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

January 21st, 2016 Sears Homes 11 comments

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

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

What is a kit home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read about The Peach House in nearby Kinston here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What a cutie!

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

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

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

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

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

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The Pomona was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alson

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

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

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

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That

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

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And whats that next door to the Roanoke?

Is that a Sears Chelsea? Hmmm...

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Boy oh boy, its hard to know for sure.

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

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

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

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Is this a Sears Chelsea?

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

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The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

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What a glorious house!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Covington, Virginia and Douthat State Park

September 27th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week,

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

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

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

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

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

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dirty

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

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house

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

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houose

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

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The other fun find was this Sears Auburn, also known

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

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

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

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Upstairs, it has

Upstairs, it has spacious bedrooms and a sleeping porch.

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All in all, its quite a house.

All in all, it's quite a house.

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The house in Covington is quite a match.

The house in Covington is a perfect match.

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

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

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

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

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Oh my little

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The merry widow

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

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

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

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

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The Historic (Kit) Homes of Concord, Massachusetts!

June 11th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

My husband and I recently returned from the Boston area, where we visited my daughter. For Sunday lunch, we landed in Concord, Massachusetts and on the way out of town, I spotted an Aladdin kit home - The Plaza.

And what a beautiful Plaza it is!

Much to my chagrin, I was not able to get a photo of this fine home because it’s located on a busy street, and the traffic on that narrow road was unbelievably horrific!

And now, I’m wondering, how many more kit homes are there in this historic Revolutionary town?

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 fact, based on my 12 years of experience, 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.

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 know.

How many more kit homes are in Concord? I’d love to know!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To read about the Sears house I found in Needham, click here.

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Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears (in terms of selling kit homes) but was not as well known. This image is from Aladdins 1914 catalog.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears (in terms of selling kit homes) but was not as well known. This image is from Aladdin's 1914 catalog.

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Roanoke Rapids, NC is an example of a town built by Aladdin.

Roanoke Rapids, NC is an example of a town built by Aladdin.

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The Plaza was a classic bungalow and a popular house for Aladdin.

The Plaza was a classic bungalow and a popular house for Aladdin.

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Aladdin Plaza

The accompanying text pointed to the Aladdin Plaza as a "woman's reward for thrift."

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Plaza

Plaza, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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*house house

The Aladdin Plaza in Concord has had a couple minor changes, but it’s still mighty close to the original catalog image. And, be still my little heart, it still has its original porch railing! Does the owner know that they live in a historically significant kit house? I’d love to know! Photo is from the assessor’s website, and I’m hoping that assessor is a friendly fellow, and doesn’t mind the fact that his lovely photo was “borrowed” for such a historical purpose.

Heres another perfect Aladdin Plaza, and this one is in Roanoke Rapids. Like the house shown above, this one also has its original porch railings.

Here's another perfect Aladdin Plaza, and this one is in Roanoke Rapids. Like the house shown above, this one also has its original porch railings.

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And heres an Aladdin Plaza in my home town, Norfolk.

And here's an Aladdin Plaza in my home town, Norfolk.

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Do you know of any kit homes in Concord? Please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

“The Merry Widow” Is Near Death (In Covington, Virginia)

October 1st, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Clifton Forge, Virginia (to visit Douthat State Park).

While there in Clifton Forge, we drove over to Covington (to look for kit homes of course). While in Covington, we discovered an old steam locomotive, sitting at the end of Main Street. Now the property of Allegheny Historical Society, Locomotive #701 was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake & Ohio.

It’s lovingly referred to as “The Merry Widow.”

The merry widow

The Merry Widow was built in 1911 by the Richmond Locomotive Company. It's looking a little rough these days, but it must have been a beauty in its prime. Note the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. This locomotive came to rest here in 1952.

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This year, The Virginia Rail Heritage region announced that The Merry Widow won the “honor” of being selected as one of the Top Ten Endangered Artifacts in the state. (The competition was sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums and the Virginia Collections Institute.)

