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Posts Tagged ‘aladdin kit homes’

Lynchburg, Virginia: A Colossal Caboodle of Kit Homes

July 29th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

UPDATED at 3:45 pm!  New photos added below!

Lynchburg is one of the prettiest cities in the prettiest state in the Union, and best of all, it’s blessed with an abundance of kit homes.

In 2004, 2008, and 2011, I spent several hours driving around Lynchburg seeking and finding its kit homes. (In 2008, I was with Dale Wolicki, who identified many Aladdin houses that I might otherwise have missed!)

For years, I’ve tried to stir up interest in these kit homes in Lynchburg but without success. And yet, this really is a lost piece of Lynchburg’s history! Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

How many of these home’s owners (in Lynchburg) know about their home’s unique historical significance?

I love Lynchburg and I’d love to have an opportunity to give a lecture on this abundance of early 20th Century kit homes in this fine city.

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what IS a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!).

The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!

When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one.

In the early 1900s, there were six national companies selling these mail-order kit homes. Aladdin was one of those six companies, and it was in business longer than Sears (and sold more houses), but is not as well known. And yet, Lynchburg has more Aladdin Homes than Sears Homes!

Finding these kit homes is just like discovering hidden treasure, and it’s time to spread the happy news of these discoveries!

Please share this link on Facebook and spread the story of kit homes in Lynchburg!

To read about the Sears Homes in Vinton, Virginia, click here.

Interested in seeing the kit homes of Bedford? Click here.

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One of my favorite finds in Lynchburg is the Sears Alhambra.

One of my favorite finds in Lynchburg is the Sears Alhambra (1921 catalog).

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And technically, it wasnt even MY find! My buddy Bill Inge discovered this Alhambra many years ago, and shared the address with me. Oh boy, what a house!

And technically, it wasn't even MY find! My buddy Bill Inge discovered this Alhambra many years ago, and shared the address with me. Bill tells me that this Sears House has undergone some significant remodeling since this photo was snapped in 2008. Pity too, because it had its original windows in 2008, even though the parapet and dormer were MIA.

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The Sears Westly was a popular house for Sears, too.

The Sears Westly was a popular house for Sears, too (1916 catalog).

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A splendiferous example of a Westly in Lynchburg!

A splendiferous example of a Westly in Lynchburg!

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The Berwyn was offered in the late 1920s and into the 1930s (1929 catalog).

The Berwyn was offered in the late 1920s and into the 1930s (1929 catalog).

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Its a super-sized Berwyn! About 30% of Sears Homes were customized and the #1 customization was enlarging the house a wee bit.

It's a super-sized Berwyn! About 30% of Sears Homes were customized and the #1 customization was enlarging the house a wee bit.

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The Kilborn was a fine-looking craftsman bungalow, and was a big seller for Sears (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

The Kilborn was a fine-looking craftsman bungalow, and was a big seller for Sears (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog). The "five or eight rooms" depended on whether or not the 2nd floor was "expanded."

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It was the photographer and not the house thats a little tilted here.

It was the photographer and not the house that's a little tilted here. That purple foundation is interesting. BTW, this was a "windshield survey" and before these homes can be declared "Sears Homes," an interior inspection would be needed.

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The Sears Sunbeam was probably one of their top-ten most popular models. The open porch on the 2nd floor (known as a sleeping porch) often gets closed in.

The Sears "Sunbeam" was probably one of their top-ten most popular models. The open porch on the 2nd floor (known as a "sleeping porch") often gets closed in.

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Pretty

And what a fine-looking Sunbeam it is. I think. As mentioned, this is a windshield survey, and while I'm 90% certain this is a Sears Sunbeam, I'd really need to know the home's exterior footprint to affirm. Note that the sleeping porch has been enclosed. It's rare to see an Sunbeam with the open porch.

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Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so not surprisingly, I often find more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia than Sears kit homes. Shown above is the Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so not surprisingly, I often find more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia than Sears kit homes. Shown above is the Aladdin "Pasadena" from the 1919 catalog.

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This is one of my favorite houses in Lynchburg. Its a *perfect* Pasadena.

This is one of my favorite houses in Lynchburg. It's a *perfect* Pasadena.

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Even has the original lattice work on the side porch.

Even has the original lattice work on the side porch.

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The Pasadena at a later date (about 2011).

The Pasadena at a later date (about 2011).

