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Sometimes, It Takes a Village of Historians to Document a Hillrose…

February 5th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Until just a few months ago, I’d never seen a 1920s Sears Hillrose in real life. And then in August 2015, I had the delightful opportunity to visit a stunning Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. Shortly after I wrote that blog, Greg Decker and Carrie Milam (from our Sears Homes Facebook group) discovered a Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana, and took a plethora of first-class photos!

Next, Rachel Shoemaker had the presence of mind to check Rebecca Hunter’s wonderful book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map,” and found two more of this very same model in Convoy, Ohio and nearby Antwerp, Ohio. Fuzzy online images of the Sears Hillrose in Convoy really piqued my interest: It appeared to be in mostly original condition.

Next, I contacted the County Economic Development Officer in nearby Van Wert, Ohio, who forwarded my email to Adam Ries, with Main Street Van Wert Inc., who contacted Larry Webb at the Van Wert County Historical Society. Mr Webb was kind enough to run out to the house in Convoy and photograph the house from several angles.

Now if I could just get some photos of that Hillrose in Antwerp!

When the Hillrose was first offered, it was known as a “prize winner.” Read more about that here.

Thanks again to Larry Webb for these wonderful photos.
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The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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As you can see from these floor plans, it was an unusually spacious house.

As you can see from these floor plans, it was an unusually spacious house.

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Its a house with several distinctive features, making it easy to spot.

It's a house with several distinctive features, such as that slender window in the upstairs closet, the large squared bay at the rear and the off-center front door. The spacious porch with the flared columns is also eye-catching, but sometimes, porches get dramatically altered through the years.

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Many thanks to

Now that's a fine-looking house. It's so rare to find these 100-year-old houses in original condition. Yes, the house needs a little sprucing up, but it's a rarity and a real gem in a world filled with HGVT-crazed homeowners. Many thanks to Larry Webb at the Van Wert County Historical Society for providing these photos.

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My goodness, what a house.

My goodness, what a house. Once you see a house "in the flesh," it becomes infinitely easier to identify other models out in the world. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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From the homes side

These Sears Homes had cypress clapboards and window trim. Even without paint, this siding will endure for many years. However, it appears that the current owners are painting this classic old foursquare. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a glorious find on a road that literally straddles Indiana and Ohio. And quite a testament to old-fashioned paint, that would hang on through the decades! Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Mr. Webb had the presence of mind to photograph this home from the rear!

Mr. Webb had the presence of mind to photograph this home from the rear! This angle shows (again) how delightfully original this Hillrose is, with an original wooden storm door on the back porch. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you compare the floor plan to the Hillrose, you'll see how delightfully original this old kit house truly is. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And if you look really close, youll see another relic of a bygone era: A cistern.

And if you look really close, you'll see another relic of a bygone era: A cistern. See how the rounded downspout disappears into the ground, and the concrete pad on top of that area? Odds are good that this was an underground cistern (typically lined with brick) and this water was used for washing clothes, as it was the softest water imaginable. The beautiful old hand pump in the foreground may have been piped into that cistern. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, there's another Hillrose about 20 miles due north of our Hillrose in Convoy, Ohio. If someone could just hop in their Sears Allstate sedan and run up to Antwerp and get that photo...

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Thanks to Rebecca Hunter, Rachel was able to locate those two Hillroses in Ohio! This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter's well-researched book, Rachel was able to locate those two Hillroses in Ohio! This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

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Here's the Hillrose that Carrie Milam and Greg Decker found in Griffith, Indiana. Sadly, the front porch is MIA. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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When the Hillrose was first offered, it was known as a “prize winner.” Read more about that here.

Read about the Hillrose in Brandy Station here.

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And a Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana!

January 1st, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

A couple days ago, I did a “preview” blog on a stunning Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia (about three hours north of my home in Norfolk), and posted it in our Facebook group, Sears Homes, together with a blurb saying that there were other Hillroses in Griffith (Indiana), Alvada (Ohio), Stratford (Iowa), Waterman (Illinois), and Houghton (New York).

A long-time member of that group - Carrie Milam - spoke right up and offered to go find the Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana. I was tickled pink, as the Hillrose in Brandy Station was the only Sears “Hillrose” I’d ever seen.

Here’s the thing: Folks often promise to “go find that house” and I never hear back from them, but Carrie and her husband Greg jumped right in their car and started hunting for the house. Carrie said that it took about an hour to find our missing (and forgotten) Hillrose.

The house in Griffith has endured many changes in the last 95 years, but it’s still standing.

Thanks so much to Carrie Milam and Greg Decker for supplying the photos!

To read more about the Hillrose in Brandy Station, click here.

Why is the Hillrose such a prize? Read about it here.

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The Hillrose, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

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And weve still got a few missing!

And we've still got a few missing!

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1916

It's a distinctive house with some remarkable features, such as that oversized bay with three windows and a wide attic dormer with a small squared window. The window arrangement on the 2nd floor is also unique. It's unusual for a foursquare of this vintage to have two sets of three windows (with the widest window in the center), and smaller windows on the first floor. In other words, this house should be easy to spot!

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Lots of nice features inside too, such as a wash room for the hired hands (1918).

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Upstairs

There are four bedrooms upstairs, but they're not too big.

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Sweet thing, isnt it?

Sweet thing, isn't it?

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And here it is in Griffith, Indiana, on North Harvey Street.

And here it is in Griffith, Indiana. It's been through many changes, but I'd bet my hat that it's a Hillrose. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A close-up on that bay shows that the details are right.

A close-up on that bay shows that the details are right. In place of the diminutive small window (between the two long windows), there's a full-size window, but it's altogether possible that the house was built this way. The smaller window (shown in the catalog image) probably got swallowed up by that large addition on the rear. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Long

If you look down that left side and compare it to the floorplan, you can see that it's a good match. There's a tiny window in that closet (between the two large rooms on the left). Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Hillrose in Brandy Station (shown on the right) has a door at the end of that first floor hallway, and a small porch has been added to the side of the house.

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The 2nd floor is also a good match to the floorplan. That small window on the 2nd floor is a landing window. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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So what happened to the porch?

So what happened to the porch?

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The Hillrose in Brandy Station still has its magnificent porch

The Hillrose in Brandy Station still has its magnificent porch but it's endured some significant repairs through the years. What a pity that the Hillrose in Indiana suffered a porchectomy. That's a grievous loss for a foursquare.

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The vinyl-siding installers also had their way with the attic window.

The vinyl-siding installers also had their way with the attic window. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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With a little bit different angle provided by Google maps, you can see its definintely a Hillrose dormer.

With a little bit different angle provided by Google maps, you can see it's definitely a Hillrose dormer.

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Perhaps one day, the home's happy owners might consider restoring the front porch. That brick decking is a puzzle, as it looks newer than the home, and yet it appears to have the same footprint as the original porch. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Just around the corner from the Hillrose, Carrie and Greg found this darling Sears Crescent.

Just around the corner from the Hillrose, Carrie and Greg found this darling Sears Crescent. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Nice match, isnt it? (1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

Nice match, isn't it? (1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

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So where are those other Hillroses?  :D

So where are those other Hillroses? :D

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Thanks again to Carrie and Greg for finding this house and providing the wonderful photos.

To read more about the Hillrose in Brandy Station, click here.

Why is the Hillrose such a prize? Read about it here.

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Is That Really a Sears Kit Home? Nine Easy Ways to Tell.

May 21st, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic.  Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

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Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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