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Posts Tagged ‘bengali’

Penniman: A Fun and Fascinating Talk in Richmond on July 18th!

July 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 7 comments

The fun starts at 5:30, but if you come early, you can meet the author (that’d be moi).

The talk (a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 vintage photos) is at the Library of Virginia (in Richmond), at 800 East Broad Street.

Free parking can be found underneath the library.

Penniman is truly an awe-inspiring story about a World War One munitions plant in Virginia that has been forgotten and almost lost to history. At its peak, more than 15,000 people occupied the village of Penniman.

DuPont’s 37th munitions plant was staffed by mostly women, who worked assiduously to load TNT into 155mm and 75mm shells.

Please come out and learn more about this lost chapter of Virginia’s history!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Learn about one of the war workers here.

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His initials are "SC" and he started work on Spetember 10, 1918, but who is this young man?

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This fob (issued by DuPont) was worn on the worker's lapel, and it also helped quickly identify him as a munitions worker when he was out and about in Williamsburg. Young men who were not at the front were known as "slackers" and it was a pejorative.

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After Penniman closed, the houses were put on barges and moved to nearby communities. More than 60 ended up in Norfolk, Virginia. We're still missing more than 100 Penniman houses. Is there one in your neighborhood?

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Penniman was vital to the war effort, and yet its story has been lost to time.

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Rose will sell (and sign) books after the talk.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

June 14th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 comments

Last week, I traveled almost 1,000 miles (round trip) to Newberry, South Carolina to learn more about Sadie Bowers, and visit her gravesite. It was also an opportunity to visit James, a dear friend who lives less than 100 miles away from Newberry.

James and I had a wonderful time, and it was one of the happiest times I have experienced in the last two years. And that is a big deal.

One of the unexpected bonuses of travling to Newberry is that I met Ernest Shealy, an architectural historian and curator of the Newberry County Historical Museum. He was a most gracious host, and drove me throughout Newberry, so that I might find and identify a few kit homes.

I only recognized two kit homes, both from Aladdin.

As to Sadie Bowers, she was one of the women workers at Penniman, Virginia. In fact, she worked in the Booster Plant, considered the most hazardous work at the munitions plant. Oh, how I’d love to learn more about this woman and her work at Penniman.

If you have any information to share about Sadie, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Sadie, click here.

Want to know how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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I didnt find any Sears kit homes in Newberry, but I did see two houses from Aladdin. Like Sears, Aladdin also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog.

I didn't find any Sears kit homes in Newberry, but I did see two houses from Aladdin. Like Sears, Aladdin also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog.

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The Aladdin Plaza was one of the most popular houses that Aladdin offered in their early 1900s catalog.

The Aladdin Plaza was one of the most popular houses that Aladdin offered in their early 1900s catalog. Note the flared column bases and unique railing. Also note the 12/1 windows on the front porch.

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And heres a delightful Aladdin Plaza in Newberry, South Carolina.

And here's a delightful Aladdin Plaza in Newberry, South Carolina. The partially enclosed front porch does not diminish it's unique beauty. And best of all, it retains its original windows.

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This

This angle shows off a little bit of that original railing. You can also see those original Aladdin windows better. Do these owners know that it's an Aladdin kit home, that arrived at the Newberry Train Depot in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces? Probably not. Should we tell them? ;)

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The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. Its one of my favorites, too.

The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. It's one of my favorites, too. It's a classic bungalow, and has several unique features, including the diamond muntins, flared porch columns, and open eave brackets. It's a beauty.

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This Pomona in Newberry is in perfect condition, and looks much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s.

This Pomona in Newberry is in perfect condition, and looks much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s. And as with the Plaza, this also retains its original windows.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty!

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Its not a kit house, but heres the house where Sadie Bowers (Penniman worker) lived with her Mama. Sadie was almost 88 years old when she passed on. After the war, she returned to her native city (Newberry), and lived there the rest of her long life.

It's not a kit house, but here's the house where Sadie Bowers (Penniman worker) lived with her Mama. Sadie was almost 88 years old when she passed on. After the war, she returned to her native city (Newberry), and lived there the rest of her long life.

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When I told Ernest that I wanted to find the grave stone for Sadie Bowers, he knew right where to look! He literally drove RIGHT to it! I was so impressed.

When I told Ernest that I wanted to find the grave stone for Sadie ("Sarah") Bowers, he knew right where to look! He literally drove RIGHT to it! I was so impressed.

