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Staunton, Virginia: More Amazing Finds

May 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First, my favorite find in Staunton.

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

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Now thats a big house!

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

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

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

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Pretty

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

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house house house

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

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The HB 1017, as seen in 1923.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Close-up of the porch columns.

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

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

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Nice house, isnt it?

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

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Stauntons own HB #1017.

Staunton's own HB #1017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Close-up on the Winona.

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

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What a nice match!

What a nice match!

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And the other side is a good match, too!

And the other side is a good match, too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Do You Have 60 Seconds to Save a Sears House? (Part IV)

August 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

I’m saddened to report that the demolition of the Pop Culture House at Bowling Green State University is apparently going forward.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

This, despite a truly valiant effort on the part of BGSU staff and faculty and friends to save this house.

This, despite the presentation of a petition with more than 2,100 signatures to BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey.

The “powers that be” at BGSU apparently prefer that students learn about their history via pricey textbooks and pretty pictures, rather than “hands on.” Given a chance to preserve a piece of true Americana, the college has opted to destroy this “one-of-a-kind” kit house and send hundreds of thousands of pounds of debris to the landfill. (To read about what makes the Pop Culture house truly unique, click here.)

In “The Slate Roof Bible,” author Joseph Jenkins reports that 28% of the volume of debris at landfills is construction and demolition debris.

I’m of the opinion that BGSU should immediately suspend any and all classes related to environmental sciences. They’ve just sent a message - to their community and their students and their staff - declaring boldly that recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.

How many pounds of recycled materials does BGSU collect each year and turn over to a recycling center? How many years of recycling bottles and cans will it take to offset the 300,000+ pounds of house they’re sending to the landfills today?

If a person paid attention to behaviors (which are better indices than fancy words), the take-away message from BGSU is, “Recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.”

To say that I’m sickened and disgusted by this whole affair would be a gross understatement.

Given the tremendous urgency with which this building has been rushed to demolition, you’d think that the Pop Culture House harbored smallpox, diphtheria, spanish flu, anthrax, polio and the bubonic plague.

It does not.

The biggest sin committed by the Pop Culture House is that it stood in the way of a proposed college expansion. The house had the misfortune of being built on a piece of land that would one day be owned by a college that lacks vision, and also lacks respect for this uniquely American piece of cultural and architectural history.

At the very least, the house should have been moved to another site.

Preliminary estimates placed the cost of moving the house at about $18,000. The cost to demolish the structure is probably not far from the cost to move it.

At the very, very least, the lumber in the house should be salvaged. The quality of building materials (lumber) used in this 1931-built home are the likes of which we will never again see in this country. To read more about that, click here.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

It’s a sad day for BGSU.

Very sad indeed.

To read more about this house that will soon be nothing but an empty lot, click on the links below.

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

How to Move a House.

To read an excellent blog that talks more about the ecological importance of preserving this house, click here.

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The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012).

The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward, but was based on a kit home design offered only by Sears Roebuck. The Sears House was the Lewiston.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

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As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows.

As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows. What I do know is it is very sad and a great loss for the community. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The picture of the home's side shows the windows being removed. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening.

Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Those asbestos flakes must be pretty smart if they know that they have to stay behind the red tape.

That asbestos must be one smart mineral if it knows that it has to stay behind the red tape. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the homes buyer, builder and first owner.

A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the home's buyer, builder and first owner.

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A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

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Virgils Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware.

Virgil's Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

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A view of Virgils very own front door - from Wards.

A view of Virgil's very own front door - from Wards. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward.

Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward. This reads, "From Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, IA." Orders for Montgomery Ward's homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine in Davenport, Iowa. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family.  (Muncie, IN)

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family. (Muncie, IN)

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To read about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio (safely out of the reach of BGSU), click here.

