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Posts Tagged ‘aladdin’

Little Piece of DuPont History For Sale

April 10th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

And it’s right on the Delaware River.

The 97-year-old beauty is located in Carney’s Point, New Jersey, home to one of DuPont’s many WW1 munitions plants. This most certainly would have been a house for the upper management at the Carney’s Point facility. It’s a huge house (three full stories and a basement), and it sits on a beautiful lot, facing out to the Delaware River.

We’re coming around to thinking that these houses were probably designed by Aladdin (a kit house company based in Bay City, Michigan), and they were probably built with materials supplied by Aladdin.

For now, that’s mostly speculation, but based on what we’ve learned heretofore, it seems very plausible.

The listing says that this house was built in 1917. That’s believable. We entered “The Great War” in April 1917, and that’s when we went crazy building munitions plants throughout the country. Interestingly, Great Britain credited DuPont and their munitions production with being largely responsible for their victory in The Great War.

To see the more modest housing provided to munitions workers, click here.

To learn more about how we got started on this topic, click here.

Pieceo of history

It's a beautiful house and appears to be in good condition. It was probably designed by Aladdin and built with materials supplied by Aladdin. Probably. We don't know for sure - yet. Photo is courtesy Patricia Siedle Shorter.

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This house was also built at Old Hickory, TN (another DuPont munitions plant). This page came from a 1920 catalog featuring the houses of Old Hickory.

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The floor plan is rather simple. That pantry is a real mystery.

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The "half story" is the third floor, and it appears to be quite spacious.

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The Bay Tree, up close and person. That gate on the side porch is a curiosity.

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And here's our Bay Tree, 97 years old. Photo is courtesy Patricia Siedle Shorter.

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And its also a pretty house

Do the owners know of its unique history? Photo is courtesy Patricia Siedle Shorter.

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And its also a beautiful house.

I'm a sucker for sunporches. Very nice! Photo is courtesy Patricia Siedle Shorter.

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house house house

This ad appeared in the September 1918 DuPont magazine. We know that DuPont had a long-term working relationship with Aladdin, and turned to Aladdin to supply worker housing at several plants, including Hopewell, Virginia, and Carney's Point, NJ. We're trying to figure out if DuPont turned to Aladdin to supply houses in Penniman, Virginia.

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To learn about how we got started on this DuPont project, you have to read about Penniman, Virginia’s own “Ghost City.”

To see the original real estate listing, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

William & Mary College and Kit Homes

October 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 12 comments

Recently, I was on the William and Mary College campus doing research on Penniman, Virginia. (You can read more about that here.)

As part of the research, I was reading through the early 1920s college yearbooks and happened upon an interesting photo in the 1922 yearbook, “The Colonial Echo.” It was a picture of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity fellows, seated in front of their fraternity house, an Aladdin Colonial.

How apropos, I thought to myself! What else would you buy for a college campus in a famous colonial town, but THE Colonial?

For first-time visitors to this site, Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears), sold entire kit houses through mail order catalogs in the early 20th Century. Each kit came with 10,000-12,000 pieces of house, and included a detailed instruction book, designed for the novice homebuilder.

Update: Andrew Mutch has found the house, but it’s not happy news.

Our Aladdin Colonial, aka “The Clark House” (located on Jamestown Avenue) was demolished in 2004.

A press release put out by the college in 2004 said the house was built in 1911 and had been deemed “physically unsound” ten years prior (1994).

Ding, ding, ding, nice try and thanks for playing.

The Colonial first appeared in the 1915 “Aladdin Houses” catalog for a price of $1,980, but the Colonial on the W&M campus was built in 1920 or 1921 (based on info gleaned from the college yearbooks). This means the 1911 date is quite a boo boo.

As to the “physically unsound” part, I have serious reservations about that, too.

It’s a good thing they got rid of that early 20th Century kit home with all that first-growth southern yellow pine from virgin forests, and those oily old cypress clapboards.

Not.

