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Posts Tagged ‘Dale Wolicki’

Webster Groves, Missouri: Part IV

August 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

What do Webster Groves, Missouri and Grand Haven, Michigan have in common?

Both are home to an unusual Sears model with the pedestrian (but descriptive) name: “The Cape Cod.”

While I’d love to take credit for finding the “Cape Cod” in Missouri, it was Webster Groves resident Judith Chabot that found this house by searching grantee records.

Here’s how it works: When an existing house is conveyed to the new homeowner, the new homeowner is the grantee, but when the homeowner conveys the house back to the bank (as security for a mortgage), the homeowner is then the grantor. The mortgage company receiving the interest in the house is the grantee.

So if you’re looking for a Sears House at the courthouse, you’re going to be looking through the grantee records, but this only works on Sears Homes that were mortgaged through Sears. Still, it’s an interesting way to find a Sears House!

In searching grantee records in Illinois, I’ve found conveyances listed under “Sears,” and “Sears and Roebuck,” but more commonly, you’ll find that trustee names were used for Sears, such as Walker O. Lewis, Nicholas Wieland, and E. Harrison Powell. All of these men served as trustees for Sears. (Thanks to Dale Patrick Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for the trustee information.)

However, if you limited yourself to finding kit homes ONLY through mortgage documents (and grantee records), you’d miss about 75% of the kit homes in your community (based on some quick ciphering).

The beauty part of mortgage documents is that you might find kit homes that were customized and/or unrecognizable and/or otherwise nondescript houses, such as the “Cape Cod.”

To read the other blogs on Webster Groves, click here, here or here.

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Catalog

Sounds like Earl Suits was pretty pleased with his "Cape Cod" in Grand Haven (1938 catalog).

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In the 1932

In the 1932 catalog, it was known as The Stanford.

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The 1938 catalog has it listed

The 1938 catalog has it listed as "The Cape Cod."

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Throughout the years, it was offered in two floorplans.

Throughout the years, it was offered in two floorplans. The smaller floorplan is a miserly 660 square feet with an tiny kitchen and two walk-in-closet-sized bedrooms (1938).

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The second floorplan had a little more breathing room.

The second floorplan had a little more breathing room (and a dining room).

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house house

It is a fine house, replete with an "expandable" attic on the 2nd floor (1938 catalog).

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house

Those old wooden shutters (shown in the catalog image) added a nice touch to the Sears "Cape Cod." Notice that the attic window has been enlarged, and the dormers were added.

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As you can see down the long side,

Due to the intensity of the summer sun, this is a crummy photo, but you can see this is "Floor Plan B" with the dining room and larger footprint.

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Id have to say that I probably would have driven right past this little house doing a traditional street survey.

I'd have to say that I probably would have driven right past this little house doing a traditional street survey. It's a fine home but it is rather plain and kind of disappears in a crowd.

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house

Here's another "impossible-to-recognize" Sears house. This doesn't match any of Sears 370 known designs, but it is a Sears House, customized by the home's original owner. Rebecca Hunter found this house (in Elmhurst, Illinois) through grantee records. It's bonafide, but it's also a puzzler!

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

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A “Country House” in the heart of Augusta, Georgia

July 24th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

The word Villa literally means, “country house” and it’s also the name of Aladdin’s finest home.

Just like Sears, Aladdin sold kit homes through mail order catalogs. Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and lasted longer. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit house business (1908-1940). Aladdin started earlier (1906) and stayed in the game for 75 years (1981), and sold more than 75,000 homes.

The houses arrived via boxcar, and probably had more than 12,000 pieces and parts! Each kit came with detailed blueprints (designed for novices) and a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together!

As a resident of Virginia, I can happily report that there are more Aladdins in this part of the country than Sears Homes. Proximity is probably part of this. The Midwest is loaded with Sears Homes. Aladdin had mills in  North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Several months ago, someone told me about this Aladdin Villa in Augusta, Georgia. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember who originally provided the tidbit about this Aladdin Villa in Augusta, Georgia. Was it you, Rachel? ) Today I was poking around for a new blog topic and found this older file.

The photos shown below are from Steve Bracci Photography. Click on this link to learn more about this artist’s beautiful work.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Dr. Rebecca Hunter also has a wonderful website here.

And Rachel Shoemaker shares many rare photos of kit homes here.

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The Aladdin Villa was really their biggest and best home (1919).

The Villa was Aladdin's biggest and best home (1919).

