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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado (Part II)

December 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about the Sears Avondale in Greeley, Colorado. When that blog was posted, I had nothing more than vintage photos of this house, built by Winfred H. Senier.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums of the Greeley Preservation Historic Office, I now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier’s fine old Avondale (shown below).

Take a look at the original vintage photo below from the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. If you look closely, you’ll see Winfred’s wife (May) sitting on the front porch and old Winfred on the porch wall.

To read the prior blog, click here.

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

Noothing like old photos

This photo first appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's a great photo and you can see that - when built in 1910 or 1911, Mr. Senier's house had stained glass windows. This was an upgrade, and it's likely that the home's interior had some fancy upgrades as well.

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obi

Sharon Dunn (reporter for the Greeley Tribune) forwarded me Winfred's obit, which showed that Mr. Senier raised Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. Above is a photo of Winfred and May, and two of their dogs (about 1910 or 1911).

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Is this a Shire horse?

Is this a Shire horse? Or is this just "Pumpkin" the friendly horse who helped build the house?

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Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. In 1919, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home, and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see tha

Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. Years after the house was built, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home (with mature landscaping), and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see that the vegetation has grown up a bit! And there's Winfred and May on the front porch (still).

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1910

The Sears Avondale was first offered in the 1909 Sears Modern Homes catalog. When was Mr. Senier's house built? Well, most likely it was between 1909 - 1911. I'd love to know for sure.

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Avondale was a heck of a house

The Avondale was one of Sears nicer homes. It was spacious and fancy. The house in Greeley is probably one of the first Avondales built in the country.

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Floorplan

Look at the dimensions of the living and dining rooms. It was a very spacious house.

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Showed up at the fair in 1911

In this colorized card, you can see the stained-glass windows on the house. There are four. Two flanking the fireplace and two on the home's front.

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Interior

Another postcard shows the interior of the Sears Avondale.

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Thanks to Betsy Kellam, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Seniers Avondale.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier's Avondale. Still looks a little lonely out there in Greeley. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Its still standing but needs a smidge of paint.

It's still standing but needs a smidge of paint. Given the fact that's it's 100 years old, it's in remarkably good condition. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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If you look at the roof lines and thee porch, you can see that the house is still square and straight and true. Mr. Senier and Sears did a fine job with this house. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mr. Senier died 67 years ago, but the house that he built for his family lives on. What a remarkable testimony to the quality of Sears kit homes. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone.

Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Thanks to Sharon Dunn (Greeley Tribune) for sending me Mr. Senier’s obituary. If you have any interest in Colorado history, this obit is a fascinating read. Mr. Senier was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, two original Greeley pioneers. Winifred Senier (the Avondale builder) had only one child (a daughter), but apparently his one daughter had eight children, all of whom lived in Greeley.

W. H. Senier Dies Thursday (December 4, 1945).


Winfred Howell Senier, who for 35 years operated a stock farm east of Greeley, died early Tuesday morning at the Weld County hospital after an illness of a year and a half. He had been a patient at the hospital only a few days.

He was 73 years old. Mr. Senier was a breeder of Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, Greeley pioneers, his mother being Eva Camp, daughter of a Union Colony member.

Mr. Senier was born in Covington, Ga., and came to Greeley with his parents when he was six years old.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. May Porter Senier, and one son, Archie Camp Senier, eight grand-children and one great grandchild, Richard Glen Senier.

His grand-children are Pfc. Winfred E. Senier of Fort Lewis, Wash.; Pfc. Robert John Senier of Lamar; ARM 1/c Woodrow E. Senier of Bakersfield, Calif.; WT 1/c William A. Senior [sic] awaiting discharge from the army following overseas duty; Gloria May, June Alice, Buddy and Doral Senier, all of Greeley.

One sister, Mrs. Jeanette Noxon of Greeley, also survives.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker for their indefatiguable efforts in researching this house in Greeley, and thanks to Betsy Kellums for the wonderful photos!

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To read more about the house in Greeley, click here.

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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado

December 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

Updated! To see the newest blog with contemporary photos of this house, click here!!

More than a year ago, I posted a blog about a Sears Avondale/Hawthorne in Greeley, Colorado.

