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Posts Tagged ‘first growth lumber’

Frank’s Beautiful Strathmore In Waldwick, NJ

January 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 15 comments

Sometime in the 1930s, a man named Frank Workman not only built a Sears Strathmore, but he had the wisdom to document part of the process through photographs.

About 80 years later, a kind soul named Ms. Dickinson had the wisdom to save those photos and put them on eBay.

Last week, yet another kind soul named Dale Wolicki had the wisdom to send me a link to these photos, and I hastily put in a bid and subsequently won this treasure trove!

Thanks to Frank, and Ms. Dickinson, and Mr. Wolicki, at least 2,000 people will now enjoy these many photos of a Sears Strathmore being built at 21 Pennington Avenue in Waldwick, NJ.

Ms. Dickinson reports that Frank’s daughter (shown in photos below) lived in the house until recently. These houses were built with so much love, and the first families intended that these houses be passed down through the generations.

But unfortunately…

According to the wonderful note Ms. Dickinson included with these photos, Frank’s house was demolished about one month ago. How many Sears Homes are we going to tear down before someone decides that they’re worthy of preservation?

So very frustrating.

Frank Workman obviously took great pride in his beautiful Strathmore. How disturbing that someone in Waldwick, NJ saw fit to tear it down.

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Frank

Frank Workman must have been quite a character. He's standing on the side of his Strathmore in Waldwick, NJ. Perhaps Frank had Indian roots. Or maybe he just really liked this headdress.

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Frank

Frank really liked that headdress and he really liked his house.

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The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you dont find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception.

The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you don't find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception. It had an expandable attic, for extra square footage (1936).

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Good florplan

The Strathmore had 1-1/2 baths, which was a plus. The kitchen was a mere 12-feet by 7-feet.

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Ive always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

I've always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

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Side view of the Strathmore under construction.

Side view of the Strathmore under construction. Note, the planking is horizontal. On many houses of this vintage, the planking runs diagonally. However, this house ended up with cypress shakes, so maybe that's why the planks are run horizontal.

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This is a close-up of those packing crates.

Close-up of those packing crates (seen in the foreground of the photo above). I suspect that the quality of lumber used in these packing crates is far superior to the "premium" lumber currently being sold at the big box stores.

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What a grand photo!

What a grand photo, and it really demonstrates a different time in American architectural history. Years ago, I knew a man who built his own home in Elsah, Illinois and it was all the rage in Jersey County. He was a novice homebuilder who undertook to build his own home "from scratch." And yet in 1930s, people didn't think anything of buying a kit home and building it themselves.

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I love

And here's a close-up of that same photo. Look at that make-shift ladder! And that wooden scaffolding looks a bit primitive, too. Looks like Frank might have been doing his own brick work. My favorite item in this photo is the 55-gallon drum overturned on its side. For the life of me, I can't imagine what would have been in that drum. Paint and varnish were supplied in one and two-gallon metal buckets.

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Another i

Another view of the home's front, during construction.

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Franks daughters

According to Ms. Dickinson, Frank's daughter lived in this house until very recently. Judging by the clothes, it looks like this photo dates to the late 1930s, or shortly after the house was finished. It seems likely that these are Frank's two daughters, seated on the "cheek" of the front porch. Check out the original batten shutters behind the girls.

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Another view of the two daughters.

Another view of the two daughters. And judging by the steps, it does seem likely that Frank did his own brickwork. Kind of reminds me of the Lucy episode where she rebuilt the brick barbecue pit in the backyard.

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Another view of the completed house, date unknown.

Another view of the completed house, date unknown. However, it's interesting to note that those three windows next to the fireplace have already been replaced. Originally, these three had diamond muntins.

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Frank loved cars, too.

Frank loved cars, too. The home's left side is shown here. Can anyone identify the year of this car? My best guess is early 1930s, or even late 192os.

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View of

Good view of the home's left side, and kitchen door.

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Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

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Frank

Oh Frank, I'm sorry to say that your beautiful Strathmore - built with such love and care - is now sitting in a landfill somewhere. When will we decide to stop tearing down old kit homes?

