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

July 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds darn good, doesn’t it?

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

I don’t know.

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

You can read Rachel’s wonderful blog here.

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

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Ses

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

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houses

Let's try it with houses now.

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One of the houses above is different from the others.

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see how that works.

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Blue

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

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

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Here's a Sears Maplewood (1930 catalog).

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

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

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

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

Visit Rachel’s website here.

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

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

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

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

July 25th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

Hopewell and I have a history.

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

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

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

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

To read more about Hopewell, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker who successfully identified this house!

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Nice House

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

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Ruh

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

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House

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

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Newbury

Sears Newbury, from the 1936 catalog.

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compare

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

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Ruh Roh. These don't look anything alike!

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Monticello

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

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Montie

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

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Wow

And lookie here. It is a very fine match!

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Big and fancy

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

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What

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

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

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Permanent Furniture III: Bookcase Colonnades

December 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the early 1980s, my husband and I looked at an Aladdin Shadowlawn for sale in Chesapeake, Virginia. We both fell head-over-heels in love with the solid-oak bookcase colonnades between the living room and dining room.

It was just last week that I learned that, in the early 1900s, these enchanting built-ins were known as “Permanent Furniture.”

“Permanent furniture” (built-in cabinetry) was a brilliant concept. The more “permanent furniture” present in a house, the less “temporary furniture” the new homeowners would need to purchase. And all these built-ins really did make best-possible use of small spaces.

To read more about permanent furniture, click here or here.

As always, thanks to Norfolk historian and librarian Bill Inge for sharing his wonderful old architecture books with moi!

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More than 30 years ago, we looked in the windows of this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, Virginia (near Chesapeake Square Mall) and caught a glimpse of the solid oak built-in bookcase colonnades and fell hopelessly in love. There's something about "permanent furniture" in old houses that still makes me swoon.

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The Aladdin Shadowlawn had beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn came with beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades (1919 catalog).

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These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck Building Materials catalog (1921).

These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck "Building Materials" catalog (1921). Pretty basic and very plain and no shelving or bookcases. And who's Carlton? My guess is that he's someone that wasn't well liked at Sears. Maybe it started out as a practical joke. "Let's name those really boring colonnades after that boring guy, Carlton who never does anything but stand around and look goofy," and before they knew it, the $34 colonnades were listed in the Sears catalog as "Carlton Colonnades."

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1921

For $82.50, you could buy a colonnade that actually had a practical purpose (unlike Carlton).

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The

The Sears Osborn featured these bookcase colonnades with either wooden muntins or leaded glass doors (1919).

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No sooner had I returned Bill Inges 1927 Builders Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure. It was full of - colonnades!

No sooner had I returned Bill Inge's 1927 Builders' Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure, "Building With Assurance; Morgan Millwork." It was full of - colonnades! It was published in 1923.

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And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades.

And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades: "It's an imitation of nature itself." BTW, check out the lovebird logo.

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Nice

Nice way to dress up a doorway!

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These colonnades are simple, but quite attractive. That rug looks like a trip hazard, though. The dining room furniture looks like it came out of a dollhouse. The proportions are skewed.

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Aon d

Apparently Morgan had their own line of Carlton Colonnades.

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Much more ornate, and bigger bookcases, too. The original caption reads, "This Morgan standardized design offers a fine opportunity for tasty decoration with jardinieres, statuary, bric-a-brac, etc." I had to look up "jardinieres," because I've read a lot of books in my life but I have never seen that word. Turns out, "jardinieres" is a female gardener, allegedly. I'm not sure that even the most progressive 1920s housewife would be too keen on the idea of using built-in bookcases to store female gardeners.

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This one's my favorite: Rugged, sturdy, spacious and a built-in desk, too.

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That desk is pretty cool, even if he does have a lot of bills hidden inside of it.

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Another beautiful colonnade, but in use as a china hutch!

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A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. No foolin'.)

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To read about the Sears Magnolia we found in West Virginia, click here.

To read more about built-ins, click here.

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Wood River, Illinois and “The Chilton”

September 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

For about a dozen years, I lived in Alton, Illinois. In fact, that’s where I researched and wrote The Houses That Sears Built.

Last week, I returned to Alton to visit family.

Of course, I couldn’t resist driving around my old stomping grounds a bit and looking at the old houses. I left the area in Spring 2006. Since then, I’ve acquired many “new” old catalogs and learned a great deal. While in the Riverbend area last week, I made many “fresh” discoveries.

