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Kit Homes in Kinston - What a Bonanza!

January 25th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Was I surprised to find 19 Aladdin kit homes in Kinston? My oh my, yes! And those 19 were found during a very quick windshield survey. There are more lurking about, I’m sure.

Last week, my husband and I visited New Bern, and while there, we drove out to Kinston to look at the local architecture. Lo and behold, we found an Aladdin kit home on almost every street in the older neighborhoods. In one memorable area (near Harding and Pollock Streets) we found seven Aladdin homes together.

The older suburbs we visited had many wide-open spaces, suggesting that many of these early 20th Century kit homes have already been demolished.

If you’re new to this website, you may be wondering, what is a kit home? In the early 1900s, aspiring homeowners could order a “kit home” from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that the neophyte homebuilder could have the house ready for  occupancy in 90 days. In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, such as Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) and Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

Aladdin was bigger than Sears, in business longer, and sold more homes than Sears, but they’re not as well known as Sears. Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, which explains why Aladdin Homes were so popular in the Southeast.

Based on my research, the overwhelming majority of people living in these kit homes didn’t know what they had, until I contacted them (or they discovered their home on my blog).

What was the industry that promoted Kinston’s growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? Industries often turned to Aladdin to supply housing for the workers. It’s likely that someone turned to Aladdin for the houses we’re now finding in Kinston, but who was it?

Lastly, before we get into the photos, I’m hoping some progressive-minded soul in Kinston will contact me about coming back to town to do a thorough survey. Perhaps identifying these bungalows as historically significant kit homes can be a key to revitalizing parts of Kinston.

Let’s hope.

Contact Rose by leaving a comment below.

In addition to the 19 Aladdin homes, I found a lone Gordon Van Tine home: The Peach House Restaurant! And it’s a real beauty! You can read more about that by clicking here!

You can read here about the kit homes I found in New Bern, NC.

UPDATE! We found a Montgomery Ward kit home in Kinston, too!

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1914 Moosejaw

Aladdin sold more homes than Sears, but was not as well known.

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1916

What was the industry that promoted Kinston's growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? It seems very likely that *that* employer turned to Aladdin to supply worker homes in Kinston.

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houses

Aladdin had catalogs devoted to "solving the problem of industrial housing."

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Aladdin 1916

Aladdin was named for the magical genie who built "a house in a day" for his master. Apparently, Old Genie is perusing the latest catalog to find a snappy design.

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1919

The Shadow Lawn is one of my favorites. It was spacious and beautiful (1919).

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Shadow two

When I drove in Kinston, the first house I spotted was this Aladdin Shadowlawn on Lenoir Avenue. Looks like it walked right off the pages of the 1919 catalog (shown above).

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Shadow

During our brief time in Kinston, I initially missed this Shadowlawn (another beauty) on Atlantic Avenue. Shown above is a screenshot from Google Maps. It's another delightfully original house.

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1916

The "Colonial" was probably Aladdin's biggest (and fanciest) kit home.

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19 Colonial

And there's one in Kinston! Do the owners know that they're living in a kit home?

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1919 Classic Bungalow

The Pomona was a classic early 20th Century bungalow (1919).

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Pollock 805

This was my favorite Pomona in Kinston (which has three of them). This house still as so many of its original features, including the half-timber effect on the porch gable, original windows with diamond muntins and those rectangular eave brackets. And that appears to be an old wooden storm door.

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305 Washington

This Pomona on Washington Street is also a lovely home, but its windows have been replaced.

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810 Collge

The years have not been kind to this Pomona on College Street.

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Carolina 1923

In all my travels, I'd never seen an Aladdin "Carolina." It seems fitting that there are not one but two Carolinas in Kinston, North Carolina. This image is from the 1923 catalog.

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605 Rhem

This Carolina on Rhem Street is in picture-perfect condition.

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308 Capitol

This is an Aladdin "Carolina" and it does have its original windows, so that's a plus. It's had some insensitive remodeling. Anything salt-treated on an old house is just not a good plan.

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Willard 1919

I've not seen that many "Willards" in my travels, but there are two in Kinston (1919).

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Details

It's also a cute little house with lots of interesting details and features.

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Willard 413 Harding

And this Willard on Harding Street is perfect - right down to the lattice!

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Willard on Harding

From every angle, it's a beauty!

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Porch

And it's astounding that 100 years later, that lattice is still in such good shape.

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811 Pollock

On an opposing corner, I found this Willard which has had some remodeling, but still looks a lot like a Willard. It's a pity that the guy-wire got in the way of an otherwise perfect picture.

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1919

The Virginia was a popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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310 Capitola

This "Virginia" on Capitola Street is next door to the Carolina shown above!

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Capitola

Okay, so we lost the little girl (in the image on the right) and gained a trash can, but other than that, it's a lovely match. And a pretty house, too!

