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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 Kit House at Bowling Green State University (Part V)

August 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 17 comments

Depressing update: The house was demolished this morning (Friday, August 10, 2012).  If you’re on the BGSU donations list, PLEASE call the Alumni Center and ask to be permanently removed from the “Donation Call List.” It’d be wise to explain (briefly) why you wish to be removed. The phone number is 888-839-2586.

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Earlier this week, I received an email response from BGSU, explaining why the historically significant kit house on their campus must be destroyed.

The loquacious note I received made two points, both of which make no sense to me.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

Point two: Moving the house to another site is not possible, because (and I’m quoting here), “it would simply fall apart if we attempted such an action.

If they were pitching this “information” to some first-year architecture student, their prolix palaver might be more palatable, but I am not a first-year architecture student.

I am the author of six books on the topic of kit homes. My expert advice has been solicited and provided in two multimillion-dollar lawsuits. My books and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC and BBC Radio. I’ve been interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and 300 other newspapers and magazines.

Turns out, I know a little something about old houses in general, and early 20th Century kit homes in particular.

So let’s review these two points.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

There’s so much that’s wrong with this statement, I’m not sure where to begin.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a solid old building made from superior quality materials harvested from virgin forests is one good reason to save this structure. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a classic example of a Wardway House (sold by Montgomery Ward in 1931) is yet another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of the very last homes that was sold before Wardway Homes closed down their department is - again - another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason…

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of only 25,000 Wardway Homes that were built in the entire country is a good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular (well, you get the idea)…

And perhaps the most important reason is this: The BGSU house was a custom design from Wardway, and the BGSU Popular Culture Building was created in the perfect image and likeness of the Sears Lewiston.

It’s a Sears design (The Sears Lewiston), milled and manufactured by Montgomery Ward.

How many of those have I seen in my travels to 25 states?

Let me think about this for a minute.

Oh wait, there’s only ONE and there’s now a bulldozer poised in front of the house, just waiting to destroy it.

And what about moving it?

Experts have examined the structure and determined that it can be moved for less than $20,000.

Moving this house is a viable, realistic, win-win alternate solution.

So what about this “falling apart” business?

I don’t buy it.

I do not believe that this house would “fall apart” if it were jacked up and moved. Kit homes from this time period were extremely well built and incredibly solid. As mentioned in another blog, these framing members in this house are #1 Southern yellow pine, milled from trees that grew slowly in first growth forests. Slow-growing trees equals very dense lumber.

I’ve examined the lumber in dozens of old kit homes, and it is very dense, hard lumber. Homeowners report that they can’t drive a nail into the old floor joist without pre-drilling a hole. You’d have to see it to appreciate it.

And the “lumber” (and I use that word loosely) that you see stacked high at today’s big box stores doesn’t compare to the quality of lumber present in these pre-WW2 kit homes.

And that’s just the framing members.

The floors in these kit homes were typically oak (first floor), with hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths.

You read that right.

Maple. Solid, hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths. In the late 20s/early 30s, it was known that maple would take a beating in those humid, high-use rooms and last forever. I’ve met homeowners who pull up the old floor coverings in the kitchen and sand down those original maple floors.

They’re mighty pretty when they’re refinished.

That’s what BGSU is getting ready to knock down and send off to the landfill.

And it’s a sickening thought.

If BGSU really wants to destroy this historically significant house, there’s little I can do from my home in Norfolk, Virginia to stop them.

But I do know that they’re wrong about the home’s value: That house still retains a great deal of historical significance to the school, to the community and to the country.

And this house can be moved.

Tomorrow or perhaps early next week, this rare bit of Americana (handcrafted by a rugged individualist who went to the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931, and picked up 12,000 pieces of building material and turned it into a beautiful home), will be transmogrified into 1500 tons of ugly construction debris at an Ohio landfill.

It’s a damn shame.

Just a damn shame.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the homes original builder, stands in front of the house thats now on death row.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the home's original builder, stands in front of the house that's now on death row. You'll notice that the roofline has no sags and no dips. You'll also notice that the body of the house is in remarkably good condition. This house appears to be square and true. And - sans additions - it would not be difficult to move.

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A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

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Disgusting and disturbing.

Disgusting and disturbing. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unb

How many cans and bottles will BGSU have to recycle to compensate for the house they're sending to the landfill? Gosh, I can't count that high. The Wardway House - as offered in 1932 - weighed about 300,000 pounds, not counting the bricks. Id' say that BGSU will probably have to spend 20 years recycling everything in the college to offset this massive house dump they're getting ready to do. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sigh

Unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Just unbelievable.

Just unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If any readers have any ideas what can be done to save this house, please contact me immediately. Leave a comment below and I will respond within the hour.

To read more about the house, click here.

Kit homes get moved surprisingly often. Read about that here.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

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Do You Have 60 Seconds to Save a Sears House? (Part IV)

August 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

I’m saddened to report that the demolition of the Pop Culture House at Bowling Green State University is apparently going forward.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

This, despite a truly valiant effort on the part of BGSU staff and faculty and friends to save this house.

This, despite the presentation of a petition with more than 2,100 signatures to BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey.

The “powers that be” at BGSU apparently prefer that students learn about their history via pricey textbooks and pretty pictures, rather than “hands on.” Given a chance to preserve a piece of true Americana, the college has opted to destroy this “one-of-a-kind” kit house and send hundreds of thousands of pounds of debris to the landfill. (To read about what makes the Pop Culture house truly unique, click here.)

In “The Slate Roof Bible,” author Joseph Jenkins reports that 28% of the volume of debris at landfills is construction and demolition debris.

I’m of the opinion that BGSU should immediately suspend any and all classes related to environmental sciences. They’ve just sent a message - to their community and their students and their staff - declaring boldly that recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.

How many pounds of recycled materials does BGSU collect each year and turn over to a recycling center? How many years of recycling bottles and cans will it take to offset the 300,000+ pounds of house they’re sending to the landfills today?

If a person paid attention to behaviors (which are better indices than fancy words), the take-away message from BGSU is, “Recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.”

To say that I’m sickened and disgusted by this whole affair would be a gross understatement.

Given the tremendous urgency with which this building has been rushed to demolition, you’d think that the Pop Culture House harbored smallpox, diphtheria, spanish flu, anthrax, polio and the bubonic plague.

It does not.

The biggest sin committed by the Pop Culture House is that it stood in the way of a proposed college expansion. The house had the misfortune of being built on a piece of land that would one day be owned by a college that lacks vision, and also lacks respect for this uniquely American piece of cultural and architectural history.

At the very least, the house should have been moved to another site.

Preliminary estimates placed the cost of moving the house at about $18,000. The cost to demolish the structure is probably not far from the cost to move it.

At the very, very least, the lumber in the house should be salvaged. The quality of building materials (lumber) used in this 1931-built home are the likes of which we will never again see in this country. To read more about that, click here.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

It’s a sad day for BGSU.

Very sad indeed.

To read more about this house that will soon be nothing but an empty lot, click on the links below.

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

How to Move a House.

To read an excellent blog that talks more about the ecological importance of preserving this house, click here.

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The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012).

The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward, but was based on a kit home design offered only by Sears Roebuck. The Sears House was the Lewiston.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

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As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows.

As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows. What I do know is it is very sad and a great loss for the community. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another

The picture of the home's side shows the windows being removed. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening.

Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Those asbestos flakes must be pretty smart if they know that they have to stay behind the red tape.

That asbestos must be one smart mineral if it knows that it has to stay behind the red tape. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the homes buyer, builder and first owner.

A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the home's buyer, builder and first owner.

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A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

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Virgils Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware.

Virgil's Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

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A view of Virgils very own front door - from Wards.

A view of Virgil's very own front door - from Wards. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward.

Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward. This reads, "From Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, IA." Orders for Montgomery Ward's homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine in Davenport, Iowa. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family.  (Muncie, IN)

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family. (Muncie, IN)

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To read about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio (safely out of the reach of BGSU), click here.

To contact BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey, send her an email:  mmazey@bgsu.edu

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Move it! Don’t Lose it! (Fourth Update on the Pop Culture House at BGSU)

August 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

You might be surprised to learn how often kit homes are moved from their original site to a new location.

Judging by the frequency with which these homes are picked up and moved, re-locating a kit home must be,

1) A do-able (albeit complicated) process

2) Financially feasible

3) Historically sensible

4) Environmentally brilliant.

The Sears Lewiston (which is actually a custom-built Wardway design) at BGSU is threatened with demolition. It currently houses the Pop Culture program at the college. Lovingly known as “The Popc House,” this structurally sound building may soon be reduced to a 300,000+ pound pile of rubble on August 7th, unless the college (Bowling Green State University) reverses its decision.

The Lewiston’s major crime is being in the way of a proposed college expansion. If you want to read more about the house and its history, please click here (Part I), here (Part II) and here (Part III).

Not only can kit homes be moved, but they should be moved.

The quality of lumber seen in these homes is something not easily described. In fact, I devoted an entire blog to this topic. In short, the lumber for these early 20th Century kit homes was milled from first-growth trees in virgin forests. We’ll never seen lumber of this quality again. Period.

Some preliminary research suggests that the Popc House at BGSU can be moved off campus and to another site for less than $20,000. What are the proposed costs to demolish this house? Probably not terribly far away from that $20,000 mark.

It’s time for the college to make a commitment to its own history, to its alumni, to the community, and last but not least, to the environment, and SAVE the Popc House.

The landfills of America already have enough old houses.

Don’t add one more.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos. The Lynnhaven and the BGSU house are probably similar in size and girth.

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Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

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This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, Virginia at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

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Shadow

The Shadowlawn measures 28' wide and 30' feet deep, not including the substantial porch.

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A Sears kit home (The Gordon) was relocated in Florida (forgot which city) in 2002. The story made the headlines in the local paper.

In 2002, a Sears kit home ("The Gordon") was threatened with demolition. After an uproar from the local citizens, the house was relocated to a new site. The story made the headlines in the regional papers.

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Though not kit homes, more than 50 of these bungalows were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And - this is even better - they were moved in the late 1910s.

Though not "kit homes," more than 50 of these houses (shown here) were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And they were moved in the late 1910s. Let's see: If you can move 50 houses 40 miles 90 years ago, I suspect you could move one house a couple miles today.

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OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, three of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, several of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

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Of the houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk (Virginia), one of them was this

The Penniman/Norfolk houses are shown here, being floated into Norfolk.

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The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving.

The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving. This historically significant home should not be sent to a premature grave.

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

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

If you’d like to send an email to BGSU president (Dr. Mazey), here’s her address: mmazey@bgsu.edu

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

July 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

Update!! This house is now scheduled for demolition on August 7th. Click here to read the latest!

A Sears House from Montgomery Ward?

Yes, it’s true! But the sad news is, it’s slated for immediate demolition.

Friday afternoon, I wrote a blog about the Sears Lewiston* at Bowling Green State University. Currently this old kit house (circa 1932) is home to the university’s “Pop Culture Department.”

According to an article that appeared in the Toledo Blade, Bowling Green State University has decided that the house must go.  A specific date hasn’t been given, but the school wants the building gone before classes begin on August 20th.

An online petition has been created in the hopes of saving This Old House.  Please sign the petition by clicking here!

And in my professional opinion, this house should be saved.

Not just because it’s an historically significant kit house, ordered out of a mail-order catalog and shipped in 12,000 pieces to the Bowling Green Train Depot and assembled by an old family of Bowling Green, using only a 75-page instruction book and 14 pages of blue prints, and not just because it’s a piece of irreplaceable American and a piece of our heritage and culture… (And yet, those should be enough reasons to save this house…)

This little Neo-Tudor in Bowling Green should be saved for two additional (and uniquely compelling) reasons.

