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“All My Friends Who Have Seen This House Are In Love With It” (Part II)

March 14th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Several days ago, I wrote a blog about an old Gordon Van Tine “Roberts” somewhere in Wheeling, West Virginia. The house was built in the 1920s by a fellow named Otto Friebertshauser. I found out about this house when I obtained a copy of Gordon Van Tine’s promotional booklet, “The Proof of the Pudding” (1927), a collection of testimonials from happy homeowners.

It was a beautiful house and a well-written testimonial but no mention of where in Wheeling this house was built! Almost 90 years had passed since Otto turned that 12,000-piece kit into a spacious home. Had the house been torn down? Was it still alive? And if it was still alive, was it still well?

Too many times to count, I’ve written and published such blogs, only to find that the subject house had subsequently been destroyed and/or was in pitiable shape and/or had been cut up into several apartments.

After the blog was finished, I sent a link to Jeremy Morris, Executive Director of the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation. In less than a day, Jeremy wrote back, saying that he’d found the house. And not only had Jeremy found the house, but he’d talked with the owners and he got me a photo of the house!

The owners and I were soon in contact, and I’m delighted to report that they love this house just as much as Otto Friebertshauser did. In fact, they’ve done an exemplary job of restoring it to its former grandeur. And they did not realize it was a kit house (as is the case about 90% of the time).

Thanks so much to the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and to Jeremy Morris (Executive Director) for going out and searching for this house, and thanks to the home’s current owners for doing such a first-class job of preserving this fine old house.

As mentioned in the previous blog, Wheeling is apparently awash in kit homes, and I’ve already spotted a PERFECT Sears Crescent on National Street, almost across the road from the Dairy Queen. I’d be ever so grateful if some good soul could snap a photo of that house for me!

Click here to see the other kit homes I saw in Wheeling, WV.

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, visit my buddy Dale’s website, devoted to Gordon Van Tine homes.

I’d love to come out to Wheeling soon and do a proper survey and give a talk. Please leave a comment below to contact Rose and let’s figure out how to make it so!

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In the 1927 promotional brochure, Otto

In the 1927 promotional brochure, Otto Friebertshauser wrote, "All of my friends who have seen this house are in love with it." Otto even included a snapshot of his home.

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Close-up of the text that appeared in the 1927 brochure.

Close-up of the text that appeared in the 1927 brochure.

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Ottos home as seen in the 1920s.

Otto's home as seen in the 1920s.

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In 1916, the Roberts (Ottos house) appeared on the cover.

In 1916, the "Roberts" (Otto's house) appeared on the cover.

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Close-up of that pretty, pretty house.

Close-up of that pretty, pretty house.

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The original catalog page showing The Roberts (1924).

The original catalog page showing "The Roberts" (1924).

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According to this text, theres a Roberts in every state in the US.

According to this text, there's a Roberts in every state in the US.

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The floorplan shows how spacious

As kit homes go, this one was unusually spacious.

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A small room upstairs was devoted to space for the live-in maid! And that dressing room doesn't make much sense, as it was accessible only through the main hallway.

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Ah, but heres the most interesting photo of all. This is the Roberts in Wheeling, then and now. Photo is

Ah, but here's the most interesting photo of all. This is the Roberts in Wheeling, then and now. Photo (on left) is copyright 2013 Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Photo on right was taken by Otto Freibertshauser, and it's also a dandy photo.

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Otto would be so pleased to see his house today!

Otto would be so pleased to see his house today! What a breath-taking beauty and it's been lovingly and thoughtfully maintained. And perhaps best of all, the original windows are still in place. Photo is copyright 2013 Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ottos house dressed up for Christmas! Now this belongs on the cover of a Christmas card! So very pretty!

Otto's house dressed up for Christmas! Now this belongs on the cover of a Christmas card! Photo is copyright 2012 Frank Harrar and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the kit homes I’ve found in Wheeling, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

Can you snap a photo of that Crescent and send it to me? Please leave a comment below and I’ll contact  you.

Heres

Here's a photo of the Sears Crescent (1928). The one in Wheeling is way up on a hill, across the street from the Dairy Queen. I found it while "driving" via Google Maps.

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“All My Friends Who Have Seen This House Are in Love With It.”

