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Posts Tagged ‘craftsman’

“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!

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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!

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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'!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

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To learn more about Aladdin kit homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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So Many Kit Homes in Charleston, South Carolina!

May 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Several weeks ago, Charleston resident and Sears House aficionado Kevin Eberle contacted me and said that there were several kit homes in Charleston, SC.

Oh sure. I’d heard that one before.

Actually, what I typically hear is, “Why, this town is just FULL of Sears Homes! As far as the eye can see!”

But Kevin wasn’t making that claim. He was saying that he’d found several kit homes in Charleston.

Did I dare to hope?

And then, when I saw the photos, I did a little happy dance.

Kevin really had found an abundance of kit homes in Charleston and most of them are in beautiful condition.

Does Charleston have even more kit homes than is shown below?

It’s possible! If you know of a kit home in Charleston, please leave me a comment!

Many thanks to Kevin for supplying *all* of the photos in this blog. I posted the pictures (below), but Kevin did all the research and legwork.

To learn more about kit homes in South Carolina, click here.

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Roanoke 1921

The Sears Roanoke as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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The Roanoke in Charleston is in picture perfect condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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At least 80% of the time, these 90-year-old houses are missing that wooden awning over the front windows. However both of the Roanokes in Charleston still have that awning. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Belmont is a classic 1920s bungalows (1920 catalog).

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And there's a stunning example of a Sears Belmont in Charleston, SC. This is only the 2nd Belmont I've seen "in the flesh." Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house 1921

The Saratoga was one of their larger homes. The floorplan shows a living room that is 14' wide and 29' feet long. Both living room and dining room have beamed ceilings.

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Saratoga

This is a fine-looking Saratoga in Charleston and in mostly original condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This Saratoga's good looks have been somewhat diminished by the substitute siding, but at least, it's still standing. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Comparison of the orginal catalog image and the house in Charleston. Unfortunately, they show two different sides, but it's most certainly a Saratoga. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Aladdin 1933

The Capitol, as seen in the Aladdin catalog (1933).

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Kevin even found this Aladdin Capitol, despite the fact that it was built sideways on the lot! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Aladdin Villa 1919

Aladdin Villa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Aladdin Villa maybe

Is this an Aladdin Villa? I'm honestly not sure, but it'd be fun to find out! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Gordon Van Tine Roberts (1924 catalog).

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The Gordon Van Tine Roberts is easy to identify because it's such a unique house and (as far as I know) this particular design was never replicated by other companies. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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GVT 534

The Gordon Van Tine 534 was a very popular house (1919 catalog).

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GVT 2003

Kevin found this GVT #534 in Charleston. This photo was taken in 2003. The house has been remodeled since this photo was taken. Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sterling Sentinel, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

The Sterling Sentinel, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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house house Charleston

This was my favorite of the whole bunch. It's just a spot-on match to the Sterling "Sentinel"! Photo is copyright 2012 Kevin Eberle and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house compare

Comparison of the two houses. What a perfect match!

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Thanks again to Kevin Eberle for sharing all these wonderful photos!

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The Wardway Warrenton in West Virginia

May 27th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

In 2009, I visited the tiny town of Rainelle, West Virginia and discovered several Sears Homes on Main Street. That was a lovely surprise.

And another nice surprise was finding a Wardway Warrenton in town, too.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit-home business (1908-1940). Wardway sold about 25,000 kit homes in roughly the same time period (1909-1932). Gordon Van Tine (who manufactured the houses for Montgomery Ward) sold about 50,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats on Wardway and Gordon Van Tine.)

Because of the rarity of these Wardway Homes, it’s always a nice surprise to find one, especially so far from the Midwest (where Montgomery Wards was based).

Many thanks to Skip Deegans for traipsing out to Rainelle and getting these photos for me!

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

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Like Sears, Wardway kit homes were also

Like Sears, Wardway kit homes also had pre-cut lumber that was marked to facilitate construction. These many years later, those marks can help identify a house as a kit home.

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The Wardway Warrenton

The Wardway Warrenton was a "splendid home," and the accompanying text said it was "dignified and handsome." In fact, it was a six-bedroom home which was unusually large for a house of this time period. Recommended colors were cream paint (walls) with white trim. Yawn.

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The house was just shy of 2,200 square feet.