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Florence 1916

The Florence was a popular house for Aladdin and I've found an abundance of these in North Carolina's mill towns. There are two Florence models in Kinston.

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Florence

And they're across the street from each other. This is on Harding.

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406 Harding

And so is this one.

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1919 BLVD

The Aladdin Boulevard was not a hugely popular house (1919).

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BLVD

But it is distinctive with that low shed dormer and the window arrangement. The Boulevard has 12/1 windows on the front porch (1919).

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Street

This was the first "Boulevard" I've ever seen. On this model, someone took out those living windows when they put in that fireplace. There's also an addition on the rear of the house.

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House

In this picture, you can see those 12/1 windows on the Kinston "Boulevard."

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1924 Sunshine

The "Sunshine" was a popular house with a really cute name (1924).

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Sunshine

"You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine..." This was the only Sunshine we found in Kinston.

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Street

These four models were lined up like little soldiers in a row on Pollock Street in Kinston.

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Harassment Street

The Willard is to the far left, with the Sunshine next, the Boulevard beyond it, and the Pomona at the end of the run. Kitty-corner to this Willard was The Perfect Willard, and the two Florences are behind this WIllard. These are the seven Aladdins mentioned above.

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Bruns 1923

I've been looking for an Aladdin Brunswick for a long time, butt prior to coming to Kinston, I'd never laid eyes on the real deal (1923 catalog).

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509 Washington

And Kinston has two of them. This house is on West Washington.

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Brunsh

A distinctive feature of the Brunswick is this window arrangement on the side of the house. The centered window is a staircase-landing window. The small windows are closet windows.

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Brusnswisk

This is another house that I missed on my first drive through town, and found when I was double-checking addresses via Google Maps. It's in pitiable shape. It's just off Perry and Atlantic, and just around the corner from that stunning Aladdin Shadowlawn. I hope this home has a hope of restoration.

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GVT

And the Gordon Van Tine #705 was the only non-Aladdin home I found in Kinston.

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Moo

Now this is a beautiful house - and it's also a restaurant!

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Gustatory Delights

Had we only been more familiar with the delicious delights offered at The Gordon Van Tine #705 Restaurant, errr, the "Peach House" we would have stopped there for lunch!

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At the end of the day,

At the end of our trip to Kinston, Hubby was mighty glad to get back to our "home away from home," The Aerie Bed and Breakfast in New Bern. He was tired of looking at houses.

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You can visit The Peach House website here.

To read about what I found in nearby New Bern, click here.

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A Real Peach Of A House - in Kinston, NC

January 24th, 2016 Sears Homes 6 comments

It’d sure be fun to learn more about the history of Kinston, North Carolina. When my husband and I were there last week, we found a surfeit of Aladdin kit homes, and yet there in the middle of all these Aladdin Homes, we spotted a Gordon Van Tine #705 in peachy-keen condition!

Later, we learned that this beautiful old bungalow is also a restaurant, known as The Peach House, and better yet, it’s received many rave reviews. When we return to Kinston, I’d love to drop in for lunch!

A little bit about kit homes: In the early 1900s, you could order a “kit home” from the Sears Roebuck catalog. These 12,000-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, such as Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) and Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

It’s not surprising to find so many Aladdins in this part of the country, because Aladdin had a large mill in nearby Wilmington, North Carolina. Finding a GVT is a bit of a surprise!

Thanks so much to Joni McRae for sharing information on The Peach House and providing additional photos!

We found 19 Aladdin kit homes in Kinston. See the photos here!

You can visit The Peach House website here.

To read about what I found in nearby New Bern, click here.

And there’s Roanoke Rapids, which has a large collection of Aladdin Homes.

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Gordon Van Tine #705

Gordon Van Tine #705 as seen in the 1918 catalog.

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Cool

Model #705 featured four bedrooms, but none of them were very large.

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Now thats a fine-looking house.

Now that's a fine-looking house.

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And there

That is one beautiful house! And the color makes me swoon. Photo is copyright 2015 Joni McRae and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A historically sensitive addition was added to the homes rear.

A "historically sensitive" addition created extra living space. Photo is copyright 2015 Joni McRae and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And even though its an über-crummy picture, it shows the OTHER side of this perfect peach.

And even though it's an über-crummy picture, it shows the OTHER side of this perfect peach. (Yes, it's my photo. I thought I had a moment to snap this picture in peace, and then a car turned in just behind me. )

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It was a peach of a house 30 years ago, even though it was plain old white.

It was a peach of a house 40 years ago, even though it was plain old white. Photo is courtesy Joni McRae.

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And you can go inside and have a snack!

Best of all, you can go inside The Peach House and have lunch ! For more information, visit their website at www.peachhousenc.com. The house is located at 412 W. Vernon Avenue, Kinston.

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Last but not least, heres another GVT #705 I found in my Aunt Addies hometown, Lake Mills, Wisconsin.

