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Posts Tagged ‘alton’

A Magnolia in Alton, Illinois?! Sort Of!

September 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

About 1999 or so, my [then] husband and I went to an open house in Alton, Illinois where we saw a darling house.

Last month, while I was looking through a 1952 Aladdin Homes catalog, I [re]discovered that darling house! The house my husband and I had toured in 1999 was actually an Aladdin kit house, “The Magnolia.”

In other words, this house - from Aladdin Homes in Bay City Michigan - came from a mail-order catalog and was shipped to the Alton train station in a box car. The house arrived in about 10,000 pieces and came with a detailed instruction book and a promise that an average fellow could have the house assembled in 90 days.

For the next few days, I really struggled to remember where I’d seen that house, and to the best of my recollection, it was not far from our home in Upper Alton (on Pine Street). Memory can be fickle, but I’d bet money that we saw the house on a little cross street not far from Edwards Street.

In 2006, I left Alton and moved to Norfolk, VA (which makes it harder to find kit homes in Southwestern Illinois).

Last week, I was in Alton visiting family and put more than 80 miles on my rental car, criss-crossing the short streets in Upper Alton. I had Garmin set on “slime trail” so that it left a light-blue line on every street that I traversed. (Have I mentioned how much I love my Garmin?)

Despite driving throughout this area many times over a course of several days, I never did find the Aladdin Magnolia. Now I’m starting to wonder if I saw this house in Godfrey (next door to Alton).

This Magnolia would have been built in the early 1950s, and when we saw it in 1999, it looked much like the house shown in this image. In other words, it had not been “remodeled,” so it should be easy to find. I distinctly remember the oversized living room window and the cantilevers under that second-floor balcony. I also remember the scalloped trim on that front gable.

But where is it?

Please leave a comment below if you know this home’s location. And please feel free to share this link with others who might know the answer to my mystery!

Thanks!!

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The cover of the 1952 catalog.

In 1952, sales of Aladdin kit homes were probably booming. Sears was out of the kit-house business and WW2 was over, and our nation came into a time of previously unknown prosperity and growth. (1952 catalog cover)

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Boxcar stacking

One of my favorite images from the 1952 catalog is this line-drawing showing a "phantom box car." The sides of the box car were invisible to showcase the intricate stacking of 10,000 pieces of kit house (1952 catalog).

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Alton has a Magnolia

Alton has a Magnolia, just like this, but where is it?

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Altons Magnolia

Detail of the first floor. It's a small house, but has a half-bath on the first floor.

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Alton FP

The second floor has three small bedrooms and an oddly-shaped bath tub.

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Maggy

Close-up of the Magnolia in Alton. Or is it Godfrey?

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Garmin

Whoever invented the "slime trail" feature of Garmin is my hero. Back in the day, I used maps and highlighters to figure out which streets I'd traversed. This shows the early hours of my search. By the time I left town Sunday night, almost every street in Upper Alton had the blue slime trail.

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Have you seen the Magnolia in Alton? If so, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about my other discoveries in River Bend, click here.

To see pictures of my favorite Alton kit house, click here.

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part V)

November 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

One of the most interesting features  of Ham Radio is that its operators are expected to have access to alternative energy sources during times of regional or national emergency.

After all, what good is it to have a Ham Radio if you can’t use it when the power goes out?

For as many years as I can remember, I have been utterly fascinated by alternative energy sources. Capturing a tiny drop of the sun’s massive nuclear-reactive power (386 billion billion megaWatts) is a  fascinating concept.

After several tours of Mike Neal’s very own “Radio Shack,” and after receiving several helpful tutorials on this topic from Mr. Neal (and lots of specific guidance), I was ready to take the plunge.

My “solar project” started in earnest about a month ago when Mike sent me an email to let me know that Harbor Freight was having a sale on solar panels. This was the very set that Mike had at his house and he said it was “a good solar set-up for the money.”

With a $30 coupon (gifted to me from a fellow Ham), I got the $229 solar panels for $159. (The original price for the panels was $229, with a sale price of $189. The $30 coupon got me to $159.)

Because I’m highly allergic to crowds and shopping areas and loud noises and small children and fluorescent lights, I paid the extra six bucks to have the unit shipped directly to my house. It was well worth it.

It took about 12 hours to install the whole rig, and my oh my, it was a fun project. And watching those photovoltaic cells turn the sunlight into electricity is every bit as fascinating as I’d thought it would be.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d recommend that every homeowner in America have a set of these on their roof. It was a great learning experience. And I’ve shared all the nitty-gritty details below.

To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of this series.

House shed

The little shed in our back yard is now electrified, thanks to these three solar panels on the roof. Each panel produces 15 watts, for a total of 45 watts.

