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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!

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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.

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

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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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living

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Benson

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

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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).

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

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

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Heres the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Here's the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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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.)

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Oh my!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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1918  1918

Close-up of the Magnolia (1918)

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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.

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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.

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Magnolia Benson

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

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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.

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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.)

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Magnolia columns

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

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

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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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.

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There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

There are two Sears Crescents in Charlotte.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

Wow, wow, WOW! What a house!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

And here is The Carmen in Charlotte.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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

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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.

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Planbook

The Bristol, as seen in the 1924 planbook.

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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.

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Close-up of The Bristol.

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

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Small section of Wythe

The second of the three Bristols in Old Wythe.

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plan book house

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

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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 1 comment

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Oh yeah!

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

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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).

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Sears Lynnhaven

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

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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.

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Linda also found

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Wardway

The Wardway Warrenton as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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Cover of the 1922 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

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

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

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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.

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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!

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

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The Silverdale, as seen in the 1916 Sears catalog.

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Hettick, IL

A real live Silverdale in Hettick, IL.

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Thanks again to Rachel for sharing this wonderful picture!

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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.

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How NOT to Photograph a Sears Kit House

May 13th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Several times each week, folks send me emails asking, “Is my house a Sears House?” Usually,  they send photos along with their inquiries. But sometimes, the photos don’t help with the identification process.

My poor old laptop is already heavy laden with pictures of kit homes (about 50,000 photos and counting), so I’ve deleted the great majority of not-so-good pictures I’ve received.

However, I did save a few of my favorites.  :)

This was a favorite.

This was a favorite. I laughed out loud when I saw the photo. The writer asked me, "I think I live in a Sears House. Can you tell me what this is?" I wanted to write back and say, "Yes, it's a Silver Maple."

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Another reader photo.

This is the architectural equivalent of asking someone to identify a picture of a criminal where the bad guy is wearing a ski mask. Just doesn't work too well.

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This is actually a photo that I took. Its an Aladdin Pasadena. Can you tell?

Is there a house back there? Yes there is. And it's an Aladdin Pasadena!

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

To read about the first class lumber that went into kit homes, click here.

To read about the impressive collection of kit homes in Raleigh (The Tree City), click here.

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Next Stop, Waynesboro?

May 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

My talk in Staunton was well-organized (thanks to Historic Staunton Foundation) and well attended (standing room only!) and it was a lot of fun!

And what an unexpected delight to discover such a variety of kit homes in nearby Staunton! (Click here to read more about what we found!)

On my way to Staunton last week, I took a quickie ride through Waynesboro and found a handful of kit homes.  Some day soon, I’d love to come back and do a more thorough survey and give a talk.

For those newbies here, what is a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. These 12,ooo-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days!  From 1908-1940, Sears sold about 70,000 of these kits, and finding them is just like looking for hidden treasure.

OOOH, there are MORE Sears Homes in Waynesboro! Click here to see the rest of the photos!

To read about the kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

To see what I found in Waynesboro, scroll on down!

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The 1920s were the hey-day for the Sears Modern Homes program. At its peak, the Sears Modern Homes catalog had almost 150 pages, with 100 models offered. Shown here is the cover of the 1930 catalog, with a Sears Lewiston on the front cover.

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If you buy a Sears Modern Home, even your little dog will be happy!

If you buy a Sears Modern Home, even your little dog will be happy!

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The Lewiston was a hugely popular house for Sears.

The Lewiston was a hugely popular house for Sears.

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Its missing the happy dog and the little girl, but its definitely a Sears Lewiston, and its in Waynesboro.

It's missing the happy dog and the little girl, but it's definitely a Sears Lewiston, and it's in Waynesboro. Unfortunately, the original windows were replaced and the vinyl siding has obliterated some of the unique detail. However, it's still identifiable as a Sears Lewiston.

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And you can tell its a Sears Home because it has an S on the chimney.

And you can tell it's a Sears Home because it has an "S" on the chimney. Ah not really. That's a tired old myth that's been lurking around on the internet since Al Gore first invented it. Oh wait, that's another old story. In fact, that "S" on the chimney has nothing to do with Sears. It's just a stylistic detail often found on Neo-Tudors. And I don't think Al Gore had much to do with inventing the internet, either. :)

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But it does look

The Lewiston was remodeled, but it looks like the front door was spared! :)

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The Sears Lynnhaven was a very popular house (1938 catalog).

The Sears Lynnhaven was a very popular house (1938 catalog).

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And it was also a very pretty house.

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The owners obviously love this house, but I wonder if they know that it *might* be a Sears kit house?

The owners obviously love this house, but I wonder if they know that it *might* be a Sears kit house?

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And I found a Del Rey in Waynesboro, too, and this Del Rey is in beautifully original condition!

The Dely Rey I found in Waynesboro, is in beautifully original condition (1919 catalog).

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Check out the floorplan for the Del Rey.

Check out the floorplan for the Del Rey.

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Notice the little railings in front of the casement windows? In all my travels, I have never seen a Del Rey that actually had these little railings in place. Until Waynesboro...

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Be still my quivering heart!

Be still my quivering heart! It's a picture perfect Del Rey!

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And it even has the little bump out (as seen above in the floorplan) for the kitchen area.

And it even has the little bump out (as seen above in the floorplan) for the kitchen area.

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And original windows!

And not only does it have its original windows, but its original wooden storm windows!

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Love those little railings!

Do these folks know that they have a Sears House? About 90% of the time, the people living in these historically significant homes did not realize what they had, until they were contacted by me (or someone *like* me!).

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Next on the list is the Sears Westwood.

Next on the list is the Sears Collingwood (1930 catalog).

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The Westwood is another kit home that I had never seen before in the flesh until I went to Waynesboro.

The Collingwood is another kit home that I had never seen before "in the flesh" until I went to Waynesboro. Notice the unusual bay window in the dining room with its hipped roof.

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Wow, what a match! Unfortunately, I didn't have my chain saw with me, so the view was blocked by a Japanese Maple. I also forgot to bring along a tow truck to get that Ford Explorer out of the way. Seriously, the house was blocked by a myriad of obstacles. And the windows have been replaced - sadly.

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The dormer is also a spot-on match. And apparently, it gets REALLY hot upstairs. Ive never seen dueling air conditioners before.

Apparently, it gets REALLY hot upstairs. I've never seen dueling air conditioners before. That aside, the details on this attic dormer are also just right.

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

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