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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham! (Part VI)

November 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Lookie who got their “Tech” license last weekend!  :)

Wayne Ringer, thats who!  :)  Hes now a licensed ham, or he will be as soon as his call sign shows up on the FCC database! Oh, FCC, dont keep us waiting!

Why it's Wayne Ringer, that's who! :) He's now a licensed ham, or he will be as soon as his call sign shows up on the FCC database! Oh, FCC, don't keep us waiting! Before long, he'll be joining me on two meters!

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And hell have the incredible opportunity to be one of the only licensed Amateur Radio operators to enjoy the hobby in a pink room adorned with Hello Kitty lights!

And he'll be one of two licensed Amateur Radio operators in the country to enjoy the hobby in a pink room adorned with Hello Kitty lights!

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To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of this series.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Six Years Ago…

April 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

It’s been almost six years since I met Wayne Ringer at the coffee shop in downtown Portsmouth (Virginia) for our first date.

Six delightful years.

At that first date, he handed me his business card, which affirmed that (just as he’d told me on that first phone call), he really was an attorney.

An impressive man with an impressive title and an impressive career.

I could hardly believe that anyone as wonderful as Wayne Ringer thought that I was the Cat’s Meow and the Bee’s Knees.

But he did.

We were engaged three months after that first date, and married four months after our engagement.

Then, and now, two thoughts have remained with me. First, I thank God for the gift of this man’s love. And secondly, I’ve often thought about that wonderful line from the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. It’s such a surprise.

Wan

Wayne Ringer at his desk in Norfolk.

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To read the next blog, click here.

“Where’s My Little Shoe?”

June 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Those last two weeks, when I knew that my father was getting close to the end, I’d visit him every morning and every evening. He was sleeping 22+ hours a day at this point, only awakening for a few minutes when someone was speaking to him.

In the morning, I’d arrive early and sit with him and talk to him for a few minutes. I’d put my arm around his shoulder and tell him that everything was going to be okay. He was a little agitated at times, and worried about so many things. I told him that I was taking care of everything, and that there was nothing he needed to worry about.

He’d frequently tell me, “I don’t know what I’d do without you and Wayne.”

In the evenings, I’d arrive around 7 pm and sit by the bed and turn on a night light and fix his blankets and turn up the heat (per his request).  Our evening ritual could best be described as me “tucking him into bed.” Tuesday evening, four days before he passed on, I visited him and he was very worried.

The first words out of his mouth were, “Where’s my little shoe?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about. About three months earlier, he’d sent me to the store to get him a tape dispenser. At Office Depot, I was looking for a boring old beige dispenser when my eyes lighted upon a bright red high-heel shoe tape dispenser. The moment I showed it to him, his eyes lit up and he laughed out loud.

“Oh that’s great!” he exclaimed. “I like that.”

For the rest of his days, he kept it right beside him. And when the nurses came into his room to clean up and put things away, he’d always dig out that little red shoe and put it back on his favorite end table, beside his favorite chair.

At the end, he was bedridden and it was Tuesday night that he asked about his “little shoe.”

“Dad,” I told him, “it’s in a small box under the end table where the nurse put it. I can see it right now. Do you want me to put it on your dresser so you can see it?”

“No,” he replied. “As long as I know where it is.”

Throughout Wednesday, I stayed with him, leaving at 6:30 pm when a freshly hired private duty nurse came in to sit with him. It was not a good day for him. Thursday, I was with him throughout the day. He was more comfortable and happy, but no longer in his right mind. He lost consciousness Thursday evening and passed Friday morning at 2:25 am.

Monday night, as I was cleaning out his apartment, I happened upon that little red shoe and tears filled my eyes.

Even though I have plenty of tape dispensers, I couldn’t bear to put his “little shoe” in the give-away pile. I dropped it into a box and brought it home with me. And I’m not even sure why.

Soe

The little red shoe.

My father as seen in 1972. When I think of my father, this is how I remember him.

