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The Sears Elmhurst, Part II

October 11th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Recently, Rachel Shoemaker was looking through a Sears Modern Homes catalog (1930) when she discovered a testimonial for a Sears Elmhurst built in Flushing, New York. She then did some extra digging and was able to glean the home’s current address.

In fact, Rachel wrote a blog on her wonderful discovery (click here to see it).

Now, we need someone near Flushing to snap a few photos of this grand and elegant home in Flushing. If you’re near the area, please leave a comment below and I’ll contact you toote suite!

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Testimoniaal

Here's the testimonial that Rachel found in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Zvonecs loved their house

I have a feeling that the Zvanovec's are no longer extending an open invitation to visit their home. Nonetheless, it sounds like they really did love their home, and were very proud of it.

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As Rachel points out in her blog, this must have been one of the first Elmhursts built, because it appeared in the 1929

Close-up of this beautiful Sears Elmhurst in Flushing, NY. Look at the beautiful stone work on the front porch.

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And heres the Elmhurst recently discovered in St. Louis.

And here's the Elmhurst recently discovered in St. Louis.

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An Elmhurst in a Chicago suburb (originally discovered by Rebecca Hunter).

Here's an Elmhurst in a Chicago suburb (originally discovered by Rebecca Hunter). Notice this house has the decorative blocks under the faux half timbering on that front gable. These blocks are missing from the Elmhurst in St. Louis and Flushing, NY. This Elmhurst and the one in Flushing are both brick veneer, whereas the one in St. Louis is solid brick. As mentioned in the prior blog, solid brick is very unusual on a Sears kit home.

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Is this a Sears Elmhurst? I think its likely but Im not certain. This house is in Rocky Mount, NC where I found an abundance of kit homes from both Sears and Aladdin.

Is this a Sears Elmhurst? I think it's likely but I'm not certain. It's in Rocky Mount, NC where I found an abundance of kit homes from both Sears and Aladdin. It's not a spot-on match but it's darn close! This is such an unusual house, I'd be inclined to say it probably is an Elmhurst. Probably. Notice, those decorative blocks are in place under the front gable.

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The Elmhurst was featured in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog and had a two-page spread.

The Elmhurst was "featured" in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog and had a two-page spread, including this colorized image. Notice, the blocks are shown in the catalog image.

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Are you near Flushing? Would you be willing to get some good, high-resolution photos for us?

If so, please leave a comment below!

To read more about the kit homes I found in Rocky Mount, click here.

To read  more about the Elmhurst, click here.

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Inside The Sears Elmhurst (St. Louis)

October 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 13 comments

Several weeks ago, a reader of this blog told me that he owned a Sears Elmhurst in St. Louis, and he was kind enough to send me a few photos. To my surprise and delight, he was right!  It really was an Elmhurst.

Last month, I visited the Elmhurst “in person” and my oh my, what a treat!

The home’s current owners have a deep abiding respect and appreciation for the unique origins of their historic home. In other words, they really love their old Sears House, and have been faithfully researching the history of this beautiful old house, and restoring it, inch by inch.

Thanks so much to the home’s owners who were gracious enough to let me take a tour of their home and share a few photos of its interior!

Elmhurst first appeared in the 1928

The Sears Elmhurst was a classic (and classy) Tudor Revival with a "half-timber effect" on the second story. Inside, it had three bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths. The house in St. Louis is in mostly original condition.

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house floorplan

The living room and dining room were spacious. The kitchen and lavatory were not.

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Cover of the 1932

The cover of the 1932 "Homes of Today" showed this fetching entryway, which is from the Elmhurst. It's kind of a "Twilight Zone" doorway, out of the hubbub of busy city living and into another dimension of peace and joy and "the satisfaction that comes from building your own home" (as Sears promised in their literature).

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house 1930 catalog

In the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the Elmhurst was given a two-page spread.

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house 1930

Even in the simplified line drawings (from the 1930 catalog) the Elmhurst looks quite elegant.

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house house house

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is a perfect match to the catalog image. Just perfect.

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house gerst

The St. Louis house is being faithfully restored by its current owners, and it's a real beauty.

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Elmhurst compare

Close-up of that entryway shown on the front cover of the 1932 catalog.