Since then, several folks have left comments, and thanks to their efforts, the house has been found.  :)

And that’s remarkable for two reasons.

One, Sears Homes aren’t that common in the “Far West” (as that area was known in the early 1900s), and two, Sears offered 370 models but the Avondale/Hawthorne was one of the fancier homes.

To read the original blog, click here.

Text continues below the pictures.

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Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying this photo. It originally appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I erroneously identified a house in McHenry Illinois as the house in Greeley.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying this photo. It originally appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. In an earlier blog, I erroneously identified the house in McHenry Illinois as the house in Greeley. This is the correct photo (as you can see in the caption). Best of all, it shows Mr. Senier's wife, horse and two dogs. Digging through old census records, Rachel also discovered that the husband's name is Winfred and the wife's name is May. Rachel was not able to discern the name of the horse and dogs. Let's call them "Teddy" and "Freddy" (dogs) and "Pumpkin" (horsie). Actually, I'm not sure if that's Winfred sitting on the rail. Whomever it is seems to be wearing a bowler hat.

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Is the house in Greeley an Avondale or a Hawthorne? Rachel Shoemaker pointed out that its a Hawthorne, and she is right.

Mr. Senier and family built the Avondale in Greeley. Not a bad house for $2,176.

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The Hawthorne, as seen in 1916.

The Hawthorne, as seen in 1916. This was very similar to the Avondale, but the Hawthorne had a second floor and the side walls were higher (creating more space upstairs).

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The comments that followed the original blog have been hugely helpful, so I’m reprinting them here.

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Rachel

Rachel is an indefatigable researcher.

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And Rachel is right. I had the houses in Greeley, CO and Illinois mixed up.

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And then the intrepid researchers found info on that Greeley House.

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And then around the 5th, Mark (who also left a comment on December 5th) sent me this email:

I found a page that mentions the Senior name on a map from 1915. There is a plot of land on the map that is just outside of Greeley in the area around the Greeley / Weld county airport. I think the map calls it Camp Senier.

Maybe this is the area the house is in if it still exist. If it’s not there then maybe its somewhere between the camp and the rail line to the west.

Using Google Maps, Mark ultimately found Milford Howell Senier’s “Avondale” at about 120 East 4th Street Road in Greeley.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Mark for finding this old Avondale. What an impressive bunch of research!!!

Now I need some photos of this wonderful house in Greeley!  :)

If you’re in the area and can get a photo, please leave me a comment below!

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Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

November 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Richard Warren Sears is one of my favorite characters in American history. He truly was a marketing genius, a fascinating entrepreneur and a real family man. Throughout his life, he maintained a deep and profound devotion to his family.

Richard Warren Sears was about 16 years old when his father died. That’s when Richard went to work to support the family.

By the mid-1880s, he’d found gainful employment as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Early in his career, Sears paid a mere $50 for a shipment of watches that arrived at the train station and had been refused by a local merchant. Selling them to other railway agents and passengers, Sears turned $50 worth of watches into $5000 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive, people could now travel easily throughout the country, but there was one problem with all this zipping to and fro:  In the early 1880s, our country had 300 time zones.

Many rural communities still relied on sun-time. Travelers headed west we’re expected to subtract one minute for every 12 miles of travel. Travelers headed east did the opposite.

Hope youre good at ciphering!

In November 1883, railway companies lobbied Congress to establish four time zones, to help standardize complicated train schedules. And what need did this new-fangled law breed? Watches.

Suddenly, they were a very hot commodity.

In 1886, 23-year-old Sears invested his $5000 cash profit into a new watch business and called it the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He advertised in regional newspapers and soon moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Occasionally the watches came back needing repairs, so in 1887, Sears decided it was time to hire a helper. A young watch repairman from Hammond, Indiana responded to Sears help wanted ad and was hired immediately.

And what was the watch repairman’s name?

Alvah Curtis Roebuck.

Richard and Alvah became good friends and eventually partners.

In 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog (52 pages), offering jewelry and watches. By 1893, the little catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. By the following year, the catalog hit 507 pages.

In 1895, Alvah Roebuck decided he wanted out. The 31-year old watch repairman’s health was collapsing under the strain of this new fast-growing business. The enormous burden of debt coupled with Sears wild ways of doing business were too much for mild-mannered, methodical Alvah.