When I think of "my father," this is how I remember him. (photo taken in 1972)

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Of Houses and Hubbies

June 13th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

I love Elkins, WV. It’s a beautiful place and a lovely city. And I love the people of Elkins, too. Especially this guy (pictured below), sitting on the rock.

His name is Wayne Ringer and he’s from Elkins, West Virginia.

He graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1977, and Washington and Lee (School of Law) in 1980. Last summer, we drove from Norfolk to Elkins to attend his cousin’s 30th Wedding Anniversary party (part of the Skidmore clan). It was a happy, happy time. Surprisingly, I found quite a few Sears Homes. (Story continues below photo of cutie-pie husband)

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins, poised atop a rock in the Cheat River

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The houses were shipped via rail and contained 30,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction manual and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in about 90 days. Today, there are about 70,000 Sears kit homes in America. Incredibly, about 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have! The purpose of this website is to help people learn more about this fascinating piece of America’s history.

Here are a few of the houses I found within the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears most popular kit homes.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears' most popular kit homes.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One things for sure: Its a beautiful old kit house!

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One thing's for sure: It's a beautiful old kit house. It's in South Elkins.

Sears Hazleton high atop the hillside in Elkins

Sears Hazleton from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. Looking at the house from the right side, you can see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, one small).

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. If you looked at this house from the right side, you'd see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, two small) on that left side. It's located in Wees Historic District.

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell

Sears Cornell. Although this looks like just another foursquare, this Cornell has a goofy floorplan, with a tiny bathroom (and tiny window) on its left side. When you look on the home's left side, you'll see that the oddly-placed bathroom window is right where it should be. THe Cornell was a very popular house for Sears, and I'm confident that this house is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Is this a Sears Marion? Id say it is. Its a good match on all sides and has a raised roof in the back, which was probably added in later years.

Is this a Sears Marion? I'd say it is. It's a good match on all sides and all the windows are in their right place. One eye-catching feature is the swoop of the bellcast roof on the front of the house. The raised roof in the back was obviously added in later years.

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale in Elkins, WV

Is this a Sears Glendale? It looks like it. However, it is not a spot-on match.

And there’s even a Lustron Prefabricated post-WW2 home in Elkins. Lustron Homes were made of 20-gage 2×2 metal tiles, covered with a porcelain enamel finish (just like the top of a high-dollar washing machines!). These houses were all metal - inside and out - and hanging a picture required sticking magnets to the walls! Nails and other fasteners would damage the porcelain enamel finish. Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and less than 3000 Lustron Homes were sold in this country. They were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

To learn more about Lustrons, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

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My Pink House Has Gone Green

March 16th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

My pink house is now green. Green - as in - environmentally friendly.

Well, let me restate that. It’s as environmentally friendly as an old house can be.

On March 10, 2011, we assassinated our old cast-iron, oil-fired boiler. It wasn’t pretty, but it had to be done.

The old behemoth wasn’t really that old. It was born in Utica, New York in early 2002, and was, in fact, a Utica (brand-name) boiler. When we purchased this cold house in March 2007, we were told that the Utica was a higher end boiler, and should provide good service for years to come. It was rated at 200,000 BTUs, which is a lot of heating power for 2,300 square feet.

What we didn’t realize is that we’d spend several billion dollars on heating oil trying desperately to stave off Old Man Winter (a natural enemy of old houses).

And then came Winter 2010, one of the coldest winters we’ve had in a long time. And then oil prices started up (again). In three months’ time, we burned more than $1,600 in fuel oil.  In January 2011, when Mr. Oil Fill-Man appeared in my back yard (a scant 27 days after his last visit), I ran outside to chat with him.

“We’re taking 160 - 170 gallons of fuel oil each time you come by,” I told him, trying hard to be charming. “Is that normal for this area?

His answer was not a  comfort.

“Yes M’am,” he replied. “In this neighborhood, every house I visit is taking between 150-200 gallons of heating oil.”