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Mike gerst elmhurst

And a fine side-by-side contrast of the St. Louis Elmhurst (left) and the entryway shown in the catalog.

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house ricin

The 1932 "Homes of Today" Sears Modern Homes catalog showed this view of the Elmhurst built in Ohio.

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house stairs

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is a good match to the black/white image above.

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house house stairs

The "Elmhurst built in Ohio" is shown here on the right, and the Elmhurst in St. Louis in on the left. The details are perfect with two lone exceptions: The front door is hinged different in the St. Louis house, and that decorative "S" is missing from the base of the wrought-iron staircase railing (which looks like it'd be a knee-buster anyway). The flip-flops are missing from the Elmhurst in Ohio.

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house la tosca

La Tosca door hardware was a very popular choice in Sears Homes.

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house house la tosca

The LaTosca door hardware, as seen in the Elmhurst and as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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phone niche

The moldings and trim in this Elmhurst are birch, according to the owner. Based on the research he's done, I'd say he's probably right. The owner is doing a remarkable job of restoring the inherent beauty of all the original wood trim throughout the house. The patina and beauty of the natural wood finish on this phone niche isn't accurately represented by this dark photo. While walking through the house, I couldn't help but to "reach out and touch" the beautiful wood trim. It really is that beautiful.

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house house door

The 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed this view of the front door (interior). Note that the stylistic "S" is missing from the wrought-iron railing in this picture.

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front door stuff

There was a wall that blocked my shooting the door and staircase from the same angle as shown above, but I got pretty close. This house was a one-hour trip from my brother's home in Elsah, IL (where I was staying), but once I saw the inside of this house, I was mighty glad I'd made the effort. In every way that an old house can be truly stunning, this house *was* stunning. It's a real gem in the heart of St. Louis.

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comparison

Comparison showing the 1930 catalog image and the real live house in St. Louis.

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Wall

From this view (near the landing), you get a better idea of the size of the hallway.

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kitchen 1932

The kitchen of the Elmhurst (as shown in the 1932 catalog). This appears to be a photo, and the picture was taken by someone standing with their backside leaning hard against the right rear corner of the house, looking toward the door that opens into the dining room. Notice the La Tosca hardware on the door.

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kitchen today

The Elmhurst's kitchen today, from that dining room door, looking toward the right rear corner. While I'm a big fan of all things old, even I'd agree that the kitchen needed a little bit of updating for the 21st Century.

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Most Sears kit homes had maple floors in the kitchen and bath (underneath tile and other floor coverings). The owners of the Elmhurst tried to restored the maple floor in their kitchen but it was too far gone.

Most Sears kit homes had maple floors in the kitchen and bath (underneath the floor coverings). The owners of the Elmhurst tried to restored the maple floor in their kitchen but these floors were really intended to be used as a subfloor, not a primary floor.

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house inside

The fireplace in the living room has the same square slate tiles as seen on the front porch.

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house hallway upstairs

This over-sized landing window was another lovely feature of the Elmhurst. As seen from the outside, this is the tall dormer window just to the right of the front porch (as seen from the street).

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window staircase

Downstairs looking up at the staircase window.

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house elmhurst

A distinctive feature found in two-story Sears kit homes are these plinth blocks. These square blocks were used to help the novice homebuilder cope with complex joints. The landing of the Elmhurst had three of these plinth blocks on one landing. I do believe that that's the most plinth blocks I've ever seen in one kit house.

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house plinth block

The plinth block at this juncture is actually two-steps tall.

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business card

While doing some work on the home, the owner found this business card inside a wall. I've seen a lot of very cool ephemera in my fun career, but this is one of the best. There were only 40 Sears Modern Homes "Sales Centers" in the country and there was one in St. Louis. Folks could stroll into these storefronts and get a first-hand look at the quality of framing members, millwork, heating equipment and plumbing fixtures. Apparently Miss Manning visited the Sears Modern Homes Sales Center and had some discussion with Marcelle Elton about her new Elmhurst.