He asked Sears to buy his one-third interest in the company for $25,000.

Of course, Sears didn’t have that kind of cash on hand, so he offered Chicago businessmen Aaron Nusbaum and Julius Rosenwald (Nusbaums brother-in-law) a one-half interest in the company. The price - $75,000, or $37,500 each. Six years later, in 1901, Rosenwald and Sears decided to buy out Nusbaum and offered him $1 million for his share of the business. Nusbaum refused and asked for $1.25 million, which he received.

(Pretty tidy profit for six years!)

Following a nationwide depression in 1907, Rosenwald and Sears were at loggerheads on the best course of action to weather the economic storm. This disagreement really did highlight their radically different concepts about everything.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse, closed-door meeting with Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company.

Sears reason for retiring: He didnt see the work as fun anymore. A short time later, Sears sold his stock for $10 million dollars. There was another reason for his departure. Sears wanted more time to take care of his ailing wife, who had suffered from ill health for years.

In September 1914, at the age of 50, Sears died from kidney disease, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multimillion dollar mail-order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Not too bad for a kid that got his start selling unwanted watches at a little train depot in Redwood Falls.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. Hes shown here in his office in Sears World Headquarters (Chicago).

Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. He's shown here in his office the Sears' Headquarters (Chicago), at the corner of Homan Avenue and Arthington Street. It's claimed that Mr. Sears had one of the very first telephones in the state of Illinois. He had another telephone installed in his mother's home in Oak Park. Now *that's* a good son! :)

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Look at that telephone!

Look at that telephone! I bet that would fetch a pretty price on eBay! And you may notice that Mr. Sears is holding a Sears catalog in his right hand. He was quite the promoter.

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Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown above).

Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first "Sears Modern Homes" catalog (shown above).

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Did you know that Sears sold cars in the 1950s? You’ll never guess the brand name they gave to their vehicles!  :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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WLS Radio and Sears Roebuck

October 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

What is the connection between the famed Chicago radio station - WLS - and Sears Roebuck?

In 1924, WLS began life as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for “World’s Largest Store.”

On April 9, 1924, Sears own radio station signed on with 500 watts, with offices on the 11th floor of the Sears 14-story “skyscraper” at Homan and Arthington Street in downtown Chicago.

In 1925, the front pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog promised that, “WLS was conceived in your interests, is operated in your behalf and is dedicated to your service.”

It was a short-lived experiment for Sears. Four years after its creation, WLS was sold to the Prairie Farmer Magazine. The studios were moved to the Prairie Farmer Building  (also in downtown Chicago).  In 1960, WLS was sold to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

Click here to learn more about the history of WLS.

Hey, is that a Sears House? Click here to learn more about identifying kit homes.

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In 1925, Sears published its first employee newsletter, known simply as "WLS" (World's Largest Store). Inside the newsletter was a detailed account of The Kelly Family buying and building their own kit home.

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To read more about the Kelly’s kit home, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

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The Impressive Array of Kit Homes in Bowling Green, Ohio

August 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

When my dear friend Dale heard the saga about the threatened demolition of the Pop Culture Building (a mail-order kit home) at BGSU, he offered to send me photos of the other kit homes he’d found in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Bowling Green has an impressive array of kit homes, and I’m confident that there are more than we’ve documented below. For instance, in Rebecca Hunter’s book (Putting Sears Homes on the Map), she found that a Sears Argyle was built in Bowling Green in the 1910s or 20s.

Where is it now?

Either Dale didn’t see it (which is possible, as we rarely have time to examine every house on every street), or the Argyle also got in the way of progress, and met a fate similar to what may befall the Sears Lewiston.

Fact is, colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Seems as though colleges are often positioned in the heart of early 20th Century development, and as they expand and grow, the working-class and middle-class bungalows from the 1910s, 20s and 30s get gobbled up and spit out as landfill rubble.

The Wardway/Sears Lewiston at BGSU is a rarity, and less than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built (from 1909-1932). Even more interesting, based on my research, the Wardway “Lewiston” at BGSU may be the only one of its kind. To learn more about that home’s unique history, click here.