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And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, its still standing.

And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, it's still standing. Then again, I haven't been down that street in four years, so who knows.

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To learn more about what makes Sears Homes so valuable (and worthy of restoration and preservation), click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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

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“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

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

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

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

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

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

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

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Little is right.

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

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Busy kitchen

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

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The boiler

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

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

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

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Happy 1926

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

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Happy

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

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HeWood

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

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House

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

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

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

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

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

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Ready

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

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house

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

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

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

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

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

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

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Move it! Don’t Lose it! (Fourth Update on the Pop Culture House at BGSU)

August 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

You might be surprised to learn how often kit homes are moved from their original site to a new location.

Judging by the frequency with which these homes are picked up and moved, re-locating a kit home must be,

1) A do-able (albeit complicated) process

2) Financially feasible

3) Historically sensible

4) Environmentally brilliant.

The Sears Lewiston (which is actually a custom-built Wardway design) at BGSU is threatened with demolition. It currently houses the Pop Culture program at the college. Lovingly known as “The Popc House,” this structurally sound building may soon be reduced to a 300,000+ pound pile of rubble on August 7th, unless the college (Bowling Green State University) reverses its decision.

The Lewiston’s major crime is being in the way of a proposed college expansion. If you want to read more about the house and its history, please click here (Part I), here (Part II) and here (Part III).

Not only can kit homes be moved, but they should be moved.

The quality of lumber seen in these homes is something not easily described. In fact, I devoted an entire blog to this topic. In short, the lumber for these early 20th Century kit homes was milled from first-growth trees in virgin forests. We’ll never seen lumber of this quality again. Period.

Some preliminary research suggests that the Popc House at BGSU can be moved off campus and to another site for less than $20,000. What are the proposed costs to demolish this house? Probably not terribly far away from that $20,000 mark.

It’s time for the college to make a commitment to its own history, to its alumni, to the community, and last but not least, to the environment, and SAVE the Popc House.

The landfills of America already have enough old houses.

Don’t add one more.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos. The Lynnhaven and the BGSU house are probably similar in size and girth.

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Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

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This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, Virginia at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

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Shadow

The Shadowlawn measures 28' wide and 30' feet deep, not including the substantial porch.

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A Sears kit home (The Gordon) was relocated in Florida (forgot which city) in 2002. The story made the headlines in the local paper.

In 2002, a Sears kit home ("The Gordon") was threatened with demolition. After an uproar from the local citizens, the house was relocated to a new site. The story made the headlines in the regional papers.

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Though not kit homes, more than 50 of these bungalows were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And - this is even better - they were moved in the late 1910s.

Though not "kit homes," more than 50 of these houses (shown here) were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And they were moved in the late 1910s. Let's see: If you can move 50 houses 40 miles 90 years ago, I suspect you could move one house a couple miles today.

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OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, three of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, several of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

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Of the houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk (Virginia), one of them was this

The Penniman/Norfolk houses are shown here, being floated into Norfolk.

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The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving.

The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving. This historically significant home should not be sent to a premature grave.

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To learn more about the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio click here.

To sign a petition to save this house, click here.

If you’d like to send an email to BGSU president (Dr. Mazey), here’s her address: mmazey@bgsu.edu

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Do You Have 60 Seconds to Save a Sears House?

July 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 22 comments

Updated!  This house is now scheduled for demolition on August 7th. Click here for the latest!!

Bowling Green State University (Toledo area) has decided to demolish a Sears House to make way for an expansion.

Please - take a moment and sign this on-line petition and cast a vote in favor of saving this Sears House. This online petition is easy to use and loads fast. This won’t take more than 60 seconds of your time.

How many early 20th Century kit homes have been swallowed up by this very type of academic expansion?

Too many to count.

I’ve already got a plethora of PHOTOS of Sears Homes that were torn down to make way for some new plasticine palace or a college expansion or a new big-box store. Too often, these “new” buildings lack the structural integrity and/or visual aesthetics to endure more than three or four decades - at best.