One of the more interesting finds was this Sterling “Chilton” in nearby Wood River, Illinois

Sterling was based in Bay City, Michigan, and was one of six national companies that sold kit homes in the early 20th Century through mail-order catalogs.

They started out life as International Mill and Timber Company, and in 1915, they launched their own line of pre-cut kit homes, and re-named their company, “Sterling Homes.”

Sterling Homes offered construction services for developers and one of their largest clients turned out to be General Motors, which paid for 1,000 houses to be built in Flint Michigan (for GM workers). Their last catalog was printed in 1974. Total sales during their 59 years in business were about 45,000 homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats and facts on Sterling!)

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing me with the scanned images from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog!

Learn more about the history of Sterling Homes by clicking here.

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The Sterling Chilton, from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog.

The Sterling Chilton, from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog.

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Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan, and while they were a national company, they were probably one of the smallest companies selling kit homes through mail order.

Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. During their 59 years in business, they sold about 45,000 pre-cut kit homes. Shown here is the cover of the 1916 Sterling Homes catalog.

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I just love these graphics.

I just love these graphics. And notice the political commentary that was written in by some anonymous soul. Charles Evans Hughes ran against Woodrow Wilson in 1916. He put in a good showing and lost by a mere 594,000 votes. If Hughes had won California, we wouldn't have nearly so many high schools named after Woodrow Wilson.

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The Chiltons

The Chilton had an oversized living room and dining room, and two small bedrooms, one of which had a cedar closet. Notice the "Jack and Jill" bathroom.

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The base of the columns on that Chilton are what make it really stand out! There's been some debate in our Facebook group as to the purpose of those projections on those stuccoed columns. Rachel suggested it was to have a safe place for your beer while you were out mowing the yard. Sounds pretty smart to me.

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Close

While not a spot-on match to the catalog image, I am confident that this house in Wood River is a Sterling Chilton. The front door is easy enough to move, and this is a common alteration. Plus, the house has replacement windows, aluminum siding (ick) and aluminum trim (sigh), so it's possible that it's been subjected to many "improvements."

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View from the other side.

View from the other side. Three windows have been added to the front gable, but the rest of the details on the home's front are very good, including the five brackets and their placement, the broad piece of fascia across the front and the size and shape of the porch wall.

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House

While the house in Wood River has a few details that are a bit off, this column is a spot-on match, and it's such a unique architectural feature, that I'm willing to bet money that this is indeed the Sterling Chilton.

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The reason for my return to the St. Louis area: My daughter will soon be married to this fine gent. Theyre sitting in front of the gazebo where their wedding will take place.

The reason for my return to the St. Louis area: My daughter will soon be married to this fine gent. They're sitting in front of the gazebo, gazing at the very spot where their wedding will take place.

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As a final note, sometime in 1999 or 2000, my (then) husband and I went to an open house in Alton, IL where we saw this house for sale. Its an Aladdin Magnolia. I drove more than 80 miles, criss-crossing every street in Alton looking for this house but could not find it. If you know where this house is, please leave a comment below. Ill be returning to Alton later for my daughters wedding and would love to get a photo of this house.

As a final note, sometime in 1999, my (then) husband and I went to an open house in Upper Alton, IL (near Edwards Street) where we saw this house for sale. Last month, I was looking through the 1953 Aladdin catalog and re-discovered this house. It's an Aladdin Magnolia, and as soon as I saw the image, I remembered seeing this very same house in 1999. When I was in Alton last week, I drove more than 80 miles, criss-crossing every street in the city, looking for this house but could not find it. If you know where this house is, please leave a comment below. I'll be returning to Alton later for my daughter's wedding and would love to get a photo of this house. Thanks!!

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To join our “Sears Homes” group on Facebook, click here.

To read more about the Aladdin Magnolia, click here.

If you know where that Aladdin Magnolia is, please leave a comment below! And please share this link with your Riverbend Friends!

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What Do George Bailey and Sears Roebuck Have in Common?

July 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Many folks think it’s a movie about one man’s life making a difference in this world, but I saw it a different way. I saw it as a movie that explained why homeownership is so important.

In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day declared that Americans had a patriotic duty to be homeowners. It was well-understood that home ownership was a boon to individuals and their families, but the “patriotic” angle made the point that homeownership also benefited neighborhoods and communities, and by extension, it benefited cities and even the country, as a whole.

