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Fenestration Devastation

December 15th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Years ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If you look

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

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

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

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What he did NOT

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

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

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

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

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

The Aladdin Colonial from the 1916 catalog.

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

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

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Lynchburg, Virginia: A Colossal Caboodle of Kit Homes

July 29th, 2014 Sears Homes 12 comments

UPDATED at 7.30 am (Wednesday)!  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!

Come join our group “Sears Homes” on Facebook by clicking here!

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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Aladdin

The Aladdin Colonial was quite a house. It was Aladdin's crème de la crème.

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This is

This is not the crème de la crème of Lynchburg housing. This house is now the poster child for insensitive remodeling. Interestingly, it's owned by Lynchburg College. This house has really had a hurtin' put on it.

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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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The Wardway Warrenton in West Virginia

May 27th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

In 2009, I visited the tiny town of Rainelle, West Virginia and discovered several Sears Homes on Main Street. That was a lovely surprise.

And another nice surprise was finding a Wardway Warrenton in town, too.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit-home business (1908-1940). Wardway sold about 25,000 kit homes in roughly the same time period (1909-1932). Gordon Van Tine (who manufactured the houses for Montgomery Ward) sold about 50,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats on Wardway and Gordon Van Tine.)

Because of the rarity of these Wardway Homes, it’s always a nice surprise to find one, especially so far from the Midwest (where Montgomery Wards was based).

Many thanks to Skip Deegans for traipsing out to Rainelle and getting these photos for me!

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

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Like Sears, Wardway kit homes were also

Like Sears, Wardway kit homes also had pre-cut lumber that was marked to facilitate construction. These many years later, those marks can help identify a house as a kit home.

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The Wardway Warrenton

The Wardway Warrenton was a "splendid home," and the accompanying text said it was "dignified and handsome." In fact, it was a six-bedroom home which was unusually large for a house of this time period. Recommended colors were cream paint (walls) with white trim. Yawn.

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The house was just shy of 2,200 square feet.

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Wardway

The Wardway Warrenton as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Is this a Wardway Warrenton? Looks like it to me! Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of the Wardway Warrenton in Rainelle, WV. Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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

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Durham and Its Kit Homes! (Updated!)

May 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

On Saturday (May 19th), I’ll be at the Rialto Theater giving a talk on the Kit Homes of Raleigh.

On Thursday (May 17th), Katherine Jordan drove me through Durham (next door to Raleigh) to look for kit homes. And we found a few!

As is typical in this part of the country, we found more Aladdin Kit Homes than anything else. Aladdin (like Sears) sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, and Aladdin (unlike Sears) had a major mill located in Wilmington, NC., so it’s not surprising that there are so many Aladdins in Durham and surrounding areas.

Want to learn more? Join our group on Facebook!

To see what we found in Raleigh, click here.

To listen to Rose’s interview on WUNC, click here.

To see the photos of kit homes in Durham, scroll on down!

First, my favorite Sears House in Durham - The Sears Alhambra!

First, my favorite Sears House in Durham - The Sears Alhambra!

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Hidden in the Pines is one of the prettiest Alhambras I have ever seen.

Hidden in the Pines is one of the prettiest Alhambras I have ever seen.

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First, one of my favorites! The Aladdin Pomona.

And from Aladdin, one of my favorites! The Aladdin Pomona.

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Due to the remodeling (substitute siding), its hard to see but this is definitely an Aladdin Pomona!

Due to the remodeling (substitute siding), it's hard to see but this is definitely an Aladdin Pomona!

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And even though its got replacement siding, it did retain its original windows!

And even though it's got replacement siding, it did retain its original windows, with their distinctive diamond muntins.

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This is a Sears Lynnhaven (from the 1938 catalog).

This is a Sears Lynnhaven (from the 1938 catalog).

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And the Lynnhaven in Durham had something Ive never seen before: A gabled dormer!

And the Lynnhaven in Durham had something I've never seen before: A gabled dormer!

