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Posts Tagged ‘bungalow craze’

Permanent Furniture III: Bookcase Colonnades

December 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the early 1980s, my husband and I looked at an Aladdin Shadowlawn for sale in Chesapeake, Virginia. We both fell head-over-heels in love with the solid-oak bookcase colonnades between the living room and dining room.

It was just last week that I learned that, in the early 1900s, these enchanting built-ins were known as “Permanent Furniture.”

“Permanent furniture” (built-in cabinetry) was a brilliant concept. The more “permanent furniture” present in a house, the less “temporary furniture” the new homeowners would need to purchase. And all these built-ins really did make best-possible use of small spaces.

To read more about permanent furniture, click here or here.

As always, thanks to Norfolk historian and librarian Bill Inge for sharing his wonderful old architecture books with moi!

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More than 30 years ago, we looked in the windows of this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, Virginia (near Chesapeake Square Mall) and caught a glimpse of the solid oak built-in bookcase colonnades and fell hopelessly in love. There's something about "permanent furniture" in old houses that still makes me swoon.

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The Aladdin Shadowlawn had beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn came with beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades (1919 catalog).

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These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck Building Materials catalog (1921).

These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck "Building Materials" catalog (1921). Pretty basic and very plain and no shelving or bookcases. And who's Carlton? My guess is that he's someone that wasn't well liked at Sears. Maybe it started out as a practical joke. "Let's name those really boring colonnades after that boring guy, Carlton who never does anything but stand around and look goofy," and before they knew it, the $34 colonnades were listed in the Sears catalog as "Carlton Colonnades."

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1921

For $82.50, you could buy a colonnade that actually had a practical purpose (unlike Carlton).

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The

The Sears Osborn featured these bookcase colonnades with either wooden muntins or leaded glass doors (1919).

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No sooner had I returned Bill Inges 1927 Builders Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure. It was full of - colonnades!

No sooner had I returned Bill Inge's 1927 Builders' Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure, "Building With Assurance; Morgan Millwork." It was full of - colonnades! It was published in 1923.

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And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades.

And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades: "It's an imitation of nature itself." BTW, check out the lovebird logo.

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Nice

Nice way to dress up a doorway!

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These colonnades are simple, but quite attractive. That rug looks like a trip hazard, though. The dining room furniture looks like it came out of a dollhouse. The proportions are skewed.

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Apparently Morgan had their own line of Carlton Colonnades.

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Much more ornate, and bigger bookcases, too. The original caption reads, "This Morgan standardized design offers a fine opportunity for tasty decoration with jardinieres, statuary, bric-a-brac, etc." I had to look up "jardinieres," because I've read a lot of books in my life but I have never seen that word. Turns out, "jardinieres" is a female gardener, allegedly. I'm not sure that even the most progressive 1920s housewife would be too keen on the idea of using built-in bookcases to store female gardeners.

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This one's my favorite: Rugged, sturdy, spacious and a built-in desk, too.

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That desk is pretty cool, even if he does have a lot of bills hidden inside of it.

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Another beautiful colonnade, but in use as a china hutch!

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A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. No foolin'.)

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To read about the Sears Magnolia we found in West Virginia, click here.

To read more about built-ins, click here.

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Wood River, Illinois and “The Chilton”

September 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

For about a dozen years, I lived in Alton, Illinois. In fact, that’s where I researched and wrote The Houses That Sears Built.

Last week, I returned to Alton to visit family.

Of course, I couldn’t resist driving around my old stomping grounds a bit and looking at the old houses. I left the area in Spring 2006. Since then, I’ve acquired many “new” old catalogs and learned a great deal. While in the Riverbend area last week, I made many “fresh” discoveries.

One of the more interesting finds was this Sterling “Chilton” in nearby Wood River, Illinois

Sterling was based in Bay City, Michigan, and was one of six national companies that sold kit homes in the early 20th Century through mail-order catalogs.

They started out life as International Mill and Timber Company, and in 1915, they launched their own line of pre-cut kit homes, and re-named their company, “Sterling Homes.”

Sterling Homes offered construction services for developers and one of their largest clients turned out to be General Motors, which paid for 1,000 houses to be built in Flint Michigan (for GM workers). Their last catalog was printed in 1974. Total sales during their 59 years in business were about 45,000 homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats and facts on Sterling!)

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing me with the scanned images from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog!

Learn more about the history of Sterling Homes by clicking here.