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He drove

That's the beauty part of having the town's historian drive you around town. Ernest knew everything that there is to know about Newberry and its history. I was really bedazzled by his encyclopedic knowledge. And he was so generous with this time.

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I also got a fine tour of the Newberry Museum.

I also got a fine tour of the Newberry Museum. This display discussed traditional funeral practices of the 19th Century. It was well done and very interesting.

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And of course, this caught my eye.

And of course, this caught my eye. The upside of Facebook is that I've connected with many wonderful and generous women who have also lost their husband to suicide. The downside is, when I post things on my personal Facebook page, too many folks have said things like, "You need to be on an anti-depressant" or "You need to forgive him and move on" or "You should be making better progress." One hundred years ago, people were given permission to mourn the sudden and tragic death of their spouse. I'm at the two-year mark, and I can tell you, I will never "be over" this. God willing, in another few months, my life will become increasingly mundane and peaceful, with sprinkles of joy here and there. Or so I hope and pray.

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This modest museum is definitely worth the trip. Also on display was this amazing contraption for curling womens hair. It was in use at the Newberry beauty salon, and according to the legend, a woman with a steel plate in her skull sat down for a permanent, and when the electrified curlers made contact with her wet scalp, she was instantly electrocuted. I would love to know if that story is possible, plausible or true.

This modest museum is definitely worth the trip. Also on display was this amazing contraption for curling women's hair. It was in use at the Newberry beauty salon, and according to the legend, a woman with a steel plate in her skull sat down for a permanent, and when the electrified curlers made contact with her wet scalp, she was instantly electrocuted. I would love to know if that story is possible, plausible or true.

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The name plate on the device is certainly interesting.

The name plate on the device is interesting. The graphic says it all.

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James lives in a beautiful place. Its almost too beautiful to be real.

James lives in a beautiful place. It's almost too beautiful to be real.

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If you have any information to share about Sadie, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Sadie, click here.

Want to know how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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Compartmentalizing the Sacred Spaces

February 25th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

As my friends know, I consider the Open Floor Plan to be a plague spot on American architecture, and it’s a plague that continues to spread.

The home I recently purchased in Suffolk has lots and lots of walls and a few doors, and I’m a big fan of walls and doors.

Nonetheless, one of my favorite rooms in the house - the den at the southeastern end of the house - had two cased openings but no doors.

The den has become my “nest” where I can curl up on the couch and watch TV or just look out the large sliding glass door into the peaceful back yard. In the morning, sunlight streams in through the three capacious windows. It’s the only room in the house that has windows on three of its four sides.

I wanted doors, but didn’t want to obstruct any of that wonderful light in the contiguous rooms (kitchen and dining room).

So I came up with a plan. Check out the pictures to see my unique idea.

To read one of my favorite blogs, click here.

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As Teddy demonstrates, there is no door between the kitchen and the den. Not good. I need doors and lots of them.

As Teddy demonstrates, there is no door between the kitchen and the den. Not good. I need doors and lots of them. My "nest" can be seen in the background. And yes, that's an enormous stuffed horse.

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And when I curl up on my nest (on the couch in the den), I can see the kitchen. Not good. The kitchen should not be seen or heard. I dont want to think about the kitchen. Ever.

And when I curl up on my nest (on the couch in the den), I can see the kitchen. Not good. The kitchen should not be seen or heard. I don't want to think about the kitchen. Ever.

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So I had an idea...and it started with these doors.

So I had an idea...and it started with these doors. These are bifold doors, ordered from Lowes Hardware. I purchased two sets of these doors (on sale) 24" wide, so that the two sets would match my 48" cased opening.

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They arrived expeditiously and in fine shape. I removed the hinges and patched the small holes left behind. The hinges were surface mount (not mortised), so it was easy to patch the screw holes.

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Bypass

I also purchased this "bypass closet door track kit." It's designed for closet doors, and the "bypass" allows for two doors to be on the same track. According to the weight specs, it was more than sturdy enough to support my discombobulated French Doors.

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Next, I installed a double bypass track in the top of the doorway. This is a track that lets two doors slide past each other.

Next, I installed the track in the doorway. It was one inch too long and had to be cut down. Installation was very simple and fast. I didn't use the screws that came with the kit, but opted for something more substantial.

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Next, I affixed the corresponding rollers to the top of these wooden french doors.

Next, I affixed the corresponding rollers to the top of these wooden doors.

