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Posts Tagged ‘bay city michigan’

The Sherman Triplets

September 24th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Several years ago, dear friend and co-author Dale Wolicki gave me and Rebecca Hunter a first-class tour of Bay City, Michigan. One of the homes he pointed out to us was “The Sherman,” a kit home built on one of the many tree-lined streets of this historic city in Northern Michigan.

The Sherman was a kit house offered by Lewis Manufacturing, a kit-home company that was based in Bay City. Like Sears, Lewis Manufacturing also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog in the early 1900s. These houses were shipped in 12,000-piece kits and arrived by box car. Each kit included detailed blueprints and a lengthy instruction manual that told you how all those pieces and parts went together.

It was estimated that “a man of average abilities” could have a house assembled in 3-4 months.

Not surprisingly, Bay City is home to a surfeit of kit homes from both Lewis Manufacturing and Aladdin Kit Homes (which was also based in Bay City).

Thanks to Dale Wolicki for being such a good friend and tour guide and also for sharing so many vintage catalogs with me, including a 1927 Homebuilder’s Catalog!

Lewis sold some big fancy homes, as well as the more modest Sherman. To read more about that, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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Heres the Lewis Sherman that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan.

Here's the Lewis "Sherman" that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan. I do wish I'd made a note of the street, but I remember that I was located in Bay City!

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The Sherman in Bay City is a nice match to this 1920 catalog image.

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Floorplan

It's a simple but practical floorplan. The living room is quite spacious given the size of the house.

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The Sherman has a twin in the 1927 Homebuilders Catalog (a plan book catalog).

The Sherman has a "twin" in the 1927 Homebuilder's Catalog (a plan book catalog). Plan book houses were a little different from kit homes. Kit homes were complete kits (blueprints and building materials) whereas plan book houses were just blueprints and a LIST of the building materials you'd need to buy.

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In fact, there are two houses in the 1927 Homebuilder's 's catalog that bear a stunning resemblance to the Lewis "Sherman." The Cadott is mighty close, with a few minor differences (1927 catalog).

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Whats really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side.

What's really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side. Far left is the Cadott (Homebuilder's) and the Lewis Sherman (center image) and the Catalpa (Homebuilder's). The Cadott is 28' deep, the Sherman is 30' deep and the Catalpa is 29 feet deep. Through these very minor changes, the companies hoped to avoid the appearance of "stealing" one another's designs. Interestingly, the Sherman is the only one without a fireplace.

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Side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also interesting.

A side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also entertaining. The Cadott is on the far left, Lewis Sherman in the center and the Catalpa is on the far right. There are some minor differences on the exterior, such as window arrangement. Plus, the corbels on the front porch are different. And they all need landscaping!

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The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

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All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis Sherman in Bay City!  :D

All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis "Sherman" in Bay City! :D

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To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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The Brentwood: A Home of Impressive Beauty (1952)

April 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Many times, I’ve written a note to someone to tell them that they’re living in an Aladdin Kit Home, and invariably, when they right back they’ll say, “I’m so excited to find out that I have a Sears House!”

In fact, I’d say that this happens 80% of the time.

Aladdin kit homes are not Sears kit homes. These are two different companies.

Sears gets all the press, but there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level and Sears was neither the biggest, nor the longest lived. Sears started selling homes in 1908 and was gone by 1940. Conversely, Aladdin issued their first catalog in 1906 and closed their doors in 1981. During their 32 years in the business, Sears sold about 70,000 homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes.

When I wrote my first article about kit homes in early 2000, many folks had never even heard of Sears Homes, so perhaps in time, people will come to appreciate (and know about) Aladdin. From an architectural standpoint, it’s a more interesting company, just because of the variety of housing styles offered through the decades.

And many thanks to Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for finding the beauty featured below! You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

To learn more about identify kit homes, click here.

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The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1952 catalog.

The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1951 catalog.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company.

Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company (1951 catalog).

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Picture

Close-up of the picture from the page above. The text explains why it's simple to build with the Readi-cut system. I was hoping that those are Aladdin houses in the background, but I don't think they are.

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Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), one man can now do the work of six!

Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), and a central site for pre-cutting all the framing lumber, one man can now do the work of six!

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The Brentwood was a dandy house.

The Brentwood was a dandy house with four floor plans with some variation.

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FP1

Floorplan one is the only house with a fireplace.