At some point, we need to stop destroying these historically significant homes.

Demolishing old houses is not very environmentally friendly, either. According to “The Slate Roof Bible” (2003, by Joseph Jenkins), 28% of the debris found in landfills is from demolition or remodeling.)

I’m still hopeful that Bowling Green State University will reverse their decision and not send 300,000+ pounds of kit home (sans additions) to the landfill on August 7th.

At the very least, this house should be MOVED and not destroyed.

Special thanks to architectural historian (and co-author) Dale Wolicki for providing the photos of the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio.

To read more about the potentially sad fate of the kit home at BGSU, click here.

UPDATED: To read about the realistically smart idea of MOVING the BGSU house, click here.

To sign a petition to help save this house, click here.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Heres a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Here's a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

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The Sears Willard was a popular house. Heres a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Willard was a popular house. Here's a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. Theres a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut.

Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. There's a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive house (1921).

Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive bungalow (1921).

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The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street.

The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street. You'll notice from the image above, this house is in mostly original condition. This is a rare treat to see these more modest homes unmolested by the asbestos/aluminum/vinyl siding salesmen. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unless its sitting at the landfill, theres also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. Id be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if theyve seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

Unless it's sitting at the landfill, there's also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. I'd be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if they've seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

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It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921).

Notice how the porch floor extends a little bit beyond the primary wall? That is a very distinctive feature, and makes it easier to identify this house.

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And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

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The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because its a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the Popular Culture program.

The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because it's a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the "Popular Culture" program. Photo is courtesy BGSU Pop Culture House. Yesterday (August 1st), the little house apparently borrowed someone's smart phone and using mirrors and lasers, took a picture of itself. This is one remarkable house. And then, the little house posted its own photo on its own Facebook page.

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In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

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Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando.

Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow.

Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow (1924 catalog).

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Another beauty.

Another beautiful bungalow in excellent condition. And it still has its original casement windows. Man, I love this house. Guess it's a good thing it's located safely away from the bungalow-eating state university? Elsewise, it might be feeling a little "disheveled" and living at the landfill. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward.

The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward (1929 catalog).

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Another fine-looking Wardway Home.

Another fine-looking Wardway Home in Bowling Green. Soon, it may be the *only* Wardway home in town. :( Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green.

And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus.

Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus. The house on the left was taken soon after the house was completed in February/March 1932. House on the right is the Sears Lewiston from the 1929 catalog.

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To learn more about the house at BGSU click here.

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The Berwyn: Monotony Relieved!

July 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The Sears Berwyn (named for a city in Northern Illinois) was one of their most popular houses, and it’s a cutie-pie of a house, too!

The double-arched front porch makes it easy to identify.

The Berwyn as seen in the 1929 catalog.

The Berwyn as seen in the 1929 catalog.

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The text in the 1929 ad promises that monotony is relieved.

The text in the 1929 catalog promises that monotony is relieved in the Berwyn.

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Small house, but thoughtful floor plan.

Small house, but thoughtful floor plan.

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By 1938, the Berwyn hadnt changed much.

By 1938, the Berwyn hadn't changed much, but it had a new name.

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This Berwyn

This long thin vent on the front gable is a distinctive feature on the Berwyn. The cement-based siding was probably added in the 1950s. This snowy house is in Elgin, IL.

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This Berwyne is in Kirkwood, MO and some not-so-thoughtful vinyl siding installing wreaked havoc with that double-arched opening.

This Berwyne is in Kirkwood, MO and some not-so-thoughtful vinyl siding installing wreaked havoc with that double-arched opening.

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Another Berwyn with the cement-based siding (White Sulphur Springs, VA).

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This house in Rock Falls, Missouri is also

This house in Rock Falls, Missouri is clad in aluminum siding.

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And this Berwyn is in my neck of the woods, Hampton, Virginia.

And this Berwyn is in my neck of the woods, Hampton, Virginia. The wrought-iron post is not a good idea.

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The Berwyn was one of a handful of houses that made it into the very last Sears Modern Homes catalog (1940).

The Berwyn was one of a handful of houses that made it into the very last Sears Modern Homes catalog (1940). In this catalog, it was renamed the Mayfield.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Teddy the Wonder Dog, click here.

