passed down from one generation to another.

As I listened to Lori talk about these multi-generational homes and farms, I felt a twinge of envy, wishing that I’d had the good fortune to have some distant kin from this area.

It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by marsh, wetlands and deep water, and there’s a stunning new vista around every twist and turn in the road. If only they had a few more kit homes.  :)

You can visit Lori’s website here.

Learn more about Sears and Roebuck tombstones here.

To read the first blog I wrote on Gloucester Courthouse, click here.

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This Wardway Warrenton was my favorite find of the day.

This Wardway Warrenton was my favorite find of the day. I've only see one of these homes (in Rainelle, WV) and have never seen another - until yesterday. It was a spacious home with six bedrooms (five up, one down).

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I swear, sometimes those foursquares all look alike, but the Wardway Warrenton has a number of unique architectural details, such as that gabled-within-a-hip porch roof, and the four dramatic gabled dormers, replete with cornice returns.

Sometimes those foursquares all look alike, but the Wardway "Warrenton" has a number of unique architectural details, such as that gable-within-a-hip porch roof, and the four gabled dormers, replete with oversized cornice returns. The porch columns are also somewhat distinctive.

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The trees prevented

Lots of landscaping prevented us from getting a picture from the right angle (shown above in the catalog picture), but it's clearly a "Warrenton." The windows on this side are a good match with the lone exception of the dining room window (which originally was a double-window). Upstairs, there were three bedroom windows on this side (also a good match here).

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The Mt. Vernon was a hugely popular house for Montgomery Ward.

The "Mt. Vernon" was a hugely popular house for Montgomery Ward (1931).

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This house

Almost across the street from the Wardway Warrenton (shown above) is this Wardway Mount Vernon. There's also a pattern-book version of this house, but its proximity to the Warrenton suggests it's the Wardway house. This dear little house has also been a victim of vinyl siding. The straight gables (compared to the Mount Vernon's clipped gables) adds a bit to the puzzle of it all!

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Not far from the other two Wardway homes, we found this cute little tudor-esque home.

Not far from the other two Wardway homes, I thought that I'd found this cute little tudor-esque home. Sadly, after a close comparison of the images, I realize it was not a good match (1931).

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House

You can see it's close to the Wardway Berkeley, but not quite right. Drat.

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house house house

And there's a Sears Modern Home #118 in Mathews.

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When Lori first turned her massive Ford Explorer onto this residential street, I was more than a little flummoxed. It was a quiet dead end filled with post-Vietnam era houses with brick veneer and vinyl sidings. Whats she doing? I wondered. When we hit the end of the street, she turned down a private driveway and said, Never in a million years did I think thered be a Sears House on this street, but this is Model #118. She was right. I was more than a little surprised.

When Lori first turned her massive Ford Explorer onto this residential street, I was more than a little flummoxed. It was a quiet dead end filled with post-1960s houses with brick and vinyl sidings. "What's she doing?" I wondered. When we hit the end of the street, she turned down a private driveway and told us, "Never in a million years did I think there'd be a Sears House on this street, but this is Model #118." She was right. Given the "private property" signs, we didn't have the nerve to get any closer.

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Fortunately, Rachel Shoemaker had found a much better photo on Realtor.com. The house was recently for sale (and has since sold).

Fortunately, Rachel Shoemaker had found a much better photo on Realtor.com. The house was recently for sale (and has since sold). It is a beautiful Sears House in a beautiful place. It's quite amazing to see it's in original condition and even the porch railings are still in place. They're probably not original, but they're an accurate replacement. Situated right on the deep water, this house must have endured a lot of bad weather (and more than few hurricanes) through the decades.

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Modern Home #118 was first offered in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog, which was the VERY first year that Sears sold kit homes.

Modern Home #118 was first offered in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog, which was the VERY first year that Sears sold kit homes (1908 shown).

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I was driving down Main Street when this little pretty raised its hand and softly called my name.

