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Lynchburg, Virginia: A Colossal Caboodle of Kit Homes

July 29th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

UPDATED at 7.30 am (Wednesday)!  New photos added below!

Lynchburg is one of the prettiest cities in the prettiest state in the Union, and best of all, it’s blessed with an abundance of kit homes.

In 2004, 2008, and 2011, I spent several hours driving around Lynchburg seeking and finding its kit homes. (In 2008, I was with Dale Wolicki, who identified many Aladdin houses that I might otherwise have missed!)

For years, I’ve tried to stir up interest in these kit homes in Lynchburg but without success. And yet, this really is a lost piece of Lynchburg’s history! Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

How many of these home’s owners (in Lynchburg) know about their home’s unique historical significance?

I love Lynchburg and I’d love to have an opportunity to give a lecture on this abundance of early 20th Century kit homes in this fine city.

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what IS a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!).

The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!

When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one.

In the early 1900s, there were six national companies selling these mail-order kit homes. Aladdin was one of those six companies, and it was in business longer than Sears (and sold more houses), but is not as well known. And yet, Lynchburg has more Aladdin Homes than Sears Homes!

Finding these kit homes is just like discovering hidden treasure, and it’s time to spread the happy news of these discoveries!

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

To read about the Sears Homes in Vinton, Virginia, click here.

Interested in seeing the kit homes of Bedford? Click here.

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One of my favorite finds in Lynchburg is the Sears Alhambra.

One of my favorite finds in Lynchburg is the Sears Alhambra (1921 catalog).

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And technically, it wasnt even MY find! My buddy Bill Inge discovered this Alhambra many years ago, and shared the address with me. Oh boy, what a house!

And technically, it wasn't even MY find! My buddy Bill Inge discovered this Alhambra many years ago, and shared the address with me. Bill tells me that this Sears House has undergone some significant remodeling since this photo was snapped in 2008. Pity too, because it had its original windows in 2008, even though the parapet and dormer were MIA.

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The Sears Westly was a popular house for Sears, too.

The Sears Westly was a popular house for Sears, too (1916 catalog).

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A splendiferous example of a Westly in Lynchburg!

A splendiferous example of a Westly in Lynchburg!

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The Berwyn was offered in the late 1920s and into the 1930s (1929 catalog).

The Berwyn was offered in the late 1920s and into the 1930s (1929 catalog).

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Its a super-sized Berwyn! About 30% of Sears Homes were customized and the #1 customization was enlarging the house a wee bit.

It's a super-sized Berwyn! About 30% of Sears Homes were customized and the #1 customization was enlarging the house a wee bit.

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The Kilborn was a fine-looking craftsman bungalow, and was a big seller for Sears (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

The Kilborn was a fine-looking craftsman bungalow, and was a big seller for Sears (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog). The "five or eight rooms" depended on whether or not the 2nd floor was "expanded."

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It was the photographer and not the house thats a little tilted here.

It was the photographer and not the house that's a little tilted here. That purple foundation is interesting. BTW, this was a "windshield survey" and before these homes can be declared "Sears Homes," an interior inspection would be needed.

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The Sears Sunbeam was probably one of their top-ten most popular models. The open porch on the 2nd floor (known as a sleeping porch) often gets closed in.

The Sears "Sunbeam" was probably one of their top-ten most popular models. The open porch on the 2nd floor (known as a "sleeping porch") often gets closed in.

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Pretty

And what a fine-looking Sunbeam it is. I think. As mentioned, this is a windshield survey, and while I'm 90% certain this is a Sears Sunbeam, I'd really need to know the home's exterior footprint to affirm. Note that the sleeping porch has been enclosed. It's rare to see an Sunbeam with the open porch.

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Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so not surprisingly, I often find more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia than Sears kit homes. Shown above is the Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so not surprisingly, I often find more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia than Sears kit homes. Shown above is the Aladdin "Pasadena" from the 1919 catalog.

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This is one of my favorite houses in Lynchburg. Its a *perfect* Pasadena.

This is one of my favorite houses in Lynchburg. It's a *perfect* Pasadena.

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Even has the original lattice work on the side porch.

Even has the original lattice work on the side porch.

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The Pasadena at a later date (about 2011).

The Pasadena at a later date (about 2011).

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Another Lynchburg Pasadena, just down the road.

Another Lynchburg Pasadena, just down the road.

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One of Aladdins best selling models was the Marsden (1916 catalog).

One of Aladdin's best selling models was the Marsden (1916 catalog).

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Oh yeah baby. There it is. Be still my heart.

Oh yeah baby. There it is. Be still my heart.

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The Pomona was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow and also hugely popular.