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The Sears Maytown: Regular and Supersized!

May 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Pre-WW1 Sears Homes are scarce as hen’s teeth.

Well, almost as scarce as hen’s teeth. I’ve never seen a hen’s tooth, but I have seen a few pre-1917 Sears Homes.

Of these pre-1917 Sears Homes, one of the most popular is the Sears Maytown. And the good news is, it’s also one of the easiest to identify. In addition to that large turret on the home’s front, it also has a bay window on the front and the side. And if that’s not enough (and it should be), the house has a pedimented accent on the hipped porch roof, and a small window beside the front door, and two attic windows.

These are all architectural nuances that make it easy to identify the Maytown.

Supersize Me!

In 1916, Sears offered the option of adding an “additional two feet of width” to the standard Maytown.  Cost: $45 more.

Now that’s a darn good deal.

In 1919, the “extra-chubby” Maytown was now 2-1/2 feet wider and those extra six inches came at a cost:  The supersized Maytown was $125 more than the regular size.

So, have you seen the Maytown in your neighborhood? If so, please send me a photo!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Want to see more pretty pictures? Click here.

The Maytown as seen in the 1916 catalog.

The Maytown as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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In 1916, you could supersize your Sears Maytown by getting two extra feet added to its width. By 1921, the

Supersize me! - In 1916, you could "supersize" your Sears Maytown by getting two extra feet added to its width. By 1921, the extra-chubby Maytown was given its own model number.

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Wow

In 1919, the Maytown was identified as "A Big Seller."

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And in 1919, the supersized Maytown cost $125 more than the slimmer version.

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By 1916, the Maytown was already a very popular house for Sears.

By 1916, the Maytown was already a very popular house for Sears.

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Maytown

Sometime before 1916, Mr. Chase built his Maytown in Grafton, Massachusetts.

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Mr. Chases Maytown in 1916.

Mr. Chase's Maytown in 1916.

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Mr. Chases Maytown in 2011.

Mr. Chase's Maytown in 2011. I wonder if he went with the supersized version? (Photo is courtesy of Kelly McCall Creeron and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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One of the worlds most perfect Maytowns is this one in Edwardsville, IL. For years, it was used as a Frat House (for nearby SIUE), so its a miracle that this old house lived through *that* experience.

One of the world's most perfect Maytowns is this one in Edwardsville, IL. For years, it was used as a Frat House (for nearby SIUE), so it's a miracle that this old house lived through *that* experience.

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Another perfect Maytown!  This is one of my favorite pictures, in one of my favorite places:  Shenandoah, Virginia.

Another perfect Maytown! This is one of my favorite pictures, in one of my favorite places: Shenandoah, Virginia.

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And youll notice that the beauty in Shenandoah still has its original attic windows, replete with marginal lites (as they were known).

And you'll notice that the beauty in Shenandoah still has its original attic windows, replete with "marginal lites" (as they were known).

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To read the next story on Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

To learn about Wardway Homes, click here.

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The Sears Magnolia - in South Bend, Indiana!

May 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 11 comments

OOOH! I have new photos! Click here to see the new photos!

Faithful readers of my fun little blog will note that I have pictures of the five living Sears Magnolias in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Alabama, and New York. There was a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska, but it was torn down decades ago.

However, until now, I didn’t have any photos of the “Maggy” in South Bend, Indiana.

And then I sold my car.

Or tried to.

When the odometer on my tired old Camry hit 170,000 miles, I decided it was time to replace the old girl. But then, I couldn’t find the car title. Boy did I search. After all, I’m a writer. I don’t lose things. I have 27 boxes of research notes, all painstakingly organized and carefully filed away.

But that car title eluded me.

In the process of searching the entire house, I did find many other things, including these photos of the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana. Only thing is, I have no idea who snapped these photos for me. Some kind soul took these photos and mailed them to me. Based on markings found on the pictures, it appears that the photos date to Fall 2003.

The Sears Magnolia was the the crème de la crème of Sears Homes. It had 2-1/2 baths, two fireplaces, four spacious bedrooms and a sleeping porch, two staircases (front and rear), and a grand total of almost 3,000 square feet. The front of the house boasted two-story ionic (and sometimes Corinthian) porch columns, with a porte cochere on one side and a 140-square-foot sunporch on the other side.

It was quite a house.

Is there a Sears Magnolia in your neighborhood? If so, send me a photo. I suspect there are many more Magnolias in the country. Heretofore, we’ve found seven. It sure would be fun to find Number Eight!

Two requests:  If anyone reading this blog lives in South Bend, I’d love to get some newer photos! And it’d be just swell to have an address for this house in South Bend.  :)

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Or here.

Read about the fellow who built a Magnolia in Ohio here.

To read about the exhumation of my Aunt Addie, click here.

To buy your dear mother the perfect Mother’s Day gift, click here.

The Magnolia

The Magnolia as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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You can see from the floorplan, this was a big house!

You can see from the floorplan, this was a big house!

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And thanks to some unknown soul, heres a photo of the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana. Photo was taken sometime in late 2003.

And thanks to some unknown soul, here's a photo of the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana. Photo was taken sometime in late 2003. If that "unknown soul" is reading this, please contact me, so that I may give proper photo credit! :)

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Another view of the Maggy in South Bend.

Another view of the Maggy in South Bend. And yes, it's clad in a scratchy aluminum outfit, but maybe - just maybe - that's been removed since this photo was snapped nine years ago. And aluminum siding is recyclable (unlike vinyl). After it's removed, it can be taken to a salvage yard and it often fetches a handsome price!

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Another view

Another view of our Sears Maggy in South Bend. LOVE those columns!

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Just a cool old picture (early 1940s) of the Magnolia in Benson, NC.

A cool old picture (early 1920s I think) of the Magnolia in Benson, NC. I found it interesting that this house was photographed from the same angle as the house in South Bend!

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Heres a picture of the person who drove the getaway car for our mystery photographer. I surely would love to know who got these photos for me, and Im mighty grateful.

Here's a picture of the person who drove the getaway car for our mystery photographer. I surely would love to know who got these photos for me, and I'm mighty grateful.

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To see more photos of the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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“You Will Like the Josephine The Longer You Live In It…”

May 4th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

So promised the catalog advertisement for the “Honor Bilt” house, The Josephine.

This diminutive 840-square-foot house provides a nice example of the difference between “Honor Bilt, Already Cut” houses and the “Lighter Bilt, Not Cut or Fitted” houses.

The Honor-Bilt Josephine was offered for $1,470 while its cheaper cousin (Lighter Bilt) was $1,052. In today’s economic clime, that may not seem like a big difference but imagine a Realtor showing you two houses that appear to be the same, and both with 840 square feet. One is selling for $105,000 and the other is selling for $147,000. Which one would you choose?

And yet, the Honor Bilt really was the far better value.  These homes utilized traditional construction standards, such as double headers over the doors and windows, double floors (primary floors over subfloors), exterior sheathing under clapboard or cedar shingles and wall studs on 16-inch centers.

Lighter Bilt” was another kettle of fish. These homes were really not intended for cold-weather climates. Wall studs were on 24-inch centers, and there were single headers over doors and windows, no subfloor and no underlying exterior sheathing. Those things make a big difference.

And then there was the whole pre-cut vs. non-cut lumber. You’d have to be taking some heavy doses of laudanum to think that non-precut lumber was a good plan.

To appreciate the value of precut lumber, think back to the early 1900s. Electricity was in its infancy, and in many cities, electricity was turned off each night at 11 p.m. for six hours of repairs and maintenance! In 1910, only 10% of homes had electricity. By 1930, that number had jumped to 70%. (Source:  Electrifying America:  Social Meanings of  a New Technology, David E. Nye.)  As late as December 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine was still describing electric lights as a luxury that a builder should incorporate into a modern city home.

To cut a piece of lumber with a handsaw required time, strength and a degree of expertise (for a good square cut). Electric saws and the heavy duty wiring to handle the amperage draw were a thing of the future. In fact, the electric handsaw (a portable circular saw) wasn’t widely available until 1925. A fascinating news item in the February 1925 American Carpenter and Builder heralded the “new invention” with this commentary:  “The portable circular saw does the sawing for 15 carpenters.”