March 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 7 comments

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Updated with NEW photos! See below!!

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OOOH, I now have contemporary photos of Otto’s house! To read Part II of this blog (and see new photos), click here.

Thanks to indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker, I now have a digital copy of the 1931 brochure, “The Proof of the Pudding,” published by Gordon Van Tine. It’s a collection of happy testimonials from happy homeowners who purchased kit homes from Gordon Van Tine.

This little brochure is a real treasure.

Like Sears, Gordon Van Tine sold kit homes through mail order, and according to co-author Dale Wolicki, they sold about 50,000 kit homes (which is most impressive). Sears, by contrast, sold about 70,000 kit homes.

While reading “The Proof  of The Pudding,” one house in particular caught my eye.

“All of my friends who have seen this house,” wrote homeowner Otto Friebertshauser of Wheeling WV, “are in love with it.”

I’ve been through several cities in West Virginia and some of them have an abundance of kit homes (like Beckley and Lewisburg) and some have a handful (like Elkins) and some have very few kit homes (like Buckhannon).

However, I’ve never been to Wheeling, West Virginia.

But I suspect that there are quite a few kit homes there.

By the late 1920s, Sears had opened about 40 “Sears Modern Homes Sales Offices” throughout the country (39 of them were east of the Mississippi River). Sears didn’t open a sales center unless sales in that area were strong, and once a sales office was open, sales typically increased quite a bit.

Sometime around 1929, Sears opened a Sears Modern Homes Sales Office in Wheeling, WV at 41 Sixteenth Street. That tells me that there were enough sales in Wheeling to justify opening up this sales office (which is impressive in it own right, as this was the only sales office in West Virginia). And if the office in Wheeling was like the offices in other cities, sales of Sears Homes increased after this office opened. That tells me I should find quite a few post-1929 Sears kit homes.

And that is all good news!

My husband is from Elkins and we visit there often, and I love West Virginia. It’s mighty cold in the winter, but it must be one of the prettiest states in this country.

Do you know where this house is in Wheeling?  If so, please leave a comment below.

And do you know of other kit homes in Wheeling? Please let me know!

Many thanks to Rachel for sharing her brochure, “Proof in the Pudding.”  To read Rachel’s blog, click here.

OOOH, I now have contemporary photos of Otto’s house! To read Part II of this blog (and see new photos), click here.

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Otto must have really

Mr. Friebertshauser wrote passionately about his new home there in Wheeling!

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A picture of Mr.

A picture of Mr. Friebertshauser's home in Wheeling.

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Catalog page showing Ottos home: The Roberts

Catalog page showing Otto's home: The Roberts

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A Roberts in Front Royal, Virginia

A "Roberts" in Front Royal, Virginia

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Sears had only 40 Sears Modern Homes Sales Centers in the country and there was one in Wheeling, WV. This tells me that there are probably *many* Sears Homes in Wheeling.

Sears had only 40 "Sears Modern Homes Sales Centers" in the country and there was one in Wheeling, WV. This tells me that there are probably *many* Sears Homes in Wheeling.

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Sears only placed these Sales Centers in cities or regions where sales were very strong.

Sears only placed these "Sales Centers" in cities or regions where sales were very strong.

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Heres the actual photo of Ottos home in Wheeling. His description of the house gives a few clues. In 1927, it was a quarter mile from any other house.

Here's the actual photo of Otto's home in Wheeling. His description of the house gives a few clues. In the 1931 brochure, it was described as a "quarter mile from any other house."

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UPDATED!!  Wheeling must have an abundance of kit homes. Look what we found in about 30 minutes of looking!!

Heres a fine-looking house on Kruger Street (for sale) and its actually an Aladdin Shadowlawn. Aladdin was another large kit home company that sold homes through their mail-order catalog.

Here's a fine-looking house on Kruger Street (for sale) and it's actually an Aladdin Shadowlawn. Aladdin was another large kit home company that sold homes through their mail-order catalog. (Photo is from a real estate site and hopefully the new-found recognition that this house is a kit home will help sell the property and the unknown photographer won't be upset with us for borrowing this photo. Despite some searching, I couldn't find a photo credit.) Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house!

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Oh my stars, its a perfect match to the Shadowlawn as shown in the 1919 catalog! Now thats a nice match!!!

Oh my stars, it's a perfect match to the Shadowlawn as shown in the 1919 catalog!

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Heres another house for sale in Wheeling. Its a Sears Fullerton.

Here's another house for sale in Wheeling. It's a Sears Fullerton.

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Another real fine match!

Another real fine match!

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I saved the best for last. This is an Aladdin Standard, also currently for sale and listed at a real estate site. Now that the owners know its a kit home, will they sell it more quickly? We can hope!

This is an Aladdin Standard, also currently for sale and listed at a real estate site. Now that folks know it's a kit home, will they sell it more quickly? We can hope!

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Be still my quivering heart, what a nice match to the photo above! The image is from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Be still my quivering heart, what a nice match to the photo above! (1914 Aladdin catalog).

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Another house for sale in Wheeling (and since Google Maps doesnt provide street views in Wheeling, this is all we got). This is not a kit home but its a plan book house. Plan books were a little different than kit homes. When you purchased a design from a planbook, youd receive blueprints and a list of building materials needed to complete the house. These Plan Books were very popular in the 1920s.

Another house for sale in Wheeling (and since Google Maps doesn't provide street views in Wheeling, this is all we got). This is not a "kit home" but it's a "plan book" house. Plan books were a little different than kit homes. When you purchased a design from a planbook, you'd receive blueprints and a list of building materials needed to complete the house. These Plan Books were very popular in the 1920s.

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Heres the house as seen in the 1929 Home Builders catalog.

Here's the house as seen in the 1929 "Home Builders" catalog.

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Theres also

There's a Sears Crescent high on a hill in Wheeling. It's across the street from the Dairy Queen and I found it while "driving" via Google Maps. It sure would be nice to have a photo! If you're able to take a photo for me, please leave a comment below.

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So Wheeling has kit homes from Sears, Aladdin and Gordon Van Tine. How many kit homes does Wheeling have?

I don’t know, but I do know that I’d love to visit Wheeling and find out!

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

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The Sears Maggy in Canton, Ohio: Looking Better Than Ever!

June 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

In 2002, I was invited to participate in filming one of the first episodes of History Detectives (PBS). In 2002, I traveled to Ohio for the show, and on the first day of filming, we visited this Sears Magnolia in Canton. I took several photos while we were there, and more recently, I scanned the old 35mm slides and posted them here.

More recently, my dear friend Janet Hess LaMonica traveled to Canton (her hometown) and managed to get some wonderful new photos for me!

I’m happy to say, the Maggy in Canton is looking absolutely beautiful!

To learn more about the Magnolia, click here.

Is the house featured in “The Notebook” a Sears Magnolia? Absolooterly NOT. Read about that here.

To read an old interview with a 94-year-old man who helped build a Sears Magnolia 90+ years ago, click here.

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Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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The Magnolia was a fine house!

The Magnolia was a spacious house!

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Sears House

The Sears Magnolia up close and personal.

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Sears Magnolia

The beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio, looking pretty as a post-card! (Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sears House

Everything about this house is absolutely beautiful! (Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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This Sears Magnolia was Sears grandest and most spacious kit homes. There are Sears Magnolias in Benson, NC, Irwin, PA, South Bend, IN, Piedmont, AL and Syracuse, NY. There was a Magnolia in Nebraska but it burned down years ago. (Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Comparison

What a pretty match!

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Of every link I’ve ever posted, this is my favorite Sears Magnolia story.

To learn more, click here.

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All Things Alhambra

February 14th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Sears Alhambra was one of Sears’ most popular houses. In fact, I’d say it was one of their top ten best sellers. And, it was a pretty house with a distinctive Spanish flair and with a splash of mission style. If you take away the fancy accoutrements, you’ll see it’s little more than a classic American foursquare.

Enjoy the photos!

To see more Sears Alhambras, visit All Things Alhambra, part 2.

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Sears Alhambra in Charleston, WV

Sears Alhambra in Charleston, WV.

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Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

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Like its Virginia cousin, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

Like its Virginia cousin, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

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Another vote for the beige pant job!  This perfect Alhambra is in Raleigh.

Another vote for the beige pant job! This perfect Alhambra is in Raleigh.