To put a contemporary spin on this, what better modern-day model do we have than Detroit? How much of Detroit is now rental (non-owner occupied)? Despite 30 minutes of searching, I wasn’t able to find an answer, but I’d guess it’s a lot. (Heck, how much of Detroit’s housing is just not occupied by anyone?)

The early Sears Modern Homes catalogs made this point in a variety of ways, but in short it said this: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of prosperity, stability and peace.

In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees what Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born. Without George’s positive influence and his ever-fledgling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and many residents would have remained renters, rather than homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties.

And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family, and in a broader context, there is less stability in the community as well.

Look at Bert (the cop) and Ernie (the cab driver).

In this alternate “George-less” world, Ernie does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, he lives is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is largely to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

I’m of the opinion that Sears was, to small communities in the Midwest, what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls.

Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?

How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville, thanks to these little kit homes? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout the Midwest.

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In the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

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In the end, George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many peoples lives, enabling them to become homeowners. He saw that his town would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.

George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many people's lives, enabling them to become homeowners. The angel ("Clarence") showed George that Bedford Falls would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brother's Building and Loan.

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The value of homeownenrship was also touted in

The value of homeownership was also touted in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1921).

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Father is throwing out rent receipts - because theyre worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

Father is throwing out rent receipts - because they're worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

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Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway.

Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway. Even the little girl is lost in bliss! Is there a Hathaway in Lima, Ohio? It'd be fun to know!

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A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Learn more about the biggest and best Sears Home by clicking here!

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Sears Modern Home #179: Magnifico!

June 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 12 comments

Last month, a reporter contacted me and asked if I knew of any kit homes in Jacksonville, Florida. My first thought was, Whoa boy, that might be tough finding many kit homes that far south!”

For a long time, it’s been widely believed that there just aren’t that many kit homes in the deep south.

The reporter and I exchanged a few emails, and much to my delight, she said that she’d found a kit house, Sears Modern Home #179.

Reading her email, I thought, “Suuuuuuure it is.”

Model #179 is a rarity, and neither me, nor Rebecca Hunter, nor Dale Wolicki have ever seen a Model #179.  This model was only offered for two years (1912 and 1913), and it’s a very distinctive house with a quirky floor plan.

But it turned out, this reporter was right.

And not only had she found Modern Home #179, this house was in beautiful condition!

And better yet, the home’s owners, Tami and George Lugeanbeal knew that they had a Sears House, and they love their remarkable, unique, historically significant kit home.  (Just across  the street from Modern Home #179, I found another delightful surprise: An Aladdin Georgia, and just like its pristine neighbor, the “Georgia” was also in beautifully original condition. Click here to read about that.)

George was kind enough to send me several photos of his wonderful house, so that all may see and enjoy this beautiful, rare and lovingly restored 99-year-old Sears Kit Home.

Thanks to Tami and George Lugeanbeal for sharing these pictures, and also thanks to Amanda Durish Cook (Florida Times-Union) for finding the Lugeanbeals and their beautiful Sears House!

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1913 colorized.

Modern Home #179 (offered in 1912 and 1913). George sent me this image, and it's been colorized. Not . Not sure where George found it, but it's a nice representation.

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As mentioned, the original floor plan is a little funky.

As mentioned, the original floor plan is a little funky. The bathroom is off the kitchen, and there is no bathroom upstairs (as built). Plus, the living room has nothing behind it.

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Up on the third floor, George found an original shipping label.

George found an original shipping label on that dormer window in the attic. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ship

On the left of the shipping label it reads "If not delivered in 15 days, return to 925 Homan Avenue in Chicago" (Sears headquarters). The destination for this kit house was originally Ortega Train Depot, on the CRI and P, which is the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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George has something every old house owner dreams of: An image of his house from the 1940s.

George has something every old house owner dreams of: An image of his house from the 1940s. Photo is courtesy George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Georges Modern Home #179 as seen in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Modern Home #179 as seen in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And

And here it is, in the flesh! What a beauty! And it looks much like it did when built 99 years ago. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Modern Home #179 also has the worlds most perfect front porch.

One day, I hope to visit Modern Home #179 and sit in one of those white rockers. This is surely one of the prettiest front porches in the world. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Porchy porch porch porch

Look at those columns, still as straight and true as they were when first erected 99 years ago. According to George's information, the house was built in 1914. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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One of the features that makes this house so wonderful are the details. This bracket

One of the features that makes this house so wonderful are the details. If you look at the original catalog image, you'll see this bracket on the underside of the front porch roof. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Modern Home #179, as seen from another angle.