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With the track in place, installing the doors was quite simple.

With the track in place, installing the doors was quite simple.

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And they worked so well!

And they worked so well!

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And looked so pretty!

And looked so pretty!

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After a brief moment of admiration, I pulled them down for painting.

After a brief moment of admiration, I pulled them down for painting. The doors were of excellent quality, and the glass was covered with plastic to protect the glass during painting. I applied one coat of primer and two coats of paint. This was the most time-consuming process of all. These doors sat in my den (on sawhorses, atop plastic) for quite some time.

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After

After the painting was done, they were reinstalled (which took a few seconds). Even with the paint slopped over the edges, they looked quite attractive.

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And once completed, it looked fantastic.

And once completed, it looked fantastic.

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They can be opened partially.

They look good partially shut...

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Or fully

Or shut all the way.

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Even the dinette set (in the kitchen) is happier.

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Before and After photos (actually, theyre in the wrong order).

"Before and After" photos. Actually, they're in the wrong order. The "after photo" is on the left. Oops.

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Best of all, I can sit on my couch and not see the kitchen very well!

Best of all, I can sit on my couch and not see the kitchen! Mission accomplished.

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Id thought about installing something like this, but it was too big and bulky and didnt fit the style of the house. Plus, I didnt have the wall space.

Originally, I'd thought about installing something like this, but it was too big and bulky and didn't fit the style of the house. Plus, I didn't have the wall space. And it would cut off the light from the other rooms. Not good.

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With these French Doors, the sunlight still fills the house!

With these French Doors, the sunlight still fills the house! Total cost was $280 for the two sets of bifold doors (seen above) and about $35 for the hardware.

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To read one of my favorite blogs, click here.

Read more about the open floor plan (and why it’s so evil) here.

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Two Months Since My Last Blog…

December 27th, 2017 Sears Homes 13 comments

This Christmas, my second as a widow, was a vast improvement over my first (last year). This year, my three daughters made the long trek to my recently acquired home in Suffolk, Virginia and we had a lovely time together on Christmas morning.

This morning (Wednesday), everyone went back home and that was tough. For three glorious days, I was not the widow of a man who took his own life, but a mother to three beautiful girls, and with their good energy and happy enthusiasm, we created some lovely new memories.

And yet, this morning, the tears returned. Two of the girls (and their significant others) live more than 600 miles away. I miss them so very much, and yet they’re in their 30s. I raised them to be independent, strong-willed, self-supporting, capable adults, ready and able to “fly the coop.”

They’re back home now, far away, and I realize that I need a strong distraction for the hours and the days and the weeks and the months.

I’m wondering if it’s time for me to move into the next phase, which is finding a job or volunteer work. My writing days are behind me. Right now, it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever write another book. I never did like writing. It’s misery and it’s solitude and as far as income goes, it’s barely more than a hobby. The Penniman book (which represented six years of research) is being polished and prepared for a second printing.

What’s a former writer and historian to do?

I just don’t know.

I do know that sitting in my lovely house and sobbing every morning and every evening isn’t a good plan.

As always, please keep me in your prayers and please leave a comment below.

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For Christmas, my three daughters wrote "love notes" on bits of paper and put them in this vintage cookie tin. It was one of the loveliest and most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. The tin is just like a tin from my childhood home.

For Christmas, my three daughters wrote "love notes" on bits of paper and put them in this vintage cookie tin. It was one of the loveliest and most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. The tin is just like a tin from my childhood home. If I remember correctly, my mother purchased a tin much like this in the 1960s, and she would "bake" that small glass plug in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The idea was that those absorbent crystals would keep things crisp.

Housing Rosemary, Part III

August 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 7 comments

We’re sneaking up on 11 months since I moved into my rental home, and never in a million years did I think that I’d remain in this little rental for this long. I was quite confident that I’d find my new “forever home” lickety split.

It’s been a long and winding road, searching for my “forever home” and in that time, I’ve switched back and forth from old houses (1950s) to new (1990-2010) back to old (1930s) and every place in-between.

I’ve looked at ranches, two-story homes, foursquares, Tudor Revivals, Colonial Revivals, International Style, Cape Cods, classic Mid-Century Modern houses, Log Homes, and plain old farmhouses. There have been many interesting experiences, such as the time I crawled under a house with a licensed home inspector and pointed out a couple things he missed.

When we emerged from the crawlspace, he offered me a job with his company.