This was an egregious waste of America’s irreplaceable and most-precious resources. Approximately 30% of all waste found in landfills is construction debris. Doesn’t make much sense to fill a campus with recycling receptacles for paper, plastic and aluminum if you’re going to send 350,000 pounds of architectural history to the landfill.

Images of the 1922 William and Mary “Echo” came from www.archive.org.  If you have several hours to kill, I highly recommend their site!

And - again - many thanks to Rachel for finding these high-resolution images at archive.org!

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While looking through the 1922 "Colonial Echo," I found a most interesting picture!

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The full page from the 1922 "Echo" shows the Theta Delta Chi gang, seated in front of their freshly built Aladdin Colonial! Wouldn't it be interesting to know if these fellows assembled that Aladdin kit house on their own!

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What a beautiful

What a beautiful house! The Colonial was first offered in 1915. The image above is from the 1922 "Colonial Echo," so it's possible that the house was newly built (which may be why it merited its own photograph). I wonder how long it was used as the house for Theta Delta Chi?

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The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.

The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.

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Heres an Aladdin Colonial in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Colonial in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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Rachel

Rachel Shoemaker, researcher extraordinaire, found this picture (also at archive.org) of the Theta Delta Chi boys gathered around the front porch of their newly built Aladdin Colonial in 1921 (from "The Colonial Echo" 1921). In prior years, the frat boys were photographed in front of a different (older) house. I would love to know - did these guys BUILD this house? What a pity that W&M saw fit to destroy this house in 2004. An aside, with 15 minutes of searching the yearbooks, Rachel figured out that this house was built in 1920 or 1921.

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In addition to the

In addition to the Aladdin Colonial shown above, Williamsburg also has a Sears kit home, "The Oak Park" (shown above). (Vintage image is from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.)

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And just down the street is this Wardway Mayflower. How appropos!

And just down the street is this Wardway "Mayflower." How apropos!

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To learn more about kit homes, click here.

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Meet Me in Louisa! (September 15th at 2:00 pm)

September 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

This Sunday (September 15th), I’ll be in Louisa, Virginia (near Charlottesville) giving a talk on the kit homes in Louisa County.

In the last 12 years, I’ve given more than 250 lectures in 26 states, and the #1 comment I hear from attendees is, “This was such fun, and I learned so much!”

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

*  The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.”

* The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

* Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.


I hope you’ll be able to come out and join us on September 15th at 2:00 pm, at 214 Fredericksburg Avenue in Louisa.

The auditorium only holds 200 people, so get there early!

And if you know anyone who loves old houses, please invite them to join you!

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Woo-hoo!

Okay, actually this is a simple mailer that Aladdin sent out to their customers the late 1910s to let people know that their Aladdin catalog was on its way. It was so cute I decided I could use it here.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears (in terms of mail-order kit home sales). Here in Southern Virginia, Ive found far more Aladdin Houses than Sears.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears (in terms of mail-order kit home sales). Here in Southern Virginia, I've found far more Aladdin Houses than Sears. While Aladdin was based in Bay City (Michigan), they had a very large mill in Wilmington, NC. The red dot shows where Louisa is located. Or that's what my husband claims. I have plenty of trouble with maps that have lots of detail. Maps like this leave me feeling like I need to lie down for a bit.

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One of my favorite finds in Louisa was this Aladdin Cape Cod (model name).

One of my favorite finds in Louisa was this Aladdin "Cape Cod" (model name).

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Ooh la la, what a pretty house!

Ooh la la, what a pretty house! And it's in Louisa!

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Also found an Aladdin Madison! (From the 1937 catalog)

Also found an Aladdin Madison! (From the 1937 catalog)

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Oh

The front entry has been squared up and enclosed, but other than that, it's a good match!

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My favorite find was the Aladdin Kentucky!

My favorite find was the Aladdin Kentucky! (From the 1915 catalog).

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This was a spacious and fine home.

This was a spacious and fine home.

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Now thats a gorgeous house!