In addition to the Wardway Homes and the lone Sears House, I also found this Aladdin Kentucky on the city's main drag. Like the #118 above, it's also in wonderfully original condition.

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But its definitely a Kentucky!

The Kentucky was one of the finest homes offered in Aladdin's early catalogs.

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And I also spotted a Gordon Van Tine #594. Like Sears and Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine was another national kit-home company that sold houses through a mail-order catalog.

During my prior visit to Gloucester Point, I'd also spotted a Gordon Van Tine #594 on Belroi Road. This house was also offered by Wardway, so - if you want to talk details - it's impossible to know if it's a Gordon Van Tine #594 or the Montgomery Ward version. For now, we'll call it a GVT.

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I love the GVT 594 because its so easy to spot. Lots of distinctive features (1924 catalog).

I love the GVT 594 because it's so easy to spot. Lots of distinctive features (1924 catalog).

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Those windows down the side always catch my eye, as does the smaller front porch roof

The Gordon Van Time #594 has a slew of unique features, such as the window arranagement, the smaller front porch roof (at a slightly different pitch) and three porch columns.

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A massive old tree obscured the views, but peeking through the branches, you could

A massive old tree obscured the views, but peeking through the branches, you could see that distinctive bumpout, with the unusual window arrangement.

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Were it not for the tree, I could have done better on the angles here, but you can see theyre a nice match!

Were it not for the tree, I could have done better on the angles here, but you can see they're a nice match! Check out the detail on the front porch! Very pretty!

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Lori drove us past this house (on a main drag), but I didnt note the address or get the photo. If anyone from the area knows where this house is, Id love to get a second look!

Lori drove us past this house (on a main drag), but I didn't note the address or get the photo. If anyone from the area knows where this house is, I'd love to get a second look! One of the distinguishing features is the three windows on the front of the second floor.

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It was Lori that discovered this authentic Sears tombstone in a local cemetery.

It was Lori that discovered this authentic Sears tombstone in a local cemetery. Unfortunately it's in terrible condition and the lambie on top has deteriorated.

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Heres a picture from the 1898 Sears Tombstone catalog.

Here's a picture from the 1898 Sears Tombstone catalog.

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Thanks again to Lori for meeting us and working so hard to discover her town’s own history. It was a delightful day!

You can visit Lori’s website here.

Learn more about Sears and Roebuck tombstones here.

To read the first blog I wrote on Gloucester Courthouse, click here.

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Eighty Percent of the People Who Think They Have a Sears House Are Wrong.

June 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Yes, that’s a true fact.

Back in the day, I actually kept track of such numbers, and back in the day, I found that about 80% of the people who thought they had a Sears kit home were wrong.

Eighty percent.

Typically, these folks did in fact have a kit home, but it turned out to be a kit home from another company.

I doubt that there’s an adult alive today that hasn’t heard of Sears and Roebuck, but how many people have heard of Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Sterling, Harris Brothers or Lewis Manufacturing? How many people know that Montgomery Ward sold kit homes in the early 1900s?

So while the legend of a “kit house” might survive through the generations, the facts of the story often get confused.

Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) actually sold more kit homes than Sears, and was in business far long than Sears, but still, when it comes to kit homes, people assume that all kit homes came from Sears. (Aladdin started selling mail-order kit homes in 1906 and stopped in 1981. Sears started in 1908 and stopped in 1940.)

Which leads me to the topic of today’s blog.

Last week, friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker discovered a blog about a “Sears House” in Melbourne, Florida. Rachel took one look at the house featured in the blog and realized, it was not a Sears House, but rather, a kit home sold by Gordon Van Tine.

To read the blog, click here.

In the blog, the house in Melbourne is misidentified as a Sears Gordon, but (thanks to researchers Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker), we now know that this is a physical impossibility.

After doing some digging, Rachel and Mark found that the little Cape Cod style house was not only present, but occupied when the 1930 Census was conducted.

So this “Ready-Cut” house was already built and occupied in 1930. But the Sears Gordon did not appear in the Sears Modern Homes catalog until Spring 1931. And then there’s the fact that the Sears Gordon really doesn’t look much like the little house in Melbourne.

