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Posts Tagged ‘aladdin kit home’

Jacksonville, Illinois and Their Many Kit Homes!

November 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 13 comments

In August 2014, I traveled to Jacksonville to get photos of two Gordon Van Tine homes that were built side-by-side in the early 1920s and featured in a promotional booklet. While I was there, I drove around the rest of the city and discovered several kit homes, from several different companies!

And bear in mind, this was a quick trip in search of the “low-hanging fruit,” so I’m sure there are many more kit homes in Jacksonville.

Perhaps most interesting is that Jacksonville has more kit homes from Gordon Van Tine than any other company. Gordon Van Tine was a kit home company based in Davenport, Iowa.

I also found kit homes from Montgomery Ward and Aladdin.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if Jacksonville hired me to return and do a proper survey and give a talk? Heck yes!

These blogs - which feature one city’s many kit homes - take many, many hours to prepare and write up, so if you enjoy the following pictures, please take a moment and share it with others, or best of all - SHARE IT on your Facebook page.

Enjoy the pictures!

To contact Rose, leave a comment below!

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Barrington

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

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house house

Here's a beautiful Barrington in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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thishouse

This Barrington is another beauty. It needs some paint, but retains its original cedar shakes and wooden windows. All that's missing is the original hospitality bench (as seen in the catalog image above).

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1940

The Sears Wilmore as seen in the 1940 catalog (Sears last "Modern Homes" catalog).

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Sears Wilmore

Tihs may well be the prettiest Sears Wilmore I've ever seen. The picket fence is a lovely touch.

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house 1919

Aladdin was another kit home company, and was larger than Sears. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906 and didn't cease until 1981. Aladdin sold about 75,000 homes during their 75 years in business.

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Aladdin Pomona

Perfect Aladdin Pomona just outside of Jacksonville. It has the original windows with diamond muntins.

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1919 Detroit

The Aladdin Detroit was almost as popular as the Pomona (1919 catalog).

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Aladdin Detroit

Is this an Aladdin Detroit? I'd say it is. Probably. An interior inspection would settle the question.

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GVT Hudson

The Hudson was a fine-looking Tudoresque Gordon Van Tine house.

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GVT Hudson

As a commercial structure, this GVT Hudson is a bit garish, but it's still recognizable.

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househouse

Check out the elaborate doorway with its broken pediment detailing .

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GVT Hudson

And there it is! Looking just like the catalog image above!

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Twinkies Proof

Mr. Fernandes' Twinkies appeared in a 1920s Gordon Van Tine publication, "Proof of the Pudding." Apparently, the North Clay address was Mr. Fernandes' business address, and not the site of the two homes. The model name was "The Roycroft." Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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Twinkies

Mr. Fernandes' Twinkies in 2014. Do the folks in Jacksonville know that these two houses are Gordon Van Tine "Roycrofts"? Based on my research, odds are good that the homeowners don't know what they have.

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GVT 1916

This was an advertisement for GVT Model 583 which appeared in a 1916 magazine (courtesy Rachel Shoemaker).

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GVT 1916 583

Close-up of the Gordon Van Tine 583 (1916). Note the small window on the front gable.

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house

A perfect GVT #583 in Jacksonville! And look at the little window in the gable!

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1926 catalog

Model #603 was one of many Dutch Colonials offered by Gordon Van Tine (1926)

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house house

Despite the abundance of trees, I'm confident that this is GVT #603. It's a good match on the home's sides as well (not visible from this not-so-great photo).

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This is

The Gordon Van Tine #615 is easy to identify due to the unique window arrangement on the side, including the through-the-cornice shed dormer, and the three windows on the 2nd floor front.

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house house

And here's the Gordon Van Tine #615 looking picture perfect!

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Cranford

The Montgomery Ward "Cranford" (1930 catalog) is another house that's easy to identify because it's full of unique angles. It's a Dutch Colonial with two gables stuck on its front. Easy to spot!

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house house cranmore

Is this a Wardway Cranmore? Sure looks like it to me!

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Jacksonville certainly has many more kit homes than I identified during my 60-minute drive through town. If you’d like to contact Rose about coming to Jacksonville, please leave a comment below.

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To learn more about the GVT Twinkies I found in Jacksonville, click here.

Click here to see another impressive collection of kit homes in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

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

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The Day I Saw My First Fairy!