Of all the houses I've found in my house-hunting career, this beauty is certainly one of my Top Ten Favorites. It looks much like it did when it first appeared in the 1912 Aladdin Homes catalog. Original windows, original cypress clapboards, original columns and porch. Good golly, what a house.

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Man oh man, what a match!

Man oh man, what a match!

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Ill also be talking about what I found in nearby communities, such as this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Orange!

I'll also be talking about what I found in nearby communities, such as this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Orange!

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Another

And what a fine-looking Shadowlawn it is.

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The Wexford, from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Wexford, from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Mineral is best known as the epicenter of the August 2011 earthquake. Its also the home to a perfect Sears Wexford.

Mineral is best known as the epicenter of the August 2011 earthquake. It's also the home to a perfect Sears Wexford. The house was "reversed" from the original image shown in the catalog, which was a common option.

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And look

And look what I found in Charlottesville!

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And look what I found in Charlottesville!

It's a picture-perfect Sears Rockford! Charlottesville has several kit homes that I discovered during a quickie drive-through. I'm sure there are many more just begging to be found.

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To get more information about the upcoming talk, please contact Elaine at info@louisacountyhistoricalsociety.org

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About Rose:

Rose Thornton has traveled throughout the country, seeking and finding Sears Homes. In that time, she’s written dozens of newspaper and magazine articles and several books.

Rose is the author of The Houses That Sears Built (2002,) Finding the Houses That Sears Built (2004) and she’s the co-author of California’s Kit Homes (2004) and Montgomery Wards Mail-Order Homes (2010). Rose’s newest book - The Sears Homes of Illinois - was published in 2011.

Rose has traveled to 26 states to give more than 200 lectures on Sears Homes, from Bungalow Heaven in Los Angeles to The Smithsonian in Washington, DC. She has addressed a wide variety of audiences from architectural preservationists in Boston, St. Louis and Chicago to kit home enthusiasts in small towns across America.

Rose has appeared on PBS (History Detectives), A&E (Biography), CBS (Sunday Morning News) and her book was featured in its own category on Jeopardy. She is considered the country’s #1 authority on kit homes. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street JournalNew York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Old House Journal, American Bungalow, Blue Ridge Country and about 100 other publications. Twice in the last three years, the story of her unique career was picked up by the AP and in May 2009, she was interviewed on BBC Radio.

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Almost as Good as a Magnolia! (Sears Pennsgrove!)

September 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

My website recently hit 750,000 views. That’s a lot of people reading about Sears Homes. And with all those visitors, I also get a lot of “I saw a neighborhood just full of Magnolias” emails.

And yet tonight (Thursday night), someone left a comment, saying that there was a Sears Pennsgrove in their neighborhood. The Pennsgrove is one of those rare kit homes that neither I, nor Rebecca, nor Dale have ever seen. And we’ve been looking!

A Pennsgrove.

In Baltimore.

And much to my surprise, they were right. It was a Sears Pennsgrove. The Pennsgrove was only offered in 1931 and 1932, which is part of the reason it’s so rare. Those were not boom years for American real estate.

The Pennsgrove was truly a beautiful home, and fancy too. It’s spacious (about 2,200 square feet), has a two-car attached garage, and is full of unique features. Driving past this beauty, you’d never guess in a million years that this house came from Sears.

And yet it did.

Many thanks to Tom and Jada for telling me about this splendiferous Sears House in Baltimore. You can visit their website here.

Thanks also to the anonymous, gifted, talented and generous Realtor who so graciously permitted me to use her incredibly beautiful photos.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

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Pretty fancy house for a kit, isnt it? (1932 catalog)

Pretty fancy house for a kit, isn't it? (1932 catalog)

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I love the text in these old catalogs.

"Pleasing proportions, picturesque detail, contrasting surfaces and softly blended colors give the Pennsgrove that rare charm characteristic of the countrysides of Kent and Surrey across the sea."

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Two car attached garage? Wow.

Two car attached garage? Wow. And the garage is big enough to store pine trees, too!