The Sears Lewiston that’s now standing on the BGSU campus has been there for more than 80  years. Why destroy it now?

Sears Homes are a limited edition. From 1908-1940, Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in all 48 states. Of the 370 designs that were offered, the Sears Lewiston (the house under the wrecking ball now) was one of their finer homes.

There are alternatives to destroying this house.

If the house is in the way, then MOVE IT to another location. Sears Homes were made with first-growth lumber harvested from virgin forests. The quality of building materials in these houses is remarkable, and we’ll never see wood of this quality again. Why send all this to the landfill?

To sign a petition to save the Sears Lewiston, visit this website. http://signon.org/sign/save-the-popular-culture

This is one of those “Fun Causes” that costs you very little time and yet has the potential to yield great benefits.

Please take a moment and sign the petition that will save this house from demolition.

And please share this link with others.

Come Autumn, I really do not want to write another blog that’s titled, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Click here to read more about the Sears Lewiston.

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This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of "The Blade," Toledo, Ohio.

To read the full article from The Blade, click here.

The Sears Lewiston, as it appeared in the 1930 catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as it appeared in the 1930 catalog.

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Close-up of the floorplan.

Close-up of the floorplan.

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This Lewiston in Dowell, Illinois is in beautiful condition.

This Lewiston in Dowell, Illinois is in pretty good condition, despite some period-inappropriate remodeling. Typically, you don't see fretwork on Neo-Tudors.

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A perfect Lewiston in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

A perfect Lewiston in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

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This Lewiston is in another college town - Champaign.

This Lewiston is in another college town - Champaign, IL.

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An update! Someone from the school has contacted me and reports that there are markings on the lumber, suggesting that this Sears Lewiston was ordered from Montgomery Ward (and fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine). Read the comments below to get the whole scoop. Quite a story!  And quite a house! To learn more about kit homes from Montgomery Ward, click here.

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Second update: Several people have written to say that the house at BGSU is a Sears Colchester. The Colchester and the Lewiston were identical homes, but the Colchester was offered in brick and the Lewiston was a frame house. That’s it. The Colchester’s footprint was 11″ wider and 11″ deeper, because it had brick veneer. Other than this minor difference, these two houses were the same house, with a different name. If you look at the floorplan below, you’ll see it’s a perfect match to the floorplan for the Lewiston.

The Colchester was offered in the 1930 catalog, but it was identical to the Lewiston.

The Colchester was offered in the 1930 catalog, but it was identical to the Lewiston.

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The room layout in the Colchester was identical to the Lewiston. Due to the brick siding, the Colchester was 11 wider and deeper.

The room layout in the Colchester was identical to the Lewiston. Due to the brick siding, the Colchester was 11" wider and deeper.

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Comparison of the Colchester (1930) and the Lewiston (1928).

Comparison of the Colchester (1930) and the Lewiston (1928).

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

Please visit this link to sign the petition.

Is Your Neighbor’s House a Sears Kit House?

July 8th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Next time your neighbor invites you over for high tea, take that opportunity to go into their basement and inspect his/her framing members for marks.  More than 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have. Incredibly, most of these Sears Homeowners tell me - after learning about the unique history of their house - that they’d “never noticed all those numbers” on their floor joists! Or, they saw them and had no idea what they meant.

Below are pictures of marked lumber in Sears Homes!

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This mark - so bold and pretty - was invisible to the eye of the homeowner. She'd lived in this house for 20 years and was totally surprised to see this mark on *all* of her floor joists. This is a typical mark found in a Sears Home. It's a letter and a three-digit number. A is for 2x4, B is 2x6, C is 2x8 and D is 2x10. The numbers - together with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book - told the novice home builder how all those pieces and parts went together.

S

Another 2x10 in another Midwestern basement. The number is typically found 2-6" inches from the end of the joist, and can also be found on the butt end of the lumber.

S

Sometimes, the marks are easy to spot - if you know where to look.