February 8th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

About 14 years ago, I excitedly dashed into the living room of our old house in Alton, Illinois and exclaimed to the husband, “I just saw my first Fairy!”

Unfazed, he didn’t even look up from his desk, but merely asked, “And what kind of fairy was it?”

“It was a Sears House,” I replied. “A very small kit home, the Sears ‘Fairy’”!

As I recall, he shook his head slightly and offered no further commentary.

Nonetheless, it was an exciting day for me.

The Sears Fairy was one of their smaller homes (only 616 square feet), and it was cute and well-designed and low-priced. As of 1929, it was a mere $993 which (even then) was a solid value.

According to Houses by Mail, the Fairy was first offered in 1925, but I’ve since found it in a catalog from Fall 1923.

In 1933, the Fairy was renamed “The Culver” and given a little face lift. The front door and living room window were transposed, and the front porch was changed from a pergola to a gabled roof. The floorplan was precisely the same in the two houses.

By 1934, it was gone and never reappeared in any of the subsequent catalogs.

Interestingly, “culver” comes from the old English word “culfre” which means dove. I wonder if the wordsmiths at Sears knew the correlation between the two words, fairy and culver.

I’m betting they did.

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In 1929, the Fairy was priced at just under $1,000.

In 1929, the Fairy was priced at just under $1,000.

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Tiny house

The Fairy had about 600 square feet of living space.

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But housewives love it...

But housewives love it...

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And for the

Not a bad-looking house for under $1,000.

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Heres one in Elgin, IL

Here's one in Elgin, IL.

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And heres one

And here's one in Evanston, Illinois. Photo is courtesy Jaimie Brunet, copyright 2013 and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another

Jaimie loves her "Fairy" and in a recent email she said, "It's been the perfect house for us!" Photo is courtesy Jaimie Brunet, copyright 2013 and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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remnant

If you take a good look at this edge of the porch, you can see the remnant of the original pergola frame and porch columns. The gabled porch is a nice addition, and in keeping with The Culver (shown below). Photo is courtesy Jaimie Brunet, copyright 2013 and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Culver

In 1933, the Fairy was given a little facelift and renamed "The Culver."

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identical

Prices are no longer given, but the payments were $25 a month (15 year mortgage, 6%).

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identical

Compare the two floorplans and you'll see that the Fairy (left) and Culver (right) are identical. Well, except that the Culver has more bushes around it.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another fascinating blog, click here.

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Do You Have 60 Seconds To Save A Sears House? (Part II)

July 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

Update!! This house is now scheduled for demolition on August 7th. Click here to read the latest!

A Sears House from Montgomery Ward?

Yes, it’s true! But the sad news is, it’s slated for immediate demolition.

Friday afternoon, I wrote a blog about the Sears Lewiston* at Bowling Green State University. Currently this old kit house (circa 1932) is home to the university’s “Pop Culture Department.”

According to an article that appeared in the Toledo Blade, Bowling Green State University has decided that the house must go.  A specific date hasn’t been given, but the school wants the building gone before classes begin on August 20th.

An online petition has been created in the hopes of saving This Old House.  Please sign the petition by clicking here!

And in my professional opinion, this house should be saved.

Not just because it’s an historically significant kit house, ordered out of a mail-order catalog and shipped in 12,000 pieces to the Bowling Green Train Depot and assembled by an old family of Bowling Green, using only a 75-page instruction book and 14 pages of blue prints, and not just because it’s a piece of irreplaceable American and a piece of our heritage and culture… (And yet, those should be enough reasons to save this house…)

This little Neo-Tudor in Bowling Green should be saved for two additional (and uniquely compelling) reasons.

1)  The personal story about how this house came to be: This kit house was purchased from Montgomery Ward in late 1931 or very early 1932. The home’s buyer was Virgil Taylor, the son of Jasper and Mae Taylor. Jasper Taylor was the County Treasurer.

Virgil built this kit home on a lot that he’d been gifted by his parents. Imagine, hauling 12,000 pieces of house from the train depot in Bowling Green to the building lot. That, in and of itself, was a monumental task.

Virgil also obtained a mortgage from Montgomery Ward, so this means that the kit house had to “completed and ready for occupancy in four months.”

Virgil had to hustle.