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Small bedrooms, but look at all that busyness off the master bedroom.

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Nice house.

The Pennsgrove, as it appeared in the 1932 catalog.

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And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

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Wow

Gosh, what a house!

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Inisde, the house has some delightful and quirky features.

Inside, the house has some delightful and quirky features, such as this opening onto the staircase. And look at that wood! It looks like the house is mostly in original condition.

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Another view of the entry foyer.

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A cute

This house has two full bathrooms, and in this bath, the original tub remains.

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There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

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dining

Beautiful dining room with original wainscoting.

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Another dormer in an upstairs bedroom.

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What have you got in YOUR neighborhood?

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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And Sometimes, They’re Hiding By The Post Office

September 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

How many times have I driven the streets of Norfolk, searching for kit homes?

Well, let’s just say it’s a number higher than 20. Earlier this year, I discovered a Martha Washington when Milton and I were on our way to buy some honey biscuits from Church’s.

That was a shocker.

And then yesterday, I had occasion to seek out and find a new post office here in Norview (by the airport) and on my way to the post office, I saw a PERFECT Aladdin kit house, The Maples.

Today, I drove down the same road (this time, with my camera), trying to get in position to surreptitiously get a photo, when I drove past a Sears Willard.

One street, and two perfect kit homes.

Wow.

Just wow.

And now I’m wondering if I’m going to find a Magnolia somewhere in Norfolk!

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The Maples was a darling little bungalow offered by Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan).

The Maples was a darling little bungalow offered by Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan).

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One little house, two floor plans.

One little house, two floor plans.

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The second floorplan has no bathroom.

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What a cute house!

What a cute house!

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Oh yeah, baby!

Oh yeah, baby! What a perfect match!

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The other surprise  was the Sears Willard, just one block from the post office.

The other surprise was the Sears Willard, just one block from the post office. The image above is from the 1928 catalog. The living room has three windows on the right side (seen above).

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The Willard was a very popular house for Sears.

The Willard was a very popular house for Sears.

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And here it

A perfect Willard, less than two miles from my house. Wow.

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To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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“My Brentwood is the Admiration of the Town”

August 18th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

In terms of actual sales numbers of kit homes, Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, but these many years later, they’re not as well known. “Sears Homes” is to kit homes what Kleenex is to disposable tissues. It’s become a generic term, that is over-used and frequently wrong.

More than 80% of the people who think they live in a Sears Home are wrong, and yet the majority of these misinformed souls *do* live in a kit home, but it’s often a kit house from another company, such as Aladdin (or Gordon Van Tine, or Lewis Manufacturing, or Sterling, or Montgomery Wards).

Here in the Southeastern United States, most of our kit homes are from Aladdin, and that’s probably because of the proximity to Wilmington, NC where Aladdin had a massive mill.

One of my favorite Aladdin houses is the Brentwood. It’s a classic Arts & Crafts house with lots of flair. Best of all, it’s easy to identify because of its many unique architectural features.

Enjoy the pictures, and if you know of an Aladdin Brentwood near you, please contact me!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here or here.

Interested in learning more about Aladdin? Click here!

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Whats not to love? The Aladdin Brentwood as seen in the 1919 catalog. What a house!

What's not to love? The Aladdin Brentwood as seen in the 1919 catalog. What a house!

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Spacious

I love it that the small balcony (second floor) is not off the "master bedroom," but the "owner's room." The guy who's making the payments on this joint gets the Romeo and Juliet balcony. Darn tootin'!

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I love the last paragraph: "A Tennessee owner says, 'My Brentwood is the admiration of the town. It was ready for plastering two weeks after the first nail was driven.'" The first line of this ad also reflects this theme.

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One of my favorite Brentwoods, right here in my neck of the woods. This house is in Hampton, VA and is in stunningly beautiful condition.

One of my favorite Brentwoods, right here in my neck of the woods. This house is in Hampton, VA and is in stunningly beautiful condition. My research shows that the home's original owner was an electrician. I wonder if he built the house himself? Often tradesman would do just that.