Or the time I met another inspector at a house that I was going to write a contract on, and he said, “Rosemary, is that you?” And I said, “Mortimer*, is that you?” And he said, “Why, I can’t believe I’m standing here talking to you! I haven’t seen you in 30+ years!” (The benefits of returning to your home town after a few years.)

We caught up with each other and then after a few minutes of “old home week,” he took me aside and quietly said, “You really need to be cautious if you’re going to buy this house. I was under this house 18 months ago, and it needs a whole lot of work.”

And there was the time I ran into an old high school chum when I was looking at an old house and she said, “Be careful with that one. During the last Nor’easter, there was about 12″ of water in the basement.”

And then there was that “interesting” real estate agent that I met at an open house in Suffolk. She asked me what I did for a living. I responded casually that I wrote books about old houses. She replied with, “I sold the very first Sears and Roebuck kit house ever built in this country, and it was right there in Portsmouth, Virginia” and I laughed and said, “Oh my goodness, there’s so much wrong with that seemingly simple sentence that I can’t begin to explain it, but please do tell me, how old is the roof on this house?”

In my desperate bid to find myself and start a new life, I keep hoping that this housing question will soon be settled. In the meantime, I continue to read, and write, and pray, and hope that there will be a day when my first and last thought of every single day is not “why did he do this to me?”

As always, I’ve deeply grateful for every prayer, every loving word, and every kind comment.

* “Mortimer” was not his real name.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

And I could always buy a lighthouse for $15,000!

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Houses

Today, I was looking at a neighborhood in Chesapeake, Virginia that was once populated with 1950s houses and vast expanses of farmland. Today, it's awash in these less-than-aesthetically pleasing McMansions, which are priced at $350,000 and up. Not my cup of tea.

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Toilet

In my house-hunting travels, I've seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

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In my house-hunting travels, Ive seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

Whenever I see a house with a heavy-duty cage around the a/c compressor, I know I'm in the wrong neighborhood. And I think that three deadbolts on the door is another sign. This house is in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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Were running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the bigun) is Cocoa Puffs.

We're running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the big'un) is "Cocoa Puffs."

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One of the loveliest gifts I received yesterday came from Clyde Nordan (

I've looked at homes throughout Hampton Roads and points west, but every now and then, I've dreamt of grabbing my passport and fleeing the country. The image above is courtesy Clyde Nordan of Clyde Nordan Photography in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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The First Sears House? Nope.

The First Sears House? Nope. This Sears Westly is at the corner of Winchester and King Street (Westhaven section). This house was featured on WVEC-TV several years ago (about 2004). It's been sold and remodeled and sold and remodeled a few times. Most likely, it was built in the mid-to-late 1910s.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

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Post #1000 - The Sears Magnolia in New Martinsville, WV

August 3rd, 2017 Sears Homes 18 comments

Last week, I traveled to New Martinsville, West Virginia to see what was purported to be the 9th Magnolia. Prior to this, there were only eight known Magnolias in the country. The Magnolia was the crème de la crème of Sears Homes, with countless accoutrements and fine features. To read more about the other Magnolias, click here.

The eight-hour trip to New Martinsville was quite lovely and the weather was beautiful. After examining the Magnolia in New Martinsville, I traveled to Elkins to visit Wayne’s family, and then on to Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was the trip from Elkins to home that went very badly. It should have taken less than 90 minutes to get from Elkins to White Sulphur Springs (and the interstate), but it took more than three hours.

I was as lost as I’ve ever been and frankly, utterly terrified. No cell service for three hours, and not one, but two Garmins that kept sending me around in circles, and roads that were as hazardous as any I’ve ever seen.

At one point, I went around a hairpin turn a little too fast and hit a very slick mudslide. This area had three days of non-stop rain. I hit that mudslide and lost control of the car. And - like so many places in them thar hills - there were no guardrails. In that split-second, I really thought that I was a goner. And in another split second, it was over. It was harrowing.

Had it not been for a small store in Belington (the first town I encountered), I’d probably have ended up on the back of a milk carton, lost forever in those hills, foraging for berries and edible bugs.

Nonetheless, I survived.

Now about that Magnolia…

It’s a puzzler. A real mystery wrapped inside an enigma. If you have an opinion on this house, I’d love to hear it.

Today, I’m of the opinion that the house was a custom-order from Sears, but that the framing lumber was obtained locally. I searched that house top-to-bottom for marks, stamped lumber, shipping labels and yet could find nothing.