In 1936, the Great Depression must have hit Virgil hard. He lost the house to foreclosure, and it went back to Montgomery Ward. For a short time, Montgomery Ward rented out the little house and then it was sold to the college in the late 1930s.

This is an amazing story because it’s an encapsulation of life during the the early 1930s. Dad wants to help son get a start in life. Dad gives son a free lot. Son buys a kit home, and working nights and weekends, he builds the house. As he builds it (probably working side-by-side with Dad), both men think about the security that “a home of his own” will give to young Virgil.

As he painstakingly drives in each of the many nails in this kit (about 750 pounds of nails), he thinks about growing old in this house, and maybe someday bringing a wife and child into his “home.” And then the Great Depression hits and Virgil loses everything, including his beloved home and the lot his parents gave him. And the happy memories of working with Dad. And the joy of building something with his own hands. And all the faith and hopeful expectation about his future, secure in a home of his own.

All of it gone, washed away by the economic tsunami of the 1930s.

Losing a house is hard. Losing a home that you built with your own two hands must be excruciating.

Now that’s a compelling story, but there’s yet another reason that this house has captured my fancy.

2) Virgil’s house is a Sears kit home (The Lewiston*) and yet it was ordered from Montgomery Ward.

Yeah, you read that right.

This is not unheard of, but it is pretty darn unusual. Apparently, Virgil fell in love with the Sears Lewiston and yet - for reasons we haven’t discovered yet - had an allegiance or connection to Montgomery Ward. Virgil apparently sent a photo of the house to Wards and asked them to build him this Sears House.

When I first heard that this was a Montgomery Ward house, I was a tiny bit incredulous. Dale Wolicki and I co-authored a book (”Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward”), and I can tell you, they never offered a kit home that looked anything like the Lewiston.

And then Raymond I. Schuck sent me some photos (shown below). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward. But it’s not a Ward’s house.

Our priority is saving this house, so please - before you gaze upon the awesome photos below - take a moment and sign this online petition. Please forward this link to every old house lover you know and ask them to do the same. Post the link on your Facebook page. Tweet this page. Spread the word.

This online petition is easy to use and loads fast. This won’t take more than 60 seconds of your time.

* The persistent asterisk is because I’m not sure how to label this house. It’s a Sears Lewiston, ordered from Montgomery Ward.

This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

This is the Sears Lewiston (ordered from Wards) that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

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The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

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And heres one of those interesting turns! This

Lumber inside this "Sears Lewiston" states that the house was ordered from Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, Iowa. Unlike Sears, Montgomery Ward did not have a "Modern Homes Department." All orders for Wardway Homes were turned over to Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company) for fulfillment. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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House

Another piece of lumber shows that the house was shipped to the train depot at Bowling Green, Ohio. The address (128 No. Church Street) was Virgil's home at the time. He lived with his parents prior to building this house. The number (29722) is probably a model number, but it could be an order number. Next to the number is Virgil's name! "V. H. Taylor." Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears Willard shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears "Willard" shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

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And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Tomorrow, I’ll write a blog showcasing a few of the kit homes that Dale found in Bowling Green.

To read one of the many reasons that I think this house should be saved, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

A Beautiful Saratoga in Mukwonago, Wisconsin

March 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

My great aunt Addie has a lot of friends in Wisconsin. Even though Addie has been dead 111 years, she’s still a popular girl and Addie has more than 450 friends on Facebook.

At this website, my blogs on Addie have been viewed by more than 40,000 people.

And thanks to Addie, I’ve become friends with a woman named Heather who lives in Wisconsin. Heather reminds me of my own daughters. Heather is incredibly intelligent, well-read, sagacious, and best of all, she has a compassionate heart. Smart people are a blast, but when you find someone who’s smart and kind and wise, that’s a wonderful thing.

Heather possesses all those qualities. And she loves Sears Homes, too!

Recently, Heather found and photographed a beautiful old Sears House in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. It’s quite a house, and it’s in largely original condition.

To learn about the “Good, better, best” quality offered in the Sears Roebuck catalog, click here.

Sears Saratoga

Sears Saratoga, as seen in the 1922 catalog. Look at the price!

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Saratoga

Saratoga in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, looking much like it did when it was built more than 90 years ago. (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Saratoga house

Close-up of the line drawing in the 1922 catalog.