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Another Brentwood in nearby Newport News. Sadly, this gorgeous old house is in East End, which is crime-ridden and quite unsafe. Before long, this house will probably be another footnote of our local history.

Another Brentwood in nearby Newport News. Sadly, this gorgeous old house is in East End, which is a very crime-ridden and unsafe area. Our local news is full of stories of shootings and stabbings in East End. Before long, this house will probably be another footnote of our local history.

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Back to the happy Brentwoods: Heres a beauty in Chapel Hill, NC.

Back to the happy Brentwoods: Here's a beauty in Chapel Hill, NC.

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Roanoke Rapids, NC has a massive collection of Aladdin Kit Homes, including this Brentwood.  Roano

Roanoke Rapids, NC has a massive collection of Aladdin Kit Homes, including this Brentwood.

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Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids) also is home to many Aladdin kit homes.

Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids) also is home to many Aladdin kit homes. This Brentwood needs a little love, but it's still in pretty good shape.

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Years ago, I discovered this Aladdin Brentwood in Mattoon, IL.

Years ago, I discovered this Aladdin Brentwood in Mattoon, IL. It's been rode hard and put away wet, but it's still solid and true. The hardest part about finding these classic old kit homes in the tiny towns of the Midwest is that they're often in very sad condition and/or neglected.

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The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

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To learn more about Aladdin kit homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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When Did Sears Close Their Modern Homes Department?

June 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

When exactly did Sears stop selling their “Modern Homes”?

In an interesting and well-researched blog about Sears Homes (written by my friend Lara), she points out that the sale of Sears kit homes did in fact continue after 1940.

For many years, I’ve declared that if your house was purchased outside of 1908-1940 (the years Sears sold these houses), it can not be a house from Sears.

Well, I have a couple modifications to make to that statement. :)

First, based on information I’ve gleaned through the years, it seems that Sears didn’t sell any of their homes their first year in business. In other words, 1908 was a dud!  The first Sears homes were sold in 1909. And if you find a pre-1912 Sears Home, you have found a rare bird.

Very few of their houses were sold before 1912. Very few, as in, about 1,000. (In February 1911, American Carpenter and Builder magazine reported that Sears had sold 1,000 houses thus far.)

As to the “other end” of that date, Sears put out their last Modern Homes catalog in 1939. The 1940 catalog was just a straight re-print of that 1939 catalog. While 1940 was the official “end date” of the Modern Homes department, was that really when they stopped selling kit homes?

Maybe not.

In late-1938, it looked like Sears was gearing up to revitalize their Modern Homes department. That year, they introduced nine new house styles, even sticking a 3-page supplement into the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog with the note:

Nine new Sears Modern Homes, too late for publication in the catalog are shown in this enclosure. Since they represent the latest thought in architectural design and planning, we think you’ll find them especially interesting.

The nine houses were The Colebrook, The Malden, The Yates, The Branford, The Lynn, The Fulton, The Nantucket, The Medford and The Warren. All but two of the houses were Cape Cods. (These homes appeared in a catalog dated 1938, but this 3-page supplement was dated January 1939.)

The enclosure that offered these nine new houses also promised that all of Sears Modern Homes met FHA requirements and Sears even offered to assist homebuyers with the FHA mortgage application process.

The FHA was created by the National Housing Act of 1934. (The history behind the FHA is both disturbing and fascinating. Read more here.)

In September 2, 1939, an article in Business Week said the young men at Sears wanted to give the Modern Homes department another go, but that upper management wouldn’t hear of it. Business Week stated “Upper management all sweated buckets bailing the company out of the big-scale housing catastrophe that followed the slap-happy 20s. [They] would cheerfully get out of the whole department if they only knew how to get their money out.”

The money they hoped to get out included the millions of dollars Sears had invested in their lumber mills, such as the $3.5 million recently invested in Norwood, Ohio and Port Newark, New Jersey.