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Wardway

The Wardway Warrenton as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Is this a Wardway Warrenton? Looks like it to me! Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of the Wardway Warrenton in Rainelle, WV. Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

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Staunton, Virginia: More Amazing Finds

May 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

A couple days ago (May 1st),  I returned to Staunton to do a little more research on the kit homes in the city (in preparation for my talk on May 2nd), and this time, I was driven around by Frank Strassler, head of the Historic Staunton Foundation. It’s a lot easier to focus on kit homes when someone else is doing all the driving, and especially when that someone else knows where they’re going!

We found many kit homes that I’d not seen during a prior visit, and the most intriguing find was the four Harris Brothers kit homes we discovered. Frankly, I suspect there are more than four HB houses in Staunton, but I’m not that familiar with this company and, I have very few of their catalogs.

Harris Brothers (formerly the Chicago House Wrecking Company) was based in Chicago, Illinois. How did four Harris Brothers houses end up in Staunton? And three of them were in the same neighborhood (Sears Hill).

Hopefully, some of Staunton’s history loving residents will poke around a bit more, because I’m sure there are many more hidden architectural treasures just waiting to be found.

And, a little aside:   My favorite memory of the lecture on Thursday evening? I asked the crowd (128 attendees!), “Before there was a World War Two, does anyone know what we called World War One?”

To my utter delight and astonishment, a cacophony of voices replied, “The Great War.”

It was sheer bliss to realize that I was surrounded by so many history lovers. In all my travels, there’s typically a lone voice (or less), that correctly answers that question. The people of Staunton really do love their history, and better yet, they know their history, and that’s such a joy to behold.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

OOOH, an update! Read about my newest find in Staunton here!

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First, my favorite find in Staunton.

First, my favorite find in Staunton. Shown above is Modern Home #2028 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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Now thats a big house!

It looks like a massive house, but in fact, it's 22 feet wide and 29 feet deep.

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Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didnt consciously remember having seen this house, and yet...

Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didn't consciously remember having seen this house, and yet, when I got back to my hotel and started going through the old catalogs, I realized it was a perfect match to the Harris Brothers #2028!

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Pretty

And, as a nice bonus, I even managed to snap my one photo from the perfect angle! Though not easily seen in the photo above, the house in Staunton has the two bay windows, just as it should!

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The other three Harris Brothers homes were in one neighborhood: Sears Hill. Shown above is Modern Home #1017 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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The HB 1017, as seen in 1923.

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And here's the 1017 in Staunton! Look at the unique window arrangement on the home's front. And check out those unique columns, and the bracketing under the eaves. It was tough to get a good photo, but the little attic window is also a spot-on match to the catalog page. The house is 24 feet' wide and 36 feet deep. The dimensions of this house (shown above) seem to be a good match! The line drawings (from the original catalogs) are sometimes a little bit off in scale and proportion.

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If you look down the side, youll see its a good match there, too.

If you look down the side, you'll see it's a good match there, too. BTW, Staunton is very hilly, and I learned that it's tough to get good house photos in hilly neighborhoods! And, the angle skews the proportions. Short of carrying a 20-foot stepladder around on top of the Camry, I'm not sure how to solve this.

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HB # 1025 was another "favorite" find for me, and yet another kit home that I'd never seen before. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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HB # 1025 was another favorite find for me, and yet another kit home that Id never seen before.

HBClose-up of HB #1025. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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At the lower right of that catalog page (seen above), is an actual photo of a HB #1025. This photo shows off those beautiful six casement windows on the front.

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Be still my heart!!! Heres a real life example

What a fine house! Here's a real life example of HB #1025. And look at those pretty casement windows! Were it not for those original windows, I'm not sure I would have recognized this 90-year-old kit home.

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Another view of those wonderful old casements. By the way, apparently this house is for sale. Someone should contact the owner and let them know - this is a kit house!

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Close-up of the porch columns.

Close-up of the porch columns. And this house still has its original gutters.

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HB #1007 was one of their more popular designs, however... It's also a house that has several "twins." Given that Staunton's #1007 is within three houses of the other two HB homes, I'm going to assume that the model in Staunton is indeed from Harris Brothers.

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Nice house, isnt it?

Nice house, isn't it? Love the rocking chairs!

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Stauntons own HB #1017.

Staunton's own HB #1017.

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While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door.

While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door. And it has an unusual window arrangement down the right side (as shown here). This image is from the 1919 catalog.

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The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image.

The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image. Was the house built sans dormer, or was it removed during a roofing job? Hard to know, but I'd guess that it was built this way. And, this house is next door to the big Harris Brothers foursquare (#2028).

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Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton.

Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton (1938 catalog).

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This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton.

This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton. It squeezes three bedrooms into 960 square feet.