To contact BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey, send her an email:  mmazey@bgsu.edu

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South Carolina, Churlish Chiggers, and Fake Maggies

July 25th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Last month, I spent several days traveling in South Carolina. I visited many cities in the northern part of South Carolina but found very few Sears Homes. The highlight of the trip was Anderson, where I found several kit homes from Sterling Homes (a competitor to Sears).

Click here to see photos of those houses.

I did, however, find more than 20 chiggers. Or should I say, they found me. I was in Pumpkintown, SC merrily traipsing through a happy, happy meadow when I picked up Satan’s microscopic hitchhikers.

Suffice it to say, my sufferings in the next few days rivaled that of Job, who used pottery shards to relieve the itch of his sores. (Having endured this misery, I’m now convinced that old Job hisself got into a mess of chiggers.)

But I digress…

During an earlier trip to Blacksburg, South Carolina (February 2011), I’d visited the twin of the Sears Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg turned out to be a fake Sears Magnolia. And yet, it was so close to the real thing. After spending three days at this fine house, I decided it could not be a Magnolia.

In retrospect, I believe it may have been an early pattern book house, and that the fine folks at Sears discovered this pattern book design and incorporated it into their “Book of Modern Homes,” calling it, The Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg was built about 1910 (according to tax records), which also fits with my pattern book theory.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia, which is interesting (and also fits with the above theory). When Sears “borrowed” patters from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a tiny bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made a lot of sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

I seriously doubt the SCFM is the only one of its kind. Does your town have a fake Magnolia?

To read my favorite blog on the Sears Magnolia, click here. It’s an old carpenter telling about HOW he built a Magnolia in the 1920s.

To read about the sweet ride that carried me to old South Carolina, click here.

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The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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And heres the SCFM in Blacksburg. Its NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.

And here's the SCFM in Blacksburg. It's NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.

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Really, really close.

Really, really close.

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I mean, cmon. You cant get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly.

I mean, c'mon. You can't get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly. All the details are just so darn close...

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Even has those distinctive marginal lites.

Even has those distinctive marginal lites.

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And the porch is a good match, too.

And the porch is a good match, too.

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One of the first thigns that caught my eye were these columns. Theyre concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.

One of the first details that caught my eye were these columns. They're concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.

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And its a beauty, too.

Minus the concrete columns, it's still such a good match.

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Inside the house, it has a Magnolia room!

Inside the house, it has a "Magnolia Room"! How apropos!

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The citys records show that this house was built in 1910, and those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect theyre close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s.

The city's records show that this house was built in 1910, and oftimes, those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect they're close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s. The Magnolia had two fireplaces, both wood-burning.

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This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall...

This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall, but that's one of the problems. The floorplan for this SCFM is NOT a good match to the Magnolia's floorplan. Plus, the Sears Magnolia had nine-foot ceilings. The ceilings in this house were 10' or more.

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The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot.

The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot. It's much closer to the front of the house, whereas the SCFM's staircase is much further back, and its hallway goes straight back to a rear entry door (unlike the floorplan above).

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In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!

In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!

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Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. Its LAVENDAR!

Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. It's LAVENDER!

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If you see this house, send me an email!

Such a beauty - but it's not from Sears.

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This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio.

This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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The Sears Alhambra: A Spanish-Flavored Foursquare

January 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The Sears Alhambra was a classic foursquare with a splash of mission style added for good measure.

Here in Hampton Roads, I’ve found 10 Alhambras, which really is a testimony to the popularity of this Sears kit home. In Ohio, there are probably hundreds. (Ohio seems to have a whole lot of Sears Homes in general and Alhambras in particular.)

Click here to see even more photos of America’s Alhambras.

Click here to see the blog titled, “Alhambra Abuse.”  (Warning: It’s not pretty.)

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This appeared on page 2 of the Sears Building Materials catalog (1921)

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Close-up of the letter written by A. C. Goodall.

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Alhambra

The beautiful Alhambra - as seen in the 1921 Building Materials catalog.

