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A Not-So-Nobby Neighborhood in Newport News With Numerous Kit Homes!

January 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

It’s called, “East End,” and it’s a badly blighted, crime-ridden part of the otherwise lovely, history laden city of Newport News (Virginia). Despite the fact that I’m a native of Tidewater, I never knew this neighborhood existed, until I stumbled upon it while looking for a particular house in Hampton!

After my fortuitous stumble into East End, I discovered a Sears kit home I had never seen before. After 12 years of playing with kit homes, that doesn’t happen too often these days. And yet here it was, in Newport News, which is next door to Norfolk (where I live). To learn more about these early 20th Century kit homes, click here.

The next day I returned to East End to get a better photo of this Sears House, and I found several more kit homes. I returned a couple days later and spent 90 minutes driving to and fro in this neighborhood. It’s my hope and prayer that this research might encourage the important people in Newport News to think about what can be done to preserve and protect this truly remarkable collection of kit homes.

As I told my husband, this is the type of discovery I’d expect to make in a Chicago suburb (where there’s an abundance of kit homes). Here in Virginia, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. And due to the straitened economic circumstances of this neighborhood, some of these houses are in largely original condition. (In addition to the Sears kit homes, I also found several houses from Aladdin, which also sold entire kit houses through mail order. In fact, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears!)

The research and writing of this blog consumed many, many hours of my life. Please share this link with others, who may have any interest in our cultural and architectural history.

Enjoy the many photos and please leave a comment below.

To read about the kit homes I found in Hampton, click here.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. Its a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one Ive seen in person.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. It's a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one I've ever seen "in the flesh."

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Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this homes original builder to leave this wonderful home. More than 50% of the time, these homes were built by average men and women who were just trying to capture a piece of the American Dream.

Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this home's original builder to leave this home that he'd built - with his own hands - for his family. These homes were built to last for GENERATIONS, and they were made with superior quality building materials. This house is on Marshall Avenue.

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Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Side-by-side comparison of the two images.

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The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

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Here it is, in PRISTINE condition. Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

Here it is, in PRISTINE condition, and sitting unobtrusively on Hampton Avenue (in Newport News). Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

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A comparison of the two images shows

A comparison of the two images. What a treasure!

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Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me!

Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me! This image (shown here) is from the 1914 Aladdin catalog. This is a classic Arts & Crafts design, and a beautiful house.

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A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. Made me gasp out loud, followed by paroxsyms of great joy.

A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. When I happened upon this house, I made a high-pitched happy noise, followed by paroxysms of great joy. But this poor old Aladdin Brentwood is in rough shape, and needs quite a bit of work. The balcony's railing (upper left of photo) is literally falling off the house. This house is across the street from the Pearl Bailey Public Library.

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Side by side comparison to the two houses.

Side by side comparison to the two houses. Pretty sweet house!

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog. The L-shaped front porch is a distinctive feature on the Aladdin Venus.

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And here it is.

What is it about this color and Aladdin Homes in East End?

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Another very nice match.

Another very nice match. As a side note, photographing this house was very difficult, as it was on the right side of the road on a one-way street (26th Street), and I wasn't prepared to park the car, and hoof it to the house just to get a good shot.

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The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a Sears Westly.

And here's a Sears Westly in good condition on 23rd Street.

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Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

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The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

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Look at the deatil of the brickword around the chimney!

Look at the detail of the brickwork on the chimney!

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And its for Better class workers!

This Sears Home was for "Better class" workers!

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Ouch.

Ouch. At least the satellite dish is dressed up for the holidays.

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Compare

Poor little "Carlin."

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Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

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I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but Im not convinced.

I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but I'm not convinced. There are a lot of things that are "just right" and match the Pelham very nicely. Notice the squared bay with a shed roof, and the four round columns on the front porch. It's a good match to the Pelham, but not perfect. Hard to see here, but in "person" you can tell that four windows in that gabled dormer were removed and sided over. And check out the action on the back roof. This classic bungalow is becoming an A-Frame. Icky.

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If you look closely at these windows, you can seem that a few have been blanked out and covered up.

If you look closely at this dormer, you can see that a few windows have been removed and covered up.

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From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

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This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right.

This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right. This house has so many odd architectural details (the pedimented porch, the two different-size dormers on the side, the bay under the larger dormer), but it's not 100% perfect.