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solar thunder

I'm not sure why a corporation would adopt the name "THUNDERBOLT" for their solar products. Nonetheless, it's a sound value and seems to be a well-made product.

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Solar panels

The solar panels were set on a 2x4 which was fastened with screws into the roof and painted flat black. The PVC frame was secured to the 2x4 with 3/4" metal pipe clamps. This will enables us to change the angle of the panels (for winter and summer) without any major disassembling.

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house house house

This shot shows the panels and 2x4 more closely. In a mere 12 hours, the solar panels have already been assaulted by both birds (far left) and pine straw (bottom).

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Thinking about how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking.

Figuring out how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking. In the end, I decided to drill a hole (3/4") through the 2x4 (and the roofing sheathing below). I reasoned that it'd be easier to patch a clean hole through a piece of lumber rather than trying to patch a hole in an irregular surface (such as an old roofing shingle).

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solar

Using stretchy weatherproofing tape (which probably has a much better name), I bound those three wires (from the three solar panels) together and fed them through the hole into the shed's interior. I purposefully used a lot of tape so it would fill the 3/4" hole. For the tiny gaps that remained, I used a compound putty substance (again, don't know the name but it looks a lot like Silly Putty). Back in the day, a contractor friend told me it was called "Dum Dum" because you use it to patch a dumb mistake. However, I'd like to point out that it should be called "Smart Smart" in this particular application.

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Inside,

Inside, the wires drop down from above and into the controller (right side on the shelf above the battery). From there, the wires go into the 12-volt deep cycle Marine battery. Another set of wires carries the power from the battery back to the inverter (left side on the shelf). The inverter turns the 12-volt current into 120 volts (for household use).

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The

The controller that came with the solar panels is quite impressive. The digital display is large and easy to read, and reports on the battery power (12.4 volts shown here). For $159, it's a pretty fancy set-up and a darn good deal.

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Another nice bonus that came with this set are these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed.

Another nice bonus that came with this set are two of these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed. They plug into the front of the controller (as shown in the picture of the controller above).

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The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for  $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

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Part of the problem I encountered was that, despite my reading and studying, I didnt understand a whole lot about how these things work.

Part of the problem I encountered whilst doing this project was, despite my reading and studying, I didn't understand a whole lot about how all these things work together. I asked Mike Neal, "What's the difference between a 200-watt inverter and a 750-watt inverter?" Fact is, a 200-watt inverter was whole lot cheaper. Mike explained, "Think of the battery as a bucket full of water. You can draw that water out with a swizzle stick or a milk-shake straw. The 200-watt inverter is a swizzle stick. The 750-watt inverter is a milk-shake straw."

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The

The other helper in this project was my wonderful neighbor, Mike Mancini. I told him that I needed a deep-cycle marine battery and he got me a good deal on one at a local marine parts supply company. Plus, he gave me a ride out to the place and then hefted it out of his truck and out to my shed. This battery weighs about 50 pounds. I set it up on cinder blocks to make it easier to access, and I put the OSB down because I'd heard that batteries might discharge if placed directly atop masonry.

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Fie dollahs

You may notice the fine-looking wires shown in the picture above (of the battery). I bought these booster cables at General Dollar Store and paid $5 for the whole affair. I then cut the wires off from the clips and used them for the controller-to-battery run and the battery-to-inverter run. It's 10-gauge stranded copper wire.

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The

The last part of the project required anchoring the panels to the roof. In that the panels sit so high above the roof, they'll become a dandy sail in strong winds. Our solution was to tether the pvc frame to the opposite side of the shed. For the tether, I used 10-gauge stranded copper grounding wire. May seem like a waste, but I recently bought a spool of it to ground a couple antennas and masts and such. Seems I had about 400 feet left over from those other projects.

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Solar

Close-up of the tether on the PVC frame. It's not super taut, but it doesn't need to be. It's anchored into the steep side of the shed roof with an eye-bolt.

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Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such aas the many tall trees in our yard,

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such as the big old tall trees in our yard. After the "Solar System" was all set up, we were both AMAZED and pleased to see that it started charging immediately. What was so amazing? It was a dark, cold, gloomy overcast day. I can hardly wait to see how it does with a little sunlight!

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Total cost of the entire project:

Solar Panels - $159 plus $6 shipping (and tax)

Interstate battery - $114

750-watt inverter - $39

Battery terminals - $8

Wiring - $5  (thanks Dollar General!)

Incidentals - about $20 (zip ties, pipe clamps, tape)

Total investment:  $351

Entertainment value: Endless!  :)

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To learn more about why Ham Radio is so relevant and important TODAY, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

If you wish to contact Rosemary, please leave a comment below.

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GVT #605: Exceptionally Well Planned!