Last but not least, here's another GVT #705 I found in my Aunt Addie's hometown, Lake Mills, Wisconsin.

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This factory in Kinston appears abandoned, and yet its surrounded by a surfeit on Aladdin kit homes. Was this an old mill? Id love to know.

This factory in Kinston appears abandoned, and yet it's surrounded by a surfeit of Aladdin kit homes. Was this an old mill? I'd love to know.

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Thanks so much to Joni McRae for sharing information on The Peach House and providing additional photos!

To read about what I found in nearby New Bern, click here.

And there’s Roanoke Rapids, which has a large collection of Aladdin Homes.

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New Bern’s Numerous and Nobby Kit Homes (Or “How I Spent My Second Honeymoon Last Week”)

January 21st, 2016 Sears Homes 11 comments

How did New Bern come to have so many kit homes? Is it because of New Bern’s proximity to Aladdin’s largest mill in Wilmington, North Carolina? Perhaps, but how does that explain the grandiose Sears Homes I found on Spencer Street?

It’s a mystery, but I hope it’s one that this community will fully explore!

What is a kit home?

Sears is the best-known name in the kit home business, and they started selling houses through their mail-order catalogs in 1908. These “kits” came in a  boxcar in 12,000 pieces, and included a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house complete and ready for occupancy in about 90 days.

Sears closed their “Modern Homes Department” in 1940, and during a corporate house cleaning, all sales records were destroyed. The only way to find these homes today is literally one by one.

I’m confident that New Bern has many more kit homes than shown below. I saw less than 30% of the town, and I went through that 30% very  quickly! I’d love to return to New Bern soon and do a proper, thorough street-by-street survey.

If you enjoy the information and pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog on New Bern, click here.

Read about The Peach House in nearby Kinston here.

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New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state?

New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state? Most likely, yes. Image is from the 1923 Aladdin catalog.

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One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin Hampshire located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin "Hampshire" located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

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This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s.

This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s. It's a beautiful little house in wonderful condition. And it retains its original casement windows!

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Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes.

Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes, and the small fixed sashes flanking the fireplace. It's a thrill to see a 90-year-old house in original condition.

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What a cutie!

What a cutie! The house in New Bern is "flipped" (the mirror image).

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The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins), Id say its very likely.

Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins within Ghent), I'd say it's likely.

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The Pomona was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Pomona was one of Aladdin's most popular homes. I saw two of these in New Bern, and neglected to capture the address of the second one. The first one (in Ghent) is shown below.

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Its a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Berns Historic Ghent neighborhood.

It's a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Bern's Historic Ghent neighborhood, on Spencer Avenue. It's definitely a Pomona, but has endured a great deal of remodeling. The front porch is 100% enclosed.

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The Aladdin Cape Cod (1923) was another popular kit home.

The Aladdin "Cape Cod" (1923) was another popular kit home.

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Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, Supersize Me?

Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, "Supersize Me"? It is a nice match to the Aladdin, but it's much too wide. It's likely that this is a pattern-book house, but I haven't been able to find a corresponding match in my collection of early 1900s pattern books. More than 30% of kit homes were customized, so it's possible this was ordered "extra large" from the Aladdin mill.

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Gordon Van Tine,  like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT Roberts

Gordon Van Tine, like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT "Roberts"(also known as the #560).

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And heres a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

And here's a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

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Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this

Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this house and those clipped gables are what first catch your eye. If you find this missing "Mt. Vernon," please give me an address (and a photo)!

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And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the Osborn as a bungalow from the West. Its distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the "Osborn" as a bungalow "from the Golden West." It's distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

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Alson

It's had some remodeling, but it's very likely that this house on Spencer Avenue is the real deal: A Sears Osborn. Check out the tapered chimney, rafter tails and detailing on the porch railing.

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The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

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That

That side entry (originally with a pergola) is a unique feature of the Roanoke, as is the wooden awning and symmetry on the home's front. It's so lovely to see that awning still in place. And look to the left. What's that next door?

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And whats that next door to the Roanoke?

Is that a Sears Chelsea? Hmmm...

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Boy oh boy, its hard to know for sure.

Boy oh boy, it's hard to know for sure. In that the "Chelsea" (also known as #111) in New Bern was built without a basement, that side with the staircase bay is not going to have a doorway under it (as shown here). I'd have to see this house up close and personal to make a positive ID. For now, I'd say it's a "definite maybe."

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Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Chelsea.

Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Saratoga.

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Is this a Sears Chelsea?

Is this a Sears Saratoga? The Saratoga is 30 feet across the front. This house in New Bern looks much wider than that. Again, was it supersized? It's another house that is a "definite possibility." I'd need to see the interior to make a proper judgement. It certainly is a good match in many other ways.

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The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

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What a glorious house!

What a glorious house, and it's in such beautiful condition!

