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And The Winner is… (Part II)

December 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 6 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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September 25th + Richmond + Sears Homes + Rose = A LOT OF FUN!

September 15th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Full house at our talk on September 25th!

And a good time was had by all!

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what is a Sears Home?

Sears Homes were 12,000-piece kit houses, and each kit came with a a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.” The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. 

Today, these marks can help authenticate a house as a kit home.

Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.

And I’ve found a whole caboodle of kit homes in Richmond!

If you’ve always wanted to learn more about this fascinating topic, here’s your best chance! I give fewer than five lectures a year now, so this might be the last!

Below are just a few of the many unique (and even rare) kit homes I’ve found in Richmond.

Please share this link with your friends and/or on your Facebook page.

To learn more about the talk and obtain tickets, click here.

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One of the many ways to identify Sears Homes begins with slogging down to the basement (or crawlspace) and looking for marked lumber! This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, helped homeowners figure out how to put together those 12,000 pieces of house.

One of the many ways to identify Sears Homes begins with slogging down to the basement (or crawlspace) and looking for marked lumber! This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, helped homeowners figure out how to put together those 12,000 pieces of house.

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Sometimes, the markings found on lumber arent what you might expect!

Sometimes, the markings found on lumber aren't what you might expect! This was found in the basement of an Illinois Sears home, and was a remnant from the original wooden shipping crate. "Bongard, ILLS" was the name of the train depot where the house arrived. I've often found shipping crate lumber repurposed ror shelving or coal bins.

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The blueprints were specifically designed for the neophyte, and included great detail, such as how far apart to space nails! BTW, your Sears House came with 75 pounds of nails!

The blueprints were specifically designed for the neophyte, and included great detail, such as how far apart to space nails! The typical 1920s Sears House came with 750 pounds of nails!

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One of my favorite finds in Richmond is the Sears Strathmore.

One of my favorite finds in Richmond is the Sears Strathmore (1936 catalog).

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Oh my, whats not to love!

Oh my, what's not to love! Beautiful house with a Buckingham slate roof and original windows. Be still my heart!

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This was Sears Modern Home #190, offered in the early 1910s.

This was Sears Modern Home #190, offered in the early 1910 (1912 catalog).

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Perfect in every way!

Perfect in every way!

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The Sears Avalon is one of my favorite houses, and Richmond has several. I would love to know the back story on this. The Avalon wasnt that big a hit for Sears, and yet Ive found five in Richmond.

The Sears Avalon is one of my favorite houses, and Richmond has several. I would love to know the back story on this. The Avalon wasn't that big a hit for Sears, and yet I've found five in Richmond. I've seen ten of these in the United States, and five of those ten are in Richmond.

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And it's just a spot-on match to the catalog picture. Notice the small window in the front gable? And the three vents on the side gable? Picture is copyright 2014 Melissa Burgess and may not be used or reproduded without written permission. So there.

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Another Avalon in Richmond, also in beautiful shape.

Another Avalon in Richmond, also in beautiful shape. This one has the original railings. All of these Avalons have that distinctive arched pattern and faux belt course on the brick chimney.

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My favorite Avalon. Oh, what a beauty!

My favorite Avalon. Oh, what a beauty!

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Close-up

Close-up of that arched inset and belt on the Avalon in Richmond.

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In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes on a national basis, and Gordon Van Tine was one of the larger ones. Total sales were probably a bit more than 50,000, compared to Sears total sales of less than 75,000. The Sussex was one of the Gordon Van Tine models that I found in Richmond.

In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes on a national basis, and Gordon Van Tine was one of the larger ones. Total sales were probably a bit more than 50,000, compared to Sears total sales of 70,000. The Sussex was one of the Gordon Van Tine models that I found in Richmond.

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Gvt

Picture perfect, this Gordon Van Tine "Sussex" still retains many of its original features.

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This classic Craftsman Style bungalow was a popular model for Gordon Van Tine.

This classic "Craftsman Style" bungalow was a popular model for Gordon Van Tine.

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And heres a fine-looking example of Model #507. Photo is copyright 2012 Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here's a fine-looking example of Model #507. The photo was taken from a side that does not replicate the angle in the catalog , but it's clearly a GVT #507. Photo is copyright 2012 Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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One of my favorite finds was the Gordon Van Tine #124.

One of my favorite finds in Richmond was the Gordon Van Tine #124.