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pipe tag pipe tag

The home's current owners found this tag attached to a cast-iron pipe inside the kitchen wall. It shows that the home's purchaser was a "Miss Margaret Manning" of Clayton, Missouri. For those interested in genealogy, I would LOVE to know where Miss Manning lived before she purchased the house in St. Louis and what she did for a living. Lastly, I'd also be interested in knowing how long she lived in this house.

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house pipe tag pipe tag

Close-up of the tab shows a return address of 925 Homan Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois.

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houe exterior house

From all angles, the Elmhurst is quite stunning.

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On the inside, those dormers look like this.

On the inside, those dormers look like this.

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house solid brick

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is an enigma for several reasons. One, this is not a frame house with brick veneer (like every other "brick" Sears kit house I've ever seen). This house is solid brick, and when the owner remodeled the kitchen, he said the exterior walls had furring strips (typical of a solid brick house). And the flashing and original gutters were copper. When built, the house had a tile roof. These are all significant upgrades and probably cost the home's first owner quite a bit extra.

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gerst home

This photo was taken by the home's current owner. You can see a remnant of the tile roof on the ridge of the house. And if you look closely, you can see the copper flashing around the chimney.

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Elmhurst in Chitown

There's another Elmhurst in a Chicago suburb that Rebecca Hunter found. This Elmhurst has concrete sills (as you'd expect to see on a kit house, because it's simpler than laying brick), but the house in St. Louis had *brick* sills.

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house 1930

The Elmhurst was beautiful, but not very popular. It was offered from 1929 to 1932.

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And look what my buddy Rachel found in her 1929 Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes catalog! Its an Elmhurst that was built in Long Island, NY. And Rachel even found the house - as it stands today - in New York!

And look what my buddy Rachel found in her 1929 "Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes" catalog! It's an Elmhurst that was built in Long Island, NY. And Rachel even found the house - as it stands today - in New York! Who wants to get a photo of this house? :)

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Thanks again to the home’s current owners for sharing their Elmhurst with me (and the readers of this blog!). It’s a real treasure.

To read more about Rachel’s discovery in New York, click here.

To join our group of Facebook (”Sears Homes”), click here.

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

September 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

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

A Pennsgrove.

In Baltimore.

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

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

And yet it did.

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

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

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

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

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

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I love the text in these old catalogs.

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

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Two car attached garage? Wow.

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

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house

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

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Nice house.

The Pennsgrove, as it appeared in the 1932 catalog.

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And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

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Wow

Gosh, what a house!

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Inisde, the house has some delightful and quirky features.

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

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stairs

Another view of the entry foyer.

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A cute

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

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

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

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dining

Beautiful dining room with original wainscoting.

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bed

Another dormer in an upstairs bedroom.

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What have you got in YOUR neighborhood?

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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If You Like Looking at Pictures of Old Houses…

June 8th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

You should join “Sears Homes” on Facebook!

About three years ago, I started the group on Facebook to provide a public forum for answering questions about kit homes.

And I’m happy to say - to my surprise and delight - I have learned so much about kit homes from that group! Our 260+ members post a plethora of photos of kit homes from all over the country. It’s been a whole lot of fun.

If you’re interested in learning a lot about kit homes, I highly recommend joining us on Facebook.

Just look for us under the name “Sears Homes” or you can click here.

On Facebook, we talk about important topics, like how to spot subtle differences in kit homes.

"One of these things is not like the other." On Facebook, we talk about important topics, like how to spot subtle differences in kit homes. The pictures above show three Sears Magnolias (Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana) and one mis-identified Magnolia in Hopewell, VA. Can *you* see that "one of these houses is not like the other"? Then you have already pre-qualified yourself as an expert kit-house hunter!

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And we talk about how to identify marked lumber in kit homes.

And we talk about how to identify marked lumber in kit homes.

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And not all marked lumber is the same!

The markings can help identify which company produced the house.

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photo

Lots of cool vintage photos, too.

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The cool vintage photos are my favorite part!

The cool vintage photos are my favorite part!

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And where else would you learn that Kris Kristofferson worked for Sears Roebuck in the early 1920s, as a professional logger?

And where else would you learn that Kris Kristofferson worked for Sears Roebuck in the early 1920s, as a logger? The fellow with his back to us is a very young Willie Nelson. According to legend, it was this experience that inspired Willie to write, "I Am The Forest."