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FP21

Floorplan two is down to two bedrooms, but has a bigger kitchen/DR.

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FP3

Floorplan 2 and 3 have the same layout, but 3 is a smaller footrpint.

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FP4

Floorplan 3 and 4 are the same footprint, but with three bedrooms carved into the small space.

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FP4

This appears to be Floorplan #1, as it has a fireplace and a planter under that bedroom window. Apparently, the houses in this subdivision have tremendous water pressure. The guy with the house is being pushed backwards.

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Then again, he also looks like Americas first metrosexual.

Then again, he also looks like America's first metrosexual.

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Located in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Ranch is a perfect match to the catalog image. My favorite feature is that over sized, dramatic fireplace (which appears to have several flues). Photo is copyright 2015 Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

What a house!

What a house!

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You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

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A Kit House in Lebanon! (New Hampshire)

September 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last week, Hubby and I traveled to Vermont to see all the pretty things up there (including the Ben and Jerry’s Factory).

Sadly, I didn’t see much in the way of kit homes, but I did discover this gorgeous “San Fernando” offered by Lewis Homes (early 1920s).

The house is just across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire in a small town known as Lebanon. (We ended up staying at the Fireside Inn and Suites in West Lebanon.)

Lewis Homes was a kit home company (like Sears and Aladdin), and it was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sears and Aladdin tend to get all the ink, the fact is that there were six companies selling kit homes on a nation-wide basis.

As you can see from the pictures below, it is a gorgeous house and has its original windows and siding. Might even be the original storm windows!

To read about the other pretty houses I found in this area, click here.

Read about my train adventure by clicking here!

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The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow.

The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow (1924 catalog).

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It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

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And with two floorplans!

And with two floorplans!

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These floorplans appear to be the same (mostly), but this one is two feet longer (1924).

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It really is a beautiful bungalow!

It really is a beautiful bungalow!

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Located on Main Street in Lebanon, NH, this is a beautiful San Fernando!

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Perfect - DOWN to the details!

Perfect - DOWN to the details!

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windows

Hard to say for sure, but these are either original storms or fine-looking replacements.

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Heres a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio.

Here's a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio. That's Dale looking at the house.

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While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. That was great fun!

While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. The water is turqouise color due to some of the minerals leeching out from the rock.

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A Supersized Aladdin Villa in Bartlesville, Oklahoma!

April 10th, 2013 Sears Homes 11 comments

The Sears House Lady of Tulsa, also known as indefatigable kit house researcher Rachel Shoemaker, made a little detour the other day on her way home (as we kit house lovers are wont to do), and made a wonderful discovery: A supersized Aladdin Villa in Bartlesville, Oklahoma!

The Aladdin Villa, as offered in the 1919 catalog, was 62 feet across the front (including the sunporch). That’s a big house, but the Villa that Rachel discovered is even wider.

Best of all, the Villa  in Bartlesville is well-loved, and has been painstakingly maintained.

To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

Interested in learning how to identify kit homes?  Click here.

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The Aladdin Villa was the crme de le creme

The Villa was the crème de la crème of Aladdin's kit homes. It was spacious, beautiful, and elegant. This drawing was based on the Villa built in Bay City, Michigan (the corporate headquarters for Aladdin). Maybe that's Otto and William on the front porch?

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Unlike most kit homes, the Villa had plenty of room, and one of the more interesting options available was third floor maids rooms.

One of the more interesting options available was the "third floor maids' quarters."

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The living room was luxuriously

The Villa's living room was prominently featured in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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sunporch had a fireplace

And the Villa's sunporch had its own fireplace!

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floorplan

If I'm doing my math right, this house was 62 feet across the front and 26 feet deep. That's a very spacious house. On many Villas, I've seen the optional second-floor sun room.

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Heres Rachels bartlesville

Rachel's found this "supersized Villa" in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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From the front, you can see just how massive this Villa really is. Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the details around the front door. Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The owners have done some remodeling to the house, but have done a first-class job. It's one of the most historically sensitive and thoughtful remodelings that I've ever come across. Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Rachel even managed to get a picture of this grand old house from the REAR, showing off the massive sunporch. Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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But wait, there’s more!

In addition to the Villa, Rachel also found a Sears 264P233 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma!

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From the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, here's a picture of the Sears Model 264P233.

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As seen

Oh my, what a perfect match!! And it's in Bartlesville! Wow!