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Saratoga window

Detail on the Saratoga's ornate window

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Park Avenue window

And what a perfect match it is to the original picture! (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Detail on the columns

The columns are also a perfect match to the old catalog image. (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Column

Column as seen in the 1922 catalog.

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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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The Sears Ivanhoe

June 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Magnolia was Sears biggest and best kit home, but the Ivanhoe was a close second. In my travels, I’ve only seen a handful.

One of them was in Lewisburg, WV and the other was in Elmhurst, Illinois (see pictures of these homes below). I found a third in Northern Illinois but neglected to note the city. Carol Parish (Monmouth, IL) sent in a picture of an especially beautiful (and original) Ivanhoe in her city.

According to the testimonials found in the old Sears Modern Homes’ catalogs (and referenced in Rebecca Hunter’s book), there’s a Sears Ivanhoe in West Point, Virginia, but it faces the waterfront and despite letters written to the owners, I’ve not been able to get a photograph.

Recently I was scanning some old paperwork and stumbled across the Sears Ivanhoe (LaGrange, IL) featured in a Sears roofing brochure. I’d love to get a current photo of this BRICK Ivanhoe!  :)

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This Ivanhoe is located in LaGrange, IL. I wonder if it's still standing!

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Close-up of the letter written someone whose signature is illegible in a city whose name is misspelled. It's LaGrange, not LaGrauge.

Below are the Ivanhoes in Lewiston, West Virginia, Elmhurst, Illinois, and an unknown city in northern Illinois.

First, the original catalog image.

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog

Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe floorplan, second floor.

Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe floorplan, first floor.

Ivanhoe in Elmhurst, IL

Ivanhoe in Elmhurst, IL

And heres

And this beautiful Ivanhoe is in Monmouth, IL. Thanks to Carol Parish for snapping the photo and sending it along!!

Ivanhoe in Lewiston

Ivanhoe in Lewisburg, WV

This Ivanhoe is somewhere in Northern Illiois, but not sure where. The photo was taken in 2002.

This Ivanhoe is in Northern Illinois - somewhere (2002).

If you know of the location of an Ivanhoe, please leave a comment below. And if you own an Ivanhoe and would like to send me a picture, please do!  Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

If you’ d like to read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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!

here

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!

hou

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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Aladdin Babies

March 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

One of my favorite parts of playing with kit homes is reading the testimonials in the back pages, from happy customers. Today, as I was scanning a 1914 catalog, I came across this testimonial.   The writer is Charles Stoffel, and he explains that he’s quite pleased with his new home, the Kentucky #2, which was finished in January 1913.  His baby girl, Maxim Stoffel, was born about a month later. The house was built in Mechanicsville, Iowa.

This picture helps give perspective on these houses.  An Aladdin baby, born in 1913 (when the Aladdin kit home was built), would now be 98 years old.

And I’d bet money the Stoffel family doesn’t know that great-grandma’s baby picture is in an old Aladdin catalog.  :)

If  you know where this house is in Mechanicsville, please leave a comment below! Or if you know the Stoffel family, please forward this link to them.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Aladdin Baby

Aladdin Baby

Aladdin

The testimonial from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Kentucky

Here's the catalog picture of the Kentucky Kit home that Charles Stoffel built, and little Maxim was born in. It's in Mechanicsville, Iowa.

Aladdin

Another view of the Aladdin Kentucky, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Kentucky

Actual photograph of the Kentucky from the 1914 catalog.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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The Kit Homes of Colonial Place (Norfolk, Virginia)

February 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

From 2002-2006, I gave about 200 lectures in 24 states and the #1 most frequently asked question I received was, “Do you live in a Sears Home?

No, I don’t, but I do live amongst them.  :)

In January 2007, I was married to a Norfolk resident and in February 2007, we moved into a 1925 center-hallway Colonial Revival in Colonial Place.

It’s not a kit house, but there are several here in Colonial Place and Park Place (and one in Riverview). Most of the kit homes in Norfolk are not from Sears, but Aladdin. Based in Bay City, Michigan, this was another mail-order kit house company. They had a large mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, so it’s not surprising to find so many Aladdin kit homes in our area.

Enjoy the photos!

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia!

Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia! This is one of my favorite kit homes - ever. It's in wonderful condition and it's a spot-on match to the original catalog image! Part of what makes this house such a treasure is that it's in original condition.