This told me that my neighbors were probably apoplectic over their heating bills, as well.

Talking with two of my neighbors, I’d found that they’d converted from old oil boilers (about the same age as mine), to high-efficiency tankless gas-fired boilers. Both neighbors told me that their heating bills had dropped from $500 - $600 a month to about $125 - $150 a month. Both were delighted with the new system and the new savings.

I was not that surprised to hear that two neighbors had just had not-so-old oil boilers ripped right out and replaced with this fancy new system. I suspected that most people were NOT going to tolerate paying $500+ a month - every month - to heat their homes. It was an outrageous sum of money. And I knew that we’d done everything in our power to “button-up” the old house. Since purchasing the house in March 2007, we’d added four high-dollar storm doors to the previously naked (and drafty) primary doors, and we’d installed 12 super-dooper high efficiency replacement windows (on the rear and side), and we’d repaired and re-caulked old storm windows on the remaining windows. We’d also used up 40 tubes of caulk (yes, 40), in Summer 2010, closing up every little crack and crevice on the old house.

Frankly, I’ve always felt it was a bit nutty to use oil for home heating - for several reasons.

1)  Our oil reserves are dwindling. Peak Oil, according to the smart people, arrived in 2007 or 2008. I’m of the opinion that remaining reserves should be devoted to transportation, with an eye toward (quickly) developing energy alternatives for our little cars.

2) Many of our “oil dollars” go to a foreign country, and some of these oil-rich countries in faraway lands have a history of treating women with little or no respect. I find that reprehensible, and I don’t want my dollars funding such egregious behavior. Sharia law is a glimpse of hell on earth for women.

3) BP oil spill. ‘Nuff said.

4) Hugo Chavez.  ‘Nuff said.

5)  Every dollar I spend on oil is a dollar that leaves America and right now, we need to buy local. Natural gas supplies are abundant in North America. Having watched “Gasland,” I’m horrified at the fracking process currently in use (which is destroying our water supply), but for now, Natural Gas seems to be a better alternative than #2 Heating Oil, and the lesser of two evils.

6) Heating oil is messy and smelly. I’ve got the blessing (or curse) of a hypersensitive sense of smell, and every 27 days when we get an oil delivery, the smell has been powerful throughout my home. Our 275-gallon tank is in the basement and often when I open the basement door, I get a whiff of #2 heating oil. Not pleasant.

7)  Heating oil is dirty. It’s recommended that oil-fired appliances (furnaces and boilers) be cleaned once each year. Cost: $150 or more.

When it was time to get estimates for the new work, I had many choices, but the big two were:  Gas-fired boiler or Heat Pump?

The benefits of a heat pump were simple: It’d give us the chance to add central air. We had a central air system for the upstairs, but wouldn’t it be dreamy to have it on the first floor, too?

Yes and no.

The central air unit on the second floor had been oversized (by my request), with a major trunk line and vent directly over the top of our large, open staircase. In the summertime,when the A/C was running, great wafts of deliciously cool air came galloping down the stairs. Due to design of the staircase, probably 50% of the cold air ended up on the first floor. I’d also positioned the return in such a way that it’d naturally draft the hot air from the first floor. In other words, the 3-ton unit for the second floor effectively cooled much of the first floor.

Secondly, adding all new ductwork for the first floor heat pump (and A/C) would have made our basement well-nigh unusable. With no garage at our home, we rely heavily on the basement for storage. And I like having a big basement.

The other factor was, I love my radiators. They’re old and funky and they rattle and pop in the winter. I was not ready to abandon the old charm of the 1920s cast-iron radiators. Plus, it’s true what they say: Radiant heat is the most comfortable, even heating in the world.

So that left us with one more set of choices:  Cheap it out with a regular, average efficiency gas-fired boiler, or go ahead and spend the extra dough and go with a high-efficiency (90%+) unit.

