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Posts Tagged ‘Cairo Illinois’

The Sears Bandon: Neat, Practical And Modern

January 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Sears Bandon is a rare bird indeed. The only one I’ve ever found was in Pulaski, Illinois, not far from the Sears Lumber Mill in Cairo, Illinois. That mill was the site of a 40-acre mill where Sears created and produced up to 250 pre-cut kit homes per month. It was a tremendous operation with more than 100 employees at its peak, and 20 acres of outbuildings.

It was also the site of “The Experiment.” Click here to see the only remnant of the Sears Mill in Cairo.

In 2001, whilst doing research on  Sears Homes at the Cairo Public Library, I stumbled across a little item in their vertical file about a Sears Bandon built in nearby Pulaski. Later that day, I hopped into the car and drove out to Pulaski and found my Bandon on the main drag through town. It was perfect in every way.

In March 2010, when I traveled to Illinois to do research for my newest book (”The Sears Homes of Illinois“), I went back to Pulaski to get newer/better photos. While standing on this main drag in this tiny town, I had three people stop and ask me if I needed help.

Speaking as a former long-time resident of Illinois, I don’t miss those long, cold Illinois winters, but I surely do miss the kind, generous, hard-working folks of small-town Midwestern America. They’re truly the crème de la crème of our country.

Below is the information I found in the vertical files at the Cairo Public Library;

The house (identified specifically as the Sears Bandon) was built in 1921. According to this document, the lumber for this kit home was shipped from the Sears mill in Cairo. It gave the following costs:

Cost of The Bandon $2794.00
Plaster (extra)  $133.00
Material to finish attic rooms  $241.00
Complete hot water heating system  $403.66
Wire and light fixtures  $133.66
Labor for carpenter (including masonry work)  $1600.00

Total $5305.32

This document also stated that, in 1924, a Sears Cyclone Barn (shipped from Cairo, IL) was built on the property. The kit barn cost $943.00.

Is there a Sears Home in your neck of the woods? Please send photos to Magnolia2047@gmail.com.

Enjoy the photos!

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasnt it more popular? Ive only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois.

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasn't it more popular? I've only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois (image is from 1921 catalog).

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It had a very busy floor plan. Note

It had a very busy floor plan, and it's the only house I've ever seen with a "dining porch." This room - which jutted out from the rest of the house - had ventilation on three sides, and seven windows.

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Close

Close-up of the floorplan shows how busy this house is! Look at the kitchen! The ice box was in the staircase landing. And the kitchen was oh-so tiny!

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And it was a fine-looking house!

And it was a fine-looking house!

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And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

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Nice, isnt it?  :)

Nice, isn't it? :)

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house

The 1921 catalog image included this thumbnail from straight--on.

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Pretty, pretty house!

Pretty, pretty house! While southern Illinois does have some of the nicest people, it also some of the worst, mean, loud and scary-looking dogs! These dogs never did stop barking!

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The  Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

The Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

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Its perfect! Down to the details!!

It's perfect! Down to the details!!

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And its in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

And it's in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

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From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

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As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

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The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

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Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

To learn more about how to identify these homes, click here.

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Quite Possibly, The Most Beautiful Elsmore in the World

December 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Elsmore was a hugely popular house for Sears, and it was probably one of their top five best selling models.

Since all sales records were destroyed during a post-WW2 corporate housecleaning at Sears, it’s hard to know for sure, but I do know that I’ve seen a whole lot of Elsmores in my travels.

Earlier this year, I posted another blog on the Elsmore (click here to see that), but I was inspired to post a second blog, due to this home’s incredible popularity and also because Cindy Catanzaro found and photographed one of the prettiest (and most well-cared-for) Elsmores that I’ve ever seen.

To read more on the Elsmore, click here.

Refinement and Comfort here.  How elegant sounding!

"Refinement and Comfort here." Sounds lovely!!

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Heres an Elsmore that was built in Cairo, IL not far from the spot where Sears had their 40-acre mill.