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And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. Its the ONLY #178 Ive seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. It's the ONLY #178 I've seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

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What fun to scratch one more house off my never seen this model list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

What fun to scratch one more house off my "never seen this model" list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

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The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many kissing cousins that looked very similar.

The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many "kissing cousins" that looked very similar. The position of the shed dormer and the depth of that front-facing gable are good clues for this model.

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Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

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Last but not least is the sweet little Starlight (1921).

Last but not least is the sweet little "Starlight" (1921).

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Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd.

Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd. Stay strong, little Starlight. Perhaps help is coming. Either that, or you'll be eaten by Kudzu soon, and it'll all be over.

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If you enjoy the pretty pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog I did on New Bern, click here.

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Oh My! Who Knew That New Bern Had So Many Kit Homes!

January 19th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Fun times in New Bern!

Mr. Hubby and I just returned from a visit to New Bern, NC where we stayed at the Aerie Bed and Breakfast and spent the days seeing the sights (and looking for kit homes).

Within New Bern’s Ghent neighborhood, we found an abundance of kit homes, and (a nice bonus) one turquoise Lustron, (all-steel homes from the late 1940s).

My favorite two finds within Ghent were the Sears Milton, and - just across the street - a Sears Modern Home #178  facing the Sears Milton. And here’s what’s even more fun: In the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, Modern Home #178 was featured on the same page as the Milton.

And I was surprised to find that these two radically different houses - The Milton and Modern Home #178 - share an identical floor plan! I’ve been playing around with Sears Homes for 15+ years and never noticed that before.

The next blog will showcase a few of the two dozen kit homes I found in New Bern, but today, it’s all about the Milton and it’s fraternal twin, Modern Home #178.

To read more about the Milton, click here.

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The Milton and Modern Home

The Sears Milton and Modern Home #178: Two different models, one floor plan. Sears Homes were given names in 1918. Modern Home #264P210 survived long enough in the catalog to merit a name: The Milton. Modern Home #178's last year was 1914.

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Both

Two houses - one floorplan. The Sears Milton in New Bern (across the street from #178) was customized when built, and does not have the traditional two-story bay window.

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Two houses - one floorplan.

Both first and second floors are identical in the Milton and Modern Home #178.

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The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

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Notice

Notice the massive eaves, and cornice returns on this grand house. It's a very distinctive house (thus making it easier to spot). In the Miltons that I've seen, those pergolas have been converted into a roof, covering the expansive front porch. Notice also the dramatic bracketing on the eaves. Dentil molding is found at the top of the columns and around the eaves.

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The

Absent that two-story bay window, every other detail on this Milton is spot-on.

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house

Here's a close-up of those distinctive cornice returns.

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Another view of this

Another view of this grand old kit home in New Bern, NC.

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Between landscaping obstacles

A surfeit of landscaping obstacles made photographing this old house a challenge. Note the tapered board on the underside of the first-floor porch roof, with a small block at its center. This is also a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178.

And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178. Beautiful! There must be s a story here, as to how these two spacious (and fancy) Sears Homes were built just across the street from one another!

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A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

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One of these Miltons is not like the other!

"One of these Miltons is not like the other!" On the far left (in blue shirt) is my BFF, Milton Crum, with Jim Silverstorf (holding an antenna tuner). When I first told Milton (blue shirt) about the Sears Milton (white clapboards), Milton said, "Now that's a darn fine name for a house!"

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My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

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Isnt it a darling little house?

Isn't it a darling little house?

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To read more about the Sears Milton, click here.

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Montrose - or Something Like It…

December 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Sometimes, looks can be really deceiving.

Take Hubby for example. He’s a handsome fellow, and a tough-as-nails litigator, and yet he has a tender heart and a sweet nature.

Wayne

Wayne, the hubby. With his Christmas tie. And his tender heart.

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And heres another place where looks can be deceiving.

And here's another place where looks can be deceiving: Sears Homes and their clones. These are two different houses - theoretically. They sure do look alike.

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This is a Sears Montrose.

This is a Sears Montrose (1928).

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This is not.

This is a design from the 1923 Homebuilder's Catalog: "The Arlington."

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Heres the floorplan for the Sears Montrose (1st floor).

Here's the floorplan for the Sears Montrose (1st floor).

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Heres the floorplan for the other house.

Here's the floorplan for the Homebuilder's Arlington.

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Heres a comparison of the two - side by side.

When you compare the two side-by-side, you can see some minor differences, but not a lot. They're almost the same house. Interior room dimensions were shifted just a wee bit, but other than that, these two are mighty close.

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And a comparison of the second floor.

And a comparison of the second floor shows a few other minor differences - again - mainly with room dimensions. And these are line drawings, so the proportions are not always accurately reflected.

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So how do you distinguish these look-alikes? How can you tell if its a Sears House (or an Aladdin, or GVT or Lewis), or its twinkie from Homebuilders?