This looks like an ad for Sears Weatherbeater Paints, doesn't it? "Weatherbeater, by Sears, for great American homes, like yours." It's the perfect encapsulation of all that was right with America 100 years ago, and it's also a beautiful home. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wow

From this angle, you can easily see that bay window on the first floor. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The interior has some interesting details, too

The interior has some interesting details, too, such as this long, cool stack of drawers. Was this built as drawers, or was it originally a linen closet, or perhaps an ironing board cabinet? Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And some cool door hardware, too!

And George's #179 some cool door hardware, too! Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More very cool door hardware, from Sears & Roebuck!

More very cool door hardware, from Sears & Roebuck! Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the pièce de résistance is a letter that George and Tami found hidden in a wall from the homes prior occupant.

And the pièce de résistance is a letter that George and Tami found tucked away in a wall from the home's prior occupant. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And here it is, in Jacksonville, Florida. And I never would have found it had it not been for that reporter from the

And here it is, in Jacksonville, Florida. And I never would have found it had it not been for that reporter from the Florida Times-Union. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks to George and Tami for sharing so many wonderful photos! And thanks to Amanda Durish Cook for finding the Lugeanbeals!

To read about the beautiful Aladdin kit home just across the street, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Georgia, Sweet Georgia (By Aladdin)

June 12th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, a Jacksonville reporter contacted me and asked if I knew of any kit homes in the area. We exchanged a few emails, and much to my surprise, she said that she’d found a kit house, and in fact, she’d found a rare house:  Sears Modern Home #179.

Reading her email, I thought, “Sure you did. Right. And I bet that there are three Sears Magnolias around the corner and a whole block of Aladdin Villas just down the street.”

With a little digging, we found an address for this #179 and then (thanks to Google Maps), I “drove” to the address. Sure enough, it was a picture-perfect Sears Modern Home #179 (read about that here!).

Across the street from Modern Home #179, I found another delightful surprise: An Aladdin Georgia, and just like its pristine neighbor, the “Georgia” was also in beautifully original condition.

Jacksonville, Florida has two more kit homes than I would have thought likely and both are jaw-dropping gorgeous. And what a nice bonus, that this time, it was the reporter that told me about this rare Sears House!

Now about that Aladdin Georgia…

Did I mention that it’s a beauty? And the home’s owner did not realize it was a kit home prior to my discovering this house, and I would have never discovered this house if it weren’t for that resourceful reporter!

Thanks so much to Tracy and Bethany for supplying these wonderful photos!

To learn more about Aladdin click here.

The Aladdin Georgia as seen in the 1919 Catalog.

The Aladdin Georgia as seen in the 1919 Catalog.

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Aladdin Georgia was offered in two sizes, with two floorplans.

Aladdin Georgia was offered in two sizes, with two floorplans.

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floorlp

Floorplan #2 was two feet longer and two feet wider.

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In the mid-1910s, Aladdin built

In the mid-1910s, Aladdin built a "Georgia" in Bay City, documenting the progress day by day. The house was "move-in ready" in about 20 days. These were the days before portable saws, and for a small-time or novice homebuilder, the average two-bedroom bungalow would require more than 4,000 cuts with a hand-saw. (The electric portable saw was first marketed in the early 1920s.) Pre-cut lumber presented a huge savings in time and effort. To have a house ready for occupancy 20 days after construction began (not including foundation work) was a remarkable achievement.

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The photographic record of the fast-built Georgia (about 1915).

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Day ONe

Note, this house was framed using platform construction, NOT balloon! And the foundation was not included in the "built in 20 days" time-frame. Note the shingles in the foreground.

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Day Two

According to accompanying text, the carpentry work (framing in and sheathing) was done by one carpenter with two helpers. By day two, the house is framed in!

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Day four

By the fifth day, it's taking shape.

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Day seven

On the 7th day, the two workers saw all that they had done and they were very pleased. Note, the guy on the scaffolding is taking a smoke break.

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Day nine

Day eleven has arrived and it's looking substantially done (exterior).

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DOne and done

Twenty days later, it's complete, inside and out.

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Finis!

Finis!

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Oh my goodness!

Oh my goodness! There's the house in Jacksonville! What a dreamie house! And it's in such wonderful condition! Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Oh baby!