And this beautiful old train is truly an endangered artifact. To see a youtube video of its interior, click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShFUejzd-4Y

The Chesapeake and Ohio steam engine is a 2-8-0 “Consolidation Class” locomotive. From 1911 to the 1920s, #701 huffed and puffed its way up and down the rails between Ohio and the Great Lakes region. In 1930, it was dedicated to pulling Pullman cars full of happy tourists to a famous historic landmark, The Homestead Resort (in nearby Hot Springs).

The moniker “Merry Widow” came from her single-minded devotion to that task of carrying folks north to Hot Springs, Virginia from Covington. From 1930  to 1952, #701 was the lone engine that ran on that line.

In 1952, a shiny new diesel electric stepped in and #701 was donated to Covington. She has patiently waited in that one spot - literally rusting in her tracks - for half a century.

The condition of this once-grand piece of machinery is precarious, at best. Hopefully, she’ll be restored and reclaimed, rather than relegated to the trash heap. Her placement on the Top Ten List bodes well for her future. Perhaps now she’ll get the attention she deserves.

It’s a beautiful train. I hope it’s not too late to save her.

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Merry

A placard commemorates the dedication.

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Miss

Another view of #701.

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rusty

Can this engine be saved?

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It's looking pretty iffy.

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What a beautiful thing. Hopefully one day, her tender will be filled with coal and water and that old boiler will be fired up again.

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The air quality in Covington can NOT be helping this artifact. What is billowing out of all those smokestacks? Is this a paper plant?

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houose

Despite three hours of wandering around in Covington, i found only one kit home: The Aladdin Plaza. Ironically, this was found within a block of #701.

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house

The Aladdin Plaza (1919 catalog).

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plague

A badge on the side of the engine shows a manufacture date of 1911.

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plaque

There must be a way to save this old engine.

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about #701, 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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A Fine-Looking Sears Avondale In Chelsea, Oklahoma!

July 7th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Chelsea, Oklahoma is a wee tiny town about an hour from Tulsa, and for decades, a big fancy Sears Saratoga got all the attention as the only Sears House in town. Recently, I’ve been working with Rachel Shoemaker to identify more Sears Homes in the area, and while “driving” the streets of Chelsea (via Google Maps), I found this beautiful Sears Avondale tucked away on Vine Street (about a block away from the Saratoga).

Rachel hopped in her car and ran right out to Chelsea to get good photos (shown below), and as we continue to work together on this project, I’m sure we’ll find many more Sears Homes in the area. Click here to see the Sears Homes we found in Tulsa!

The Saratoga was a big fancy Sears House, but the Avondale was a close second! This house was a classic bungalow with a decided prairie-style influence. Look at the oversized eaves and low hip roof.

What’s even more interesting is that the Saratoga got all the press as being the FIRST Sears Home in Oklahoma, but was it? The Avondale was also offered in 1912 (when construction started on The Saratoga). What if the Avondale was actually the first Sears Home in Oklahoma!

Enjoy the pictures below. And if you know of any Sears Homes in Oklahoma, please leave a comment below.

To read about the Sears Saratoga, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

(All photos of extant homes are used courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced with permission.)

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale (1919 catalog). The Avondale was a beautiful house and had many upgrades available, such as stained glass windows in the front rooms.

The Avondale was built a

The Avondale was built the Illinois State Fair (late 1910s) and furnished with items from the Sears Roebuck catalog. This post card shows the Avondale at the State Fair. Note the stained class windows on the front and flanking the fireplace. Nice house, and popular too.

Another post card shows the interior the of the Avondale. Pretty darn fancy.

Another post card shows the interior the of the Avondale. Pretty darn fancy.

Catalog page also shows interior views.

Catalog page also shows interior views.

Floorplan shows how spacious this house was.

Floorplan shows how spacious this house was. The dininr room was 23 feet by 14 feet, with a bay window. The front bedroom was 13 by 16. For a house of this vintage, these were very large rooms, or in the idiom of the day, "quite commodious."