So how do you distinguish these look-alikes? How can you tell if it's a Sears House (or an Aladdin, or GVT or Lewis), or its twinkie from Homebuilder's?

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Its a question that may have no easy answer.

It's a question that may have no easy answer. Shown above is a Montrose in Kirkwood, MO.

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And within my collection of Sears Montroses - I am left wondering, how many of these are Homebuilders designs?

And within my collection of Sears "Montroses" - I wonder, how many of these are Homebuilder's designs? (House shown above is in Moorefield, WV.)

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Its a puzzler!

It's a puzzler! (Portsmouth, Virginia)

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Good thing theres only one Wayne! ;)

Good thing there's only one Wayne! ;)

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To learn more about the Montrose, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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Fenestration Devastation

December 15th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Years ago

Sometime in 2005 or 2006, a nice fellow named Bill Inge told me about a Sears Alhambra in his town. I'd heard of Bill through several mutual friends, but I had assumed he was some really old guy that wanted only to give me a 4-hour lecture on every thing I was doing wrong in my little career. Plus, 73% of the time, people who report a Sears House sighting are 100% wrong. When I pulled up to this house a little town in western Virginia, I was delighted to see that Bill was right: It was a Sears Alhambra.

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House

On January 1, 2007, I married a nice fellow named Wayne and moved to Norfolk (from Alton, IL), and that's when I met Bill Inge for the first time. He was not a tottering old man in his dotage (as I had suspected), but he was younger than me. In fact, he was an old soul (like me) who loved old houses and had become Norfolk's #1 architectural historian. And when I started spending all my spare time doing research at the Norfolk Library Local History Room, I got to know Bill. It was nice to meet someone equally rabid about historic architecture. Photo is copyright 2007 Dave Chance and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In 2007, I married a nice fellow named Wayne and moved to Norfolk, and thats when I met Bill Inge for the first time. He wasnt a tottering old man in his dotage (as I had suspected), but he was a little younger than me.

Everyone loves the Alhambra, and Bill told me that the Alhambra is his favorite Sears House, and there's one in his own neighborhood. How sweet is that? (1925 Sears Modern Homes Catalog)

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But then yesterday, I started receiving texts on my phone from Bill.

Bill contacted me and said that this lovely old Sears house (built 1923) was now "under the knife." It's always troubling to hear about an old house suffering these indignities.

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If you look

For 92 years, this house had a set of original wooden windows and then - in a quick moment - they were gone. Judging by this image, we must surmise that Santa was overcome by emotion. Photo is copyright 2015 Bill Inge and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Apparently some smooth-tongued traveling salesman (perhaps a masher) convinced the homeowner that double-glazed vinyl windows would pay for themselves in 27 years.

Apparently some smooth-tongued traveling salesman (perhaps a masher) convinced the homeowner that double-glazed vinyl windows would pay for themselves in 12 years (which is most likely not even close) or that the repairing the old wooden windows was just a chore (yes, they do need maintenance every 40 years or so), or perhaps the most egregious lie of all: Fancy new windows would give the house more value when it was sold. Photo is copyright 2015 Bill Inge and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What he did NOT

What he did NOT tell them is that low-to-mid-range vinyl windows typically have a lifespan of 15 years, and then they rot, crack, warp of the seals fail, and there is no repairing them. That's it. You're then on the roller-coaster of replacing those windows every 15-20 years for the rest of the home's life.

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What he did NOT tell them is that low-to-mid-range vinyl windows typically have a lifespan of 15 years, and then they rot, crack, warp of the seals fail, and there is no repairing them. Thats it. Youre then on the roller-coaster of replacing those windows every 15-20 years for the rest of the homes life.

Bill, being almost as "unique" as I am, attempted to salvage the old wooden windows from the Alhambra but someone beat him to it! I have a sneaking suspicion that they're not going into another Alhambra.

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House

I'm hesitant to name the city where this Fenestration Devastation occurred, but I can tell you this: This old Virginia mountain town is not kind to old houses. This is what happened to an Aladdin Colonial on a dead-end street, not terribly far from the Alhambra. The Colonial was one of Aladdin's biggest and best; key word - WAS.

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Im hestiant to name the Virginia city where this Fenestration Devastation occured, but I can tell you this: Theyre not kind to old houses. This is what happened to an Aladdin Colonial on a dead-end street, not terribly far from the Alhambra.

The Aladdin Colonial from the 1916 catalog.

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It’d be easy to write an entire blog on this topic alone: WHY you should save your home’s original windows, but this is a much better piece than I could write. Take a minute and read it.

To read more about the other kit homes I found in this unnamed Virginia town, click here.