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The Sterling Chilton, from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog.

The Sterling Chilton, from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog.

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Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan, and while they were a national company, they were probably one of the smallest companies selling kit homes through mail order.

Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. During their 59 years in business, they sold about 45,000 pre-cut kit homes. Shown here is the cover of the 1916 Sterling Homes catalog.

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I just love these graphics.

I just love these graphics. And notice the political commentary that was written in by some anonymous soul. Charles Evans Hughes ran against Woodrow Wilson in 1916. He put in a good showing and lost by a mere 594,000 votes. If Hughes had won California, we wouldn't have nearly so many high schools named after Woodrow Wilson.

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The Chiltons

The Chilton had an oversized living room and dining room, and two small bedrooms, one of which had a cedar closet. Notice the "Jack and Jill" bathroom.

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The base of the columns on that Chilton are what make it really stand out! There's been some debate in our Facebook group as to the purpose of those projections on those stuccoed columns. Rachel suggested it was to have a safe place for your beer while you were out mowing the yard. Sounds pretty smart to me.

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While not a spot-on match to the catalog image, I am confident that this house in Wood River is a Sterling Chilton. The front door is easy enough to move, and this is a common alteration. Plus, the house has replacement windows, aluminum siding (ick) and aluminum trim (sigh), so it's possible that it's been subjected to many "improvements."

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View from the other side.

View from the other side. Three windows have been added to the front gable, but the rest of the details on the home's front are very good, including the five brackets and their placement, the broad piece of fascia across the front and the size and shape of the porch wall.

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While the house in Wood River has a few details that are a bit off, this column is a spot-on match, and it's such a unique architectural feature, that I'm willing to bet money that this is indeed the Sterling Chilton.

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The reason for my return to the St. Louis area: My daughter will soon be married to this fine gent. Theyre sitting in front of the gazebo where their wedding will take place.

The reason for my return to the St. Louis area: My daughter will soon be married to this fine gent. They're sitting in front of the gazebo, gazing at the very spot where their wedding will take place.

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As a final note, sometime in 1999 or 2000, my (then) husband and I went to an open house in Alton, IL where we saw this house for sale. Its an Aladdin Magnolia. I drove more than 80 miles, criss-crossing every street in Alton looking for this house but could not find it. If you know where this house is, please leave a comment below. Ill be returning to Alton later for my daughters wedding and would love to get a photo of this house.

As a final note, sometime in 1999, my (then) husband and I went to an open house in Upper Alton, IL (near Edwards Street) where we saw this house for sale. Last month, I was looking through the 1953 Aladdin catalog and re-discovered this house. It's an Aladdin Magnolia, and as soon as I saw the image, I remembered seeing this very same house in 1999. When I was in Alton last week, I drove more than 80 miles, criss-crossing every street in the city, looking for this house but could not find it. If you know where this house is, please leave a comment below. I'll be returning to Alton later for my daughter's wedding and would love to get a photo of this house. Thanks!!

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To join our “Sears Homes” group on Facebook, click here.

To read more about the Aladdin Magnolia, click here.

If you know where that Aladdin Magnolia is, please leave a comment below! And please share this link with your Riverbend Friends!

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Almost as Good as a Magnolia! (Sears Pennsgrove!)

September 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

My website recently hit 750,000 views. That’s a lot of people reading about Sears Homes. And with all those visitors, I also get a lot of “I saw a neighborhood just full of Magnolias” emails.

And yet tonight (Thursday night), someone left a comment, saying that there was a Sears Pennsgrove in their neighborhood. The Pennsgrove is one of those rare kit homes that neither I, nor Rebecca, nor Dale have ever seen. And we’ve been looking!

A Pennsgrove.

In Baltimore.

And much to my surprise, they were right. It was a Sears Pennsgrove. The Pennsgrove was only offered in 1931 and 1932, which is part of the reason it’s so rare. Those were not boom years for American real estate.

The Pennsgrove was truly a beautiful home, and fancy too. It’s spacious (about 2,200 square feet), has a two-car attached garage, and is full of unique features. Driving past this beauty, you’d never guess in a million years that this house came from Sears.

And yet it did.

Many thanks to Tom and Jada for telling me about this splendiferous Sears House in Baltimore. You can visit their website here.