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And I also saw a house from Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company).

And I also saw a house from Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company).

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The Durham

This "Colonial Cottage" was a good match to its original catalog image.

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Aladdin

The Aladdin Plaza was a classic early 20th Century bungalow.

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Aladdin Plaza

This Aladdin Plaza in Durham is in perfect condition.

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And literally next door to the Plaza was a perfect little Aladdin Pasadena.

And literally next door to the Plaza was a perfect little Aladdin Pasadena. Notice the classic "Arts and Crafts" porch roof.

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Its somewhat obscured by landscaping, but theres no doubt that this is an Aladdin Pasadena.

It's somewhat obscured by landscaping, but there's no doubt that this is an Aladdin Pasadena.

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Close of the door.

Close up of the door.

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NOT

Through the years, several people contacted me to tell me about this "Sears House" in Durham. THIS IS NOT A SEARS HOUSE! In fact, it is NOT a kit home at all!! It's from a plan book titled, "Standard Home Plans for 1926," and Rachel Shoemaker is the one who figured this out. Again - this is *not* a Sears House, but it came from a plan book!

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To learn more about plan book houses, click here.

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And we spotted a couple Lustons on the same street!

And we spotted a couple Lustons on the same street!

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To learn more about Lustron Homes, click here.

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And this is NOT a kit home, but it is a DAZZLING architectural treasure. Its Art Moderne and one of my all time favorite housing styles - and its right there in Durham!

And this is NOT a kit home, but it is a DAZZLING architectural treasure. It's known as "Art Moderne" and one of my all time favorite housing styles - and it's right there in Durham!

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The details.

The details of Rose's appearances in Raleigh.

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

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming lecture, click here.

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Sears Kit Homes in My Town: Norfolk, Virginia

January 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

How many Sears Homes does Norfolk have? A whole bunch. In fact, Norfolk has more than 80 kit homes from a variety of kit-home companies, including Aladdin, Sears, Lewis Manufacturing, Harris Brothers and Gordon Van Tine.

In 2004, a local college went scouting for kit homes in Norfolk. I read their finished report and was not surprised that they missed most of these 80+ kit homes. This is a work that I have dedicated my life to, and it’s not a project one can endeavor to undertake on a spare weekend.

When I first started hunting for kit homes in Norfolk, I was expecting to find a couple dozen - at the most. I was surprised (and delighted) to find so many of them, and in diverse group of neighborhoods, such as West Ghent, Ingleside, Larchmont, Ocean View, Park Place, Colonial Place, Riverview, Lafayette Winona and more.

Born and raised in Portsmouth, I’ll always be a “Portsmouth Girl.” In 1995, our little family left Hampton Roads and moved to the St. Louis area, where we lived for 11 years.  In 2006, I moved back to the area, met and married a nice guy who worked for the city of Norfolk, and that’s when Norfolk became my new home.

I’m still learning how to navigate the labyrinthine streets, and still making new discoveries. Who knew Norfolk could be so much fun?  :)

To read about the Sears Homes I found in Newport News, click here.

The Sears Roanoke, as shown in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Roanoke, as shown in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Of all the houses Ive found in Norfolk, this is far and away my #1 favorite. This is an older picture, but its a perfect Sears Roanoke in Norfolk (off of Colley Avenue). The owner (Robert) loves his beautiful Roanoke, and Ive never come across *anyone* who loves (and respects) the historical significance of his Sears House, more than this fellow. The house is a gem, and thanks to Robert, this 90-year-old home has been faithfully and meticulously restored.

Of all the houses I've found in Norfolk, this is far and away my #1 favorite. This is a perfect Sears Roanoke in Norfolk (off Colley Avenue). The owner (Robert) loves his beautiful Roanoke, and I've never come across *anyone* who loves (and appreciates) the historical significance of his Sears House, more than this fellow. The house is a gem, and thanks to Robert, this 90-year-old home has been faithfully and meticulously restored.