The lower end gas boilers were $3,000 and up (for 80% efficiency), but would require that we’d re-line the old chimney. That’d add another $2000 to our costs, so we were at $5000.  For $7,500, we could get a super-high efficiency gas-fired boiler, rated at 94% efficient, which used a pvc snorkel, and abandon the old chimney, and get our heating bills down under $200 a month. And, we’d get a $500 rebate from our local gas company, making the price difference between the two options a scant $2,000 (or the cost of 100 days of fuel oil).

We opted for the high efficiency tankless gas-fired unit.

Several things went wrong along the way. The high-efficiency gas boiler was ordered, but didn’t arrive. That’s okay, we were told, they’d upgrade us to a better system, no extra cost. Sounded good. Oopsie, more trouble. The better system had a lag time too, so we’d have to wait three weeks for unit to arrive. But then, the company had located the unit we’d contracted for and we went forward with the installation.

Next, Virginia Natural Gas had to drive us nuts. They would not set a meter for us until the boiler was in place. That’s funny, because the contractor didn’t want to set up the new boiler until we had a meter in place.

In the end, Virginia Natural Gas won. No meter would be installed until the boiler was in place and complete. Dealing with VNG was an enormous hassle. For a time, I really missed dealing with Miller Oil. They were so friendly and accommodating.

Once the boiler work was mostly done (and we knew it would soon be ready to be turned on), we called Virginia Natural Gas for the 3,492nd time. It was a Thursday afternoon.

“The next available date on our calendar is Friday afternoon,” the operator told me.

Friday, as in eight days away.  We’d already been two days with no heat or hot water. We were already  greasy and cold. A bad combination.

After I made a few screeching noises, she moved the date up to Saturday, between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Friday evening, we got an automated call from Virginia Natural Gas. It said that our meter would be set on Saturday morning, between 1:15 am and 1:15 am, and that we were to make sure someone would be home at that time.

Watching television in our living room, wrapped up in blankets, we listened to the voice mail and laughed out loud through chattering teeth.

Saturday morning, my optimistic husband got up and went outside to check for the meter.

“They didn’t come at 1:15 am,” he said with a bit of disappointment.

About 2 pm, Mr. Meterman showed up. He looked at the gas line poking out from the house, and said serenely, “I can’t hook this up. They ran the line in the wrong place.”

I fell on my knees and begged. From my close-to-the-ground position, I hugged his legs and told him that we were making mortgage payments on a cave, and that I’d lost feeling in my fingers the day before, and could he please, please, please give us a little heat?

Surreptitiously, I rubbed my greasy hair against his pants leg. He scrunched up his face, groaned and took a step back.

Moved by my impassioned pleas, he forced the modernistic, bright yellow piping this way and that, and managed to get the gas meter set in place.

Virginia Natural Gas had told us that Mr. Meterman would fire up our appliances. Mr. Meterman said he was not permitted to fire up our appliances.

Fortunately, Mr. Brandy-New Boiler sprang right to life when turned on, and for the first time in 72 hours, we had hot water again.

Monday morning, the contractor re-appeared and got the boiler going, and Monday afternoon, our radiators were once again filled with hot water, making their trademark snap, crackle and pop noises.

My house is warm again. And it’s a good, comfortable warmth. And best of all, it’s a high efficiency warmth.  :)

Old Oil burner

This is the only picture I have of the old oil burner. I'd intended to snap a few before photos when the work started, but was so stressed out by all the upset of my house being torn up (again), that I thought, "ah, forget it." This photo was taken in March 2007 when we first looked at the house.

The poor old Utica, as its being hauled off for scrap.

The poor old Utica, as it's being hauled off for scrap. Notice the heavy cast-iron boiler on the front. Workers estimated this rig weighed about 400 pounds.

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The new unit is wall hung, and is much smaller. It is a tankless boiler, and water is heated as it passes through the boiler.

The new unit is wall hung, and is much smaller. It is a tankless boiler, and water is heated as it passes through the boiler. Notice the unpainted square on the basement floor, where the old boiler once sat.