Thanks also to the anonymous, gifted, talented and generous Realtor who so graciously permitted me to use her incredibly beautiful photos.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

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Pretty fancy house for a kit, isnt it? (1932 catalog)

Pretty fancy house for a kit, isn't it? (1932 catalog)

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I love the text in these old catalogs.

"Pleasing proportions, picturesque detail, contrasting surfaces and softly blended colors give the Pennsgrove that rare charm characteristic of the countrysides of Kent and Surrey across the sea."

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Two car attached garage? Wow.

Two car attached garage? Wow. And the garage is big enough to store pine trees, too!

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Small bedrooms, but look at all that busyness off the master bedroom.

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Nice house.

The Pennsgrove, as it appeared in the 1932 catalog.

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And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

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Wow

Gosh, what a house!

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Inisde, the house has some delightful and quirky features.

Inside, the house has some delightful and quirky features, such as this opening onto the staircase. And look at that wood! It looks like the house is mostly in original condition.

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Another view of the entry foyer.

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A cute

This house has two full bathrooms, and in this bath, the original tub remains.

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There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

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dining

Beautiful dining room with original wainscoting.

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Another dormer in an upstairs bedroom.

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What have you got in YOUR neighborhood?

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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The Ferndale: A Charming English Bungalow

April 21st, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

There are many ways to find a Sears House, but Andrew and Wendy Mutch found a very rare Sears House in Ann Arbor using a technique I had never thought about before: Reading the obituaries.

They discovered an obituary for an elderly woman that mentioned the building of a Sears House.  Seems that Helen Bethke and her husband Emil Bethke had built a kit home in 1931, and after enjoying 64 years of wedding bliss, Emil passed on (in 1995).

Andrew and Wendy were able to figure out Mrs. Bethke’s address, but couldn’t readily identify the model. In fact, when I first saw their photos, it took me a few minutes to figure it out.

And that’s because, it’s a model I’ve never seen before.

Now that’s a thrill!  :)

And frankly, the only reason I was able to identify this darling little house was because it was in mostly original condition. Had this beauty been slathered in vinyl siding and aluminum trim, I’d still be scratching my head and wondering.

Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Bethke did a fine, fine job keeping their Sears Fernwood in first-class shape. Let’s hope the home’s next owners follow their worthy example.

Mrs. Bethke’s obit:  On Aug. 31, 1930, Helen married Emil Carl Bethke, and after 64 years of marriage, he preceded her in death in June of 1995. They built their Sears kit home in 1931, and raised their children in that old West Side home on Koch Street.

To learn more about the kit homes in Ann Arbor, click here.

On May 2nd, come to Rose’s lecture in Staunton, Virginia!

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Charming

The Ferndale was only offered for two years, 1929 and 1933. It's shown here in the 1929 catalog.

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Those dark shutters are not only pleasing, but functional!

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It tickles me that the tub on the Ferndale juts out in this floorplan.

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It is indeed a "charming" little house.

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And thanks to Mrs. Bethke, it's still in mostly original condition, looking much like it did when built in 1931. Will the new owners take good care of it, and preserve the original windows, siding and shutters? We can only hope. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Check out the detail around the front porch (1929 catalog).

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Picture perfect! Looks just like the catalog. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Now it's for sale, but 80 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Bethke bought it as a 12,000-piece kit from Sears and Reobuck, and then built their own home. Very impressive. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A view of our darling Fernwood from the other side. If you look at the floorplan above, you'll see it's a perfect match. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the kit homes in Ann Arbor, click here.

On May 2nd, come to Rose’s lecture in Staunton, Virginia!

Want to learn a lot about Sears Homes in a hurry? Join us on Facebook!

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Charlottesville Kit Homes: The Good, The Grand, and The Ugly

April 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

On March 23, 2013, I traveled from Norfolk to Charlottesville to take my ham radio test (and I passed!). Along the way, I stopped at Mineral, Gordonsville and Louisa to look for kit homes.

The best part of finding and documenting these old kit homes is that more than 3/4ths of the people living in these historically significant kit homes did not realize what they had until they discovered that information here at my website (and/or received a note from me). This is a piece of America’s architectural past that’s at risk of being lost to the ages.

Click here to learn more about  how to determine if you have a kit home.

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First, the good.

First, the good. The Sears Glen Falls was a beautiful Dutch Colonial and spacious, too (1928).

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glen falls

At 2,900 square feet, the Glen Falls was just a little smaller than the biggest Sears House of them all - The Magnolia. The Glen Falls was also the second most expensive house that Sears offered (The Magnolia being the most expensive). Notice the butler's pantry (between the dining room and the kitchen). These were unusual features for an early 1920s kit home.

