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Posts Tagged ‘history of sears’

Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, I wrote about “The Experiment,” where Sears built two Sears Rodessas (small bungalows) side-by-side in Cairo, Illinois, to prove the superiority of the Ready-cut System. The two homes were built in the late 1910s, and now, almost 100 years later, those wonderful little houses are still standing.

Why did Sears choose the Rodessa for their experiment? I don’t know. It was a popular house for Sears, but it wasn’t that popular! If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was in the Top 50 Most Popular Designs.

However, it was, as the Sears ad promised, “a most attractive little home.” It was cute, simple and practical, which probably made it easy to build in a hurry.

In my travels, I’ve come across several Rodessas. In fact, there’s one not far from me in Urbana, Virginia. You can read about that house by clicking here.

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

Indeed, the Rodessa is a "pretty little home." And look at the price!!

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Little is right.

Look at those small bedrooms. In 2012, a room that measures 9-feet square is a walk-in closet!

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Busy kitchen

And what does that "B" stand for in the kitchen? BOILER!

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The boiler

The "boiler" (whose placement is indicated with the "B" in the floorplan) was a water heater with a water line that ran through the back of the cook stove. Pretty complicated affair.

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

In 1924, Mr. Kidwell built this Rodessa in Washington DC and sent this snapshot in to Sears and Roebuck. He was "fully satisfied" with his Ready-cut home.

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Happy 1926

In 1926, Sears put out a brochure that was titled, "Happy Homes." The Rodessa was featured within its pages. According to the accompanying text, it was built in Independence, MO.

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Happy

Not sure why Sears included a picture of corn with the testimonial.

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HeWood

It's endured some significant remodelings, but at least it's still standing. This transmogrified Rodessa is in Wood River, Illinois (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO). That salt-treated porch railing just does not work on this old bungalow.

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House

This Rodessa may look a little blue, but it's actually a very happy house with lots of good self-esteem. It's in Northern Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). Its located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana.

Here's the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). It's located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana. The plaque over the door reads, "Sears Roebuck House, 1924." I was told that the folks in Urbana didn't realize that Sears had 369 other kit home designs. This is a fairly common misconception. This 88-year-old house is in beautiful condition.

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And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL).

And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL). They were built in the late 1910s as part of an experiment to prove that "The Ready-Cut Method" was far more efficient than traditional building practices of the time.

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Ready

The house that was built using traditional building practices took 583 hours and the poor saps aren't finished yet. The yard is still a mess with scraps of lumber scattered hither and yon. The workers have collapsed on the front porch in utter despair and humiliation.

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house

Ah, but the pre-cut Sears Kit Home is all buttoned up and beautiful! They even had time to finish up the landscaping! The kitchen windows are wide open. They had so much time to spare that they went inside and cooked dinner!

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation. The clipped gables were gone, as were the dramatically oversized eaves. The unique shape of the front porch was replaced with a simpler gabled roof. In a word, its flair and panache had been replaced with pedestrian and dull.

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Learn more about the two Rodessas at the Sears Mill by clicking here.

How did Sears Homes become so popular so fast? Read about that here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? It’s just one click away!

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Hazelton: House of Threes (Part II)

November 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, the Hazelton is an easy house to spot, because of the unique window arrangement. I think of it as “The House of Threes.”

The Hazelton has three windows in that shed dormer. There are three windows on the wide of the house (in front of the bay window). And there are three windows flanking the front door (right and left). And there are six windows in that dining room bay (divisible by three).

To read the prior blog, click here.

The great majority of Sears Homes can be found in the Midwest, but Rachel Shoemaker found a bevy of these early 20th Century kit homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And she managed to get inside a Hazelton in wonderfully original condition!

Enjoy the photos below! And many thanks to Rachel for these wonderful photos.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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House

Floorplan of the Sears Hazelton.

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Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This house - nearing the 100-year-old mark - is still in wonderfully original condition. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Commemmorative

Commemorative plaque puts the home's age at an impressive 98 years. I'd love to know more about how the owners got this house on the National Register. In my travels, being a "Sears kit house" is not enough for this unique distinctive (as defined by the Secretary of Interior). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside, the house is in mostly original condition!

Inside, the house is in mostly original condition! Notice all the wooden trim, unpainted and with a beautiful patina. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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nice

Close-up on the other side of those bookcase colonnades. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place.

Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved.

The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved. The tile floor and walls are new, but were tastefully done, in a style that's in accord with the time period. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And old

And old ad from the Sears Roebuck building materials catalog shows a typical mantel available for $15. (Notice, gas logs were available for an extra $9.33.)

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Here

The brick work was re-done but the mantel looks much like it did in the 1915 catalog (above). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror.

Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside

These three windows are fancifully adorned on the inside. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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An early building materials catalog shows an old door

An early building materials catalog shows an original oak "Craftsman" door.

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And a real live example!

And a real live example! Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining

In the dining room, those four windows (in the bump out) also retain their original wood finish. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More built-ins!

One of the best features of a Sears kit home were all the built-ins. Even small cubby holes were turned into storage space. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few Sears Homes that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

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To read about the other kit homes in Tulsa, click here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Click here!

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The South Bend Maggy - And the Kindness of Strangers!

May 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

Last week, I wrote about the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana, and posted some old, not-so-clear snapshots of the house. I also posted the photos at a couple internet sites, asking if someone might be so kind as to snap a few new photos for me.

Incredibly, wonderfully, two kind souls responded, providing beautiful, professional-quality photos of this very rare Sears House in South Bend.

So now, thanks to the kindness of not one, but two dear souls, I have updated (and beautiful) photos! That’s the GOOD news!

The sad news is, our Maggy in South Bend is in some pain. I’d love to know if this house is for sale, or what’s happened. It appears to be in a state of decline. We’ve already lost one Magnolia in Nebraska that was torn down years ago, and we almost lost the Maggy in Canton, Ohio in the 1970s, when it fell into such a state of disrepair that the roof collapsed into the second floor. It was the vision of two people, and a heroic restoration and a devotion to historic preservation that saved that house.

Let’s hope and pray that our Maggy in South Bend is preserved and restored. After all, it’s one of only six remaining (known) Magnolias in the country!

And thank you to James Layne and Garrett Baumann who took time out of their busy day to run over to the house and take several *beautiful* photos.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

The Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Close-up on the floor plan for the first floor.

Close-up on the floor plan for the first floor.

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And here it is - the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana. Oh, what a house - and what a wonderful photo!!  Many thanks to James Layne who sent me a plethora of wonderful, high resolutation photos!

And here it is - the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana. Oh, what a house - and what a wonderful photo!! Many thanks to James Layne who sent me a plethora of wonderful, high resolution photos! (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Close-up of the porch

Close-up of the porch

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Thanks to the high resolution, clear photos that James sent, I was able to zoom in on some details - such as the front porch!

Thanks to the high resolution, clear photos that James sent, I was able to zoom in on details - such as the front porch! (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Front

In fact, Mr. Layne's photos were such a high resolution that I was able to zoom way, way in and get nice, detailed images of the entryway (shown above). (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And this photo, taken by Garrett Baumann, really shows the majesty of the Magnolia, and its setting on a spacious lot.

And this photo, taken by Garrett Baumann, really shows the majesty of the Magnolia, and its setting on a spacious lot. (Photo is copyright 2012 Garrett Baumann and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The original wooden railing is long gone, and has been replaced with wrought iron, which also appears to be fading a bit.

The original wooden railing on the top of the porch roof is long gone, and has been replaced with wrought iron, which also appears to be fading a bit. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Our poor Maggy is in some pain. The original half-round galvanized gutters are looking a little tired.

Our poor Maggy is in some pain. The original half-round galvanized gutters are looking a little tired. And you can see that someone started to paint the eaves - but then stopped. The good news is, it'll be easy to remove that aluminum siding, and those plastic "accoutrements" atop the windows. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The porch ceiling needs a little attention, too.

The porch ceiling needs a little attention, too. In fact, it needs a lot of attention. Sears Homes were made with #1 Southern Yellow Pine (for framing members) harvested out of first-growth virgin forests. We'll never see wood like that again in this country. The exteriors were 100% cypress, which was known as "The Wood Eternal." Sears Homes were made with superior quality wood, but left unattended and unmaintained, they will eventually deteriorate and decay. Hopefully, this Magnolia will be preserved. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Magnolia has these very distinctive windows, with the small lites above the main sashes. Its details such as this that really distinguish the Sears Magnolia from look-alikes.

The Magnolia has these very distinctive windows, with the small lites above the main sashes. It's details such as this that really distinguish the Sears Magnolia from look-alikes. Every day, several people land at my website after googling the terms "house with the blue shutters" (from the movie, "The Notebook" because someone somewhere started a rumor that the house featured in that movie is a Sears Magnolia. That house looks nothing like the Sears Magnolia. The key to proper identification really is in the details. (Photo is copyright 2012 Garrett Baumann and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Just look at those beautiful Ionic columns!!

Just look at those beautiful Ionic columns!! (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Magnolia - in all its splendor.

The Magnolia - in all it's splendor. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another splendiferous

Another splendiferous shot of a splendid house: The Magnolia. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Thereve been times when people send me house photos that look like this. (And yes, there is a house back here.)

I really appreciate a good photo, because there've been many times when people send me "house photos" that look like this. (And yes, there is a house back there, hidden behind all that greenery!)

Thank you again to both James Layne and Garrett Baumann for running out to an old house on West North Shore Drive and performing a “random act of kindness” for a total stranger. I am profoundly grateful. And I’m confident that the 1,000+ daily readers of my blog are grateful, too!

We love our Magnolias!  :)

To read the first blog on the South Bend Magnolia, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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Sears Modern Home #112 in Enon, Ohio

January 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

About an hour northeast of Cincinnati is a wee tiny town named Enon, Ohio. And in that teeny tiny town is an unusual Sears House, known as Modern Home #112.  The distinctive houses (such as #112) are easier to identify because they have some unique details that’ll catch your eye! And with this home’s two-story polygon bay - extending to the third floor - it should be very easy to identify!

Prior to 1918, Sears Homes had numbers, not names. This house was removed from the catalogs sometime prior to 1918. It never had any name, other than Modern Home #112.

Prior to 1918, Sears Homes had numbers, not names. This house was removed from the catalogs sometime prior to 1918. It never had any name, other than Modern Home #112. That distinctive bay on the front does not extend to the first floor.

Here

Number 112 in Enon, Ohio was photographed from a different angle (than shown in the image above), but there's little doubt that this is the real deal. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Itd be interesting to know if the owners of this house realize they have a real treasure on their hands.

It'd be interesting to know if the owners of this house realize they have a real treasure on their hands. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

An interesting aside: My husband’s childhood friend - Sam Swauger - lived in Enon for a time. Anyone known Sam?  :)

The first floor of the house

The first floor of the house shows a space for an optional bathroom on the first floor.

And

And there is no space on the second floor for a bathroom. Also, notice that the second floor is much smaller than the first. There is no living space over the kitchen area on the back of the house. This was common in the early 1900s, as it was thought that any area over the kitchen would be too hot and too smelly and unsuitable for living space.

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I found Modern Home #112 in my copy of the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is a very rare catalog, and probably one of the more valuable catalogs.

Sears Modern Home #112 can be found in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown here). This is a very rare catalog, and probably one of the more valuable catalogs.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To read about Addie Hoyt, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills! (Part VII)

April 1st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Yes Virginia,there’s an awesome collection of kit homes in Hopewell but they’re mostly kit homes from Aladdin!  Hopewell does have a few Sears Homes. In fact they have eight in their Crescent Hills area.

But the Aladdin kit homes number in the dozens.  And in addition to the Aladdin kit homes in the downtown area, it seems likely that Hopewell might have kit homes from Sterling Homes (yet another kit home company).

And I would never have guessed this on my own, without the help of fellow kit home aficionados Mark and Lisa Hardin.

In downtown Hopewell, there are dozens of Aladdins, but amongst those Aladdins are also several models of house that I’ve not been able to identify.  In Mark’s email, he theorized that at least one of the “mystery models” might have come from Sterling Homes.  After looking at the pictures, I think he might be right.

If he is, this certainly adds even more intrigue to the mystery of those little houses in Hopewell. Are all of them kit homes? We know that Hopewell has kit homes ordered from Sears and Aladdin. Do they kit homes from Sterling , too?

An exampele of a Sears Home (The Puritan) in Hopewell

An example of a Sears Home (The Puritan) in Hopewell

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Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

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The Aladdin Edison was a modest home, but darn cute. And easy to identify these many years later.

The Aladdin Edison was a modest home, but darn cute. And easy to identify these many years later.

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First, my favorite Edison in Hopewell.

A real-life example of the Aladdin Edison in Hopewell.

The above photos provide two of the many examples of both Sears and Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell.

And then there’s Sterling Homes. Like Aladdin, Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sterling was successfull in selling their kit homes nationwide, they were a much smaller company than Aladdin or Sears. To learn more about Sterling, click here.

Pictured below is the catalog page for the Sterling Homes “Browning-B.” The “B” is usually a reference to a different floorplan for the same house design. (Despite looking through my reference materials, I never did find a “Browning-A.)

Compare the catalog page with the Hopewell houses. The roof on the back of the house doesn’t drop down near as far as the front. And look at the pair of gabled dormers, connected by the small shed dormer. Most interesting is the bay window on the front of the house, next to the front door.

Sterling

From the Sterling Homes catalog.

Sterling

There are several of these models in Hopewell's downtown area, interspersed with Aladdin kit homes. Is this the Sterling "Browning B"? It sure is a perfect match. The only flaw is the size of the eaves on the dormer window. Everything else is perfect, and that's remarkable, because this is a very unique house.

Aladd

Another Sterling Browning-B in Hopewell? Appears to be!

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Sterling

A close-up of the house as it appeared in the catalog.

Another one

Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Thanks again to Mark and Lisa for this find! I don’t think I’d ever have thought to check my Sterling field guides to identify these houses in Hopewell, Virginia!

Part I can be found here. Part II is here. Click here for Part III.

The fourth series is here. And number five is here. And after you read the sixth part, you’ll be all caught up.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

On a prior post (Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama), I talked about photographing a Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. What I did not talk about was the trip. I traveled from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia and met up with my friend Nancy (who lives in Acworth), and then we rode together to Piedmont to photograph this house. I love Sears Homes. I love looking at them and I love photographing them and I love posting their portraits at my website.

That being said, I was mighty disappointed that I didn’t find any more Sears Homes between here and Atlanta. I’ve been searching for Sears Homes for a long, long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at this but this trip has not yielded many “finds.”

And then today, I found a note in my inbox from a nice fellow in Mobile (Alabama) telling me about an ecnclave of purported Sears Homes in Mobile. If anyone has any more information about these houses, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to see some photos of these houses. It’s been my experience that 95% of the time, these “neighborhoods” of Sears Homes are not Sears Homes or even kit homes from another company. They’re usually wild goose chases.

Please - someone from Mobile - write to me (thorntonrose@hotmail.com) and prove me wrong.

One of the best finds in Alabama: A sunflower field!

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

This (picture below) is the third Sears Magnolia I have visited in person. There were purportedly six built (but the validity of the fact is in question). Rebecca Hunter discovered that there’d been a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska (1) which had burned down many years ago. and Houses by Mail identified a Magnolia in South Bend (#2). In 2003, I appeared  on PBS History Detectives and the show featured a Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio (#3).  A few months after the show aired, someone in Pennsylvania contacted me with information about their Sears Magnolia - made of brick!

In March 2010, a “Friend of Sears Homes” emailed me and told me about a “Sears Home” in Benson, NC (#5). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Sears Home was the fifth Sears Magnolia!

This Magnolia (see below) is in Alabama. This would be the 6th known Sears Magnolia.

In my opinion, there are a few more out there. I suspect there are more than six Sears Magnolias in the world.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Beautiful Sears Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

September 8th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

What a beauty! And it’s dressed in yellow brick!

We found this Alhambra on a quiet little street, sitting high on a hill, and in a hoity-toity part of Atlanta. Wonder if the owners know it’s a Sears House?

Sears Home in Atlanta

Sears Home in Atlanta

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Babies Came Home on Friday

September 7th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Friday afternoon, my newest book (co-authored with Dale Wolicki) came home. This is my seventh book but it’s always so exciting to see a long-awaited dream come to fruition. Dale and I toiled over this book for five years. Hopefully, we’ll sell out that first printing within 90 days or so. It’s a beautiful book (347 pages!), filled with photos, vintage pictures, facts and details on the kit homes offered by Montgomery Ward.

To buy a copy, click here.

To read more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The cover of our new book.

The cover of our new book.