The Pomona was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow and also hugely popular.

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Flared columns and all, heres my sweet thing.

Flared columns and all, here's my sweet thing. Do they know they have a kit home? PRobably not.

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And I saved the best for last! The Aladdin Georgia, from the 1919 catalog.

And I saved the best for last! The Aladdin Georgia, from the 1919 catalog.

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Pretty house, isnt it?

Pretty house, isn't it?

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Twinkies! In Lynchburg! Two Georgias, side by side.

Twinkies! In Lynchburg! Two Georgias, side by side.

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And a third Georgia in another part of town.

And a third Georgia in another part of town.

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The Aladdin Edison was a very modest, simple house.

The Aladdin Edison was a very modest, simple house.

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Lyunch

And this one has a pretty stone wall in front.

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The Aladdin Avalon was a classic Dutch Colonial (1931 catalog).

The Aladdin Avalon was a classic Dutch Colonial (1931 catalog).

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The Assessors photo is a dandy, and it captures the Aladdin Avalon from the same angle as the old catalog image! Good job, Mr. Assessor!

The Assessor's photo is a dandy, and it captures the Aladdin Avalon from the same angle as the old catalog image! Good job, Mr. Assessor! And it's a fine exampe of the Avalon!

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And what would a city be without a kit house from Wards?

And what would a city be without a kit house from Montgomery Wards?

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Hopefully, the foundation is good and strong so it wont tip over. This is a Montgomery Ward Carlisle with a pretty big dormer added on!

Hopefully, the foundation is good and strong so the house won't tip over to the left. This is a Montgomery Ward "Carlyle" with a pretty big dormer added on! It needs a little love, but it has original siding and original windows!

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Aladdin

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

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This is

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

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Did you enjoy the pictures? If so, please share the link with friends!

And leave a comment for Rose! I’m living on love here!  :D

To read about the Sears Homes in Vinton, Virginia, click here.

Interested in seeing the kit homes of Bedford? Click here.

There’s a missing kit home in Lynchburg. Read about it here.

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Still reading? :D On a personal note, I’ve been trying to move to the Lynchburg/Bedford area since 1994, but life had other plans. I do hope I get there - one day. It’s my favorite part of the country - and I have seen a LOT of the country!

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

January 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the many photos and please leave a comment below.

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

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

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

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

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

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Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Side-by-side comparison of the two images.

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

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

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

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

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A comparison of the two images shows

A comparison of the two images. What a treasure!

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

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

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

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

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Side by side comparison to the two houses.

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

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

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

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And here it is.

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

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Another very nice match.

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

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The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a Sears Westly.

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

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

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

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

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

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Look at the deatil of the brickword around the chimney!

Look at the detail of the brickwork on the chimney!

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And its for Better class workers!

This Sears Home was for "Better class" workers!

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Ouch.

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

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Compare

Poor little "Carlin."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have You Seen This House? (Part 3)

April 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

We’ve got a mystery here in Colonial Place/Riverview section of Norfolk.

In 2007, I moved to Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood and in that first week, I started walking around, admiring the old houses. The first time I saw these 14 identical bungalows in Riverview (see below), they waved at me, jumped up and down and said, “Don’t we look like kit homes from Aladdin?” And yet, I’ve not been able to match these houses with any of the images in my many vintage catalogs.

Their 14 little faces have haunted me ever since.  (Later, I learned that Highland Park [Norfolk] has two of these homes.)

According to local legend, all of these homes were moved here (by barge) from another location.

They’re fairly distinctive little houses, and the $64,000 question is, where did they come from?

More and more, it’s looking like they came  from Penniman, Virginia, where DuPont built 600+ homes for their workers (now Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham annex). DuPont turned to Aladdin to supply houses for their workers in Penniman, and it’s likely that there were hundreds of “Ready-cut” houses, shipped from Aladdin’s mills in nearby Wilmington, NC.

Working with my history-loving friends David Spriggs and Mark Hardin, we’ve had several wonderful discoveries, but heretofore, we’ve found nothing conclusive.

For instance, Mark found an old article that said when “The Great War,“  ended (late 1918), the Aladdin Ready-cut Homes there in Penniman were “were knocked down and moved great distances on trucks and barges to many different localities, a number of them being most attractively re-erected in Williamsburg and the county.”

And Mark discovered a massive collection of these same “Norfolk Bungalows” in Dupont, Washington, another site where Dupont provided housing for their workers).  (To see these houses, enter this address into Google Maps: 214 Barksdale Street, Dupont, Washington, and then spin around 90 degrees.)