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Another Lynchburg Pasadena, just down the road.

Another Lynchburg Pasadena, just down the road.

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One of Aladdins best selling models was the Marsden (1916 catalog).

One of Aladdin's best selling models was the Marsden (1916 catalog).

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Oh yeah baby. There it is. Be still my heart.

Oh yeah baby. There it is. Be still my heart.

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The Pomona was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow and also hugely popular.

The Pomona was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow and also hugely popular.

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Flared columns and all, heres my sweet thing.

Flared columns and all, here's my sweet thing. Do they know they have a kit home? PRobably not.

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And I saved the best for last! The Aladdin Georgia, from the 1919 catalog.

And I saved the best for last! The Aladdin Georgia, from the 1919 catalog.

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Pretty house, isnt it?

Pretty house, isn't it?

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Twinkies! In Lynchburg! Two Georgias, side by side.

Twinkies! In Lynchburg! Two Georgias, side by side.

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And a third Georgia in another part of town.

And a third Georgia in another part of town.

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The Aladdin Edison was a very modest, simple house.

The Aladdin Edison was a very modest, simple house.

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Lyunch

And this one has a pretty stone wall in front.

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The Aladdin Avalon was a classic Dutch Colonial (1931 catalog).

The Aladdin Avalon was a classic Dutch Colonial (1931 catalog).

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The Assessors photo is a dandy, and it captures the Aladdin Avalon from the same angle as the old catalog image! Good job, Mr. Assessor!

The Assessor's photo is a dandy, and it captures the Aladdin Avalon from the same angle as the old catalog image! Good job, Mr. Assessor! And it's a fine exampe of the Avalon!

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And what would a city be without a kit house from Wards?

And what would a city be without a kit house from Montgomery Wards?

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Hopefully, the foundation is good and strong so it wont tip over. This is a Montgomery Ward Carlisle with a pretty big dormer added on!

Hopefully, the foundation is good and strong so the house won't tip over to the left. This is a Montgomery Ward "Carlyle" with a pretty big dormer added on! It needs a little love, but it has original siding and original windows!

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Did you enjoy the pictures? If so, please share the link with friends!

And leave a comment for Rose! I’m living on love here!  :D

To read about the Sears Homes in Vinton, Virginia, click here.

Interested in seeing the kit homes of Bedford? Click here.

There’s a missing kit home in Lynchburg. Read about it here.

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Still reading? :D On a personal note, I’ve been trying to move to the Lynchburg/Bedford area since 1994, but life had other plans. I do hope I get there - one day. It’s my favorite part of the country - and I have seen a LOT of the country!

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Where Is This Little House?

July 28th, 2014 Sears Homes 5 comments

Come August 2014, this website will celebrate its fourth birthday, and one of my very first posts at this site was about this little mystery house in Ohio (shown below).

Unfortunately, I never did find this house, or learn anything about the couple in the photo.

I suspect the house is somewhere in Ohio (which is where this post card was sent from) and I’m sure the couple (and their child) have gone on to heaven. The house in this photo was last offered in the mid-1910s Sears catalogs.

The diminutive foursquare is Sears Modern Home #106, and I purchased the post card from eBay in 2002. It cost $3, and I suspect that there weren’t a lot of folks who recognized this little house as Sears House.

If you know where this house is, or if you know the people pictured herein, please drop me a line?

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

And if you live in Ohio, please post this link on your Facebook page!  Maybe we can find this house!

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House

In 2003, I purchased this post card from eBay. I'd love to know where this house is. I suspect it's somewhere in Ohio, because this postcard was originally found in Ohio.

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Close-up of the little fam in front of the little house. Check out the detail on the porch railing.

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Close up

Extreme close-up of the fam. Dad doesn't look well.

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Number

You can see a house number hiding behind that column.

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Modern Home 106, as seen in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Oh dear - where's the potty?

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The house in the photo has an extra dormer on the side, which probably made this small attic room more livable. At least, a *little* more livable!

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Close up

Who are they?

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Have you seen this house? If so, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about the big and fancy Sears models, click here!

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EPA: Erogo Pecunia Administratio

July 28th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

It’s been four years since EPA RRP became law, and yet based on my own admittedly unscientific survey, looks like it’s being largely ignored.

And in my opinion, that’s a good thing.