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Waterview (Portsmouth, Virginia) and Their Plan Book Houses

October 20th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

An old friend (Margee) contacted me and said that her daughter had recently purchased a home in Waterview, our old stomping ground. Margee and I grew up together on Nansemond Street in Waterview, and we share many happy memories of that place and time.

Margee was wondering if the house was a kit home.

Here’s the answer.  :)

Margees daughter purchased this house in Waterview.

Margee's daughter purchased this 1930s house in Waterview. Like so many Waterview homes, it's a 1920s/30s two-story home with brick veneer and a Buckingham slate roof - the crème de la crème of all slate roofs. These homes are very well built and solid, and with minimal care and some love, this house will last another 100 years.

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Here's a view of the house as seen on Google.

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And heres a view of the house as seen in the 1927 Homebuilders Catalog.

And here's a view of the house as seen in the 1927 Home Builder's Catalog. Margee's daughter does *NOT* have a kit home, but it is a "Pattern Book" house. Pattern book homes were NOT the same as kit homes, but they were similar.

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With

With pattern book homes (such as "Home Builders" shown here), you'd select the house of your dreams and then you'd receive detailed blueprints and a list of the building materials you'd need for your new home. With kit homes, everything came in a one package - the design, blueprints and building materials.

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Brief review:

Kit house - everything in one package: Design, blueprints and building materials.

Pattern book house - design, blueprints and a LIST of the building materials you’d need to purchase to build your new home.

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TTT

Pattern book homes were hugely popular in the 1920s and 1930s (which is when the house in Waterview was built), and the 1927 book shown here had more than 1,000 pages.

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Many thanks to Google for getting the house from the same angle! The house in Waterview is brick, while the image from the pattern book is frame, and the side porch has been enclosed. Nonetheless, I'd say it's the same model.

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A little information on the front page tells more about the how-tos of buying a pattern book house.

A little information on the front page tells more about the "how-tos" of buying a pattern book house.

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Waterview is awash in pattern book houses, and Ive spent years trying to find the house of my youth (in Waterview) in a pattern book. Heretofore, Ive been unsuccessful.

Waterview is awash in pattern book houses, and I've spent years trying to find the house of my youth (in Waterview) in a pattern book. Heretofore, I've been unsuccessful.

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The older I get, the more I realize, Im an old soul lost in a love of all things historic, and thats ever more apparent when I reflect on memories of Margee, my childhood friend. When I think of Margee, this is where my mind travels.

Here's a picture of Margee and me in the late 1960s. That's my brother Tommy on the far left (guitar guy), and then me (sleepy girl), Margee, and my brother Eddie on the far right.

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To learn more about the amazing collection of pattern book homes in Waterview and nearby areas, click here.

Do  you think you have a kit home? Learn how to identify these early 20th Century treasures here.

Nostalgia buff? Read more about my own happy memories of Waterview here.

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Covington, Virginia and Douthat State Park

September 27th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week,

Last week, a friend and I traveled to Douthat State Park in Clifton Forge, VA to visit my favorite old haunt, Cabin #1. One of 38 cabins in the park, Cabin #1 is the only cabin with vertical logs. Douthat was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and it underwent a massive restoration in the late 1990s.

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Douthat State Park is a beautiful place, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Douthat State Park is a beautiful place, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lake Douthat offers fishing, boating and swimming. The lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout and other tasty fishies.

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There are bears throughout the 4,500+ acre park, but I didnt see any. Then again, I was too much of a wuss to hike but so far on these mountain paths.

There are bears throughout the 4,500+ acre park, but I didn't see any. Then again, I was too much of a wuss to hike but so far on these isolated mountain paths.

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dirty

One day during my stay in Douthat, I visited nearby Covington (which is not as pretty as Douthat). Covington certainly looks like it should have an abundance of kit homes. Much to my chagrin, I only found three.

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house

One of them was The Aladdin Plaza. Aladdin, like Sears, sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs. These houses were 12,000-piece kits and were shipped by train (1919 catalog shown).

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houose

Despite a fairly intense search (my second in three years), I found only three kit homes. The Aladdin Plaza was one of them. It was about a block away from the city park.

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The other fun find was this Sears Auburn, also known

The other find was this Sears "Auburn," also known as model 264P176 (1914 catalog).

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This is a spacious house and has a lot going on.

The Auburn was a spacious house with more than 2,500 square feet (not counting the porches). It has two parallel staircases (main staircase and servant's staircase), each with a small landing window. The many distinctive features make it easier to identify.

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Upstairs, it has

Upstairs, it has spacious bedrooms and a sleeping porch.

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All in all, its quite a house.

All in all, it's quite a house.

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The house in Covington is quite a match.

The house in Covington is a perfect match.

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Put the two images side-by-side and youve got something.

Put the two images side-by-side and you've got something.

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And from this angle, you can see the two small stair-case landing windows.

