Archive

Posts Tagged ‘history of cairo’

The Sears Bandon: Neat, Practical And Modern

January 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Sears Bandon is a rare bird indeed. The only one I’ve ever found was in Pulaski, Illinois, not far from the Sears Lumber Mill in Cairo, Illinois. That mill was the site of a 40-acre mill where Sears created and produced up to 250 pre-cut kit homes per month. It was a tremendous operation with more than 100 employees at its peak, and 20 acres of outbuildings.

It was also the site of “The Experiment.” Click here to see the only remnant of the Sears Mill in Cairo.

In 2001, whilst doing research on  Sears Homes at the Cairo Public Library, I stumbled across a little item in their vertical file about a Sears Bandon built in nearby Pulaski. Later that day, I hopped into the car and drove out to Pulaski and found my Bandon on the main drag through town. It was perfect in every way.

In March 2010, when I traveled to Illinois to do research for my newest book (”The Sears Homes of Illinois“), I went back to Pulaski to get newer/better photos. While standing on this main drag in this tiny town, I had three people stop and ask me if I needed help.

Speaking as a former long-time resident of Illinois, I don’t miss those long, cold Illinois winters, but I surely do miss the kind, generous, hard-working folks of small-town Midwestern America. They’re truly the crème de la crème of our country.

Below is the information I found in the vertical files at the Cairo Public Library;

The house (identified specifically as the Sears Bandon) was built in 1921. According to this document, the lumber for this kit home was shipped from the Sears mill in Cairo. It gave the following costs:

Cost of The Bandon $2794.00
Plaster (extra)  $133.00
Material to finish attic rooms  $241.00
Complete hot water heating system  $403.66
Wire and light fixtures  $133.66
Labor for carpenter (including masonry work)  $1600.00

Total $5305.32

This document also stated that, in 1924, a Sears Cyclone Barn (shipped from Cairo, IL) was built on the property. The kit barn cost $943.00.

Is there a Sears Home in your neck of the woods? Please send photos to Magnolia2047@gmail.com.

Enjoy the photos!

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasnt it more popular? Ive only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois.

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasn't it more popular? I've only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois (image is from 1921 catalog).

*

It had a very busy floor plan. Note

It had a very busy floor plan, and it's the only house I've ever seen with a "dining porch." This room - which jutted out from the rest of the house - had ventilation on three sides, and seven windows.

*

Close

Close-up of the floorplan shows how busy this house is! Look at the kitchen! The ice box was in the staircase landing. And the kitchen was oh-so tiny!

*

And it was a fine-looking house!

And it was a fine-looking house!

*

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

*

Nice, isnt it?  :)

Nice, isn't it? :)

*

house

The 1921 catalog image included this thumbnail from straight--on.

*

Pretty, pretty house!

Pretty, pretty house! While southern Illinois does have some of the nicest people, it also some of the worst, mean, loud and scary-looking dogs! These dogs never did stop barking!

*

The  Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

The Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

*

Its perfect! Down to the details!!

It's perfect! Down to the details!!

*

And its in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

And it's in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

*

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

*

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

*

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

*

Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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

*   *   *

Farmland 0, Cairo 1 (Second Update)

May 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 24 comments

Monday night (May 2), they finally did it. The Army Corp of Engineers blew the levees at Birds Point in Southeast Missouri, flooding 200 square miles of Missouri’s best farmland. The farms - those silly patches of black dirt where we produce the food that keeps us alive - were sacrificed in order to save the tiny town of Cairo, Illinois.

And the very next day, the lawsuits started.  On May 3rd, a class action lawsuit was filed against the Army Corps of Engineers. Farmers and property owners, represented by attorney J. Michael Ponder (Cape Girardeau, MO), allege that the 15-foot tall man-made tsunami destroyed (and will destroy) more than 100,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland.

The lawsuit claims that 5th Amendment rights are at stake, which offer legal protection for landowners before government can take private property. According to an article that appeared this afternoon on the PR Newswire, the cataract of water is flowing onto the farms at the rate of 550 feet per second, and (as one would imagine), it’s causing catastrophic consequences.

According to Monday’s Southeast Missourian, flood levels in Cairo reached historic highs on Monday night when the gauge hit 61 feet, shattering old records set 74 years ago. In February 1937, the rivers rose to 59.5 feet in Cairo, Illinois. Think about that for a moment. This flood of 2011 is breaking all known records.

The blown levees are good for Cairo; bad for the farmland in Missouri which experts say will be ruined for years. Midwestern farmland owes its fertility to those spring-time floods of yore, but this is not the way Mother Nature does things. When those levees were blown, that 15-foot wall of water brought with it sand and river-laden debris and all manner of pollutants found in flood waters. Experts predict it could take years for the farms to become productive again.

The Chicago Tribune reported that crops have already been planted on some of these farms that are now being inundated with this “man-made tsunami,” destroying the crops and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to the local farmers. In addition, as many as 100 homes could be destroyed by this plan.

Cairo is an interesting little town, and was full of history, but much of their historically significant architecture is gone, and the remnant is in poor condition. A few grand old manses remain, but they’re the exception. Most of the businesses and all of the industry left long ago. Cairo’s downtown is a ghost town, and a virtual trip back in time to the 1960s. To learn more about Cairo’s history, click here.

We’ve got to protect our farms. With the rising costs of food, it’s time to start showing a little respect to the few family farms we have left in this country, many of which are in Missouri.

This time, I think it would have been wiser to let Cairo be the sacrificial lamb, rather than lose our farmland.

To read the opinion of a Cairo native, click here.

To read a happy story about a happy town, click here.

Pictures of Cairo are below.

Judging by all the vines, its likely that these flood gates no longer work, but the rivers still work really, really well.

Judging by all the vines, it's likely that these flood gates no longer work, but the rivers still work really, really well.

Community services anyone?

Community services anyone?

Is there a doctor in the house?

Is there a doctor in the house?

Another view of the abandoned hospital

Another view of the abandoned hospital

The real estate market in Cairo is on fire. Sort of.

The real estate market in Cairo is on fire. Sort of. Note, all three houses have been burned out. Sadly, this is a common sight in Cairo.

Schools out for summer. And apparently for the rest of time.

School's out for summer. And apparently for the rest of time.

Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

down

Downtown Cairo. The barricade is presumably there to protect citizens from collapsing buildings. You'll notice the building on the far right has mostly fallen in on itself. This photo was taken about 11 am in the morning. This is the morning rush hour in downtown Cairo.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

More views

Capt'n Wades appears to be the only viable business in the whole of downtown. However, this photo was taken in 2003, and when I was there in 2010, this building was collapsing.

views

Another view of downtown Cairo. All these stores back up to the Ohio River, and they're all now empty, waiting for nothing fancier than time to take them down. Visiting downtown Cairo really is like taking a step back to another time. Cairo was abandoned - in a hurry in the mid 1960s - when race riots decimated the city. The city went from a population of 13,000+ to 2,800 (current) in a very short time. The business owners and captains of industry are the ones who fled the city, taking their businesses with them.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

Or watch a short video documentary on Cairo here. And another one here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

* * *

All Things Vallonia, Part Deux

October 25th, 2010 Sears Homes 10 comments

The Sears Vallonia was easily one of Sears most popular designs.  It had a practical, thoughtful floor plan and it was an attractive design and offered a finished or unfinished second floor. Lots of expandable space for the not-so-expandable budget.

I’ll update this post with more information in the coming days, but for now, here are some photos.

Sears Vallonia from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Vallonia from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV. Even porch railings are original!

Sears Vallonia - compared  with the catalog image

Sears Vallonia - compared with the catalog image

Sears Vallonia in Charleston, WV

Sears Vallonia in Charleston, WV

Sears Vallonia in Cairo, Illinois.

Sears Vallonia in Cairo, Illinois. Yes, that is a Vallonia back there.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

Sears Modern Homes and The Mill in Cairo, Illinois

August 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

In May 1911, Sears opened up a mill in Cairo, Illinois. Cairo’s location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers made it a natural for shipping and distribution. At the turn of the last century, Cairo (pronounced “Care-Roe”) could boast of having four major rail lines, enabling it to become a centralized shipping point for lumber harvested from the South and sent to the North.

The Sears Roebuck Mill, also known as the Illinois Lumber Company, got its start when Sears Roebuck paid $12,500 for a 40-acre tract in North Cairo.

On May 21, 1911, The Chicago Tribune reported that Sears intended to build a $250,000 plant. A few weeks later, The Cairo Evening Citizen had doubled that figure and reported “Half a million to be cost of new Sears Roebuck Plant” (July 29, 1911).

In November 1911, Sears ran a two-page advertisement in American Carpenter and Builder Magazine headlined “Great News for Builders.” The advertisement (see below) said,

Shipments have begun from our second and newest great lumber plant in Illinois. We can deliver you bright, fresh, clean lumber at manufacturer’s prices almost as quickly as you can haul makeshift sizes and weatherworn stock from a high priced neighboring lumber yard. Our mill work is sheltered from rain, sun, soot and wind. Our new Illinois plant is located on two of the largest and fastest railroads in the North with direct connections to over 20 different railroads. (Weatherworn stock was a reference to the fact that, unlike Sears, many mills did not keep their lumber under roof.)

In March 1912, F. E. Van Alstine, Superintendent of the Sears mill was quoted in The Cairo Evening Citizen as saying that Sears had chosen Cairo because of “their low freight rates, superior shipping facilities and other natural and commercial advantages, (which) made the city more desirable than St. Louis, East St. Louis, Paducah (Kentucky) or Memphis” (Tennessee).

But later that month, the rains came and the floodwaters rose, nearly destroying the brand new mill in Northern Cairo. On April 5th, The Cairo Evening Citizen reported that the “main building of the new Sears Roebuck factory was hurled off its foundation and is leaning toward the east. Just what damage was done to these buildings could not be ascertained, as there was no way to reach them except by skiff.”

In mid-April, the paper said that all seven lumber sheds had been torn from their foundations and much of the lumber inside the sheds had simply floated away.

By August, The Cairo Evening Citizen happily reported that despite the hard times and high waters, Sears Roebuck had decided to remain in Cairo. It also reported that about half the lumber sheds had been rebuilt and some of that floating lumber had been recovered. The same article reported that the folks at Sears corporate headquarters in Chicago were so pleased with Van Alstine’s post-flood restoration work that they presented him with a brand new automobile.

The mill produced everything for the Ready-Cut (precut) Sears homes except for millwork. The Sears mill located in Norwood, Ohio, supplied millwork; windows, doors and interior trim and moldings.

By the early 1930s, sales of Ready-Cut homes had plummeted and the mill began looking for other ways to generate income. They began building crating material for tractors and other large equipment, including Frigidaire refrigerators and appliances sold by Sears. In the late 30s, the mill produced prefabricated buildings for the camps which housed workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Wheeler relates that a typical CCC camp (which included several different buildings) required 400,000 feet of lumber and about 35 of these camps were milled and shipped by the Cairo plant.

In 1940, Sears closed the plant and sold it to the employees. Shortly after the employees purchased the plant, they obtained a contract to build massive crates for shipping B-17 and B-29 bombers overseas for the war effort.

After World War II ended, the former Sears Mill - now called Illinois Lumber Company - drafted and published their own book of house plans and tried to sell Ready-Cut homes again, but without success. The Cairo Evening Citizen relates that the plant was liquidated and closed in November 1955. The article adds this interesting aside: “Like several other Cairo lumber industries, it slowly died because the wood articles it manufactured were supplanted by iron and steel.”

All that remains today at the site of the Cairo mill are two Sears kit homes - two Rodessas - which were built as part of an experiment in 1921, to prove the superiority of Ready-Cut homes over traditional stick built homes.

Not surprisingly, Cairo has a significant collection of Sears Homes, such as this “Hollywood” (see below).

From the 1919 catalog, a Sears Hollywood

From the 1919 catalog, a Sears Hollywood

Sears Hollywood in Cairo, Illinois

Sears Hollywood in Cairo, Illinois

Below is an advertisement from the 1911 American Carpenter and Builder Magazine.

To see pictures of Cairo today, click here.

*   *   *