Again, this is a very common mistake.

And there’s another piece to this story. Rachel, who’s quite adept at finding kit homes via Google Maps, found that to the left of the little Cape Cod is another Gordon Van Tine house (Model #530). And to the right is a Gordon Van Tine Model #613, with a Gordon Van Tine garage!

There’s a story there, but what is it? How did three Gordon Van Tine homes end up in one cluster?

Based on my experience, it was probably a family enterprise. This was pretty common.

If you have any information to the back story of these three Gordon Van Tine houses, please oh please leave a comment below!

To read the original blog featuring this subject house, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

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The auditors website shows the little cape cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

The auditor's website has a photo showing the little Cape Cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

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GVT 620

The catalog page for the GVT 620 (1927). Hmmm, it looks a lot like the house above!

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The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little cape cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little Cape Cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

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A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the

A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the left is the Melbourne house and the house on the right is the Sears Gordon.

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Ooh, now thats a nice match!

Ooh, now that's a nice match! Why, those two houses look just alike!

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In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, Proof of the Pudding, and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, youll see its a spot-on match!

In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, "Proof of the Pudding," and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, you'll see it's a spot-on match!

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And just a couple weeks ago, I saw the GVT #620 on an episode of Undercover Boss.

And just a couple weeks ago, I spotted a GVT #620 on an episode of "Undercover Boss."

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But wait, theres more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

But wait, there's more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

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Oh yeah!

The double dormers make this house easy to spot. Gordon Van Tine Model #530 sits to the immediate left of the house featured in the blog (GVT #620). Photo is from auditor's website.

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And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 next door to the #530!

And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 to the right of the GVT #620.

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Wow

So how did Palmetto Street in Melbourne end up with a Gordon Van Tine #613 (shown above), a number #530 (with the double dormers) and a #620 (with the triple dormers)? And why isn't there a house in this cluster with just ONE dormer? Photo is from auditor's website.

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As mentioned above, misidentifying Sears Homes is a very common mistake. Last month in Staunton, Virginia, the owners of the home above were quite certain this was a Sears kit home. In fact, it turned out to be a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. And a lovely match, at that!

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The owners of that house in Staunton were THRILLED to learn the true facts about their house, and it’s my hope the owner of the GVT #620 will be equally thrilled to learn the true facts about her beloved home in Melbourne.

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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Some People Can Just Watch TV…

May 23rd, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

But I’m not one of them.

Since 1981, I’ve worked for myself, owning a series of small businesses, some of which have been successful and some of which have not.  Currently, I only have one small business (”Gentle Beam Publications”) which publishes a handful of my own titles (such as “The Houses That Sears Built”).

All of which goes to explain why my #1 favorite show on Prime-Time TV is Undercover Boss.

Thursday afternoon, I finally got around to watching an episode which aired sometime earlier in the month (episode: “Epic Employees”), when I saw a house in the background that caught my eye. I hit the pause button on the DVR and took a closer look.

Next, I pulled out an old GVT catalog and thumbed through it, looking for the cute little house with the clipped gables and three dormers.

Sure enough, I was right. The house on Undercover Boss was a Gordon Van Tine kit home, Model #620.

For several months, I’d been hoping to find this model, as I’ve never seen one, and there it was. On TELEVISION!

Do you have a GVT Model #620 in your neighborhood? If so, please send me a photo!

And please do tell me, what is it like to be able to watch TV without studying all the houses in the background?  :)

To read the next splendiferous blog, click here.

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

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The house shown in this scene from "Undercover Boss" is actually a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. What's it like to watch television without studying all the houses in the background? I do wonder about that sometimes. Strikes me as a little boring, actually!

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Close-up of the cute little house with the three dormers.

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After seeing the house on television, I pulled up this image of GVT #620 (1927 catalog)!

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It was a darling little house with a good floor plan.

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Note the three windows on the one side and the bay window on the side.

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No doubt, it's the GVT #620 in the background. If you look close, you'll see the edge of the bay window with a shed dormer (just above the gray hair). What a fine little house!

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According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVTs Proof of the Pudding), theres a #612 in

According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVT's "Proof of the Pudding"), there's a #620 in Palisades, NJ. And in this testimonial, they even give us an address!

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And

And here's another GVT 620. This one is in Peshastin, Washington.

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The #620 in Peshastin was built by F. H. Tompkins.

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Do you live near Peshastin or Palisades? If so, I’d love a photo!

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Sometimes, They’re Hiding Right By Your Biscuits…

April 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Having lived in Norfolk for seven years now, I have scoured every street in this city, searching for mail-order kit homes. I’ve ridden around with several friends, studied maps, queried long-time residents and harangued my husband and I was quite certain that I’d seen every early 20th Century neighborhood that Norfolk had to offer.

Wednesday night, my buddy Milton and I were on our way to CERT class, and we swung by Church’s Fried Chicken to buy some of their world-famous honey biscuits. For reasons I can’t explain, an integral part of the CERT class is a pot-luck supper. (We’re  expected to bring a piquant and palatable platter of something wonderful to these weekly classes.)

As we pulled out onto Virginia Beach Blvd, I noticed a lovely Dutch Colonial staring back at me.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “That Dutchie has an interior chimney,  just like the Martha Washington (Sears Home). Isn’t that something?”

And then I noticed that it had the curved porch roof, just like the Martha Washington.

And then I looked again and thought, “And it’s got those short windows centered on the second floor, just like the Martha Washington.”

Next, I looked at the small attic window and thought, “And it’s got that half-round window in the attic, just like the Martha Washington.”

As Milton drove down the road, I twisted my head around and saw that the Dutchie had the two distinctive bay windows on the side, just like the Martha Washington. Those two windows are an unusual architecture feature, and that was the clincher.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I told Milton. “I think that’s a Sears House.”

Now anyone who’s hung around me for more than 73 minutes knows that I’m a pretty big fan of Sears Homes, and my friends understand that a significant risk of riding around with Rose is that there will be many detours when we pass by early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Milton gladly obliged and gave me an opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this Dapper Dutchie.

That night at the CERT meeting, I kept thinking about the fact that one of the most spacious and fanciest Sears Homes ever offered was sitting right here in Norfolk, and after seven years of living in this city, I just now found it.

The next day, Milton picked me up around 11:00 am and we returned to the Sears Martha Washington so that I could take a multitude of photos. Sadly, as we drove through the adjoining neighborhoods, we saw that the nearby college (Norfolk State) had apparently swallowed up great gobs of surrounding bungalows.

Between that and some very aggressive redevelopment, it appears that hundreds of early 20th Century homes are now just a dusty memory at the local landfill.

Do the owners of this Martha Washington know what they have? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

What a find! What a treasure! And it’s right here in Norfolk!

So is there a Magnolia hiding somewhere nearby?  :)

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

To learn how to identify marked lumber, click here.

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The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house.

The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house. According to this page from the 1921 catalog, it had seven modern rooms. I wonder how many "old-fashioned" rooms it had?

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According to this

Here's a Martha Washington that was featured in the back pages of the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This house was built in Washington, DC, and shows the house shortly after it was finished.

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This line drawning from the 1921 catalog shows the

This line drawing from the 1921 catalog shows those two bay windows on the side.

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This was described as a snowy white kitchen de Lux.

This was described as a "snowy white kitchen de Lux." For its time, this really was a very modern kitchen. Notice the "good morning stairs" too the right, and the handy little stool under the sink. According to a 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the "average woman spends 3/4ths of her day in the kitchen." So maybe that's why she got a hard metal stool to sit on at the sink?

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Oh may

"Judge for yourself how attractive, bright and sanitary we have made this home for the housewife." And a "swinging seat"! I guess that's a desperate attempt to make kitchen work seem more recreational, and less like drudge work.