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Another view of the new equipment.

Another view of the new equipment.

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Close-up

Close-up

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pipes

This photo shows the complexity of all those pipes. Lot of stuff going on there!

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And outside, it looks like this. The white PVC pipe is an air intake for combustion. The silver is for exhaust.

And outside, it looks like this. The white PVC pipe is an air intake for combustion. The silver is for exhaust. The red area around the border is where my house is bleeding from the jagged, rough and ugly cutting. The house cried out in pain, but I was the only one who could hear the throes of agony.

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I wasnt thrilled with how the gas meter business turned out.  Two holes and one crooked meter.

I wasn't thrilled with how the gas meter business turned out. Notice, the house had some hemorrhaging here as well. The hole on the left was the contractor-created hole for the natural gas piping. They used a bright-yellow 1" line and it was not attractive. Monday morning, the contractor agreed to remove the misplaced yellow line and replace it with black-iron pipe, in the hole to the right. You can see (from this picture), how awkward the placement of that left-side hole is. The yellow gas line continues just inside the house.

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Close-up of the pain

Close-up of the pain. The hole on the right was the original hole, where a gas line was run many, many years ago. If the contractor had simply used that hole in the first place (as I requested), it would have saved us all a lot of trouble.

And theres a handy dandy little gauge on the wall that measures boiler temps and domestic hot water temps. Highly entertaining.

And there's a handy dandy little gauge on the wall that measures boiler temps and domestic hot water temps. Highly entertaining.

Instructional literature that came with the unit shows that the tankless boiler is a happy little thing.

Instructional literature that came with the unit shows that the tankless boiler is a happy little thing.

But he can get frustrated pretty quickly.

But he can get frustrated pretty quickly. Not sure what he's doing here...

My pretty, pretty pink and green house!

My pretty, pretty pink and green house!

Another view

Another view

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Kit Homes of Colonial Place (Norfolk, Virginia)

February 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

From 2002-2006, I gave about 200 lectures in 24 states and the #1 most frequently asked question I received was, “Do you live in a Sears Home?

No, I don’t, but I do live amongst them.  :)

In January 2007, I was married to a Norfolk resident and in February 2007, we moved into a 1925 center-hallway Colonial Revival in Colonial Place.

It’s not a kit house, but there are several here in Colonial Place and Park Place (and one in Riverview). Most of the kit homes in Norfolk are not from Sears, but Aladdin. Based in Bay City, Michigan, this was another mail-order kit house company. They had a large mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, so it’s not surprising to find so many Aladdin kit homes in our area.

Enjoy the photos!

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia!

Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia! This is one of my favorite kit homes - ever. It's in wonderful condition and it's a spot-on match to the original catalog image! Part of what makes this house such a treasure is that it's in original condition.

Wow.

Wow.

Wow

What a beauty.

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Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza as seen in the 1919 catalog.

An interesting aside: The Pungo Grill in Virginia Beach is also an Aladdin Plaza. Click here to learn more.

Perfect Aladdin Plaza. Just perfect.

Perfect Aladdin Plaza. Just perfect.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

This Pomona has seen some changes in its many decades of life, but still retains its classic lines.

This Pomona has seen some changes in its many decades of life, but still retains its classic lines. Notice the eave brackets, and compare them to the original catalog picture.

The Aladdin Venus was one of their most popular houses.

The Aladdin Venus was one of their most popular houses.

Close-up of the Aladdin Venus

Close-up of the Aladdin Venus

Looking a little rough around the edges, this Aladdin Venus still retains many original features.

It's had siding added and original railings removed, but this Aladdin Venus still retains many original features. There's a second Aladdin Venus in Park Place on 35th Street.

Notice the original wooden casement windows are still in place, now hidden behind double-hung aluminum storm windows.

Notice the original wooden casement windows are still in place, now hidden behind double-hung aluminum storm windows.

