Archive

Posts Tagged ‘charlottesville’

An Aladdin Westwood - in Charlottesville, Virginia

August 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog, which is curious. It’s a beautiful house and quite massive, but apparently the Sovereign brothers decided it wasn’t a keeper. In September 2013, I gave a talk in nearby Louisa, Virginia and drove over to Charlottesville to see what was lurking in Hoo-ville.

What a sweet surprise to find an Aladdin Westwood at the end of a quiet residential street!

I was with a local historian and we knocked on the doors repeatedly but no one showed up. It’s been two years since I was there. Hope this house survives! These big Aladdin houses don’t do well in college towns. In nearby Williamsburg, Virginia, an Aladdin Colonial was torn down on the William and Mary campus (about 15 years ago).

To read about the other kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

~~~

The Aladdin

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog.

~

One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans.

One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans. I just love looking at these old images, and thinking about day-to-day life in early 20th Century America. The house was about 3,000 square feet - which isn't typical for a kit home! And there's a half-bath on the first floor (1922).

*

Sfe

Not only does the second floor have two full bathrooms (very unusualy for the 1920s), but the front bathroom has a shower! Now that's high living! (1922 catalog)

*

Sounds fancy, too!

Sounds fancy, too! And it mentions that shower on the "front bathroom" (1922).

*

fff

What a beautiful house!

*

And check out that front door!

And check out that front door!

*

In all

I was pretty tickled to find this sweet thing in Charlottesville. To date, it's the only Westwood I've ever seen.

*

And check out the detail around that front door.

And check out the detail around that front door.

*

And check out that front door!

Nice match, isn't it?

*

I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

*

If you look down the side, you can see its a good match.

If you look down the side, you can see it's a good match, all the windows are in the right places. It's surprising to see that the columns are still in such good shape. They're almost 100 years old now.

*

The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

*

But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

*

Its sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives.

It's sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives. College towns are notorious "bungalow eaters."

*

To read about the other kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

Here are some images of the kit homes in Louisa, Virginia.

~~~~

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

April 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 4 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.

*

First, the good.

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

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

house house

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

*

house house

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.

*

house house house

Oh my, what a lovely match!

*

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.

*

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).

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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

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

*

And now, the ugly.

*

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.

*

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.

*

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

*

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).

*

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.

*

Whew. That was rough. Back to the good.

*

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.

*

Shown above is a plan book house, The Somerset.

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

*

And Charlottesville has two of them!

And Charlottesville has two of them!

*

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.

*   *   *

The Sears Wexford in Mineral, Virginia

March 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Originally known as “Tolersville,” this tiny town opted to change its name to “Mineral” in the early 1900s.

Seems that there was gold in them there hills of Louisa County (where Mineral is located), and at its peak, there were 15 gold mines within three miles of the town. Copper, mica and sulfur were also discovered and mined.

On August 23, 2011, Mineral became famous for another reason: An earthquake. At 1:51 pm, a 5.8 magnitude quake was centered in the tiny town, and rattled windows from DC to Norfolk (where I live) and beyond. In Mineral, the roof collapsed on the town hall, and three public schools suffered significant damage. (This earthquake also occurred at be precise moment that my late father’s ashes were scattered. That was more than a little spooky.)

Last week, I drove up to Charlottesville to take a licensing test for Ham Radio (the “Extra” exam). On my way, I drove through Louisa, Gordonsville and Mineral, looking for kit homes.

In Mineral, I only saw one home, The Sears Wexford, but it was a fine-looking house. Next door to the Wexford was a beautiful old church serenading me with heavenly music. I parked my car next to the church for a time and just reveled in the euphonious melodies.

It really was a lovely thing and an unexpected delight.

*

1936 wexvorf

The Wexford was also known as The Bridgeport (1936 catalog).

*

two floorplans

It was offered in two floorplans, and "B" had a dining room.

*

the other

Floorplan A was a bit smaller, with a kitchen nook instead of a dining room.

*

house house house

The Wexford, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

*

Sears House in Mineral

Is this a Sears Wexford? Can't say for certain, but I'd guess that it probably is, and my guesses are usually right! :) On this Wexford, the porch is not off the living room, but off of a bedroom (it appears). Note the details around that front porch. It's a good match! I'd love to get inside at some point and check for marked lumber.