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And we talk about cool old houses from other kit home companies, too.

And we talk about cool old houses from other kit home companies, too.

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Like this

Like this Harris Brothers Model 1512 in Raleigh, NC.

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To learn more, click here.

To listen to Willie sing, “I Am The Forest” click here.

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“All My Friends Who Have Seen This House Are In Love With It” (Part II)

March 14th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Several days ago, I wrote a blog about an old Gordon Van Tine “Roberts” somewhere in Wheeling, West Virginia. The house was built in the 1920s by a fellow named Otto Friebertshauser. I found out about this house when I obtained a copy of Gordon Van Tine’s promotional booklet, “The Proof of the Pudding” (1927), a collection of testimonials from happy homeowners.

It was a beautiful house and a well-written testimonial but no mention of where in Wheeling this house was built! Almost 90 years had passed since Otto turned that 12,000-piece kit into a spacious home. Had the house been torn down? Was it still alive? And if it was still alive, was it still well?

Too many times to count, I’ve written and published such blogs, only to find that the subject house had subsequently been destroyed and/or was in pitiable shape and/or had been cut up into several apartments.

After the blog was finished, I sent a link to Jeremy Morris, Executive Director of the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation. In less than a day, Jeremy wrote back, saying that he’d found the house. And not only had Jeremy found the house, but he’d talked with the owners and he got me a photo of the house!

The owners and I were soon in contact, and I’m delighted to report that they love this house just as much as Otto Friebertshauser did. In fact, they’ve done an exemplary job of restoring it to its former grandeur. And they did not realize it was a kit house (as is the case about 90% of the time).

Thanks so much to the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and to Jeremy Morris (Executive Director) for going out and searching for this house, and thanks to the home’s current owners for doing such a first-class job of preserving this fine old house.

As mentioned in the previous blog, Wheeling is apparently awash in kit homes, and I’ve already spotted a PERFECT Sears Crescent on National Street, almost across the road from the Dairy Queen. I’d be ever so grateful if some good soul could snap a photo of that house for me!

Click here to see the other kit homes I saw in Wheeling, WV.

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, visit my buddy Dale’s website, devoted to Gordon Van Tine homes.

I’d love to come out to Wheeling soon and do a proper survey and give a talk. Please leave a comment below to contact Rose and let’s figure out how to make it so!

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In the 1927 promotional brochure, Otto

In the 1927 promotional brochure, Otto Friebertshauser wrote, "All of my friends who have seen this house are in love with it." Otto even included a snapshot of his home.

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Close-up of the text that appeared in the 1927 brochure.

Close-up of the text that appeared in the 1927 brochure.

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Ottos home as seen in the 1920s.

Otto's home as seen in the 1920s.

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In 1916, the Roberts (Ottos house) appeared on the cover.

In 1916, the "Roberts" (Otto's house) appeared on the cover.

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Close-up of that pretty, pretty house.

Close-up of that pretty, pretty house.

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The original catalog page showing The Roberts (1924).

The original catalog page showing "The Roberts" (1924).

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According to this text, theres a Roberts in every state in the US.

According to this text, there's a Roberts in every state in the US.

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The floorplan shows how spacious

As kit homes go, this one was unusually spacious.

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send

A small room upstairs was devoted to space for the live-in maid! And that dressing room doesn't make much sense, as it was accessible only through the main hallway.

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Ah, but heres the most interesting photo of all. This is the Roberts in Wheeling, then and now. Photo is

Ah, but here's the most interesting photo of all. This is the Roberts in Wheeling, then and now. Photo (on left) is copyright 2013 Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Photo on right was taken by Otto Freibertshauser, and it's also a dandy photo.

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Otto would be so pleased to see his house today!

Otto would be so pleased to see his house today! What a breath-taking beauty and it's been lovingly and thoughtfully maintained. And perhaps best of all, the original windows are still in place. Photo is copyright 2013 Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ottos house dressed up for Christmas! Now this belongs on the cover of a Christmas card! So very pretty!

Otto's house dressed up for Christmas! Now this belongs on the cover of a Christmas card! Photo is copyright 2012 Frank Harrar and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the kit homes I’ve found in Wheeling, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

Can you snap a photo of that Crescent and send it to me? Please leave a comment below and I’ll contact  you.

