Archive

Posts Tagged ‘foursquare’

The Eighth Magnolia - and - It’s In West Virginia!

August 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 13 comments

For years and years, it was believed that only six Magnolias had been sold by Sears and Roebuck, but their locations were unknown.

As the years passed, the six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was lost in 1985 when it burned down.

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.  One dead (and cremated).

And then two years ago, one of my faithful readers reported that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

Turned out, they were right. The discovery made the local papers, and it was all pretty exciting.  Click here to read the article from May 2011.

All of which brings me to this newest discovery of an 8th Magnolia.

In June 2013, someone left me a comment saying, that many years ago, he’d lived in a small town in West Virginia, and there was a Sears Magnolia just across the street from his home.

According to his reminiscence, the Magnolia was ordered from the Sears & Roebuck catalog in 1924, and the price was $7,000. The homeowner then paid a local builder another $7,000 to build the house. Rachel Shoemaker and I stayed up most of one night trying to figure out if this house was the real deal. About 4:00 am, we came to the conclusion that it was.

I contacted the homeowner (who was gracious enough to write back!) and asked if we could visit his wonderful Magnolia when we visited Elkins, later in the summer.

He said yes.

“Thrilled” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about this elegant home in West Virginia.

For one, this Maggy has been painstakingly and thoroughly restored. In the world of architectural preservation, there’s a massive difference between “remodeling” and “restoring.”

This Magnolia has truly been restored.

I’m a tough cookie with an eye for detail and a penchant for perfection and a passion for historicity, and I’m happy to report that the work done on this old house was absolutely first-class. This West Virginia “Maggy” is truly a wonder to behold. As the pictures will show, the house is a gem and every room looks like something out of a fancy architectural magazine. It really is that beautiful.

Secondly, I was so pleased to see that the house is in good hands. The home’s current owners love this house with their whole heart, and they genuinely appreciate their home’s unique history. They’re “caretakers” in the truest sense of the word, and they really do “get it.”

An interesting aside, my husband toured the house with me, and he was also smitten (and he’s not even a big architecture guy). When we returned to our car, he said quietly, “That really is a beautiful place they’ve got there.”

Enough words. Just wait until you see these pictures. You’ll fall in love with this house, just like I did.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

*    *    *

house house

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922. It's shown here in the 1921 catalog

*

The description shows it was fancy.

The description of the Magnolia gives some wonderful detail on the home's fine qualities (1921).

*

price

A price list from the 1921 catalog shows detail on the optional extras for the Magnolia.

*

house house house

What a fine-looking house!

*

house house

This magnificent Magnolia is now 88 years old, and still retains all its original stateliness, beauty and grandeur. Beginning in 2003, the house underwent a major, three-year-long restoration that saved this historically significant home.

*

beautiful

The house sits on several acres on a beautifully landscaped lot in a small West Virginia town about two hours from my husband's ancestral home in Elkins, WV. The previous owners (who did the major three-year restoration) planted the two Magnolia trees at the front of the house. The house is even more beautiful "in person" than it is in these photos. It's stunning. Just stunning.

*

house

This house has no bad sides. It is beautiful from every angle.

*

house

Just imagine bobbing about in the pool on an August afternoon, sipping on a cool soda and gazing upward at a majestic Magnolia. Bliss! On a more architectural note, the 40' wide addition across the back added quite a bit of square footage and also expanded the size of the small den and kitchen.

*

house

The floorplan for the first floor (shown here) shows how the addition to the rear of the house increased the square footage, expanded the den and the kitchen and did not diminish the home's original beauty. Major kudos to the architect who came up with this plan! Brilliant!

*

house house

And from the back of the house, you can get a good view of that distinctive Magnolia dormer.

*

house

A view of the front yard from the second-floor balcony. West Virginia is a state filled with beautiful views, and this house is located in an unusually beautiful spot in West Virginia.

*

When I first contacted the homes owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

When I first contacted the home's owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

*

house house

Beautiful house. Just beautiful.

*

And much praise is due to the folks who did the restoration on the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved.

And much praise is due to the folks who restored the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved. These windows - with a little love and care - will last for generations.

*

On

It's claimed that the Sears Magnolia was the only kit that was required two boxcars (as opposed to one) for shipment. I suspect the six two-story columns were part of the reason for the second boxcar. When shipped, these columns were in pieces (length-wise) which were to be assembled on site. The bases on these columns were recently replaced.

