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In Memoriam: BGSU Popular Culture House

August 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Sears Lewiston/Wardway kit home at Bowling Green State University was destroyed last Friday - and in quite a rush.

This demolition went forward, in spite of an impressive groundswell of support, imploring BGSU president Mazey to delay the demolition for a few days. An online petition (asking Mazey to spare the house) quickly garnered 2,000+ signatures.

Others wrote and called the president’s office, begging them to have the house moved rather than destroyed. The cost to move the structure would have been about $18,000 (not a lot more than the cost of demolition).

All to no avail.

The college administration is probably hoping that all the upset over this old house will die down and be forgotten.

Please, don’t prove them right. Don’t let this singular act of wanton destruction and callous disregard for America’s history be forgotten.

Please think about the Popular Culture program at BGSU, which was housed in this old kit home. Many current and former students left comments at this blog and at the Facebook page, sharing happy memories of their time in this historically significant house.

Please think about Virgil Taylor, who spent countless hours poring over old mail-order catalogs, choosing just the house he wanted. Don’t forget Virgil’s dad (Jasper), who gave him the lot so that Virgil could build his fine Wardway Home.

Don’t forget about those two men, toiling side by side to unload the boxcar that arrived at the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931. The house in that boxcar, a custom order from Montgomery Ward, contained 750 pounds of nails, 10 pounds of wood putty, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 840 square yards of plaster lath, and more. In all, Virgil’s kit home came in a boxcar with more than 12,000 pieces of building materials.

Don’t forget how Virgil and Jasper lugged all those building materials out of the boxcar and into a wagon, and then onto the building site.

Working with a 75-page instruction book, Virgil and his father (and probably other family and friends) worked long hours, assembling their 12,000-piece kit home.

They started work on the house in early November and by late February (1932), they were mostly done. I’m sure a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” went into that house.

And last week, it took one big bulldozer less than a couple hours to reduce Virgil’s home to 1,500 tons of debris, soon to be buried and forever preserved at the local landfill. (By the way, that estimate of 1,500 tons is the approximate weight of the original structure, exclusive of all additions.)

To read earlier blogs on this topic (and learn more about Virgil’s house, click on the links below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

The Sorry Ending

Above all, please don’t forget about the little house that Virgil built.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylors beloved home.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylor's beloved home. As my friend used to say, it takes someone special to build something special. Any jackass can tear down a barn. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house a few days before President Mazey had her way with it.

Virgil's house a few days before BGSU administrators had their way with it. Notice the clean, straight angles on the roof. The house is still square and true, and it's truly reprehensible that the college decided to demolish, rather than relocate the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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It was a fine-looking house. And now its just a memory.

It was a fine-looking house. And now it's just a memory. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house.

Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

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There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house.

There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Despite some serious searching, Ive not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs.  Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is a match to the pattern on the brick exterior.

Despite some serious searching, I've not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs. Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is also seen on the home's brick exterior. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Brick

See the brick pattern over the window? This was found on the lintels (over the window) and also in the front gable, and the fireplace. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another view of the homes interior.

Another view of the home's interior. Note the build-in china hutch. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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In Virgils home, this would have been the dining room.

In Virgil's home, this would have been the dining room. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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An old light fixture in the hallway.

An old light fixture in the hallway. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house arrived from the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with buillinger materials.

Virgil's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with building materials.

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mortgage

When Virgil bought his house, he also obtained a 15-year mortgage from Montgomery Ward. Sadly, he lost his house when Montgomery Ward foreclosed on him (and his wife) in 1936.

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A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures.

A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures. At the center of the page is the traditional Wardway fireplace.

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Virgils house in 1932, soon after completion.

Virgil's house in 1932, soon after completion.

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Virgils house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Virgil's house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Lumber from Virgils house. Photo is

Lumber from Virgil's house. It reads, "29722 (probably a model number), V. H. Taylor, Bowling Green Ohio, 128 No Church Street. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, click here.

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The Impressive Array of Kit Homes in Bowling Green, Ohio

August 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

When my dear friend Dale heard the saga about the threatened demolition of the Pop Culture Building (a mail-order kit home) at BGSU, he offered to send me photos of the other kit homes he’d found in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Bowling Green has an impressive array of kit homes, and I’m confident that there are more than we’ve documented below. For instance, in Rebecca Hunter’s book (Putting Sears Homes on the Map), she found that a Sears Argyle was built in Bowling Green in the 1910s or 20s.

Where is it now?

Either Dale didn’t see it (which is possible, as we rarely have time to examine every house on every street), or the Argyle also got in the way of progress, and met a fate similar to what may befall the Sears Lewiston.

Fact is, colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Seems as though colleges are often positioned in the heart of early 20th Century development, and as they expand and grow, the working-class and middle-class bungalows from the 1910s, 20s and 30s get gobbled up and spit out as landfill rubble.

The Wardway/Sears Lewiston at BGSU is a rarity, and less than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built (from 1909-1932). Even more interesting, based on my research, the Wardway “Lewiston” at BGSU may be the only one of its kind. To learn more about that home’s unique history, click here.

At some point, we need to stop destroying these historically significant homes.

Demolishing old houses is not very environmentally friendly, either. According to “The Slate Roof Bible” (2003, by Joseph Jenkins), 28% of the debris found in landfills is from demolition or remodeling.)

I’m still hopeful that Bowling Green State University will reverse their decision and not send 300,000+ pounds of kit home (sans additions) to the landfill on August 7th.

At the very least, this house should be MOVED and not destroyed.

Special thanks to architectural historian (and co-author) Dale Wolicki for providing the photos of the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio.

To read more about the potentially sad fate of the kit home at BGSU, click here.

UPDATED: To read about the realistically smart idea of MOVING the BGSU house, click here.

To sign a petition to help save this house, click here.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Heres a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Here's a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

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The Sears Willard was a popular house. Heres a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Willard was a popular house. Here's a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. Theres a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut.

Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. There's a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive house (1921).

Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive bungalow (1921).

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The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street.

The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street. You'll notice from the image above, this house is in mostly original condition. This is a rare treat to see these more modest homes unmolested by the asbestos/aluminum/vinyl siding salesmen. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unless its sitting at the landfill, theres also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. Id be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if theyve seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

Unless it's sitting at the landfill, there's also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. I'd be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if they've seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

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It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921).

Notice how the porch floor extends a little bit beyond the primary wall? That is a very distinctive feature, and makes it easier to identify this house.

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And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

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The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because its a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the Popular Culture program.

The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because it's a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the "Popular Culture" program. Photo is courtesy BGSU Pop Culture House. Yesterday (August 1st), the little house apparently borrowed someone's smart phone and using mirrors and lasers, took a picture of itself. This is one remarkable house. And then, the little house posted its own photo on its own Facebook page.

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In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

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Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando.

Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow.

Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow (1924 catalog).

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Another beauty.

Another beautiful bungalow in excellent condition. And it still has its original casement windows. Man, I love this house. Guess it's a good thing it's located safely away from the bungalow-eating state university? Elsewise, it might be feeling a little "disheveled" and living at the landfill. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward.

The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward (1929 catalog).

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Another fine-looking Wardway Home.

Another fine-looking Wardway Home in Bowling Green. Soon, it may be the *only* Wardway home in town. :( Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green.

And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus.

Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus. The house on the left was taken soon after the house was completed in February/March 1932. House on the right is the Sears Lewiston from the 1929 catalog.

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To learn more about the house at BGSU click here.

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