Heres

Here's a photo of the Sears Crescent (1928). The one in Wheeling is way up on a hill, across the street from the Dairy Queen. I found it while "driving" via Google Maps.

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“All My Friends Who Have Seen This House Are in Love With It.”

March 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 7 comments

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Updated with NEW photos! See below!!

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OOOH, I now have contemporary photos of Otto’s house! To read Part II of this blog (and see new photos), click here.

Thanks to indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker, I now have a digital copy of the 1931 brochure, “The Proof of the Pudding,” published by Gordon Van Tine. It’s a collection of happy testimonials from happy homeowners who purchased kit homes from Gordon Van Tine.

This little brochure is a real treasure.

Like Sears, Gordon Van Tine sold kit homes through mail order, and according to co-author Dale Wolicki, they sold about 50,000 kit homes (which is most impressive). Sears, by contrast, sold about 70,000 kit homes.

While reading “The Proof  of The Pudding,” one house in particular caught my eye.

“All of my friends who have seen this house,” wrote homeowner Otto Friebertshauser of Wheeling WV, “are in love with it.”

I’ve been through several cities in West Virginia and some of them have an abundance of kit homes (like Beckley and Lewisburg) and some have a handful (like Elkins) and some have very few kit homes (like Buckhannon).

However, I’ve never been to Wheeling, West Virginia.

But I suspect that there are quite a few kit homes there.

By the late 1920s, Sears had opened about 40 “Sears Modern Homes Sales Offices” throughout the country (39 of them were east of the Mississippi River). Sears didn’t open a sales center unless sales in that area were strong, and once a sales office was open, sales typically increased quite a bit.

Sometime around 1929, Sears opened a Sears Modern Homes Sales Office in Wheeling, WV at 41 Sixteenth Street. That tells me that there were enough sales in Wheeling to justify opening up this sales office (which is impressive in it own right, as this was the only sales office in West Virginia). And if the office in Wheeling was like the offices in other cities, sales of Sears Homes increased after this office opened. That tells me I should find quite a few post-1929 Sears kit homes.

And that is all good news!

My husband is from Elkins and we visit there often, and I love West Virginia. It’s mighty cold in the winter, but it must be one of the prettiest states in this country.

Do you know where this house is in Wheeling?  If so, please leave a comment below.

And do you know of other kit homes in Wheeling? Please let me know!

Many thanks to Rachel for sharing her brochure, “Proof in the Pudding.”  To read Rachel’s blog, click here.

OOOH, I now have contemporary photos of Otto’s house! To read Part II of this blog (and see new photos), click here.

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Otto must have really

Mr. Friebertshauser wrote passionately about his new home there in Wheeling!

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A picture of Mr.

A picture of Mr. Friebertshauser's home in Wheeling.

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Catalog page showing Ottos home: The Roberts

Catalog page showing Otto's home: The Roberts

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A Roberts in Front Royal, Virginia

A "Roberts" in Front Royal, Virginia

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Sears had only 40 Sears Modern Homes Sales Centers in the country and there was one in Wheeling, WV. This tells me that there are probably *many* Sears Homes in Wheeling.

Sears had only 40 "Sears Modern Homes Sales Centers" in the country and there was one in Wheeling, WV. This tells me that there are probably *many* Sears Homes in Wheeling.

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Sears only placed these Sales Centers in cities or regions where sales were very strong.

Sears only placed these "Sales Centers" in cities or regions where sales were very strong.

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Heres the actual photo of Ottos home in Wheeling. His description of the house gives a few clues. In 1927, it was a quarter mile from any other house.

Here's the actual photo of Otto's home in Wheeling. His description of the house gives a few clues. In the 1931 brochure, it was described as a "quarter mile from any other house."

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UPDATED!!  Wheeling must have an abundance of kit homes. Look what we found in about 30 minutes of looking!!

Heres a fine-looking house on Kruger Street (for sale) and its actually an Aladdin Shadowlawn. Aladdin was another large kit home company that sold homes through their mail-order catalog.

Here's a fine-looking house on Kruger Street (for sale) and it's actually an Aladdin Shadowlawn. Aladdin was another large kit home company that sold homes through their mail-order catalog. (Photo is from a real estate site and hopefully the new-found recognition that this house is a kit home will help sell the property and the unknown photographer won't be upset with us for borrowing this photo. Despite some searching, I couldn't find a photo credit.) Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house!

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Oh my stars, its a perfect match to the Shadowlawn as shown in the 1919 catalog! Now thats a nice match!!!

Oh my stars, it's a perfect match to the Shadowlawn as shown in the 1919 catalog!

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Heres another house for sale in Wheeling. Its a Sears Fullerton.

Here's another house for sale in Wheeling. It's a Sears Fullerton.

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Another real fine match!

Another real fine match!

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I saved the best for last. This is an Aladdin Standard, also currently for sale and listed at a real estate site. Now that the owners know its a kit home, will they sell it more quickly? We can hope!

This is an Aladdin Standard, also currently for sale and listed at a real estate site. Now that folks know it's a kit home, will they sell it more quickly? We can hope!

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Be still my quivering heart, what a nice match to the photo above! The image is from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Be still my quivering heart, what a nice match to the photo above! (1914 Aladdin catalog).

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Another house for sale in Wheeling (and since Google Maps doesnt provide street views in Wheeling, this is all we got). This is not a kit home but its a plan book house. Plan books were a little different than kit homes. When you purchased a design from a planbook, youd receive blueprints and a list of building materials needed to complete the house. These Plan Books were very popular in the 1920s.

Another house for sale in Wheeling (and since Google Maps doesn't provide street views in Wheeling, this is all we got). This is not a "kit home" but it's a "plan book" house. Plan books were a little different than kit homes. When you purchased a design from a planbook, you'd receive blueprints and a list of building materials needed to complete the house. These Plan Books were very popular in the 1920s.

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Heres the house as seen in the 1929 Home Builders catalog.

Here's the house as seen in the 1929 "Home Builders" catalog.

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Theres also

There's a Sears Crescent high on a hill in Wheeling. It's across the street from the Dairy Queen and I found it while "driving" via Google Maps. It sure would be nice to have a photo! If you're able to take a photo for me, please leave a comment below.

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So Wheeling has kit homes from Sears, Aladdin and Gordon Van Tine. How many kit homes does Wheeling have?

I don’t know, but I do know that I’d love to visit Wheeling and find out!

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears: A Few Fun Facts!

November 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in my previous blog, Richard Warren Sears was my hero, and he really was a marketing genius.

Here’s my #1 favorite story that showcases his brilliance:

Knowing that many households would have both his catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, Sears purposefully designed his catalog a little shorter and narrower than the Ward catalog. He knew that when the housewife was tidying up the home, the Sears catalog, being smaller, would be stacked on top of the Wards catalog.

The book Sears Roebuck and Company: 100th Anniversary relates that a Sunday School pupil was asked,”Where did the Ten Commandments come from?” The child innocently replied, “From the Sears, Roebuck catalog.”

Local merchants and owners of general stores were up in arms at the low prices Sears offered in his catalog and the bold promises that buyers could save money by eliminating the middle man. Of course, the middle man that Sears wanted to eliminate was the owner of the general store! In more than a few towns, children were promised a free movie ticket for every Sears catalog they brought into the local store. The catalogs were then piled high and ceremoniously burned in a massive bonfire.

In 1896, the annual sales for the mail order firm of Sears and Roebuck were $1.2 million and by 1914 they hit $101 million. At its peak in 1915, the general merchandise catalog contained 100,000 items in 1200 pages and weighed four pounds.

During World War I, the Sears Roebuck catalog was the book most requested by American soldiers recovering in overseas hospitals. Julius Rosenwald sailed to France in the midst of the Great War (WWI) with four huge wooden crates, each filled with Sears catalogs, for distribution to the American boys lying in a hospital. (The Good Old Days; A History of American Morals and Manners as Seen Through the Sears Roebuck Catalogs.)

According to Sears, Roebuck, USA: The Great American Catalog Store and How It Grew a Sears customer wrote and asked to return several bottles of patent medicine shed purchased from Sears, explaining that the medicine had originally been intended for her husband and he’d since passed on. The clerk who received the inquiry responded by asking the woman if shed like to see a copy of Sears Tombstone Catalog.

The famous Chicago radio station, WLS, actually began as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. The station signed on in 1924 with farm reports and weather information. Sears sold the radio station in the fall of 1928.

In the 1930s, Sears sold live baby chicks through their mail order catalogs. The chicks cost ten cents each and safe, live delivery was promised.

In November 1952, Sears announced it would sell the Allstate - a small car with a 100-inch wheelbase, capable of 35 mpg. It was an incredibly “basic” ride, and the first models lacked trunk lids and glove compartments. The little car with a four or six cylinder engine cost $1395 - $1796. Two years later, Sears stopped selling the cars, having sold about 1500. The reason: Sears was ill-prepared to handle the problem of trade-ins.

To see several beautiful photos of this 1950s Dream Machine, click here.

To see a video of the Henry J (the Sears Allstate), click here.

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For 76.99 pounds (British), you can have your own "Henry J" (Sears Allstate) auto. This is a miniature reproduction of the 1952 "Deluxe" Allstate, offered by minimodelshop.com.uk.

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To order your own Henry J, click here.

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WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.

WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for "World's Largest Store." Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.

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Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named Sears and Roebuck Road, but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named Sears Road.

Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named "Sears and Roebuck Road," but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named "Sears Road."

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And the other side was named Roebuck Road.

And the other side was named "Roebuck Road."

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And Garmin never got the memo...

And Garmin never got the memo...

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To read more about the mill in Cairo, click here.

To read the prior blog about Richard Sears, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

November 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Richard Warren Sears is one of my favorite characters in American history. He truly was a marketing genius, a fascinating entrepreneur and a real family man. Throughout his life, he maintained a deep and profound devotion to his family.

Richard Warren Sears was about 16 years old when his father died. That’s when Richard went to work to support the family.

By the mid-1880s, he’d found gainful employment as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Early in his career, Sears paid a mere $50 for a shipment of watches that arrived at the train station and had been refused by a local merchant. Selling them to other railway agents and passengers, Sears turned $50 worth of watches into $5000 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive, people could now travel easily throughout the country, but there was one problem with all this zipping to and fro:  In the early 1880s, our country had 300 time zones.

Many rural communities still relied on sun-time. Travelers headed west we’re expected to subtract one minute for every 12 miles of travel. Travelers headed east did the opposite.

Hope youre good at ciphering!

In November 1883, railway companies lobbied Congress to establish four time zones, to help standardize complicated train schedules. And what need did this new-fangled law breed? Watches.

Suddenly, they were a very hot commodity.

In 1886, 23-year-old Sears invested his $5000 cash profit into a new watch business and called it the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He advertised in regional newspapers and soon moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Occasionally the watches came back needing repairs, so in 1887, Sears decided it was time to hire a helper. A young watch repairman from Hammond, Indiana responded to Sears help wanted ad and was hired immediately.

And what was the watch repairman’s name?

Alvah Curtis Roebuck.

Richard and Alvah became good friends and eventually partners.

In 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog (52 pages), offering jewelry and watches. By 1893, the little catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. By the following year, the catalog hit 507 pages.

In 1895, Alvah Roebuck decided he wanted out. The 31-year old watch repairman’s health was collapsing under the strain of this new fast-growing business. The enormous burden of debt coupled with Sears wild ways of doing business were too much for mild-mannered, methodical Alvah.

He asked Sears to buy his one-third interest in the company for $25,000.

Of course, Sears didn’t have that kind of cash on hand, so he offered Chicago businessmen Aaron Nusbaum and Julius Rosenwald (Nusbaums brother-in-law) a one-half interest in the company. The price - $75,000, or $37,500 each. Six years later, in 1901, Rosenwald and Sears decided to buy out Nusbaum and offered him $1 million for his share of the business. Nusbaum refused and asked for $1.25 million, which he received.

(Pretty tidy profit for six years!)

Following a nationwide depression in 1907, Rosenwald and Sears were at loggerheads on the best course of action to weather the economic storm. This disagreement really did highlight their radically different concepts about everything.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse, closed-door meeting with Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company.