*

Wexford Cairo

This Wexford is in Cairo, Illinois on Roebuck Road (about 1/2 mile from the site of the original Sears Mill). Years ago, this Wexford was on Sears and Roebuck Road, but when the interstate came through in the 1970s, it sliced the road into two pieces. One side was renamed Sears Road (where the old mill was located), and the other side was named Roebuck Road. On my Garmin, it still shows the two pieces of this old road as "Sears and Roebuck Road." Ah, Sears and Roebuck Road: Married by commerce, divorced by the interstate.

*

I hope to be returning to this area in a month or two. If you know of a kit home in this part of the state, please leave a comment below!

*

To read about the Sears Kit Homes in Gordonsville, click here.

Or you can read about the Aladdin kit homes in Louisa by clicking here.

Come back tomorrow to read about the kit homes I found in Charlottesville.

*   *   *

The Sears Homes of Beautiful Roanoke, Virginia

April 15th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

In the 1960s, my family would make the long trek from Portsmouth (Virginia) to Douthat State Park for our once-a-year vacation.

Ever since I first laid eyes on Douthat (in Clifton Forge) and the Blue Ridge Mountain area, I have been head-over-heels in love. In 1994, my husband and I decided to move to the Lynchburg/Roanoke area, but you know what they say about the “best-laid plans of men.”

We overshot the mountains and ended up living in St. Louis for 12 years. (Long story.) In 2006, I moved back to Hampton Roads and that’s been my home since then.

One day, I will get to the mountains. One day.

In the meantime, I’ll simply admire the mountains “from afar.”

Below are several kit homes that I’ve found in Roanoke (with a lot of help from my dear friend Dale Wolicki).

What were kit homes? These were 12,000-piece kits, sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have one of these kits built in 90 days.

Click here to learn more about Sears Homes.

Click here to buy Rose’s latest book on Sears Homes.

A picture of my brother Tom Fuller at Douthat in 1960.

A picture of my brother (Tom Fuller) at Douthat (Clifton Forge) in 1960.

*

First, one of my favorite houses in Roanoke: The Sears Alhambra!

First, one of my favorite houses in Roanoke: The Sears Alhambra!

*

And here it is, in all its shining splendor: The Sears Alhambra

And here it is, in all its shining splendor: The Sears Alhambra. I wonder if the owners know that they have a Sears House? And this one is in wonderful condition!

*

Another beautiful Sears House is the Americus.

Another beautiful Sears House is the Americus.

*

And its right there in Roanoke! What a sweet-looking Americus!

And it's right there in Roanoke! What a sweet-looking Americus!

*

The Sears Fullerton was another big and beautiful house.

The Sears Fullerton was another big and beautiful house.

*

This Fullerton (on Rugby Avenue) had a porte cochere added.

This Fullerton (on Rugby Avenue) had a porte cochere added.

*

In addition to Sears, Roanoke has kit homes from several other national kit home companies, such as Montgomery Ward, Harris Brothers, Sterling and Aladdin. Heres a picture of the Aladdin Sheffield as seen in the 1919 catalog.

In addition to Sears, Roanoke has kit homes from several other national kit home companies, such as Montgomery Ward, Harris Brothers, Sterling and Aladdin. Here's a picture of the Aladdin Sheffield as seen in the 1919 catalog.

*

This beautiful Sheridan (offered by Aladdin Kit Homes of Bay City, MI) is on Berkley Street in Roanoke.

This beautiful Sheridan (offered by Aladdin Kit Homes of Bay City, MI) is on Berkley Street in Roanoke. Notice the oversized dormers and the bumped-out vestibule.

*

The Marsden was another very popular house for Aladdin.

The Marsden was another very popular house for Aladdin.

*

nice

Unfortunately, between the landscaping and the truck, it's tough to see, but there's no doubt that that's an Aladdin Marsden hidden away back there.

*

And from the front.

And from the front.

*

The Inverness was a very rare house, and Ive never seen one anywhere - but in Roanoke.

The Inverness (offered by Aladdin) was a very rare house, and I've never seen one anywhere - but in Roanoke. Notice the many angles on the roofline!