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The Sears Lebanon, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Lebanon, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another treasure of a house, and also in good condition. Its on 28th Street, just off Colley Avenue.

Another treasure of a house, and also in good condition. It's on 28th Street, just off Colley Avenue. See the small pieces of wood that jut out under that dormer window? Those are the old supports that held up the flower boxes (seen in original catalog image).

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The Whitehall is easy to identify with that two-story bay window (1926).

The Whitehall is easy to identify with that two-story bay window (1926).

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Next door to the Sears Lebanon is this Whitehall (27th Street).

Next door to the Sears Lebanon is this Whitehall (28th Street).

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Sears Argyle (1919 catalog).

Sears Argyle (1919 catalog).

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This sweet little Sears Argyle is hidden away in the 900-block of 28th Street.

This sweet little Sears Argyle is hidden away in the 900-block of 28th Street.

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Heres another Argyle in Ocean View.

Here's another Argyle in Ocean View.

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The Alhambra was another popular Sears kit home.

The Alhambra was another popular Sears kit home.

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Heres a modified Alhambra on Westover Avenue in Ghent.

Here's a modified Alhambra on Westover Avenue in West Ghent. It's one of three exact models, all in a row. A distinctive feature of the Alhambra is the three squared-bay windows.

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The Alhambra floorplan shows those three squared bays.

The Alhambra floorplan shows those three squared bays.

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One of my favorites is the Harris Brothers La Grange (1923 catalog).

One of my favorites is the Harris Brothers "La Grange" (1923 catalog).

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There are two of these in Ocean View. Heres one on Capitol Avenue.

There are two of these in Ocean View. Here's one on Capitol Avenue. Notice the curved front porch, and casement windows flanking the fireplace.

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Not surprisingly, there are many Aladdin kit homes in Norfolk. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and remained in business un 1981. Aladdin had a huge mill at Wilmington, NC.

Not surprisingly, there are many Aladdin kit homes in Norfolk. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and remained in business un 1981. Aladdin had a huge mill at Wilmington, NC.

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There are two of these Aladdin Edisons right next door to ODU in the 800-block of 46th Street.

There are two of these Aladdin Edisons right next door to ODU in the 800-block of 46th Street.

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Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia!

This Aladdin "Virginia" is on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia (in Colonial Place). It's in wonderful condition and it's a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

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The Aladdin Pasadena and there are three of them in Norfolk.

There are three Aladdin Pasadenas in Norfolk.

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This Aladdin Pasadena is in the 1600-block of LaSalle Avenue in Lafayette-Winona.

This Aladdin Pasadena is in the 1600-block of LaSalle Avenue in Lafayette-Winona.

Its turned sideways on the lot, which made the initial identification a little challenging, but theres no doubt that this is a Pasadena. Look at the detail around the front porch.

It's turned sideways on the lot, which made the initial identification a little challenging, but there's no doubt that this is a Pasadena. Look at the architectural details around the front porch. This house is on 49th Street in Norfolk.

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Close-up of the porch on this sideways Pasadena.

Close-up of the porch on this sideways Pasadena.

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The Aladdin Winthrop is easy to identify with those four bricks columns on the porch, only two of which have wooden columns extending to the porch roof.

The Aladdin Winthrop is easy to identify with those four bricks columns on the porch, only two of which have wooden columns extending to the porch roof. Another interesting feature is the window in the side of the dining room bay.

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This Aladdin Winthrop is even the same colors as its original catalog image. Its in the 3000-block of Tidewater Drive.

This Aladdin Winthrop is even the same colors as its original catalog image. It's in Lafayette Winona, and it's in beautifully original condition!

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The Sheffield as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The "Sheffield" as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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This one is in Lafayette-Winona.

This one is in Lafayette-Winona, and it's a perfect match!

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The Aladdin Pomona, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Pomona, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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The Aladdin Pomona in Lafayette-Winona.