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Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town). This house is in the 1500-block of County Street, and it's surrounded by blocks and blocks of empty lots, razed during a redevelopment period in Portsmouth's history. I can't help but wonder - how many Sears kit homes now sit in the Suffolk landfill from this neighborhood?

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Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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One of the most beautiful Alhambras even seen in captivity! This is in Peotone, IL and the photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

One of the most beautiful Alhambras even seen in captivity! This is in Peotone, IL and the photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A real beauty in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

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Another beautiful Alhambra in Nebraska. This photo is copyright 2010 Nathan Sonnenchein, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Another beautiful Alhambra in Nebraska. This photo is copyright 2010 Nathan Sonnenchein, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Like its Virginia cousin, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

Like its cousin in Portsmouth, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

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Another vote for the beige pant job!  This perfect Alhambra is in Raleigh.

Beige seems to be a favorite color for the Alhambra. This is in Raleigh.

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We have four of these houses in Ghent (Norfolk). Im confident that theyre Alhambras - and the floorplan is a spot-on match - but the spanish extras are not there.

We have four of these houses in West Ghent (Norfolk). I'm confident that they're Alhambras - and the floorplan is a spot-on match - but the spanish extras are not there.

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Another view of the house in West Ghent. You can see its got the two bay windows on the side - just like a real Alhambra!

Another view of the house in West Ghent. You can see it's got the two bay windows on the side - just like a real Alhambra!

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And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

There are four of these "plain-Jane Alhambras" in Norfolk. Three are in West Ghent (shown above) and this one is in Ocean View (Norfolk). Note, it's a little different from the three in West Ghent, as it has the porch (covered and open) that matches the traditional Alhambra.

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This Alhambra has also had some of its unique architectural elements stripped away, but you can still see its an Alhambra!

This Alhambra has also has also lost some of its unique architectural elements, but you can still see it's an Alhambra! This is in Lynchburg, VA.

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Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney, SC. My favorite color: Lavender!

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Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock). I discovered this Alhambra when an elderly gent attended my lecture in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth). We had four people show up for that lecture, so I was mighty glad when he and his wife appeared, and increased the audience size by 50%! After the talk, he invited me to see this Alhambra, and he had the original blue prints!

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Alhambra Interiors - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

Alhambra Interiors - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Close-up of the Alhambra Living Room

Close-up of the Alhambra Living Room.

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And the dining room.

And check out that chandelier in the dining room.

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A matching Alhambra garage was offered in the late 1910s!

A matching "Alhambra" garage was offered in the late 1910s!

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To see more pictures of Sears Alhambras, visit All Things Alhambra, part 2.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Aladdin Shadowlawn: A Mass of Lights and Shadows

January 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Did you ever see a more beautiful picture of its kind than the one shown here? A mass of lights and shadows, softening the greens, browns and grays of the foliage; shingles and cobbles delight the eye. You can almost feel the touch of the sunbeams patterning the lawn, and you just want to stroll up the steps and into the inviting shade of the porch.  (From the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog)

So reads the promotional text for the Aladdin Shadowlawn. And it is a beauty. That Shadowlawn was probably one of Aladdin’s top five most popular designs.

Aladdin, like Sears, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin started business in 1906, and Sears started two years later in 1908. Sears closed their Modern Homes Department in 1940, but Aladdin continued on until 1981!  To learn more about Aladdin’s history, click here. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for info on Aladdin!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Probably my favorite Shadowlawn, and its right here in Hampton, Virginia. I wonder if these people even know they have an Aladdin Shadowlawn. If theyre like most people Ive encountered, theyre convinced its a Sears Kit Home because theyve never even heard of Aladdin.

Probably my favorite Shadowlawn, and it's right here in Hampton, Virginia. I wonder if these people even know they have an Aladdin Shadowlawn? If they're like most people I've encountered, they're convinced it's a Sears Kit Home because they've never even heard of Aladdin.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, and this one is in Tarboro, NC. Aladdin had a big mill in Wilmington, NC.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, and this one is in Tarboro, NC. Aladdin had a big mill in Wilmington, NC, so it's not surprising that there are many Aladdins in North Carolina.

