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Do You Have 60 Seconds To Save A Sears House? (Part III)

July 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Sears Lewiston (ordered from Montgomery Ward) in Bowling Green, Ohio is threatened with immediate demolition. As of this writing (July 31, 2012), the house is scheduled to be razed on August 7th.

Click here to read Part I and Part II of this story, which gives more background on the house and its original buyer/builder.

To sign a petition to help save the house, please click here. The goal is to garner 2,000 signatures. We’re getting very close. Your signature could make the difference.

The Sears Lewiston/Wardway Home is in the way of a proposed expansion at Bowling Green State University. Currently, this classic Neo-Tudor houses the college’s “Popular Culture Program.”

There are several reasons that this house is historically significant and should be saved.

For one, it’s real rarity in the world of kit homes.

We’ve now determined that this Sears Lewiston was not ordered from Sears, but from Montgomery Ward. It seems likely that Virgil H. Taylor (the home’s buyer and builder) had connections at Montgomery Ward.. Perhaps he sent them the catalog page from the Sears Modern Homes catalog, featuring the Sears Lewiston, and asked Montgomery Ward to “custom build” that model - just for him.

And apparently, they obliged. To learn more about why this house is a rarity in the world of kit homes, click here.

Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit home business. Wardway, by contrast, sold fewer than 25,000 kit homes.

That’s one of the reasons it’s such a thrill to find a Wardway Home that was modeled after a Sears Lewiston. Wardway Homes are a limited edition. How many Wardway Homes are there that are a perfect replica of a Sears Lewiston?

Probably just one. And unless BGSU reverses its decision to destroy this house, it’ll soon be just another pile of rubble sitting at the landfill.

Enjoy the photos that tell the story of Virgil’s custom-built Wardway Home. Designed by Sears. Copied by Wards.

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Unlike most home buyers, Virgil didnt start with the Wardway Catalog. He started with the Sears catalog.

Unlike most Wardway Home buyers, Virgil didn't start with the Wardway Catalog. He started with the Sears catalog.

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Virgil seemed to have fallen in love with a model found only in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, The Lewiston.

Virgil seemed to have fallen in love with a model found only in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, The Lewiston.

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In the Wardway catalog, Montgomery Ward promised that custom designs were no problem.

In the Wardway catalog, Montgomery Ward promised that "custom designs" were no problem.

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But the small print didnt say anything about designs from Sears and Roebuck!

But the small print didn't say anything about designs from Sears and Roebuck! All Wards needed was a photo, which Virgil may have cut out of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is what makes Virgil's house such a treasure. It came from both Sears and Wards - in a way! In my 12 years of searching, I've only found two other instances where this occurred.

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people

There in Ohio, Montgomery Wards had "a complete unit of our Field Service Organization to work with people like Virgil.

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Maybe Virgil got to meet The Wardway Man.

Maybe Virgil got to meet "The Wardway Man," who bore a stunning resemblance to James Cagney.

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Virgil was building a custom home - from the standpoint of Montgomery Ward. He was able

Virgil was building a custom home - from the standpoint of Montgomery Ward. And while it was patterned after the Sears Lewiston, it would be outfitted with several tell-tale Wardway features, such as door hardware, millwork, plumbing fixtures, etc.

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In 1932, Virgil H. Taylor pored over this instruction book, to figure out how to turn that 12,000-piece kit into something resembling a house.

When Virgil's house arrived in late 1931, Virgil pored over the 70+ page instruction book, struggling to figure out how to turn that 12,000-piece kit into something resembling a house.

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Virgil obtained a Wardway mortgage for his Wardway home. The 15-year mortgage came with a 6% interest rate and (typically) 25% downpayment. The lot could suffice as the 25% downpayment.

Virgil obtained a Wardway mortgage for his Wardway home. The 15-year mortgage came with a 6% interest rate and (typically) 25% down payment. The lot could suffice as the 25% down payment. The lot was apparently a gift from Virgil's father.

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This story is interesting for so many reasons, and heres a biggie. Virgil worked for the Sentinel Tribune as an advertising rep. And on March 1, 1932, a couple weeks before Wardway Homes closed down, this ad appeared in the Sentinel Tribune.

This story is interesting for so many reasons, and here's a biggie. Virgil worked for the "Sentinel Tribune" as an advertising rep. And on March 1, 1932, a couple weeks before Wardway Homes closed down, this ad appeared in the Sentinel Tribune. I'm not even sure what to make of that.

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Montgomery Ward had a requirement that the house be substantially complete and ready for occupancy four months after materials were received. Virgils 12,000 pieces of house were dlievered to the Bowling Green train station in early November 1931. This picture was taken soon after the house was completed.

Montgomery Ward had a requirement that the house be "substantially complete and ready for occupancy four months" after materials were received. Virgil's 12,000 pieces of house were delivered to the Bowling Green train station in early November 1931. This picture was taken soon after the house was completed. In the foreground, you can see that the yard has not been landscaped or seeded.

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Wardway did good. Virgils house was a spot-on match to the Sears Lewiston.

Wardway did good. Virgil's house was a spot-on match to the Sears Lewiston.

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Pretty darn impressive, in fact.

Pretty darn impressive, in fact. And I *love* it that the house in the old photo was taken from the SAME angle as the Sears Lewiston.

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Virgils door knobs

Inside the house, you'll find pristine examples of original Wardway Hardware, such as these "Rexford Door Knobs." (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Schucks and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house door

Wardway Homes were quite elegant. They did have pretty doors.

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door

And here's the door that ended up on Virgil's "custom-designed" Wardway Home.

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detail on door

Eighty years later, it's still a fine-looking door. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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detail on hinge

I love the detail given in the catalog images (1931 catalog).

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house hinge

And here's the Wardway hinge on Virgil's home. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hardware on door

The original lock set (1931 catalog).

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All that remains

All that remains is the deadbolt escutcheon. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house house house

hThese were solid homes, made with first-growth lumber from virgin forests. It's a quality of lumber and building materials that we will never again see in this country. To send it off to the landfill is a sin.

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house house house

Inside the house, the lumber is marked, "From Montgomery Ward and Company, Davenport, Iowa." (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Schucks and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house house house

This plan shows the name of the buyer and the train depot to which the kit home was shipped. The address below is address of Virgil's parents, where Virgil lived when he placed the order. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Schucks and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Today, Virgils house is threatened with demolition. Please visit the link at the top of the page and save the petition that can HELP save this house.

Today, Virgil's house is threatened with demolition. Please visit the link at the top of the page and sign the petition that can HELP save this house. Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

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According to “The Slate Roof Bible” (Joseph Jenkins, 2003), construction and demolition debris make up 28% of the volume at landfills. The “greenest” thing that BGSU can do is to restore the house and let it remain at its current location. The second greenest thing would be to relocate the original structure to another site.

One thing is for sure: Our landfills do *not* need another historically significant house.

Click here to read Part I and Part II of this blog.

Click here to sign the petition.

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