Archive

Posts Tagged ‘craftsman homes’

Peace Pipes and Fourplexes: The Calumet

October 24th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

The Calumet is a rare Sears kit house that was offered for a brief time in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Sears did offer a few apartment buildings (yes, as kits), and the Calumet was one of them. My favorite feature of the Sears Calumet is the wall-bed, and the Calumet had two wall beds per unit.

The bed frame was included in the kit (but not the mattress).

It’s also interesting to note that the word Calumet comes from the Latin word calamellus, meaning “little reed.”  According to my online dictionary, a calumet is a “ceremonial smoking pipe, traditionally smoked to seal a covenant or treaty, or to offer prayers in a religious ceremony.”

Next time you’re watching TV with your friends and an Indian starts smoking a peace pipe, you can exclaim, “Why, he’s smoking a calumet!”

They’ll be so impressed with your esoteric knowledge!

Want to learn more about Murphy Beds (Wall Beds)? Click here!

*

The Calumet, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

I just love the math: 20 rooms in 12! How do they do it? :)

*

The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

*

Bs

The Calumets had four porches, each with their own coal bin, whichwas nothing more than a small bin. Not nearly as luxurious as it sounds. Plus, it has "handy closets." I wonder which model had the "unhandy closets"?

*

That would have been a heck of a kit house!

That would have been a heck of a kit house!

*

Bloomintong

Notice that the wall beds have their own windows - in a closet!

*

bed

The Calumet - as seen in the 1918 catalog.

*

The only Calumet Ive ever seen - and its in Bloomington, IL.

The only Calumet I've ever seen - and it's in Bloomington, IL. You can see those two "closet-bed windows" on the right side. Sadly, the second-story porches are long gone. That first step outside of those 2nd floor doors is a doozy!

*

Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

*

In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

*

In the silent short film (1:00 a.m.), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed).

In the silent short film (title, "1:00 a.m."), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed). The full video (about 10 minutes) is at youtube. See link below.

*

To see the Charlie Chaplin short, click here.

To read another fascinating blog, click here.

*

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dogs and Cats - Living Together in West Virginia

June 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last year, I visited the Eighth Magnolia in northern West Virginia. The owners were kind enough to give me a full tour, from the basement to attic. What a happy day that was, to see that old house, faithfully restored to its former splendor!

My hubby and I spent two hours at the house, photographing it from every possible angle, and soaking in the happy ambiance of a gorgeous Sears Magnolia in beautiful condition. This 90-year-old Sears kit house sits majestically on several acres in the bucolic hinterlands of West Virginia.

I was floating on air when we drove away from The Beautiful Magnolia. When I came to the first intersection, I saw a very interesting house on the corner and snapped my head around to get a better view.

“Oh my gosh,” I said slowly, but happily.

“What is it?” my husband asked, hoping that it was not another kit house. It was already an hour past his lunch time and he was not happy about that.

“It’s another kit house,” I said absent-mindedly, as I stopped the car hastily and retrieved my digital camera.

You could hear a soft little “plop” as his heart sank in his chest.

“Oh,” he said apprehensively.

“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “I’m just getting a few pictures.”

Famous last words.

Fortunately, I was able to get several good shots in a hurry (I was hungry too), and we were back on our way in less than five minutes.

So what kind of house is living next door to The Beautiful Magnolia?

It is a *perfect* example of a Gordon Van Tine #612, a classic bungalow, and one of their finer houses. Gordon Van Tine, based in Davenport Iowa, was a significant kit home company and probably sold more than 50,000 kit homes. They were also the company that supplied kit homes for Montgomery Ward.

To read my favorite blog about the Magnolia, click here.

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

*

Gordon Van Tine

The Gordon Van Tine #612 as it appeared in the 1924 catalog.

*

Spacious too

Look at the size of that living room! The dining room is also quite large.

*

house 1924

It really is a beauty.

*

Be still my heart

Be still my heart. Wow, wow, WOW! What a fine-looking home!

*

And its on a pretty lot

And it sits on a beautiful lot in West Virginia. Notice the short window in the dining room? It's likely that they had a built-in buffet in that bay window, necessitating the smaller window.

*

house on lot

A better view of the house from the side.

*

See that detail on brick

See that detail on chimney?

*

nice match isnt it

Nice match, isn't it?

*

Beautiful house in Vinton, VA

And here's a beautiful brick #612 that Dale found when we were in Vinton, VA (near Roanoke).

*

Heres a not-so-beautiful GVT 612 on Pocohontas Street in Hampton, VA

Here's a not-so-beautiful GVT # 612 on Pocohontas Street in Hampton, VA. It's just outside of the Old Wythe section of Hampton, which has many kit homes. Heaven only knows why that extra roof piece was added between the two gables. My oh my.

*

Yeah, it really is one.

Due to the many trees on the side, I could not get a good picture down the right side, but a visual inspection satisfied me that this really is a Gordon Van Tine #612 (or its Montgomery Ward counterpart). If you look down this side (shown above) and compare it with the floorplan, you'll see it's the real deal.

*

And its all just around the corner from our Maggie!

And that Gordon Van Tine is just around the corner from our Maggie!

*

To read my favorite blog about the Magnolia, click here.

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

*       *      *

Sweet Home, Alabama (Sears Magnolia)

April 26th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

Sometime in 2005, the new owner of the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama sent me several dozen photos of the house. Recently, I rediscovered the CDs. Those photos reminded me that I also had a 1984 newspaper article about that Magnolia.

Unfortunately, I do not have any record of whose photos these are, so they appear below without attribution. I’m hoping someone reading this might help me figure out who took those pictures!