This Aladdin has had some additions, but it still looks good. Its in Rocky Mount, NC which also has an abundance of Aladdin kit homes (and a couple Lustrons, too).

This Aladdin has had some additions, but it still looks good. It's in Rocky Mount, NC which also has an abundance of Aladdin kit homes (and a couple Lustrons, too).

This Shadowlawn is close to home, and its in Portsmouth, VA (my home town). Its in a section of town known as Port Norfolk (yes, its in Portsmouth), not to be confused with West Norfolk (also in Portsmouth) or South Norfolk (which is in Chesapeake). I live in Norfolk. Period.

This Shadowlawn is close to home, and it's in Portsmouth, VA (my home town). It's in a section of town known as Port Norfolk (yes, it's in Portsmouth), not to be confused with West Norfolk (also in Portsmouth) or South Norfolk (which is in Chesapeake). I live in Norfolk. Period.

Another beautiful Shadowlawn and this one is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and may not be used or reprinted without permission.

Another beautiful Shadowlawn and this one is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and may not be used or reprinted without permission.

Another Shadowlawn close to home, this one is on Elm Avenue in Portsmouth.

Another Shadowlawn close to home, this one is on Elm Avenue in Portsmouth.

The fake Shadowlawn shown in the planbook has a much higher pitch to the roof. Look at the position of the eave brackets here.

The "fake Shadowlawn" shown in the planbook has a much higher pitch to the roof. Look at the position of the eave brackets here.

Is this a Shadowlawn in Maryland?

Is this a real Shadowlawn in Maryland or another fake?? Porches come and go, and sometimes, they're never built in the first place. The windows sure look right, but look at that roofline. It's much higher and steeper than a true Shadowlawn. I'd have to say it could be the planbook house (shown above). To be sure, I'd have to go inside the house and measure the rooms.

This house in Lombard, Illinois is definitely NOT a Shadowlawn. The roof is way too steeply pitched, the eaves are too small, and the brackets are in the wrong place.

This house in Lombard, Illinois is definitely NOT a Shadowlawn. The roof is way too steeply pitched, the eaves are too small, and the brackets are too small and not placed where they should be. This is a "faux" Shadowlawn. There was also a plan book design that looked a lot like the Shadowlawn. It's possible that this house came from a planbook.

Is this an Aladdin or Plan Book house? Id lean toward Aladdin, mainly because Ive found so many Aladdins in this part of Norfolk (Lafayette/Winona).

Is this an Aladdin or Plan Book house? I'd lean toward Aladdin, mainly because I've found so many verified Aladdins in this part of Norfolk (Lafayette/Winona section).

Located on Alby Street in Alton, IL, this probably is a Shadowlawn, despite the slightly different window arrangement. The brackets are right, the roofline is right and the house just looks like an Aladdin Shadowlawn. The living room stretches across the entire front of the house, so changing the windows around a bit wouldnt be too problematic.

Located on Alby Street in Alton, IL, this probably is a Shadowlawn, despite the slightly different window arrangement. The brackets are right, the roofline is right and the house just "looks" like an Aladdin Shadowlawn. The living room stretches across the entire front of the house, so changing the windows around a bit wouldn't be too problematic.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, this one is in Concord, NC.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, this one is in Concord, NC.

Another favorite, this is in Baton Rouge, LA. For years and years and years, everyone thought this was a Sears House, but no one knew the model name. When they drove me out to this house and said it was a special Sears House, I couldnt help but giggle. Way too often, Aladdin kit homes are called Sears Homes, just because Sears was a more well-known name.

Another favorite, this is in Baton Rouge, LA. For years and years and years, everyone thought this was a Sears House, but no one knew the model name. When they drove me out to this house and said it was a "special" Sears House, I couldn't help but giggle. Way too often, Aladdin kit homes are called "Sears Homes," just because Sears was a more well-known name.

And this Shadowlawn in Baton Rouge had a matching Aladdin Garage.

And this Shadowlawn in Baton Rouge had a matching Aladdin Garage.

The Peerless Garage, offered by Aladdin as a match to the Shadowlawn.

The Peerless Garage, offered by Aladdin as a "match" to the Shadowlawn.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was very spacious.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was very spacious.

A precursor to the Aladdin Shadowlawn was the Massachusetts.

A precursor to the Aladdin Shadowlawn was the "Massachusetts." (1914)

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

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Is Your City on This List? If So, You Should Be Looking for Sears Homes!

June 6th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

In 1919, Sears opened their first “Modern Homes Sales Center” in Akron, Ohio. These were storefronts where you could personally inspect the millwork and lumber that would go into your Sears Home. You could examine the different types of bookcase collonades or pick out your favorite fireplace mantel or choose a delightful sleeping porch!

Typically, Sears put sales offices in cities which had experienced strong sales, and once those sales offices opened, sales of kit homes increased even more. If your city had a Sears Modern Homes sales center, chances are good that you have a plethora of Sears Homes there!

In 1930, there were 48 Sears Modern Homes sales offices in the country. One year later, they were down to 27 offices and by 1933, they had only13 sales offices and two of those were actually the Sears mills in Norwood, Ohio and Newark, New Jersey.

By 1939, there were 19 sales offices for the Modern Homes department, all of which were located “east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio.” These “stores” probably occupied a small office next door to a Sears storefront or may have been a small space within the main store and their closing in 1940 may have gone largely unnoticed. It’s also likely that these old Modern Homes departments were transmogrified into hardware sections or building materials departments. 

I’ve visited a handful of the cities on this list (see below) and have consistently found an abundance of Sears Homes there.

So, is your city on this list?  :)  Scroll on down to see vintage photos!

Connecticut

New Haven

Illinois

Aurora

Calumet City

Chicago

Elgin

Joliet

Peoria

Rockford

Waukegan

Indiana

Fort Wayne

Gary

Hammond

Indianapolis

South Bend

Maryland

Baltimore

Massachusetts

Boston

Michigan

Ann Arbor

Detroit

Flint

Jackson

Kalamazoo

Pontiac

Port Huron

Saginaw

Missouri

Kansas City

St. Louis

New Jersey

Camden

Elizabeth

Hackensack

Long Branch

Newark

Paterson

Plainfield

New York

Albany

Buffalo

Long Island

Mt. Vernon

New Rochelle

New York

Peeksville

Rochester

Schenectady

Syracuse

White Plains

Ohio

Akron

Cincinnati

Cleveland

Columbus

Dayton

Lorain

Mansfield

Marion

Norwood

Portsmouth

Toledo

Youngstown

Warren

Zanesville

Pennsylvania

Greensburg

New Castle

Philadelphia

Pittsburgh

Rochester

Scranton

Washington DC

(Three locations)

West Virginia

Wheeling

Wisconsin

Milwaukee

Back page of 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog, showing cities with Modern Homes Sales Office.

Back page of 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog, showing cities with Modern Homes Sales Office.

pho

Close-up of advertisement on back page of 1930 catalog.

house

This is a typical "Sears Modern Homes" sales office. I'd love to know where this building was located. I suspect Ohio, but that's just a guess.

Close-up of sign

Close-up of sign

Inside

And inside the office you might find three men with straw hats, sitting under a pergola and reading the newspaper while "working." This is from a late 1910s Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Or

Or maybe this scary-looking guy from the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog. He's got the whole Wexford, in his hands, he's got the whole Wexford, in his hands... This picture is a little disturbing, isn't it?

close up of lists with addresses

Close up of lists (from back page of 1930 catalog) with addresses of those Sears Modern Homes sales offices.

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Next column...

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And the next...

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And the last.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s house, click here.

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Rocky Mount is High on Sears Homes

April 1st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Months ago, I went through Rocky Mount, North Carolina and found a smattering of kit homes here and there but nothing remarkable. Today, I returned to Rocky Mount and this time (thanks to Garmin), I found all kinds of treasures in neighborhoods that I didn’t even know existed.  (Read Part II here.)

But first, my two favorite finds of the day!

The first is the Aladdin Williamette. This house was offered only in the 1920 Aladdin catalog, and this Williamette in Rocky Mount is the only Williamette I have ever seen. And it’s just a perfect match.

The second house is the Sears Elmhurst. This was also a very rare house and looks nothing like a typical “kit” home. This neo-tudor is both spacious, grand and ornate, and has lots of fine features you won’t find on your average Sears House!

Enjoy the photos, and if you know of anyone in Rocky Mount who might be interested in learning more about these amazing and delightful discoveries, please leave a comment below!

To see more of the kit homes in Rocky Mount, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Aladdin Williamette from the 1920 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Williamette from the 1920 Aladdin catalog

And here it is: The Aladdin Williamette in Rocky Mount, NC. More than 90% of the people living in these homes dont realize that theyre living in a kit home!

And here it is: The Aladdin Williamette in Rocky Mount, NC. More than 90% of the people living in these homes don't realize that they're living in a kit home!

The Sears Elmhurst - a fine house!

The Sears Elmhurst - a fine house!

Sears Elmhurst in Rocky Mount. This really is a beautiful match, and the only difference is, the house in Rocky Mount has had an addition put onto the side.

Sears Elmhurst in Rocky Mount. This really is a beautiful match, and the only difference is, the house in Rocky Mount has had an addition put onto the both sides.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Harrisonburg’s Surprising Bunch of Sears Homes

March 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In Fall 2010, my hubby and I were driving home from Elkins, WV and took a detour through Harrisonburg. In less than 30 minutes, I found a plethora of kit homes in this beautiful little mountain town. To learn more about Sears Modern Homes, click here.

In brief, Sears Homes were sold as pre-cut kit homes from the Sears catalog. These 12,000-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!  When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one.

To admire the beautiful pictures, scroll on down!  :)

To read about another amazing collection (in Rocky Mount), click here!

Sears Willard, as seen in this 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard, as seen in this 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard in Harrisonburg. Note, the dormer has been altered a bit but thats a very common repair as this is the site of frequent roof leaks.

Sears Willard in Harrisonburg. Note, the dormer has been altered a bit but that's a very common "repair" as this is the site of frequent roof leaks. One distinguishing feature of the Willard are those three windows on the right side (in this photo).

The Sears Westly was a popular little house. Notice how the roof in the rear is truncated. Theres a wee tiny window on the back wall.

The Sears Westly was a popular little house. Notice how the roof in the rear is truncated. There's a wee tiny window on the back wall.

Hidden behind the shrubs is a darling Carlin!

Hidden behind the shrubs is a darling Carlin!

Notice the roofline in this picture!

Notice the roofline in this picture!

Sears Lynnhaven from the 1938 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven from the 1938 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven in Harrisonburg!

There ought to be a law against parking cars in front of Sears Lynnhavens!

Sears Lynnhaven

Sears Lynnhaven just outside of Harrisonburg in Franklin. And what a beauty!

Sears Attleboro, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

Sears Attleboro, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

Sears Attleboro (also hidden by the landscaping)

Sears Attleboro (also hidden by the landscaping)

Sears Elsmore, from the 1919 catalog

Sears Elsmore, from the 1919 catalog

Still hidden by the vegetation, and also obscured by a lot of remodeling, but theres a Sears Elsmore hiding underneath all that vinyl.

Still hidden by the vegetation, and also obscured by a lot of remodeling, but there's a Sears Elsmore hiding underneath all that vinyl.

In addition to Sears, I also found houses from Aladdin, a company based in Bay City. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC and not surprisingly, Ive found more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia and North Carolina, than Sears Homes.

In addition to Sears, I also found houses from Aladdin, a company based in Bay City. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC and not surprisingly, I've found more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia and North Carolina, than Sears Homes.

Aladdin Plaza - in the flesh!

Aladdin Plaza - in the flesh! Note the large addition on the porch. Not what one might call a "sensitive" remodeling.

GVT

And I found a Gordon Van Tine home in Harrisonburg. This company was based in Davenport, Iowa and was also a large, national kit home company.

Is it a GV #605?  Hard to know for sure without getting inside, but it sure looks like it.

Is it a GV #605? Hard to know for sure without getting inside, but it might be. The house above looks wider than the #605.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Sears Lewiston: A Tutorial on Their Tudorial

March 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Sears Lewiston was an immensely popular house for Sears, and one glance at these photos (below) tell why. It was a charming, practical, cottage-flavored house with an expandable attic and an optional raised roof (for lots of extra rooms).  The diamond muntins on the front window was a nice finishing touch to give this house a hint of the Tudor’s English roots.

It was offered from 1928 to 1940 (their last catalog), and changed in appearance a bit through the years. Better than words, study these photos and you’ll learn a lot about this remarkably popular home, The Sears Lewiston.

Click here to read about the mystery Lewiston in Bowling Green, Ohio. Seems to be a Sears House - built by Montgomery Wards??

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From the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Lewiston in Portsmouth, Virginia

Sears Lewiston in Portsmouth, Virginia

Pretty little Lewiston in Dowell, IL

Pretty little Lewiston in Dowell, IL. The faux front porch is kind of a pity, and the diamond muntin window is gone, but alas, the house is well-protected against lightning strikes!

A pretty little house on a Champaign (IL) budget.

A pretty little house on a Champaign (IL) budget.

Sears Lewiston in Hillsboro, NC

Sears Lewiston in Hillsboro, NC

Pickneyville, Illinois has a Lewiston!

Pickneyville, Illinois has a Lewiston! It needs a little love, but it's still a good sturdy little house.

Close-up of those interesting windows

Close-up of those interesting windows

Black and white photo of a Sears Lewiston in Irvington, IN

Black and white photo of a Sears Lewiston in Irvington, IN

First floor floorplan

First floor floorplan

Floor plan of the first floor

Floor plan of the second floor

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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All Things Alhambra, part II

February 15th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Spanish-flavored Sears Alhambra was a big hit for Sears and was probably one of their top ten favorite kit homes. It was practical, spacious, thoughtfully designed and had plenty of windows. The only downside of the Alhambra was the dormer windows. The spot just behind the dormers was often the source of troublesome and persistent leaks. As you’ll see in a few extreme cases, some people “solved” the problem by removing the dormer window!

Others simply installed a cricket.

No doubt, the Alhambra was a pretty house with a distinctive Spanish flair and with a splash of mission style. If you take away the fancy accoutrements, you’ll see it’s little more than a classic American foursquare.

Enjoy the photos!  (Read All Things Alhambra, Part I here.)

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Alhambra in Roanoke, Virginia

Sears Alhambra in Roanoke, Virginia

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Vintage photo of a Sears Alhambra in the St. Louis area. Later on in life, the dormer was amputated due to leak issues. The parapet around the front porch was also lost during surgery. Very sad.

Vintage photo of a Sears Alhambra in the St. Louis area. Later on in life, the dormer was amputated due to leak issues. The parapet around the front porch was also lost during surgery. Very sad.

This Alhambra is in Casey, Illinois.

This Alhambra is in Casey, Illinois. It was blinded in a hunting accident.

Gorgeous brick Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

Gorgeous brick Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

The Alhambras kitchen, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Alhambra's kitchen, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

And my #1 favorite is this Sears Alhambra in Gaffney, South Carolina. Yes, its Lavender.

And my #1 favorite is this Sears Alhambra in Gaffney, South Carolina. Yes, it's Lavender.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below, or you can write her at thorntonrose@hotmail.com.  Please put, “I read your book and it was WONDERFUL” in the subject line to insure that your email is read.

No kidding.

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