Based on what I know today (and admittedly, that’s subject to change), I stand by my earlier statement that Sears issued their last Modern Homes catalog in 1940, and yet, as Lara pointed out, it also seems likely that Sears continued to sell off their remaining inventory until at least Spring 1941 (based on Lara’s research), and perhaps beyond, and it’s possible that some of the millwork and building materials that Sears sold post-1940s were bits and pieces of formerly whole kits.

So, if you think you have a Sears Modern Home that was purchased post-1940, I’d have to say - it’s very possible! (Note that I said “purchased,” not built. I’ve heard many stories of people buying a kit home and then spending several years getting it built!)

And Lara found newspaper advertisements proving that Sears sold their kit homes into Spring 1941! To read Lara’s blog, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Modern Homes department, click here.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the images (shown below) of the 1940 and 1941 General Merchandise catalogs.

Want to learn more? Join us on Facebook!

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The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

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Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years.

Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years. Above is one such storefront in Ohio. If you look closely at the sign in front of the center doorway, it says, "Sears Roebuck & Co. Honor Bilt Modern Homes."

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On the inside cover of the Sears Modern Homes catalog were interior pictures of the Colebrook.

The inside cover of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed interior color pictures of the Malden. Look at the cat sleeping in the sunlight on the carpeted floor. Bliss!

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Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 and 1941 Sears General Merchandise catalog (1940 shown above).

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And in those pages

And in that 1941 General Merchandise catalog, Rachel found this! Look at the small insert, where it says, "Interior Doors, now at Chicago, Norwood (site of the Sears Millwork plant) and Newark NJ" (site of one of their main mills). There's no doubt that Sears was looking for a way to sell off some of their remaining inventory, post-1940.

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Repeated here,

The "Chicago, Norwood, Newark" theme is repeated here, with a bolder graphic (Spring 1941). The Irish Setter is a nice touch, too.

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And my favorite image features this young couple

And my favorite image features this young couple moving through the steps of buying their own Sears Home! (Spring 1940.)

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Happy

The dapper couple begins their fun excursion into the world of homeownership.

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Its the Colebrook thats caught their heart, mind and imagination.

It's the "Colebrook" that's captured their heart, mind, imagination and wallet.

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As shown in the 1940

The four-room Cape Cod "Colebrook" (as shown in the 1940 catalog).

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To dream the impsso

Close-up of the individual frames shown on the catalog page above. Dapper Donna says, "We didn't even need to hire an architect!" (Spring 1940)

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Building

Sears was happy, happy, happy to be out of the mortgage business. According to "Catalogs and Counters," Sears liquidated more than $11 million in mortgages in 1934. In today's dollars, that would be more than $190 million, a fantastic sum for a business to absorb.

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building

A blind carpenter is shown here, sifting through the pre-cut lumber.

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Kitchen

'The stoker downstairs" was a reference to a new invention: The automatic coal stoker. This ingenious device used an auger to feed coal into the furnace or boiler in the basement. It was a remarkable advance in modern heating systems. No more shoveling coal into the fire-belching behemoth. The automatic stoker was a great labor saving device.

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The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big as is shown in the picture with the happy couple, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

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Building

While the Dapper couple are arguing about what to do with all their saved money, a grifter behind them is surreptitiously pocketing some cash he quietly lifted from Dapper Dan's wallet. I think the old lady on the left is in on it, too.

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In the Spring 1940 General Merchandise catalog, Sears asked, "What exactly is YOUR problem?" Who knew that Sears was the source of this popular mantra?

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To visit Lara’s blog, click here.

You can read Rachel’s blog here.

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So Many Kit Homes in Charleston, South Carolina!

May 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Several weeks ago, Charleston resident and Sears House aficionado Kevin Eberle contacted me and said that there were several kit homes in Charleston, SC.

Oh sure. I’d heard that one before.

Actually, what I typically hear is, “Why, this town is just FULL of Sears Homes! As far as the eye can see!”

But Kevin wasn’t making that claim. He was saying that he’d found several kit homes in Charleston.