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At the end of the day, Teddy and I were tired, and ready to come home.

At the end of the day, Teddy The Amazing House Hunting Dog was tired, and ready to move on to the next adventure - LUNCH! We'd both had an exciting day with lots of fun discoveries, but we were glad to come home and chow down on some tasty kibble.

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I’m confident that there are many more kit homes in this small part of Newport News, and I hope to return one day (with a driver), and do a little more searching. It’s hard to focus on houses when there are so many people milling about in the street.  :(  Plus, while I was in this area, I saw TWO drivers blow past stop signs, without even pausing to glance at traffic. Scary. And then sometime last night, some poor soul was shot repeatedly in this very area.

Please leave a comment below, and please share this link with friends, via Facebook, twitter or even plain old email!

To learn more about the kit homes of Hampton Roads, click here.

To read about kit homes in nearby Hampton, click here.

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Lost in Schenectady!

January 16th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In 2004, Dale Wolicki invited me and Rebecca to visit him in Michigan. One of our stops was Bay City, where we saw all manner of Aladdin kit homes, including “The Oxford.” Our wonderful tour guide (Dale), told us that the photograph of the Oxford model (shown in the 1931 catalog) was the very same Oxford that had been built in Bay City. It was the “original model,” and the only Oxford in Bay City.

Sears was the most-well known of the kit home companies, but Aladdin was bigger.  Aladdin was the first kit home company, starting business in 1906. Sears started two years later, in 1908. Aladdin outlasted all the others, remaining in business until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

I’ve only seen two Oxfords in my travels. The first was in Bay City, MI and the second was in Lorain, Ohio. And apparently, there’s a third one in Schenectady, NY (according to the testimony below).

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The flared front gable makes this house very distinctive. Image is from the 1931 catalog.

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And theres one

And there's one in Schenectady, NY, built by Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Newell.

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Heres the house we saw that day with Dale. Its in Bay City, and is the same house shown in the 1932 catalog above.

Here's the house we saw that day with Dale. It's in Bay City, and is the same house shown in the 1931 catalog above. This photo was taken in 2004. Must have been July, because there's no snow on the ground.

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Flo

I love this floorplan. Notice the "Radio Room" on the first floor! This was a room dedicated to that most important appliance - the radio! Today, we build entertainment centers bigger than this!

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Secon

The largest bedroom is a mere 12 by 13. Not very big!

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The 1931 catalog had a two-page spread on the Oxford.

The 1931 catalog had a two-page spread on the Oxford, and yet the captions mention that some of these images are NOT pictures of the Oxford.

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My favorite feature in this little 1931 catalog are the interior views.

My favorite feature in this little 1931 catalog are the interior views. The caption states that two small bedrooms were turned into one large bedroom.

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Living

Nice big living room. Love the furniture.

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Kit

But this classic 1931 kithcen is the best room in the house.

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And it has a breakfast nook.

And it has a breakfast nook. I have a thing for breakfast nooks. Again, this is apparently NOT the Oxford's kitchen because there's no provision for a breakfast nook in the floorplan.

Click here to read more about breakfast nooks.

The cover of the 1931 Aladdin catalog is a study unto itself.

The cover of the 1931 Aladdin catalog is a study unto itself.

To read more about the cover of this Aladdin catalog, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Sears Alhambra: A Spanish-Flavored Foursquare

January 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Sears Alhambra was a classic foursquare with a splash of mission style added for good measure.

Here in Hampton Roads, I’ve found 10 Alhambras, which really is a testimony to the popularity of this Sears kit home. In Ohio, there are probably hundreds. (Ohio seems to have a whole lot of Sears Homes in general and Alhambras in particular.)

Click here to see even more photos of America’s Alhambras.

Click here to see the blog titled, “Alhambra Abuse.”  (Warning: It’s not pretty.)

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This appeared on page 2 of the Sears Building Materials catalog (1921)

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Close-up of the letter written by A. C. Goodall.

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Alhambra

The beautiful Alhambra - as seen in the 1921 Building Materials catalog.

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Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town). This house is in the 1500-block of County Street, and it's surrounded by blocks and blocks of empty lots, razed during a redevelopment period in Portsmouth's history. I can't help but wonder - how many Sears kit homes now sit in the Suffolk landfill from this neighborhood?