Below are the photos, and the 1984 article from The Anniston Star.

Piedmont boasts a Sears Catalog Mansion (November 1, 1984)

by Viveca Novak

Piedmont - When the late doctor Fain Webb and his wife filled out the order form Magnolia, the catalog description likened the Magnolia to the “famous residence at Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the poet Longfellow composed his immortal works.”

The Magnolia rolled into Piedmont in 1921 on a box car one day. Accompanying instructions told the dentist and his school-teacher wife how to assemble everythnig into the configuration of a dwelling.

“Everyone in Piedmont thought it was the prettiest house in town,” remembers Piedmont native Louise Golden. “Little did my mother dream that we would ever own the house.”

It was one day in 1964 that Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Woolf, Mrs. Golden’s parents, got a call from the Webb’s daughter who offered to sell them the homestead for the unbelievably low sum of $12,500.

At the time, Mrs. Woolf was 60 and her husband was 80, retired from years in the Inn business that included running the Piedmont Hotel in the late 1920s. With the help of a $20,000 loan from the Small Business Administration, the Woolfs made the necessary adjustments to complete their dream.

On January 1965, the Colonial Inn opened its doors for supper.

Four bedrooms upstairs were rented to help repay the loan, “but they were very careful about who they rented to, ” says Mrs. Golden, who returned to Piedmont to help her parents run the new venture.

The $2 Sunday smorgasboards attracted upwards of 100 people each week.

“We had Miss Alabama and Miss Poultry Queen for our Christmas Parade one year,” recalls Theresa Kaisor, city historian and asst school board superintendent. “We carried them over there to eat dinner.”

The Inn’s reputation spread far and wide and travelers of all kinds made the necessary detours to stop a night in Piedmont.

Two years later, Piedmont was mourning the closing of the inn, following the death of Mrs. Woolf. Though Mrs. Golden was urged to keep the inn open, it was a task she declined.

In 1970, the house underwent another rebirth with its sale - for $19,000 - to Calvin and Patricia Wingo, two history professors at Jacksonville State University who have a penchant for restoring old houses to their original grandeur.

The Wingos tore up the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors, replaced the roof and wiring, repaired the bases of some of the columns and painted the whole house. Their son was born soon after they moved in.

Two families occupied the house between 1974, when the Wingos sold it, and 1980. It’s more recent history causes residents to shake their heads sadly. Under the ownership of Charles Grissom, from 1980 to this year, the house burned twice, destroying most of the interior on the first floor and the basement.

It has gone unoccupied for many months.

But the new owner, Winford Kines, hopes it will be a dream house once again, despite the fire damage and theft of one of the mantle pieces and an old pedestal sink.

Kines has begun cleaning out the burned basement and the yard in the initial stages of his project. It may take me a few years, but I hope to live in it someday, Kines said. He has already won a community for lifting the house above the status of neighborhood eyesore.

*

My #1 favorite Magnolia story here. It’s well worth the read!

What is it about Magnolias and restaurants? Read about another Magnolia restaurant here.

What is it about Magnolias and fire?

*     *     *

The Sears Magnolia was quite a house (1922 catalog).

The Sears Magnolia was quite a house (1922 catalog).

*

In 2008 I visited the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. Unfortunately, no one was home.

In 2008 I visited the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. Unfortunately, no one was home.

*

I helped myself to a few good photos while I was in the neighborhood.

I helped myself to a few good photos while I was in the neighborhood.

*

This Magnolia

And walked around a bit.

*

And went up on the front porch.

And went up on the front porch.

*

Youll notice the dormer on this house is quite different than the dormer on the other Magnolias.

You'll notice the dormer on this house is quite different than the dormer on the other Magnolias. I've no idea how that came to be. It appears that the house has its original siding, so we can't blame this on the siding salesmen.

*

Some features of the house

Some features of the house remain intact, such as these oak columns in front of the living room fireplace. The inglenook window and built-in bench are missing.

*

Did you read the whole article before scrolling down to look at the photos? If so, youd know that someone broke into the house and stole a fireplace mantle. Im guessing this is the mantle.

Did you read the whole article before scrolling down to look at the photos? If so, you'd know that someone broke into the house and stole a fireplace mantle. I'm guessing this is the scene of the crime. However, what they're missing in mantles, they make up for in vacuum cleaners.

*

Bear

Incredibly, the windows and trim on the sunporch are all still original. Then again, all of these photos were snapped more than nine years ago. The antique oak filing cabinets are a nice touch, too, but they obstruct the windows a bit.

*

Another view of the sunporch windows.

Another view of the sunporch windows.

*

living room

This appears to be the dining room, in use as a parlor or den.

*

living room also

From the dining room, looking into the living room.

*

Looking

Remember reading about that fire? Apparently the staircase took a hit.

*

A really bad hit.

A really bad hit.

*

Definitely

The balustrade in the Magnolia was quite beautiful but sadly, in the Piedmont Magnolia, it's all gone. Here, it's been replaced them with 2x4s (gasp) and a planter stand (eek).

*

nebraska up

As a contrast, here's a picture of a Magnolia in Nebraska that is no longer with us. You can see that it had a beautiful balustrade. This house was razed about the same time the newspaper article above was written - mid 1980s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Second floor sunporch.

It's nice to see the original doors are in place, even if the hardware didn't survive. This is the second floor bedroom (master bedroom).

*

Side

It's incredible that these original paneled newel posts survive (with balls on top), and yet the house has obviously been through some hard times. I know that the house sold recently. Perhaps now it will be restored.