Aladdin Sheffield

Aladdin Sheffield

Despite the fact that the front porch on this house is quite different from the Aladdin Sheffield (pictured above), Im still quite certain this house is an Aladdin kit home. The Sheffield has a number of quirky details that are unusual, and the subject house has each and every one of those quirks.

Despite the fact that the front porch on this house is quite different from the Aladdin Sheffield (pictured above), I'm still quite certain this house is an Aladdin kit home. The Sheffield has a number of quirky details that are unusual, and the subject house has each and every one of those quirks. Unfortunately, this is not a great photo, and the angle is wrong. One of the funny features of the Sheffield is the fireplace chimney on the other side. It cuts right through the eaves of the second-floor dormer window (as does this Sheffield in CP).

Aladdin Lamberton

Aladdin Lamberton

Its done up pretty in brick, and its had many modifications, but Im 97.736% certain that this is an Aladdin Lamberton.

It's done up pretty in brick, and it's had many modifications, but I'm 97.736% certain that this is an Aladdin Lamberton.

This is the only Wardway House I know of in Colonial Place. Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit home business. Montgomery Ward sold about 25,000 homes. Not surprisingly, there are very few Wardway Homes in Hampton Roads area.

This is the only Wardway House I know of in Colonial Place. Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Seems like this house should be located on Michigan Avenue, since it is the Wardway Michigan. Ive always wondered how we ended up with a Michigan Avenue in a neighborhood named after the 13 original colonies.

Seems like this house should be located on Michigan Avenue, since it is the Wardway Michigan. I've always wondered how we ended up with a Michigan Avenue in a neighborhood named after the 13 original colonies.

In addition to kit homes, we also have pattern book houses in CPRV, such as this Regent from a 1926 pattern book. Interested homebuyers would order blueprints from a pattern book. Typically, your purchase price would also include a detailed inventory of all the building materials youd need for your new home.

In addition to kit homes, we also have "pattern book houses" in CPRV, such as this "Regent" from a 1926 pattern book. Interested homebuyers would order blueprints from a pattern book. Typically, your purchase price would also include a detailed inventory of all the building materials you'd need for your new home.

This Regent is a perfect match to the pattern book page (above). THeres another Regent in Larchmont.

This "Regent" is a perfect match to the pattern book page (above). THere's another "Regent" in Larchmont.

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Wardway, there was also Lewis Manufacturing. Heres a Lewis Manufacturing kit home, The San Fernando. BTW the bungalow craze started (in the early 1900s) in California, hence all the Californian names for these bungalows!

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Wardway, there was also Lewis Manufacturing. Here's a Lewis Manufacturing kit home, The San Fernando. BTW the bungalow craze started (in the early 1900s) in California, hence all the Californian names for these bungalows!

Is this a Lewis San Fernando? Hard to tell for sure, but it sure looks like it. However, this is precisely why its so difficult to identify kit homes. Closeness does not count. Precision does.

Is this a Lewis San Fernando? Hard to tell for sure, but it sure looks like it. However, this is precisely why it's so difficult to identify kit homes. Closeness does not count. Precision does.

And onto the kit homes in Park Place…

Like Colonial Place, Park Place also has several kit homes. This house (see picture below) was from Gordon Van Tine, a kit home company based in Davenport, Iowa. As you can see from the original catalog picture, it was a fine and spacious home.

Park Place

The ad promises that this is an "exceptionally well planned" home!

Is this a Gordon Van Tine #703? Again, without inspecting the homes interior, its hard to be sure.

Is this a Gordon Van Tine #703? Again, without inspecting the home's interior, it's hard to be sure.

Another spacious foursquare is the Aladdin Wenonah.

Another spacious foursquare is the Aladdin Wenonah.

The Wenonah was an unusual home and this is the only one Ive seen in my many travels. Its in Park Place.

The Wenonah was an unusual home and this is the only one I've seen in my many travels. It's in Park Place.