EPA RRP is an over-reaching, draconian government regulation with severe and long-reaching “unintended consequences,” such as decimating the value of old houses, and making the already onerous burden of old-house ownership ever more severe. If the lawmakers are truly concerned about the health of children (which is the claim), there are 1001 better (and more efficient) ways to invest and utilize taxpayer money.

Driving along in Norfolk neighborhoods, I often see work being performed on “old” houses (pre-1978), such as paint jobs, new window installation or other repairs that disturb “more than six square feet” of the home’s exterior.

According to EPA RRP, if more than six feet of a pre-1978’s home is disturbed, you must engage in all sorts of abatement procedures, including (but not limited to), tyvek suits, respirators, crime-scene tape, yellow warning signs posted at the corners of the property, and great quantities of six-mil plastic spread throughout the yard. (As this author writes, “The EPA just declared war on contractors, remodelers and homeowners…”)

In the last four years, I’ve probably seen three dozen job sites where “more than six square feet” is being disturbed, and yet how many times have I see compliance with the EPA RRP laws?

None.

Four years after this law was passed, many contractors have still not heard of EPA RRP. And those that are aware of it realize that the odds of getting caught are small.

While EPA estimated that RRP would add “about $35 per job” to the cost of repairs, real-world experience is showing that it adds three to five times that amount. Most homeowners already shop contractors by price.

One unintended consequence of this burdensome regulation is that it’s creating a bigger market for “fly-by-night” unlicensed contractors and their ilk.

Last but not least, EPA RRP also adds obscene amounts of six-mil plastic to America’s overburdened landfills.

For exterior work, contractors are required to put six-mil plastic out 10 feet from the work site (for the first floor), plus four feet for every additional story. This means that the guy painting your house will set up his 24′ ladder atop six-mil plastic, which is a violation of OSHA laws, but hey, OSHA’s fines are smaller than EPA’s, so you should probably break OSHA laws (given the choice).

Recently, I got a sneak peak of the 2015 revisions to the EPA Lead Law. Everyone should be aware of this new legislation. It’s quoted below.

Effective July 1, 2012, EPA’s new “Biome Protection Act” adds an additional layer of protection to delicate ecosystems in our communities, including any and all surrounding wildlife potentially impacted by the adverse health effects of lead paint.

Any and all “at-risk” wildlife at the work site (including but not limited to insects that fly, crawl, creep and wiggle), must be humanely captured (in EPA approved containment vessels), tagged, and be outfitted with size-appropriate half-mask respirators with a HEPA filter, TYVEK suits and steel-toed shoes and then released.

Upon completion of construction project[s], impacted wildlife must be recaptured and all articles of protective gear removed. To insure the safety of said animals, blood samples must be obtained and then submitted to the EPA for review.

If elevated lead levels are found in surrounding wildlife, contractors will be held liable, and subject to fines not to exceed $12 billion.

Lowes

EPA: Erogo Pecunia Administratio

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Contractor whos just learned of EPA laws.

Contractor who's just learned of EPA laws.

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To read about happier topics, click here.

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Sears Catalog House, or Something Like it (Part II)

July 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

In my most recent blog, I talked about the fact that Hopewell’s “Collection of Sears Homes” (and I use that term loosely) was in the local news again.

At the end of that blog, I offered to help Hopewell sort through their historical chaff and find the wheat.

The fact is, at this point I’d be willing to donate my services (gratis), to help this small town (just outside of Richmond) get their Sears-home story straight. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this enticing offer may not be accepted.

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of letters and emails (yes, both) to some folks in Hopewell, making this same offer. I never heard a peep. Not a “Thanks, but no,” not a “we’re not interested,” or even a “Go to hell, Rosemary Thornton.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to hear something, rather than nothing.

In case anyone from Hopewell is reading this, I can tell you, I know a little something about Sears Homes. Here’s a short bio I use with the media:

Rose is the author of several books on early 20th Century kit homes. Rose and her work have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio. In print media, her story has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Christian Science Monitor and more.

Sounds darn good, doesn’t it?

So what can I do to help Hopewell correct their boo-boos?

I don’t know.

In the meantime, below is the “re-do” of a blog that was a personal favorite of mine. The idea was the brainstorm of Rachel Shoemaker, who loves both music and kit homes, and found a delightful way to blend the two topics.

You can read Rachel’s wonderful blog here.

Here’s the ditty that will  help you learn more about correctly identifying houses.