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CheckAn “exploded view” shows the home’s interior. That baby-grand piano looks mighty small!

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Second

Check out that bathtub on the rear of the house. And that's a sleeping porch in the upper right. Again, that furniture looks mighty small.

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As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

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Be still my quiveringg heart!

Be still my quivering heart! And it's right on Virginia Beach Boulevard!

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A view from the side.

A view from the side, showing off those bay windows.

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The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light),

The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light), and the badly crimped aluminum trim on that porch roof doesn't look too good, and the wrought-iron is a disappointment, but (and this is a big but), at least it's still standing.

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Before

The porch, in its pre-aluminum siding salesmen and pre-wrought-iron and pre-PVC state.

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compare

A comparison of the Martha Washington in DC with the house in Norfolk!

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And heres a Martha Washington in Cincinnatti, Ohio.

And here's a Martha Washington in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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To learn more about the Martha Washington, click here.

To learn more about biscuits, click here.

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The Belmont: Practical and Graceful

July 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

In February 2010, I was in Mattoon, Illinois doing research for my book, The Sears Homes of Illinois.

My friend (old house lover and local historian) Joyce St Michael spent the day with me as we tooled around Mattoon and Charleston. Joyce drove me to this darling little bungalow and said, “Rebecca Hunter was here a few years ago and she said this is a Sears Belmont.”

Rebecca was right!

And it’s a beautiful house in mostly original condition.

Perhaps even more interesting, this is the only Sears Belmont that I’ve seen.

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As seen in the 1920 catalog.

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Close-up of the floor plan.

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house in Mattoon

The Belmont in Mattoon, IL.

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And there are Bel

And there are Belmonts in these cities, too!

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Close-up of the house.

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Comparison of the catalog pic and actual house.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Aunt Addie’s exhumation, click here.

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Holy Moly, Another Magnolia?

May 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

A dear soul on Facebook sent me a note this morning asking if I’d taken a look at the house at 1500 James Street in Syracuse, New York. Unable to sleep at 2:00 in the morning, I went looking via Google maps, expecting to be disappointed yet again. At least twice a week, I get a note from someone who is utterly convinced that they’ve seen a Sears Magnolia and every time, they’re wrong.

However this time, they might be right.

Now, I have to use every bit of self-control I have, not to get in a car and drive nine hours to Syracuse and see this house. The picture available via Google maps is unusually poor, and I’m not able to see much detail, and am unwilling to make a pronouncement at this point, but that house at 1500 James sure does look like a Sears Magnolia!

If anyone within the sound of my voice would be interested in getting about 4000 pictures of this house and sending it to me, I would be so very grateful. In fact, I’d send you a copy of any and all of my books you’d like to add to your library. :)  Signed, too. Free books. Just snap a few photos, send them to me and make an authors day!  :)

Updated to add: Having figured out how to use “bird’s eye view” on Bing, I’m becoming ever more confident that this house in Syracuse is indeed a Magnolia.

My kingdom for a high resolution digital picture!!!!

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. The two-story columns are an eye-catching feature. Also notice the distinctive roof lines and unique details around the front porch. At its core, the Sears Magnolia is a classic foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

Maggy in Benson

The Maggy in Benson, NC is a spot-on match.

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.  (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling) Done in brick, this Sears Magnolia also is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.

Magnolia in South Carolina

The Magnolia in Alabama is also not a spot-on match to the original catalog image. Most obvious is that attic dormer, which is much simpler than the Magnolia dormer. Yet this house in Piedmont Alabama is a Sears Magnolia.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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An Abundance of Sears Homes in Raleigh, NC (Part II)

April 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

I’ve seen a lot of houses in a lot of cities, but I’d have to say, the collection of kit homes I found in Raleigh is really remarkable.  The houses were (for the most part) in wonderfully original condition, and the homeowners we met during our survey were absolutely joyous to learn that they lived in a kit home.  And the diversity of kit homes was remarkable, too!

