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Posts Tagged ‘bay city houses’

Pottstown - Where Have You Been All My Life?

September 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Becky Gotschall initally contacted me through Facebook, and said that she’d found “a few kit homes” in her neck of the woods.

Inspired by her enthusiasm, I started “driving the streets” of Pottstown, Pennsylvania (via Google Maps™) and discovered this masculine-looking foursquare.

The house tickled a memory but I couldn’t quite remember where I’d seen it before. Next, I sent an email to Rachel and asked her to take a “quick peek” through her 23,939 catalogs and see if she could find this foursquare.

And amazingly, she did.

Rachel found it in her 1917 Sterling Homes catalog, and even emailed me the original scan.

As with the last blog, this house was also “discovered” through a collaborative effort involving myself, Rachel and Becky, who not only got this whole thing started, but went out and got some beautiful pictures of the grand old house.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Becky for discovering a Sterling “Imperial” which is one house I’ve never seen before!

To read about our other discoveries in Pottstown, click here.

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

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Sterling Something

The Sterling "Imperial" was one fine-looking foursquare (1917).

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1917

The pantry has a little access door for the ice box (1917). This was known as "the jealous husband's door," because it obviated the need for that dapper ice man to enter the home, and provided access through a small door on the porch. The Imperial was a traditional foursquare, with four rooms within its squarish shape. There's also a spacious polygon bay in the living room.

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house 12

Check out the "Maid's Room" on the second floor. As with the Vernon, it's directly over the kitchen, because that's the worst room on the second floor.

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House House

Close-up of that "interior view" shown above.

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My, but that's a handsome home. That three-window dormer must be pretty massive inside that attic. What makes it striking is that horizontal wood belt course just above the first floor, with clapboards below and shakes above.

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housei

Looks like it walked off the pages of the Sterling catalog! The columns and railing are original and in good condition. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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House house

Looks majestic from all angles! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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HOUSE HOUSE

From this angle, you can see that cute little house in the back. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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Hey wait a second. Did that cute little tree come with the kit?

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housie

The same tree shows up in the current image! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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If you’d like to visit another very fun kit home website, click here.

Want to read more about “The Jealous Husband’s Icebox Door”?

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The Vernon is a Home with Marked Personality!

August 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 10 comments

At first, I thought about titling this blog, “With a little help from my friends,” because - like so much of this research - I wouldn’t have much to write about if it wasn’t for fellow kit-house lovers who are always on the look-out for fresh discoveries.

Becky Gottschall has been finding all manner of wonderful houses in and around Pottstown, Pennsylvania. In my own opinion, the crème de la crème of these discoveries is the Sterling “Vernon” - right in the heart of Pottstown.

The other helper is Rachel Shoemaker, who provided the original catalog images shown below.

Many thanks to both Becky and Rachel for their help!

To read about a less-fortunate house in Pennsylvania, click here.

Did you know there’s a Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania?

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Sterling Homes, based in Bay City, Michigan, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, just like Sears.

Sterling Homes, based in Bay City, Michigan, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, just like Sears. The "Vernon" was featured on the cover of the 1928 catalog.

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Nice looking houses, too (rear cover, 1928).

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The Vernon was Sterlings Magnolia: Their biggest and best house.

Personality! So saith the advertising copy in this 1917 catalog. The "Vernon" was Sterling's Magnolia: Their biggest and best house, and it had shutters "savoring of New England." Love the writing!

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And it was a fine and spacious home.

And it was a fine and spacious home. The kitchen stuck out in the rear for several reasons. Primarily, it provided ventilation on three sides of the room and helped separate this room from the rest of the house. The kitchen was not only hot (due to behemoth stoves and ranges), but it was also considered a hazard to happy living, due to bad smells (ice box, soot and grease), cooking odors, and the heat. Oh my, the heat!

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The maid

In older homes (pre-1920), you'll often find that the space over the kitchen was a "storage room" or "trunk room," because this space was considered unsuitable for living space. In later years, it was often the maid's room. Guess she was made of stouter stuff than to worry over bad smells, coal soot and high heat. The master bedroom (like the living room directly below) has a fireplace. Pretty sweet!