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See what I mean about being big?

The home had a front staircase and a servants' staircase (accessible from the ktichen).

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And its also a genuinely beautiful home - even in black and white!

And it's also a genuinely beautiful home - even in black and white!

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Is there a more perfect house anywhere in Augusta?

Is there a more perfect house anywhere in Augusta? And that's not a rhetorical question. This house is breathtaking, and the color is perfect. This looks like a picture postcard. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Oh man.

The landscaping, fence and house create the perfect medley of colors. Mature landscaping and tall shade trees are one of the elements that make older homes so desirable. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Everything about this house is beautiful.

Everything about this house is so very beautiful. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And once you go inside, it only gets better.

And once you go inside, it only gets better. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And better and better.

Inside the home, the colors are equally striking. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Inside

Classic Villa staircase, still elegant after all these years. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And better.

That fireplace doesn't appear to be original, or it might have been an upgrade, but it's a nice fit for this fancy room. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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House

The living room is 16x26 and filled with light. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Stunning

Can you imagine sunning on this stunning sunporch? If there are houses in heaven, this is the kind of place where I'd like to spend a lot of eternity. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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House

Typically, I'm not a big fan of red wallpaper with red accents, but this really works. The bright white trim and dark floors are the perfect complement. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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What a house.

What a house. Like something out of a dream book. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And to think it came from a mail-order catalog!

And to think it came from a mail-order catalog!

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The photos shown above are from Steve Bracci Photography. Click on this link to learn more about this artist’s beautiful work.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Dr. Rebecca Hunter also has a wonderful website here.

And Rachel Shoemaker shares many rare photos of kit homes here.

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Oscar Heppe’s Ivanhoe

May 1st, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Almost five years ago, I wrote a blog on the Sears Ivanhoe in LaGrange, Illinois (discovered in a promotional flyer), and mentioned that it’d be fun to have a contemporary photo of the 1913-built house.

Some time later, William Frymark found the house in LaGrange and sent me three beautiful pictures of this grand old Sears kit house!

Too often, these 100-year-old Sears Homes end up getting torn down or falling down, so it was a special treat to see that this LaGrange house still alive and well, and in beautiful condition.

Thanks so much to William  Frymark for finding this house and sending along the photos.

To read more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

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Roofing Flyer

The image above is from a brochure, promoting Sears building materials in general and roofing materials in particular. When I published that blog five years ago, I'd assumed Mr. Heeppes' home in LaGrange was brick. Turns out, it's all wood.

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the

"Slate surfaced shingles" look better than slate or tile? I'm not so sure about that, Mr. Heppes. Unfortunately, this brochure did not include images of the wallboard in the living room, dining room and one bedroom. He implies here that the wallboard was better than plaster. Hmmm...

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The Ivanhoe was a massive house.

The Ivanhoe was a massive house and one of the larger houses offered by Sears (1920).

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Thats a big house.

That's a big house for its time, with more than 1,900 square feet of living area.

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house

Complete with a bedroom for the maid!

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Mr. Heppes Ivanhoe in LaGrange.

Mr. Heppes' Ivanhoe in LaGrange, about 1913.

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Mr. Heppes Ivanhoe 102 years later.

Mr. Heppes' Ivanhoe 102 years later. Photo is copyright 2015 William Frymark and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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A nice shot down the side of the 102-year-old home in LaGrange.

A nice shot down the side of the 102-year-old home in LaGrange. Photo is copyright 2015 William Frymark and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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side

Mr. Heppes' beautiful old house apparently had an addition put on the rear. Photo is copyright 2015 William Frymark and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another faithful reader found this Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois.

Another faithful reader found this Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois. It's also in wonderfully original condition. Photo is copyright 2011 Carol Parish and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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I discovered this beauty in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

I discovered this beauty in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

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Ivan

While visiting my daughter, I was surprised to find this Ivanhoe in a very ritzy neighborhood in Needham, Massachusetts (about 45 minutes from Boston).

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And yet, Im still pining for one more picture of one more Ivanhoe. This house was featured in a testimonial and is in West Point, Virginia (not too far from me in Norfolk).

And yet, I'm still pining for one more picture of one more Ivanhoe. This house was featured in a testimonial and is in West Point, Virginia (not too far from me in Norfolk). It faces the Pamunkey River and we're looking at the backside (on West Euclid Boulevard). I've knocked on the door and sent them letters but no response. My kingdom for a tour of this beauty!