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Close-up on the Winona.

A key feature in identifying this very simple house is the small space between those two windows in the gabled bay (dining room).

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What a nice match!

What a nice match!

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And the other side is a good match, too!

And the other side is a good match, too!

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Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr.

Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr. Linkenholer.

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As seen in the 1919 catalog, heres a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope.

As seen in the 1919 catalog, here's a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope. Where's Mr. Linkholer's Stanhope? I'd love to know!

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

To read more about the kit homes of Staunton, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Staunton, Virginia - Here I Come! (May 2nd)

April 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Thanks the Historic Staunton Foundation, I’ll be returning to Staunton on May 2nd to give a talk on the kit homes of Staunton!

As mentioned in a prior blog, Staunton has an interesting array of kit homes of all sizes, shapes and from several companies. And at 7 pm (Thursday evening), I’ll give a powerpoint presentation, featuring the kit homes I’ve discovered in the city.

It’ll be a lot of fun, comparing and contrasting original vintage images from the old catalogs with contemporary photos. And I’ll also talk about how to identify kit homes. A “windshield survey” is a good start, but even with a thorough street-by-street visual inspection, it’s still possible to overlook a few kit homes.

There are ways to identify a kit house from inside, including marked lumber, hidden blueprints, grease-pencil marks and shipping labels often found in unsuspecting places. We’ll talk about that on May 2nd.

Staunton has kit homes from Sears (the best known of the mail-order kit house companies), and Aladdin (the largest of the companies), Gordon Van Tine and Montgomery Ward.

And how did Staunton end up with so many kit homes? We’ll talk about that on May 2nd!

For a sneak preview of the beauties we’ve found in Staunton, scroll on down!

To learn more, visit the website for the Historic Staunton Foundation.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here. (BTW, that first blog has been viewed more than 2,500 times!)

Many thanks to Leslie Hayes and Linda Ramsey for not only providing the wonderful photos shown below, but in some cases, finding these Sears Homes!

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The Berwyn as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Berwyne

And here's a perfect Berwyn (in stucco) on Noon Street. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Maytown was -- as the ad promised - a big seller.

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The Maytown in Staunton overlooks Gypsy Hill Park.

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first, a mystery

The Wilmont was not a popular house (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

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And yet, is this a Wilmont in Staunton? I've puzzled over this house for close to an hour, and I'm still undecided. That dormer window on the side is pretty distinctive. I'd love to see the inside of this house. That would help me figure it out once and for all!

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The Wardway Cordova is another very distinctive house.

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And here's one in Staunton. Yes, it's a little rough around the edges, but it's still standing! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sussex 1929

The Sussex was offered by Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa). The image above is from the 1929 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

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Sussex GVT

And here it is, looking picture perfect! What a fine-looking Sussex it is, too! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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My faavorite match!

My oh my, that's a sweet match!

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Gordon Van Tine

The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" (shown above) was a hugely popular house.

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Roberts

And here's a perfect Roberts on North Augusta (Staunton). Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plymouth

The Aladdin Plymouth was a classic Dutch Colonial.

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house Plymouth

And here's a beautiful example of the Aladdin Plymouth.

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Mayfield planbook

In addition to kit homes, Staunton has a few "Plan Book" houses. Plan book homes were different from ktt homes, because with a plan book house, you purchased the blueprints and a detailed inventory that showed you precisely how much lumber you'd need to order for your house. With kit homes, the lumber was included. Plan book houses were quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was "The Mayfield," (offered in a plan book titled, "Harris, McHenry and Baker").

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planbook Leslie

It's hiding behind that tree, but you can still see this is a Mayfield. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plan book

Both of Staunton's Mayfields are painted the same color.

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Gennessee

The Genessee was another plan book house found in the Harris, McHenry and Baker planbook.

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Straith

And here's a picture perfect Genessee on Straith Street in Staunton. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Dover is one of my favorite Sears Homes. Cute, practical and easy to identify!

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Dover in Weyers Cave

Sadly, I did not visit nearby communities in Staunton during my visit there in mid-February, but I found this house while I was driving via Google Maps. Only a tiny part of Weyer's Cave is mapped (with street views on Google), and this Dover is on the main drag. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Gladstone was one of Sears "Top Ten" most popular homes (1916 catalog).

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It's been added onto, and yet I'm wholly confident that this is a Gladstone in Weyer's Cave. It's within 1/4 mile of the Dover shown above. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In all my travels, I've never seen a Sears Rosita (from the 1919 catalog).