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Sometimes, they're not so easy to see. This is a 2x4 on the underside of a staircase in a Sears Sunbeam in Beckley, WV. The mark is very faint. Look at the wide part of the 2x4 and you'll see "A 105" directly below the large nail.

Mark

See it now?

S

Close-up of the mark (also enhanced).

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At this Sears Vallonia in Columbia, Illinois, the builder was so proud of his Sears House, he turned the treads and risers wrong-side out, so everyone could see those marks.

S

The floor joist on this Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC says "2089" and has a family name written beside it. When the lumber was bundled up and prepared for shipment in Cairo, IL, the model number and buyer's name was scribbled in blue grease pencil. Finding a model number in blue grease pencil on a joist is also an effective means of authenticating a Sears Home.

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Those 12,000 pieces of house were shipped via boxcar, and the shipping crates were wooden, and were marked with the homeowner's name. Oftimes, the old crates were re-used to build coal bins or basement walls. This plank was salvaged from an old shipping crate and nailed to a basement wall in an Osborn in Sidney, IL.

Sears

This is a mark found on a newer (post-1934) Sears Home.

S

Shipping labels can also provide proof that you have a Sears kit home. Often, the words "Sears and Roebuck" do not appear anywhere on the label, but contain only Sears address: 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL. Shipping labels are often found on the back of millwork.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Virgin Forests and First-Growth Lumber: A Thing of The Past

February 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Stumbling about with my flashlight in the dimly-lit basement of countless Sears Honor-Bilt homes throughout the country, I’m always dazzled by the quality of the floor joists and other framing members. Sears lumber was first growth lumber.  (”First growth lumber” is the name given to wood which grew slowly in natural forests. The slower wood grows, the denser the grain. The denser the grain, the stronger the wood. The stronger the wood, the more resistant it is to decay and rot and the longer it will endure.)

The yellow pine framing members that support these old Sears homes, now nearing the century mark, are harder and denser than most of today’s [so-called] hardwoods. Some of these houses have had only minimal maintenance, yet all these years later, they’re still as square and true and solid as the day they were built.

Sears earned a well-deserved reputation for providing the best quality lumber for both framing and millwork and they were proud of their reputation. In the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this notice appeared under the heading, “Important.”

We do not handle hemlock, spruce or inferior types of lumber. The lumber we furnish is fine, dry yellow pine, the strongest lumber for framing. Cypress for outside finish, [cypress] the wood that lasts for centuries; oak, birch or yellow pine, as specified for interior finish.

Through the years, Sears offered exterior sidings in red cedar, redwood or cypress.  Most frequently, exterior sidings were cypress, and exterior trim pieces (corner boards, door and window trim, eaves, etc.) were also cypress.

Interior floors on average-priced Sears homes were typically oak on the first floor; maple in the kitchen and bath; yellow pine on the second floor. In less expensive homes, yellow pine was standard fare throughout the house for trim moldings, floors and doors. However, you could always upgrade to oak floors for another $148.

Today, it’s so interesting to contrast and compare modern lumber (think McMansion) with the solid old lumber found in America’s early 20th Century homes. Lumber from the old homes is so dense and hard, that many homeowners report they can not drive a spike into the floor joists without predrilling a hole, lest it bend the spike!

We will never see wood like this again in our country. The few “first-growth forests” that remain are protected sanctuaries (as they should be). Large suppliers of lumber boast that - thanks to genetic engineering - they can have a tree ready for harvest after a 25-year growth cycle. The problem is, when trees grow quickly, they’re not very dense.

Try this experiment at home. Try driving a nail through a piece of 2×8 from your local big-box hardware store. Then drive the nail through a floor joist in your house - if you can. Such a simple demonstration really will “hammer the point home” (so to speak).

At the very least, when an early 1900s home is torn down, the lumber should be salvaged, and not carted off to the landfill.

Now let’s go back to looking at pretty pictures of pretty Sears Homes. Enjoy the photos below.

Learn more about Sears Homes by click here.

Or buy Rose’s book by clicking here.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of thir most magnificent homes.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of their most magnificent homes.

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

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The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

In all my travels, Ive only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

In all my travels, I've only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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