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Even if you opted for all the extras, the Vernon would only cost a smidge more than $4,000. Pretty sweet deal - even in 1917.

Even if you opted for all the extras, the Vernon would only cost a smidge more than $4,000. Pretty sweet deal - even in 1917. It really was a grand home (1917 catalog).

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All of which explains why it was featured on the cover of Sterlings catalogs (1928 catalog shown above).

All of which explains why it was featured on the cover of Sterling's catalogs (1928 catalog shown above).

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And the one in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania is unusually stunning!

And the one in Pottstown, Pennsylvania is unusually stunning! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Thus saith the law. And the lions. Even if one is tilted just a bit. They are stoned, after all.

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Its a gorgeous house.

It's a gorgeous house, and in excellent condition. You can see the wonderful detail on the rafter tails in this photo. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another beautiful view from another beautiful angle.

Another beautiful view from another angle. I'm not sure, but that appears to be a slate roof (at least on the side of those dormers). Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wow

What a house. Do you have one in your neighborhood? (1928 catalog).

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Many thanks again to Becky Gotschall for providing an abundance of clear, beautiful photos.

Many thanks again to Becky Gotschall for providing an abundance of clear, beautiful photos.

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To read about a less-fortunate house in Pennsylvania, click here.

Did you know there’s a Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania?

To read about another Sterling Vernon in New York, click here.

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It’s a Magnolia! Well, Not Really…

July 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

Thanks wholly to Rachel Shoemaker, we’ve discovered another fancy kit home, and this one is in Angola, NY. In fact, thanks to Rachel, the old legends surrounding this old “mail-order” house will now be righted - we hope!

For years, the people in Western New York thought this house (shown below) was a Sears Magnolia. In fact, newspaper articles were written about the house, hailing it as an “adaptation of the Sears Magnolia.”

If folks had been paying attention to the details, they would have known that the Sears Magnolia was only offered from 1918 to 1922. The house in Angola, was built in 1927.

Oopsie.

In fact, the big fancy house in Angola is a Sterling Vernon. Sterling (like Sears), sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Sears was the largest and most well-known of the mail-order kit home companies, but Sterling was also a pretty significant player. According to Architectural Historian Dale Wolicki, Sterling sold about 50,000 kit homes in the early 1900s.

Thanks to Rachel for finding this house and then (somehow) finding photos of the house - both old and new - which are shown below.

Thanks, Rachel!  :)

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Sears Magnolia? I dont think so. Looks a lot like a Sterling Vernon to me.

Sears Magnolia? I don't think so. Looks a lot like a Sterling Vernon to me. Photo credit is not known. If anyone reading this blog can identify the photographer, please contact me as soon as possible. This photo is apparently from 1982 (according to info found on the back).

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Original article, date unknown, identifying the house in Angola as a Sears Magnolia. This snippet was affixed to the back of a photograph of the house.

Original article, date unknown, identifying the house in Angola as a Sears Magnolia. This snippet was affixed to the back of a photograph of the house. (Note date at top of page.)

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The Sterling Vernon was featured on the cover of their 1928 catalog.

The Sterling Vernon was featured on the cover of their 1928 catalog.

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The Sterling Vernon, as seen on the cover of the 1928 catalog. Youll notice, the house in Angola looks a lot like THIS house! Thats because it came from a kit home company in Bay City, MI known as Sterling Homes.

You'll notice, the house in Angola looks a lot like THIS house! That's because it came from a kit home company in Bay City, MI known as Sterling Homes.

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Catalog page

Catalog page featuring the Sterling Vernon.

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text here Tiger Schmittendorf

Now in use as a Funeral Home, this massive old manse in Angola, NY was alleged to be a Sears Magnolia for many years. It was built in 1927, and it's not a Sears House, but a house sold by Sterling, based in Bay City, Michigan. This "Sterling Vernon" is 100% perfect - right down to the Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of the Sterling Vernon in Angola, NY. Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Schmittendorf

Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Look at those porches! How pretty!! Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Schmitten

Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Now this is a Maggy!

The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918 - 1922.