July 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

From 1995-2006, I lived in Southwestern Illinois, specifically Elsah, Alton and later, Godfrey.

While I was living in this area, I became enchanted with the topic of Sears Homes, and I spent countless hours of my life driving around Southwestern Illinois, staring at the pre-1940 architecture, hoping to find (and identify) a few kit homes.

One of my favorite finds in Alton was this Gordon Van Tine Model #605. Gordon Van Tine was another company that (like Sears) sold entire kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Number 605 was one of their more popular models. There are three of these houses in Alton. If someone in Alton could get me photos of the other two, I’d be very grateful!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Gordon Van Tine #605 as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #605 as seen in the 1922 catalog.

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The testimonial at the bottom of the page gives an address for Model #605 in California! My kingdom for a picture of THIS house!

The testimonial at the bottom of the page gives an address for Model #605 in California! My kingdom for a picture of THIS house!

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Floorplan for #605

Floorplan for #605

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And heres my favorite #605 - in Alton, Illinois. What a beauty!

When I first started doing research in Alton, several people told me that *this* was a Sears kit house. As I started to learn about these other kit home companies, I finally realized that it *was* a kit house, but it was a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. In my experience, this is a common mistake. About 80% of the people who THINK they have a "Sears Home" are wrong. The majority DO have a kit home, but it's from another company.

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To read the next fascinating blog, click here.

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Need to buy a house in Southwestern Illinois? Click here.

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The Dandy Dundee in Alton, Illinois

June 1st, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

When I first started researching Sears Homes in 1999, I was living in Alton, Illinois. By 2002, I had driven the city many, many times, finding all the Crescents, and Gladstones, and Starlights and Craftons and Westlys - in short, all the most popular, easy-to-identify models.

In my spare time, I’d alternately study the old catalogs and then cruise around town, hoping to discover something new.

In late 2002, I drove down Park Avenue in Alton and discovered the Sears Dundee. It’s the only one I’ve ever found and - thank goodness - as of March 2010 (when this photo was taken), it was still in beautifully original condition.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

The Dundee from the 1921 catalog.

"The Dundee" from the 1921 catalog.

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By 1928, the house had undergone some changes.

By 1928, the house had undergone some changes. The square footage was increased by extending the home's length, and the price increased a mere $58 (from 1921 to 1928).

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The floor plan in 1921

The floor plan in 1921 showed two wee-tiny bedrooms, with a small mudroom on the rear.

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Sears Homes

In the 1928 floor plan, the kitchen and the rear bedroom have increased by two linear feet.

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The 1921 catalog showed a front view of the Dundee.

The 1921 catalog showed a "front view" of the Dundee.

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The Sears Dundee in Alton, ILlinois.

The Sears Dundee in Alton, Illinois. Between landscaping and hills, it was impossible to get a photo from the same angle as the catalog image.

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porch

The Dundee in Alton is a little larger than the Sears Dundee, but it's likely that this house was either customized when built or added on to, later in life. Because of the distinctive ornamental detail on the porch roof, I am confident this really is the Sears Dundee.

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Had this house been covered in crappy vinyl siding, I would never have discovered it.

Had this house been covered in crappy vinyl siding, I would never have discovered it. That distinctive gable on the front porch was the item that caught my eye!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about a big fancy Sears House in New York City, click here.

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The Altona Can Be Yours for $858

March 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

The simpler Sears Homes are the ones that are most difficult to identify, because there’s so little to distinguish them from other houses. The fancier the kit home, the easier it is to identify.

The Altona couldn’t really be classified as a “fancy” house, but it surely is easy to identify. It’s got a number of odd, unique and funky features that make it stand out in a crowd.

The first thing that catches my eye is that hipped dormer, with a gable inset! Now that’s not something you see very often. In front of the dormer’s double window is a small balcony, another curious feature, and there’s substantial bracketing under that balcony.

And alongside the one big dormer, there’s a tiny shed dormer.

Notice also the oversized cornice returns on the porch side of the house (but not the other side!). And on that porch side there’s a double window centered on the exterior wall, with a single window above it. That’s a lot of unique features.

And this was a very popular house - probably because of the low price and square footage. It was a solid value.

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

And to see some other snazzy architectural oddities, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

Altona

Altona as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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house

Close-up of the house as shown in 1908.

house

The house had about 1,370 square feet, plus a nice porch.

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two

And one of the bedrooms did not have a closet. The other closets were tiny.

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sold

As noticed from this snippet in the 1916 catalog, this was a popular house.

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house

And Mr. McGrath of NJ loved his Altona!

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Burlington

This house is in Burlington, Iowa. Notice the porch has been closed in, but it still has its original windows, which is a boon. Someone needs to fix that porch light on the left. And the wrought-iron railing is a bit disturbing.