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Is this a Sears Glen Falls?

Is this a Sears Glen Falls? With the paired french doors, it sure looks like s a good match, but I'd need to know the home's exterior footprint to authenticate it.

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First, the good.

And on to the grand! This is a Sears Rockford, one of Sears finer homes. This majestic foursquare was offered only in brick. It's shown here in the 1928 catalog. I've only seen three other Rockfords and all three of them were in Virginia.

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Notice the detail on the columns, and the eave brackets. Also notice the window arrangement.

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And here's a picture-perfect Rockford in Charlottesville. What a grand find! Do the owners know it's a Sears Rockford? I'd love to know.

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Oh my, what a lovely match!

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Rockford

The astute observer might notice that the dormer on the Charlottesville Rockford is just not a perfect match to the original catalog image. I've seen three Rockfords (all in Virginia) and each of these Rockford had a much smaller dormer than is depicted in the catalog's line drawing. Shown above is the Rockford in Cape Charles, Virginia.

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Thanks to K. Edward Lay, Ive learned that theres a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

Thanks to K. Edward Lay, I've learned that there's a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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Also thanks to Ed Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville!  And its the Aristocrat of bungalows!

Also thanks to K. Edward Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville! And it's the "Aristocrat of bungalows!" Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

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Another view!

Another view of the "Aristocratic Bungalow" in Charlottesville, VA. Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

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Before we get to the ugly, lets talk about the mysterious.

Before we get to the "ugly," let's talk about the mysterious. This is a Sears Barrington, a hugely popular house for Sears (1928 catalog). Notice the cornice dormer, the front-gabled foyer and the darling little windows within that gable.

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Well lookie here! Is this a Sears Barrington?

And here's where it gets mysterious. Is this a Sears Barrington in Charlottesville? It sure looks like it could be. Oooh, but wait, look at the half-round door! And the darling little window is squared, not angled (as is shown in the image above). And there's no light over the door. Hmmm. So, maybe it's not a Sears Barrington? Tough to know for sure. It's another house that bears more investigation.

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Here in Virginia, Ive found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses.

Here in Virginia, I've found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses. Shown here is an Aladdin Newcastle, which looks a lot like a Sears Barrington, except, the Newcastle does have that rounded entry door, and there's no light over the door. However, the darling little windows are still not quite right.

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So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington?

So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington? I don't know. I'd love to get inside the house and look at the framing members. You can learn a lot by looking at framing members.

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For instance, if it has a mark like this, its a Sears kit home.

For instance, if it has a mark like this, it's a Sears kit home. This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, told the novice homebuilder how all those 12,000 pieces and parts went together.

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If it has a mark like this, its an Aladdin.

If it has a mark like this, it's an Aladdin.

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And now, the ugly.

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Westly

The Sears Westly was surely one of their most popular designs, and was proably one of their top ten best-selling models. It's a very cute house and has a good floor plan. However, sometimes bad things happen to good Westlys. Image is from 1916 Sears catalog.

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Before we hit the ugly, heres a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is.

Before we hit the ugly, here's a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is. And it's in original condition, too. Not bad for a 90-year-old home.

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Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

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Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, Im 98.765% certain that it is. Ive seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, I'm 98.765% certain that it is. I've seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

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Poor little Westly.

Poor little Westly. There's so much that's wrong with this house. It's kind of an anachronism of bad remodeling practices through the decades. From the T-111 siding on the exterior to the 1980s picture windows to the fake stone facade to the mismatched lanterns on the home's front, this poor house has suffered pretty much every architectural indignity imaginable.

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Whew. That was rough. Back to the good.

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And theres this.

In addition to the kit homes, Charlottesville also has a few "Plan Book" houses. These were different from kit homes. With plan books, you'd browse the pages of the catalog and pick out a house and send off for the blueprints. A complete inventory of all building materials that you'd need came with the deal. The lumber and hardware could then be purchased locally.

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Shown above is a plan book house, The Somerset.

Shown above is a plan book house, "The Somerset."

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And Charlottesville has two of them!

And Charlottesville has two of them!

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Do you know of a kit home in Charlottesville? Please leave a comment below and Rose will respond as soon as possible.

To learn more about how to identify a house based on the lumber markings, click here.