Sears Avondale in Chelsea, OK. Was this the first Sears House in Oklahoma? Itll be fun to find out!

Sears Avondale in Chelsea, OK. Was this the first Sears House in Oklahoma? It'll be fun to find out!

Close-up of the unusual window arrangement down the side.

Close-up of the unusual window arrangement down the side.

Close-up of that disinctive bay window, and the grouping of three porch columns on the (now enclosed) front porch.

Close-up of that disinctive bay window, and the grouping of three porch columns on the (now enclosed) front porch.

To read more about kit homes in Tulsa, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Choo-choos in Crewe, and Sears Homes Too!

May 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the late 1800s, the repair shops for Norfolk and Western’s steam locomotives were based in Crewe, Virginia. In the mid 20th Century, railroads abandoned steam (and their repair shops) and turned to diesel-electric locomotives.  One of the legacies left behind from Crewe’s former glory as a railroad town is a delightful train museum and a few kit homes, from Sears (Chicago) and Aladdin (Bay City, MI).

In late Spring 2011, I traveled through Crewe on my way home from Lynchburg, and found these delightful kit homes.

Enjoy the photos, and as always - please share the link with your real friends and your virtual friends, too!  :)

To read another amazing blog about Crewe, click here.

edison

Aladdin was actually another kit home company that (like Sears) sold their houses through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin started selling their kit homes in 1906, two years before Sears (1908). In Virginia, I've found many more Aladdins than Sears homes, probably because Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC.

Edison

Aladdin Edison on Route 460 in Crewe.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza in brick.

The Lynnhaven is one of my favorite Sears Homes, because it’s both stylish and practical, and it was one of Sears best selling models.  This house was offered from the late 1920s to the end, when Sears offered their last catalog in 1940.

Railroad towns and kit homes go together naturally, just like carrots and peas. These kit homes would arrive in a boxcar, in 12,000 pieces. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a man of average abilities could have the house assembled and ready for occupancy in a mere 90 days. In fact, most people needed a little more time than that.

Sears offered about 370 designs of their kit homes, and during their 32 years in the kit home business, Sears sold about 70,000 houses.

Aladdin was a larger company, selling more than 75,000 homes, and they were in business from 1906-1981.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven from the 1936 Sears catalog.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven in Crewe.

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog. It was also known as the Bridgeport, but this little home's best chums call it "Wexxie."

Wexxie

This little house is not a spot on match to "Wexxie" but it's distinctive enough that I'd be willing to bet 50 cents it is indeed the real deal.

My favorite find in Crewe was the Sears Lucerne. This is the only Lucerne that I have seen in my many travels, and the one in Crewe is just a spot-on match to the original catalog image! And look at the price!  This darling little house could be yours for $867.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

Comparison of the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

More train coolness at Crewe

More train coolness at Crewe

The little train museum in Crewe is a delight, and well worth your time. It’s staffed by devoted volunteers and it’s a lovely way to spend some time. As a hard-core train buff, I loved the hands-on displays and being able to soak in the happy ambiance of the old Norfolk and Western steam engine (pictured above).

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy one of Rose’s splendiferous books, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part V)

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia is the proud owner of eight bona fide Sears homes in the Crescent Hills area.  That’s well and good, but they also have entire neighborhoods of Aladdin kit homes in other parts of Hopewell.   It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight houses, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel sorely neglected!

Most likely, the majority of the Aladdin Kit Homes were ordered by Dupont in 1914, for their dynamite factory in Hopewell.  And there along the waterfront - on Ramsey Avenue - are the Aladdin Wenonah, an Aladdin Brighton, and an Aladdin Plaza.

The Plaza sits at the end of Ramsey, and I’d just love to know - do these homeowners know that they’re sitting in a piece of Americana, enjoying their restful slumbers in a historically significant kit home, that was shipped in from Bay City, Michigan via boxcar, with 12,000 pieces of house?  And what about the city itself? Are they aware of these precious architectural gems that sit within its borders, uncelebrated, unheralded and unprotected?