Did I dare to hope?

And then, when I saw the photos, I did a little happy dance.

Kevin really had found an abundance of kit homes in Charleston and most of them are in beautiful condition.

Does Charleston have even more kit homes than is shown below?

It’s possible! If you know of a kit home in Charleston, please leave me a comment!

Many thanks to Kevin for supplying *all* of the photos in this blog. I posted the pictures (below), but Kevin did all the research and legwork.

To learn more about kit homes in South Carolina, click here.

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Roanoke 1921

The Sears Roanoke as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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The Roanoke in Charleston is in picture perfect condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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At least 80% of the time, these 90-year-old houses are missing that wooden awning over the front windows. However both of the Roanokes in Charleston still have that awning. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house 1920

The Sears Belmont is a classic 1920s bungalows (1920 catalog).

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And there's a stunning example of a Sears Belmont in Charleston, SC. This is only the 2nd Belmont I've seen "in the flesh." Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house 1921

The Saratoga was one of their larger homes. The floorplan shows a living room that is 14' wide and 29' feet long. Both living room and dining room have beamed ceilings.

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Saratoga

This is a fine-looking Saratoga in Charleston and in mostly original condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This Saratoga's good looks have been somewhat diminished by the substitute siding, but at least, it's still standing. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Comparison of the orginal catalog image and the house in Charleston. Unfortunately, they show two different sides, but it's most certainly a Saratoga. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Aladdin 1933

The Capitol, as seen in the Aladdin catalog (1933).

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Kevin even found this Aladdin Capitol, despite the fact that it was built sideways on the lot! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Aladdin Villa 1919

Aladdin Villa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Aladdin Villa maybe

Is this an Aladdin Villa? I'm honestly not sure, but it'd be fun to find out! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house Roberts 192f

The Gordon Van Tine Roberts (1924 catalog).

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The Gordon Van Tine Roberts is easy to identify because it's such a unique house and (as far as I know) this particular design was never replicated by other companies. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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GVT 534

The Gordon Van Tine 534 was a very popular house (1919 catalog).

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GVT 2003

Kevin found this GVT #534 in Charleston. This photo was taken in 2003. The house has been remodeled since this photo was taken. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sterling Sentinel, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

The Sterling Sentinel, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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house house Charleston

This was my favorite of the whole bunch. It's just a spot-on match to the Sterling "Sentinel"! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house compare

Comparison of the two houses. What a perfect match!

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Thanks again to Kevin Eberle for sharing all these wonderful photos!

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How NOT to Photograph a Sears Kit House

May 13th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Several times each week, folks send me emails asking, “Is my house a Sears House?” Usually,  they send photos along with their inquiries. But sometimes, the photos don’t help with the identification process.

My poor old laptop is already heavy laden with pictures of kit homes (about 50,000 photos and counting), so I’ve deleted the great majority of not-so-good pictures I’ve received.

However, I did save a few of my favorites.  :)

This was a favorite.

This was a favorite. I laughed out loud when I saw the photo. The writer asked me, "I think I live in a Sears House. Can you tell me what this is?" I wanted to write back and say, "Yes, it's a Silver Maple."

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Another reader photo.

This is the architectural equivalent of asking someone to identify a picture of a criminal where the bad guy is wearing a ski mask. Just doesn't work too well.

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This is actually a photo that I took. Its an Aladdin Pasadena. Can you tell?

Is there a house back there? Yes there is. And it's an Aladdin Pasadena!

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

To read about the first class lumber that went into kit homes, click here.

To read about the impressive collection of kit homes in Raleigh (The Tree City), click here.

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Next Stop, Waynesboro?

May 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

My talk in Staunton was well-organized (thanks to Historic Staunton Foundation) and well attended (standing room only!) and it was a lot of fun!

And what an unexpected delight to discover such a variety of kit homes in nearby Staunton! (Click here to read more about what we found!)

On my way to Staunton last week, I took a quickie ride through Waynesboro and found a handful of kit homes.  Some day soon, I’d love to come back and do a more thorough survey and give a talk.