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Maggy in Canton

Now THIS is a Sears Magnolia! This is one of seven known Magnolias in the country. This house is in Canton, Ohio. You'll note that this house looks a LOT like the catalog page above. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To see a Sterling Vernon found in Anderson, SC click here.

To read my favorite “Magnolia” story, click here.

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

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Lost in Schenectady!

January 16th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In 2004, Dale Wolicki invited me and Rebecca to visit him in Michigan. One of our stops was Bay City, where we saw all manner of Aladdin kit homes, including “The Oxford.” Our wonderful tour guide (Dale), told us that the photograph of the Oxford model (shown in the 1931 catalog) was the very same Oxford that had been built in Bay City. It was the “original model,” and the only Oxford in Bay City.

Sears was the most-well known of the kit home companies, but Aladdin was bigger.  Aladdin was the first kit home company, starting business in 1906. Sears started two years later, in 1908. Aladdin outlasted all the others, remaining in business until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

I’ve only seen two Oxfords in my travels. The first was in Bay City, MI and the second was in Lorain, Ohio. And apparently, there’s a third one in Schenectady, NY (according to the testimony below).

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The flared front gable makes this house very distinctive. Image is from the 1931 catalog.

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And theres one

And there's one in Schenectady, NY, built by Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Newell.

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Heres the house we saw that day with Dale. Its in Bay City, and is the same house shown in the 1932 catalog above.

Here's the house we saw that day with Dale. It's in Bay City, and is the same house shown in the 1931 catalog above. This photo was taken in 2004. Must have been July, because there's no snow on the ground.

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Flo

I love this floorplan. Notice the "Radio Room" on the first floor! This was a room dedicated to that most important appliance - the radio! Today, we build entertainment centers bigger than this!

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Secon

The largest bedroom is a mere 12 by 13. Not very big!

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The 1931 catalog had a two-page spread on the Oxford.

The 1931 catalog had a two-page spread on the Oxford, and yet the captions mention that some of these images are NOT pictures of the Oxford.

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My favorite feature in this little 1931 catalog are the interior views.

My favorite feature in this little 1931 catalog are the interior views. The caption states that two small bedrooms were turned into one large bedroom.

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Living

Nice big living room. Love the furniture.

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Kit

But this classic 1931 kithcen is the best room in the house.

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And it has a breakfast nook.

And it has a breakfast nook. I have a thing for breakfast nooks. Again, this is apparently NOT the Oxford's kitchen because there's no provision for a breakfast nook in the floorplan.

Click here to read more about breakfast nooks.

The cover of the 1931 Aladdin catalog is a study unto itself.

The cover of the 1931 Aladdin catalog is a study unto itself.

To read more about the cover of this Aladdin catalog, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Prettiest Kit Homes You Ever Saw in Tahlequah (Updated!)

December 27th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

To read the most recent update on this article (with new photos!), click here.

Dear friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker has found an abundance of kit homes in Oklahoma, and she’s now found THREE kit homes in Tahlequah, Oklahoma!  The most impressive of her finds is a beautifully maintained Gordon Van Tine “Roberts.”

Gordon Van Tine was a competitor of Sears in the kit home business. GVT sold about 50,000 kit homes from 1910 - 1945.

More recently, she discovered an Aladdin “Cape Cod,” and an Aladdin “Wenonah,” in TahlequahAladdin was one of six national mail-order companies that sold entire kit homes through their catalogs.  (Sears was better known, but Aladdin was bigger.) These “kit houses” typically arrived by train in 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Today, there are about 75,000 Aladdin kit homes in the country (compared with about 70,000 Sears Homes in the country).

It’s not surprising that Tahlequah has Aladdins, as Aladdin had  huge mills in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Tahlequah, Oklahoma was the original capital of the Cherokee Nation in 1838. According to Wikipedia, Tahlequah became a settlement in 1832.  The Cherokees also beat the United States to the punch (so to speak) in adopting prohibition well before the temperance movement was even a gleam in Lyman Beecher’s eye.  According to Oklahoma Genealogy, Cherokee councils enacted a law in 1841, prohibiting the sale of “ardent spirits” within the Cherokee Nation.

Street signs in the city of Tahlequah are printed in both English and the Cherokee language.