*

My #1 favorite Magnolia story here. It’s well worth the read!

What is it about Magnolias and restaurants? Read about another Magnolia restaurant here.

What is it about Magnolias and fire?

*      *      *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William & Mary College and Kit Homes

October 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 12 comments

Recently, I was on the William and Mary College campus doing research on Penniman, Virginia. (You can read more about that here.)

As part of the research, I was reading through the early 1920s college yearbooks and happened upon an interesting photo in the 1922 yearbook, “The Colonial Echo.” It was a picture of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity fellows, seated in front of their fraternity house, an Aladdin Colonial.

How apropos, I thought to myself! What else would you buy for a college campus in a famous colonial town, but THE Colonial?

For first-time visitors to this site, Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears), sold entire kit houses through mail order catalogs in the early 20th Century. Each kit came with 10,000-12,000 pieces of house, and included a detailed instruction book, designed for the novice homebuilder.

Update: Andrew Mutch has found the house, but it’s not happy news.

Our Aladdin Colonial, aka “The Clark House” (located on Jamestown Avenue) was demolished in 2004.

A press release put out by the college in 2004 said the house was built in 1911 and had been deemed “physically unsound” ten years prior (1994).

Ding, ding, ding, nice try and thanks for playing.

The Colonial first appeared in the 1915 “Aladdin Houses” catalog for a price of $1,980, but the Colonial on the W&M campus was built in 1920 or 1921 (based on info gleaned from the college yearbooks). This means the 1911 date is quite a boo boo.

As to the “physically unsound” part, I have serious reservations about that, too.

It’s a good thing they got rid of that early 20th Century kit home with all that first-growth southern yellow pine from virgin forests, and those oily old cypress clapboards.

Not.

This was an egregious waste of America’s irreplaceable and most-precious resources. Approximately 30% of all waste found in landfills is construction debris. Doesn’t make much sense to fill a campus with recycling receptacles for paper, plastic and aluminum if you’re going to send 350,000 pounds of architectural history to the landfill.

Images of the 1922 William and Mary “Echo” came from www.archive.org.  If you have several hours to kill, I highly recommend their site!

And - again - many thanks to Rachel for finding these high-resolution images at archive.org!

*

Words

While looking through the 1922 "Colonial Echo," I found a most interesting picture!

*

Words

The full page from the 1922 "Echo" shows the Theta Delta Chi gang, seated in front of their freshly built Aladdin Colonial! Wouldn't it be interesting to know if these fellows assembled that Aladdin kit house on their own!

*

What a beautiful

What a beautiful house! The Colonial was first offered in 1915. The image above is from the 1922 "Colonial Echo," so it's possible that the house was newly built (which may be why it merited its own photograph). I wonder how long it was used as the house for Theta Delta Chi?

*

The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.

The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.

*

Heres an Aladdin Colonial in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Colonial in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

*

Rachel

Rachel Shoemaker, researcher extraordinaire, found this picture (also at archive.org) of the Theta Delta Chi boys gathered around the front porch of their newly built Aladdin Colonial in 1921 (from "The Colonial Echo" 1921). In prior years, the frat boys were photographed in front of a different (older) house. I would love to know - did these guys BUILD this house? What a pity that W&M saw fit to destroy this house in 2004. An aside, with 15 minutes of searching the yearbooks, Rachel figured out that this house was built in 1920 or 1921.

*

In addition to the

In addition to the Aladdin Colonial shown above, Williamsburg also has a Sears kit home, "The Oak Park" (shown above). (Vintage image is from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.)

*

And just down the street is this Wardway Mayflower. How appropos!

And just down the street is this Wardway "Mayflower." How apropos!

*

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

* * *

The 1924 Tornado of Lorain and An Aladdin Villa

September 25th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

The picture tells quite a story, doesnt it?

June 28, 1924, a tornado formed over Sandusky Bay and eventually came ashore in Lorain, Ohio. More than 500 homes were destroyed and about 1,000 buildings suffered damage. The storm caused 85 deaths, and 72 of those deaths occurred in Lorain. Fifteen souls perished when the State Theater in Lorain collapsed. In today's dollars, the damage was well more than $1 billion. Later, it was estimated that this was an F-4 tornado, and 89 years later, it remains the 4th most deadly tornado ever experienced in northern states. Photo is courtesy Dan Brady and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And look closely at the house featured on this postcard: Its an Aladdin Villa.

And look closely at the house featured on this postcard: It's an Aladdin Villa. Photo is courtesy Dan Brady and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Folks must have been in shock.

Folks must have been in shock as they wandered around, horrified at the amount of destruction. The tornado occurred in June, and yet look at the clothing. Judging by these photos, the storm ushered in some cold weather. The houses around the Villa were mostly leveled, but the three-story Villa is mostly standing (sans roof and attic). Photo is courtesy Dan Brady and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The Villa was first offered in the 1916 Aladdin catalog.

The Villa was first offered in the 1916 Aladdin catalog. That means that the Villa in Lorain was less than eight years old, at the very most, when it was severely damaged by the Lorain Tornado of 1924.

*

Fien house

In addition to being "beautiful and modern," it was pretty sturdy.

*

Spacious

The Villa was more than 4,00 square feet, not including the attic. The sunporch has a fireplace.

*

Sunporch, as seen in the 1919 catalogs line drawing.

The Villa was Aladdin's finest home, and several interior views (line drawings) were featured in the 1919 catalog.

*

Living room

The living room was 26-feet long and 16-feet wide.