Sears reason for retiring: He didnt see the work as fun anymore. A short time later, Sears sold his stock for $10 million dollars. There was another reason for his departure. Sears wanted more time to take care of his ailing wife, who had suffered from ill health for years.

In September 1914, at the age of 50, Sears died from kidney disease, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multimillion dollar mail-order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Not too bad for a kid that got his start selling unwanted watches at a little train depot in Redwood Falls.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. Hes shown here in his office in Sears World Headquarters (Chicago).

Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. He's shown here in his office the Sears' Headquarters (Chicago), at the corner of Homan Avenue and Arthington Street. It's claimed that Mr. Sears had one of the very first telephones in the state of Illinois. He had another telephone installed in his mother's home in Oak Park. Now *that's* a good son! :)

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Look at that telephone!

Look at that telephone! I bet that would fetch a pretty price on eBay! And you may notice that Mr. Sears is holding a Sears catalog in his right hand. He was quite the promoter.

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Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown above).

Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first "Sears Modern Homes" catalog (shown above).

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Did you know that Sears sold cars in the 1950s? You’ll never guess the brand name they gave to their vehicles!  :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, I wrote about “The Experiment,” where Sears built two Sears Rodessas (small bungalows) side-by-side in Cairo, Illinois, to prove the superiority of the Ready-cut System. The two homes were built in the late 1910s, and now, almost 100 years later, those wonderful little houses are still standing.

Why did Sears choose the Rodessa for their experiment? I don’t know. It was a popular house for Sears, but it wasn’t that popular! If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was in the Top 50 Most Popular Designs.

However, it was, as the Sears ad promised, “a most attractive little home.” It was cute, simple and practical, which probably made it easy to build in a hurry.

In my travels, I’ve come across several Rodessas. In fact, there’s one not far from me in Urbana, Virginia. You can read about that house by clicking here.

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

Indeed, the Rodessa is a "pretty little home." And look at the price!!

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Little is right.

Look at those small bedrooms. In 2012, a room that measures 9-feet square is a walk-in closet!

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Busy kitchen

And what does that "B" stand for in the kitchen? BOILER!

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The boiler

The "boiler" (whose placement is indicated with the "B" in the floorplan) was a water heater with a water line that ran through the back of the cook stove. Pretty complicated affair.

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

In 1924, Mr. Kidwell built this Rodessa in Washington DC and sent this snapshot in to Sears and Roebuck. He was "fully satisfied" with his Ready-cut home.

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Happy 1926

In 1926, Sears put out a brochure that was titled, "Happy Homes." The Rodessa was featured within its pages. According to the accompanying text, it was built in Independence, MO.

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Happy

Not sure why Sears included a picture of corn with the testimonial.

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HeWood

It's endured some significant remodelings, but at least it's still standing. This transmogrified Rodessa is in Wood River, Illinois (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO). That salt-treated porch railing just does not work on this old bungalow.

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House

This Rodessa may look a little blue, but it's actually a very happy house with lots of good self-esteem. It's in Northern Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). Its located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana.

Here's the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). It's located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana. The plaque over the door reads, "Sears Roebuck House, 1924." I was told that the folks in Urbana didn't realize that Sears had 369 other kit home designs. This is a fairly common misconception. This 88-year-old house is in beautiful condition.

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And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL).

And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL). They were built in the late 1910s as part of an experiment to prove that "The Ready-Cut Method" was far more efficient than traditional building practices of the time.

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Ready

The house that was built using traditional building practices took 583 hours and the poor saps aren't finished yet. The yard is still a mess with scraps of lumber scattered hither and yon. The workers have collapsed on the front porch in utter despair and humiliation.

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house

Ah, but the pre-cut Sears Kit Home is all buttoned up and beautiful! They even had time to finish up the landscaping! The kitchen windows are wide open. They had so much time to spare that they went inside and cooked dinner!

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation. The clipped gables were gone, as were the dramatically oversized eaves. The unique shape of the front porch was replaced with a simpler gabled roof. In a word, its flair and panache had been replaced with pedestrian and dull.

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Learn more about the two Rodessas at the Sears Mill by clicking here.

How did Sears Homes become so popular so fast? Read about that here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? It’s just one click away!

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