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So Damn Tough…

May 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 6 comments

Thanks to the intercession and help of many skin-clad angels, the Penniman book is so close to the finish line. Heretofore, my friend Milton has done most of the proofreading, because reading this manuscript sends me into such a tailspin that I invariably end up sobbing or in a bad state - for hours.

Every page, every jot and every tittle is a painful memory now. Wayne sat right with me - for five years - as I ruminated over every paragraph. He and I talked for hours about the difference between shrapnel shells and high explosive shells. We discussed the minutiae of the layout of the village, the styling of the houses, the logistics of moving those houses, the manufacturing of Amatol (TNT) and every other detail that one can imagine.

We laughed and we talked and we argued and in one memorable moment, he came up with an inspired solution to a very thorny problem and I said, “You must be the most brilliant man walking this earth,” and I (again) told him how much I adored him, and then pulled him out of his chair and into the bedroom and said, “Your intellect is such a turn-on.”

Little did I know that that would be the last time that I was intimate with my husband.

After his death, I found out that my adoration of my spouse was not reciprocal. It has nearly broken me.

Too many people have said, “You need to move on and forget about Wayne.”

That’s not helpful. He was my husband. Our lives were inextricably linked for a decade. He was the man that I promised to love forever. And he left me with one hell of a mess.

This manuscript is also a vociferous memory of that former life and former home and former Rosemary. There are days when that life feels almost like a fuzzy dream, and that’s also unsettling.

It’s taking every single thing I have to get this book completed. I’m not sure that I can proofread it again, but I know that I must. Let’s hope I can plow through it one last time, and emerge from the other side without losing it.

All of which is to say, when this book - in its finalized and published form - sees the light of day, it will be a miracle of grace.

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On April 9, 2016, I wrote this blog expressing great joy that the book was nearly finished.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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The manuscript has been completed and proofed by a dear friend, but in truth, I need to read it myself one more time - cover to cover. And its so damn tough.

The manuscript has been completed and proofed by a dear friend, but in truth, I need to read it myself one more time - cover to cover. And it's so damn tough.

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The research materials are now at my rental home, where they sit in the living room, just in case I need the notes for some reason.

The research materials are now boxed and stored at my rental home, where they sit in the living room, just in case I need the notes for some reason. My faithful companion guards them.

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When Wayne came home, I insisted he pose here too.

This photo was taken on April 9, 2016 and was the last photo I have of Wayne Ringer. He killed himself seven days later. When he came home that day on April 9th, I asked him to "look erudite" and this was the pose he struck. I adored him, and he knew it, but those feelings weren't reciprocal.

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These were the books that I used most often.

The manuscript - and everything associated with it - are a memory of my life pre-April 2016. That's part of what makes this so agonizing. These were the notebooks that I referenced most often, a collection of newspaper articles from the "Virginia Gazette" and the "Daily Press."

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A street scene of the now-lost village of Penniman.

A street scene of the now-lost village of Penniman. The streets are mud and the houses are fresh and new. The village was built in 1918 and abandoned in early 1920. Photos are courtesy of the Whisnant family.

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On April 9, 2016, I did this blog expressing great joy that the book was nearly finished.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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The Last Seven Books…

May 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

Nothing has been “orderly” about the last 12 months, and as a result, book orders have been delayed and a few orders fell between the cracks. Worst of all, several boxes of books got packed into storage which now (according to Harrison Moving) can’t be retrieved without a minimum $160 fee.

Every single thing in my life took a hit from The Bad Thing™.

However…

I have seven books left. That’s it for now. After these seven are gone, I’ll probably do one more reprinting and then that’s the end of the run.

Horise I, Horsie II and Horsie III are guarding the last seven books.

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Horsie

The last seven copies of "The Houses That Sears Built."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Penniman is another fascinating story. More on that here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part III

February 13th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Updated! We have some beautiful photos now!!

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Click here to see the new pictures!