And from this angle, you can see the two small stair-case landing windows. Towards the right rear, there was a double window which has been replaced. You can see the "repaired" brick. Along the second floor right-side wall, there are only two windows (at the front and rear of that long wall), which is as it should be. Also the distinctive bracketing is spot-on.

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Oh my little

This view shows the detail on those brackets, and the porch columns.

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Way up above these worker homes I found the managers houses, high in the hills.

In another section of town, high above the neighborhood that houses the Aladdin Plaza and Sears Auburn, I found the fancy homes on the curvilinear streets (and with the beautiful views). It was up there that I found a single Sears kit home, "The Lynnhaven."

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All in all, I was very surprised to find only three kit homes in the entire city. This was my second visit, and between the two visits, I dont think I missed very much!

All in all, I was very surprised to find only three kit homes in the entire city. This was my second visit, and between the two visits, I don't think I missed very much!

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By the way, while youre in Clifton Forge, you should stop and see the train museum there. Its well worth the visit and the $8 admission supports a very worthy cause. Ive been there four times, and I highly recommend it!

By the way, while you're in Clifton Forge, you should stop and see the train museum there. It's well worth the visit and the $8 admission supports a very worthy cause. I've been there four times, and I highly recommend it!

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The merry widow

By the way, if anyone knows what happened to "The Merry Widow" (shown above) please let me know? I couldn't find it on this most-recent trip. It's been sitting in this spot since 1952.

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If you know anything about Covington, please leave a comment. I’d love to know where you’re hiding the kit homes! And I’d also love to know more about the status of the Merry Widow (steam engine).

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To read about my prior trip to Covington (in 2012), click here.

I’ve found an abundance of Sears Homes in Clifton Forge (next door to Covington).

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The Sherman Triplets

September 24th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Several years ago, dear friend and co-author Dale Wolicki gave me and Rebecca Hunter a first-class tour of Bay City, Michigan. One of the homes he pointed out to us was “The Sherman,” a kit home built on one of the many tree-lined streets of this historic city in Northern Michigan.

The Sherman was a kit house offered by Lewis Manufacturing, a kit-home company that was based in Bay City. Like Sears, Lewis Manufacturing also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog in the early 1900s. These houses were shipped in 12,000-piece kits and arrived by box car. Each kit included detailed blueprints and a lengthy instruction manual that told you how all those pieces and parts went together.

It was estimated that “a man of average abilities” could have a house assembled in 3-4 months.

Not surprisingly, Bay City is home to a surfeit of kit homes from both Lewis Manufacturing and Aladdin Kit Homes (which was also based in Bay City).

Thanks to Dale Wolicki for being such a good friend and tour guide and also for sharing so many vintage catalogs with me, including a 1927 Homebuilder’s Catalog!

Lewis sold some big fancy homes, as well as the more modest Sherman. To read more about that, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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Heres the Lewis Sherman that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan.

Here's the Lewis "Sherman" that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan. I do wish I'd made a note of the street, but I remember that I was located in Bay City!

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The Sherman in Bay City is a nice match to this 1920 catalog image.

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Floorplan

It's a simple but practical floorplan. The living room is quite spacious given the size of the house.

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The Sherman has a twin in the 1927 Homebuilders Catalog (a plan book catalog).

The Sherman has a "twin" in the 1927 Homebuilder's Catalog (a plan book catalog). Plan book houses were a little different from kit homes. Kit homes were complete kits (blueprints and building materials) whereas plan book houses were just blueprints and a LIST of the building materials you'd need to buy.

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House

In fact, there are two houses in the 1927 Homebuilder's 's catalog that bear a stunning resemblance to the Lewis "Sherman." The Cadott is mighty close, with a few minor differences (1927 catalog).

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Whats really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side.

What's really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side. Far left is the Cadott (Homebuilder's) and the Lewis Sherman (center image) and the Catalpa (Homebuilder's). The Cadott is 28' deep, the Sherman is 30' deep and the Catalpa is 29 feet deep. Through these very minor changes, the companies hoped to avoid the appearance of "stealing" one another's designs. Interestingly, the Sherman is the only one without a fireplace.

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Side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also interesting.

A side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also entertaining. The Cadott is on the far left, Lewis Sherman in the center and the Catalpa is on the far right. There are some minor differences on the exterior, such as window arrangement. Plus, the corbels on the front porch are different. And they all need landscaping!

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The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

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All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis Sherman in Bay City!  :D

All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis "Sherman" in Bay City! :D

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To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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Cradock: One of America’s First Planned Communities (Portsmouth, VA)

September 13th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

In 1918, while the War to End All Wars was raging in Europe, Cradock (a neighborhood in Portsmouth, VA) was born.

The US Government funded the creation of Cradock, and the implementation of the Garden City Concept (originally developed in the United Kingdom in 1898) was carried out by the United States Housing Corporation.