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ramsey Deerfield

Linda Ramsey discovered this Sears Rosita in Deerfield, Virginia (near Staunton), and it's in original condition - a very rare find! Rositas were "Strong and Graceful" (sort of), but they were very simple and modest homes, which makes them difficult to identify and very prone to extensive and insensitive remodeling. To find this 94-year-old house in such pristine condition - and looking just like the old catalog page - is a real treat! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Crescent was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

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Vertona Rammsey

Linda Ramsey also discovered this picture-perfect Crescent in Verona (also near Staunton). And what a perfect match it is! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

And according to Aladdin literature, there's an Aladdin Stanhope in Staunton, but where?

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Heres a

Here's a perfect Aladdin Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids). Where is the Stanhope in Staunton? If you've seen it, please leave a comment below!

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Please do join us on May 2nd for  my talk on Sears Homes. Having given more than 250 talks in 27 states, the top three comments I hear are:

“Oh my gosh, I had no idea that a talk on history could be so much fun!”

“I didn’t want it to end. I could have listened to you all night!”

“Your passion for this topic really shines through!”

And - as a nice bonus - it’s very educational evening, and I promise, it’ll forever change the way you see the houses in your city!

:)

Click here to learn more about how to get tickets.

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Be there or be square!

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To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

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The Sears Wexford in Mineral, Virginia

March 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

It really was a lovely thing and an unexpected delight.

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1936 wexvorf

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

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two floorplans

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

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the other

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

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The Wexford, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

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Sears House in Mineral

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

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Wexford Cairo

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Marked Lumber

March 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Identifying early 20th Century kit homes can be a tricky business. For one thing, more than 30% of kit homes were customized when built, which makes identification even more challenging.

However, there is a quick and simple way to identify kit homes: Marked lumber.

If you find a mark (such as is shown below) on framing lumber in an early 1900s house, chances are good that you’ve found a kit house.

The marks themselves can tell you something about the kit home, too.

Sometimes.

Scroll on down to examine the wide variety of marks we’ve found on kit homes throughout the country.

And a special thanks to the many kit house researchers who contributed photos:

Rachel Shoemaker

Cindy Catanzaro

Ersela Jordan

Jeffrey N. Fritz

Doug Lewis

Andrew Mutch

B. Maura Townsend

Catarina Bannier

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Interested in learning more? Visit our group (”Sears Homes”) on Facebook!

To learn more about why the lumber in Sears Homes is so extraordinary, click here.

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Lumber was numbered with specific markings to help the novice homebuilder figure out how all those pieces and parts went together.

Lumber was numbered with specific markings to help the novice homebuilder figure out how all those pieces and parts went together (1928 catalog). The marked lumber, together with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book, enabled "a man of average abilities" to build his own home. Or so Sears promised.

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Lumber

Sears marked their lumber with a letter and a three-digit number. Usually. The font is solid (not stenciled) and about 7/8" of an inch tall. The mark can be found near the end of the joist, and also on the butt end (typically not visible after construction).

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Lumber s

Sometimes you have to peak around a few obstacles to find the number. Sears marks had a method. "D" was used for 2x8s, "C" was for 2x6s, and 2x4s were marked with "A" or "B."

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Sometimes the marks were not entirely straight.

Sometimes the marks were not entirely straight. Photo is copyright 2013 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And sometimes, theyre not easy to see.

And sometimes, they're a little smudged or fuzzy. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Example

Here's a good example, because you can see the mark both on the butt end and also on the face of the 2x4. Plus, this photo shows how faded those numbers typically become with a little age. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the 2x4 shown above.

Close-up of the 2x4 shown above. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Er

Another typical example, showing how faded these marks become over time. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And dont forget to look up!

And don't forget to look up! Note how it's visible on the right, but not the left. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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Ready for a pop quiz? Wheres the mark?

Where's the mark? This is under a staircase, which, by the way, is a great spot for finding marked lumber. Another great spot is the plumbing access door (behind the tub/shower faucet).

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Did you find it?

Easy to miss, isn't it? And this is assuming bright lights, good vision and that there are no rats scampering around your feet. These marks are most often seen in basements, and the number of obstacles you're going to see in basements is staggering and distracting! Most basements are dimly lit and stuffed silly with all manner of trip hazards!

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close

An extreme close-up of the mark shown above between the two arrows. By the way, it was also very difficult to see when I took this photo, and it showed up better as a picture than it did in real life.