*

Dining room

The dining room must have been difficult to decorate, with two sets of french doors (into the reception hall and breakfast room), three tall windows and a swinging door into the kitchen.

*

Seen in 1919

The Aladdin Villa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

*

house house house

If you look closely at the sun porch here (facing the camera), you can see the masonry fireplace in the center of the room. For all the sadness and horror occasioned by this terrible storm, this real-life example proved pretty clearly that Aladdin Homes were strong, sturdy, well-built homes. Photo is courtesy Dan Brady and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Photo is

Today, this house is a shining jewel in Lorain, Ohio and there's not a hint that anything bad ever happened to this almost-100-year-old Villa. Photo is copyright 2012 Dan Brady and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Scotland Neck

Just for comparison, I've included a Villa in Scotland Neck, NC.

*

Lorain

I have a special fondness for Lorain, Ohio. Sometime in 2003 (as I recall), I visited Lorain, Ohio courtesy of Valerie Smith at the Lorain Public Library. I had a wonderful time and I must say, it was quite a thrill to see my name "in lights" on the historic Palace Theater! And while in Lorain, I was also the guest of the Kaczmarek family. Lawrence Kaczmarek built a Sears Westly in Lorain County in 1919.

*

I met the family

I met the Kaczmarek family when Richard Herman, a descendent of Lawrence Kaczmarek (misspelled above in the testimonial) sent me a letter shortly after my first book was published in 2002. Richard, if you're reading this, I wish you'd contact me. I'd love to hear from you again! Sadly, Mr. Kaczmarek's Westly was torn down in the 1960s (as I recall) to make way for a bridge expansion project.

*

To visit Dan Brady’s wonderful blog, click here.

To read another blog about kit homes surviving natural disasters, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

*   *   *

A Tale of Two Maggies

August 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Sometime in the late 1910s, someone in Lincoln, Nebraska sat down with a specialty catalog from Sears & Roebuck and ordered a kit house called, “The Magnolia.” It was the grandest kit home that Sears offered, with almost 3,000 square feet, 2-1/2 baths, four spacious bedrooms, a porte cochere, a couple sunporches, kitchen nook, fireside inglenook, butler’s pantry, servant’s quarters annd much more.

As the decades rolled by, the house fell into disrepair. In 1985, it suffered a fire and was then razed.

Today, all that first-quality lumber (Oak, Cypress and #1 Southern Yellow Pine from the virgin forests of Louisiana) is sitting in a landfill somewhere in Lincoln.

And someone’s much-loved “Dream Home” is nothing but a sorrowful memory.

About the same time, someone in West Virginia sat down and ordered a Sears Magnolia, and as the decades rolled by, that house also fell into disrepair.

In 2003, it was purchased by someone who loved and respected old houses and they spent the next three years doing a thorough restoration of the 3,000-square foot manse. They did a beautiful job. Some folks who saw the restoration (and it was a true restoration) estimate that the cost of the work hit the seven-digit mark.

And someone’s much loved Magnolia is now a historical treasure in West Virginia.

The photos below come from the two Magnolias: The black and white photos are of the house in Nebraska, gone for 28 years now.

Thanks so much to the wonderful folks at the Nebraska State Historical Society for having the presence of mind to document this wonderful old house before it was razed, and so generously sharing these wonderful photos with me, three decades later.

It’s so tragic that this historically significant house is now a pile of rubble in a landfill, but at least we can get a good look at our “Maggy,” and remember, this was a house that someone carefully selected from the pages of a Sears Roebuck catalog and then painstakingly erected, more than nine decades ago.

“The Tale of Two Maggies,” is the story of two Sears kit homes purchased about the same time (late 1910s/early 1920s); same model house with a radically different outcome.

If you enjoy the blog, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the Magnolia that lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.

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

*

comparison

In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln Nebraska was razed after a fire. Prior to this, it had suffered from many years of neglect. And yet, I'm surely grateful that the Nebraska Historical Society had the foresight to photograph the house and then save those photos for posterity. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

By contrast, this Magnolia (in West Virginia) did *not* suffer from years of neglect. And yet - being a 90-year-old house - it came to its own crossroads in 2003, and was faithfully restored to its former grandeur.

*

Two Maggies

The Tale of Two Maggies; quite a contrast in the "caretaking" of old homes.

*

One house was painstakingly restored.

Before the fire and subsequent razing, the Magnolia in Lincoln was in dire need of some basic maintenance. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And one was saved

The Magnolia in West Virginia is the picture of perfection, and thanks to the restoration, will probably live on for another 100 years or more.

*

Photo of Lincoln

Going through these photos, I found it remarkable how similar these homes are. They almost look like "before and after" photos of the same house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Steve Burke

Both houses began at the same starting point: Identical building materials and similar climate conditions, but the Magnolia in WV looks fantastic today - thanks to the restoration work.

*

haunting

Of all the pictures I reviewed in preparing this blog, these side-by-side contrasts were the most haunting.

*

beautiful old house

Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society, we have several interior photos of the Nebraskan Magnolia. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Reception Hall

The breathtakingly beautiful reception hall in the West Virginia Magnolia.

*

haunting too

The side-by-side pictures show a striking contrast.

*

house house hosue li

The simple elegance of the Magnolia still shines through in these living room photos. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

living room house

Note, the fireplace mantel is the same (as shown above in the Lincoln Magnolia) but the frieze is a little different.

*

living room haunting as well

These pictures really showcase what a loss this was, don't they?

*

two maggies

Two unnamed ladies in front of the Maggie's fireplace. Notice the brick hearth and brick trim around the firebox. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house maggie girls

The marble hearth and surround were added during the restoration work. It's not original to the house, but it sure is a lovely addition and very nicely done.

*

girls in maggie

The notes that accompanied these Nebraska photos state that the mantel and trim (and floor) in living room were solid oak. Based on the info in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, I'd say those notes are right.

*

nebraska up

A view of the upstairs hallway. See the little bit of balcony through the French doors? A lot of fine details on this house survived the many decades. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

magnolia up

And the same hallway in the West Virginia Magnolia.

*

Magnolia house house house

Side-by-side views of the two Magnolias.

*

den fireplace

The mantel in the den was quite simple for such a grand house. This den fireplace (which backed up to the living room fireplace) appears to be a coal-burner, very common in this era and more efficient than a wood-burning fireplace. The 12" square floor tiles are not original to the house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

den maggy

The original den in the Magnolia was a mere eight feet deep. The den (and the kitchen) in the WV Magnolia were both enlarged with a 40-foot wide addition across the back of the house.

*

Magnolia kitchen

The kitchen in the Nebraska Magnolia was mighty close to original. According to a rough sketch of the floor plan, provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society, the Butler's Pantry was removed to create additional space in the kitchen. In the background, you can see three casement windows, and if you look closely, you'll see two benches, the remnants of a built-in dining nook. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

kitchen new

The kitchen in the West Virginia Magnolia is quite different!

*

house Nebraska

All in all, it's pretty impressive that this house stood so square and true for so long sans maintenance.

*

Porch Maggie

And yet it sure is gorgeous when a little tender loving care is applied.

*

About 90 years ago,

About 90 years ago, two hopeful wanna-be homeowners pored over the pages of a Sears Modern Homes catalog, counting their dollars and studying their budget and decided upon the Sears Magnolia. It pains my heart to think that the Magnolia in Nebraska - someone's cherished and much-loved home - is now gone.

*

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read more about the Magnolia, click here.

*    *    *

“My Brentwood is the Admiration of the Town”

August 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

In terms of actual sales numbers of kit homes, Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, but these many years later, they’re not as well known. “Sears Homes” is to kit homes what Kleenex is to disposable tissues. It’s become a generic term, that is over-used and frequently wrong.

More than 80% of the people who think they live in a Sears Home are wrong, and yet the majority of these misinformed souls *do* live in a kit home, but it’s often a kit house from another company, such as Aladdin (or Gordon Van Tine, or Lewis Manufacturing, or Sterling, or Montgomery Wards).

Here in the Southeastern United States, most of our kit homes are from Aladdin, and that’s probably because of the proximity to Wilmington, NC where Aladdin had a massive mill.

One of my favorite Aladdin houses is the Brentwood. It’s a classic Arts & Crafts house with lots of flair. Best of all, it’s easy to identify because of its many unique architectural features.

Enjoy the pictures, and if you know of an Aladdin Brentwood near you, please contact me!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here or here.

Interested in learning more about Aladdin? Click here!

*

Whats not to love? The Aladdin Brentwood as seen in the 1919 catalog. What a house!

What's not to love? The Aladdin Brentwood as seen in the 1919 catalog. What a house!

*

Spacious

I love it that the small balcony (second floor) is not off the "master bedroom," but the "owner's room." The guy who's making the payments on this joint gets the Romeo and Juliet balcony. Darn tootin'!

*

house house

I love the last paragraph: "A Tennessee owner says, 'My Brentwood is the admiration of the town. It was ready for plastering two weeks after the first nail was driven.'" The first line of this ad also reflects this theme.

*

One of my favorite Brentwoods, right here in my neck of the woods. This house is in Hampton, VA and is in stunningly beautiful condition.

One of my favorite Brentwoods, right here in my neck of the woods. This house is in Hampton, VA and is in stunningly beautiful condition. My research shows that the home's original owner was an electrician. I wonder if he built the house himself? Often tradesman would do just that.

*

Another Brentwood in nearby Newport News. Sadly, this gorgeous old house is in East End, which is crime-ridden and quite unsafe. Before long, this house will probably be another footnote of our local history.

Another Brentwood in nearby Newport News. Sadly, this gorgeous old house is in East End, which is a very crime-ridden and unsafe area. Our local news is full of stories of shootings and stabbings in East End. Before long, this house will probably be another footnote of our local history.

*

Back to the happy Brentwoods: Heres a beauty in Chapel Hill, NC.

Back to the happy Brentwoods: Here's a beauty in Chapel Hill, NC.

*

Roanoke Rapids, NC has a massive collection of Aladdin Kit Homes, including this Brentwood.  Roano

Roanoke Rapids, NC has a massive collection of Aladdin Kit Homes, including this Brentwood.

*

Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids) also is home to many Aladdin kit homes.

Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids) also is home to many Aladdin kit homes. This Brentwood needs a little love, but it's still in pretty good shape.

*

Years ago, I discovered this Aladdin Brentwood in Mattoon, IL.

Years ago, I discovered this Aladdin Brentwood in Mattoon, IL. It's been rode hard and put away wet, but it's still solid and true. The hardest part about finding these classic old kit homes in the tiny towns of the Midwest is that they're often in very sad condition and/or neglected.

*

The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

*

To learn more about Aladdin kit homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

*   *   *

Mini Mystery on the Majestic Maggy: SOLVED!

July 15th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Subtitled: How Time Changes Old Houses

In a few weeks, I’m taking a road trip to visit a Sears Magnolia. In preparation for the trip, I’ve been studying the floor plan, and happened upon a little mystery that has had me (and many others in our Facebook group) stumped!

Take a look!