It’d be a dandy idea for the city - at the very least -  to put a placard in front of these homes, identifying them as Aladdin kit homes, or perhaps include them on their tourism brochures. Urbana, Virginia has ONE Sears House, and look what they’ve done!

A city full of architecturally significant homes is a terrible thing to waste.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

To read Part VI, click here.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV.

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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Harrisonburg’s Surprising Bunch of Sears Homes

March 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In Fall 2010, my hubby and I were driving home from Elkins, WV and took a detour through Harrisonburg. In less than 30 minutes, I found a plethora of kit homes in this beautiful little mountain town. To learn more about Sears Modern Homes, click here.

In brief, Sears Homes were sold as pre-cut kit homes from the Sears catalog. These 12,000-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one 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.

To admire the beautiful pictures, scroll on down!  :)

To read about another amazing collection (in Rocky Mount), click here!

Sears Willard, as seen in this 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard, as seen in this 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard in Harrisonburg. Note, the dormer has been altered a bit but thats a very common repair as this is the site of frequent roof leaks.

Sears Willard in Harrisonburg. Note, the dormer has been altered a bit but that's a very common "repair" as this is the site of frequent roof leaks. One distinguishing feature of the Willard are those three windows on the right side (in this photo).

The Sears Westly was a popular little house. Notice how the roof in the rear is truncated. Theres a wee tiny window on the back wall.

The Sears Westly was a popular little house. Notice how the roof in the rear is truncated. There's a wee tiny window on the back wall.

Hidden behind the shrubs is a darling Carlin!

Hidden behind the shrubs is a darling Carlin!

Notice the roofline in this picture!

Notice the roofline in this picture!

Sears Lynnhaven from the 1938 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven from the 1938 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven in Harrisonburg!

There ought to be a law against parking cars in front of Sears Lynnhavens!

Sears Lynnhaven

Sears Lynnhaven just outside of Harrisonburg in Franklin. And what a beauty!

Sears Attleboro, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

Sears Attleboro, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

Sears Attleboro (also hidden by the landscaping)

Sears Attleboro (also hidden by the landscaping)

Sears Elsmore, from the 1919 catalog

Sears Elsmore, from the 1919 catalog

Still hidden by the vegetation, and also obscured by a lot of remodeling, but theres a Sears Elsmore hiding underneath all that vinyl.

Still hidden by the vegetation, and also obscured by a lot of remodeling, but there's a Sears Elsmore hiding underneath all that vinyl.

In addition to Sears, I also found houses from Aladdin, a company based in Bay City. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC and not surprisingly, Ive found more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia and North Carolina, than Sears Homes.

In addition to Sears, I also found houses from Aladdin, a company based in Bay City. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC and not surprisingly, I've found more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia and North Carolina, than Sears Homes.

Aladdin Plaza - in the flesh!

Aladdin Plaza - in the flesh! Note the large addition on the porch. Not what one might call a "sensitive" remodeling.

GVT

And I found a Gordon Van Tine home in Harrisonburg. This company was based in Davenport, Iowa and was also a large, national kit home company.

Is it a GV #605?  Hard to know for sure without getting inside, but it sure looks like it.

Is it a GV #605? Hard to know for sure without getting inside, but it might be. The house above looks wider than the #605.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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A Nice Bunch of Houses in Lafayette/Winona (Norfolk, VA)

February 21st, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

When I first started playing with kit houses  in 1999, Sears Homes were my specialty. It had taken me  several months to memorize all those 370 designs that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business (from 1908-1940). Before long I realized I had to start learning the designs offered by other companies, too. Working with friends Dale and Rebecca, we made countless copies of our dusty old kit home catalogs and organized those thousands of pages into a comprehensive field guide to kit homes sold by Aladdin (Bay City, MI), Lewis Manufacturing (also Bay City), Sterling Homes (Bay City, too), Harris Brothers (Chicago), Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa), and Montgomery Ward (Chicago).