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Thanks to a remarkable and rare document that came into my life, Rachel Shoemaker and I have been able to find several customized Sears Homes. One of these is in Glen Ellyn (a Chicago suburb) and it’s a real beauty.

Absent this document (which wholly authenticates this as a Sears House), I’d never have known that this was a “Sears kit home.”

As with the other customized Sears Home we found, this house in Glen Ellyn was also owned by a high-ranking Sears employee, who started at Sears in the 1910s and remained with the company for many years.

According to city records, it was built in 1930 (which is probably about right) and has almost 4,500 square feet. Apparently, it hasn’t been offered for sale in many years, for there is no record of recent sales.

The photos below aren’t very good quality, and if anyone in the Chicago area would like to snap some better images, I’d be grateful!

To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Yes, this is a Sears kit house.

This beautiful Colonial Revival is a Sears kit house, ordered by a long-time Sears employee. The bay window has a copper roof and the primary roof appears to be slate (although it is hard to be sure). Thanks to the county assessor for providing such a lovely photo!

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Located in Glen Ellyn.

It's hard to tell from these low-resolution images, but I suspect that those are copper gutters and it appears to be a solid-brick home. This was (and is) a very well-built home, and spacious, with almost 4,500 square feet.

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Front door is intriguing Jefferson

Shown here is a Sears Jefferson in Carbondale, Illinois. Take a look at that entrance. It is a match to the house in Glen Ellyn - right down to the details. The Jefferson in Carbondale was built in the late 1920s.

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Match front door

Here's a close-up of that front door on the Jefferson.

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Preston

The customized Sears House in Glen Ellyn is also a little reminiscent of the Sears Preston.

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Inside

The Preston was pretty fancy inside.

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Houses 1921

It's likely that the interior of the Glen Ellyn house has a few of these extra touches, too.

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Do they know

I'd love to get some bettter images of this house in Glen Ellyn, but for now, these will have to do! And it sure would be fun to know if the home's current owners know that they have a "Sears kit house"!

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To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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A Sears Detroit, Just Outside of Detroit!

June 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

While doing research on Sears’ mortgages in Troy, Detroit, fellow researchers Andrew and Wendy Mutch found a mortgage for this house on Daley Road! It appears to be a Sears “Detroit,” which is a model I’ve never seen before - so that suggests it’s a fairly rare model. And it was only offered in the 1932 and 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog. (Troy is about 22 miles north of Detroit, Michigan.)

There are a few head-scratchers with this one, though. The mortgage was recorded in June 1931, but “Detroit” didn’t make an appearance until the 1932 catalog. Secondly, the city assessor’s website gives a build date of 1930, but those are often unreliable. Lastly, the chimney for the house is in the wrong place.

The Sears Detroit shows the chimney right in the roof’s valley (a terrible spot for a chimney), but the house in Troy has the chimney outside of the valley.

Did the home’s first owners (Stuart and Hilda Baker) have the wisdom and foresight to shift that chimney a bit, and move it out of the valley? Or was the house customized (perhaps with a larger kitchen) which moved the chimney to the side a bit? Unfortunately, the assessor’s website doesn’t give the home’s dimensions.

Thanks so much to Andrew and Wendy Mutch for doing this research and discovering this unusual home! And thanks also to Andrew and Wendy for sharing their photos!

To read more about the Sears Homes in Michigan, click here.

To visit the Mutch’s website, click here!

We have a fun group on Facebook. Click here to learn more.

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The Sears Detroit was first offered in the 1932 catalog.

The Sears "Detroit" was first offered in the 1932 catalog.

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And it last appeared in 1933.

And it last appeared in 1933.

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House

It's a mere 875 square feet.

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It has some interesting windows.

The assymetrical front gable and small window is a distinctive feature that can help identify the Sears Detroit. Notice that the chimney pokes up right in the roof's valley.