*

house house

The porch floor on the other Magnolias I've seen is poured concrete. On the West Virginia Magnolia, the terrace is tiled, with several floor drains. I've read that they get lots of snow in WV so maybe the floor drains help with that.

*

And in the basement, we found

And in the basement, we found marked lumber!

*

My next blog

Return to this blog tomorrow, and come inside for a tour of this beautiful home. You're in for a treat!

*

To read Part II of this blog (and see interior photos) click here.
Is there a Sears Magnolia in your neighborhood?

Of the eight Sears Magnolias that have been discovered, three of them were found thanks to the loyal readers of this blog. If you know of a Magnolia, please leave a comment below!

*   *   *

Inside the Sears Magnolia: In 1918 and 1985

July 12th, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

Last week, I did a blog on the lost Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska. One of only eight known Magnolias in the country, the Sears House in Lincoln was torn down in 1985.

Fortunately, the Magnolia in Lincoln was extensively photographed a few months before it was razed. The photos were then archived and saved by the Nebraska State Historical Society.

And nearly 30 years later, the folks at NSHS were kind enough to share these wonderful photos with me.

After studying their photos, I realized that those historically minded folks at Nebraska State Historical Society had photographed the Magnolia’s interiors from the same angle shown in a special fold-out offered in a 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

I’m in possession of two 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalogs, and yet this “special fold out” is not present in either catalog. I suspect that there were two or more revisions of the 1918 catalog, and the catalog that featured the “interior views” (shown below) was a very rare catalog.

For several years, friend and fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker has been collecting these old catalogs, and she was kind enough to share her copy of this rare 1918 catalog.

A big thank you to Rachel and also to the kind souls at the Nebraska State Historical Society. Because of them, I’m able to put together these 30-year-old photos with the 90-year-old drawings featured in the old Sears Modern Homes catalog.

And a little hint for today’s blog: Take an extra moment and read the captions thoroughly. While I was going through these images, I learned some fascinating things about old houses in general and the Magnolia in particular.

Please share the link with your old-house loving friends!  :)

*

Interior

This fold-out appeared in the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I've been playing with Sears Homes for 15 years, and yet I'd never seen this page - anytime anywhere. When the Nebraska State Historical Society sent me their files on the Sears Magnolia in Lincoln, they included a faded (and repeatedly xeroxed) copy of this very same page. And it was this page that they apparently used as a guide when they took *their* photos.

*

house

Close-up of the text box in the fold-out (1918).

*

house house

If you look closely at the floor plan, you'll see a second set of stairs off the kitchen. In tiny print, it says, "To servants' room." Remember that detail. If you look at the back wall of the kitchen, you'll also see the words, "Ice box door." This feature enabled the ice man to place 25 or 50 pounds of ice directly into the ice box - from the back porch - without entering the house. It was also known as the "Jealous Husband's Door."

*

house showing

Those kitchen stairs lead into a small hallway that opens up right into a small bedroom, which leads to a bathroom. The servants' area was purposefully isolated from the rest of the family. The servants' bathroom was also smaller and more modest. Remember that detail, too. The family bathroom has a sink that says, "MC" (medicine chest). The servants' bathroom does not say MC. The poor Irish servant girl didn't even have a place to store her toiletries.

*

house house house

Close-up of the Magnolia's 20-foot long living room.

*

banana house living room

And here it is in real life. Those folks at the Nebraska State Historical Society did a fine job, didn't they? The fireplace mantel is not a perfect match, which is a puzzler. Notice also that the home's original owners went for the Hercules Steam Heating Outfit (which was the most expensive heating option available). Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house house house

The Magnolia had a grand entry hall. The French doors at the top of the landing lead to a small balcony outside.

*

house house house

The Magnolia was an elegant home with classic lines and aristocratic airs, and despite the deterioration occasioned by decades of neglect, its timeless elegance was still apparent. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house upstairs

The photographer was standing in front of the dressing room looking toward the rear of the house on the 2nd floor. These are the same French doors shown in the prior photo, which lead out to that small balcony. If you look close, you can see the balcony's railing. I believe the door on the left leads to that servants' staircase. It's an interesting arrangement, because the balcony and that door are both on a lower level than the rest of the 2nd floor. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

kitchen

My favorite image: The kitchen. Look at that darling little breakfast nook sitting in the coolest spot in the house, with pretty casement windows on all three sides. The door on the right leads to the ice box (with the "Jealous Husband's Door"). And the door on the right leads to the back porch.