During the six hours we spent  riding around on April 2, we found kit homes from Sears, Aladdin, Montgomery Ward, Gordon Van Tine, Harris Brothers and even Sterling Homes.

The other thing that made this collection remarkable is that Raleigh has some of the higher-end models offered by these kit home companies.  To sneak a peek, scroll on down!  :)

To see photos from my first visit to Raleigh (in February 2011), click here.

Rose will be giving a talk in Raleigh on Saturday, May 19th (Saturday) at the Rialto Theater. Learn more by clicking here.

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The Sears Westly

The Sears Westly

Sears Westly

One of the most perfect Sears Westlys that I have ever seen, anytime, anywhere.

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

And one of the prettiest Sears Crescents I have ever seen, anytime, anywhere. The dormers were probably original to the house. This was a common "upgrade" on the Sears Crescent, and added more light to the two small rooms on the 2nd floor.

Now whod think that this is a Sears kit home? Strangely enough, it is.

Now who'd think that this is a Sears kit home? Strangely enough, it is.

house

Mega House

here

Looking much like the day it was built is this Modern Home #163 in Raleigh. Every detail is perfect. And the best part - it retains its original siding, windows and rafter tails.

Another view

A view from the front of the house. Every detail is perfect. May God bless those pesky vinyl siding salesmen - and keep them FAR AWAY from this house!

The Sears Americus was one of the best selling designs that Sears offered. This image is from their 1921 catalog.

The Sears Americus was one of the best selling designs that Sears offered. This image is from their 1921 catalog.

Not to sound like a broken record, but again - here is a PERFECT example of a Sears Americus, spared the fate of the typical Americus thats been sided and stripped of all significant architectural detail. This house in Boylan is in beautiful condition. Even the porch railings are original!

Not to sound like a broken record, but again - here is a PERFECT example of a Sears Americus, spared the fate of the typical Americus that's been "sided" and stripped of all significant architectural detail. This house in Boylan is in beautiful condition. Even the porch railings are original!

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Close-up of the bracketing on the Americus.

These distinctive brackets are unmercilessly hacked off when these old houses are wrapped in aluminum trip.  house in Ra

These distinctive brackets are ruthlessly hacked off when these old houses are "wrapped" in aluminum, and yet these brackets are one of those "fine features" that make the Americus so attractive.

But wait, there’s more!

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Close-up of the Sears Americus from the catalog page.

Another Sears Americus, and this one is in brick! So is the plural of Americus Americii?

Another Sears Americus, and this one is in brick! So is the plural of Americus "Americii"?

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Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

And heres the Montrose in Raleigh!  I didnt find this house. The owners found me and told me about it.  Im sorry about the trash can in the view. The owners are working tirelessly to restore the grand old house.

And here's the Montrose in Raleigh! I didn't find this house. The owners found me and told me about it, and best of all, they already knew it was a Sears Montrose. Now that's unusual! The owners are working tirelessly to restore the grand old house and it appears that they're doing a first-class job. And this is another unusual Sears Home, and also in excellent condition.

Maybe if I’d told them I was coming, they would have baked me a cake (and moved the cans)!  :)

Sears Argyle, from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Note the big bold columns on the homes front, and the faux beams around the eaves.

Sears Argyle, from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Note the big bold columns on the homes front, and the faux beams around the eaves. Also note how the porch overhangs on one side, extending beyond the home's exterior wall.

Argyle

This Argyle still has its original stuccoed pillars, complementing the stucco in the two gables. Note how the wood trim (verge boards and faux beams) are a perfect match to the catalog page above.

Again - a perfect Avalon in perfect condition on Brooks Street in Raleigh. Even has its original casement windows.

The Avalon from the 1921 catalog.

case

Again - perfect Avalon in perfect condition on Brooks Street in Raleigh. Even has its original casement windows.

Original windows

The original windows on this Avalon are part of what make it such a perfect example!

Close-up of the Avalon

Close-up of the Avalon

This Avalon is not in perfect condition, and the original windows are long gone.