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Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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One of the most beautiful Alhambras even seen in captivity! This is in Peotone, IL and the photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

One of the most beautiful Alhambras even seen in captivity! This is in Peotone, IL and the photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A real beauty in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

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Another beautiful Alhambra in Nebraska. This photo is copyright 2010 Nathan Sonnenchein, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Another beautiful Alhambra in Nebraska. This photo is copyright 2010 Nathan Sonnenchein, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Like its Virginia cousin, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

Like its cousin in Portsmouth, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

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Another vote for the beige pant job!  This perfect Alhambra is in Raleigh.

Beige seems to be a favorite color for the Alhambra. This is in Raleigh.

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We have four of these houses in Ghent (Norfolk). Im confident that theyre Alhambras - and the floorplan is a spot-on match - but the spanish extras are not there.

We have four of these houses in West Ghent (Norfolk). I'm confident that they're Alhambras - and the floorplan is a spot-on match - but the spanish extras are not there.

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Another view of the house in West Ghent. You can see its got the two bay windows on the side - just like a real Alhambra!

Another view of the house in West Ghent. You can see it's got the two bay windows on the side - just like a real Alhambra!

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And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

There are four of these "plain-Jane Alhambras" in Norfolk. Three are in West Ghent (shown above) and this one is in Ocean View (Norfolk). Note, it's a little different from the three in West Ghent, as it has the porch (covered and open) that matches the traditional Alhambra.

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This Alhambra has also had some of its unique architectural elements stripped away, but you can still see its an Alhambra!

This Alhambra has also has also lost some of its unique architectural elements, but you can still see it's an Alhambra! This is in Lynchburg, VA.

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Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney, SC. My favorite color: Lavender!

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Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock). I discovered this Alhambra when an elderly gent attended my lecture in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth). We had four people show up for that lecture, so I was mighty glad when he and his wife appeared, and increased the audience size by 50%! After the talk, he invited me to see this Alhambra, and he had the original blue prints!

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Alhambra Interiors - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

Alhambra Interiors - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Close-up of the Alhambra Living Room

Close-up of the Alhambra Living Room.

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And the dining room.

And check out that chandelier in the dining room.

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A matching Alhambra garage was offered in the late 1910s!

A matching "Alhambra" garage was offered in the late 1910s!

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To see more pictures of Sears Alhambras, visit All Things Alhambra, part 2.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Sears Avondale - and There’s One Hiding in Greeley, Colorado!

January 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 31 comments

Updated! To read the latest and see contemporary photos of the house, click here

There’s a Sears Avondale somewhere in Greeley, Colorado and that’s remarkable for two reasons.

One, Sears Homes aren’t that common in the “Far West” (as that area was known in the early 1900s), and two, of the 370 models offered by Sears Roebuck, the Avondale was one of their finest homes. The Avondale in Greeley was built by W. H. Senier, a member of one of the pioneer families of Greeley.

Scroll on down to see an actual photo (from 1916) of this Sears Avondale in Greeley.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Noothing like old photos

This photo first appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's a great photo and you can see that - when built in 1910 or 1911, Mr. Senier's house had stained glass windows. This was an upgrade, and it's likely that the home's interior had some fancy upgrades as well.

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A clearer photo of the Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

A clearer photo of the Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

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This whouse

This "bungalow" was the Sears Avondale, replete with stained-glass windows.

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Nice inside, too.

Nice inside, too.

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And heres a real-life example in Effingham, IL.

And here's a real-life example in Effingham, IL.

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And one in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And one in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The best of both worlds: Large antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois

And a very fine Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois.

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And a two-story Avondale in Elmhurst, Illinois. This was built as an Avondale (one-story) and enlarged in later years.  Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for showing me this house. I couldnt have found it on a bet.

And a two-story Avondale in Elmhurst, Illinois. This was built as an Avondale (one-story) and enlarged in later years. Thanks to Dr. Rebecca Hunter for finding this house and showing it to me. I would have never have found it on my own.

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Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale from 1919.

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And the Avon

The Avondale was a popular house for years. It's shown here in the 1910 catalog.


If you’ve any idea where our Greeley Avondale might be lurking, please leave a comment!

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

To read about the results of Addie’s autopsy, click here. (Addie’s sister - Anna Hoyt Whitmore - lived in Denver for 50 years.)