Oh baby! Excuse me, haven't I seen you somewhere before, like a glossy magazine featuring the most beautiful bungalows in America? Where have you been all my life? Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Nice comparison of the subject house and the vintage image. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the homes owner was kind

And the home's owner was kind enough to supply some photos of the home's interior. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Homeowner pictures inside lif

It's a house filled with windows and light. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house kitchen house

From the living room, looking into the dining room. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house fireplace

This fireplace is in the dining room, and those narrow cabinets are actually pass-throughs to the kitchen. Photo is copyright 2013 Tracy Greene and Bethany Pruitt and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a house!

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

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

What fueled the bungalow craze? Germs!

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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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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.

Charlottesville Kit Homes: The Good, The Grand, and The Ugly

April 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

On March 23, 2013, I traveled from Norfolk to Charlottesville to take my ham radio test (and I passed!). Along the way, I stopped at Mineral, Gordonsville and Louisa to look for kit homes.

The best part of finding and documenting these old kit homes is that more than 3/4ths of the people living in these historically significant kit homes did not realize what they had until they discovered that information here at my website (and/or received a note from me). This is a piece of America’s architectural past that’s at risk of being lost to the ages.

Click here to learn more about  how to determine if you have a kit home.

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First, the good.

First, the good. The Sears Glen Falls was a beautiful Dutch Colonial and spacious, too (1928).

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glen falls

At 2,900 square feet, the Glen Falls was just a little smaller than the biggest Sears House of them all - The Magnolia. The Glen Falls was also the second most expensive house that Sears offered (The Magnolia being the most expensive). Notice the butler's pantry (between the dining room and the kitchen). These were unusual features for an early 1920s kit home.

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Is this a Sears Glen Falls?

Is this a Sears Glen Falls? With the paired french doors, it sure looks like s a good match, but I'd need to know the home's exterior footprint to authenticate it.

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First, the good.

And on to the grand! This is a Sears Rockford, one of Sears finer homes. This majestic foursquare was offered only in brick. It's shown here in the 1928 catalog. I've only seen three other Rockfords and all three of them were in Virginia.

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Notice the detail on the columns, and the eave brackets. Also notice the window arrangement.

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And here's a picture-perfect Rockford in Charlottesville. What a grand find! Do the owners know it's a Sears Rockford? I'd love to know.

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Oh my, what a lovely match!

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Rockford

The astute observer might notice that the dormer on the Charlottesville Rockford is just not a perfect match to the original catalog image. I've seen three Rockfords (all in Virginia) and each of these Rockford had a much smaller dormer than is depicted in the catalog's line drawing. Shown above is the Rockford in Cape Charles, Virginia.

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Thanks to K. Edward Lay, Ive learned that theres a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

Thanks to K. Edward Lay, I've learned that there's a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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Also thanks to Ed Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville!  And its the Aristocrat of bungalows!

Also thanks to K. Edward Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville! And it's the "Aristocrat of bungalows!" Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

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Another view!

Another view of the "Aristocratic Bungalow" in Charlottesville, VA. Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

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Before we get to the ugly, lets talk about the mysterious.

Before we get to the "ugly," let's talk about the mysterious. This is a Sears Barrington, a hugely popular house for Sears (1928 catalog). Notice the cornice dormer, the front-gabled foyer and the darling little windows within that gable.

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Well lookie here! Is this a Sears Barrington?

And here's where it gets mysterious. Is this a Sears Barrington in Charlottesville? It sure looks like it could be. Oooh, but wait, look at the half-round door! And the darling little window is squared, not angled (as is shown in the image above). And there's no light over the door. Hmmm. So, maybe it's not a Sears Barrington? Tough to know for sure. It's another house that bears more investigation.

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Here in Virginia, Ive found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses.

Here in Virginia, I've found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses. Shown here is an Aladdin Newcastle, which looks a lot like a Sears Barrington, except, the Newcastle does have that rounded entry door, and there's no light over the door. However, the darling little windows are still not quite right.

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So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington?

So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington? I don't know. I'd love to get inside the house and look at the framing members. You can learn a lot by looking at framing members.

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For instance, if it has a mark like this, its a Sears kit home.

For instance, if it has a mark like this, it's a Sears kit home. This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, told the novice homebuilder how all those 12,000 pieces and parts went together.

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If it has a mark like this, its an Aladdin.

If it has a mark like this, it's an Aladdin.

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And now, the ugly.