This Avalon is not in perfect condition, and the original windows are long gone.

In addition to Sears, Raleigh also has several kit homes from Aladdin. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and in business 40 years longer than Sears. They sold 75,000 kit homes (more than Sears). Aladdin was based in Bay City, Michigan, but they had a large mill in Wilmington, NC (which explains why I find so many Aladdins in the southeastern part of the country.

Aladdin Norfolk, from the 1923 catalog.

Aladdin Norfolk, from the 1923 catalog.

Aladdin Norfolk hiding behind some landscaping.  :)  This is definitely an Aladdin Norfolk.  Even the patio posts are still in place on the front patio.

Aladdin Norfolk hiding behind some landscaping.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was one of Aladdins best selling homes.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was one of Aladdin's best selling homes.

Another beautiful kit home in Raleigh.

Another beautiful kit home in Raleigh, looking much like the original catalog image.

Harris Brothers was a smaller kit-home company based in Chicago. The LaGrange was one of their most popular homes.

Harris Brothers was a smaller kit-home company based in Chicago. The "LaGrange" was one of their most popular homes.

One of the distinctive features of the LaGrange is that rounded porch!

One of the distinctive features of the LaGrange is that rounded porch!

LaGrange

Is this the Harris Brothers "LaGrange"? I'm 90% confident it is, even though it is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.

Sterling Homes was another small kit home company. This image is from their 1932 catalog.

Sterling Homes was another small kit home company. This image is from their 1932 catalog.

Is this a Sterling Homes Avondale? It surely does look like it.

Is this a Sterling Homes "Avondale"? It surely does look like it.

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

This Aladdin Detroit has had its porch partially enclosed, but still bears all the hallmarks of the Detroit.

This Aladdin Detroit has had its porch partially enclosed, but still bears all the hallmarks of the Detroit.

While driving around, we also spotted this house (see below). It’s a plan book house and was built as a four-family home. The house we saw in Raleigh has been converted into a single family and I should have taken a photo, but we were getting dog-tired after so many hours in the car. If anyone knows the address of this house in Raleigh, please leave a comment below.

Nice old house and the picture is from one of my 1920s plan books. Plan book homes were different from kit homes. With a plan book, youd choose the house of your dreams and order the blueprints for the house, which also came with a comprehensive inventory of every thing you needed to buy to build your house.

Nice old house and the picture is from one of my 1920s plan books. Plan book homes were different from kit homes. With a plan book, you'd choose the house of your dreams and order the blueprints for the house, which also came with a comprehensive inventory of every thing you needed to buy to build your house. Building materials were not part of the deal. Those were purchased locally.

Heres an example of The Dupont in Chesapeake, VA.

Here's an example of The Dumont in Chesapeake, VA.

And about an hour south of Raleigh, there’s the Sears Magnolia! There were only six Magnolias built in the country, and there’s one in Benson. This is the biggest and best of the Sears Homes.

maggy_benson_nc

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

This is but a sampling of the kit homes we found in Raleigh. To see photos from my first visit to Raleigh (in February 2011), click here.

In conclusion, the collection of kit homes in Raleigh really is remarkable and historically significant, and it’s my hope and prayer that people of Raleigh will start to think about what can be done to protect and preserve these homes.

To learn more about Sears Homes in nearby Rocky Mount, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 4)

April 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

As mentioned in Part 1, I recently visited Hopewell (Virginia) for the first time in several years.

In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, there was a downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Driving through the city, I discovered that most of their Crescent Hill “Sears Homes” being promoted in a local brochure were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure - with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes - was not to be changed.

It was very upsetting. Those who write about history have a solemn charge to make sure it is kept pure and honest. That’s something about which I feel passionate.

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many non-kit homes were still being wrongly identified as Sears Homes.  (Reader’s Note: This blog is Part 4 of a series.  Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here. Blogs with photos of Aladdin kit homes are labeled with Roman numerals.)

The beauty part of identifying Sears Homes is matching the houses to their original catalog image.