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Ses

Here's a screen-shot of the Sesame Street ditty that tell us, "One of these things is not like the other." Its intent is to teach youngsters how to spot differences in similar items. Learning how to distinguish subtle differences in physical objects can be tough. Ever more so if you live in the small towns around Richmond (apparently).

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houses

Let's try it with houses now.

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One of the houses above is different from the others.

If you guessed the brick house with the metal casement windows, you’re right!

For some time, Hopewell was promoting a brochure (showcasing a driving tour of alleged kit homes in Crescent Hills neighborhood) that identified this brick house as a Sears Dover.

But oh noes!! That’s not a Sears Dover!

The other three houses (the three that look just alike) are the Sears Dover.

More recently, Hopewell has modified this statement and now claims that this brick house is a Sears Maplewood.

Let’s see how that works.

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Blue

Oh noes - AGAIN! One of these homes just doesn't belong! Which one is it? If you guessed the brick house, you're right! The other three homes are the Sears Maplewood.

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houses

There's also the fact that the Sears Maplewood and Dover were never ever offered with metal casement windows. There's also the fact that this house was probably built after WW2. But hey, why let something like "historical fact" get in the way of a good story!

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maple

Here's a Sears Maplewood (1930 catalog).

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house

If you really think that the brick house above looks like a Sears Dover, I highly recommend the Sesame Street "Not like the other" series. It's helped many a lost soul find their way through the thickets of misidentified kit homes.

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Meanwhile, in Hopewell, they have a cache of rare and unusual Aladdin Homes (like the one above) and what is being done to promote those houses? Nothing. Unbelievable.

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To learn more about how to distinguish differences in certain objects, click here.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for the use of her photograph above (the blue Maplewood). You can visit Rebecca’s website here.

Visit Rachel’s website here.

Read about the bonanza of kit homes we found in Richmond!

If you’re from Hopewell, and you’d like to take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

If you’re not from Hopewell and you THINK they should take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

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Sears Catalog House or Something Like It (Hopewell, VA)

July 25th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last week, Hopewell was in the local news again, touting their Sears Homes. I’m not going to post a link to the article that appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, because it was rife with errors.

I’m somewhat incredulous that a paper as prestigious as the Richmond Times Dispatch didn’t do some fact-checking before publishing this story.

The recording and publishing of history is such a sacred trust, and writers have a solemn charge to get the facts right, before sending this information into perpetuity.

And there’s this: I’ve been sought out and interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, BBC Radio, All Things Considered (PBS)  and more. I’ve been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, and MSNBC.

It’s disheartening to know that a newspaper so close to home ran this article without seeking me out for a quote, or even asking me to help with the fact checking (which I would have gladly done).

Hopewell and I have a history.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a small brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (click here), Hopewell is mighty mixed up about what is, and what is not a kit house.

Of those 44 purported “Sears Homes” in Crescent Hills, only eight are the real deal, and frankly, it may not be eight. Some of those eight could well be plan book homes.

On that “list of 44,” this house (see below) was featured.

To read more about Hopewell, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker who successfully identified this house!

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Nice House

The brochure promoting the Hopewell Sears Homes stated that this was a Sears "Newbury." Ooh, nice try and thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts for you.

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Ruh

The Hopewell brochure states that it looks JUST LIKE a Newbury, except for the "sloping roof, full width dormer, extra windows and round columns." Good grief, if that's our criteria I could say that my dog Teddy looks like just like a Sears Magnolia.

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House

Except for the absence of a hip roof, full width windows, round columns and cypress wood, these two dwelling places are stunningly similar. You'll note that the subject on the right also does not have ears or fur, but both of these items could have easily been removed during an earlier remodeling.

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Newbury

Sears Newbury, from the 1936 catalog.

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compare

Wow, look at this! The house on the left is in Illinois and it actually LOOKS like a Newbury!

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compare

Ruh Roh. These don't look anything alike!

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Monticello

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know that this house in Hopewell came from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

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Montie

In fact, "The Monticello" is on the cover of the catalog! What a beauty!

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Wow

And lookie here. It is a very fine match!

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Big and fancy

Did anyone from Hopewell ever go into this house and compare the interior layout? If so, I hope the homeowner gave their seeing-eye dog a tasty biscuit. The floor plan for the Monticello is radically different from the Sears Newbury (shown directly below). And the Monticello is 50% bigger. These details matter.