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Sears Modern Home #112 in Enon, Ohio

January 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

About an hour northeast of Cincinnati is a wee tiny town named Enon, Ohio. And in that teeny tiny town is an unusual Sears House, known as Modern Home #112.  The distinctive houses (such as #112) are easier to identify because they have some unique details that’ll catch your eye! And with this home’s two-story polygon bay - extending to the third floor - it should be very easy to identify!

Prior to 1918, Sears Homes had numbers, not names. This house was removed from the catalogs sometime prior to 1918. It never had any name, other than Modern Home #112.

Prior to 1918, Sears Homes had numbers, not names. This house was removed from the catalogs sometime prior to 1918. It never had any name, other than Modern Home #112. That distinctive bay on the front does not extend to the first floor.

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Number 112 in Enon, Ohio was photographed from a different angle (than shown in the image above), but there's little doubt that this is the real deal. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Itd be interesting to know if the owners of this house realize they have a real treasure on their hands.

It'd be interesting to know if the owners of this house realize they have a real treasure on their hands. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

An interesting aside: My husband’s childhood friend - Sam Swauger - lived in Enon for a time. Anyone known Sam?  :)

The first floor of the house

The first floor of the house shows a space for an optional bathroom on the first floor.

And

And there is no space on the second floor for a bathroom. Also, notice that the second floor is much smaller than the first. There is no living space over the kitchen area on the back of the house. This was common in the early 1900s, as it was thought that any area over the kitchen would be too hot and too smelly and unsuitable for living space.

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I found Modern Home #112 in my copy of the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is a very rare catalog, and probably one of the more valuable catalogs.

Sears Modern Home #112 can be found in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown here). This is a very rare catalog, and probably one of the more valuable catalogs.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To read about Addie Hoyt, click here.

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Classic Arts and Crafts Design: The Sears Ashmore

January 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 11 comments

The Sears Ashmore was not one of Sears most popular designs, but it surely was one of their prettiest, and it was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow.

And it had a pergola, too!

According to the testimonies that appeared in the catalog, there are Sears Ashmores in Abilene, TX and Fargo, ND.

Ashmore

This bungalow was a classic Arts & Crafts design (from the 1921 catalog).

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And theres one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I cant pay you, but Ill send you a signed copy of my book!!  :)

And there's one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I can't pay you, but I'll send you a signed copy of my book!! :)

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And theres one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

And there's one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

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The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features.

The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features. And it was a departure from the simple foursquares that were the bread and butter of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. The living room and dining room both have coffered ceilings, and there's a fireplace nook at one end of the massive living room, with a window seat at the other end.

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Heres an image from the 1916 catalog.

Here's an image from the 1916 catalog. Pre-1918 (before Sears Homes had names) this was the C250 model. "The Ashmore" sounds much more elegant.

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According to the page above, there’s also a Sears Ashmore in Fargo, ND! I’d like a photo of that, too.

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The cover of the 1921 Sears Buildign Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

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Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior views of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs.

Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior "views" of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs. The dining room (shown above) is outfitted with classic Arts & Crafts pieces. The oak wainscoting (topped with plate-rail) is shown, but not the coffered (beamed) ceiling.

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Another

One end of the 23-foot-long living room had a window seat (shown above).

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And the other end had a fireplace nook.

And the other end had a fireplace nook.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Heres a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Here's a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table. According to the floor plan, that's an ironing board in the wall to the right of the nook.

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And heres the worlds most beautiful Ashmore. Not too found of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. Its in Waverly, Illinois and its featured in my book, The Sears Homes of Illinois.  The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesnt do it for me.

And here's the world's most beautiful Ashmore. Not too fond of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. It's in Waverly, Illinois and it's featured in my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesn't do it for me. But thank goodness, it's in original condition and the vinyl siding salesmen have not decimated it.

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Doesnt that warm the cockles of your heart?

Doesn't that warm the cockles of your heart? Compare it to the house above, and you'll see it's a perfect match. My oh my, that's a sweet-looking house!

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Awesome

If this doesn't make your heart leap with joy, you should stop what you're doing right now and make sure that you still have a heart beat. Look at these porches. This sweet thing in Waverly still has its original porch railings.

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This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia.

And here's one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia. Isn't it dreamy?

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To become fascinated by yet another old story that Rose is involved in, click here.

To read about how and why the bungalow became so popular so fast, read here.

If you’ve visited this site more than ten times in the last year, state law requires that you leave a detailed and thoughtful comment below.