Below is one such example:

And the Sears Lynnhaven. There are two in Hopewells Crescent Hills.

The Sears Lynnhaven from the 1936 catalog.

Sears Lynnhaven #2

Sears Lynnhaven in Hopewell. Nice match!

Now that’s a nice match. The house in Hopewell looks just like the catalog image. That’s what makes this topic so fun and so intriguing and so delightful. And the cold hard fact is, if you can not match up a suspected kit home to an image in a vintage mail-order catalog, you got nothing.  The house must be a spot-on match (minus remodelings, substitute sidings, etc.).

And that’s my complaint with Hopewell’s purported “Sears Home” at 105 Prince George Avenue. The brochure offered at the Hopewell Visitor’s Center identifies this house as (and I’m quoting), “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

I kid you not.

That’s all the information offered on this house.

Speaking as someone who’s written several books on this topic, and as someone who’s traveled all over this country for the last 11 years, seeking and finding kit homes of every name and nature, I can say with authority, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Sears offered 370 designs of kit homes. Their very first catalog had 22 designs within its 44 pages, and not one of those designs was called, “Original Sears Model.”

There is no “original Sears model” (remodeled or not).

Further, I’m of the opinion that the house at 105 Prince George Avenue is not a Sears Home. And if it was a Sears Home, I’d show you a catalog image so you - the reader - could contrast and compare the two pictures.

But on this house - I got nothing. No idea. So here’s the house in Hopewell that the brochure identifies as, “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

Frustrating

That vinyl picket fence might be from Sears. Maybe that's what they're talking about.

To read more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

To see Danville’s amazing collection of Sears Homes, click here.

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Revisiting Colonial Heights (Virginia)

March 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In 2008, I visited Colonial Heights (just outside of Richmond) and did a survey of their kit homes. A short time later, I did a talk and booksigning. I was quite surprised to find so many kit homes in Colonial Heights. In nearby Petersburg, I found only three kit homes in the whole city! In Colonial Heights, I found more than three dozen.

During my 2008 visit, there was one house in particular that I studied and stared at, but could not identify it. When I returned to Colonial Heights on March 2011, I was able to identify it almost immediately.

This sweet little yellow house was an Aladdin Willard.

Aladdin Everett as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Everett as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Everett in Colonial Heights.

Aladdin Willard in Colonial Heights.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Hopewell, click here.

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The Venerable, Vintage Villas of Vinton, Virginia

February 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In April 2008, my husband and I traveled to Roanoke for a vacation. While he rested at the hotel, I drove out to Vinton to hunt for Sears Homes. This was a quickie drive through, so I suspect I missed a few.

And it turns out, I was right.

About a year later, I drove through the same area with Dale Wolicki. He immediately spotted this kit home (see below) that I had missed. The Wardway Sheridan. It’s a real beauty, too.

The Wardway Sheridan, as shown in the Wardway catalog

Wardway Sheridan in Vinton, Virginia (just outside of Roanoke)

And here’s another unique house: The Harris Brother’s Ardmore. Once you’ve seen this house, it’s not hard to remember it - and find it elsewhere! Note the unique details around the front porch. Very distinctive home.

This is from the Harris Brothers catalog. Its the Ardmore, and its not hard to spot with that odd second floor sticking up out of the bungalows roofline!

This is the Harris Brothers Ardmore, and it's not hard to spot with that odd second floor sticking up out of the bungalow's roofline!

HB

This Ardmore is in Vinton, Virginia, a small town just outside of Roanoke.

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In Vinton, I also found an Aladdin Marsden.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden in Vinton

Aladdin Marsden in Vinton

The Sears Sunbeam was one of their most popular kit homes.

The Sears Sunbeam was one of their most popular kit homes.

Dressed up in brick, this Sears Sunbeam is in very good condition.

Dressed up in brick, this Sears Sunbeam is in very good condition.

To read about the kit homes in Roanoke, click here.

To learn how to identify a kit home, click here.

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

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