*   *   *

Floor plan shows

This is the 2nd floor of the Magnolia. The image is reversed (flipped) for reasons that will become evident later on. The mystery is that oval within a square in the dressing room (center room on the front). The dressing room was off the Master Bedroom, and there's a spot for dresses and hats, but what does the oval/square represent?

*

House

At first glance, it looks like a sink but why would there be a sink so far from the rest of the plumbing (kitchen and baths)? And on the front of the house? The bathrooms (second floor) were on top of the kitchen (first floor) to conserve plumbing runs, which is typical. Plus, I studied several exterior photos of different Magnolias and couldn't see a vent pipe in the front roof area. That, coupled with the odd placement (far from kitchens and baths) ruled out plumbing. This dressing room is directly over the entry foyer, which ruled out laundry chute. Chutes were usually found in common areas (hallways, bathrooms).

*

Cinderella

And then I found the answer is an unlikely place: The Ascetic Cinderella. This was one of the simplest little houses that Sears offered in their "Honor Bilt" line. It had only one bedroom, but it recommended that fold-away beds be used in the living room and dining room, and included a dressing room for stowage of beds.

*

Common

The 1921 catalog featured a two-page spread on this simple bungalow.

*

sinking feeling

And there in the corner of the dressing room (which housed the fold-away beds), was a tiny corner sink.

*

plumbing runs be damned

The Cinderella was a very low-priced house, and yet, they ran plumbing lines from at least 25-feet away (the kitchen) to a lone fixture at the front of the house.

*

simple

In fact, a close-up of one of the images in the 1921 catalog shows the dressing room with that corner sink. Presumably, Miss Cindy Lou (aka "The Little Lady") has rinsed out her unmentionables in the small sink, and is preparing to hang them up on the closet pole to her immediate left.

*

All of which leads

All of which leads me to believe that the mystery oval within a square shown on the Magnolia's floor plan is indeed a sink. In fact, judging by the way it's drawn, I'm guessing it'd be a pedestal sink. After all, if they can stick a wee tiny sink on the front corner of the Cinderella's dressing room, then it seems likely they did the same (with a better sink) in the Magnolia's dressing room.

*

And take a look at this thing.

And take a look at this thing. It's literally up against the door frame that leads to the front balcony. What a curious place for a pedestal sink. And the wall behind the sink is a little extra thick, which probably provides a chase for the plumbing to run over to the bathroom lines and join up there.

*

lady

If we place Miss Cindy Lou in the Master Bedroom of the Magnolia (she likes the Magnolia a lot better than that CLH above), you'll see that she has quite a hike over to the family bathroom. And you'll see that these two front bedrooms are isolated from each other, so she can't even take the short cut through the other bedroom and into the bath. And maybe she has "unmentionables" that she needs to wash out each night that she doesn't wish to have seen in the family bathroom.

*

Magnolia

Years ago, I had an opportunity to see a Magnolia with a second floor that had been "frozen in time" after World War II. Upstairs, they had created an apartment by taking out a wall and installing this prefab kitchen sink. The door on the right leads out to the 2nd floor balcony and the window to the left is the small window that originally was part of the bedroom closet. This photo was further affirmation that there was a sink in that dressing room. This kitchen sink is placed just where the old pedestal sink would have sat. If you had to add a kitchen to an old house, you'd pull out the pedestal sink and stick in your new (1940s) kitchen unit. Which is just what they did.

*

house house

The red line represents the placement of the wall that was removed in order to install this kitchen sink.

*

What they did

If you turn that floor plan around, so it's facing in the same direction as the image above, you can get a better idea of what's going on above. The Master Bedroom is to the right, and if you walked into that dressing room, you'd have a hat shelf on the left side of the dressing room and your pedestal sink would be on the far right - right up against that balcony door (which is a really quirky design). The blue line represents the placement of the 1940s pre-fab kitchen sink and the pink X's show the wall that was removed, creating a walk-through between the two rooms. The red star shows where I was standing when I took the photo above. :)

*

house house house

Comparing these two images, you can get an idea of how it all went together. The red line on the left shows the placement of the 1920s wall, and the blue square shows the placement of the modern sink.

*

How

And if you look at the molding above that small window, you'll see that it's missing a corner. I suspect that it was built that way, to accommodate the extra-thick chase wall there (between the bedroom closet and the Master Bedroom dressing room).

*

house house house

This is an original "Family Bathroom" Sears Magnolia pedestal sink. Most likely, this was the same sink that was present in that Master Bedroom dressing room. Note how the plumbing lines come up out of the floor, rather than through the rear wall.

*

The Magnolia was only offered from 1918 - 1922.

The Magnolia was only offered from 1918 - 1922 (1918 catalog shown above). We know of only eight Magnolias that were built, and one of them (in Nebraska) was razed in 1985.

*

house house house

Here's a real live Magnolia in Canton, Ohio, and it's in beautiful condition! Photo is copyright 2011 Janet Hess LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

In conclusion, I’m now confident that the “oval within a square” shown on the floorplan is a sink. And apparently, placing a small sink in a dressing room was not uncommon in the 1920s.

If any readers know the reasons behind placing a small sink in a front bedroom, I’d love to know!

To read more about the Magnolia, click here.

Interested in learning about the Cinderella? Click here.

*   *   *

Inside the Sears Magnolia: In 1918 and 1985

July 12th, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

Last week, I did a blog on the lost Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska. One of only eight known Magnolias in the country, the Sears House in Lincoln was torn down in 1985.