Wow.

Wow.

Wow

What a beauty.

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Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza as seen in the 1919 catalog.

An interesting aside: The Pungo Grill in Virginia Beach is also an Aladdin Plaza. Click here to learn more.

Perfect Aladdin Plaza. Just perfect.

Perfect Aladdin Plaza. Just perfect.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

This Pomona has seen some changes in its many decades of life, but still retains its classic lines.

This Pomona has seen some changes in its many decades of life, but still retains its classic lines. Notice the eave brackets, and compare them to the original catalog picture.

The Aladdin Venus was one of their most popular houses.

The Aladdin Venus was one of their most popular houses.

Close-up of the Aladdin Venus

Close-up of the Aladdin Venus

Looking a little rough around the edges, this Aladdin Venus still retains many original features.

It's had siding added and original railings removed, but this Aladdin Venus still retains many original features. There's a second Aladdin Venus in Park Place on 35th Street.

Notice the original wooden casement windows are still in place, now hidden behind double-hung aluminum storm windows.

Notice the original wooden casement windows are still in place, now hidden behind double-hung aluminum storm windows.

Aladdin Sheffield

Aladdin Sheffield

Despite the fact that the front porch on this house is quite different from the Aladdin Sheffield (pictured above), Im still quite certain this house is an Aladdin kit home. The Sheffield has a number of quirky details that are unusual, and the subject house has each and every one of those quirks.

Despite the fact that the front porch on this house is quite different from the Aladdin Sheffield (pictured above), I'm still quite certain this house is an Aladdin kit home. The Sheffield has a number of quirky details that are unusual, and the subject house has each and every one of those quirks. Unfortunately, this is not a great photo, and the angle is wrong. One of the funny features of the Sheffield is the fireplace chimney on the other side. It cuts right through the eaves of the second-floor dormer window (as does this Sheffield in CP).

Aladdin Lamberton

Aladdin Lamberton

Its done up pretty in brick, and its had many modifications, but Im 97.736% certain that this is an Aladdin Lamberton.

It's done up pretty in brick, and it's had many modifications, but I'm 97.736% certain that this is an Aladdin Lamberton.

This is the only Wardway House I know of in Colonial Place. Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit home business. Montgomery Ward sold about 25,000 homes. Not surprisingly, there are very few Wardway Homes in Hampton Roads area.

This is the only Wardway House I know of in Colonial Place. Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Seems like this house should be located on Michigan Avenue, since it is the Wardway Michigan. Ive always wondered how we ended up with a Michigan Avenue in a neighborhood named after the 13 original colonies.

Seems like this house should be located on Michigan Avenue, since it is the Wardway Michigan. I've always wondered how we ended up with a Michigan Avenue in a neighborhood named after the 13 original colonies.

In addition to kit homes, we also have pattern book houses in CPRV, such as this Regent from a 1926 pattern book. Interested homebuyers would order blueprints from a pattern book. Typically, your purchase price would also include a detailed inventory of all the building materials youd need for your new home.

In addition to kit homes, we also have "pattern book houses" in CPRV, such as this "Regent" from a 1926 pattern book. Interested homebuyers would order blueprints from a pattern book. Typically, your purchase price would also include a detailed inventory of all the building materials you'd need for your new home.

This Regent is a perfect match to the pattern book page (above). THeres another Regent in Larchmont.

This "Regent" is a perfect match to the pattern book page (above). THere's another "Regent" in Larchmont.

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Wardway, there was also Lewis Manufacturing. Heres a Lewis Manufacturing kit home, The San Fernando. BTW the bungalow craze started (in the early 1900s) in California, hence all the Californian names for these bungalows!

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Wardway, there was also Lewis Manufacturing. Here's a Lewis Manufacturing kit home, The San Fernando. BTW the bungalow craze started (in the early 1900s) in California, hence all the Californian names for these bungalows!

Is this a Lewis San Fernando? Hard to tell for sure, but it sure looks like it. However, this is precisely why its so difficult to identify kit homes. Closeness does not count. Precision does.

Is this a Lewis San Fernando? Hard to tell for sure, but it sure looks like it. However, this is precisely why it's so difficult to identify kit homes. Closeness does not count. Precision does.