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To visit Rachel’s website (focusing on the kit homes of Oklahoma) click here.

To learn more about Roanoke Rapids, click here.

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The Stanhope, not in Iowa or New Jersey, but Norfolk!

January 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Stanhope is the name of a city in Iowa and New Jersey. And it’s also the name of a car that was sold from 1904-1906, by the Twyford Motor Car Company of Brookville, Pennsylvania.

But for this blog, we’re going to talk about the Stanhope that was sold by Aladdin of Bay City, Michigan.

The Stanhope was a fairly popular house. In 1920s America, it was an ideal home in both size and price.  And unlike so many of these diminutive bungalows, it had three bedrooms (most had two).

Yes, they were only 10 x 10, but for the family with four girls and three boys, it was probably a whole lot better than fold-out cots in the living and dining rooms (another popular option at the time).

Aladdin, like Sears, offered kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the building business. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes. The Sears Modern Homes department was in business from 1908-1940. Aladdin started selling houses in 1906, and didn’t close until 1981, a full 75 years!

Here in Norfolk, Virginia (where I live), we have many more Aladdins than Sears. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC which explains why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in the Southeast.

Thanks to Dale Wolicki for providing info on Aladdin!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To read more about Roanoake Rapids (which has a massive collection of Aladdin kit homes), click here.

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Aladdin (based in Bay City) sold kit homes through mail order.

Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) sold kit homes through mail order. This is my favorite graphic from their catalog (1919).

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The Stanhope was one of Aladdins most popular little houses.

The Stanhope was one of Aladdin's most popular little houses.

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But it was a very small house.

It had three bedrooms, but it was a very small house.

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The full

The catalog page featuring the Stanhope, as it appeared in 1919.

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After reading this delicious description, kinda makes ME want to run out and buy a Stanhope of my own!

"Are you not pleased with the Stanhope?"

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One of the

Aladdin was famous for their "Dollar a Knot" guarantee.

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The Stanhope

The Stanhope can be tough to identify because it looks like every little early 20th Century bungalow and is rather nondescript.

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And yet, you can find them if theyre in original condition. Heres a perfect Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids).

And yet, they can be identified if they're in original condition. Here's a perfect Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids).

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Nice match, isnt it?

Nice match, isn't it?

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And heres one in Norfolk, Virginia. This house is very close to ODU, and is on 51st Street.

And here's one in Norfolk, Virginia. This house is very close to ODU, and is on 51st Street. It's a perfect example of the Aladdin Stanhope and one of my favorite finds!

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

Have you visited Roanoke Rapids? It’s a town FULL of Aladdin kit homes. Click here to learn more.

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Coming Out Of The Closet: Murphy Beds

November 12th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In the early years of the 20th Century, living a simple, modest, clutter-free life was an integral part of The Bungalow Craze.

Murphy Beds were an integral part of that “space-saving” mind-set. And they were very practical, too. After one’s morning prayers and ablutions, how often did one return to their sleeping quarters?

When the sun popped up in the morning, it was time to make the bed, fluff the pillows and tuck your bed back into the wall.

During tough economic times, there was an expectation that homeowners would take in needy family members. When times got really tough, homeowners took on borders, too.  (Bear in mind, this was before government became our All-in-all.)

The Murphy Bed made our little bungalows a little bit bigger, and a little more accommodating.

In the 1920s and 30s, the sale of Murphy Beds skyrocketed. In the 1950s and 60s, sales dropped, as Americans moved into bigger and bigger houses. In the 1990s and beyond, sales again are way up, due to a poor economy, high unemployment and rising housing costs.

Some of the early 20th Century kit homes offered by Sears and Aladdin featured Murphy Beds.

“The Cinderella” (so named because the house was so small it required less work), was a cute and cozy kit home offered by Sears in the early 1920s. This little bungalow made good use of its small spaces by incorporating a Murphy Bed. Take a look at the pictures below to see how they did things 100 years ago.

To learn more about built-ins in the 1920s kit home, click here.

To learn about breakfast nooks, click here.

Read about The Sorlien Ceiling Bed here!

If you enjoy the blog, please oh please, share the link on Facebook!  :)

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficient bungalow that saved the housewife

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficiently designed bungalow that saved the housewife much time and effort.

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Interior views of The Cinderella (1921).