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Ersela took this photo and I thought it was a great photo. Shows those 2x4s stacked up

Ersela took this photo and I thought it was a great photo, demonstrating how the ends were stamped (and how they fade with time). Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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word word

My favorite marked lumber of all is this Vallonia staircase in Columbia, Illinois. The owners were so very proud of their Sears kit home that they purposefully turned the treads and risers wrong side out so that everyone could see that they'd built a kit home.

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Sometimes, youll be looking for a different kind of mark.

Sometimes, you'll be looking for a different kind of "mark." This board was nailed to the underside of the floorboards of a Sears Osborne (as seen in the basement). The Osborne's first owner and builder, H. K. Mohr, had saved a piece of wood from the original shipping crate. The house was in Sidney, Illinois but had been shipped into the train depot at Boncard, Illinois. These shipping creates, marked with the owner's name, were often saved. It's not uncommon to find that the old shipping crates were broken down and the lumber was re-used to build a coal bin or shelving. Notice this mark is stenciled, not solid (whereas the numbers are solid, not stenciled).

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Another lumber

You should also keep your eyes peeled for marks with blue grease pencil. This says "2089" and "Rose" (how apropos). This was found in the basement of a Sears Magnolia, and the first family's name was Rose. The Magnolia was also known as Model #2089 (hence the mark above). In the dark, dank basement, this mark was nearly impossible to see. The photo above was enhanced to make that old blue grease pencil easier to see. You'll going to have look long and hard to find some of these marks.

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And how did that blue grease pencil get there? When the kit homes were bundled and ready for shipment, mill workers would grab their blue grease pencil and walk up to the large pile of framing members and hastily scribble both the model number (#2089 in this case) and family name (”Rose”) on a beam. It was a way to be extra certain that the right house went to the right people.

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This isnt a mark per se, but its something else to be on the look out for.

This isn't a "mark" per se, but it's something else to be on the look out for. Shipping labels are often found on the back of millwork (baseboards, window trim, molding), and in most cases, they don't say "Sears" but have a return address of 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago. Sears was located at the corner of Homan Avenue and Arthington Street in downtown Chicago. In later years, they created a brand name of hardware and plumbing supplies known as "Homart." This was a combination of their two street names.

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In later years, Sears changed they way they did their marks.

In later years, Sears changed they way they did their marks. Jeffrey N. Fritz send me these photos of marked lumber found in his late 1930s Sears kit home. At first, I didn't know what to think. I'd never seen marks like this in a Sears House, but based on some other research he'd shared with me, there was little doubt that this was a late 1930s Sears kit home. By the way, Jeffrey if you're reading this, please send me an email or leave a comment! I can't find your email address! :) Photo is copyright 2010 Jeffrey N. Fritz and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the marked lumber Jeffrey found in his Sears House.

Close-up of the marked lumber Jeffrey found in his Sears House. Photo is copyright 2010 Jeffrey N. Fritz and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Aladdin was another kit home company and, like Sears, they sold kit homes out of a mail-order catalog. Aladdin (based in Bay City, MI) sold about 75,000 kit homes, which was *about* 5,000 more than Sears sold.

Aladdin was another kit home company and, like Sears, they sold kit homes out of a mail-order catalog. Aladdin (based in Bay City, MI) sold about 75,000 kit homes, which was *about* 5,000 more than Sears sold. Here's a piece of wood - probably off a shipping crate - found in an Aladdin house ("The Colonial") in Oklahoma. According to Rachel Shoemaker, the folks in town had assumed that this was a Sears kit home for many years. Sadly, the name "Aladdin" has largely been forgotten. To too many people, kit home = Sears home. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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Heres another example of marked lumber that Rachel found in Oklahoma.

Here's another example of marked lumber that Rachel found in that "Colonial" (model name) in Oklahoma. This one borders on being artwork! Either that, or the Aladdin Stamper that day was pretty well sloshed. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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Another example of a mark in blue grease pencil. Rach

Yet another example of marked lumber found in the *same* Aladdin Colonial in Oklahoma. You can also see a bit of blue grease pencil scribbled in the upper left hand corner. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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I found this mark on an old Aladdin Brentwood in Roanoke Rapids.

I found this mark on an old Aladdin Brentwood in Roanoke Rapids, NC. It was very faint, but still legible. So this represents three distinct types of lettering on Aladdin kit homes. The first one shown above is stenciled, with capital letters. The second one is solid (no breaks in the lettering) and is all caps. The example from my Brentwood is first letter capitalized, with the rest lower case, and solid (no stencil).