And when I moved to Norfolk in 2006, I was surprised to find a prevalence of Aladdin kit homes in the area. Aladdin, I later learned, had a mill in Wilmington, NC (a lot closer to Hampton Roads than Chicago and Bay City!).

Below are some of the kit homes I’ve found in the Lafayette/Winona section of Norfolk. The most remarkable find was the Montgomery Ward Model #101. Unfortunately, the subject house in the Lafayette area has endured a great deal of insensitive remodeling which has altered its appearance.

First, my favorite: The Aladdin Plaza on Lafayette Blvd. The catalog image (from a 1919 catalog) is shown first:

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 on Lafayette Blvd in Norfolk. It's in wonderful condition and looks much like the line drawing.

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

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

Aladdin Pomona

Aladdin Pomona, complete with white picket fence! Unfortunately, the windows have been replaced, but it does have its original siding.

Aladdin Pomona

Trees, cars, boats, and miscellaneous little people prevented a better photo, but this is a nice little Aladdin Pomona, and it still has the original diamond-muntin window in the living room.

Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog

Little old cottage from Pasadena...

Little old cottage from Pasadena...

If you look close, youll see what the original porch looked like on this house.

If you look close, you'll see what the original porch looked like on this house.

And you can see the remnant of the beams on this house in Lafayette.

And you can see the remnant of the beams on this house in Lafayette.

The Aladdin Sheffield was a popular house. I know of three in Norfolk.

The Aladdin Sheffield was a popular house. I know of three in Norfolk.

This Aladdin Sheffield is a real treasure, and even has the bumped out vestible as shown in the original catalog drawing.

This Aladdin Sheffield is a real treasure, and even has the "bumped out" vestibule as shown in the original catalog drawing.

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

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

And its porte cochere is still in use!

And its porte cochere is still in use!

The Aladdin Winthrop

The Aladdin Winthrop. Awnings not included.

The distinguishing feature of this Aladdin Winthrop are those windows in side fo the bay and the four windows across the front. Also note how the frotn porch spans the full width of the house.

The distinguishing feature of this Aladdin Winthrop are the windows in side of the bay and the four windows across the front. Also note how the front porch spans the full width of the house. This was a special delight because I'd missed this one on prior trips through the 'hood and just found it this week!

And onto Sears!  This is the Sears Elsmore - a hugely popular house for Sears

And onto Sears! This is the Sears Elsmore - a hugely popular house for Sears

My favorite feature of this house is that its painted the same colors as the catalog picture!! Notice, it has the recessed entry way.

My favorite feature of this house is that it's painted the same colors as the catalog picture!! Notice, it has the recessed entry way.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

If anyone knows the owners of this house, Id love to find out if its a Sears Alhambra. It might be, but I wouldnt bet money on it. An interior inspection would reveal if this is indeed a true Sears Alhambra.

Sears Alhambra? Eh, maybe. Maybe NOT. If anyone knows the owners of this house, I'd love to get inside and find out if it's a Sears Alhambra. It might be, but I wouldn't bet money on it. An interior inspection would reveal if this is indeed a true Sears Alhambra.

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

**THIS** is what an Alhambra should look like! This house is in the 1500-block of County Street in downtown Portsmouth.

Sears Argyle from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Argyle from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

This Argyle has some wear and tear on it, but you can still see a sweet little Argyle hiding in there. This is just outside the border of the Lafayette Winona area.

This Argyle has some wear and tear on it, but you can still see a sweet little Argyle hiding in there. This is just outside the border of the Lafayette Winona area.

Original image from an early 1910s Montgomery Ward catalog. This is Wardway Model #101.

Wardway #101

Wardway #101. My favorite find of the day. This house has been severely aluminized and the original windows are nothing but a memory, but this house has several very unique characteristics that make me think it's probably the Wardway #101. Two of those unique features are bay windows on the front and side. The porch has been extended around to the side (fairly recently, judging by the joinery) and the substitute siding has really distorted the home's original appearance.

To see more pictures of the kit homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

To buy a copy of Rose’s book, click here.

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