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Westly

The Sears Westly was surely one of their most popular designs, and was proably one of their top ten best-selling models. It's a very cute house and has a good floor plan. However, sometimes bad things happen to good Westlys. Image is from 1916 Sears catalog.

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Before we hit the ugly, heres a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is.

Before we hit the ugly, here's a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is. And it's in original condition, too. Not bad for a 90-year-old home.

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Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

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Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, Im 98.765% certain that it is. Ive seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, I'm 98.765% certain that it is. I've seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

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Poor little Westly.

Poor little Westly. There's so much that's wrong with this house. It's kind of an anachronism of bad remodeling practices through the decades. From the T-111 siding on the exterior to the 1980s picture windows to the fake stone facade to the mismatched lanterns on the home's front, this poor house has suffered pretty much every architectural indignity imaginable.

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Whew. That was rough. Back to the good.

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And theres this.

In addition to the kit homes, Charlottesville also has a few "Plan Book" houses. These were different from kit homes. With plan books, you'd browse the pages of the catalog and pick out a house and send off for the blueprints. A complete inventory of all building materials that you'd need came with the deal. The lumber and hardware could then be purchased locally.

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Shown above is a plan book house, The Somerset.

Shown above is a plan book house, "The Somerset."

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And Charlottesville has two of them!

And Charlottesville has two of them!

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Do you know of a kit home in Charlottesville? Please leave a comment below and Rose will respond as soon as possible.

To learn more about how to identify a house based on the lumber markings, click here.

To read about the delightful collection of kit homes in Staunton, click here.

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Is it or Isn’t it? (Gordon Van Tine #534)

March 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In Summer 2004, I visited the beautiful community of Cape Charles (on the Eastern Shore of Virginia), to give a talk on Sears Kit Homes. The folks there in Cape Charles treated me like a queen, and left me with many wonderful and happy memories of their hospitality and warmth and authenticity.

When I was there, I was driven around nearby communities as well, and in a town “across the street” (Route 13) from Cape Charles, I discovered this fine-looking old yellow bungalow. At first, I suspected it was a Gordon Van Tine kit house (Model #534), but once I got home and compared the photo to my catalog images, I decided it wasn’t a good “fit” and put it out of mind.

And then last month, Sears House aficionado and photographer Donna Bakke sent me pictures of a Sears kit house in Ohio, “The Paloma.”

As I compared that house to the line drawing, I saw that the actual proportions of the Sears Paloma were not a good match to the extant house. In fact, they were dramatically skewed.

And then my friend Rachel Shoemaker commented that she’d also discovered that these line drawings were often not good representations of the house itself.

So last week, I went through my old pictures and dragged out the Gordon Van Tine I’d seen on the Eastern Shore and as I got to studying it, I started to change my thought about the house. Based on what I saw in that Pomona (thanks to Donna), I’m now thinking, this could well be the Gordon Van Tine Model #534.

Ah, and a little PS. This house is on the east side of Route 13, “across” from Cape Charles and a little bit north. It’s in a tiny community and I neglected to get the name of this town. If anyone has any idea where this house is, I sure would be grateful to know!

To see the post on the Sears Paloma, click here.

To read more about the kit homes I saw in Cape Charles, click here.

To join our group (”Sears Homes”) on Facebook, click here.

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house

Is this the Gordon Van Tine #534? When I first saw this house, I was 80% certain that it was, and then when I really studied the photo and compared it to the catalog image, I changed my mind. And then last week, I changed my mind - again! Now I just hope the house is still standing!

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It is exceptionally well planned! But it also looks BIG!

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house

How wide would you guess that house to be?

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GVT

And if you compare the two images side by side, you'd probably say that the GVT house is much wider than the little yellow house on the Eastern Shore.

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house

If you look at the floor plan, you'll see this house is only 26' wide. Is the yellow house 26' wide? Yes, I'd say that it is. Does the house shown in the line drawing look 26' wide? Nope. It looks much bigger.

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house house

So, what if we were to skew the house a bit to make it look more like it was 26' wide?

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If you do a side-by-side comparison of the GVT 534 (with the catalog image skewed), they look like a perfect match. If someone can figure out where this house is, I'll go back and get a better picture.

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line

And there's also this fact. The little yellow house has the same windows as the GVT 534 and they're very distinctive windows. Plus, that pent roof is a unique feature. The more I study this house, the more I think it's a darn good match.

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Looks lke a match to me!

Looks like a match to me!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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