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Less furniture to buy - less trouble and work. Good points, actually.

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In the Cinderella, the beds were tucked into a closet during the day.

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This is my favorite shot. This room was about five feet wide and ten feet deep, but it looks pretty darn spacious. And look at that sink at the end of the wall. Just a lone sink.

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The Cinderella assumed that both Living and Dining Rooms would be used as sleeping spaces.

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right order here

It's so easy, even a child can do it! Sort of.

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Floorplan shows how tiny that "bed space" really is. It was 10'11" long and - if the drawing is anything near scale, it appears about five feet wide. In modern times, the folks looking at this house probably thought, "How odd! A big walk-in closet next to the living room, and it even has a sink in the corner!"

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"Dressing room and bed space." Pretty tiny space!!!

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Calumet also

"Twenty rooms in 12." Eight of those 20 rooms were closets with a bed.

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four rooms

Here are two of those eight "bedrooms." At least they have a window.

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Close-up on the Murphy Bed in the Calumet.

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Bloom

And here's a real, live Calumet in Bloomington, IL.

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Aladdin Sonoma (1919)

Like Sears, Aladdin (Bay City, MI) also sold kit homes through mail order. They had a line of wee tiny Aladdin homes known as "Aladdinettes." Here's a picture of the Sonoma (1919), one of their Aladdinnette houses.

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And

The Aladdinnette's "bed space" was really tiny. Only 6'9" by 5'. You have to step out of the room to change your mind!!

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Close-up of the Aladdinnette's "closet bed."

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And despite those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

Despite what you've seen on those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

To read the next awesome blog, click here.

Interested in other early 20th Century space savers? Click here.

Youtube demonstration of a real Murphy Bed (1916).

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Make That FIVE Sterling Kit Homes in Anderson, South Carolina.

June 19th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

In yesterday’s blog, I talked about the four Sterling kit homes that I found in Anderson, South Carolina.

Click here to read more about that.

Well, when I was in Anderson, I took a photo of another house that I couldn’t readily identify, but it triggered a memory. This morning, I sat down and went through the 1928 Sterling Homes catalog and realized that my “triggered memory” was The Sterling Classic. This now represents the FIFTH house from Sterling Homes that I found in Anderson.

It’s a pretty distinctive house and there’s little doubt (especially with the other four houses) that this could be anything but another Sterling Home.

Again I wonder - how in the world did Anderson - 800 miles due south from Bay City, Michigan, end up with so many Sterling Homes? And are there MORE than five? I’m sure there are. My knowledge of Sterling Homes is truly pitiable. My buddy Dale Wolicki is the expert on Sterling.

But even a blind squirrel finds an acorn from time to time, and I happened to find five Sterlings in Anderson. I’m confident there are many more.

And if anyone can get me a better photo of this little house, I’d be profoundly grateful.  :)

The FIFTH Sterling kit house in Anderson is the Classic (1928 catalog).

The FIFTH Sterling kit house in Anderson is the "Classic" (1928 catalog).

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Nice floorplan, too.

Nice floorplan, too.

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The Classic

The Classic had several distinctive features, such as the two matching "picture" windows on the home's front and that small, low dormer. But most distinctive is that front porch. The four piers extend beyond the home's walls and the porch column sits within those four piers. Now that's very unusual.

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The close

Close-up on that unusual feature.

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And heres the Classic in Anderson.

And here's the "Classic" in Anderson.

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Take a look at the front porch detail.

Take a look at the front porch detail. It shows that column sitting within the space created by the four piers. This is a good match!!

Again - how did Anderson end up with so many Sterling Homes? I’d love to know.

To learn more about Sterling Homes, click here.

To read more about the Sterling Homes in Anderson, click here.

If you’re able to get me a better photo of this house, please leave a comment below!

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The Sears Homes of Suffolk (Virginia)

January 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

One of my favorite memories from childhood was riding with my father to Suffolk to visit the peanut vendors and inspect their product. My father was an assistant manager at Skippy Peanut Butter in Portsmouth, and also their purchasing agent.

Suffolk has always been one of my favorite places in Virginia.  And it’s also the largest city in Virginia, and the Peanut Capital of the World. Here in Hampton Roads, it’s our fastest-growing city, thanks to the low-crime rates and above-average schools.

Perhaps best of all, it has a significant collection of kit homes.