Here's an Elsmore that was built in Cairo, IL not far from the spot where Sears had their 40-acre lumber mill. This Elsmore, built at 1501 Commerce Avenue, was torn down pre-2001. I visited Cairo then and went looking for this house, but 1501 Commerce was an empty lot at that point. How many Sears Homes in Cairo have been razed? It's a vexing question.

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Another vintage Elsmore.

Another vintage Elsmore. This one was in Glenshaw, PA (1919 catalog).

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This is one of my favorite Elsmores. Its in Park Ridge, Illiois. Picture perfect in every way. Photo is copyright 2010, Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

This is one of my favorite Elsmores. It's in Park Ridge, Illinois. Picture perfect in every way. Photo is copyright 2010, Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Visit Dale’s website by clicking here.

And the crème de la crème

And the crème de la crème. Cindy Catazaro found this house in Oakwood Ohio and it has been lovingly and faithfully restored. The house has obviously had some "renovations," but they've been done in a thoughtful, sensitive manner. I'm so impressed to know that there are people in the world who love their Sears House *this* much! Photo is copyright 2012, Cindy Catazaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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An mini-Elsmore? It might be a trick of the eye, but it appears this Elsmore in Walnutport, PA is a little narrower than the catalog version.

An skinny mini-Elsmore? It might be a trick of the eye, but it appears this Elsmore in Walnutport, PA is a little narrower than the catalog version. The window arrangement is also a little different. I'd love to know the history behind this house. Photo is copyright 2012 Angela Laury and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Elsmore, as it appeared in the later 1910s and 20s was actually a remodel of this

The Elsmore, as it appeared in the later 1910s and 20s was actually a remodel of Modern Home #126, which was first offered in the 1908 (first) Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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If you compare the two floorplans, youll see how similar they really are.

If you compare the two floorplans, you'll see how similar they are. This is the floorplan for the Sears Modern Home #126 (1908). Notice the size of the rooms and placement of windows.

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Floor

And here's the floorplan for the Elsmore (1916). The chamfered corners are gone and the front porch is different, but the rest of the house is the same, down to window placement and room size. The front porch roof on Modern Home #126 (with cantilevers) *always* sagged due to its fantastic weight. Not a good design. The changes to the Elsmore porch fixed that problem.

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Thanks to Cindy Catazaro and Dale Wolicki for providing such beautiful photos!

To read more about the Elsmore, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Did you enjoy this blog? Please take a moment and leave a nice comment below. I’m living on nothing but love.

:)

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The Niota: 1200 Square Feet For $942

April 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Not a bad deal to buy 1,200 square feet of kit house for less than $1,000, even in 1916!

The Sears Niota - despite its being a good value and a cute house - was not a popular model for Sears.  And yet, according to a small promotional ad that appeared in the 1916 catalog, the Niota had been built in Elmhurst, IN, Westerville, Ohio, Indianapolis, IN, Napleton, MN and Springfield, MO.

And in Wood River, Illinois, too.

The house was offered in StoneKote, which was Sears own stucco-type covering. As with most of the kit homes, buyers could opt for stucco, block, brick, stone or wood. Today, way too many of these homes are now covered with substitute sidings (such as aluminum or vinyl), which makes identification even more difficult.

To read more about the many Sears Homes in Wood River (and Amoco), click here.

Niota

One might hope that those columns are a unique feature to help in identifying the Sears Niota, and yet sometimes, they get removed (1916 catalog).

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Niota catalog 1916

The kitchen was so small you'd have to step out to the porch to change your mind. Lots of rooms on this first floor, and they're all pretty modest.

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niota fp

At least the bedrooms have closets. That's a plus.

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niota

Close-up of the Sears Niota.

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niota wood river

And here it is, in Wood River, Illinois. Notice that those unique columns have been chopped off at the roofline and also covered in that hideous house-hiding PVC material, known as "vinyl siding." The original columns - poking through the porch ceiling as they did - were probably prone to roof leaks and all manner of maintenance problems.

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Niota more

Niotas were built in several places in the Midwest. It'd be fun to see pictures of these Niotas.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about my Aunt Addie, click here.

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Married By Commerce; Divorced By The Interstate

January 15th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, the Sears Mill at Cairo, Illinois was an impressive operation, covering 40 acres and employing about 80 full-time workers. About 20 acres were “under roof.” In other words, the site had 20 acres of buildings.