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What

The Newbury is a modest, simple house (1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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If you dont love this house, theres something wrong with you!

According to the text in the ad, if you don't love the Monticello, there's something seriously wrong with you!

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It’d really be swell if Hopewell would invite me back to do a thorough and proper survey. I would be more than happy to get the facts right and help them create a new brochure.

In fact, I really wish they’d give it a go. It’s time to make this right.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

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

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A *Beautifully* Original Magnolia in South Bend - For Sale!

June 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

For many years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to see a Magnolia in original condition.

Now, I know.

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend was recently listed for sale, and the Realtor kindly sent me a few pictures.

It can be described in one word:  STUNNING.

Or maybe two:  Original!

These photos give us a rare opportunity to step back in time almost 100 years, and see what the Sears Magnolia looked like when built.

If I was queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d insist that the potential buyers of this rare, historically significant home be required to do a proper, thoughtful and historically sensitive restoration (which is radically different from a remodeling). I’d demand that they find a way to preserve the home’s original features.

As my buddy Bill Inge says, “The first commandment of preservation is, ‘Thou shalt not destroy good old work.’”

The 3,895-square foot home is listed at $320,000. Situated on 1/3 of an acre, it has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half-baths. The listing says it was built in 1927, but we know that that’s not right. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

This house is a rare treasure. I hope its next owners “catch” the vision and see what a remarkable property it really is.

Ready to see some photos? You should get ready to be dazzled!

To buy this fine old house, click here.

To learn more about the history of the Sears Magnolia kit home, click here.

Interested in reading more about how these homes were built? Click here.

All photos are copyright Steve Matz, 2014.

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The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

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

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

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Mag

The Magnolia in South Bend is remarkable because it's in original condition.

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A view from the inside.

A view from the inside.

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house

This Magnolia still retains its original mouldings and trim but the inglenook and columns are not in place. It's possible that the house was built without these built-ins.

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house

I suspect that this is the fireplace in the den.

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The den (right rear) was very small (only 8'9" deep). It's unusual to see the den in its original shape and size. It's also unusual to see a house from this vintage with a half-bath on the first floor (next to the den).

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The Realtor had the good sense to photograph the staircase from the same angle as the original catalog image!

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hfhfhf

Nice match, isn't it? Check out the French doors at the rear - both upper and lower level.

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Nice, huh? :D

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The best

There's something about these old nooks that just makes my heart skip a beat.

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house house house

This is the very best picture of all. And perhaps the home's finest feature: A built-in nook, completely untouched by time, with the original tile floor, white hexagonal tiles with a blue flower center. This pattern is a classic feature found in early 20th Century Sears Homes. You can see the three original wooden windows behind the nook.

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Fun comparison, isn't it? It's so rare to see these nooks still in place.

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Another incredible feature is that

Not only does this house have its original Butler's Pantry, but it has the original sink, wooden surround and fixture. This house is such a rare find, and to think that it's a Sears Magnolia!

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And it just gets better. Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, the dressing room, is the original sink, light fixtures and oak cabinetry - unpainted!

Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, is a surprisingly large dressing room. The fact that even the dressing room is original is a real testament to the home's prior owners, who had the wisdom to follow the #1 rule: "Thou shalt not destroy good old work." And this cabinetry was incredibly good work. In the corner, is the Magnolia's original sink, light fixtures and medicine chest - unpainted! If you look closely, you'll see the original cabinet pulls.

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house

It's true that I am nutty as a fruitcake, but seeing this century-old Magnolia - wholly untouched by time - sends me. Original sink, original fixtures, original medicine chest, and an original light fixture (porcelain sconce). Just incredible. I'm a big fan of old plumbing but I've never seen a three-sided sink before.

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Close-up of the upstairs floorplan, showing that small sink in the dressing room.

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And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

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A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

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To buy this fine old house, click here.

Interested in learning more about the Sears Magnolia? Click here.

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HUD: Destroying History One House At a Time?

May 7th, 2014 Sears Homes 9 comments

If HUD gets its way, a beautiful, mostly original Sears Alhambra  in Portsmouth, Virginia will soon be remuddled into a homogenized plasticine mess.

The old Sears kit home is in a historic district of Portsmouth (Cradock), and - speaking as an architectural historian - I can say with some authority that this is a one-of-a-kind house.

What makes this house special?

It’s a Sears Alhambra (one of Sears finest homes), and it’s 85-years-old, and it’s still in mostly original condition.