Okay, not really, but I wish you would.

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The Prettiest Kit Homes You Ever Saw in Tahlequah, Oklahoma (Second Update)

December 31st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Dear friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker has found an abundance of kit homes in Oklahoma, and now she’s found FOUR kit homes in Tahlequah, Oklahoma!

What is a kit home? Kit houses typically arrived by train in 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.  Each kit included everything you would need to finish your dream home, including 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 10 pounds of wood putty, 72 coat hooks, roofing shingles, door knobs, lumber, windows, flooring…well you get the idea. It really was a complete kit.

Homes sold by Sears and Roebuck are the most well-known, but in addition to Sears, there were five other national companies selling kit homes through a mail-order catalog (Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling and Harris Brothers).

Tahlequah also has  kit homes from Aladdin , and Gordon Van Tine, in addition to Sears.

It’s not surprising that Tahlequah has Aladdins, as Aladdin had huge mills in Mississippi and Louisiana. Aladdin (in Bay City, MI) was in business from 1906-1981.  There are more than 75,000 Aladdin kit homes in the country (compared with about 70,000 Sears Homes). Sears started offering homes by mail order  in 1908 (two years after Aladdin), and in 1940, they closed  their Modern Homes Department once and for all.

Tahlequah also has the  fanciest home offered by Gordon Van TineGVT sold about 50,000 kit homes from 1910 - 1945. They were based in Davenport, Iowa, but sold kit homes throughout the country.

Tahlequah, Oklahoma was the original capital of the Cherokee Nation in 1838. According to Wikipedia, Tahlequah became a settlement in 1832. The Cherokees also beat the United States to the punch (so to speak) in adopting prohibition well before the temperance movement was even a gleam in Lyman Beecher’s eye. According to Oklahoma Genealogy, in 1841, Cherokee councils enacted a law prohibiting the sale “ardent spirits” within the Cherokee Nation.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

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

To learn more about Addie Hoyt Fargo, click here.

Aladdiin

The quality of lumber found in these early 20th Century kit homes was first rate. Framing members were #1 southern yellow pine from Louisiana and Mississippi. It was first-growth lumber that grew slowly and naturally in virgin forests.

Aladdin Cape Cod, as seen in the 1923 catalog. This catalog page shows one floor plan (L-shaped), but in later years, it was offered in three floorplans, one of which was rectangular. .

Aladdin Cape Cod, as seen in the 1923 catalog. This catalog page shows one floor plan (L-shaped), but in later years, it was offered in three floorplans, one of which was rectangular.

Close-up of the Aladdin Cape Cod

Close-up of the Aladdin "Cape Cod"

And here it is, in the flesh! An Aladdin Cape Cod in stunningly original condition!  Even retains its original casement windows!

And here it is, in the flesh! An Aladdin "Cape Cod" in stunningly original condition! Even retains its original casement windows! (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

An Aladdin Wenonah, as seen in the 1917 catalog.

An Aladdin Wenonah, as seen in the 1913 catalog.

Aladdin Wenonah in Tahlequah.

Aladdin Wenonah in Tahlequah. The porch has been altered, but that's not a big deal. Porches are often changed through the years, and this house is probably close to 100 years old. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

is this

Sears Modern Home #126 looked a lot like an early 20th Century train station.

Is this

Notice the inset porch and chamfered corners.

Is this

Is this Sears Modern Home #126? Sure looks a lot like it to me. (Photo is copyright 2011 Doug Moore, and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK, and it's a beauty! Like the house above, this also has the two-story porch on the left side. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Rober

The GVT Roberts has had several additions through the years, but still looks much like the catalog page shown above. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Im not sure why this house has a periscope.

I'm not sure why this house has a periscope. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language.

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

To contact Rachel Shoemaker, send her an email at ffshoe@olp.net

Rachel has done extensive research on the kit homes in Oklahoma, and has traveled countless miles, researching and documenting these historically significant homes. We’re both puzzled as to how and why so many kit homes landed here, but it’s time that someone hired Rachel to do a proper survey of this impressive collection of Oklahoma’s architectural treasure trove of kit homes. Heretofore, all the work she’s done has been at her own expense.

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A Fascinating Little Tidbit about WLS and Sears

December 29th, 2011 Sears Homes 10 comments

“What does WLS stand for?” is a question I often ask lecture attendees.