The Aladdin Pomona in Lafayette-Winona. The windows have been changed but it's undoubtedly a Pomona. And it's in a neighborhood with several Aladdins!

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The Plaza was a grand house, and spacious too.

The Plaza was a grand house, and spacious too.

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And here is my #1 favorite kit house in all of Hampton Roads: The Aladdin Plaza, in beautifully original condition.

And here is my #1 favorite kit house in all of Hampton Roads: The Aladdin Plaza, in beautifully original condition.

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Gordon Van Tine was another mail-order kit home company that was based in Davenport, Iowa.

Gordon Van Tine was another mail-order kit home company that was based in Davenport, Iowa. This design ("The Roberts") was one of their most popular houses.

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This Roberts is in Ocean View and is beautiful condition!

This "Roberts" is in Ocean View and is beautiful condition!

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The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and best kit homes (1928 catalog).

The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and best kit homes (1928 catalog).

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And this one is in West Ghent!

And this one is in West Ghent!

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The Sears Avondale was a popular house.

The Sears Avondale was a popular house (1919 catalog), and spacious, too.

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And this one is on Victorian Avenue. Its well-hidden by the trees, but theres no doubt that its a Sears Avondale.

And this one is on Victoria Avenue. It's well-hidden by the trees, but there's no doubt that it's a Sears Avondale. This is a mirror image of the catalog page above. Notice the large bay window? It's on the "flip side" of the catalog picture.

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The Sears Vallonia was one of Sears best-selling homes (1925 catalog).

The Sears Vallonia was one of Sears best-selling homes (1925 catalog).

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Located in Ocean View (on Mason Avenue), its been converted into a duplex, but its definitely a Vallonia.

Located in Ocean View (on Mason Avenue), it's been converted into a duplex, but it's definitely a Sears Vallonia, with an enlarged dormer.

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Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And a Sears Westly on Tennesee Road. This was a real surprise, because most of these houses are post-1940s.

And a Sears Westly on Tennessee Road. This was a real surprise, because most of the houses on this street are post-1940s.

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And heres a Sears Westly (now a duplex, sadly) in Ocean View.

And another Sears Westly (now a duplex, sadly) in Ocean View.

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The Sears Barrington was a popular house (1929 catalog).

The Sears Barrington was a popular house (1929 catalog).

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This Barrington is in Ocean View, and its a good match to the catalog picture.

This Barrington is in Ocean View, and it's a good match to the catalog picture.

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The Sears Americus is also easy to identify, because that bumped-out wall on the second floor does not exist on the first floor.

The Sears Americus is also easy to identify, because that bumped-out wall on the second floor does not exist on the first floor. The porch roof also catches my eye, because it juts out beyond the home's main wall, and is shaped like a sideways "V."

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This Americus is in Park Place is in the 600-block of 27th Street. Park Place has several kit homes.

This Americus is in Park Place is in the 600-block of 27th Street. Park Place has several kit homes. There's a special place in hell for the guy who did this siding job. Look what he did to the eave brackets. Plus, like so many other Sears Homes in Norfolk, it's been turned into a duplex.

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There is not one, but two Aladdin Venuses (or woult that be Venii?) in Park Place.

There are two Aladdin "Venuses" (or would that be "Venii"?) in Park Place.

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This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its on 38th.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's on 38th Street.

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And this Aladdin Venus is on 36th Street.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. There was a Mama Bear-sized Venus and a Papa Bear-sized Venus. This one (on 36th street) is the larger model. The one on 38th Street (shown above) was the smaller model.

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Norfolk is also home to many plan book houses. Plan books were akin to kit homes, but with plan book homes, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials that would be needed. The actual building materials were then obtained locally.  This house shown here is a Homebuilders Carrville.

Norfolk is also home to many "plan book" houses. Plan books were akin to "kit homes," but with plan book homes, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials that would be needed. The actual building materials were then obtained locally. This house shown here is a "Homebuilder's Carrville."