Fortunately, the Magnolia in Lincoln was extensively photographed a few months before it was razed. The photos were then archived and saved by the Nebraska State Historical Society.

And nearly 30 years later, the folks at NSHS were kind enough to share these wonderful photos with me.

After studying their photos, I realized that those historically minded folks at Nebraska State Historical Society had photographed the Magnolia’s interiors from the same angle shown in a special fold-out offered in a 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

I’m in possession of two 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalogs, and yet this “special fold out” is not present in either catalog. I suspect that there were two or more revisions of the 1918 catalog, and the catalog that featured the “interior views” (shown below) was a very rare catalog.

For several years, friend and fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker has been collecting these old catalogs, and she was kind enough to share her copy of this rare 1918 catalog.

A big thank you to Rachel and also to the kind souls at the Nebraska State Historical Society. Because of them, I’m able to put together these 30-year-old photos with the 90-year-old drawings featured in the old Sears Modern Homes catalog.

And a little hint for today’s blog: Take an extra moment and read the captions thoroughly. While I was going through these images, I learned some fascinating things about old houses in general and the Magnolia in particular.

Please share the link with your old-house loving friends!  :)

*

Interior

This fold-out appeared in the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I've been playing with Sears Homes for 15 years, and yet I'd never seen this page - anytime anywhere. When the Nebraska State Historical Society sent me their files on the Sears Magnolia in Lincoln, they included a faded (and repeatedly xeroxed) copy of this very same page. And it was this page that they apparently used as a guide when they took *their* photos.

*

house

Close-up of the text box in the fold-out (1918).

*

house house

If you look closely at the floor plan, you'll see a second set of stairs off the kitchen. In tiny print, it says, "To servants' room." Remember that detail. If you look at the back wall of the kitchen, you'll also see the words, "Ice box door." This feature enabled the ice man to place 25 or 50 pounds of ice directly into the ice box - from the back porch - without entering the house. It was also known as the "Jealous Husband's Door."

*

house showing

Those kitchen stairs lead into a small hallway that opens up right into a small bedroom, which leads to a bathroom. The servants' area was purposefully isolated from the rest of the family. The servants' bathroom was also smaller and more modest. Remember that detail, too. The family bathroom has a sink that says, "MC" (medicine chest). The servants' bathroom does not say MC. The poor Irish servant girl didn't even have a place to store her toiletries.

*

house house house

Close-up of the Magnolia's 20-foot long living room.

*

banana house living room

And here it is in real life. Those folks at the Nebraska State Historical Society did a fine job, didn't they? The fireplace mantel is not a perfect match, which is a puzzler. Notice also that the home's original owners went for the Hercules Steam Heating Outfit (which was the most expensive heating option available). Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house house house

The Magnolia had a grand entry hall. The French doors at the top of the landing lead to a small balcony outside.

*

house house house

The Magnolia was an elegant home with classic lines and aristocratic airs, and despite the deterioration occasioned by decades of neglect, its timeless elegance was still apparent. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house upstairs

The photographer was standing in front of the dressing room looking toward the rear of the house on the 2nd floor. These are the same French doors shown in the prior photo, which lead out to that small balcony. If you look close, you can see the balcony's railing. I believe the door on the left leads to that servants' staircase. It's an interesting arrangement, because the balcony and that door are both on a lower level than the rest of the 2nd floor. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

kitchen

My favorite image: The kitchen. Look at that darling little breakfast nook sitting in the coolest spot in the house, with pretty casement windows on all three sides. The door on the right leads to the ice box (with the "Jealous Husband's Door"). And the door on the right leads to the back porch.

*

house house kitchen

The NSHS photographers outdid themselves on this image. Nice match to the picture above! The door that's partially open leads to the servants' staircase. The nook is still intact, but the little dinette is gone. The sink has been moved from the right side to the left. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

kitchen floorplan

Here's a close-up of the Magnolia's kitchen and surrounding area. This is a very complicated space! And there's a Butler's Pantry (with a sink) between the dining room and kitchen.

*

the den the den

Most post-1950s homes feature a "den," but this wasn't a common concept in the late 1910s (when the Magnolia was first offered). Another unusual concept was the two fireplaces (in the living room and den). By the 1910s, wood-burning fireplaces had fallen from favor because they were considered primitive and old-fashioned. Most houses had a single fireplace so that the family could burn an occasional fire on a cold-winter evening, just for ambiance, but two? Definitely not typical. Plus, it was getting harder and harder to find cheap firewood in the cities, due to the explosive growth of residential and commercial construction.

*

house house house house house

Now this mantel is a good match to the image above (minus the cracked mirror)! The floor tile wasn't original, but was probably added in the 1940s or 50s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house bathroom

This was not the maid's bathroom. This was the FAMILY'S bathroom. How do I know this? Let me count the ways. First, it has that niche created by the chimney (left corner). And it has a shower. Yes, a shower. And while we're in the bathroom, look at the subway tile on the walls and diagonal tiles on the floor. Nice, isn't it?

*

shower

The shower was a pretty fancy deal for 1918. I don't know of any other pre-1930 Sears Homes that were offered *with* showers. And this isn't your typical shower. This one sits at the far end of the tub, away from the tub's drain and supply lines. Now that's curious. I wish I knew when showers came into vogue in typical American homes. If a reader could answer that, I'd be tickled pink.