And yet, the house has Sears hardware (see pictures below). And it was built sometime after 1930.

Please take a look at the images below and share your insights!

It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for the vintage photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, that has since been demolished. To read more about this Magnolia, click here.

The original blog on this house can be found here.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share the link on Facebook.

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In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year).

In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year). He was cooked and done after one date, but his website lived on, until 2010, when JASE GROUP redid it. (No dates were involved.) This blog on the New Martinsville Magnolia really is my 1000th post.

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The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1924, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias Ive encountered were built after 1922.

The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1922, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias I've encountered were built after 1922. The house in New Martinsville was built after 1930. The Magnolia (as designed) was 36-feet deep and 40-feet wide. The house in New Martinsville is 40-feet deep and 44-feet wide.

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At first glance, it all looks swell.

At first glance, it all looks swell. And while it doesn't have those little lites atop the first floor windows, it does have replacement windows and substitute sidings, and if I had been allowed to pull out the windows and take a good look, I suspect I'd find evidence that when built, it had the small transom lites over the windows.

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Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

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And

In fact, it looks real good!

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Inside, things look pretty good, too.

Inside, things look pretty good, too. (Left to right: Catalog image 1918, Sears Magnolia in Nebraska, and the New Martinsville Magnolia.) The only thing is, that flare at the bottom of the staircase is wrong. And the hallway is a little too wide. Those pilasters in the New Martinsville house are too close to the stairs. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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But

And yet when you go upstairs, things look good there, too. (House on right is the Magnolia in Nebraska.) Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside the

Looking toward the front door, it's a beautiful home, but is it a Magnolia? It sure is close.

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DD

With a little help from my friends, we now know that Dr. Schmied and his wife Anna occupied the house, and may have been the home's original owners. Dr. Schmied was the town mayor for a time, so he was definitely a man of some import. Given that New Martinsville is a small town, someone must know more about this house.

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Then theres this: The millwork isnt right. Sears didnt offer a volute like this at any time in their milwork catalogs.

Then there's this: The millwork isn't right. Sears didn't offer a volute like this at any time in their mill-work catalogs. And I'm not sure if that's a "volute" or just a cap. But it doesn't appear to be anything Sears offered.

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And when I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks just like a Little Debbie Honey Bun.

When I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks like a Honey Bun.

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For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right.

For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right. Then again, Sears didn't offer these tapered spindles (shown on the left) in their millwork catalog.

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And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servants quarters - is right where it should be.

And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servant's quarters - is right where it should be.

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This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldnt find them in the catalogs, either.

This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldn't find them in the catalogs, either.

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But then theres this...

But then there's this. This style knob and escutcheon was found throughout the Magnolia, and it was a model offered by Sears. Does Sears hardware make it a Sears House? It certainly does add to the intrigue.

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This was

Rhythmic door hardware was first offered in 1930, in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. And it's fairly unique. And it's "not a fad," but it is Art Deco. What's not to love! It blends into any home or building!

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Pretty nice

And then there's this, too. The garage (as shown in the 1938 catalog).

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The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

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This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

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The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed.

The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed. The inglenook is still intact. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The New Martinsville house was used for a time as a restaurant, so it's been dramatically altered, and yet those pilasters (edge of photo) are still in place.

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But the columns were moved to the back of the living room.

But the columns were moved to the back of the living room (near the front of the house).

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Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales).

Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales). Those three windows (covered in red drapes) are on the right front as you face the house.

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And the Butlers Pantry is in the right place, too. It is (as my friend James said), a butlers pantry for anorexics. Its pretty darn small.

And the Butler's Pantry is in the right place, too, between the dining room and kitchen. It is (as my friend James said), "a butler's pantry for anorexics." It's pretty darn small.

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On this side, there should be a sink, but its MIA.

On this side, there should be a sink, but it's MIA.

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Sears

As seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog - the first floor. Having seen the inside of several Magnolias, as well as this house in New Martinsville, I must say that it's a fairly good match to this unusual floor plan.

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And that tiny Butlers Pantry is right where it should be.

And that tiny Butler's Pantry is right where it should be, between the dining room and kitchen. You can also see the servants stairs on this close-up. These stairs lead to the servant's bedroom above.

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I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

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The back of the house is also a good match.

The back of the house is also a good match.