1)  The personal story about how this house came to be: This kit house was purchased from Montgomery Ward in late 1931 or very early 1932. The home’s buyer was Virgil Taylor, the son of Jasper and Mae Taylor. Jasper Taylor was the County Treasurer.

Virgil built this kit home on a lot that he’d been gifted by his parents. Imagine, hauling 12,000 pieces of house from the train depot in Bowling Green to the building lot. That, in and of itself, was a monumental task.

Virgil also obtained a mortgage from Montgomery Ward, so this means that the kit house had to “completed and ready for occupancy in four months.”

Virgil had to hustle.

In 1936, the Great Depression must have hit Virgil hard. He lost the house to foreclosure, and it went back to Montgomery Ward. For a short time, Montgomery Ward rented out the little house and then it was sold to the college in the late 1930s.

This is an amazing story because it’s an encapsulation of life during the the early 1930s. Dad wants to help son get a start in life. Dad gives son a free lot. Son buys a kit home, and working nights and weekends, he builds the house. As he builds it (probably working side-by-side with Dad), both men think about the security that “a home of his own” will give to young Virgil.

As he painstakingly drives in each of the many nails in this kit (about 750 pounds of nails), he thinks about growing old in this house, and maybe someday bringing a wife and child into his “home.” And then the Great Depression hits and Virgil loses everything, including his beloved home and the lot his parents gave him. And the happy memories of working with Dad. And the joy of building something with his own hands. And all the faith and hopeful expectation about his future, secure in a home of his own.

All of it gone, washed away by the economic tsunami of the 1930s.

Losing a house is hard. Losing a home that you built with your own two hands must be excruciating.

Now that’s a compelling story, but there’s yet another reason that this house has captured my fancy.

2) Virgil’s house is a Sears kit home (The Lewiston*) and yet it was ordered from Montgomery Ward.

Yeah, you read that right.

This is not unheard of, but it is pretty darn unusual. Apparently, Virgil fell in love with the Sears Lewiston and yet - for reasons we haven’t discovered yet - had an allegiance or connection to Montgomery Ward. Virgil apparently sent a photo of the house to Wards and asked them to build him this Sears House.

When I first heard that this was a Montgomery Ward house, I was a tiny bit incredulous. Dale Wolicki and I co-authored a book (”Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward”), and I can tell you, they never offered a kit home that looked anything like the Lewiston.

And then Raymond I. Schuck sent me some photos (shown below). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward. But it’s not a Ward’s house.

Our priority is saving this house, so please - before you gaze upon the awesome photos below - take a moment and sign this online petition. Please forward this link to every old house lover you know and ask them to do the same. Post the link on your Facebook page. Tweet this page. Spread the word.

This online petition is easy to use and loads fast. This won’t take more than 60 seconds of your time.

* The persistent asterisk is because I’m not sure how to label this house. It’s a Sears Lewiston, ordered from Montgomery Ward.

This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

This is the Sears Lewiston (ordered from Wards) that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

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The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

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And heres one of those interesting turns! This

Lumber inside this "Sears Lewiston" states that the house was ordered from Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, Iowa. Unlike Sears, Montgomery Ward did not have a "Modern Homes Department." All orders for Wardway Homes were turned over to Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company) for fulfillment. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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House

Another piece of lumber shows that the house was shipped to the train depot at Bowling Green, Ohio. The address (128 No. Church Street) was Virgil's home at the time. He lived with his parents prior to building this house. The number (29722) is probably a model number, but it could be an order number. Next to the number is Virgil's name! "V. H. Taylor." Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears Willard shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears "Willard" shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

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And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Tomorrow, I’ll write a blog showcasing a few of the kit homes that Dale found in Bowling Green.

To read one of the many reasons that I think this house should be saved, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.