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Although next time Im in town, I need to bring my chain saw so I can get a better photo.

Next time I'm in town, I need to bring my chain saw so I can get a better photo. Nonetheless, I'm confident it's the real deal, as I found the original testimonial in a 1913 GVT catalog.

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Aladdin was another major contender in the kit home business. In fact, they were larger than Sears. Aladdin had a mill in WIlmington, NC which explains why - typically - Ive found more Aladdin homes in Virginia than Sears Homes.

Aladdin was another major contender in the kit home business. In fact, they were larger than Sears. Aladdin had a mill in WIlmington, NC which explains why - typically - in Virginia, I've found more Aladdin homes than Sears Homes. Shown above is The Ardmore from the 1922 Aladdin catalog.

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Ive never seen an Ardmore. I suspect its a fairly rare kit home. Is this house in Richmond an Aladdin Ardmore?

I've never seen an Ardmore. I suspect it's a fairly rare kit home. Is this house in Richmond an Aladdin Ardmore? The distinctive bracketing on that front porch roof sure suggests it might be, together with that unusual arched porch on the side. It's bigger than the Ardmore, but we know that 30-50% of kit homes were customized when built. So is it an Aladdin or not? Only her builder knows for sure.

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In addition to Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin, there was another national kit home company: Harris Brothers. They were based in Bay City (as was Aladdin), but Ive found a few Harris Brothers homes in Virginia.

In addition to Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin, there was another national kit home company: Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago , but I've found a few Harris Brothers' homes in Virginia. When HB started business, they were known as The Chicago House-Wrecking Company. One hundred years ago, "wrecking" was another word for the careful disassembly of a house. "Wrecked houses" were typically moved and rebuilt at a new site.

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Heres a fine example of

Here's a fine example of HB-1017N. And it's for sale! The side windows flanking the front door are distinctive, as are the tops of those porch columns. The stucco is in good shape, too.

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Heres another example of a Harris Brothers house.

Here's another example of a Harris Brothers' house (Model 1513).

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Oh yeah, baby. Thats what Im talking about!

Oh yeah, baby. That's what I'm talking about! Another perfect match!

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Another Harris Brothers

Another Harris Brothers' #1513, from a different side. That's two of these sweet things in Richmond.

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1928

The Sears Osborn is another beautiful bungalow (1928).

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Osborne

And here's another beautiful example of The Osborn in Richmond. Wow.

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There are also pattern book houses in Richmond. Pattern book homes were different from kit homes, because these houses didnt come with building materials. Youd browse the pages of the catalog, select a home and then youd receive full blueprints and a list of all building materials necessary to build the house. Shown here is

There are also pattern book houses in Richmond. Pattern book homes were different from kit homes, because these houses didn't come with building materials. You'd browse the pages of the catalog, select a home and then you'd receive full blueprints and a list of all building materials necessary to build the house. The image above came from the Harris, McHenry and Baker Company catalog, but these plan book houses were offered by many regional lumber companies.

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Love the stucco pattern! I've never seen this pattern before, but I suspect there's a name for it.

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Shown above is but a smattering of the kit homes we’ve discovered in Richmond. To learn more, come to the talk on Thursday night (the 25th), and meet Rose!

It’ll be a fun evening, and informative, too!

To learn more about the talk and obtain tickets, click here.

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her images from the 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

Thanks to Melissa for the wonderful picture of the Sears Avalon!

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

Ann Arbor: An Impressive Ensemble of Kit Homes

March 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Many folks enjoy seeking and finding kit homes, but they’re not sure where to begin. Between Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling and Harris Brothers, there were at least a couple thousand designs.

If you want to find kit homes, how do you begin?

Well, this very blog might be an ideal starting point because as it turns out, Ann Arbor has a lovely smorgasbord of “typical” (and very popular) kit homes from Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Take a few moments and memorize these photos, and then see if you can find these houses in your town!

Be forewarned, it’s a lot of fun and highly addictive. Bet you can’t stop at just one!

If you’re able, you might even visit one of these communities that has an abundance of kit homes (as identified by this blog).  Interested in finding such a city? Go to the search box at the top of the page (right side) and type in your state and see what pops up. There are 700 blogs at this site and several thousand photos representing 32 states. That’s a  lot of places!

And what about Ann Arbor? Well, thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, we have a gaggle of photos from that city highlighting the many kit homes. One recommendation: You might want to don a sweater before gazing upon these pictures. Just looking at all those snow-covered houses gives me the shivers!

Thanks to Andrew and Wendy for supplying all these wonderful pictures of kit homes in Ann Arbor.

Did you know that there’s a “Sears Home Group” on Facebook? Join us!

To learn more about Wardway, click here.

Interested in Sears kit homes? Click here.

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The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And heres a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

And here's a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Notice the bracketing for the flower boxes (2nd floor window) is still in place. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but theyre different houses. Do you see the difference between the two?

The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but they have a few minor differences. Do you see the difference between the two? The Brookwood is smaller, and has two living room windows (and the Barrington has three). For a time, I'd get these two confused, and then it dawned on me that "Brookwood" has two syllables and two windows! Barrington has three! This is from the 1933 catalog.

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And heres

And here's a fine-looking Brookwood in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

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Heres a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor.

Here's a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor. You may notice it has two windows down the left side, where the catalog has three. This was a very common alteration. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another beautiful Dover.

Another beautiful Dover in Ann Arbor. However, this house looks really cold. The extra snow shovels on the porch are part of that "chilly look" I suppose. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

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Not only does it have the original windows, but it has the original wooden storm windows too, and even the half-round gutters are true to 1928. Are these original or just high-quality replacements? Tough to know, but they sure do look good. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rembrandt was one of their finer homes.

The Rembrandt, a classic Dutch Colonial, was one of their finer homes.

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Another perfect match. How cool is that?!

Another perfect match. Note that the windows on the 2nd floor are centered over those paired windows on the first floor. This single detail can help figure out - is it a Sears Rembrandt, or just another pretty Dutch Colonial? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

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Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if its a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows.

Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if it's a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows. Study this single detail, and it will help you easily differentiate the Puritan from the look-alikes. As with all these houses, also pay attention the chimney placement. Remodelings come and go, but chimneys don't move. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

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Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor.

Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor. Still has its original railings. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

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And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition!

And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Hathaway was another popular house (1928).

The Hathaway was another popular house (1928), and distinctive enough that it's easy to identify. Just look at all those clipped gables!

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Ann

Anther very fine match. Sadly, this house has been hit with some permastone (front first floor), but other than that, it's a dandy! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another fine match

Another fine little Hathaway in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ann Arbor

I wonder if the Realtor knows it's a Sears kit house? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these houses don't realize what they have. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Conway, as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Conway (also known as "Uriel"), as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor!

Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor! Notice the original bracketing under the oversized front gable, and that "phantom" brick pillar on the far right. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As seen in the 1928 catalog, The Ashland.

As seen in the 1928 catalog, "The Ashland."

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Ash

Where's a good chainsaw when you need one? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing.

As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of GVT's biggest and bet kit homes, "The #711." Quite a house!

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And what a fine 711 it is!

And what a fine 711 it is! By the way, this was a huge house, measuring 48' wide and 30' deep, giving a total of 2,880 square feet. I have to double check, but I believe this was the largest kit home that was offered by Gordon Van Tine, and size-wise, it's the same as the Sears Magnolia (also 2,880 square feet). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

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That offset front porch is a distinctive feature of the Wardway Laurel. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Laurel as seen from the other side.

The Laurel as seen from the other side. That small side porch is original to the house, and surprisingly - in still open (as when built). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

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I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog.

I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

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I surely do love a house dressed up in pink.

I surely do love a house dressed up in pink. I really do. This Cranford is (like so many of the houses in Ann Arbor) in largely original condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

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Is this a Wardway Kenwood? />

Is this a Wardway Kenwood? Most likely it is, but the inset door is not a spot-on match. However, this house has had a substitute siding installed, and the door may have been squared off to accommodate the replacement siding. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Perhaps Wardways most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

Perhaps Wardway's most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

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Crescent

And here's a fine example of the pretty, pretty Priscilla! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so its not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so it's not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

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Ann Arbors very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesnt it?

Ann Arbor's very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesn't it? The offset front door and the tiny closet window beside it are classic defining features of the Marlboro. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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That little closet window is still in place, but it's been partially closed up. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward, and she can be a great help when were out hunting for kit homes.

Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading "The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward," and thanks to her tireless studying, she can be a great help when we're out hunting for kit homes. She's not called "Teddy the Wonder Dog" for nothing!

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To order your own copy of the “The Mail Order Homes of Montgomery Ward” click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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