To read about the delightful collection of kit homes in Staunton, click here.

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The World’s Most Beautiful Sears Arlington - in Gordonsville, Virginia

March 28th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, I drove up to Charlottesville for an overnight trip, and I stopped in Mineral, Louisa and Gordonsville.

In Louisa, I found the World’s Most Perfect Kentucky (an Aladdin kit home), and if that had been the only kit home I’d found during the trip, that would have made it all worthwhile, but then I went into Gordonsville and found the World’s Most Beautiful Arlington.

And that made my day even better.

As I was leaving town, I saw an old signal tower on the railroad tracks, and that really was the cherry on the top of my already delightful day.

I’ve seen a lot of towns, but Gordonsville fast became one of my favorite places. It’s small enough to be charming, rich in local history (including railroad history!), and just big enough to be interesting. If it just had a railroad museum, it’d be perfect.

God bless the local citizenry for saving that old signal towel.

Scroll down to see photos of the World’s Most Perfect Arlington.

To read about the World’s Most Perfect Kentucky in nearby Louisa, click here.

And to learn more about what makes Louisa so special, click here.

And look what I found in Mineral (Virginia)!

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The Sears hosues

Most likely, the Sears Homes in Gordonsville came into town right here at the Gordonsville depot. Sadly, this building was torn down sometime in the 1970s or so. I'd be grateful to know an exact date. Just beyond the depot is the signal tower. I'd also be grateful to know how this survived the wrekcing ball. Photo is copyright 2010, C&O Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a thrill to find the signal tower is still standing!

What a thrill to find the signal tower is still standing!

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The Sears Arlington was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow (1919).

The Sears Arlington was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow (1919).

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The Arlington, close up and personal.

The Arlington, close up and personal.

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Be still my heart! What a glorious, gorgeous example of a Sears Arlington!

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And if you look down the side, youll see it has the stair step windows.

And if you look down the side, you'll see it has the "stair step" windows. This Arlington truly is a perfect example, and a large part of the reason it's so perfect is that it retains its original siding and windows.

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Take a look at the original casements on the Arlington.

Take a look at the original casements on the Arlington.

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My oh my, what a beautiful thing to see!

My oh my, what a beautiful thing to see! It even has original WOODEN storms!!

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And just down the road from the Arlington is what I suspect is a Sears Chelsea.

And just down the road from the Arlington is what I suspect is a Sears Chelsea (1908).

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Is this a Chelsea in Gordonsville? Tough to know for sure. My first impression is YES, but Im just not 100% certain. Id love to get inside this house and do a more thorough inspection.

Is this a Chelsea in Gordonsville? Tough to know for sure. My first impression is YES, but I'm just not 100% certain. I'd love to get inside this house and do a more thorough inspection.

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A sneak peak of the beautiful Kentucky I found in Louisa.

A sneak peak of the beautiful Kentucky I found in Louisa.

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To read more about that beautiful Kentucky, click here.

To learn more about how you can support the good work of the C&O Historical Society, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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“The Kentucky” in Louisa, Virginia

March 22nd, 2013 Sears Homes 7 comments

Aladdin was probably the biggest of the six national companies that sold kit homes through mail order. And here in Virginia, the majority of kit homes I’ve found are Aladdins. This is probably due to the fact that Aladdin had a huge mill in Wilmington, NC.

Earlier, I drove out to Charlottesville (from my home in Norfolk), and I took Route 33 so that I could look for kit homes. I’d about given up on finding anything in Louisa when I turned down a sleepy little road about four blocks from the train station and look what I found!  It’s an Aladdin Kentucky.

I’d been hoping to see one “in the flesh” for some time, and this one in Louisa is in WONDERFULLY original condition!

To read about another beautiful kit home I found in nearby Gordonsville, click here!

Click here to see what I found in Mineral (Virginia)!

To read about another “Kentucky” (in Mechanicsville, Iowa), click here.

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The Kentucky, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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The Kentucky was offered in two floorpllans, small andl arge.

The Kentucky was offered in two floorplans, small and large. This house was 43' wide!!!

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Fine-looking house, isnt it?

Fine-looking house, isn't it?

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Be still my heart. Here it is, alive and well in Louisa, VA.

Be still my heart. Here it is, alive and well in Louisa, VA. It's rare to find a 100-year-old house still in original condition. This house has its original doors, windows and sidings!

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The Kentucky is a very wide house!

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Close-up on the details.