The USHC modeled their designs and standards for neighborhood planning on the Garden City model, which were self-contained, purposefully designed neighborhoods with a balance of residential housing, churches, schools, physicians, businesses, and other commerce.

In Cradock, a trolley down the main street (Prospect Parkway) carried workers to the nearby Norfolk Naval Shipyard (also in Portsmouth, despite the misleading name).

According to a National Registry application for this historic community, early advertisements for Cradock described it as “The Garden Spot of Tidewater.”

Named after British admiral Christopher Cradock, it was  hoped that the independent community would blend the positive features of city living with the quiet enjoyment of country life.

At the height of the war, the NNSY employed more than 11,000 people. By 1923, that number had returned to pre-war levels (about 2500). In 1920, the US government decided that Cradock was costing taxpayers too much money, and The US Housing Corporation abandoned the city. In local periodicals, Cradock became known as “The Orphan City.” In 1922, Norfolk Couny annexed the community.

In subsequent years, more homes were built in Cradock and that’s what piqued my interest. Cradock is home to several kit homes from Sears, Aladdin, and other early 20th Century kit homes.

What is a kit home? In the early 1900s, you could order almost anything out of a mail-order catalog. From 1908-1940, you could order a kit home from Sears and Roebuck! The 12,000-piece kits were shipped by rail and came with a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together!

Today, the only way to find these homes is literally one by one. And Cradock has several!

Through years of research, I’ve learned that more than 75% of all Sears Homeowners had no idea about the historic origins of their home until they talked to me and/or discovered their home on this website. Do these homeowners in Cradock know what they have?

Thanks so much to Lara for driving me around on her day off! :)

Enjoy the photos and please share the link on your Facebook page.

To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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Cradock

Cradock was based on "The Garden City" model, which became hugely popular in the early 1900s. Neighborhoods were self-contained with residential housing, businesses, banks, doctors, schools and post offices - all within one walkable area.

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A green-space and communal area was part of Cradocks original design.

A green-space and communal area was part of Cradock's original design. I'd love to know if the bandstand was original to the area, or was a modern-day addition.

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Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, Ive found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. The Aladdin Capitol was one of their fancier homes (1937 catalog).

Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, I've found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. Aladdin was based in Michigan, but had a huge mill in Wilmington, NC. The Aladdin Capitol (shown above) was one of their fancier homes (1931 catalog).

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Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin Capitol is in wonderful condition.

Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin "Capitol" is in wonderful condition.

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And its a perfect match to the old catalog image.

And it's a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes dont realize what they have.

Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes don't realize what they have.

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The Aladdin Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears.

The Sears Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears (1928).

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Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess it - probably - but its hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell.

Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess is - possibly - but it's hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell. In addition, there were a couple "plan book" houses that resembled the Sears Mitchell. It'd be fun to get inside this house and figure out if it is a Sears Mitchell.

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The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

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Picture perfect in every way.

Picture perfect in every way. Notice it has the three-window bay (partially hidden by a pine tree) and the box window on the home's front. The home's attic is a bit higher than the Walton, which was a common "customization" intended to create additional living space.

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The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans.

The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans and for several years.

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He

Close-up of the three-bedroom floorplan.

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Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, Floorplan C with the three bedrooms.

Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, "Floorplan C" with the three bedrooms. That front porch addition is unfortunate.

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On the main drag through Cradock is the Alhambra.

On the main drag through Cradock (where the trolly line once ran) is the Alhambra.

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This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didnt promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home.

This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didn't promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home. This Alhambra had been built by the owner's own father, and the family had always cherished and appreciated this home.

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The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

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This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that its almost 90 years old.

This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that it's almost 90 years old. That assymetrical gabled entry with small window is a distinctive feature of the Montrose. On this house, the front window and entry were "swapped" and if you study the home's floorplan, this is a simple switch to make. More than 30% of Sears Homes were modified when built.

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The Sears Conway (also known as The Uriel) was another popular model.

The Sears Conway (also known as "The Uriel") was another popular model. Like so many of these kit homes, it also had an expandable attic.

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House

The substitute siding on this house doesn't do it any favors, and many of the home's unique features went bye-bye when that siding went up, but it's still identifiable as a Sears Conway.

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THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling Avondale (1920 catalog).

THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling "Avondale" (1920 catalog).

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Is this a Sterling Avondale? It sure looks like it!

Is this a Sterling "Avondale"? It sure looks like it! The privacy fence on the left hides the details, but the windows down the left side are a perfect match.

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Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

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Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod.

Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod: Squared columns, pilasters, gabled porch, sidelights by the front door and cut-out shutters.

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Now thats a nice match!

Now that's a nice match!

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You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs.

You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs to its porch gable. Notice that it's now made of plywood. It would not have been built with a plywood front in the 1930s.

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Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, its come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some homeowner pride in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmonds archives.)

Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, it's come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some "homeowner pride" in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmond's archives.)

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To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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