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As designed, this was an open porch. Its now enclosed. The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

As designed, this was an open porch. It's now enclosed, and you can see the French Doors leading to the servant's quarters (as per the original plan). The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

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My pretty Magnolia, who has passed through your doors? Maybe they know your story!

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ITs

It's a beauty, but is it a Magnolia? As I said above, I think it's probably a Magnolia, built with local lumber and perhaps even millwork. There's so much that's right about the house, but also, there's much that is not a good match.

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The Juliet Porch on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering.

The "Juliet Porch" on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering. The spindles are right but it should have paneled columns at the corners. Was this rebuilt in later years? Also, the traditional Magnolia trim around the front door is missing.

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The trim around the Magnolias front door should look like this.

The trim around the Magnolia's front door should look like this. This Magnolia is also in West Virginia.

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For that shot of the Juliet Porch, I stood on top of that railing, balanced precariously and rather hopeful that I wouldn't topple to my death. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be a bad way to go. (Artistic re-creation of the actual event.)

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Is it a Magnolia?

Is it a Magnolia?

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It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

To see what makes Rose laugh out loud, click here.

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The Open Floor Plan and the Downfall of Society

May 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 25 comments

Last February, as Robert, Pat and I sat together in Robert’s Sears Home, he said, “The open floor plan will probably be considered one of the most heinous atrocities ever committed against American architecture.”

A man after my own heart.

When historians write about the unraveling of society, it will probably all be traced back to The Open Floor Plan.

Who decided it was a good idea to remove every wall and door from a house?

For months, I’ve been looking for a home for me and Teddy and The Horsies™.

We’ve found a few homes that are close, but nothing has been a real match yet.

For a variety of reasons, I’m hoping to find a house that’s not more than 50 years old and well built and in a safe area. And most importantly, I want a house that does NOT have an “Open Floor Plan.”

It’s not bad enough that the big ugly houses with open floor plans are taking over the planet, but even older homes are not safe.

Reading through listings for once-lovely 1950s and 60s brick ranches, I’ve found this awful comment: “Completely renovated with new and inviting open floor plan.”

Though I’m not a woman given to strong language, this phrase hits a nerve and induces me to say things that are quite unladylike.

I don’t want to smell the kitchen or worse, SEE the kitchen. I don’t want to see the dining room. I need lots of doors and walls between me and the world. My secret to good housekeeping is plenty of heavy doors and hiding places. If I wanted to live in an open commune, I’d move to Berkeley. I want private areas and secret rooms. My dream house would have an underground bomb shelter with vintage rations from the Eisenhower era.

How do you paint  your own house when the living room wall is 17-feet tall? How do you change a light fixture on a chain that’s seven feet taller than you on your tallest ladder? How do you kill spiders ensconced in a dark corner at the tippy top of a cathedral ceiling?

The Open Floor Plan: stultissimus notio!

If you enjoyed this, please share the link on your Facebook page!

Need a palate cleanse? Read about Sears Homes here.

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Dumb

This makes no sense to me. In fact, I'd say it's one of the most foolish things a person could do to a house. I looked at this house, hoping it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It was.

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So open that its brains fall out

So open that its brains fall out? This is a lovely log cabin recently listed in a nearby city. This 1,500-square foot space is - for all purposes - one big room.

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Open

Twitch, twitch.

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Open More

Blech. And how do you clean those windows above the door?

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Open and depressing

What a waste of space and energy and materials.

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This one is the very worst. This hosue started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

This one is the very worst. This house started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

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But they managed to make it ugly on the exterior, too.

It started life as a lovely brick ranch (1950s) with good symmetry. Closing in that garage was not a good idea. Having seen many of these "flipped" houses, I can tell you that, for the most part, they're not well done.

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I hate open

The Aladdin Villa (a kit home) had lots of doors. I love doors. I hate open.

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Villa

Here's a real life Villa in Augusta, Georgia, and I'm sure it still has a lot of doors and walls.

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And then there were seven...

The Seven Horsies of the Apocalypse detest open floor plans. And yes, there are now SEVEN horsies. Number Seven (center stage) was a gift, so that's good because now I have enablers of my Stuffed Horsie Habit. Yay! :D

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Read more about the Aladdin Villa here.

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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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Sg

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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House

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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An Aladdin Westwood - in Charlottesville, Virginia

August 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog, which is curious. It’s a beautiful house and quite massive, but apparently the Sovereign brothers decided it wasn’t a keeper. In September 2013, I gave a talk in nearby Louisa, Virginia and drove over to Charlottesville to see what was lurking in Hoo-ville.