Sears kit homes were sold from 1908-1940. Sears and Roebuck was based in Chicago, but Sears Homes were sold in all 48 states. These 12,000-piece kits were shipped by boxcar, and came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house built and ready for occupancy in 90 days.

Here in Southeastern Virginia, we also have many kit homes from Aladdin. They were based in Bay City, Michigan, but Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906, and continued until 1981.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I would create a simple pamphlet showing these kit homes and their addresses (and a map) and offer them to visitors as a self-guided driving tour. I’d also put a little plaque on the homes, identifying them as kit homes. This is a very nice collection of kit homes in Suffolk, and something should be done to promote them.

All of the houses shown below are located in Suffolk.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To see a Sears Home in Urbana with a little plaque, click here.

Sears Osborn, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Osborn, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Sears

There are a lot of trees and bushes in Suffolk, which made it difficult to get good photographs. Here's a Sears Osborn in an older section of Suffolk. Note the details around the brickwork.

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Sears

The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears. This is from the 1916 catalog. The floorplan shows a fireplace in the corner of the dining room, which is an unusual feature in a Sears House!

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Close-up of the Sears Westly

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SHEHE

This Westly is happy, and feels very good about life. It's a good match to the original catalog image, and even though it's been "updated," the work was thoughtfully done.

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Putting wrought iron on an old house is not a good idea.

Putting wrought iron on an old house is not a good idea. Plus, they removed the porch deck. And the columns. And the eaves. And the unique trim. And the personality.

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The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes.

The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes.

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Crummy photo due to poor lighting, but you can it is a Glenn Falls.

Crummy photo due to poor lighting, but you can it is a Glenn Falls, in brick!

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Sears Elsmore was another very popular house for Sears.

Sears Elsmore was another very popular house for Sears.

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Its been through some changes, but its still an Elsmore.

It's been through some changes, but it's still an Elsmore. Note the nine/one windows, and also the original eave brackets. You can also see bits of those unique columns on the front porch.

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As mentioned, in addition to Sears, there as also a mail-order company called Aladdin. This is an Aladdin Colonial, which was Aladdins biggest and fanciest house.

As mentioned, in addition to Sears, there as also a mail-order company called Aladdin. This is an Aladdin Colonial, which was Aladdin's biggest and fanciest house.

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This is a real beauty, and its right there in Suffolk!

This is a real beauty, and it's right there in Suffolk!

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The Aladdin Lamberton, from the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Lamberton, from the 1919 catalog.

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Its been converted into a duplex, but its still a Lamberton.

It's been converted into a duplex, and remuddled a bit. Is this a Lamberton? I'd say - with 90% certainty - that it is. Because of the many changes, it's hard to be sure. Look at the front porch roof. That's still a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

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And theres also a Harris Brothers house in Suffolk. Harris Brothers was a small kit home company based in Chicago.

And there's also a Harris Brothers house in Suffolk. Harris Brothers was a small kit home company based in Chicago.

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Suffolk

Again - the trees. Sigh. However, you can see (even with a tree in the way) that this is a perfect match to the Harris Brother house (shown above).

Last is this house from Gordon Van Tine. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and there are several GVT houses here in Hampton Roads.

Last is this house from Gordon Van Tine. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and there are several GVT houses here in Hampton Roads.

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Its been through some changes, but its a GVT #501.

It's been through some changes, but it's still easy to see that it's a GVT #501.

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When youre trying to identify Sears Homes, you should look for this mark on the lumber.

When you're trying to identify Sears Homes, you should look for this mark on the lumber. This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, helped the novice homebuilder put together these homes.

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Aladdin used a different marking system on their lumber, such as this.

Aladdin used a different marking system on their lumber, such as this.

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If you’d like to learn more about the kit homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

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Aladdin Shadowlawn in Concord, NC - And Now I Know WHERE!

December 27th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, I published a blog about a beautiful Aladdin Shadowlawn I found in Concord, NC.  At the time, I couldn’t find the address. My addresses are stored in notebooks, and they’re not in any particular order. Retrieving an address from a trip made long ago can be pretty challenging.

However, once the hoopla of Christmas had settled a bit in the Thornton Home, I went looking for that address in Concord. And I found it! This Aladdin Shadowlawn is on Grove Street.

