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South Carolina, Churlish Chiggers, and Fake Maggies

July 25th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Last month, I spent several days traveling in South Carolina. I visited many cities in the northern part of South Carolina but found very few Sears Homes. The highlight of the trip was Anderson, where I found several kit homes from Sterling Homes (a competitor to Sears).

Click here to see photos of those houses.

I did, however, find more than 20 chiggers. Or should I say, they found me. I was in Pumpkintown, SC merrily traipsing through a happy, happy meadow when I picked up Satan’s microscopic hitchhikers.

Suffice it to say, my sufferings in the next few days rivaled that of Job, who used pottery shards to relieve the itch of his sores. (Having endured this misery, I’m now convinced that old Job hisself got into a mess of chiggers.)

But I digress…

During an earlier trip to Blacksburg, South Carolina (February 2011), I’d visited the twin of the Sears Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg turned out to be a fake Sears Magnolia. And yet, it was so close to the real thing. After spending three days at this fine house, I decided it could not be a Magnolia.

In retrospect, I believe it may have been an early pattern book house, and that the fine folks at Sears discovered this pattern book design and incorporated it into their “Book of Modern Homes,” calling it, The Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg was built about 1910 (according to tax records), which also fits with my pattern book theory.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia, which is interesting (and also fits with the above theory). When Sears “borrowed” patters from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a tiny bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made a lot of sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

I seriously doubt the SCFM is the only one of its kind. Does your town have a fake Magnolia?

To read my favorite blog on the Sears Magnolia, click here. It’s an old carpenter telling about HOW he built a Magnolia in the 1920s.

To read about the sweet ride that carried me to old South Carolina, click here.

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The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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And heres the SCFM in Blacksburg. Its NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.

And here's the SCFM in Blacksburg. It's NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.

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Really, really close.

Really, really close.

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I mean, cmon. You cant get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly.

I mean, c'mon. You can't get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly. All the details are just so darn close...

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Even has those distinctive marginal lites.

Even has those distinctive marginal lites.

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And the porch is a good match, too.

And the porch is a good match, too.

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One of the first thigns that caught my eye were these columns. Theyre concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.

One of the first details that caught my eye were these columns. They're concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.

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And its a beauty, too.

Minus the concrete columns, it's still such a good match.

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Inside the house, it has a Magnolia room!

Inside the house, it has a "Magnolia Room"! How apropos!

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The citys records show that this house was built in 1910, and those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect theyre close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s.

The city's records show that this house was built in 1910, and oftimes, those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect they're close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s. The Magnolia had two fireplaces, both wood-burning.

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This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall...

This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall, but that's one of the problems. The floorplan for this SCFM is NOT a good match to the Magnolia's floorplan. Plus, the Sears Magnolia had nine-foot ceilings. The ceilings in this house were 10' or more.

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The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot.

The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot. It's much closer to the front of the house, whereas the SCFM's staircase is much further back, and its hallway goes straight back to a rear entry door (unlike the floorplan above).

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In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!

In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!

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Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. Its LAVENDAR!

Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. It's LAVENDER!

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If you see this house, send me an email!

Such a beauty - but it's not from Sears.

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This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio.

This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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An Abundance of Sears Homes in Raleigh, NC (Part II)

April 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

I’ve seen a lot of houses in a lot of cities, but I’d have to say, the collection of kit homes I found in Raleigh is really remarkable.  The houses were (for the most part) in wonderfully original condition, and the homeowners we met during our survey were absolutely joyous to learn that they lived in a kit home.  And the diversity of kit homes was remarkable, too!

During the six hours we spent  riding around on April 2, we found kit homes from Sears, Aladdin, Montgomery Ward, Gordon Van Tine, Harris Brothers and even Sterling Homes.

The other thing that made this collection remarkable is that Raleigh has some of the higher-end models offered by these kit home companies.  To sneak a peek, scroll on down!  :)

To see photos from my first visit to Raleigh (in February 2011), click here.

Rose will be giving a talk in Raleigh on Saturday, May 19th (Saturday) at the Rialto Theater. Learn more by clicking here.

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The Sears Westly

The Sears Westly

Sears Westly

One of the most perfect Sears Westlys that I have ever seen, anytime, anywhere.

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

And one of the prettiest Sears Crescents I have ever seen, anytime, anywhere. The dormers were probably original to the house. This was a common "upgrade" on the Sears Crescent, and added more light to the two small rooms on the 2nd floor.

Now whod think that this is a Sears kit home? Strangely enough, it is.

Now who'd think that this is a Sears kit home? Strangely enough, it is.

house

Mega House

here

Looking much like the day it was built is this Modern Home #163 in Raleigh. Every detail is perfect. And the best part - it retains its original siding, windows and rafter tails.

Another view

A view from the front of the house. Every detail is perfect. May God bless those pesky vinyl siding salesmen - and keep them FAR AWAY from this house!

The Sears Americus was one of the best selling designs that Sears offered. This image is from their 1921 catalog.

The Sears Americus was one of the best selling designs that Sears offered. This image is from their 1921 catalog.

Not to sound like a broken record, but again - here is a PERFECT example of a Sears Americus, spared the fate of the typical Americus thats been sided and stripped of all significant architectural detail. This house in Boylan is in beautiful condition. Even the porch railings are original!