Inside, it has an original porcelain bathtub, original light fixtures, unpainted oak trim (a $160 upgrade!), vintage plaster, and original wood windows (some casement; some double-hung).

Through the decades, these beautiful old houses often get remuddled into an almost unrecognizable form.

The Alhambra in Cradock was spared that fate because it was owned by one family for 75 of its 85 years.

And if those 85-year-old walls could talk, they’d tell quite a story.

In 1929, Swedish immigrant Gustav Emil Liljegren picked up a Sears Roebuck catalog and ordered his Sears kit house, an Alhambra.

Price: $2,898.

The 12,000-piece kit arrived within six weeks later in Portsmouth, Virginia and a few weeks later, Gustav’s new home was ready for occupancy.

For years, Gustav Emil Liljegren had toiled and sacrificed and saved so that he could provide a fine home for his family (a wife and four children).

In April 1929, Gustav was anxiously awaiting the arrival of his kit house from Sears.

He had saved enough money to pay cash for the house. His wife was pregnant. He had a good job at the Proctor and Gamble plant in Portsmouth (near the Norfolk Naval Shipyard).

Only five years earlier, Gustav had immigrated from Malmö, Sweden, working as a steward to pay for his passage. It was on the ship - bound for America - that he’d met William Proctor (of Proctor and Gamble fame) who was so impressed with this young Swede that he promised him a job at the Portsmouth plant.

Within a year, Gustav was able to send for his wife and four children. And in 1929, it all fell apart.

His wife’s pregnancy ended in miscarriage. She contracted blood poisoning and died three weeks later, leaving Gustav with four little children. And 12,000 pieces of house coming to Portsmouth.

A short time later, the market crashed and Gustav lost his life savings.

But Gustav pulled it together and pushed on. He picked up the pieces of his life and the 12,000 pieces of his house and slogged through the hard days. Gustav, after all, was a survivor.

In 1937, he married his second wife. In 1954, Gustav retired from Jif and moved to Florida, and sold the Alhambra to Ingvar (Gustav’s son) for $8,000. In 2004, due to declining health, Ingvar Liljengren, (born in 1923) had to sell the house.

A few years later, the house went into foreclosure and that’s when it became a HUD house (in 2014). A long-time Portsmouth resident had always admired the house and put in a bid to buy it. Her bid was accepted.

But that’s where it went off the rails.

After inspecting the house, HUD demanded that the following repairs be completed.

1)  All existing wooden windows were to be replaced with new windows.

2)  Due to the suspected presence of lead, all interior woodwork had to be painted (encapsulated). Yes, all that solid oak, varnished, stunningly beautiful woodwork must be painted.

3)  Due to the suspected presence of lead, the plaster walls had to be covered with sheetrock.

In other words, HUD wants the new buyer to destroy the home’s historic significance (prior to moving in).

I’ve never dealt with HUD but I suspect it’s a massive bureaucracy awash in red tape. I suspect that the local HUD representative doesn’t understand that this house is in a historic district within a very historic city (Portsmouth, Virgina).

I suspect he/she has never read the Secretary of Interior’s preservation briefs on the importance of saving a home’s original features.

I suspect he/she doesn’t understand what they’re asking of a woman who purchased an old house because she fell in love with its inherent unique historical characteristics and charms.

That’s what I suspect.

I hope this is just a massive misunderstanding.

Because if it’s not, our old houses are surely doomed.

If you’ve any ideas how to stop this, please leave a comment below.

Gustav and I thank you.

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The Alhambra was first offered in 1918.

The Sears Alhambra was first offered in 1919.

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In the 1919 catalog, it was featured in a two-page spread.

In the 1919 catalog, it was featured in a two-page spread.

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And it was a very beautiful home.

And it was a very beautiful home.

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Dining

The dining room featured a built-in buffet (shown above).

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But who doesnt love a sun porch!

But who doesn't love a sun porch - and with a chaise!

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One of Gustavs hobbys was wrought iron work, so he did a little embellishing of the homes exterior railings.

Gustav ordered the Alhambra in Spring 1929. Inside, the house retains many of its original features, such as an oversized porcelain tub, varnished oak trim, original light fixtures and more. This Sears House is now 85 years old, but is still a real jewel. However, if HUD has its way...

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One of the homes best features is its original windows, such as this small casement window on the second floor.