Whitehall

Sears Whitehall, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Whitehall

Whitehall in the flesh on 26th Street.

Sears Lebanon. Note the flowerbox in front of the second floor windows.

Sears Lebanon. Note the flowerbox in front of the second floor windows.

Lebanon in Park Place area

Sears Lebanon on 26th Street. This Lebanon is missing its flower box, but still has the wooden support brackets jutting out from the wall.

Sears Americus

Sears Americus

Americus in nearby Park Place

This Sears Americus still retains so many of the unique features that make it so distinctive. Notice how the front porch roof extends well beyond the home's width? And the second floor juts out a bit (on the right) but the first floor is flat across the front. Unfortunately, those eave brackets have been covered in great gobs of aluminum. Ick. This house has been converted into a duplex (sigh) and is on a main drag in Park Place.

My pretty pretty house on Gosnold

My pretty pretty house on Gosnold is not a Sears House.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

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Old Kit Homes and Writing Gigs

August 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Writing about Sears Homes has been a fun gig, but my income from this career has been quite modest. Modest, as in less than $12,000 on my best year - which included a lot of lectures and traveling and working long, long days. But, there are other means of compensation beyond dollars.

My co-author Dale and I have just finished a new book on the kit homes of Montgomery Ward. As part of this research, I pored over old Wardway Homes catalogs, reading the many testimonials from happy customers. And I saw an especially interesting testimonial from a man named “Ringer” in Quinter, Kansas.

“We are well pleased with our Ohio which bought of you,” wrote Mathias Ringer in the 1919 Wardway Homes catalog. “Everybody is welcome on the Ringer Ranch. Everything is modern and is from Montgomery Ward, furniture and all. We want to build two more of these later on” (page 44).

Thanks to Google, I quickly found that Quinter, Kansas is not a very big place so I took a gamble and sent a letter to all the Ringers in Quinter, Kansas. I sent a copy of the testimonial with my letter and told them about my project. Within 30 days, I had a letter from a Gail Ringer, telling me that Mathias Ringer was his grandfather and that Mathias had relocated to Quinter from Somerset County, Pennsylvania to get away from the coal mines. Then 19 years old, Mathias was told that he had the early stages of black lung, and that if he got out of the coal mines and into a better climate, he might live many more years.

And that’s how Mathias Ringer landed in Quinter, Kansas.

Gail Ringer invited me to come out to Quinter and stay with him for a few days and see the Wardway Ohio (a spacious cross-gabled kit home) that his grandfather had built. I readily accepted the invitation.

I flew into Hayes, Kansas, a wee tiny airport. Gail and his son met me at the airport and drove me back to Quinter. After all the traveling (from Norfolk!) I saw the Wardway Ohio that Mathias Ringer had built in 1919. The Ringers treated me like family and it was a very happy few days. Gail Ringer regaled me with stories of his grandfather and father. He shared his memories of growing up in the Wardway Ohio (pictured below). This trip reminded of the significant perks of being a writer. I had the time of my life, and it was a delight to find people who had such a clear and strong sense of family and integrity.

Several weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail that my friend Gail Ringer had passed on. It had been my hope that he’d see a copy of this new book on Wardway Homes before he died (with his interview inside), but it didn’t work out that way.

In the letter from Gail’s son, he wrote, “His anticipation of your 2007 visit was like a spring tonic for him. When the plans for your arrival began to materialize, he perked up immensely. Thanks so much for your part in reviving his spirit.”

As I said, sometimes the best recompense comes in non-pecuniary forms.

Wardway Ohio - from the 1921 Wardway catalog

Wardway Ohio - from the 1921 Wardway catalog

Testimonial that caught my eye in the Wardway Homes catalog

Testimonial in slightly different form in the 1921 Wardway Homes catalog

The Ringer Ranch in Kansas

The Ringer Ranch in Kansas

And sometimes, there’s a little bit of fame, too!

Fame

Fame

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To learn more about Wardway homes, click here.

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