That’s a lot of buildings.

Each day, the railroad cars brought enormous quantities of yellow pine and cypress into the mill, right out of the virgin forests in Louisiana and Mississippi. The 80 employees turned those logs into 10-12 kit homes per day, and each pre-cut home had 12,000 pieces of lumber. That’s a lot of lumber and a lot of work.

The mill (actually in a tiny town just outside of Cairo) was in Urbandale, Illinois. It was located on “Sears and Roebuck Road.” When the interstate came through in the 1970s, it cut a wide swath right through Sears and Roebuck Road, creating two stretches of dead end street on either side of I-57.

On one side, it’s now known as Sears Road. On the other, it’s Roebuck Road.

And on Roebuck Road, there’s another bonus: The Sears Wexford.

A Sears House on Roebuck Road. Or maybe it’s a Roebuck house on Roebuck Road?

Either way, Garmin apparently never got the memo that Sears Roebuck Road had been sliced into two pieces.

And to hear the song that inspired blog’s title, click here:  Married By The Bible, Divorced By The Law.

Special thanks to long-time Cairo resident Richard Kearney, who gave up a day of his life to be my tour guide throughout this area.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Garmin never got the memo about the divorce of Sears and Roebuck Road.

Garmin never got the memo about the divorce of Sears and Roebuck Road.

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Sears

Sears Road is right off of State Highway 37 in Urbandale, IL.

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And Roebuck Road is on the other side, accessible by Seven Mile Road. Note the little Sears Wexford, waving merrily from the background!

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Close up of the Sears Wexford (also known as the Bridgeford) on Roebuck Road.

Close up of the Sears Wexford (also known as the "Bridgeford) on "Roebuck Road."

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Original catalog image of the Sears (and Roebuck) Wexford (from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

Original catalog image of the Sears (and Roebuck) Wexford (from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog). The house in Urbandale is a spot-on match!

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Comparison of the two houses.

Comparison of the two images.

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This item appeared in the February 1912 issue of American Carpenter and Builder, annoucing the opening of the new mill at Cairo.

This item appeared in the February 1912 issue of American Carpenter and Builder, announcing the opening of the new mill at Cairo.

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Close up of the text.

Close up of the text.

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The only thing that remains at the site of the old Sears Mill are these two Rodessas, built about 1918, to demonstrate the superiority of Sears pre-cut homes. One house was built using traditional methods (stick built, with all pieces cut by hand), and the other Rodessa was a pre-cut Sears Home.

The only remnant of the old 40-acre Sears Mill in Cairo/Urbandale are these two Rodessas, built in 1918, to demonstrate the superiority of Sears pre-cut homes. One house was built using traditional methods (stick built, with all pieces cut by hand), and the other Rodessa was a pre-cut Sears Home.

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The Rodessa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Rodessa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

To read about Addie Hoyt, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Truth, Justice, and The American Way (of Building Sears Homes)

May 5th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Superman was in the news in late April (2011), because he renounced his citizenship as an American citizen, and proclaimed himself to be more of a globalist.  Less than a week later, the floodwaters rose in Metropolis, Illniois (near Cairo), causing untold heartache and damage.

Unfortunately, Metropolis has never had the available cash to build a levee around their own little River City.

And now their favorite son - Superman - is no longer an American hero.

Perhaps it’s time to change the engraving on the base of Superman’s statue to, “Truth, Justice and the United Nation’s Way.”

Seems more fitting, and incredibly sad.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read more about nearby Cairo, click here.

Superman stands proud and tall in Metropolis

Superman stands proud and tall in Metropolis

Sears Westly from the 1919 catalog

Sears Westly from the 1919 catalog

Sears Westly in Metropolis

Sears Westly in Metropolis

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in Northern Illinois, click here.

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Cairo: Another View

May 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In Spring 2010, I traveled to Cairo, Illinois to do research for my book, The Sears Homes of Illinois. In Cairo, I met up with a dear friend, Richard Kearney, who was kind enough to spend an entire day with the affable author (that’d be me).