In 1921, Sears conducted an “experiment’ building two Rodessas (small frame homes) side by side at the site of the Sears mill in Cairo, Illinois. One house was erected using Sears’ precut lumber. The second house was built using traditional construction techniques; no precut lumber. The precut house was fully assembled in 352 carpenter hours and the non-precut home was completed in 583 carpenter hours.

In short, the fellow building his own Sears kit home would probably be doing his sawing with an old-fashioned, man-powered saw. The 1927 Wardway Homes catalog estimated that the average two-bedroom stick-built home required about 4,000 cuts with a saw.

That’s a whole lot of sawing that could be spared by purchasing an “Already Cut” Sears Home.

To learn more about Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt houses, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book on Sears kit homes, click here.

The Josephine, as shown in the 1921 catalog.

The Josephine, as shown in the 1921 catalog.

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Look in the difference in price between Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt.

Look in the difference in price between Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt.

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This 840-square foot house was just the right size for many families in the early 1920s.

This 840-square foot house was just the right size for many families in the early 1920s. And the living room has space for a piano and a bench!

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Heres a Josephine in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Here's a Josephine in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Cincinnatti, Ohio.

This little cutie - discovered and photographed by Donna Bakke - is in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Effingham, Illinois

Yellow seems like an appropriate color for the happy little Josephine.

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Also in Mt. Healthy, OH

Donna found this Josephine in Mt. Healthy, OH. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Cincinnatti, OH

Another one in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mt. Healthy

This is my favorite - and it's in stunningly original condition. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mt. Healthy

Look at the details around the front porch! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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My favorite one in Mt. Healthy

Close-up on the porch details.

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Awesome

And the house in Mt. Healthy is a perfect match! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see more pretty pictures of old houses, click here.

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The Roseberry, by Sears

April 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

When I was a little girl, my mother and I would often watch “Star Trek” together on television, and when the credits rolled at the end, the name “Gene Roddenberry” appeared (as creator, writer and producer). My mother would often tell me, “That’s the man you should marry: Gene Roddenberry. And then your name would be Rosemary Roddenberry. Plus, I bet that guy’s a lot of fun.”

My beloved mother passed on before my first books on Sears Homes were published, but had she been aware of these little houses, I suspect she would have told me, “You should change your last name to Roddenberry, and then buy a Sears Roseberry, and then you’d be Rosemary Roddenberry living in a Roseberry.”

She sure was a lot of fun.

The Sears Roseberry is a cute little house, but apparently, it wasn’t too popular. I’ve only seen one Sears Roseberry outside of Carlinville, IL (which has a large collection of Sears Homes, built by Standard Oil), and that lone Roseberry was in the Milton section of Alton, Illinois.

Sears Roseberry as seen in the 1916 catalog.

Sears Roseberry as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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Five years later (1921), the Roseberrys ad had changed very little. .

Five years later (1921), the Roseberry's price had doubled.

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As you can see from the floorplan, it is pretty small.

As you can see from the floorplan, it's not a big house.

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This vintage photo of Carlinville (1920) shows a Roseberry

This vintage photo of Carlinville (1920) shows a Roseberry under construction.

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Rose

One of 150 Sears Homes in a 12-block area, this Roseberry sits in Carlinville. There were eight models built by Standard Oil (for their employees), and the Roseberry is one of them.

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Some of the Roseberrys in Carlinville are in a little bit of pain, and need a little love.

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And some of them are in a lot of pain...

And some of them are in a lot of pain, and need a lot of love.

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The Roseberrys in Carlinville have two large windows in that gabled dormer, whereas the Roseberrys in the catalog image have one big window flanked by two smaller windows.  None of the houses in Carlinville are a perfect match to the catalog image. Perhaps Standard Oil didnt want the houses to look just like the catalog, so they made this one change on the Roseberry.

The Roseberrys in Carlinville have two large windows in that gabled dormer, whereas the Roseberrys in the catalog image have one big window flanked by two smaller windows. None of the Roseberrys in Carlinville are a perfect match to the catalog image. Perhaps Standard Oil didn't want the houses to look "just like the catalog," so they made this one change on the Roseberry.

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To learn more about Carlinville and Standard Oil, click here.

To see more vintage pictures of Carlinville, click here.