On a final note, we think we may have found a Sears Modern Home #126 in Tahlequah, but we need a kind soul to get a photo for us. If you live near the area, and you’d be willing to do that, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

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

To learn more about Addie Hoyt Fargo, click here.

Aladdin Cape Cod, as seen in the 1923 catalog. This catalog page shows one floor plan (L-shaped), but in later years, it was offered in three floorplans, one of which was rectangular. .

Aladdin Cape Cod, as seen in the 1923 catalog. This catalog page shows one floor plan (L-shaped), but in later years, it was offered in three floorplans, one of which was rectangular.

Close-up of the Aladdin Cape Cod

Close-up of the Aladdin "Cape Cod"

And here it is, in the flesh! An Aladdin Cape Cod in stunningly original condition!  Even retains its original casement windows!

And here it is, in the flesh! An Aladdin "Cape Cod" in stunningly original condition! Even retains its original casement windows! (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

An Aladdin Wenonah, as seen in the 1917 catalog.

An Aladdin Wenonah, as seen in the 1913 catalog.

Aladdin Wenonah in Tahlequah.

Aladdin Wenonah in Tahlequah. The porch has been altered, but that's not a big deal. Porches are often changed through the years, and this house is probably close to 100 years old. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK, and it's a beauty! Like the house above, this also has the two-story porch on the left side. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Rober

The GVT Roberts has had several additions through the years, but still looks much like the catalog page shown above. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Im not sure why this house has a periscope.

I'm not sure why this house has a periscope. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language.

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

To contact Rachel Shoemaker, send her an email at ffshoe@olp.net

Rachel has done extensive research on the kit homes in Oklahoma, and has traveled countless miles, researching and documenting these historically significant homes. We’re both puzzled as to how and why so many kit homes landed here, but it’s time that someone hired Rachel to do a proper survey of this impressive collection of Oklahoma’s architectural treasure trove of kit homes. Heretofore, all the work she’s done has been at her own expense.

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Sterling Homes

October 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

The following information on Sterling Homes originally appeared here, a website dedicated to Wardway Homes. All material is copyright  protected and owned by Dale Patrick Wolicki and Rosemary Thornton. Original research on Sterling Homes is courtesy of Dale Patrick Wolicki.

We will help you make your dream come true - your dream of a home that is really a home. We will send you a home that will be more cherished as the years pass on. We want to see you own a Sterling System Home which will be a joy through your life, and which will be passed on to your children as a fitting inheritance (1917 Sterling Homes).

Sterling Homes, based in Bay City, started out life as a lumber company, International Mill and Timber Company. In the early 1900s, Aladdin Homes turned to International Mill and Timber hoping that they’d be able to fulfill a backlog of millwork orders for Aladdin kit homes. International Mill was not able to meet the demand, so Aladdin Homes went elsewhere.

International Mill and Timber had glimpsed the Promise Land: Kit Homes sold through a mail-order catalog.

In 1915, this Bay City company launched their own line of pre-cut kit homes and called it, Sterling Homes.

Sterling Homes offered construction services for developers and one of their largest clients turned out to be General Motors, which paid for 1,000 houses built in Flint Michigan (for GM workers).

Post-war troubles and a recession in 1921 forced Sterling Homes into bankruptcy. Bay City businessman Leopold Kantzler purchased their assets and put Sterling Homes back in business with a new focus on cottages and smaller homes. During the Great Depression, the company focused on its retail lumber business (International Mill and Timber). Like other companies, it survived World War One by manufacturing wartime housing and military structures. After the war, during the building boom of the early 1920s, Sterling Homes shipped more than 250 homes a month.

Hampered by outdated models and advertising, Sterling Home sales dropped throughout the 1960s. The last catalog was printed in 1971, and the same catalog was sent out each year (with updated price lists) until 1974, when the company closed its doors, having sold about 45,000 homes.

Want to learn more about Sterling Homes? Montgomery Ward’s Mail-Order Homes has information on all the national kit home companies. To read more about this fascinating new book, click here.

Sterling Homes "Rembrandt" from the 1917 catalog

Sterling Rembrandt in Roanoke, Virginia