Richard, a lifelong resident of Cairo, gave me the full tour of his city, and I learned so much from his colorful commentary and comprehensive knowledge. I’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of local historians, and my day with Richard was one of the top five most enjoyable (and interesting) days.

I’ve asked Richard to write something for my blog, and below are his comments.

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Cairo is a historical river town and it’s also my home town. I’m a native of Cairo, and I’ve lived here in Cairo for more than five decades. It’s a puzzle to me how anyone can argue that we should let a city - filled with people and houses and history - be lost to the floodwaters, in order to spare open farmland.

The Birds Point Flood Way was established in 1928 to protect Cairo and other cities that sit along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Flooding has been a problem ever since Illinois was first settled, and these recurring floods are one of the reasons we have such rich soil for farming. The Flood Way is, by design and location, a safety valve created to drain away flood waters that would swamp our cities.

And right now, Cairo needs that safety valve.

Cairo holds many memories for me, but it’s also a treasure trove of national memories, and important events that should be preserved and protected and shared with people throughout this country.

For instance, how many people know that General Grant established his headquarters in Cairo? The Civil War’s most famous general stayed in Cairo’s Halliday Hotel from September 1861 to April 1862. In 1880, Grant returned to Cairo for a visit and stayed at the Magnolia Manor (built in 1869).

Another important historical location is our Customs House Museum which is filled with fascinating artifacts. This grand old structure was designed by Alfred B. Mullet and built in 1872 (on a site chosen by Stephen Douglas), and contains Civil War memorabilia (such as Grant’s desk and a Civil War era Fire Wagon) and local history items, too.

Cairo is also home to the Sears Mill that operated from 1911 to 1940. It was Sears largest mill, covering more than 40 acres. About 20 acres were “under roof.” Because of the mill, Cairo has more than three dozen Sears Homes within its borders.

In its early years, Cairo was thought to be the future “gateway to the west,” and as such, earned an honorable mention in James Michener’s novel, “Centennial.”  The Illinois Central Railroad ran through Cairo, as did three other major rail lines. The very rivers that cause us so much heartache today once brought us commerce and industry. Cairo is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi, and for years, this country relied on shipping traffic to move goods and people from Point A to Point B. Cairo was the hub of much of that shipping activity.

There’s still much life left in this little city. It’s not dead yet, and I believe that - with visionary guidance and progressive ideas - Cairo could be resurrected and revived and again become a thriving river city.

Cairo may look a little rough around the edges to the unenlightened, but this is our home, and it’s also home to much of America’s earliest history. And it’s worthy of being spared the full-scale ruination of rising flood waters.

SearsThe billboard at the city’s border.

Cairo, Illinois: Can This City Be Saved?

May 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Despite a last-minute plea from desperate Missourians, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plan to flood 132,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland will go forward. Flooding the farms will spare the tiny town of Cairo, Illinois, population - 2,800.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that as of yesterday (Saturday, April 30th), floodwaters in Cairo crested at 59.2 feet, and have now reached 59.8 feet (as of 3:40 pm, EST). If the levees in Cairo give way, the town will be flooded. Opening up levees on the farmland in Missouri will spare Cairo, and ruin the farmland for years.

The Chicago Tribune is also reporting that crops have already been planted on some of the farms that will be inundated with this “man-made tsunami,” destroying the crops and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to the local farmers. In addition, about 100 homes would be lost.

Cairo is an interesting little town, and was full of history, but much of their historically significant architecture is gone, and the remnant is in poor condition. A few grand old manses remain, but they’re the exception. Most of the businesses and all of the industry left long ago. Cairo’s downtown is a ghost town, and a virtual trip back in time to the 1960s. To learn more about Cairo’s history, click here.

We’ve got to protect our farms. With the rising costs of food, it’s time to start showing a little respect to the few family farms we have left in this country, many of which are in Missouri.

This time, it might be best to let Cairo be the sacrificial lamb, rather than lose our farmland.

Pictures of Cairo are below.

Entrance to Cairo
Entrance to Cairo. The old flood gates are no longer in working, but the old rivers still work really, really well.