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Here it is

The house in Troy has a chimney that's offset from the valley. With the Sears mortgage, it's almost certainly a Sears House, but is it a modified Detroit? Might well be. More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built. Expanding the kitchen a bit would change the placement of that chimney. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of the Sears Detroit.

Another view of the Sears Detroit. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Look down the left side of the floorplan.

Look down the left side of the floorplan. It sure is a good match down the left side, and this is a rather unique arrangement. The living room is pretty large, considering that the whole house is only 875 sfla.

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Something

It's a good match down the right side, too but something really weird is doing on with that bathroom window. I'm not sure what to make of this. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Andrew and Wendy need to get themselves one of those Ronco Pocket Chain Saws to deal with these landscaping problems.

Andrew and Wendy need to get themselves one of those Ronco Pocket Chain Saws to deal with these unfortunate landscaping issues. I'm sure the oners wouldn't mind seeing the house get a little trim. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Do you have a Detroit in YOUR neighborhood?

Do you have a Detroit in YOUR neighborhood?

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I see its been exactly 30 days since I wrote a blog for this site. Frankly, its garden season here in Hampton Roads and Ive spent many a happy hour digging in the dirt, trimming the azaleas, planting the tomatoes and having fun outside. Well, there have been episodes Id deign less than fun, such as when I was off the fascia and soffit, and managed to fall over backwards in the front flowerbed, which, it turns out, is a really bad idea if you have a cute little pagoda in that front flower bed. Fortunately, the various owies associated with this event are almost healed.

I see it's been exactly 30 days since I wrote a new blog, and there are some specific reasons for that. For one, it's garden season here in Hampton Roads and I've spent many a happy hour digging in the dirt, trimming the azaleas, planting the tomatoes and having fun outside. Well, there have been "episodes" which I'd assert were LESS than fun, such as when I was reaching way over my head, washing off the fascia and soffit with a long-handled brush, and managed to fall over backwards in the front flowerbed, which, it turns out, is a really bad idea if you have a cute little pagoda in that front flower bed. Fortunately, the multitudinous owies associated with this event are almost healed. Almost.

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Thanks so much to Andrew and Wendy Mutch for finding this unusual home!

To read more about the Sears Homes in Michigan, click here.

To visit the Mutch’s website, click here!

We have a fun group on Facebook. Click here to learn more.

To read about the relationship between Sears and Firestone Park, click here.

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The Niota: 1200 Square Feet For $942

April 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Not a bad deal to buy 1,200 square feet of kit house for less than $1,000, even in 1916!

The Sears Niota - despite its being a good value and a cute house - was not a popular model for Sears.  And yet, according to a small promotional ad that appeared in the 1916 catalog, the Niota had been built in Elmhurst, IN, Westerville, Ohio, Indianapolis, IN, Napleton, MN and Springfield, MO.

And in Wood River, Illinois, too.

The house was offered in StoneKote, which was Sears own stucco-type covering. As with most of the kit homes, buyers could opt for stucco, block, brick, stone or wood. Today, way too many of these homes are now covered with substitute sidings (such as aluminum or vinyl), which makes identification even more difficult.

To read more about the many Sears Homes in Wood River (and Amoco), click here.

Niota

One might hope that those columns are a unique feature to help in identifying the Sears Niota, and yet sometimes, they get removed (1916 catalog).

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Niota catalog 1916

The kitchen was so small you'd have to step out to the porch to change your mind. Lots of rooms on this first floor, and they're all pretty modest.

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niota fp

At least the bedrooms have closets. That's a plus.

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niota

Close-up of the Sears Niota.

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niota wood river

And here it is, in Wood River, Illinois. Notice that those unique columns have been chopped off at the roofline and also covered in that hideous house-hiding PVC material, known as "vinyl siding." The original columns - poking through the porch ceiling as they did - were probably prone to roof leaks and all manner of maintenance problems.

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Niota more

Niotas were built in several places in the Midwest. It'd be fun to see pictures of these Niotas.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about my Aunt Addie, click here.

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