After giving more than 200 lectures in 25 states, only two people have answered this question correctly.

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with Sears and Roebuck.

Thanks to eBay, I’ve located and purchased all manner of Sears Modern Homes ephemera, and one of my treasures is this employee newsletter. In fact, it was the very first edition of the “WLS” employee newsletter! Published in early 1925, it featured an interesting story titled, “The House The Kelly’s Built,” which told the story of a next-door neighbor  (Mr. Kelly) who’d hired “Jerry” (a 12-year-old boy) to help him build his newly purchased Sears kit home, The Clyde.

Jerry’s father (Mr. Thomas) was incredulous when he heard about this. After all, housebuilding is a difficult trade, for seasoned and experienced craftsman. When Jerry tries to explain that it’s a Sears kit house, with a 75-page instruction book, and numbered framing members (for easy assembly), his father chastises him for his impunity and reminds him that he is not to interrupt his elders.

It has a happy ending, as Mr. Kelly (the new Sears Homeowner) explains to Mr. Thomas (Jerry’s dad), that it is a very easy house to build, and when completed, it’ll be a real dandy of a home.

There are three important take-away lessons from this story.

1)  Building a kit home (12,000 easy pieces) was considered to be a simple task by the people who lived in the early 20th Century.

2) It was acceptable (and even common practice) to hire 12-year-olds for hard work.

3) Mr. Thomas was a horse’s ass.

To read another fascinating story about a murder in Lake Mills, click here.

Here

This short story appeared in the first edition of an employee newsletter issued for employees of Sears Roebuck. The name of the newsletter was "WLS."

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Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Framing members were marked with a three-digit number and a letter (D is for 2x8s, C for 2x6s, B for 2x4s). This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, made assembly easy for even the novice homebuilder.

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The house that the Kellys are building (with young Jerrys help) is the Sears Clyde, a very modest and popular bungalow.

The house that the Kellys are building (with young Jerry's help) is the Sears Clyde, a very modest bungalow. Because it is such a modest house, it often gets severely remuddled through the passing decades. Identifying these simple houses is very difficult.

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Clyde

The Clyde, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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At least 98.76% of the time, the bay window in a little bungalow such as this is used for the dining room. The Clyde is an odd exception. In this little house, that bay on the side is for a bedroom, and the bathroom is right behind it. This is a useful detail for identifying The Clyde, as you should expect to see a bathroom vent roof pipe behind the bay.

At least 98.76% of the time, the bay window in a little bungalow such as this is used for the dining room. The Clyde is an odd exception. In this little house, that bay on the side is for a bedroom, and the bathroom is right behind it. This is a useful detail for identifying The Clyde, as you should expect to see a bathroom vent roof pipe behind the bay.

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This little Clyde in Cairo, IL is not feeling very well, and yet - it is definitely a Sears Clyde. That lowered platform on the front porch is still in place, but obscured by this white sedan. The gable ornaments and porch details are gone, and someone thought itd be a swell idea to do a thatch effect roof (shudder), but its a Sears Clyde.

This little Clyde in Cairo, IL is not feeling very well, and yet - it is definitely a Sears Clyde. That lowered platform on the front porch is still in place, but obscured by this white sedan. The gable ornaments and porch details are gone, and someone thought it'd be a swell idea to do a "thatch effect roof" (shudder), but it's a Sears Clyde.

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WLS

WLS stood for "World's Largest Store." The famous Chicago radio station, WLS, actually began as a promotional tool for Sears. The station signed on in 1924 with farm reports and weather information. Sears sold the radio station in the fall of 1928. Back in the day, call signs had meanings. Here in Norfolk, we had WGH which stood for "World's Greatest Harbor."

To read Part II, click here.

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

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Aladdin Shadowlawn in Concord, NC - And Now I Know WHERE!

December 27th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, I published a blog about a beautiful Aladdin Shadowlawn I found in Concord, NC.  At the time, I couldn’t find the address. My addresses are stored in notebooks, and they’re not in any particular order. Retrieving an address from a trip made long ago can be pretty challenging.

However, once the hoopla of Christmas had settled a bit in the Thornton Home, I went looking for that address in Concord. And I found it! This Aladdin Shadowlawn is on Grove Street.