And onto the kit homes in Park Place…

Like Colonial Place, Park Place also has several kit homes. This house (see picture below) was from Gordon Van Tine, a kit home company based in Davenport, Iowa. As you can see from the original catalog picture, it was a fine and spacious home.

Park Place

The ad promises that this is an "exceptionally well planned" home!

Is this a Gordon Van Tine #703? Again, without inspecting the homes interior, its hard to be sure.

Is this a Gordon Van Tine #703? Again, without inspecting the home's interior, it's hard to be sure.

Another spacious foursquare is the Aladdin Wenonah.

Another spacious foursquare is the Aladdin Wenonah.

The Wenonah was an unusual home and this is the only one Ive seen in my many travels. Its in Park Place.

The Wenonah was an unusual home and this is the only one I've seen in my many travels. It's in Park Place.

Whitehall

Sears Whitehall, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Whitehall

Whitehall in the flesh on 26th Street.

Sears Lebanon. Note the flowerbox in front of the second floor windows.

Sears Lebanon. Note the flowerbox in front of the second floor windows.

Lebanon in Park Place area

Sears Lebanon on 26th Street. This Lebanon is missing its flower box, but still has the wooden support brackets jutting out from the wall.

Sears Americus

Sears Americus

Americus in nearby Park Place

This Sears Americus still retains so many of the unique features that make it so distinctive. Notice how the front porch roof extends well beyond the home's width? And the second floor juts out a bit (on the right) but the first floor is flat across the front. Unfortunately, those eave brackets have been covered in great gobs of aluminum. Ick. This house has been converted into a duplex (sigh) and is on a main drag in Park Place.

My pretty pretty house on Gosnold

My pretty pretty house on Gosnold is not a Sears House.

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

To read about the Sears Homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

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

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Shocking Wheat and Dirty Smut and Building Delays

August 13th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In 1918, Standard Oil of Indiana made mail-order history when they placed a $1 million order with Sears Roebuck & Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. It was purported to be the largest order in the history of the Sears Modern Homes department. Standard Oil purchased the houses for their refinery workers in Southwestern Illinois.

Of those 192 houses, 156 went to Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 were sent to Wood River. Throughout the 1920s, pictures of these homes were prominently featured in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

Construction of the 156 houses took nine months, not six as expected. The reason? A nationwide shortage of wheat. Charles Fitzgerald, spokesman for Standard Oil and Manager of Houses explained to The Chicago Daily Tribune (November 3, 1919) what happened.

“The company (Standard Oil) purchased a forty acre wheat field and the government would not permit the destruction of the crop,” he said. “On the first home, we were erecting the studding while the harvesters were shocking wheat twenty yards away.”

According to the papers of the day, “smut” was another reason for the wheat shortage. When I first read about smut and the wheat shortage, I imagined a large group of idle field workers, sitting cross-legged in the expansive fields, poring over magazines with pictures of scantily-clad women.

Smut, I later learned, is a particularly nasty fungus that creates black, odious spores and ruins wheat crops. In 1919, smut damaged a large proportion of America’s wheat fields.

And “shocking” was another interesting term. As a city girl, I’d never heard that phrase before. “Wheat shockers” are the field workers who bundle up the wheat.

While doing research for my book The Houses that Sears Built, I read hundreds of newspaper and articles from the early 1900s and learned that there is a wholly different vernacular for that time period. Words have different meaning in different times.

One of the Sears Homes in Wood River, Illinois - part of that $1 million order that Standard Oil    placed  in the late 1910s. There are 24 of these Sears Homes in a row on 9th Street in Wood River. The 12 Sears Homes built in Schoper, Illinois were torn down in the 1930s.

Pictured above is a Sears Madelia, one of the Sears Homes in Wood River, Illinois - part of that $1 million order that Standard Oil placed in the late 1910s. There were 24 of Sears Homes in a row on 9th Street in Wood River, and one was torn down to make way for a street widening. The 12 Sears Homes built in Schoper, Illinois were torn down in the 1930s, and the 152 in Carlinville still remain, but many are in poor condition.

Another Sears Madelia, and this one is in Carlinville

Another Sears Madelia, and this one is in Carlinville

Carlinville, IL

Carlinville, IL

Sears Madelia in Carlinville

Sears Madelia in Carlinville

Madelia in Carlinville

Madelia in Carlinville

Carlinville

Carlinville

Carlinville

Carlinville