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Cindy

Cindy Catanzaro found this in an Aladdin kit home. It's all caps, and stenciled (as is shown in the first Aladdin example above). Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres another surprise from Sears.

And Cindy found this mark in an Aladdin kit home (The Stratford). It's yet a fourth type of marking: Numbers separated by a dash. And here's where it gets even more confusing. I've seen identical markings in mid-1930s Sears Homes. Same format, same font, a couple numbers separated by a single dash. So for a time, apparently Sears and Aladdin used the same marks. Not to be confused with Gordon Van Tine/Wardway, which were several numbers, separated by a dash. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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B. Maury Townsend found this blue grease pencil mark in her Aladdin Sherman (1912).

B. Maura Townsend found this blue grease pencil mark in her Aladdin Sherman (1912). It''d be great if we could break the "code." Is it a hand-written part number? That's the most-likely answer. Photo is copyright 2013 B. Maura Townsend and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Im sorry to say I dont have an example of a GVT/Wardway marked lumber, but this graphic from the 1929 catalog gives you an idea of what to look for.

I'm sorry to say I don't have a real-life example of a Gordon Van Tine/Wardway marked lumber, but this graphic from the 1929 catalog gives you an idea of what to look for. I've also seen just the numbers (no letter) separated by hyphens.

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And this expanded view of the same image shows they also stamped *words* on some of the lumber.

And this expanded view of the same image shows that Gordon Van Tine/Wardway also stamped *words* on some of the lumber.

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Agorn

Here's an example of blue grease pencil marks found in a Gordon Van Tine kit home in Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and Doug Lewis and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This is also from a Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward kit house.

This is also from a Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward kit house. Again, it was from the original shipping crate that contained some of those 12,000 pieces and parts. If you find an old plank like this nailed to the old coal bin or used for a shelf, it might well be a kit home. This house was sold to Mathias Ringer of Quinter, Kansas and shipped into Beloit.

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To read  more about the kit home that Mathias Ringer bought, click here.

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Catarina discovered this mark on The Cheltenham, made by Lewis Manfuacturing (yet aother kit home company).

Catarina discovered this mark on The Cheltenham, made by Lewis Manufacturing (yet another kit home company). Is it a part number or a model number? Most likely, it's a model number and yet in the Lewis Homes catalog, no part numbers are listed for the Cheltenham. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Do you have photos of marked lumber to share? Please leave a comment below!

Want to learn more about Sears kit homes? Click here.

Click here to read the next fascinating blog.

Rachel Shoemaker has a blog of her own. Click here to read that.

You can check out Catarina’s blog 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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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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The Paloma: A Two-Story Bargain

March 6th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

In 1919, The Paloma was indeed a “two-story bargain.” The very modest 860-square-foot, two-story house cost a mere $1,131 which was a sound value.  And all in all, it wasn’t a bad-looking little house. But it was little.

Upstairs, they managed to carve three bedrooms out of the 18×24′ footprint, but they were very small. Each of the three bedrooms measured eight by something, and that makes for some pretty cramped quarters.

In Spanish, “Paloma” means pigeon. But Paloma is also the name of a city in Illinois. So was it named for the city or the bird? I’m guessing the city.

Many thanks to Donna Bakke for supplying photos of the real life Palomas in Cheviot, Ohio, a neighborhood in Cincinnati.

Want to learn more about kit homes? Join us on Facebook!

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The Paloma

The Paloma from the 1919 catalog.

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house

"Profitable investment"? At least it will be a dignified investment.

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house house

Now that's a small kitchen. Add some cabinets and you've got a kitchen so small that you have to step into the dining room to change your mind.

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house house house

Notice how that closet window on the 2nd floor is not centered. Also, look at how small these bedrooms were. Not one of them is bigger than eight-feet something.

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Apparently, it was fairly popular.

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The Paloma as seen in the 1919 catalog. Love the flowers! In this line drawing, it appears that the closet window (second floor) is centered between the two bedroom windows. That's not accurate. The floorplan (shown above) gives a more accurate rendering.

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A Paloma in Cheviot, Ohio. Notice how that little closet window is off center? That's one very distinctive feature of this simple little house. This Paloma's original porch columns were transmogrified into pillars of wrought iron - probably in the 1950s or 60s. Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The vinyl-siding salesmen have had their way with this poor little house, but at least the porch survived that experience (even if the window frames did not). And the little closet window on the 2nd floor got buried. Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the detail on the front porch. Notice the classic Sears detail at the top of the column! Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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

To read about the abundance of kit homes in Staunton, VA, click here.

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