Not to sound like a broken record, but again - here is a PERFECT example of a Sears Americus, spared the fate of the typical Americus that's been "sided" and stripped of all significant architectural detail. This house in Boylan is in beautiful condition. Even the porch railings are original!

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Close-up of the bracketing on the Americus.

These distinctive brackets are unmercilessly hacked off when these old houses are wrapped in aluminum trip.  house in Ra

These distinctive brackets are ruthlessly hacked off when these old houses are "wrapped" in aluminum, and yet these brackets are one of those "fine features" that make the Americus so attractive.

But wait, there’s more!

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Close-up of the Sears Americus from the catalog page.

Another Sears Americus, and this one is in brick! So is the plural of Americus Americii?

Another Sears Americus, and this one is in brick! So is the plural of Americus "Americii"?

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Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

And heres the Montrose in Raleigh!  I didnt find this house. The owners found me and told me about it.  Im sorry about the trash can in the view. The owners are working tirelessly to restore the grand old house.

And here's the Montrose in Raleigh! I didn't find this house. The owners found me and told me about it, and best of all, they already knew it was a Sears Montrose. Now that's unusual! The owners are working tirelessly to restore the grand old house and it appears that they're doing a first-class job. And this is another unusual Sears Home, and also in excellent condition.

Maybe if I’d told them I was coming, they would have baked me a cake (and moved the cans)!  :)

Sears Argyle, from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Note the big bold columns on the homes front, and the faux beams around the eaves.

Sears Argyle, from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Note the big bold columns on the homes front, and the faux beams around the eaves. Also note how the porch overhangs on one side, extending beyond the home's exterior wall.

Argyle

This Argyle still has its original stuccoed pillars, complementing the stucco in the two gables. Note how the wood trim (verge boards and faux beams) are a perfect match to the catalog page above.

Again - a perfect Avalon in perfect condition on Brooks Street in Raleigh. Even has its original casement windows.

The Avalon from the 1921 catalog.

case

Again - perfect Avalon in perfect condition on Brooks Street in Raleigh. Even has its original casement windows.

Original windows

The original windows on this Avalon are part of what make it such a perfect example!

Close-up of the Avalon

Close-up of the Avalon

This Avalon is not in perfect condition, and the original windows are long gone.

This Avalon is not in perfect condition, and the original windows are long gone.

In addition to Sears, Raleigh also has several kit homes from Aladdin. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and in business 40 years longer than Sears. They sold 75,000 kit homes (more than Sears). Aladdin was based in Bay City, Michigan, but they had a large mill in Wilmington, NC (which explains why I find so many Aladdins in the southeastern part of the country.

Aladdin Norfolk, from the 1923 catalog.

Aladdin Norfolk, from the 1923 catalog.

Aladdin Norfolk hiding behind some landscaping.  :)  This is definitely an Aladdin Norfolk.  Even the patio posts are still in place on the front patio.

Aladdin Norfolk hiding behind some landscaping.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was one of Aladdins best selling homes.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was one of Aladdin's best selling homes.

Another beautiful kit home in Raleigh.

Another beautiful kit home in Raleigh, looking much like the original catalog image.

Harris Brothers was a smaller kit-home company based in Chicago. The LaGrange was one of their most popular homes.

Harris Brothers was a smaller kit-home company based in Chicago. The "LaGrange" was one of their most popular homes.

One of the distinctive features of the LaGrange is that rounded porch!

One of the distinctive features of the LaGrange is that rounded porch!

LaGrange

Is this the Harris Brothers "LaGrange"? I'm 90% confident it is, even though it is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.

Sterling Homes was another small kit home company. This image is from their 1932 catalog.

Sterling Homes was another small kit home company. This image is from their 1932 catalog.

Is this a Sterling Homes Avondale? It surely does look like it.

Is this a Sterling Homes "Avondale"? It surely does look like it.

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

This Aladdin Detroit has had its porch partially enclosed, but still bears all the hallmarks of the Detroit.

This Aladdin Detroit has had its porch partially enclosed, but still bears all the hallmarks of the Detroit.

While driving around, we also spotted this house (see below). It’s a plan book house and was built as a four-family home. The house we saw in Raleigh has been converted into a single family and I should have taken a photo, but we were getting dog-tired after so many hours in the car. If anyone knows the address of this house in Raleigh, please leave a comment below.

Nice old house and the picture is from one of my 1920s plan books. Plan book homes were different from kit homes. With a plan book, youd choose the house of your dreams and order the blueprints for the house, which also came with a comprehensive inventory of every thing you needed to buy to build your house.

Nice old house and the picture is from one of my 1920s plan books. Plan book homes were different from kit homes. With a plan book, you'd choose the house of your dreams and order the blueprints for the house, which also came with a comprehensive inventory of every thing you needed to buy to build your house. Building materials were not part of the deal. Those were purchased locally.

Heres an example of The Dupont in Chesapeake, VA.

Here's an example of The Dumont in Chesapeake, VA.

And about an hour south of Raleigh, there’s the Sears Magnolia! There were only six Magnolias built in the country, and there’s one in Benson. This is the biggest and best of the Sears Homes.

maggy_benson_nc

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

This is but a sampling of the kit homes we found in Raleigh. To see photos from my first visit to Raleigh (in February 2011), click here.

In conclusion, the collection of kit homes in Raleigh really is remarkable and historically significant, and it’s my hope and prayer that people of Raleigh will start to think about what can be done to protect and preserve these homes.

To learn more about Sears Homes in nearby Rocky Mount, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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