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Thanks again to William Frymark for the wonderful photos of the Sears Ivanhoe in LaGrange!

To read more about the Sears Homes of West Point, click here.

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The Brentwood: A Home of Impressive Beauty (1952)

April 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Many times, I’ve written a note to someone to tell them that they’re living in an Aladdin Kit Home, and invariably, when they right back they’ll say, “I’m so excited to find out that I have a Sears House!”

In fact, I’d say that this happens 80% of the time.

Aladdin kit homes are not Sears kit homes. These are two different companies.

Sears gets all the press, but there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level and Sears was neither the biggest, nor the longest lived. Sears started selling homes in 1908 and was gone by 1940. Conversely, Aladdin issued their first catalog in 1906 and closed their doors in 1981. During their 32 years in the business, Sears sold about 70,000 homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes.

When I wrote my first article about kit homes in early 2000, many folks had never even heard of Sears Homes, so perhaps in time, people will come to appreciate (and know about) Aladdin. From an architectural standpoint, it’s a more interesting company, just because of the variety of housing styles offered through the decades.

And many thanks to Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for finding the beauty featured below! You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

To learn more about identify kit homes, click here.

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The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1952 catalog.

The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1951 catalog.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company.

Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company (1951 catalog).

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Picture

Close-up of the picture from the page above. The text explains why it's simple to build with the Readi-cut system. I was hoping that those are Aladdin houses in the background, but I don't think they are.

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Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), one man can now do the work of six!

Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), and a central site for pre-cutting all the framing lumber, one man can now do the work of six!

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The Brentwood was a dandy house.

The Brentwood was a dandy house with four floor plans with some variation.

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FP1

Floorplan one is the only house with a fireplace.

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FP21

Floorplan two is down to two bedrooms, but has a bigger kitchen/DR.

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FP3

Floorplan 2 and 3 have the same layout, but 3 is a smaller footrpint.

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FP4

Floorplan 3 and 4 are the same footprint, but with three bedrooms carved into the small space.

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FP4

This appears to be Floorplan #1, as it has a fireplace and a planter under that bedroom window. Apparently, the houses in this subdivision have tremendous water pressure. The guy with the house is being pushed backwards.

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Then again, he also looks like Americas first metrosexual.

Then again, he also looks like America's first metrosexual.

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Thie

Located in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Ranch is a perfect match to the catalog image. My favorite feature is that over sized, dramatic fireplace (which appears to have several flues). Photo is copyright 2015 Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

What a house!

What a house!

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You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

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This is a Sears House.

April 28th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

This really is a Sears House.

Can you guess which model it is?

I would never have guessed. Ever.

However, I was given a good clue.

So what do you think?

It’s in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and this photo was taken by Elisabeth Witt, who’s been running around getting photos for me. And they’re well-framed, first-class, high-resolution photos, which makes a big difference - usually.

But with this particular house, even an old pro would be stumped.

Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for the contemporary photos shown below.

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Model

Yes, it really is a Sears House. Which model would you guess?

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Does this help?

Does this help?

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Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

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Do you give up? You should.

Do you give up? You should. It's a Sears Hamilton.

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When Google mapped this neighborhood

When Google mapped this neighborhood in September 2014, the house above looked like this.

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Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

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Heres a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois.

Here's a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois. Photo is copyright 2009 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This photo (undated) is from the city assessors website.

This photo (undated) is from the Shorewood assessor's website.

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And if you zoom in on the details, youll see that this darling little house had its original windows, siding and even wooden storm windows.

And if you zoom in on the details, you'll see that this darling little house had its original windows, rafter tails, and even wooden storm windows. It was a fine-looking Hamilton.

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And then it got McMansioned.

And then it got McMansioned.

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And then it got McMansioned.

That trailer probably contains the dismembered bits of our little Hamilton.

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At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasnt 100% sure about the address.

At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasn't 100% sure about the address. But in this photo, you can see that our Hamilton sits next door to a blue craftsman-style bungalow.

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And then I noticed this.

And then I noticed this. It's definitely the house formerly known as "Hamilton."

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Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

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Believe it or not, it could have been worse.

Believe it or not my little Wisconsin Hammie, it could have been worse. At least you were spared the T-111 siding (Elgin IL). Perhaps this blog should be titled, "When Bad Things Happen to Good Bungalows."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read a happy, happy blog, click here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611: Unusually Well Planned

April 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

These last few months, I’ve been doing a proper survey of kit homes in Hampton, Virginia. I went out yesterday to check one last section one last time (which I’ve now visited twice), when this handsome bungalow jumped out of the bushes and called my name.

This Gordon Van Tine Model #611 is on a main drag (300-block of North Mallory) which leaves me scratching my head. How did I miss it?

That will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe, together with, where did I put my husband’s truck keys.

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

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

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What a house!

Notice how the porch roof sits within the primary roof. Interesting feature.

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Oh yeah, baby! :D

Sadly, some vinyl siding salesman has pillaged the house, but other than that, it's a nice match. The railings have been replaced, but that's a relatively minor affair.

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Good match on this side, too!

Good match on this side, too!

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So

And did I mention it's on the main drag? :)

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

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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The Meadow-Moor: Supersedes The Commonplace!

January 25th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

What a month! Two weeks ago, an elderly friend took a bad fall and I’ve been spending a little time helping her “get back on her feet” - literally and figuratively! Between that, and trying to write a book about Penniman (which is 100 years old in 2015), it’s been a very busy time.

Last year, my buddy Dale Wolicki sent me these wonderful photos of a rare Sterling “Meadow-Moor” that he discovered in Rocky River, Ohio. I’ve never seen a Meadow-Moor and according to Dale, this is the first one he’s seen, too!

Thanks to Dale for sharing his photos!

Enjoy the pictures, and please leave a comment below.

To visit one of Dale’s websites, click here.

To learn more about Sterling Homes, click here.

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The Lewis Meadow-Moor (1914 catalog).

The Sterling Meadow-Moor (1914 catalog).

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Spacious, too!

Spacious, too! Love the "cupboard buffet" and Solarium.

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More

Back in the day, the 2nd floor bathroom (usually the only bath) ended up on the front.

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Hus

I'd spend my whole life on that sunporch.

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hoouse

Still has its thatch-effect roof, too! What a cream puff of a kit house! Photo is copyright 2014 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To visit one of Dale’s websites, click here.

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Customized Wardway Homes: Kinda, Sorta, Maybe

January 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Here’s the kind of “research” that makes me 1/3rd sad, 1/4th disappointed and 29/50ths disheartened.

There’s a fellow in Wisconsin who recently discovered that he has a Wardway Home, and has written a blog about it.

Cool. Mega kudos to him for writing a blog about his Wardway Home.

But…

He tried (in vain) to identify it. Finding nothing close, he decided that it was a “customized Maywood.”

Ruh Roh.

He then adds, “The wall boards are stamped with ‘Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, Ia. to R. L. Sizer, Wisconsin.’”

I suspect that he meant to say that the studs (vertical wall members) are marked, because I’ve never ever heard of wallboards being stamped with shipping information. Ever.

Typically, shipping information is found on shipping labels (see image below), which are then affixed to millwork (moldings and trim).

Next comment:  “It was obvious that Mr. Sizer was cost-conscious from the first time we entered this house. Touring the basement, it was pointed out that the floor boards had been used for framing the foundation.”

Say what?

I’ve seen floor joists (2×8) used as temporary forms when pouring cement for basement walls, which leaves a trademark white/gray stain on the lumber, but I’ve never ever seen anyone use 3/4″ tongue-and-groove white-oak floorboards for “framing a foundation.”

A minor point, but using framing members as temporary forms was commonplace, and not a cost-cutting measure.

He also writes: “Kit houses or as Ward called them, ‘ready-cut houses,’ were not uncommon. According to the book, ‘Houses By Mail,’ over 100,000 were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940, the majority from Sears.”

Mixing apples and oranges makes a delightful fruit salad, but in historic architecture, it’s confusing.

Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes. Dale Patrick Wolicki (an architectural historian and co-author of Montgomery Ward’s Mail-Order Homes), estimates that about 25,000 Wardway homes were sold.

Lastly, the homeowner claims that while the Wardway designs shown in the catalog are not a good match, he did find one home that “does bear a resemblance,” the Wardway Maywood.

Hmmm… Given this his home is a one-story house, and the Maywood is two-story, that’s a real mystery.

Based on other comments within the blog, I’m confident he’s got a Wardway home, but I wish he’d done a little more research. Written historical records need to be inexorably, meticulously and assiduously accurate.

In my opinion, of course. ;)

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To learn more about identifying marks on lumber, click here.

Interested in learning more about wallboard in early 20th Century Sears Homes? Lookie here.

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Shipping labels are often found on the backside of millwork.

Shipping labels are often found on the backside of millwork. I've never seen one on wallboard.

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Wardway 1931

Here's a Wardway "Maywood" as seen in the 1931 catalog.

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Heres a customized Maywood in Battlecreek, MI.

Here's a "customized" Maywood in Battlecreek, MI.

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Dale Wolicki found the actual house featured in the Wardway brochure (shown above).

Dale Wolicki found the actual house ("customized Maywood") featured in the Wardway brochure (shown above). Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reprinted with written permission.

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Ward

Wardway offered "architectural services" for folks who wanted a unique design. The center image shows a customized Maywood in the Chicago area. Note that it looks like a Maywood with a garage added to the side.

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The author

The author says that this home (the Wardway Maywood) does "bear a resemblance" to his customized Wardway, "especially in the floor plan." Unless he's got a bedroom set up in the closet (which does have a nice shelf), I'm baffled on this one. Shown above is the first-floor plan for the Wardway Maywood.

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The

Here's the subject house, the "customized Wardway Maywood." The small inset is the 1931 Maywood.

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Frankly, I think it looks more like a customized Brentwood.

Frankly, I think it looks more like this kit home: The "Brentwood."

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Or the Carmen.

Or maybe the "Carmen."

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Or maybe its a Magnolia, customized.

Or maybe it's a Magnolia, customized.

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To learn more about identifying marks on lumber, click here.

Interested in learning more about wallboard in early 20th Century Sears Homes? Lookie here.

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And The Winner is… (Part II)

December 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Earlier this week, I wrote about the “contest” offered by Sears Roebuck, where they invited 100 “up-to-date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design (Modern Home #189, “The Hillrose”), and second prize was awarded to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa for Modern Home #184.

Despite a lot of traveling, I’ve never seen an original Hillrose. However, in 2005, I gave a talk at a $1,000,000 reproduction of the Sears Hillrose in Prophetstown, Indiana.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is now open to the public, and in addition to the reproduced Sears kit home, there’s also a large working farm on the site.

When there in 2005, I had a thorough tour of the inside and snapped a few photos. As I told the director, I really loved what they’d done with the place. I snapped a few photos (old 35mm slides), which you’ll see below.

In 1916, the Sears Hillrose was offered for less than $2,000. More than 90 years later, the reproduction Hillrose cost more than $1 million.

To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

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The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose.

The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose (1914 catalog).

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The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

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Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn. Upon reflection, Im not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when youre relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago.

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn to any known Sears kit barn designs. Upon reflection, I'm not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when you're relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago. That's my little red 2003 Camry to the right of the barn.

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Close-up of the barn.

Close-up of the barn.

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As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk in this barn.

As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk that night inside this barn. Back in the day, I toted around two slide projectors and would show the two slides on two screens, comparing extant houses with vintage catalog images. I was rather relieved when the world went to digital. Organizing all those slides for every talk was a massive undertaking. I finally gave away those slide projectors in 2011 when we moved into a new house.

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The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty.

The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty. It disappears in the shadows, but yes, that's a chamber pot under the bed. The wallpaper was gorgeous, and the rag doll was a nice touch too.

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Is that a Sears light fixture?

Is that a Sears light fixture? Not perfect, but close enough for government work. :)

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For someone whos spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, the kitchen was charming.

For someone who's spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, I'd say the kitchen was utterly enchanting. And who doesn't secretly dream of a turquoise and white cast-iron, wood-fired cookstove?

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Oh

What's not to love?

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And what proper Indiana homestead wouldnt have a Hoosier cabinet?

And what proper Indiana homestead wouldn't have a Hoosier cabinet?

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And properly stocked, too?

And properly stocked, too?

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Do you have an aunt living in one of these towns?

Even though I've never seen an original Hillrose, the 1916 catalog shows that there were Hillroses buit in these cities. Please call your cousin Bertha in Griffith, Indiana and ask her to find the Sears Hillrose there and then ask her to take a photo and send it to the lady in Norfolk. Or maybe your Aunt Beulah in Alvada, Ohio? Or Granny Kittle in Waterman, Illinois? Work with me here. I need a photo of a real life Hillrose. Really I do.

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To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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And The Winner Is…

December 29th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

It started out in 1913 as a contest.

Sears invited 100 “up to date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design, which came to be known as The Hillrose (Modern Home #189). In addition to having his creation featured in subsequent catalogs, he also won $50 - in gold.