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And heres a pristine example in Ocean View.

And here's a pristine example in Ocean View. The Ocean View home has straight gables, unlike the catalog image, which has the clipped gables. That minor alteration would have been easy to do.

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Putting these photos together took about 50 hours of work (spread out over a period of months). Looking for kit homes is always fun, but after a few hours, both Teddy and I come back home dog tired.

Putting this blog together took about 50 hours of work (spread out over a period of months). Finding these early 20th Century kit homes is always fun, but also a bit tiring. After a few hours of "house hunting," Teddy and I usually return home "dog tired."

As mentioned, there are more than 80 kit homes in Norfolk. The above are just a few of them.

Please share this link with friends!

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

To see pictures of kit homes in Colonial Place, click here.

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Atlanta’s Amazing Abundance of Sears Homes

February 16th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

For 12 years, I lived in Illinois and I spent many happy years seeking and finding kit homes throughout the Midwest. In 2006, I moved back “home” to Virginia, and I’ve spent subsequent years looking for kit homes in the south.

I’m surprised at how many I’ve found in this part of the country. An even bigger surprise was the abundance of kit homes I found during a brief trip to Atlanta. The houses pictured below are the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure. There just wasn’t time to cover the whole of Atlanta.

Take a look at the photos below and enjoy the many pretties of Atlanta!

Btw, if you know of a historical society and/or civic group that’d be interested in sponsoring my return to Atlanta, please leave a comment below.

Enjoy the photos!

And if you’d like to learn more about the kit homes in the south, click here.

Beautiful brick Alhambra in the heart of Atlanta!

This lovely brick Alhambra is located in the heart of Atlanta!

This was Aladdins fanciest home: The Villa

This was Aladdin's fanciest home: The Villa. This image is from the 1916 Aladdin catalog. Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears) also sold kit homes out of mail-order catalog. In Atlanta, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears kit homes. Not surprising, as Aladdin had a massive mill in North Carolina.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! This may be the prettiest Aladdin Villa that I have ever seen.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! And it's surely one of the prettiest Aladdin Villas that I have ever seen. It is perfect in every way, and a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

And heres the Aladdin Pasadena we found in Atlanta!

An Aladdin Pasadena on a main drag in Atlanta!

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta. This Pomona is in beautifully original condition! Note the details around the porch gable, and the flared columns and the original siding. It's a real beauty. Unfortunately, I shot the photo when the sun was low in the sky. Hence, the long shadows.

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

One of our most interesting finds was the modern Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but its too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, designed by someone who loves Sears Homes!

One of the most interesting finds was this contemporary Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but it's too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, built by a real fan of Sears Homes!

One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border!

One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border. Apart from the slightly different dormer up top, this house is a good match to the catalog picture. No, it's not Atlanta, but it's pretty close! And there are only six known Magnolias in the whole country!

If you know anything more about these houses, please leave a comment below. Or if you’d like to contact Rose Thornton, please leave a comment.

If you’d like to keep reading about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hampton Roads’ Abundance of Sears Homes

January 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few years ago, several cities in Hampton Roads hired consultants (schooled and trained in archeology) to find the Sears Homes in Hampton Roads. After obtaining a copy of the written report and reading it, I laughed out loud. The researchers missed most of the kit homes in our area. Yeah, archeology. Even though the words “architecture” and “archeology” both begin with the letters “arc,” there is a difference in the two arts.

Below are just a few of the kit homes I’ve found in the area. Heretofore, I’ve found 52 in Portsmouth, 75 in Norfolk and about 15 in Chesapeake.

To read another article about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Sears Westly

Sears Westly

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Suffolk, Virginia

Sears Westly in downtown Suffolk

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Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

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Aladdin is very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable.

Aladdin Kit Homes (a competitor of Sears) was very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable. Sears sold about 70,000 homes during their 32 years in the kit home business (1908-1940). However, Aladdin started in 1906 and went to 1981, selling about 75,000 houses.