One of the home's best features is its original windows, such as this small casement window on the second floor. BTW, one of Gustav's hobbies was wrought iron work. He added the wrought iron railings when he built the house in 1929. In 2002, I was given a full tour of the home's interior, and I was blown away. It is a real beauty, and has been tenderly cared for through the many decades. It's truly a gem.

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It truly saddens me to think that HUD wont be happy until our Alhambra in Portsmouth looks like this lost soul in Wisconsin.

It truly saddens me to think that HUD won't be happy until our Alhambra in Portsmouth looks like this lost soul in Wisconsin. And yes, that's an Alhambra, all dressed up for the 21st Century.

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Please leave a comment below. I’m feeling mighty sad these days about the future of these old houses.

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Carney’s Point, NJ: Then and Now

May 7th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

Last month, we drove from Norfolk to Philladelphia to visit the National Archives and Records Administration.

En route, we took a slight detour to Carney’s Point, NJ to check out the houses in that neighborhood. Carney’s Point, like Penniman, eventually became the site of a World War 1 DuPont munitions plant.

In 1891, E. I. DuPont de Nemours bought the land from the descendant of an Irish immigrant (Thomas Carney). DuPont wanted the 17-mile-square-tract to build a manufacturing plant for one of their best-selling products: smokeless gunpowder.

When The European War began in July 1914, demand for smokeless gunpowder exploded (so to speak). (World War I began in Europe in July 1914, and was originally known as The European War.)

After The European War started, Carney’s Point went from a population of 2,000 (pre-War) to 25,000 (early 1917).  In their rush to provide housing for their employees, they turned to Aladdin, and created - literally - a neighborhood full of Aladdin kit homes.

We went to Carney’s Point with a photograph in hand and a mission. I wanted to take a photo that replicated a pre-WW1 photo of the same neighborhood. Mark Hardin found this vintage image (see below) and even figured out what street it was on. Milton and I both snapped several photos, trying to re-create the original image from the vintage photo.  And his photos came out much better than my own. I hate it when that happens.  ;)

Actually, I was very grateful to find that his photos had come out so pretty.

Do the folks in Carney’s Point know that they live in a neighborhood full of Aladdin kit homes?

To learn more about Virginia’s Own Ghost City (Penniman), click here.

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Mark Hardin found this photo from about 100 years ago.

Mark Hardin found this photo of Carney's Point ("DuPont's New Village). We suspect the photo was taken in the late 1910s. Perhaps someone who's familiar with children's clothing can give a better guess. On the left, is an Aladdin Georgia, followed by an Edison. On the right is a Cumberland model, an Edison, a Jackson/Grant, and another Edison. This neighborhood had dozens of Aladdin kit homes.

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My friend Milton snapped this photo (which came out better than my own photos) and it shows the neighborhood from the same angle.

My friend Milton snapped this photo (which came out better than my own photos) and it shows the street view. From our best guess, these photos were taken more than 90 years apart. Photo is credit 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Carney

Side-by-side comparison of the two images. I was hoping some kids might come running out, as it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but no kids ever appeared. They were probably inside playing with their Wii or their Ipad or something. Unlike the 1910s, when kids were sent outside and expected to entertain themselves for several hours with a stick and some dirt.

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To read about the other cool houses I found in Carney’s Point, click here or here.

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What Exactly Did You Have in Mind, Mr. Dozier?

April 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

It was Mr. J. M. Dozier of Lee Hall, VA that purchased Penniman after World War I ended.

Thursday, after spending many hours at the York County Courthouse, I learned that Mr. Dozier bought Penniman from DuPont in April 1926, after the U. S. Army left.

J. M. Dozier and his wife Annie paid $84,375 for the whole kit and caboodle, which included 2,600 acres, and all tenements, hereditaments and appurtenances.

DuPont even financed the sale for Mr. Dozier with no money down.

The first payment of $28,125 was due in April 1927, the second payment due one year after that, and the third (and final payment) due in April 1929.

It was a pretty sweet deal.

According to an article that appeared in the January 1926 Virginia Gazette, Mr. Dozier had big plans for Penniman.

“The development of [Penniman] will entail the expenditure of a considerable sum,” said the article in the Virginia Gazette (January 15, 1926).

And yet, it never happened.

In 1926, $84,375 was a tremendous sum of money. Surely Mr. Dozier had plans to develop this 2,600-acre tract on the York River. Did something go wrong?