BTW, when I was in Concord, I was on my way to another North Carolina city, so I didn’t do a “proper” and extensive survey of Concord, but I do remember finding some other Aladdin kit homes there, including, an Aladdin Pomona, and an Aladdin Sheffield, and this Aladdin Shadowlawn (see below).

It’s not surprising that this part of North Carolina is so loaded with kit homes, because Aladdin had a major mill in Wilmington, NC. In fact, Roanoke Rapids has one of the largest collections (and most impressive collections) of Aladdins in the country! It’s worth the trip, I promise!

Aladdin was one of six national mail-order companies that sold entire kit homes through their catalogs. The 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).

While Sears is a more well-known name in the kit home business, Aladdin actually was around a lot longer. Sears started in 1908; Aladdin started in 1906!

In 1940, Sears called it quits, and closed their Modern Homes department. Aladdin continued to sell kit homes until 1981.

More than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them! Aladdin Kit Homes were sold from 1906-1981. (Sears, by comparison, was out of business by 1940.)

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To learn about the Aladdin Homes in Rocky Mount, click here.

To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and theres a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and there's a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC. Image is from the 1919 catalog.

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

In Roanoke Rapids, NC, youll find this *perfect* Aladdin Pomona and the best part - it really is ON the railroad tracks!

In Roanoke Rapids, NC, you'll find this *perfect* Aladdin Pomona and the best part - it really is ON the railroad tracks! As I recall, there is a Pomona in Concord.

Aladdin

Aladdin offered some pretty fancy houses, too, such as this Aladdin Villa.

If you love kit homes, you have to visit Roanoke Rapids. It was a town built by Aladdin, and it was a wide variety of Aladdin ki

If you love kit homes, you have to visit Roanoke Rapids. It was a town built by Aladdin, and it was a wide variety of Aladdin kit homes, including this Aladdin Villa (Aladdin's biggest kit home).

Aladdin

Aladdin was a kit home company based in Bay City that sold more than 75,000 kit homes during their 75 years in the kit home business.

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Aladdin was a large, impressive company and here in the Southeast, most of the kit homes that I've found are from Aladdin,

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and their mill was in Wilmington, which would explain why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in North Carolina.

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and one sterling example is Roanoke Rapids, NC. In that small town, we've found more than 60 Aladdin Kit Homes, including some of Aladdin's biggest and fanciest homes.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

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To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

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There’s a Reason They Were Called Sears MODERN Homes

September 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In 1908, a little ad appeared on page 594 of the Sears general merchandise catalog. It read, “Let us be your architect, without cost to you.” Interested buyers were invited to write in and request the free catalog, “Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans.” The first houses ranged in price from $500 to $5000.

The mail-order homes were shipped by boxcar and came in 12,000 piece kits. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days. That was probably a little optimistic, but if you requested a Sears mortgage on your Sears kit home, there was a requirement that thee house be occupied within four months of purchase!

By the early 1910s, the specialty catalogs featuring these kit homes had a new title: “Sears Modern Homes.” And they really were modern homes.

In 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine reported that “watertight roof, walls and floor are an essential feature of a modern city house.”

Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books? She described life on the plains in soddies and tiny cabins in the 1870s ad 1880s.

The Midwesterners who built Sears kit homes in the early 1900s could have been raised in housing that would be considered extremely primitive by today’s standards.

Below is a picture of a soddie. These were very primitive and dark and dank; undoubtedly a fairly miserable way to spend the day, nine months out of the year. One look at these soddies (below) and you’ll fast understand why a pretty little Sears bungalow would be classified as a “Modern Home.”

To learn more about these Modern Homes, click here.

prim

Soddies were made of sod that had been cut into squares and stacked up. They were easy to heat, and they kept *most* of the rain off your head. Kinda.

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Close-up of Soddie Life.

Living aint easy in one of these

Living ain't easy in one of these.

Cover

Cover of the first Sears kit home catalog. Notice the art deco lamps!

Cover

In the 1908 catalog, Modern Home #106 was offered for $1145, which was an outstanding value. In today's dollars, that'd probably be about $15,000. There's no bathroom, but it's still a lot better than a soddie!

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Incredibly, I found this photo on eBay years ago. It's a Modern Home #106 with the fam seated in front of it! You can see why this house would be such a vast improvement over a soddie. It's really a stark contrast to a house made of dirt.

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The family seated in front of their "Modern Home." I'm sure they were very proud of their beautiful little house.

To learn  more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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