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Sears Alhambra in darn good condition in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

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And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

This is an Alhambra, but it's a common alteration. All the Spanish-flavored accoutrements have been removed. There are FOUR of these Alhambras in Norfolk.

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Stripped of its Alhambra-defining elements, this house in St. Louis looks rather pedestrian.

This Alhambra lost its its Alhambra-defining elements during a remodel. Even the parapet over the porch was cut down. This house in St. Louis now looks rather pedestrian.

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Vintage photo of a Sears Alhambra in the St. Louis area. Later on in life, the dormer was amputated due to leak issues. The parapet around the front porch was also lost during surgery. Very sad.

Vintage photo of the same Sears Alhambra shown above. Hard to believe, isn't it?

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This Alhambra has also had some of its unique architectural elements stripped away, but you can still see its an Alhambra!

This Alhambra has also had some of its unique architectural elements stripped away, but you can still see it's an Alhambra!

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Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney, SC. My favorite color: Lavender!

To see more pictures of Sears Alhambras, visit All Things Alhambra, part 2.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Amazing Collection of Sears Homes in the Midwest

August 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes 17 comments

Sears Homes were kit homes that were sold right out of the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s. More than 370 designs of kit homes were offered - everything ranging from Arts and Crafts bungalows to foursquares to Colonial Revivals. These homes came in 30,000-piece kits and were shipped to all 48 states. Sears promised that a man of average abilities could have these homes assembled in about 90 days.

Today, the only way to find these kit homes is literally one by one. And that’s what I do. When I decided that Sears Homes would be my career, I endeavored to memorize each of those 370 designs of Sears Homes. Now I can drive the streets of small town America and find the Sears Homes - one by one.

Not surprisingly, the Midwest has an amazing collection of Sears Homes in particular and kit homes in general. Below are a few pictures of the kit homes I’ve found during my travels in the Midwest.

In addition to Sears, there were other companies that sold kit homes, including Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, Montgomery Ward, Harris Brothers and more.

To read about the Sears Homes in Carlinville, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

If you’ve enjoyed the link, please give me a tweet, or share on Facebook!  :)

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of thir most magnificent homes.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of their most magnificent homes.

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

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The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The only Bandon Ive ever seen was in Pulaski, Illinois (near Cairo, at the southern most end of Illinois).

The only "Bandon" I've ever seen was in Pulaski, Illinois (near Cairo, at the southern most end of Illinois). This Bandon is a perfect match to the catalog picture.

The Sears Sherburne was not a very popular house, but it was a beauty!

The Sears Sherburne was not a very popular house, but it was a beauty!

Close-up of the catalog image

Close-up of the catalog image

Sears Sherburne in Peoria, IL

Sears Sherburne in Decatur, IL

Sears Willard, as seen in a 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard, as seen in a 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard in Peoria, Illinois

Sears Willard in Peoria, Illinois

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A pre-WW1 Sears Home: Modern Home #264P202

A pre-WW1 Sears Home: Modern Home #264P202

The Sears #264P202 in the flesh. This house is in Okawville, IL

The Sears #264P202 in the flesh. This house is in Okawville, IL

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From the Sears Modern Homes catalog, heres the Sears Glendale

From the Sears Modern Homes catalog, here's the Sears Glendale

Sears Glendale in Cairo, Illinois

Sears Glendale in Cairo, Illinois

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Sears Gladstone from the Modern Homes catalog

Sears Gladstone from the Modern Homes catalog

A Sears Gladstone in Carbondale, Illinois

A Sears Gladstone in Carbondale, Illinois

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Sears Fullerton

Sears Fullerton

This Fullerton is in Aurora, Illinois

This Fullerton is in Aurora, Illinois

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The Alhambra was a very popular model for Sears

The Alhambra was a very popular model for Sears

An Alhambra in Casey, Illinois

An Alhambra in Casey, Illinois

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The Sears Argyle was also a very popular house for Sears

The Sears Argyle was also a very popular house for Sears

Heres a Sears Argyle in New Baden, Illinois.

Here's a Sears Argyle in New Baden, Illinois.

Below is a perfect little Crescent in Bloomington, Illinois. Every detail is perfect!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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