What a sweet surprise to find an Aladdin Westwood at the end of a quiet residential street!

I was with a local historian and we knocked on the doors repeatedly but no one showed up. It’s been two years since I was there. Hope this house survives! These big Aladdin houses don’t do well in college towns. In nearby Williamsburg, Virginia, an Aladdin Colonial was torn down on the William and Mary campus (about 15 years ago).

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

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The Aladdin

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog.

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One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans.

One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans. I just love looking at these old images, and thinking about day-to-day life in early 20th Century America. The house was about 3,000 square feet - which isn't typical for a kit home! And there's a half-bath on the first floor (1922).

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Sfe

Not only does the second floor have two full bathrooms (very unusualy for the 1920s), but the front bathroom has a shower! Now that's high living! (1922 catalog)

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Sounds fancy, too!

Sounds fancy, too! And it mentions that shower on the "front bathroom" (1922).

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What a beautiful house!

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And check out that front door!

And check out that front door!

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In all

I was pretty tickled to find this sweet thing in Charlottesville. To date, it's the only Westwood I've ever seen.

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And check out the detail around that front door.

And check out the detail around that front door.

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And check out that front door!

Nice match, isn't it?

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I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

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If you look down the side, you can see its a good match.

If you look down the side, you can see it's a good match, all the windows are in the right places. It's surprising to see that the columns are still in such good shape. They're almost 100 years old now.

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The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

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But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

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Its sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives.

It's sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives. College towns are notorious "bungalow eaters."

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

Here are some images of the kit homes in Louisa, Virginia.

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Webster Groves: Part V

August 20th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

Last month,

In July, I visited Webster Groves (a St. Louis suburb) and had a good time driving around and looking for kit homes. Friend and fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker knew I was headed to the St. Louis area and did a little reconnoitering for me. It was Rachel that found this GVT #535 (also known as The Roberts) in Webster Groves, sitting - literally - right next to the railroad tracks!

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One of the questions Im most often asked is, How do you find kit homes? Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits, they typically landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

One of the questions I'm often asked is, "How do you find kit homes?" Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits and were shipped by rail (in a single boxcar), they usually landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

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house

The Gordon Van Tine landed right next to the train tracks! If you look at this century-old map, you can see just how close Model #535 (with red star) sat to the Missouri Pacific Railway (yellow line)!

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Probably less than 200 yards, this commuter station

Built in 1892 by the Missouri Pacific Railway, this story-and-a-half commuter station was on the corner of Oakwood and Glen Road. It would have been a short hop (as in, less than 200 yards) from the Gordon Van Tine #535 to this darling little train station.

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The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

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house

The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" was hugely popular for this Iowa-based kit home company.

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And

The inset porch, 2nd-floor bay and hipped roof all work together to make this an easy house to identify. That, with this home's location (right on the tracks) made it mighty easy to find in Webster Groves. Plus, it was probably one of Gordon Van Tine's most popular homes!

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House

What a beauty! And it's all dressed up for July 4th! Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Webster Groves. When I talked to her about this discovery, she told me, "I always start my searches next to the railroad tracks. I found this house within seconds!!"

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And heres another Roberts that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

And here's a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

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Dale Wolicki

Dale Wolicki found this "Roberts" in State College, Pennsylvania.

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Wheeling

Another beautiful "Roberts" in Wheeling, West Virginia, and it's all dressed up for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2012 Frank Harrar and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres one of my favorite Roberts, right here in Norfolk, VA.

And here's one of my favorite "Roberts," right here in Norfolk, VA. (Pictured above is *the* woman responsible for launching "The Smiley Face™" movement!)

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Last but never least, a Roberts in Charleston, WV.

Last but never least, a "Roberts" in Charleston, WV (sans two-story porches).

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Fe

And here's a Gordon Van Tine #535 in Carlinville, Illinois. Notice that this one does not have the upstairs polygon bay, but a flat window in its place. However, it does have the cantilevered supports for the flower boxes (under the first floor windows). How easy it would be to restore those flower boxes! :)

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To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

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Thanks again to Rachel for finding that Gordon Van Tine #535! You can visit Rachel’s website by clicking here.

Learn more about Gordon Van Tine by visiting Dale’s website here.

Rebecca Hunter has an abundance of information on kit homes here.

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