*

Is this an Inverness? If so, its been supersized.

Is this an Inverness? If so, it's been supersized. It certainly is a good match.

*

The Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

*

And heres a near-perfect match!

An Aladdin Detroit - in brick!

*

The Aladdin Florence was a hugely popular house for Aladdin.

The Aladdin Florence was a hugely popular house for Aladdin.

*

This Aladdin Florence on Hunt Avenue

This Aladdin Florence on Hunt Avenue is a good match to the original catalog picture.

*

As mentioned above, in addition to kit homes from Aladdin, Roanoke also has kit homes from Montgomery Ward.

As mentioned above, in addition to kit homes from Aladdin, Roanoke also has kit homes from Montgomery Ward.

*

Heres a sweet little Mayflower in Roanoke.

A Mayflower in Roanoke. This photo was taken four years ago, so this house may have changed a bit since then. Looks a little rough around the edges here.

*

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Montgomery Ward, Roanoke also has houses sold by Sterling Homes (Bay City, MI). Pictured is the Sterling Rembrandt, from the early 1920s catalog.

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Montgomery Ward, Roanoke also has houses sold by Sterling Homes (Bay City, MI). Pictured is the Sterling Rembrandt, from the early 1920s catalog.

*

A sweet Dutch Colonial: The Sterling Rembrandt!

A sweet Dutch Colonial: The Sterling Rembrandt!

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

Want to learn more about Wardway Homes? Click here!

To read about the Sears Homes in Clifton Forge, click here.

*   *   *

From Out of The Blue, An Unexpected Delight

August 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

After my marriage of 24 years ended abruptly, it was my passionate interest in early 20th Century kit homes - Sears Homes - that kept me afloat - financially and emotionally. I loved writing about those houses. I loved learning about those houses. And I loved looking at pictures of those houses.

As it turned out, 2002 was one heckuva year. My beloved, funny, smart, eccentric, endearing mother died on January 1, 2002. In March 2002, my book - The Houses That Sears Built - was published. On May 1st, my marriage ended in divorce and in the blink of an eye, I lost all of my inlaws - people that I’d known and loved and cherished since I was a senior in high school. In June of 2002, my two eldest daughters moved out of the state and I moved out of the family home and into a crummy singles’ apartment.

It was a tough year.

Many mornings, waking up in my singles’ apartment, I’d look up at the ceiling and simply wonder, “What happened to my life?”

The stress of all this change was mind-numbing.

But in the midst of all that turmoil, wonderful things were happening. Six weeks after my self-published tome on Sears Homes hit the streets, a reporter tracked me down and said that he was writing a piece on kit homes, and would I mind being interviewed, and of course, they’d mention my book in the article. About three weeks later, the story ran in the The New York Times. A few weeks after that, I got a call from a New York production company. They’d seen the article and were calling to ask if I’d be interested in appearing in a new show that was being produced for PBS.

The tentative title for the new program was, History Detectives. And from there, it was off to the races.

For the last 10 years, Sears Homes have been my passion, my avocation and my joy. I referred to these early 20th Century kit homes as “My Little Pretties,” and that’s what they were. They really were my little pretties. The whole story of Sears Homes was wholly captivating. The houses were shipped from Sears and arrived at the building site in 30,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could assemble one in 90 days. But to me, they were more than just another quirky little chapter in America’s architectural history. They became the guiding light that enabled me to keep going when I feared that (at the age of 43) my best days were behind me.

By January 1, 2007, my life had turned a new corner. January 1st was my wedding day, and the start of a whole new chapter in my life. And in the last 10 years, my book and I have been appeared on A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, and more. And in Summer 2006, me and my little pretties made the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Somtimes life’s endings are just paving the way for new beginnings.

Here are a few pictures of my little pretties:

Original catalog image from 1928 Wardway Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1928 Wardway Homes catalog

Mongtomery Ward Mayflower in Roanoke, VA

Mongtomery Ward "Mayflower" in Roanoke, VA

Sears Alhambra - original catalog image from 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Alhambra - original catalog image from 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Alhambra in Richmond, VA

Sears Alhambra in Richmond, VA