Close-up on the details. I love those windows!

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Many years ago, someone planted a pair of oaks squarely in front of the house.

Many years ago, someone planted a pair of oaks squarely in front of the house.

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Alad

Close-up on the catalog image shows detail of the columns, doors and window.

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It is

This Kentucky looks much like it did when built in 1914.

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Easily one of the best matches Ive ever seen - and its in Louisa, VA!

Easily one of the best matches I've ever seen - and it's in Louisa, VA!

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In addition to the Aladdin Kentucky, I also found this cute little bungalow in Louisa. This image is from the 1923 Aladdin catalog.

In addition to the Aladdin Kentucky, I also found this cute little bungalow in Louisa. This image is from the 1923 Aladdin catalog. This was the Aladdin "Cape Cod" (model name).

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What a nice match to the catalog page!

What a nice match to the catalog page!

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The Aladdin Madison was a very poplar house for Aladdin. In this graphic (1923 catalog), it was called The Lindbergh.

The Aladdin Madison was a very poplar house for Aladdin. In this graphic (1928 catalog), it was called "The Lindbergh."

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This house was offered with two floorplans.

This house was offered with two floorplans. The Madison in Louisa was the larger of the two floorplans, with the extra window on the home's front, and the two bump-outs in the rear.

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Heres the Madison in Louisa! Another lovely match!

Here's the Madison in Louisa! Another lovely match!

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To learn more about why these kit homes are historically significant, click here.

To read about the kit homes in Staunton,VA, click here.

And to learn more about why Louisa is so historically significant, click here.

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Coming Out Of The Closet: Murphy Beds

November 12th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn about breakfast nooks, click here.

Read about The Sorlien Ceiling Bed here!

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

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

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Interior views of The Cinderella (1921).

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

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

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

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

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right order here

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

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

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

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Calumet also

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

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

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Close-up on the Murphy Bed in the Calumet.

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

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Aladdin Sonoma (1919)

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

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

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

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And despite those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

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

To read the next awesome blog, click here.

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

Youtube demonstration of a real Murphy Bed (1916).

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The Belmont: Practical and Graceful

July 6th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In February 2010, I was in Mattoon, Illinois doing research for my book, The Sears Homes of Illinois.

My friend (old house lover and local historian) Joyce St Michael spent the day with me as we tooled around Mattoon and Charleston. Joyce drove me to this darling little bungalow and said, “Rebecca Hunter was here a few years ago and she said this is a Sears Belmont.”

Rebecca was right!

And it’s a beautiful house in mostly original condition.

Perhaps even more interesting, this is the only Sears Belmont that I’ve seen.

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As seen in the 1920 catalog.

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Close-up of the floor plan.

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The Belmont in Mattoon, IL.

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And there are Bel

And there are Belmonts in these cities, too!

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Close-up of the house.

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Comparison of the catalog pic and actual house.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Aunt Addie’s exhumation, click here.

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The Jefferson: A True Example of Southern Colonial Architecture

June 12th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

For 12 years, I’ve been looking hard for the Sears Jefferson. This style of house is fairly popular and look-alikes aren’t too hard to find.

However, the genuine article, the Sears Jefferson is very difficult to find.

In fact, the only one I know of is in Carbondale, Illinois, and I didn’t find it. Rebecca Hunter did.

When I visited the Jefferson in person, my biggest surprise was the lead-glass window over the front door. You don’t find those too often in kit houses. This was a fancy house and it came with all the accoutrements.

To learn more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the Aladdin Villa, click here.

The Sears Jefferson (1936 catalog).

The Sears Jefferson (1936 catalog).

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Fancy writing for a fancy house!

Fancy writing for a fancy house!

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Spacious, too.

Spacious, too. The Jefferson had more than 2,400 square feet.

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A close-up of the house (1936 catalog).

A close-up of the house (1936 catalog).

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And here it is in Carbondale.

Carbondale's "Jefferson" is a perfect match, down to the details. Notice the railings.

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Another angle

The Jefferson is perfectly symmetrical with nine windows on the front. Most of the "look-alike" houses I've seen have paired windows. And many have a small parade porch centered on the second floor (over the front entry). Lastly, pay attention to the entry.

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Close-up on that fancy entry to the Jefferson.

Close-up on that fancy entry to the Jefferson.

To read the next fascinating blog on Sears Homes, click here.

To hear an amazing story about my amazing Aunt Addie, click here.

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