Did they discover that the land was uninhabitable for some reason? Or did they find a few too many buried live shells, left over from the U. S. Army?

What happened?

After 1926, Penniman disappeared from the pages of the daily papers until 1938, when Dick Velz with the Richmond Times Dispatch did a retrospective piece on this “Ghost City,” which had been left largely undisturbed since the U. S. Army cleared out in the early 1920s.

Penniman is a fascinating piece of Virginia’s history but there are days (like today) when the mysteries pile up so high and so deep that I fear I may never figure out enough of its story to write a worthy tome.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

If you have a theory as to what happened to Mr. Dozier’s big plans, please leave a comment.

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January 16, 1926

Sounds like these two "outstanding Peninsula business men" had big plans for Penniman. ("Virginia Gazette," January 16, 1926).

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Richmond

What happened after Mr. Dozier paid $84,375 for 2,600 acres of choice real estate on the York River? Did something go terribly wrong? Did they learn that the land was unsuitable for residential development? (This appeared in June 1938 in the "Richmond Times Dispatch.")

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Penniman

Amongst the piles of papers I have collected on Penniman is this treasure asking Dr. Goodwin if he's interested in buying Penniman on the York River. And look at the date. It was after Mr. Dozier had paid off his note to DuPont.

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Penniman

Penniman was situated between Kings Creek and Queens Creek, on the York River, and during WW1, it was home to about 15,000 people. It was probably one of York County's finest pieces of land. This map shows the village of Penniman as it looked in Spring 1918. Map is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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The Amherst: All The Charms and Hominess of the Bungalow

April 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

…combined with the advantages of a two-story house!

So promised the advertising copy that accompanied the pictures in the 1914 Aladdin Homes catalog.

One week ago today, hubby (Wayne) and buddy (Milton) and I were wandering around Carney’s Point, NJ, admiring an entire neighborhood of Aladdin kit homes.

In Carney’s Point, I saw several models of Aladdin houses that I had never seen before.

The fun started along Shell Road (the main drag through town), where I found several Aladdin houses, many of which were in very good condition.

Since returning home, I’ve read through two books detailing the history of Carney’s Point, but neither book has so much as a mention about the fact that they’ve got a large neighborhood (more than 100 houses, I’d guess) of Aladdin kit homes.

Do they know?

If the do know, where’s the placard?

If they don’t, send them a link to this website! :D

Is your house a kit house? Click here to learn more about “The Nine Signs.”

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In the 1916 Aladdin catalog, this promotion appeared. Mark Hardin and I have been wondering if Carneys Point is the town to which theyre referring.

In the 1916 Aladdin catalog, this promotion appeared. Mark Hardin and I have been wondering if Carney's Point (New Jersey) is the town to which they're referring.

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The Amherst (shown here) appeared in the 1914 catalog. Apparently, it was not a big seller, but there are several in Carneys Point.

The Amherst appeared in the 1914 catalog. It was not a big seller, but there are several in Carney's Point.

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Floor plan

Look at the size of that living room!

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floor plan 2

All four bedrooms are good size, too.

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Love the description, complete with the typo!

Love the description, complete with the typo!

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Because it has so many unique features, it should be easy to identify!

Because it has so many unique features, it should be easy to identify!

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This Amherst is on Shell Road in Carneys Point.

This Amherst is on Shell Road in Carney's Point.

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Nice house

Wish I had the nerve to ask people to move their vehicles, but I don't.

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An Amherst in the heart of the Aladdin Neighborhood.

An Amherst in the heart of the Aladdin Neighborhood.

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Best feature is, original siding!

Best feature is, original siding (but replacement windows). Alas!

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And its for sale!

And it's for sale!

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Due to the small lots and mature vegetation, it was hard to get shots that were a good match to the catalog image.

Due to the small lots and mature vegetation, it was hard to get shots that were a good match to the catalog image. Well, let's say it was hard to get good shots and *not* get arrested. This is a good shot of the details down that bay-window side. That funky small window in the bay makes this house *easy* to identify in the wild.

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Fortunately, I was able to get a good shot of this.

Fortunately, I was able to get a good shot of this. from an angle that matched the catalog, however... That front porch addition is a little "clunky."

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What a fine match!

What a fine match!

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And what came with your house?

And what came with your house?

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To learn more about another DuPont town, click here.

To read about another town filled with Aladdin Homes, click here.

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