Friday, I went to Williamsburg and drove around the city and out towards the old Penniman site. I’m sorry to report that I found nothing of import or remarkable (other than one Sears kit home “The Oak Park” near the College).

So now we’re wondering if the houses landed someplace other than Williamsburg.

I hope so, because in Williamsburg, I found very little pre-WW2 housing of any kind. I suspect that these early 20th Century bungalows may have been obliterated by the massive and ongoing expansion of Colonial Williamsburg and The College of William and Mary.

The search continues. And I know that one day soon, we’ll have our answer.

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

 

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

 

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell and Penniman, Virginia and Carney Point, NJ. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

And the lone kit house I found in Williamsburg is this Sears Oak Park on Newport Avenue (very near the college).

Sears Oak Park from the 1933 catalog

Sears Oak Park from the 1933 catalog

Sears Oak Park

The lone kit home I found in Williamsburg: The Sears Oak Park.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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A Fine Sears Home on a Champaign (Illinois) Budget!

April 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 7 comments

In February 2010, I spent a month in Illinois, driving to and fro throughout the state, looking for Sears Homes. The search in Champaign was much easier, because my dear friend Rebecca Hunter supplied me with a LIST of the Sears Homes she’d found in Champaign. (It’s a lot easier to find hidden treasure when someone gives you a detailed map!)

Several of these homes in Champaign were so beautiful and such perfect examples that they ended up in my newest book, The Sears Homes of Illinois.

If you like the pictures, please leave a comment below! Most importantly, please share this link with others, and email it to all your Illinois friends! :)

The Sears Dover, as it appeared in the 1936 catalog

The Sears Dover, as it appeared in the 1936 catalog

Close-up of the Dover

Close-up of the Dover

A perfect example of the Sears Dover in Champaign!

A perfect example of the Sears Dover in Champaign!

Sears Crescent from the 1922 catalog

Sears Crescent from the 1922 catalog

Another perfect Sears House in Champaign - the Crescent!

Another perfect Sears House in Champaign - the Crescent!

Sears Attleboro as seen in the 1936 catalog

Sears Attleboro as seen in the 1936 catalog

Sears Attleboro, dressed in snow!

Sears Attleboro, dressed in snow!

The Sears Gladstone - 1916

The Sears Gladstone - 1916

Close-up of the Sears Gladstone

Close-up of the Sears Gladstone

This Gladstone in Champaign is almost in perfect condition. Note the original columns, and that itty bitty window in the big dormer window.

This Gladstone in Champaign is almost in perfect condition. Note the original columns, and that itty bitty window in the big dormer window. BTW, in Champaign, it's either in the middle of snowing, getting ready to snow, or just finished snowing. This photo is "B."

One of my favorites is the Sears Strathmore!

One of my favorites is the Sears Strathmore!

And heres a real beauty in Champaign!

And here's a real beauty in Champaign!

Sears Vallonia from the 1925 catalog. This was one of Sears most popular designs.

Sears Vallonia from the 1925 catalog. This was one of Sears most popular designs.

This Sears Vallonia is in mostly original condition.

This Sears Vallonia is in mostly original condition.

The Sears Walton was also a popular house, but John Boy never slept here.

The Sears Walton was also a popular house, but John Boy never slept here.

The Sears Walton

The Sears Walton in Champaign has had some changes (vinyl siding, replacement windows and a closed-in porch), but it's still a Walton.

The Osborn

The Osborn

And the creme de la creme, my #1 favorite, is this Sears Osborn in Sidney, Illinois. This house sits on a Centennial Farm (100 years in the same family), and was built in 1926 by Harry Mohr and his wife, Ethel. Its one of the finest Sears Homes Ive ever had the pleasure to see.

And the creme de la creme, my #1 favorite, is this Sears Osborn in Sidney, Illinois. This house sits on a Centennial Farm (100 years in the same family), and was built in 1926 by Henry Mohr and his wife, Ethel. It's one of the finest Sears Homes I've ever had the pleasure to see. It's just a beauty in every way.

These houses were shipped in wooden crates, marked with the owners name and destination (train station). The shipping crates were often salvaged and the wood was reused to build coal bins or basement shelving. Heres one such remnant found in the basement of the Osborn.

These houses were shipped in wooden crates, marked with the owner's name and destination (train station). The shipping crates were often salvaged and the wood was reused to build coal bins or basement shelving. Here's one such remnant found in the basement of the Osborn.

Close-up of the unique columns on the Mohrs Osborn.

Close-up of the unique columns on the Mohr's Osborn.

To learn more about the Sears Homes of Illinois, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article at this site, click here.

If you’ve enjoyed the photos, please forward this link to everyone on your email list! Or post it on your facebook page!

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