*

house in Benson

This is *not* the Magnolia in Lincoln, but it's another Magnolia with a "Family Bathroom" that's in original condition. When I first saw this bathroom, I was utterly mystified by the hose bibs on the lower right. There's a bedroom on the other side of that wall. Why would there be plumbing on the far side of the tub? And I have thought about this curious plumbing arrangement ever since. Thanks to Rachel's 1918 "interior views," I think the puzzle is solved. I suspect that these water lines supplied water to that funky shower at the far end of the tub. The house bibs may have been added for a washer hook-up later on, but look at the plumbing lines that snake around the back of the tub and (perhaps) to the side where that shower once was.

*

house shower

It's a not-so-great photo, but you can see the two hose bibs with two lines coming off and snaking around the back and side of the tub. And if you look close, you'll see a piece of that old subway tile behind the tub.

*

house tub

If you look at the front of the tub, you see the lines here (for the bathtub faucets) are original and in use. In fact, judging from the paint, they haven't been disturbed in a very long time.

*

house bathroom

The contemporary photo of the bathtub (with those awesome swans on the side) was taken almost four years ago, and yet it's only in the last 24 hours, when I saw this vintage image, that I was able to surmise why there were pipes behind the tub. Who says history isn't fun? :)

*

house house house

How many Magnolias are out there? Thus far, we know of eight that were built, and seven are still standing.

*

house in Nebraska

The grand old Magnolia in Nebraska was torn down in 1985 due to decades of neglect. These photos are bittersweet, because this house should have been salvaged. Instead, it's now just another pile of construction debris in a local landfill. Nonetheless, I'm unspeakably grateful for these many wonderful images. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house in neb

This framing members used in the construction of this house were first-growth lumber, #1 Southern Yellow Pine, harvested from the virgin forests of Louisiana. The exterior (siding, trim and balustrades) is Cypress, once lauded as "The Wood Eternal," because of its natural resistance to moisture, decay and insect infestation. The two-story columns were Yellow Poplar. Inside, the entire house had oak trim and mill work, with tongue-and-groove oak floors. The kitchen floor was maple. This house was built with a quality of building materials we will never again see in this country. RIP, Magnolia. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Many thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for sharing these photos, and thanks also to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the vintage images from that rare 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Read more  the “Jealous Husband’s Door” click here.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Want to see more photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska? Click here.

*    *    *

Where Are the Rest of the Sears Homes in Charlotte?

June 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last year, I spent several hours driving around in Charlotte, NC searching for Sears Homes, and found only a handful.

And then a few days ago, Sears House Hunter Andrew Mutch sent me a link to a Sears Corona that was for sale in Charlotte. My oh my, that was a beautiful house. You can read all about it here.

In fact, I am geographically challenged and there’s a fair chance that I spent most of my time in one neighborhood (reflected by the photos below). I’d love to know where the rest of the Sears Homes are!

What did I miss?

Further, I found two “reproduction” Sears Homes, and that’s a puzzler as well. Someone in Charlotte loves Sears Homes enough to create MODERN versions of these old bungalows and foursquares!

Who are they? And why haven’t they contacted me?  :)

If you know who built these reproduction Sears Homes, please leave a comment below.

*

There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

*

*

Heres one

A perfect Sears Crescent in Charlotte. I circled the block about 4,873 times waiting for the woman on the cell phone to hang up and go back in the house. Eventually, I gave up and just tried to get a photo of her not facing the camera. The things we do for love. Sigh.

*

house house house

It's a lovely Sears Crescent in good condition, and it's not too far from its sister Crescent (above). The American flag is a lovely touch but not so much the upholstered furniture. At this point, I was just grateful there wasn't someone sitting in the upholstered furniture, talking on the cell phone.

*

*

And the surprise was finding this Corona

The Sears Corona was a beautiful, classic bungalow, and I was so surprised to find that there is one in Charlotte! Notice how the dormer is centered on the roof, and the offset front porch (1918 catalog).

*

Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

*

The Maywood was a beautiful, spacious kit home offered by Sears in the late 1920s.

The Maywood was a beautiful, spacious kit home offered by Sears in the late 1920s.

*

Is this a Maywood in Charlotte?

Is this a Maywood in Charlotte? It might be, or it may be a plan book house. Plan book homes were similar to kit homes, in that potential buyers browsed the pages, picked out a house they liked and sent in their payment. With a plan book, they'd receive a list of building materials needed to build their dream home, and also the blueprints, but no building materials.

*

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I recently discovered this little plan book house, The Carmen. This house is ubiquitous in North Carolina. Ive found it in Rocky Mount, Elizabeth City, several in Raleigh and now Charlotte.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I recently discovered this little plan book house, "The Carmen." This house is ubiquitous in North Carolina. I've found it in Rocky Mount, Elizabeth City, Durham, several in Raleigh and now Charlotte.

*

And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

*

As mentioned above, another surprise was finding a Modern Sears Westly in Charlotte. Whos building these homes? Id love to know!

As mentioned above, another surprise was finding a "Modern" Sears Westly in Charlotte. Who's building these homes? I'd love to know!

*

Wow

Sure is a nice house, but I'm quite certain that this is a new house. And it's in a neighborhood of new houses, that were all built to look like old bungalows.

*

Just around the block from the Westly (shown above), I found a Sears Cornell.

Just around the block from the Westly (shown above), I found a Sears Cornell.

*

The Cornell

The Cornell, but it's new! Note the attention to detail. Even the belt-course is exactly where it should be, and the upper portion is shingle and the lower is clapboard. So who's building new kit homes?

*

If you know of any other Sears Homes in Charlotte, or you know who’s building these “new old houses,”  please leave a comment below.

I’d love to come back to Charlotte and do a proper survey! If you know how to make that happen, please contact me!

*

To see interior photos of the Sears Corona in Charlotte, click here.

*   *   *