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Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

down

Downtown Cairo. The barricade is presumably there to protect citizens from collapsing buildings. You'll notice the building on the far right has mostly fallen in on itself. This photo was taken about 11 am in the morning. This is the morning rush hour in downtown Cairo.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

Hospital in Cairo

Is there a doctor in the house?

School

School's out for summer. And for the rest of time.

More views

Capt'n Wades appears to be the only viable business in the whole of downtown. However, this photo was taken in 2003, and when I was there in 2010, this building was collapsing.

Another view

Another store in downtown Cairo, complete with a 1960s Maytag sign.

views

Another view of downtown Cairo. All these stores back up to the Ohio River, and they're all now empty, waiting for nothing fancier than time to take them down. Visiting downtown Cairo really is like taking a step back to another time. Cairo was abandoned - in a hurry in the mid 1960s - when race riots decimated the city. The city went from a population of 13,000+ to 2,800 (current) in a very short time. The business owners and captains of industry are the ones who fled the city, taking their businesses with them.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three houses in a row.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three burned out houses in a row.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Farmland 0, Cairo 1 (Second Update)

May 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 24 comments

Monday night (May 2), they finally did it. The Army Corp of Engineers blew the levees at Birds Point in Southeast Missouri, flooding 200 square miles of Missouri’s best farmland. The farms - those silly patches of black dirt where we produce the food that keeps us alive - were sacrificed in order to save the tiny town of Cairo, Illinois.

And the very next day, the lawsuits started.  On May 3rd, a class action lawsuit was filed against the Army Corps of Engineers. Farmers and property owners, represented by attorney J. Michael Ponder (Cape Girardeau, MO), allege that the 15-foot tall man-made tsunami destroyed (and will destroy) more than 100,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland.

The lawsuit claims that 5th Amendment rights are at stake, which offer legal protection for landowners before government can take private property. According to an article that appeared this afternoon on the PR Newswire, the cataract of water is flowing onto the farms at the rate of 550 feet per second, and (as one would imagine), it’s causing catastrophic consequences.

According to Monday’s Southeast Missourian, flood levels in Cairo reached historic highs on Monday night when the gauge hit 61 feet, shattering old records set 74 years ago. In February 1937, the rivers rose to 59.5 feet in Cairo, Illinois. Think about that for a moment. This flood of 2011 is breaking all known records.

The blown levees are good for Cairo; bad for the farmland in Missouri which experts say will be ruined for years. Midwestern farmland owes its fertility to those spring-time floods of yore, but this is not the way Mother Nature does things. When those levees were blown, that 15-foot wall of water brought with it sand and river-laden debris and all manner of pollutants found in flood waters. Experts predict it could take years for the farms to become productive again.

The Chicago Tribune reported that crops have already been planted on some of these farms that are now being inundated with this “man-made tsunami,” destroying the crops and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to the local farmers. In addition, as many as 100 homes could be destroyed by this plan.

Cairo is an interesting little town, and was full of history, but much of their historically significant architecture is gone, and the remnant is in poor condition. A few grand old manses remain, but they’re the exception. Most of the businesses and all of the industry left long ago. Cairo’s downtown is a ghost town, and a virtual trip back in time to the 1960s. To learn more about Cairo’s history, click here.

We’ve got to protect our farms. With the rising costs of food, it’s time to start showing a little respect to the few family farms we have left in this country, many of which are in Missouri.

This time, I think it would have been wiser to let Cairo be the sacrificial lamb, rather than lose our farmland.

To read the opinion of a Cairo native, click here.

To read a happy story about a happy town, click here.

Pictures of Cairo are below.

Judging by all the vines, its likely that these flood gates no longer work, but the rivers still work really, really well.

Judging by all the vines, it's likely that these flood gates no longer work, but the rivers still work really, really well.

Community services anyone?

Community services anyone?

Is there a doctor in the house?

Is there a doctor in the house?

Another view of the abandoned hospital

Another view of the abandoned hospital

The real estate market in Cairo is on fire. Sort of.

The real estate market in Cairo is on fire. Sort of. Note, all three houses have been burned out. Sadly, this is a common sight in Cairo.