For those newbies here, what is a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. These 12,ooo-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days!  From 1908-1940, Sears sold about 70,000 of these kits, and finding them is just like looking for hidden treasure.

OOOH, there are MORE Sears Homes in Waynesboro! Click here to see the rest of the photos!

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

To see what I found in Waynesboro, scroll on down!

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The 1920s were the hey-day for the Sears Modern Homes program. At its peak, the Sears Modern Homes catalog had almost 150 pages, with 100 models offered. Shown here is the cover of the 1930 catalog, with a Sears Lewiston on the front cover.

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If you buy a Sears Modern Home, even your little dog will be happy!

If you buy a Sears Modern Home, even your little dog will be happy!

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The Lewiston was a hugely popular house for Sears.

The Lewiston was a hugely popular house for Sears.

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Its missing the happy dog and the little girl, but its definitely a Sears Lewiston, and its in Waynesboro.

It's missing the happy dog and the little girl, but it's definitely a Sears Lewiston, and it's in Waynesboro. Unfortunately, the original windows were replaced and the vinyl siding has obliterated some of the unique detail. However, it's still identifiable as a Sears Lewiston.

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And you can tell its a Sears Home because it has an S on the chimney.

And you can tell it's a Sears Home because it has an "S" on the chimney. Ah not really. That's a tired old myth that's been lurking around on the internet since Al Gore first invented it. Oh wait, that's another old story. In fact, that "S" on the chimney has nothing to do with Sears. It's just a stylistic detail often found on Neo-Tudors. And I don't think Al Gore had much to do with inventing the internet, either. :)

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But it does look

The Lewiston was remodeled, but it looks like the front door was spared! :)

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The Sears Lynnhaven was a very popular house (1938 catalog).

The Sears Lynnhaven was a very popular house (1938 catalog).

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And it was also a very pretty house.

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The owners obviously love this house, but I wonder if they know that it *might* be a Sears kit house?

The owners obviously love this house, but I wonder if they know that it *might* be a Sears kit house?

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And I found a Del Rey in Waynesboro, too, and this Del Rey is in beautifully original condition!

The Dely Rey I found in Waynesboro, is in beautifully original condition (1919 catalog).

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Check out the floorplan for the Del Rey.

Check out the floorplan for the Del Rey.

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Notice the little railings in front of the casement windows? In all my travels, I have never seen a Del Rey that actually had these little railings in place. Until Waynesboro...

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Be still my quivering heart!

Be still my quivering heart! It's a picture perfect Del Rey!

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And it even has the little bump out (as seen above in the floorplan) for the kitchen area.

And it even has the little bump out (as seen above in the floorplan) for the kitchen area.

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And original windows!

And not only does it have its original windows, but its original wooden storm windows!

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Love those little railings!

Do these folks know that they have a Sears House? About 90% of the time, the people living in these historically significant homes did not realize what they had, until they were contacted by me (or someone *like* me!).

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Next on the list is the Sears Westwood.

Next on the list is the Sears Collingwood (1930 catalog).

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The Westwood is another kit home that I had never seen before in the flesh until I went to Waynesboro.

The Collingwood is another kit home that I had never seen before "in the flesh" until I went to Waynesboro. Notice the unusual bay window in the dining room with its hipped roof.

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Wow, what a match! Unfortunately, I didn't have my chain saw with me, so the view was blocked by a Japanese Maple. I also forgot to bring along a tow truck to get that Ford Explorer out of the way. Seriously, the house was blocked by a myriad of obstacles. And the windows have been replaced - sadly.

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The dormer is also a spot-on match. And apparently, it gets REALLY hot upstairs. Ive never seen dueling air conditioners before.

Apparently, it gets REALLY hot upstairs. I've never seen dueling air conditioners before. That aside, the details on this attic dormer are also just right.

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

To inquire as to Rose’s availability, please leave a comment below.

If you enjoyed the blog, please send the link to a friend!

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