Second prize ($35 in gold) went to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa. His house (Modern Home #184) didn’t last long enough to be granted a name (1918), and in fact, was gone by 1916.

Despite 14 years of wandering and researching, I’ve seen only one Sears Hillrose and that was in Prophetstown, Indiana (near West Lafayette) and it was less than 20 years old.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is part of a museum exhibit that offers an interpretive display of a working farm.

The first floor of the house is true to the catalog image and to the time period. The interior is filled with period furnishings, appliances and even ephemera. An old Sears catalog sits on an end table in the front room of the Hillrose. The second floor is thoroughly modern, not open to the public, and is used as administrative offices.

In 2005, I traveled to Prophetstown to see this recently built Hillrose “in the flesh” and to give a talk on Sears Homes.

Originally, it was planned that I’d give the talk in the front room of the Hillrose (with space for 30 attendees). Not good. These talks - even 10 years ago - often drew 100+ visitors.

The only option available at the last minute was the barn. And it was a real barn, with real critters and hay and implements.

That evening, at 7:00 pm, I addressed about 90 people, four goats, six cows and several chickens. In the barn.

This newly built Hillrose was a pricey little affair. The 1916 Sears catalog showed the house offered for $1,649. More than 90 years later, the Hillrose’s contemporary cost exceeded $1 million, due to the expense of re-creating an early 20th Century farm house.

And now Prophetstown has a real treasure and a tourism attraction that will endure for decades to come.

Read Part II here.

Click here to see inside the Hillsboro in Prophetstown.

To read more about this Hillsboro in Indiana, click here.

Want to learn more about to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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Contest

I wonder what an "out of date" farmer looks like? This image came from a promotional brochure, dated about 1914. Take a moment and read it in its entirety. It's fun!

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First prize

Modern Home #189 was the prize winner, and garnered $50 in gold for Mr. Selck of Evansville, Indiana (1914 catalog). Fine house (with more than 2,000 square feet) for a mere $1,473.

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house hosue house

W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Ohio won $35 in gold for this design (1914 catalog).

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First prize winner

Apparently, Sears asked for a letter from the first prize winner.

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Second

And the second-prize winner, too.

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house

Aladdin was actually the originator of the business of selling kit homes via mail-order catalogs, but what's a little promotional puffery between friends?.

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hillrose

A comparison of the two houses - side-by-side.

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house

I guess the woodshed was the thing that carried the day.

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house

A panoramic view of Modern Home #189, showing not only the house, but outbuildings and livestock.

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1916

A closer view of Modern Home #189 (The Hillrose).

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barn

A close-up of the Sears kit barn, as shown with The Hillrose (above).

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Round barn with

I love that dormer atop not just the round barn but the silo, too.

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cheapter

Chicken House #221 is shown next to the Hillrose.

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Long shot

Here's a long view of the 2nd prize winner. He has a chicken coop, but it's not the #221. He has a vehicle, but it's only one-horse power. He has an outbuilding, but it's a little milk house.

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house 1916

Second-prize winner got cheaped out on the chicken house.

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house house

Nice little milk house, though.

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Even though Ive never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog).

Even though I've never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog). Alvado, Ohio can't be that big. It can't be too tough to find a big old Sears foursquare in little old Alvado. Perhaps a kind-hearted Avacadoan will find this Hillrose in their town and snap a photo for moi. Or maybe someone in Griffith will embark on this mission of mercy. One can hope. I need a picture of a Hillrose.

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However, I dont know if any of these homes were ever built.

However, I don't know if any of these homes were ever built. Good news is, this house is so distinctive, it'll be easy to spot! In addition to being an L-shaped foursquare (yeah, really), it has an offset porch, small vestibule, pedimented porch roof, big gabled dormer, oversized eaves and a dainty-looking horse in the front yard.

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The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy.

The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy, and it's the only Hillrose I've seen.

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From catalog side

A view of the Hillrose from the same angle as the catalog.

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My favorite view of all

My favorite shot of the Hillrose, showing the barn in the background.

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Just a little archival storage tip: If youre going to

Just a little archival storage tip: If you're going to collect rare Sears House ephemera and sell it on eBay, don't cut it up into tiny bits and then laminate the whole caboodle with thick plastic. This photo here is to help explain why images 1, 4, 5 and 6 look like they were scanned through wax paper. Because - actually - they were. Special thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for purchasing this rare brochure and sharing it!

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To read Rachel’s wonderful blog, click here.

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