Schools out for summer. And apparently for the rest of time.

School's out for summer. And apparently for the rest of time.

Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

down

Downtown Cairo. The barricade is presumably there to protect citizens from collapsing buildings. You'll notice the building on the far right has mostly fallen in on itself. This photo was taken about 11 am in the morning. This is the morning rush hour in downtown Cairo.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

More views

Capt'n Wades appears to be the only viable business in the whole of downtown. However, this photo was taken in 2003, and when I was there in 2010, this building was collapsing.

views

Another view of downtown Cairo. All these stores back up to the Ohio River, and they're all now empty, waiting for nothing fancier than time to take them down. Visiting downtown Cairo really is like taking a step back to another time. Cairo was abandoned - in a hurry in the mid 1960s - when race riots decimated the city. The city went from a population of 13,000+ to 2,800 (current) in a very short time. The business owners and captains of industry are the ones who fled the city, taking their businesses with them.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

Or watch a short video documentary on Cairo here. And another one here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Sears Homes of Illinois: First Printing - GONE!

March 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Yesterday, I was delighted to learn that the first printing of “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (printed late November 2010), has sold out.

This is very good news. Now I did some ciphering and if I can sell 1.3 million copies, I can fulfill my promise to Hubby Wayne to become his Sugar Mama.  ;)

The rear cover:

And a sample of an inside page.

To buy the book, click here.

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Cairo, Illinois: When Bad Things Happen to Little Cities…

February 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

In its heyday, Cairo was a bustling river town and was home to captains of industry, shipping magnates, wealthy business people and other “people of note.” It’s even mentioned in James A Michener’s epic miniseries, “Centennial.” IT earned a spot in Michener’s book because in the late 1800s, Cairo was the gateway to the west.

The first time I saw downtown Cairo, I stopped my car in the middle of the deserted street and stared in disbelief. The entire business district, which comprised several blocks of brick streets in beautiful condition, was empty - silent, still and devoid of all movement. Had it not been for a piece of trash blowing down the middle of the street, the scene before me would have been wholly motionless.

The stillness, the quiet, the absence of any sign of life was fascinating, yet also left me wondering if the next sound I heard would be the theme from The Twilight Zone with a voice-over by Rod Serling.

In the mid-1960s, racial unrest and riots were a sad part of the American landscape, but in Cairo, things went especially badly. African-Americans, weary of Jim Crow laws and disparate treatment, threatened to boycott businesses that employed only whites. White business owners responded by closing their stores. Large numbers of families left the area and never returned. Industry left. Businesses closed. Wealthy people took their capital and moved away.

Today, downtown Cairo is a ghost town - an incredible time capsule - frozen in the 1960s. The city that once boasted of 14,000 citizens now has about 3000 people living within its borders.

Outside of downtown, things aren’t much better. The burnt out hull of old buildings remain, the architectural victims of bored miscreants.  There’s no money in the state or local budget to raze the remnants of these destroyed homes. Folks often say California is on the cusp of bankruptcy. Illinois can’t be far behind, and Cairo is the poster-child for an American city that went from princely to pauper.

In the early 1900s, Cairo was the site of a 40-acre Sears Mill, where Sears kit homes were milled and shipped out to all 48 states. It was a vibrant business, in an important southern town. Cairo’s location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers made it a natural for shipping and distribution. At the turn of the last century, Cairo (pronounced “Care-Roe”) could boast of having four major rail lines, enabling it to become a centralized shipping point for lumber harvested from the South and sent to the North.

In Spring 2010, I returned to Cairo and visited the town again. More burned out buildings, more desolation, more depressing sites.  What’s happening to our once-great land that we now have cities that are in collapse, and states that are in bankruptcy?

I’ve nothing pithy to add to this sad story. Pictures tell the story far better than I could.

Entrance to Cairo
Entrance to Cairo. The old flood dates are no longer in working, but the old rivers still work really, really well.

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Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

Hospital in Cairo

Is there a doctor in the house?

School

School's out for summer. And for the rest of time.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three houses in a row.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three burned out houses in a row.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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