*

house house kitchen

The NSHS photographers outdid themselves on this image. Nice match to the picture above! The door that's partially open leads to the servants' staircase. The nook is still intact, but the little dinette is gone. The sink has been moved from the right side to the left. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

kitchen floorplan

Here's a close-up of the Magnolia's kitchen and surrounding area. This is a very complicated space! And there's a Butler's Pantry (with a sink) between the dining room and kitchen.

*

the den the den

Most post-1950s homes feature a "den," but this wasn't a common concept in the late 1910s (when the Magnolia was first offered). Another unusual concept was the two fireplaces (in the living room and den). By the 1910s, wood-burning fireplaces had fallen from favor because they were considered primitive and old-fashioned. Most houses had a single fireplace so that the family could burn an occasional fire on a cold-winter evening, just for ambiance, but two? Definitely not typical. Plus, it was getting harder and harder to find cheap firewood in the cities, due to the explosive growth of residential and commercial construction.

*

house house house house house

Now this mantel is a good match to the image above (minus the cracked mirror)! The floor tile wasn't original, but was probably added in the 1940s or 50s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house bathroom

This was not the maid's bathroom. This was the FAMILY'S bathroom. How do I know this? Let me count the ways. First, it has that niche created by the chimney (left corner). And it has a shower. Yes, a shower. And while we're in the bathroom, look at the subway tile on the walls and diagonal tiles on the floor. Nice, isn't it?

*

shower

The shower was a pretty fancy deal for 1918. I don't know of any other pre-1930 Sears Homes that were offered *with* showers. And this isn't your typical shower. This one sits at the far end of the tub, away from the tub's drain and supply lines. Now that's curious. I wish I knew when showers came into vogue in typical American homes. If a reader could answer that, I'd be tickled pink.

*

house in Benson

This is *not* the Magnolia in Lincoln, but it's another Magnolia with a "Family Bathroom" that's in original condition. When I first saw this bathroom, I was utterly mystified by the hose bibs on the lower right. There's a bedroom on the other side of that wall. Why would there be plumbing on the far side of the tub? And I have thought about this curious plumbing arrangement ever since. Thanks to Rachel's 1918 "interior views," I think the puzzle is solved. I suspect that these water lines supplied water to that funky shower at the far end of the tub. The house bibs may have been added for a washer hook-up later on, but look at the plumbing lines that snake around the back of the tub and (perhaps) to the side where that shower once was.

*

house shower

It's a not-so-great photo, but you can see the two hose bibs with two lines coming off and snaking around the back and side of the tub. And if you look close, you'll see a piece of that old subway tile behind the tub.

*

house tub

If you look at the front of the tub, you see the lines here (for the bathtub faucets) are original and in use. In fact, judging from the paint, they haven't been disturbed in a very long time.

*

house bathroom

The contemporary photo of the bathtub (with those awesome swans on the side) was taken almost four years ago, and yet it's only in the last 24 hours, when I saw this vintage image, that I was able to surmise why there were pipes behind the tub. Who says history isn't fun? :)

*

house house house

How many Magnolias are out there? Thus far, we know of eight that were built, and seven are still standing.

*

house in Nebraska

The grand old Magnolia in Nebraska was torn down in 1985 due to decades of neglect. These photos are bittersweet, because this house should have been salvaged. Instead, it's now just another pile of construction debris in a local landfill. Nonetheless, I'm unspeakably grateful for these many wonderful images. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house in neb

This framing members used in the construction of this house were first-growth lumber, #1 Southern Yellow Pine, harvested from the virgin forests of Louisiana. The exterior (siding, trim and balustrades) is Cypress, once lauded as "The Wood Eternal," because of its natural resistance to moisture, decay and insect infestation. The two-story columns were Yellow Poplar. Inside, the entire house had oak trim and mill work, with tongue-and-groove oak floors. The kitchen floor was maple. This house was built with a quality of building materials we will never again see in this country. RIP, Magnolia. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Many thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for sharing these photos, and thanks also to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the vintage images from that rare 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Read more  the “Jealous Husband’s Door” click here.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Want to see more photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska? Click here.

*    *    *

One of the Most Incredible Blogs I’ve Ever Done…

July 9th, 2013 Sears Homes 10 comments
Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I have a fun update to this blog!  Click here to see it!

*

Years ago, Rebecca Hunter told me that there had been a Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska (one of only eight known Sears Magnolias in the country) that had been destroyed by fire in 1985 or 1986.

And for years, all we’d ever seen was a grainy picture (a copy of a copy of a copy), but today, thanks to the foresight and wisdom of the architectural historians at the Nebraska State Historical Society, I got my first look at an amazing kit house that has been gone for almost 30 years.

The house was extensively photographed a few months before it was razed. And  there just aren’t words to express how delighted and grateful I am to see this almost-forgotten Sears house, from all angles (as shown below) and also from the inside.

If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you probably know all about the Sears Magnolia. If not, you can learn about it by clicking here, here and here.  My favorite blog on the Magnolia is this one, which tells the story of a 92-year-old builder who remembers helping build a Magnolia.

Thanks so much to the wonderful folks at the Nebraska State Historical Society for having the presence of mind to document this wonderful old house before it was razed, and so generously sharing these wonderful photos with me, three decades later.

Looking at these photos took my breath away. It’s so tragic that the house is gone, but at least we can get a good look at our “Maggy,” and remember, this was a house that someone carefully selected from the pages of a Sears Roebuck catalog and then painstakingly erected, more than nine decades ago.

Enjoy the plethora of photos.

All photos below are courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 catalog.

*

The Magnolia  was the crème de la crème of  all kit homes.

The Magnolia was the crème de la crème of all kit homes (1920).

*

And thanks to the foresight of theh

And thanks to the foresight of the Nebraska State Historical Society, we have some wonderful photos of the Sears Magnolia that was located at 5901 NW 20th Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Class

The classic entry of the Magnolia, as seen in 1985. The two-story Corinthian columns were made of poplar and judging from the photo above, they were in pretty rough shape here. It was said that all of the Sears kit homes could be made to fit intto a single boxcar with one exception: The Magnolia. It required two boxcars for shipping. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

An imposing view of an imposing house.

An imposing view of an imposing house. Look at the eaves and brackets, as well as the balustrades on the 2nd floor porch and porch roof. In 1985, when these photos were taken, the house was only 60 years old. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Another

Didn't I tell you these were wonderful photos? Everything about this house was original, down to the exterior wooden storm door on the 2nd floor porch. Notice the leaded glass fan lite over the front door. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Side view

From this side view, you can see a bit of that unique dormer in the attic. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Straight on

A view of our Maggy from straight on. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house

The trees obstruct the frontal view, but you can still see those unique front windows. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

The sun porch is missing its railings. Still, it's a great view of the side of the house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

hoouse house house

Another great photograph showing the porte cochere. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house h

There was a balcony on the rear of this Magnolia, probably off the staircase landing. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

The upstairs rear corner (shown above) had a spacious "sleeping porch." Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

The Magnolia was on a massive lot, and was apparently on the edge of Lincoln. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house house

Close-up of the side. Note the original screen doors off the porte cochere. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

houses o

Even in this sad state, its grandeur still shone through. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

The home's cypress exterior put up a good fight. I wonder if the house was ever re-painted after it was built (1918-1922). Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

fireplace

And my favorite part: Thee interior photos. Judging from these pictures, it appears that all the oak trim retained its natural finish and had not been covered in latex paint (a fate suffered by most older homes). Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

As I pointed out to a friend, these photos are great, but also a little bittersweet. This house was magnificent inside, and now it's gone. Nonetheless, I'm so grateful to have these pictures. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

8

living

Another view of the living room. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house

And a great photo of the Magnolia's entry hall. The living room was to the right and the dining room was to the left. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house

Close-up of the staircase. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house

See those double-doors at the top of the stairs? They lead to that small balcony at the back of the house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

kitchen

How awesome is this? The kitchen, probably looking much like it did when built in the early 1920s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Den

Judging by the presence of this fireplace, this is probably the den of the Magnolia. The fireplace has a coal-burning grate. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

fireplace

And the top of the stairs, showing that small balcony. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Please share this link with your old-house loving friends, and perhaps we can find the 9th Magnolia (and maybe the 10th, 11th and so on!).

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Thanks again to the Nebraska State Historical Society for having the presence of mind to document this wonderful old house before it was razed, and so generously sharing these wonderful photos with me, three decades later.

*   *   *

The Sears Magnolia in “The Notebook” (Sheesh!)

July 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Some rumors just never die.

There’s a persistent (and false) rumor making the rounds that beautiful Neo-Classical Revival home featured in “The Notebook,” is a Sears Magnolia.

Nope.

Not even close.

Not even close.

Let’s go right to the photos.

*

Black River

The house featured in "The Notebook" is the Black River Plantation House in Georgetown County (South Carolina). It is a beauty, but it's not a Sears House. And yes, I'm 100% certain. :) The photo above is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

*

Benson

Here's the real deal: A Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

*

Comparison

Now let's compare them side-by-side. At first glance, both homes have four walls, a roof, two-story columns and some windows. But that's where it stops. The Black River Plantation (on the left) has that massive front-gable atop that porch. The window arrangement on the non-Magnolia house is also quite different. And Black River Plantation is much larger than the Sears Magnolia. And look at how tall the Black River Plantation is! Notice how much space exists between those second-floor windows and the roofline. Those are important details. If you still think these houses are identical, drop me a note and I'll send some biscuits for your seeing-eye dog. The photo on the left is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

*

Heres a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

Here's a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

*

Heres the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Here's the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

*

Heres a color photo of the Black River Plantation.

Here's a color photo of the Black River Plantation. Again, notice how much space there is between the first and second floors, and the second and third floors. It is a stunningly beautiful house, isn't it? (Photo is copyright 2008 Brandon Coffey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

Oh my!

Oh my! The Black River Plantation doesn't look like this, does it?

*

Where did this nutty rumor get started? Apparently, here (see below). In 1994, the Black River Plantation was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Note the highlighted text below.

*

In 1994,

The author wrote that it's possible that Waddell "utilized one of these sources" (kit homes or plan book home). Well, I can't rule out plan books, but I can rule out "kit house." The Black River Plantation is most assuredly not a kit house. Of that, I am sure. At least they admitted that it was definitely NOT a kit home from Montgomery Ward.

*

And don’t get me started on the “Honor Built Homes marketed…during the late 19th Century…”

Whew boy!

In all fairness, not as much was known then (in 1994) as is known now about Sears kit homes. However, this pernicious rumor - that the house featured in The Notebook is a Sears Magnolia - seems to have taken on a life of its own.

On a happier note, look at some pictures of real Magnolias here.

And if you know of any REAL Magnolias, please leave a comment.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

Be Still My Heart: The Eighth Magnolia?

June 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Updated!! See detailed photos here!!

A few moments ago, my sleepy husband stuck his head into the room and said, “It’s 3:11  in the morning. Why are you still up?”

“Well, I think we’ve found our eighth Magnolia,” I replied.

“Oh,” he said quietly, as he toddled back to the bedroom.

No additional information was needed.

Every month, I get a handful of emails from people who are 100% certain that they’ve found the crème de la crème of all kit homes: The Sears Magnolia.

And 98% of the time, they’re wrong.

Sears sold kit homes from 1908-1940, and in that 32-year span, they offered 370 designs. Of those 370 designs, the Magnolia was the fairest of them all (and the biggest and the most expensive).

In 1918 (the year the Magnolia first appeared), 90 designs were offered, and only 13 of those homes cost more than $2,000. Not counting the Magnolia, the most expensive house in that catalog was the Preston, at $2,812.

The other 76 models offered in 1918 were under $2,000, and the overwhelming majority of those were less than $1,200.

The price tag for the Magnolia was $4,485.

Most of the Sears Homes in that 1918 catalog had less than 1,000 square feet, and the Magnolia had almost 3,000 square feet.

For years and years, it was widely believed that only six Magnolias had been built in the country, and yet their locations were not known. In time, those six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth had been destroyed by fire in Nebraska. (Of those six Magnolias, the house in Benson was the “newest” discovery, found in March 2010.)

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.

One dead (and cremated).

And then in May 2011 (thanks to this blog), someone  contacted me and said that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

I didn’t pay too much attention, because frankly, I’d heard it before, but fortunately, a friend and faithful reader (Heather Lukaszewski) did pay attention and she did a little research. She wrote me a nice note and said, “I think this may be the real deal.”

And that’s how we found the 7th Magnolia. The discovery made the local papers, and it was all pretty exciting. Click here to read the article from May 2011.

All of which brings me to this newest discovery of an 8th Magnolia!

Friday evening, someone contacted me and said that he lived in a house that was across the street from a Sears Magnolia. We exchanged several emails and I started to get pretty interested in this story. It had a lot more background and depth than the typical “There’s a Magnolia just down the street” stories.

Thanks to a lot of help from Rachel Shoemaker and Mark Hardin, we were able to see the house via Bing Maps, and I have to say, I think we’ve got a winner.

In fact, I’d be willing to say that I’m 90% certain that we’ve found our 8th Magnolia.

And the best part of all?

It’s in West Virginia.

I love West Virgina and I’m headed to Elkins in six weeks (with the aforementioned hubby) to visit family.

I’d sure love to stop by this sweet old kit house and check it out in person. Boy oh boy, would I love to see this fine house in the flesh.

Wow.

Just wow.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

*      *      *

Magnolia 1918

The Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog, and yet, those leaves in the border are not Magnolia leaves. What a fraud!

*

1918  1918

Close-up of the Magnolia (1918)

*

house house

The Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Modern Homes catalog (shown above). In 1919, the Magnolia hit its highest price: $10,000, more than double its price in 1918.

*

1921

In 1921, the price of the Sears Magnolia dropped to $6,489 and one year later, it would drop to $5,849. Following WW1, prices of building materials fluctated dramatically.

*

Magnolia Benson

In March 2011, a reader told me that there was a Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

*

Janets house

The Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio was almost lost due to neglect but was lovingly restored in the 1990s. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet's Hess LaMonica and may not be reproduced without written permission.

*

Syracue

Our 7th Magnolia, in Syracuse! And what a fine-looking kit house it is! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

Magnolia columns

Close-up of the columns on the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama.

*

To learn more about the Sears Magnolias among us, click here.

*

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

*

*

Where Are the Rest of the Sears Homes in Charlotte?

June 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last year, I spent several hours driving around in Charlotte, NC searching for Sears Homes, and found only a handful.

And then a few days ago, Sears House Hunter Andrew Mutch sent me a link to a Sears Corona that was for sale in Charlotte. My oh my, that was a beautiful house. You can read all about it here.

In fact, I am geographically challenged and there’s a fair chance that I spent most of my time in one neighborhood (reflected by the photos below). I’d love to know where the rest of the Sears Homes are!

What did I miss?

Further, I found two “reproduction” Sears Homes, and that’s a puzzler as well. Someone in Charlotte loves Sears Homes enough to create MODERN versions of these old bungalows and foursquares!

Who are they? And why haven’t they contacted me?  :)

If you know who built these reproduction Sears Homes, please leave a comment below.

*

There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

*

*

Heres one

A perfect Sears Crescent in Charlotte. I circled the block about 4,873 times waiting for the woman on the cell phone to hang up and go back in the house. Eventually, I gave up and just tried to get a photo of her not facing the camera. The things we do for love. Sigh.

*

house house house

It's a lovely Sears Crescent in good condition, and it's not too far from its sister Crescent (above). The American flag is a lovely touch but not so much the upholstered furniture. At this point, I was just grateful there wasn't someone sitting in the upholstered furniture, talking on the cell phone.

*

*

And the surprise was finding this Corona

The Sears Corona was a beautiful, classic bungalow, and I was so surprised to find that there is one in Charlotte! Notice how the dormer is centered on the roof, and the offset front porch (1918 catalog).

*

Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

*

The Maywood was a beautiful, spacious kit home offered by Sears in the late 1920s.

The Maywood was a beautiful, spacious kit home offered by Sears in the late 1920s.

*

Is this a Maywood in Charlotte?

Is this a Maywood in Charlotte? It might be, or it may be a plan book house. Plan book homes were similar to kit homes, in that potential buyers browsed the pages, picked out a house they liked and sent in their payment. With a plan book, they'd receive a list of building materials needed to build their dream home, and also the blueprints, but no building materials.

*

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I recently discovered this little plan book house, The Carmen. This house is ubiquitous in North Carolina. Ive found it in Rocky Mount, Elizabeth City, several in Raleigh and now Charlotte.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, I recently discovered this little plan book house, "The Carmen." This house is ubiquitous in North Carolina. I've found it in Rocky Mount, Elizabeth City, Durham, several in Raleigh and now Charlotte.

*

And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

*

As mentioned above, another surprise was finding a Modern Sears Westly in Charlotte. Whos building these homes? Id love to know!

As mentioned above, another surprise was finding a "Modern" Sears Westly in Charlotte. Who's building these homes? I'd love to know!

*

Wow

Sure is a nice house, but I'm quite certain that this is a new house. And it's in a neighborhood of new houses, that were all built to look like old bungalows.

*

Just around the block from the Westly (shown above), I found a Sears Cornell.

Just around the block from the Westly (shown above), I found a Sears Cornell.

*

The Cornell

The Cornell, but it's new! Note the attention to detail. Even the belt-course is exactly where it should be, and the upper portion is shingle and the lower is clapboard. So who's building new kit homes?

*

If you know of any other Sears Homes in Charlotte, or you know who’s building these “new old houses,”  please leave a comment below.

I’d love to come back to Charlotte and do a proper survey! If you know how to make that happen, please contact me!

*

To see interior photos of the Sears Corona in Charlotte, click here.

*   *   *

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: In Portsmouth and Hampton, Virginia!

June 5th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Mrs. Terrell was a first-grade teacher at John Tyler Elementary School in Portsmouth, Virginia for many decades, and she was dearly loved by all. She was also our neighbor in Waterview (just off High Street).

When I started first grade, I was disappointed to learn that I’d been assigned to Mrs. Saunders’ class (the OTHER first grade teacher). I had so hoped that I would be in Mrs. Terrell’s class. She was soft-spoken and always had such a sweet smile.

As a hyper-sensitive, high-strung little girl, I preferred the familiar. I knew Mrs. Terrell. I liked Mrs. Terrell. And I really loved her house.

Mr. Terrell was a gem, too. He was always in the garage, tinkering with their two old Volkswagen Beetles (early 1960s).

Fifty years later, I found Mrs. Terrell’s house in a plan book. The house (”The Bristol”) appeared in the 1920s plan book put out by Harris, McHenry and Baker. In fact, these plan books were issued by countless lumber yards as a marketing tool to help sell more lumber. Dover Publications reprinted the book issued by Harris, McHenry and Baker (and it’s available at Amazon.com.)

Plan book homes were different from kit homes, in that when you ordered a plan book design, you received blueprints and a list of building materials needed to build the house, but the actual building materials were obtained locally.

Recently, I took a tour of Old Wythe (in Hampton) and we found THREE examples of Mrs. Terrell’s house, and that was in one neighborhood.

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

Old Wythe has their own website! Click here to see a fine bunch of vintage photos.

*

Planbook

The Bristol, as seen in the 1924 planbook.

*

kind of a crummy

The Terrell's "Bristol" on Nansemond Crescent in the Waterview neighborhood in Portsmouth. Ever since I can remember, their Bristol has been all "ship shape and Bristol fashion." I've always loved that neighborhood and loved this home.

*

house

Close-up of The Bristol.

*

house house

One of three "Bristols" in Old Wythe (Hampton).

*

Small section of Wythe

The second of the three Bristols in Old Wythe.

*

plan book house

This one has fallen prey to aluminum siding, but it's still easily recognizable as a Bristol.

*

To learn more about the plan book houses of Portsmouth, click here.

To read more about kit homes in Hampton, click here.

So Many Kit Homes in Waynesboro!

May 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Earlier this year, I had occasion to stop and visit Waynesboro and I found a few fine-looking Sears Homes.  Several days later, fellow kit house aficionado and researcher Linda Ramsey drove to the area and found four more kit Homes! (To see pictures, scroll down.)

On Thursday, October 17th, I’ll be returning to Waynesboro to give a talk on Sears Homes. It’ll be at the WTA Gateway, 329 W. Main St at 7:00pm. For more info, click here.

And you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home?

From 1908-1940, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Each 12,ooo-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days! During their 32 years in the kit house business, Sears and Roebuck sold about 70,000 houses, offered in 370 models.

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise 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 that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

* 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.

Hope to see you Thursday night!

Thanks so much to Linda Ramsey for driving out to Waynesboro and finding these Sears Homes (and photographing them!).

To learn more about the history of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming talk in Waynesboro, click here.

*   *   *

Brist

First, my #1 favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And what's so cool about this is it's not just a kit house, but it it came from Gordon Van Tine. GVT homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs (just like Sears Homes), however GVT Homes were not as popular as Sears. And the house in Waynesboro is the "Bristol," a very unusual Gordon Van Tine home!

*

First, my favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And whats so cool about this is its not just a kit house, but it it came from Montgomery Ward! Wardway Homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs, however Montgomery Ward homes were not that popular.

The floorplans could be flipped (or reversed), based on the owner's preferences. I've flipped the image above to match the house in Waynesboro. It's pretty unlikely that these homeowners know that they have a house that came from a mail-order catalog.

*

Briston

And here's the Wardway Bristol in Waynesboro! And it's just a spot-on match to the catalog! Many thanks to Linda Ramsey for getting this photo and finding this Wardway home! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were simple, boxy little affairs, and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all.

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were "simple, boxy little affairs," and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all. This is the interior view of the GVT Bristol, showing the 20' by 12' living room. Check out the vaulted ceiling and the long, tapered fireplace.

*

First, my favorite. This is the Sears Alhambra, a hugely popular house for Sears - and a beautiful one too. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog.

Next is "The Sears Alhambra," a close runner-up to the Wardway Bristol. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog. It was offered in frame, stucco and brick. Stucco was the most common siding.

*

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro!

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro! And it's in brick! And it's also perfect in every detail! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah! What a perfect match!!! Oh my goodness!!

*

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore.

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore. This house was also offered in stucoo, frame and brick, but was most often built as a frame house with clapboard siding.

*

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above!

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above! Like the Bristol, the floorplan has been reversed. Look at that distinctive front door, and the asymmetrical front gable.

*

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

*

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

*

this is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (

This is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (Waynesboro house and catalog image).

*

Sears Lynnhaven

The Lynnhaven was a very popular model for Sears. And it's also a lovely house.

*

Its hiding behind a tree, but thats definitely a Lynnhaven back there.

It's hiding behind a tree, but that's definitely a Lynnhaven back there. Look at the details around the front door.

*

Linda also found

Linda also found a Conway/Uriel. (This popular model was known by both names.)

*

And what a fine Conway it is!

And what a fine Conway it is! And in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

*

house

Again, a very nice match to the original catalog image! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And heres a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

And here's a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

*

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

*

Again, its in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

Again, it's in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

How many more kit homes are there in Waynesboro? Probably many more than I’ve found thus far.

I’ll be arriving in Waynesboro on Wednesday morning, so if you know of a Sears House in the area, leave a comment below!

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming visit, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

*   *   *

The Wardway Warrenton in West Virginia

May 27th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

Like Sears, Wardway kit homes were also

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

*

The Wardway Warrenton

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

*

house

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

*

Wardway

The Wardway Warrenton as seen in the 1921 catalog.

*

house house hosue

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

*

house

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

*

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

*   *   *

The Thrift Book of a Nation

May 26th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Earlier this week, my friend Rachel posted a picture of this 1922 Sears catalog in our Facebook group “Sears Homes.”

I found it utterly enchanting.

The cover shows a little girl dashing out to the mailbox to retrieve the goodies that just arrived from Sears & Roebuck. In the background, there’s a Sears Silo, a Sears Barn, and a Sears kit home, The Silverdale.

It’s an entire farm built by Sears!

Years ago, I interviewed Joseph Origer who’d purchased a Sears Hammond (kit house) out of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog.  He was inspired to buy a Sears House by his father.

Mr. Origer explained,

My dad built a Sears kit silo in 1911 and he was so impressed with the quality of the lumber (all cypress) that he decided to buy and build Sears Modern Home #101.

I remember my father telling me that his kit home was all number one lumber and material. All the building materials cost $879 and the total expense, including all carpenter labor, was less than $1500. I still have the itemized list of materials for that house!

When I decided to marry and stay on the farm, my parents suggested we go to Chicago and pick out another Sears home. Dad said, “you know the material will be good.”

These 60-plus years The Hammond has been a wonderful house. I am glad I built it. This house has been well maintained inside and out, and it is still just as good as new.

Mr. Origer’s experience was probably fairly typical. Potential customers might have been hesitant to purchase an entire kit house, but they were ready and willing to buy chicken coops, silos, corn cribs, milk sheds, tool houses and more.

How many American farms were filled with Sears outbuildings and kit homes?

I wish I knew!

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing these wonderful images!

house hose

Cover of the 1922 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

*

ban

The barn in the background is a Sears kit barn, L2055.

*

Sears barn 1918

The Sears barn as seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

*

house ouse house house house

Unnamed, happy child with severely deformed left leg and mangled left hand rushes out to the mailbox to see what parcels have arrived from Sears and Roebuck.

*

house house house

These must be some of Sears best customers! Not only did they order a house, silo and barn from Sears, but each day they receive a plethora of packages!

*

house house

Close-up of the Sears Silverdale. But what kind of car is that?

*

silverdale

The Silverdale, as seen in the 1916 Sears catalog.

*

Hettick, IL

A real live Silverdale in Hettick, IL.

*

house hose

Thanks again to Rachel for sharing this wonderful picture!

*

To learn more about the amazing Mr. Sears, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

*   *   *