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

One of my all-time favorite Aladdin Plazas is in Norfolk, Virginia, about three miles from my home in Colonial Place.

One of my all-time favorite Aladdin Plazas is in Norfolk, Virginia, about three miles from my home in Colonial Place.

This Aladdin Colonial is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed it was a Sears kit home. This is not uncommon. It *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

This Aladdin Colonial pictured below is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed the house pictured below was a "Sears kit home." This is not uncommon. This house (below) *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial. This one is in Suffolk.

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This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

Here's a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

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Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Marsden in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Heres an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Here's an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

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Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog. Note, this Shadowlawn has a porte cochere.

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

A darling Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA, just across from Lowes Hardware Store on Portsmouth Blvd West. This house was moved from another location, about a mile due east on Portsmouth Blvd and it appears to be in harm's way yet again - with all the retails shops that have sprouted up around it.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

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The Beckley (from Sears)

The Beckley (from Sears)

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sextants Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sexton's Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

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Ive also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

I've also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeakes Deep Creek area.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeake's Deep Creek area.

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And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, its been turned into a duplex.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, it's been turned into a duplex.

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Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

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Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolks Colonial Place

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolk's Colonial Place

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Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Here it is, right in Norfolks Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

Here it is, right in Norfolk's Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

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As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and heres the Aladdin Edison

As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and here's the Aladdin Edison

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

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Aladdin Detroit

Aladdin Detroit

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

To read the next article, click here:

Sears Homes in Atlanta, Georgia

September 12th, 2010 Sears Homes 13 comments

In 2010, I visited Atlanta, Georgia (and surrounding areas), where Nancy (an old house lover, kind soul and Acworth resident) drove me many miles seeking and finding kit homes. Below are a few of the houses we found in the area.

It’s likely that there are many more kit homes in Atlanta. Nancy and I devoted one day to photographing the Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama (see photo below), and another day we went to small towns north of Atlanta. I’d love to return to Atlanta sometime soon and do a more thorough survey. If you know of a historical society and/or civic group that’d be interested in sponsoring my visit, please contact me by leaving a comment below.

Enjoy the photos!

And if you know of a Sears Home in the Atlanta area, let me know!

Do you live in a Sears Home? Click here to learn the Nine Easy Signs for identifying Sears Homes!

Read today’s blog by clicking here.

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The Magnolia was Sears biggest and best kit home. It was offered from 1918-1922. I literally traveled from my home in Norfolk to Atlanta, mainly to see this house up close and personal. See the actual house in the photo below.

The Magnolia was Sears biggest and best kit home. It was offered from 1918-1922. I literally traveled from my home in Norfolk to Atlanta, mainly to see this house "up close and personal." See the actual house in the photo below.

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One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border!

One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border. Apart from the slightly different dormer up top, this house is a good match to the catalog picture.

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Beautiful brick Alhambra in the heart of Atlanta!

Beautiful brick Alhambra in the heart of Atlanta!

This was Aladdins fanciest home: The Villa

This was Aladdin's fanciest home: The Villa. This is from the 1916 Aladdin catalog. Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears) also sold kit homes out of mail-order catalog. In Atlanta, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears kit homes. Not surprising, as Aladdin had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! This may be the prettiest Aladdin Villa that I have ever seen.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! This may be the prettiest Aladdin Villa that I have ever seen. It is perfect in every way, and a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

And heres the Aladdin Pasadena we found in Atlanta!

And here's the Aladdin Pasadena we found in Atlanta!

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta. This Pomona is in beautifully original condition! Note the details around the porch gable, and the flared columns and the original siding. It's a real beauty!

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

One of our most interesting finds was the modern Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but its too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, designed by someone who loves Sears Homes!

One of our most interesting finds was the modern Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but it's too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, designed by someone who loves Sears Homes!

If you know anything more about these houses, please leave a comment below.

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Click here to see more photos of Sears Homes!

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