BTW, when I was in Concord, I was on my way to another North Carolina city, so I didn’t do a “proper” and extensive survey of Concord, but I do remember finding some other Aladdin kit homes there, including, an Aladdin Pomona, and an Aladdin Sheffield, and this Aladdin Shadowlawn (see below).

It’s not surprising that this part of North Carolina is so loaded with kit homes, because Aladdin had a major mill in Wilmington, NC. In fact, Roanoke Rapids has one of the largest collections (and most impressive collections) of Aladdins in the country! It’s worth the trip, I promise!

Aladdin was one of six national mail-order companies that sold entire kit homes through their catalogs. The houses typically arrived by train in 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Today, there are about 75,000 Aladdin kit homes in the country (compared with about 70,000 Sears Homes in the country).

While Sears is a more well-known name in the kit home business, Aladdin actually was around a lot longer. Sears started in 1908; Aladdin started in 1906!

In 1940, Sears called it quits, and closed their Modern Homes department. Aladdin continued to sell kit homes until 1981.

More than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them! Aladdin Kit Homes were sold from 1906-1981. (Sears, by comparison, was out of business by 1940.)

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To learn about the Aladdin Homes in Rocky Mount, click here.

To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and theres a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and there's a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC. Image is from the 1919 catalog.

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

In Roanoke Rapids, NC, youll find this *perfect* Aladdin Pomona and the best part - it really is ON the railroad tracks!

In Roanoke Rapids, NC, you'll find this *perfect* Aladdin Pomona and the best part - it really is ON the railroad tracks! As I recall, there is a Pomona in Concord.

Aladdin

Aladdin offered some pretty fancy houses, too, such as this Aladdin Villa.

If you love kit homes, you have to visit Roanoke Rapids. It was a town built by Aladdin, and it was a wide variety of Aladdin ki

If you love kit homes, you have to visit Roanoke Rapids. It was a town built by Aladdin, and it was a wide variety of Aladdin kit homes, including this Aladdin Villa (Aladdin's biggest kit home).

Aladdin

Aladdin was a kit home company based in Bay City that sold more than 75,000 kit homes during their 75 years in the kit home business.

A

Aladdin was a large, impressive company and here in the Southeast, most of the kit homes that I've found are from Aladdin,

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and their mill was in Wilmington, which would explain why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in North Carolina.

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and one sterling example is Roanoke Rapids, NC. In that small town, we've found more than 60 Aladdin Kit Homes, including some of Aladdin's biggest and fanciest homes.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

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To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

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The Aladdin Shadowlawn in Concord, North Carolina - But WHERE is it?

December 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Several years ago, I drove through the 1920s neighborhoods in Concord, NC and found several kit homes from Aladdin on the beautiful, tree-lined streets. I was on my way to a more distant land, and it was very early in the morning. Due to the poor lighting, I could only get one decent photo. However, I remember finding several Aladdin kit homes on one street.

Now, these many years later, I don’t remember how many Aladdins that I found, but I saw an Aladdin Pomona, and an Aladdin Sheffield, and this Aladdin Shadowlawn (see below). It’s not surprising that this part of North Carolina is so loaded with kit homes, because Aladdin had a major mill in Wilmington, NC. In fact, Roanoke Rapids has one of the largest collections (and most impressive collections) of Aladdins in the country! It’s worth the trip, I promise!

Aladdin was a mail-order company that (like Sears), sold entire kit homes through their catalogs. The houses typically arrived by boxcar in 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Today, there are about 75,000 Aladdin kit homes in the country, and about 70,000 Sears Homes in the country. More than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them! Aladdin Kit Homes were sold from 1906-1981. (Sears, by comparison, was out of business by 1940.)

If someone could tell me the name of the street where this Shadowlawn is located, we’d also know the proximity of the OTHER kit homes (for they were very close by).

So, please leave a comment below if you know where this house is! And please look for the other Aladdins on the same street!

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To learn about the Aladdin Homes in Rocky Mount, click here.

To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and theres a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and there's a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC. Image is from the 1919 catalog.

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

And Im 98% confident I saw an Aladdin Sheffield just across the street and down a few doors from that Shadowlawn.

And I'm 98% confident I saw an Aladdin Sheffield just across the street and down a few doors from that Shadowlawn.

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and their mill was in Wilmington, which would explain why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in North Carolina.

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and their mill was in Wilmington, which would explain why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in North Carolina.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

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To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

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