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Louisville

I spent a week in Louisville, Illinois one afternoon. My rented car broke down, stranding me in this tiny city in central Illinois. However, I do love this little house.

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house

And it's on the corner of Boaz and Hiram. So Biblical!

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house mattoon

This photo was taken in 2002 in Mattoon, IL. When I saw this house again in 2010, it had been substantially remuddled. Poor little Alton.

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Roncervte, WV

And a fine Altona in Ronceverte, WV. It's pronounced, "RONS-a-vert," which is a French word meaning, "Greenbriar." I love, love, love West Virginia.

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To read more about the abundance of Sears Homes in WV, click here.

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1908

The Altona has seen in the 1908 catalog.

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If you compare the 1908 image to the house in Iowa, youll see that the upstairs windows are a perfect match.

If you compare the 1908 catalog image to the house in Iowa, you'll see that the upstairs windows are a perfect match.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Wardway Kit Homes (Montgomery Ward) click here.

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Honor Bilt, Econo Built, Standard Built and Angry Moosies

January 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Sears offered three grades in all their lines: Good, better and best. In the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the housing lines were known as Honor-Bilt, Econo Built (later known as “Standard Built) and Lighter Built.

Honor-Bilt homes (their best grade and most popular line) utilized traditional construction standards, such as double headers over the doors and windows, double floors (primary floors over subfloors), exterior sheathing under clapboard or cedar shingles and wall studs on 16-inch centers.

“Standard Built” houses had wall studs on 24-inch centers, single headers, no subfloor and no underlying exterior sheathing. They were pretty modest housing.

Lighter Built was what we’d (today) describe as a hunting shack, best suited for areas with warm weather, calm winds and serene wildlife. One angry moose could do a lot of damage to your  “Lighter Built” shack/house. In later years, Econo Built was renamed to “Standard Built.” The cheapest grade of Sears homes (known as “Lighter Built” in 1922) was eventually dropped.

There was also another line of houses known as Simplex Sectional Houses. See this link for more information on these tiny cottages.

The Hudson

The Hudson was a "Standard Built" house. The phrase - Standard Built - appears immediately underneath the home's name in this 1921 catalog.

Hudson in Alton

Live and in color, here's a Sears "Standard Built" Hudson in Alton. The porch has been enclosed in an effort to add a few square feet to this tiny structure. The bedrooms are only 9' by 9'. Today, we call that a small closet.

House

Also from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this shows some detail about the quality of construction to be found in a Standard Built Sears Home.

home is far superior. “]Honor

By contrast, the Honor Bilt [sic

House

Another contrast and comparison of Honor Bilt and Standard Built.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

On a prior post (Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama), I talked about photographing a Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. What I did not talk about was the trip. I traveled from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia and met up with my friend Nancy (who lives in Acworth), and then we rode together to Piedmont to photograph this house. I love Sears Homes. I love looking at them and I love photographing them and I love posting their portraits at my website.

That being said, I was mighty disappointed that I didn’t find any more Sears Homes between here and Atlanta. I’ve been searching for Sears Homes for a long, long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at this but this trip has not yielded many “finds.”

And then today, I found a note in my inbox from a nice fellow in Mobile (Alabama) telling me about an ecnclave of purported Sears Homes in Mobile. If anyone has any more information about these houses, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to see some photos of these houses. It’s been my experience that 95% of the time, these “neighborhoods” of Sears Homes are not Sears Homes or even kit homes from another company. They’re usually wild goose chases.

Please - someone from Mobile - write to me (thorntonrose@hotmail.com) and prove me wrong.

One of the best finds in Alabama: A sunflower field!

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

This (picture below) is the third Sears Magnolia I have visited in person. There were purportedly six built (but the validity of the fact is in question). Rebecca Hunter discovered that there’d been a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska (1) which had burned down many years ago. and Houses by Mail identified a Magnolia in South Bend (#2). In 2003, I appeared  on PBS History Detectives and the show featured a Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio (#3).  A few months after the show aired, someone in Pennsylvania contacted me with information about their Sears Magnolia - made of brick!

In March 2010, a “Friend of Sears Homes” emailed me and told me about a “Sears Home” in Benson, NC (#5). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Sears Home was the fifth Sears Magnolia!

This Magnolia (see below) is in Alabama. This would be the 6th known Sears Magnolia.

In my opinion, there are a few more out there. I suspect there are more than six Sears Magnolias in the world.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Beautiful Sears Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

September 8th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

What a beauty! And it’s dressed in yellow brick!

We found this Alhambra on a quiet little street, sitting high on a hill, and in a hoity-toity part of Atlanta. Wonder if the owners know it’s a Sears House?

Sears Home in Atlanta

Sears Home in Atlanta

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog