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Sears Modern Home #147 - And It’s Only $885

May 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In February 2003, I traveled to Flora, Illinois to give a talk on Sears Homes. It was one of my first “paid gigs,” and I was very excited about actually getting paid to do the thing I loved the most - talk about Sears Homes!

In celebration of this happy time, I treated myself to a fine automobile for the trip. The night before my talk, I went to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and rented a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.

My oh my, that was a sweet ride!

During the ride around Flora, I found several interesting houses, including the Sears Modern Home #147. The folks in Flora knew it was a kit house, but they didn’t know which model it was.

This was the first time I’d seen a #147, and it was - without any doubt - the nicest #147 that I ever did see. It was in remarkably original condition.

After I finished in Flora, I rode over to Olney (nearby town) to look for more kit  homes. While driving around in Olney, my shiny new Cadillac had mechanical problems and I had to take it to a nearby shop for emergency repairs. When I returned the car to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Wood River (near my home in Alton), the clerk was very apologetic. He offered to discount the price of the three-day rental. I told him, “That’s a good start.”

He then said, “How can I turn this into a good experience for you, Mrs. Thornton?”

I said, “How about a deeper discount? I just spent four hours standing outside a car dealership in Olney, Illinois, waiting for them to fix your car.”

He then offered to discount the price of the rental to nothing.

“That’ll work,” I told him.

Almost ten years later, when I look at these old photos, I remember that fine “Glacier White” Cadillac with its buttery soft “Cashmere Gray” leather seats. Despite our little mishap in Olney, that was one fine automobile.

And in the intervening 10 years, I’ve rented at least 20 cars from Enterprise. :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see more pretty pictures of Sears Homes, click here.

147 house

The Sears Modern Home #147 as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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Pretty simple house, but a good value at $885.

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147

Look at the columns - clad in clapboard!

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SMH 147

And here's the world's most perfect $147 in Flora, Illinois (near Olney).

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The details around the window are perfect!

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Want to see more pretty pictures? Click here.

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Homart Homes: I Know Where You Live (Part II)

July 4th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

From 1948-1951, Sears sold prefabricated houses known as Homart Homes. These small houses were shipped by truck (not train) and arrived in sections measuring 4′ by 8′ to 8′ by 8′. Fasteners were included with these diminutive homes, and the houses were bolted together at the site. They were very modest homes with very simple lines and shallow roofs. Most were 600-850 square feet.

Based on some educated guessing from reading old catalogs, fewer than 3,000 Homart Homes were built.

And now I need a little help from my friends. The 1949 Homart Homes catalog lists several addresses where Homart Homes were built. I’d love to have photos of these houses to publish at this site. I’d be so grateful if someone could get me a photo of these houses. When photographing houses, remember to remain on a public right-of-way (street or public sidewalk) when shooting your photos.

The addresses (as found in the 1949 Homart Homes catalog) are:

Albert C. Helm, 615 North 10th Street, Monmouth, Illinois.

R. W. Countryman, 614 E. Avenue, Nevada, Iowa.

Dale Keeth, 495 Melmore Street, Tifflin, Ohio

Lawrence Clemen, 1845 University Avenue, Dubuque, Iowa

Harold Snell, 426 4th Street, LaSalle, Illinois

Clarence Wyman, Cerro Gordo, Illinois

Richard J. Gilbert, Gox 565, New Glarus, Wisconsin

Jeffrey Hicks, Route 2, Box 479, Pekin, Illinois

Elmer Timm, 3238 Schlueter Road, Madison, Wisconsin

Pictures from the original Homart Homes catalog is below. The house you’re photographing should bear some slight resemblance to these modest homes below. Rarely, cities will re-number houses, so these addresses are not guaranteed to be Homart Homes, but it’s 99% likely that they are. Because these homes are so modest, they often undergo extensive remodeling.

To read Part I (more info on Homart Homes), click here.

To see pictures of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Homart Homes were very modest prefab homes offered after WW2. Today, its nearly impossible to find these houses, because they were so plain and in subsequent years, most have been covered with substitute sidings.

Homart Homes were very modest prefab homes offered after WW2. Today, it's nearly impossible to find these houses, because they were so plain and in subsequent years, most have been covered with substitute sidings.

Small

For the most part, these were very modest homes.

small

Look at the size of the rooms in this first house!

bigger

This was their most spacious Homart Home, but you can see from the photo below, this is also a pretty modest house. One of the bedrooms is 7 feet by 9 feet. As long as Junior never outgrows his crib, this should work just fine.

bigg

This was the largest Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog, and it's not very big at all.

Homart Homes arrived in sections, which were bolted together.

Homart Homes arrived in sections, which were bolted together.

These porches could be a clue in identifying Homart Homes. Every Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog had this unique configuration on the front stoop.

These porches could be a clue in identifying Homart Homes. Every Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog had this unique configuration on the front stoop.

A variation of that unique woodwork around the stoop.

A variation of that unique woodwork around the stoop.

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. And usually, they just don't "age" as well as the sturdier "Modern Homes" (Honor Bilt homes).

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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When Bad Things Happen to Good Houses

August 19th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Part of the fun of traveling to 23 states and giving 200 talks on Sears Homes is seeing all kinds of wacky and wild stuff. One Sunday morning in 2003, as my host was driving me back to the airport (to return home to the Midwest), I saw this Sears Madelia (see second photo below). It was in Zanesville, OH (or a nearby town) and we were actually several blocks beyond this building when I told my host, “Please turn around. I think I saw something.”

He reminded me that we didn’t have much time and I told him I understood and this wouldn’t take but a second. And there - in all its painful glory - was this badly butchered Sears house. It’s actually a Sears Madelia and it was not that popular a model for Sears. (Sears sold 370 designs of kit homes from 1908 - 1940.)

The first picture (first image) is a picture of the Madelia from the 1919 Sears Catalog. The next picture is a happy, healthy Madelia in Wood River, Illinois on 9th Street. There are 24 Sears Homes in a row, a remnant from the days of Standard Oil’s purchase of $1 million worth of Sears Homes for their refinery workers. The third picture I’ve titled, A Madelia trapped in a tavern’s body.

A happy little Sears Madelia in Wood River, IL

And here’s the Madelia trapped in a tavern’s body.

A Madelia trapped in a taverns body

This next house is a Sears Crescent in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s a happy little Crescent with good self-esteem.

A happy Sears Crescent

A happy Sears Crescent

And this next picture was taken by Rebecca Hunter, a kit-home expert in Elgin, Illinois.

An unhappy Sears Crescent in Illinois

An unhappy Sears Crescent in Illinois

Heres a Sears Westly, as it appeared in the 1919 Sears catalog

Here's a Sears Westly, as it appeared in the 1919 Sears catalog

Unhappy Sears House in the Midwest. Too much plastic in one place.

Unhappy Sears House in the Midwest. Too much plastic in one place.

Modern Maggy Wanna-Be: Not!

August 17th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

The Sears Magnolia was the biggest, fanciest and prettiest home. According to legend, there were only a few Magnolias built in the country, and heretofore, only six have been found (Benson, NC., South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana). The sixth was in Nebraska, and has since been torn down.

Everyone loves Sears kit homes. People are enchanted and intrigued by the idea that you could order a kit home out of a mail-order catalog and have it shipped (via train) to your building site. These were true kits, arriving in 12,000-piece kits (including a 75-page instruction book). Sears promised that a man of average abilities could have one assembled in 90 days.

But there’s another reason we love these homes: They’re beautiful. They’re well-designed and thoughtfully arranged, with nice profiles and proportions and lines.

Recently I was driving through a 1990s neighborhood and spotted this house (second photo below - with beige vinyl siding). If the Sears Magnolia were built today, it might look something like this. However, in my humble opinion, this is not an attractive home. It lacks those nice profiles and proportions and lines. It is, to be blunt, uninspiring and boring.

Then again, I’m just biding my time here until they figure out this time travel so I can get back to where I belong: The 1920s.

A Sears Magnolia in Benson:
maggy_benson_nc

Contemporary Magnolia Maybe Sorta Kinda

Modern house in modern area

Modern house in modern area

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog