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Posts Tagged ‘honor bilt’

Richard Nixon’s Childhood Home in Yorba Linda, California

April 15th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Every now and then, I get a call about someone famous who grew up in a Sears kit home.

In 2009, I was contacted by a big-deal rock star (through his representative). This musician wanted to know if the house he’d grown up in was a Sears kit house! That was a lot of fun, but I also made a promise to not disclose their identity, so that takes some of the zing out of the whole affair!

In 2004, someone called and asked me to help identify Richard Nixon’s birthplace home in Yorba Linda, California. I was  honored and flattered and excited! I’m sorry to say I don’t remember her name, but she identified herself as an historian trying to document the origins of Nixon’s childhood home in Yorba Linda.

After studying every catalog in my possession and seeking help from my buddies, Rebecca Hunter and Dale Wolicki, I came up with a big zero.

We kinda sorta decided that the house probably came from the Pacific Ready-Cut Homes company (based in Los Angeles), but honestly, we just didn’t know for sure. Sometimes, the passage of time helps answer the hard questions, as new materials become available and knowledge expands.

That has not been the case with Nixon’s home. We have many catalogs for Pacific Ready-Cut Homes (thanks to Dale), but nothing within those catalogs shows a house like this. Based in Los Angeles, Pacific Ready Cut Homes sold more than 40,000 kit homes, and like Sears, they started selling houses in 1908. It’s possible that Nixon’s house came from an early PRCH catalog (which are scarce as hen’s teeth).

Here’s what we do know:

Richard M. Nixon was one of four sons born to Frank and Hannah Nixon. According to the legend,Frank Nixon built this house in 1913 from a kit on his citrus farm in Yorba Linda, California. Nixon and his family lived in this house until 1922, when they moved to Whittier.

While reading up on this house, I stumbled across a wonderful website with many glorious photos.

To learn more about Pacific Ready Cut Homes, click here.

The photo below came from www.Jackassinahailstorm.com, a wonderful website which I highly recommend!

House

Despite much searching, I was never able to identify the origins of this little cottage.

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To learn more about Pacific Ready Cut Homes, click here.

The photo shown above came from www.Jackassinahailstorm.com, a wonderful website which I highly recommend!

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Thanks to Jim, We Found Sears Modern Home #158

April 11th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Twice in the last several months, I’ve done a blog on a Sears House that I’d never seen, but had hoped to see, and both times, readers have found those houses! The first one was the Sears Monterey, which Jennifer successfully found and identified in Pennsylvania. And now, Jim has found and identified a Sears Modern Home #158 in West Virginia!

I wrote Jim a letter and asked, “How did you do that?” He replied, “The listing said it was a Sears and it’s pretty unique design with the first-floor porch tucked under the bedrooms, so it wasn’t difficult to identify.”

Part of what piqued my interest in this house is that it merited an honorable mention in a book titled, “Flesh and Bone” by Jefferson Bass (2007).

Thanks to Jim for contacting me on this #158!

Many thanks to the unnamed and unknown Realtor who took the photos. If I knew who you were, I’d give you some link love.

To read about Jennifer’s find in Pennsylvania, click here.

The blog to which Jim responded can be found here.

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Sears Modern Home #158, as seen in the 1910 catalog.

Sears Modern Home #158, as seen in the 1910 catalog.

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Interesting floor plan

It always tickles me to find a Sears kit home with servant's quarters.

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The bedroom on the front left is 12x20, which is massive for a Sears House.

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Cement, brick and plaster were not included in the kit, due to weight and freight.

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As Jim said, it's a pretty distinctive house!

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There it is, in all its beauty, in West Virginia.

There it is, in all its beauty, in West Virginia.

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Closer

If anyone ever decides to leave me a Sears House in their will, I hope it's in West Virginia. What a fabulous place to live! I'd also settle for Western Virginia. Or Southern Virginia. Or North Carolina. Or South Carolina. Maybe Maryland. And California. And even Hawaii. Heck, I'd take one anywhere.

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Cool

Put side-by-side, you can see that the house in West Virginia is a really nice match, down to the detail on the underside of the porch roof. And what a delight to see that those full-length porch railings are still in place.

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Nice back yard, too. Plenty of room back there for some horsies.

Nice back yard, too. Plenty of room back there for some horsies.

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The outside is lovely, but its the interior that made me swoon.

The outside is lovely, but it's the interior that made me swoon.

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My heart is all aflutter just looking at these images.

My heart is all aflutter just looking at these images.

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Now that's a view to wake up to!

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Beautiful, isnt it?

Beautiful, isn't it?

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Nice front porch, too.

Does the swing convey? How about the adorable baby Adirondack chair?

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The fireplace surround probably isn't original. Looks very 1950s to me. I could be wrong...

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However, Im fairly certain that all this original wood planking is original to the house. And its too beautiful for words. Heres hoping the new owner doesnt paint it or tear it out.

However, I'm fairly certain that all this original wood planking is original to the house. And it's too beautiful for words. Here's hoping the new owner doesn't paint it or tear it out.

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Thanks again to Jim for contacting me about this treasure!

Thanks again to Jim for contacting me about this treasure!

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To read about Jennifer’s find in Pennsylvania, click here.

The blog to which Jim responded can be found here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED House That Sears Built, Part V

February 25th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Fellow Sears House Hunter Carey Haeufgloeckner found this one-of-a-kind customized Sears House in Canton, Ohio by doing a search at the local courthouse for mortgage records. It’s one of many ways to find Sears Homes, and one of the better ways to find a customized Sears kit house.

The grantee records will show a conveyance of the house to Sears (or one of their trustees) as security for the note (or loan). The grantor in this case is the homeowner, who’s conveying a security interest to the mortgage holder (Sears).

And this customized Sears House is less than four blocks from the Sears Magnolia in Canton!

Carey found a build date of 1924 for the customized house, and the Sears Magnolia was purchased sometime in 1922, so it raises the question: Was the homeowner awestruck by the magnificent Magnolia, and decided that he wanted his own glorious Sears House?

While I’m the one penning the words for this blog, it is in fact Carey Haeufgloeckner who has done all the legwork, research and photography. If you’re in Canton, and would like to know more about kit homes, Carey is an incredible resource!

Thanks so much to Carey for providing the material for this blog!

To read about the Magnolia in Canton, click here.

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When Carey first shared these photos, I wasnt sure what I was looking at. It has the dormer from a Sears Hamilton and a front porch reminiscent of the Sears Ardara, but other than that, it really isnt close to matching any of the 370 designs of Sears Homes.

When Carey first shared these photos, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. It has the dormer that's a bit like the Sears Hamilton and a front porch reminiscent of the Sears Ardara, but other than that, it really isn't close to matching any of the 370 designs of Sears Homes. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Its a fine-looking and spacious home

It's a fine-looking and spacious home and even looks good in snow! Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Carey got good shots from every angle! Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The owners told Carey that it was modeled after the Sears Lexington. Shown here is a Sears Lexington in Glen Ellyn (near Chicago).

The owners told Carey that it was modeled after the Sears Lexington. Shown here is a Sears Lexington in Glen Ellyn (near Chicago).

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The Sears Lexington (shown here from the 1921 catalog) might not look like a good match to the house in Canton - at first glance, but...

The Sears Lexington (shown here from the 1921 catalog) might not look like a good match to the house in Canton - at first glance, but...

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I can see many similarities.

The Canton house is seven feet wider (43' wide per the auditor's website) and two feet less deep (22 feet), but the interior layout is apparently pretty close (but flipped in the Canton house).

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The second floor is also a good match.

This house (in Canton) was built with the rooms reversed!

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If you put

If you compare the home's rear with the floorplan and "reverse it," you can see the windows are all a good match. That small window next to the three living room windows is the half-bath. See those double windows next to the half bath? I suspect the homeowners chose not to go with the grade entry shown above. The next opening is the kitchen window.

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The second flloor

On the second floor, you can readily see those two small windows for the oversized landing.

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That dormer looks a lot like it came from the Hamilton or Starlight.

That dormer looks a lot like it came from the Hamilton or Starlight. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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See what I mean?

It's similar, not identical.

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And the front porch is impossible to peg, but its a bit reminiscent of the Sears Ardara.

And the front porch is impossible to peg, but it's a bit reminiscent of the Sears Ardara. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Kinda sorta, but the Canton house has a more dramatic flip!

Kinda sorta, but the Canton house has a more dramatic flip!

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When I was a child, Id ask my mother if I looked like my siblings and shed say, No I dont think so. You look just like YOU! This house doesnt really look like any of its siblings either!

When I was a child, I'd ask my mother if I looked like my siblings and she'd say, "No I don't think so. You look just like YOU!" This house doesn't really look like any of its siblings either! But it surely is a lovely home in its own right. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks so much to Carey for providing the material for this blog!

To read about the Magnolia in Canton, click here.

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The Croydon: A Spanking New Outlook!

February 22nd, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

So read the liner notes for the Sears “Croydon,” a darling Tudor Revival from the late 1930s.

From what we can discern, the Croydon was offered only in 1939 and 1940, the final two years of the Sears Modern Homes program. These post-1935 Sears Homes are scarce as hen’s teeth, and discovering a Croydon is a remarkable thing. And, it removes another “never seen this one” model from my life list!

The joy of discovering this rare bird goes wholly to Jeff S. Alterman, who not only found it, but provided all the photos you’ll see below.

To see Rose and Rebecca’s list list, click here.

Read more about Sears Homes here.

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For years and years, wed always believed that the 1939 and 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalogs were identical. Reading up on The Croydon we learned that this wasnt the case.

For years and years, we'd always believed that the 1939 and 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalogs were identical, and that the 1940 catalog was a straight reprint of the 1939. Reading up on "The Croydon" we learned that this wasn't the case.

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In 1940, the Croydon looked like this.

In the 1940 catalog, the Croydon looked like this.

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In the 1939 catalog, it looked like this.

In the 1939 catalog, it looked like this. Remember that feature in "Highlights Magazine" where readers were invited to spot the differences in two images? Let's play that game here.

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Here, Ill make it easier.

Here, I'll make it easier.

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The Croydon that Jeff found in Hastings-on-Hudson

The Croydon that Jeff found in Hastings-on-Hudson is a beautiful match to the 1939 catalog image. (I'm assuming you figured out the difference between the 1939 and the 1940 by now.) Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres a fun close-up of

And here's a fun close-up of the detail on that bell-cast asymmetrical front gable. I love this photo and am so tickled that Jeff's keen eye decided to zoom in on this. Plus, it shows that the Croydon had functional shutters - very unusual for a Sears Home. Only a handful of models had working shutters; most were ornamental. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Reason #1,489 that vinyl-siding salesmen should be legislatively banned from all old-house neighborhoods. Technicially, this is aluminum trim (not vinyl) but cmon. This is a special kind of ugly.

Reason #1,489 that vinyl-siding salesmen should be legislatively banned from old-house neighborhoods. Technically, this is aluminum trim (not vinyl) but c'mon. Instead of peddling your putrid products so aggressively, why not suggest to the homeowners that this particular piece of front-facing trim be left uncovered, and simply be re-painted once every 10 years or so. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Back to the happy comments: The Croydon was a beautiful house. What a pity that this model in Hastings-on-Hudson may be one of only a handful ever built in the country. However, this one is in beautiful condition. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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That upstairs is actually quite spacious.

That upstairs is actually spacious, with two bedrooms and a full bath. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you ascend in your Sears & Roebuck™ drone and remove the home's roof, this is what you'll find.

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As Sears Homes go, those two bedrooms are pretty spacious.

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Did you figure this out?

Did you figure this out? The 1939 model (left) has that dramatic bell-cast roof reaching almost to the ground, together with a short brick pedestal on the right side. The 1940 model (right) doesn't have those eye-catching features.

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Did you miss that small pedestal adjoining the gable when you first glanced at our Croydon in Hastings-on-Hudson? I sure did!

Did you miss that small pedestal adjoining the gable when you first glanced at our Croydon in Hastings-on-Hudson? I sure did! BTW, if one of my smart friends can give me the proper architectural term for that, I'd be grateful. I'm tempted to call it a "sideways cheek" but that is probably not right. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks so much to Jeff for sharing his expertise and his photos!

Thanks so much to Jeff for sharing his expertise and his photos!

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By the way, while google driving around a bit in Hastings-on-Hudson, I found this glorious Sears Gladstone around 17 Hillside, which Jeff tells me isnt included on the main list.

While "google driving" around a bit in Hastings-on-Hudson, I found this glorious Sears "Gladstone" around 17 Hillside, which Jeff tells me isn't included on the main list. I'd love to come to Hastings-on-Hudson sometime a do a proper street-by-street survey! I found several Sears Homes (and a rare GVT house) in a short time in this delightful New York town.

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Thanks again to Jeff S. Alterman for the beautiful  pictures.

To join our happy group on Facebook, click here.

Did you love Highlights Magazine as a kid? You’ll want to read this.

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And Then Jennifer Found an “Ellison” in Hershey, Pennsylvania!

February 16th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Almost as exciting as finding an Ellison (a fancy Sears house I’ve never seen before) is that this “Ellison” is in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and (this just gets better and better), the Sears “Ellison” that Jennifer found is at 266 Maple Avenue, less than a half mile from Chocolate Avenue.

Yes, you heard that right: Less than a half mile from Chocolate Avenue.

But I digress.

Jennifer Hoover-Vogel posted this Ellison in our Facebook group and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I stayed up way past my bedtime looking at this house and confirming it was indeed an Ellison.

And I’m confident that it is the real deal.

Multitudinous thanks to Jennifer Hoover-Vogel for finding this house and getting some lovely photos!

To learn more about chocolate, click here.

Join us on Facebook by clicking here.

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The Sears Ellison was offered throughout the 1930s.

The Sears Ellison was offered throughout the 1930s.

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The exterior measured 55'10" by 36'8". The first floor bedroom is 17'6" wide, which is large by Sears standards. And the living room is 15 by 21, which is quite spacious.

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The second floor

The second floor has an interesting layout with two bedrooms and an L-shaped hallway. I love that the bathroom is within that first dormer. Seems like a practical arrangement.

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This demonstrates passion for old houses! Jennifer went out in the snow on Sunday to get good photos of this lovely old Sears kit home!

This demonstrates true commitment! Jennifer went out in the snow on Sunday to get good photos of this lovely old Sears kit home! Fabulous find, and a fabulous picture. Photo is copyright 2016 Jennifer Hoover-Vogel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Check out the detail on that front window.

Check out the detail on that front window. Are these original windows? Hard to know. Photo is copyright 2016 Jennifer Hoover-Vogel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And from Google, we can see down the side.

And thanks to Google, we can see down the side.

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The floorplan

The detailed floorplan (from the assessor's website) shows it's a good match, too.

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Be still my quivering (and shivering) heart. We're always left wondering how many of these "hard-to-find" models were ever built. Thanks again to Jennifer for finding this one! Photo is copyright 2016 Jennifer Hoover-Vogel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks to Jennifer Hoover-Vogel for finding this house and getting some lovely photos!

To learn more about chocolate, click here.

Join us on Facebook by clicking here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part III

February 13th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Updated! We have some beautiful photos now!!

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Click here to see the new pictures!

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Thanks to a remarkable and rare document that came into my life, Rachel Shoemaker and I have been able to find several customized Sears Homes. One of these is in Glen Ellyn (a Chicago suburb) and it’s a real beauty.

Absent this document (which wholly authenticates this as a Sears House), I’d never have known that this was a “Sears kit home.”

As with the other customized Sears Home we found, this house in Glen Ellyn was also owned by a high-ranking Sears employee, who started at Sears in the 1910s and remained with the company for many years.

According to city records, it was built in 1930 (which is probably about right) and has almost 4,500 square feet. Apparently, it hasn’t been offered for sale in many years, for there is no record of recent sales.

The photos below aren’t very good quality, and if anyone in the Chicago area would like to snap some better images, I’d be grateful!

To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Yes, this is a Sears kit house.

This beautiful Colonial Revival is a Sears kit house, ordered by a long-time Sears employee. The bay window has a copper roof and the primary roof appears to be slate (although it is hard to be sure). Thanks to the county assessor for providing such a lovely photo!

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Located in Glen Ellyn.

It's hard to tell from these low-resolution images, but I suspect that those are copper gutters and it appears to be a solid-brick home. This was (and is) a very well-built home, and spacious, with almost 4,500 square feet.

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Front door is intriguing Jefferson

Shown here is a Sears Jefferson in Carbondale, Illinois. Take a look at that entrance. It is a match to the house in Glen Ellyn - right down to the details. The Jefferson in Carbondale was built in the late 1920s.

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Match front door

Here's a close-up of that front door on the Jefferson.

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Preston

The customized Sears House in Glen Ellyn is also a little reminiscent of the Sears Preston.

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Inside

The Preston was pretty fancy inside.

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Houses 1921

It's likely that the interior of the Glen Ellyn house has a few of these extra touches, too.

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Do they know

I'd love to get some bettter images of this house in Glen Ellyn, but for now, these will have to do! And it sure would be fun to know if the home's current owners know that they have a "Sears kit house"!

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To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Tudoring

February 11th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Recently, this meme made the rounds on Facebook, and it’s fast become one of my all-time favorites.

Now

Even better than the meme were the comments. One wit quipped, "Maybe they're offering free lessons in wattle and daub?" All of which served to remind me, there's another Sears Home I've always wanted to see in the world.

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The Sears Sherwood (1930).

The Sears Sherwood (1930).

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Ive been looking for this one a long time, too but without success.

I've been looking for this one a long time, but without success. It should be easy to identify with its arched door and matching arched garden entry. Plus those stepped windows on the right front gable (staircase and bathroom) are very unique. This house was offered only in 1929 and 1930, so there should be a couple of these around.

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The floorplan is shockingly small, but it does have a half bath on the first floor.

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The second floor has two modest bedrooms and one really small bedroom.

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And here's the tudoring lesson for the day: "The Sherwood is an Americanized English type..."

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Do you have a Sherwood in your neighborhood?

Forensic artists create "enhanced images" of people after the passage of 10 or 20 years. I wish someone could do an "enhanced image" of a Sherwood slathered in aluminum siding and vinyl windows. That might help a bit.

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

Click here to join our merry band on Facebook.

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Sears Modern Home, “The Winston”

January 31st, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

It’s been 17 years since I wrote my first article on Sears kit homes, and I’ve learned a lot in those years. Yet even now, there are still lots of surprises. That’s the nature of history, and probably the #1 reason I love history so much - it’s always shifting and changing - and there’s always something new to learn.

When Bob Gentzel posted pictures of his “Sears Winston” in our Facebook group, I was skeptical. I took a moment to study the house, but then I scrolled on to the next shiny bauble on Facebook, hoping that someone else might gently explain to him that it wasn’t really a Sears House. I was running out of nice things to say to people who were similarly confused.

A couple days after he posted his photos, I was looking up something in a plan book house and I stumbled across a Standard Homes Plan called, “The Winston.” Better yet, it was a spot-on match to Bob’s house in Pennsylvania. I went back to Bob’s photos on Facebook and posted the images I’d found from Standard Homes and explained to him that it was a plan-book house and people often confused plan-book houses with kit homes.

Bob was grateful to see his house in a plan-book catalog, but he remained insistent that it was a Sears House.

I asked how he knew it was a Sears House. His reply piqued my interest: “The name ‘Sears & Roebuck’ appears on the home’s original blueprints.” Frankly, I was still a little doubtful. I asked for photos, and Bob supplied them.

That’s when I became a believer. Bob Gentzel’s custom Sears House in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a real doozy. And it’s a real Sears House!

Thanks so much to Bob Gentzel for sharing this fascinating story and providing me with the photos below.

To read about another custom Sears House, click here.

Learn more about plan-book houses here.

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Its a Sears House, they always tell me, and I have to be the one to tell them, Sorry, Charlie. Its not even close. But in this case, I was wrong - this really IS a Sears House, built with plans from Standard Home Plans.

"It's a Sears House," is a refrain that's quite popular, but sometimes wrong, and often I have to be the one to tell them, "Sorry, Charlie. It's not even close." But in this case, I was wrong - this really IS a Sears House, built with plans from Standard Home Plans. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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When I found this image in the Standard Homes Planbook (1920s), I thought, Poor guy. Hes got a plan book house and he thinks its a kit home.

When I found this image in the Standard Homes Planbook (1920s), my first thought was, "Poor guy. He's got a plan-book house from Standard Homes and someone told him it's a kit home." Well, Bob's house is two amazing homes in one! It's a plan-book house - with blueprints and building materials from Sears & Roebuck, Chicago, Illinois.

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There's no arguing with this little tidbit, on the corner of the blueprints for Bob's house. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The describe the house as "Special Winston." Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And its special in other ways, too. The Winston (as shown in the SHP floor plan) is 26 feet wide. Bobs Special Winston is 34 feet wide, adding a lot of extra square footage to the house.

And it's special in other ways, too. The Winston (as shown in the SHP floor plan) is 26 feet wide. Bob's "Special Winston" is 34 feet wide, adding a lot of extra square footage to the house.

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Upstairs, there's a darling little alcove in that front gable.

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Bobs Special Winston has Sears La Tosca hardware.

Bob's "Special Winston" has Sears "La Tosca" hardware (1930 catalog image).

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Which

"La Tosca" was very popular in Sears Homes (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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Bob found this

Glued to the back side of the blue prints, Bob found this unique tape. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And Bob has the o

And Bob has all manner of original documentation for the house, such as this wonderful letter. My favorite line is, "If you have any irregularity of any kind, write to us and we shall take prompt action." In other words, if you find anything missing or in error, we'll make it right. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And

This list delineates the special changes made to the Special Winston. And there were quite a few. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And its even signed!

And it's even signed! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And theres this...

And there's this. All these documents were passed along to Mr. and Mrs. Gentzel when they purchased the house in 1985. The Gentzels purchased the house from the daughter and son-in-law of the original owners. God bless the home's prior owners for hanging on to all this documentation and ephemera! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Its a mighty fancy kit house!

It's a mighty fancy "kit house"! You don't often find exposed beams in a 1930 house. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The fireplace mantel is fairly unusual, too.

The fireplace mantel is fairly unusual, too. I wonder if that's rock that's been locally quarried. I'm in awe that the house retains its original varnished woodwork. It's stunning. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The entry foyer made me swoon.

The entry foyer made me swoon. Every piece and part of that staircase is breathtakingly beautiful unpainted wood. I'd be interested to know what that little door is for. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And who doesnt love a breakfast nook?

And who doesn't love a breakfast nook? Unfortunately, these darling little nooks are often removed by an aggressive remodeler. Nice to see the original nook in this old house! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Upstairs

Here's a view of the nook upstairs, in that front gable. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The house is a spacious beauty from top to bottom. Heres a view of the master bedroom, looking in to what is now a master bathroom.

The house is a spacious beauty from top to bottom. Here's a view of the master bedroom, looking in to what is now a master bathroom. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of the master bedroom, looking toward the hallway.

Another view of the master bedroom, looking toward the hallway. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Returning to the first floor, theres this little mystery.

Returning to the first floor, there's this little mystery. That's a door leading into the closet, and that's a small inward-swinging casement window inside the closet, but is that a SINK in the corner of the closet? Sure looks like it to me. But why a sink in the corner of a coat closet? Is it a graphic for a hat shelf? If so, it's a mighty odd one.

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Bob very graciously supplied a picture of the house from that angle, just to assuage my curiousity.

Bob very graciously supplied a picture of the house from that angle, just to assuage my curiosity. He also explained that his house had been modified, so that little closet wasn't present in his Special Winston. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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I found Bobs house in this reproduction of a 1920s Standard Home Plans catalog. I bought it a few years ago on Amazon. And I love that design on the front cover.

I found Bob's house in this reproduction of a 1920s Standard Home Plans catalog. I bought it a few years ago on Amazon. And I love that design on the front cover.

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And look whats next door to Bobs Special Winston.

Ruh Roe. Just look what's next door to Bob's "Special Winston."

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To read about another custom Sears House, click here.

Learn more about plan-book houses here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part II

January 27th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Thanks to the kindness of a Chicago-based FOSH (”Friend of Sears Homes”), we now have some stunning pictures of that house in River Forest, Illinois.

As mentioned in a prior blog, we have documentation establishing this residence as a “Sears kit home” built by long-time Sears employee Arthur Hoch. It was Arthur that turned to Sears’ “Architectural Service” for this beautiful spacious home.

Sometime in the 1910s, Arthur took a job with Sears & Roebuck in Chicago and quickly rose through the ranks. In the early 1930s, Arthur was living in River Forest, and sometime in the mid-1930s, he ordered this house from Sears. In 1954, Arthur Hoch retired from Sears, after more than 30 years of employment.

Arthur was a faithful employee and it appears that his faithfulness served him well. It’s no surprise that when this upper-level manager needed a home, he turned to his favorite retailer, Sears and Roebuck.

To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of architectural services to their customers (and employees).

In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of "architectural services" to their customers (and employees).

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When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses, such as this one, The Kismet in Elmhurst, Illinois.

When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses. Shown above is "The Kismet" in Elmhurst, Illinois. A small addition on the back adds some breathing room to the 520-square-foot cottage.

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Sears

This house shatters the notion of "those boxy little kit homes"! It's quite grand and in every way. In 2013, the historical society commissioned a full survey of the homes in River Forest and in the description that accompanied this house, there was no mention of its unique origins. It seems likely that they didn't know that this house was ordered by Arthur from Sears. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet

According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet but this appears to be an addition on the rear. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you look closely, you can see the differences in the brick.

If you look closely, you can see the differences in the old and new brick. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home.

Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home, probably close to 4,000 square feet. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a HOUSE!

What a HOUSE! Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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J. M. Cunningham and The Sears Hillrose

January 5th, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last August, my husband I visited a beautiful Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. We were traipsing about the great Commonwealth, doing our own self-guided “Tour of the Confederacy”, and we traveled from our home in Norfolk to Richmond (where we toured the White House of the Confederacy) to Appomattox (site of Lee’s surrender) and then Lexington (Lee Chapel and VMI Museum) and then on to Brandy Station (Graffiti House) and last but not least…

The home of Confederate hero Captain J. M. Cunningham and it’s a Sears Hillrose!

Truthfully, I didn’t know about the home’s ties to Civil War history until after we arrived there, and talked with the homes’ owners, Brian and Melody. They shared a 75-year-old newspaper article containing the obituary for Captain J. M. Cunningham, and proudly explained that he’d lived in their Hillrose for many years.

Brian’s parents purchased it from the Martin family, who’d purchased it from the estate of Captain Cunningham.

In the early 1900s, John Miller Cunningham was known around Culpepper County as “the grand old man.” He was born in 1843 in Powhatan County, and graduated from Virginia Military Academy in 1861. The 18-year-old soldier was brought to Richmond by Commandant Thomas Jackson (later known as “Stonewall”), to help train the newly formed army. The 1,500-word obituary for Captain Cunningham tells of many heroic deeds on the battlefield, but the most remarkable story is this one, attributed to Federal General Winfield Hancock:

The greatest obstacle to our advance [at the "Bloody Angle" at the Battle of the Wilderness] was a young artillery officer, standing in the breach, rallying his men so courageously that [I] did not have the heart to order my sharpshooters to pick him off. This young officer was Cunningham.

The 22-year-old Captain mustered out of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House.

After the war, Captain Cunningham returned home and sometime between 1925-1930, he purchased the Hillrose in Brandy Station, where he kept Shetland Ponies on the farm. By all accounts, the diminutive horses were treated more like pampered pets than livestock. In a Richmond Times-Dispatch article dated November 18, 1934, Cunningham said his little ponies were “just a vest-pocket edition of a horse.”

When he died in July 1939, he was 96, and the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army.

That’s the story behind the Hillrose in Brandy Station.

Today, Brian and Melody appreciate and understand their unique role as owners and caretakers of this wonderful old kit home. As you’ll see from these photos, the house is lovingly cared for, and the 100-year-old oak and pine trim inside the house retains its original finish, and there are even a handful of original light fixtures scattered throughout. In the kitchen, the hard-rock maple floor is flawless, and down in the basement, Brian has salvaged and preserved other original fixtures from the house, with the hopes of restoring them.

Thanks so much to Brian and Melody for allowing me and Wayne to spend a couple hours oohing and ahhing over their grand old home. It was a memorable afternoon and the highlight of our fun trip.

To read more about the Hillrose, click here.

Want to learn more about how to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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1916 Hillrose

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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1918

The Hillrose was one of the largest kit homes offered by Sears, with more than 2,200 SFLA.

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Floorplan 1916

It featured five bedrooms, which could be six (if you counted the parlor).

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Brandy Statino

The Hillrose in Brandy Station was the very first Hillrose I'd ever seen.

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Front

One of its many unique features is this: The front door is not centered. The window arrangement is also unique. Very few foursquares have three windows on the 2nd floor and single windows on the first.

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Dormer

The dormer is another eye-catching feature. That's a mighty small window for such a big dormer.

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FFF

The Hillrose, as designed, has a small closet window on this side (first floor). The Hillrose in Brandy Station was modified to have a full door here. Another interesting feature are the two dormers. These are the only dormers (front and left side) on this house.

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Come inside

The front door is original. How delightful is that! And the beveled glass is original too!

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Photo is

And here's a photo of Captain John Miller Cunningham, the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army. He died in 1939 at the age of 96. Photo is courtesy Clark B. Hall.

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house bought

Brian, the home's owner, found a shipping label on the back of some millwork. The home's purchaser and builder was Dr. George M. Sparks. According to the 1920 Census. Dr. Sparks was a 50-year-old man with a 30-year-old wife (Daisy) and three children, 12, 10 and 2. Busy fellow, that Dr. Sparks. Seems that George married Daisy in 1905. In other words, in 1905, the 35-year-old doctor married a 15-year-old girl. Yowza. He died in 1925, and by 1930, Daisy was renting a home (with her three children) in Washington, D.C.

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original trim

As mentioned, much of the trim in this century-old house retains its original finish.

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Hingest

And what would a Sears House be without those classic Sears hinges?

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Hillrose

The French Doors that separate the living room from the parlor also retain their original finish.

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buffet

A built-in buffet, as per the home's original plans.

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Vintage

And even a vintage electrical switch.

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Sink 1920

One way to "date" an old house is to look under plumbing fixtures. This old pedestal sink (now relegated to the Hillrose's basement) has a casting date of January 1920, telling us that the house was built after January 1920.

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Score

God bless these wonderful homeowners. They've saved every piece and part that they've removed from the house, with the high goal of restoring these old fixtures and re-installing them.

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picture

Hopefully these sconces will one day grace the dining room walls again.

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Hillrose stair

The Hillrose staircase is in an unusual spot: Behind a door. It's also quite steep for a house of this size and vintage.

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stars

Close-up of the floorplan shows that staircase. And note the placement of that closet behind the stairs.

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window

A little piece of that 2nd floor closet window remains on this Hillrose.

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kitchen

In a Sears kit home, the floors in the kitchen and bath are typically hard maple. The original intention was that linoleum or some other traditional moisture-resistant floor covering be used. I've been in countless Sears kit homes where the homeowner removed layers of old flooring to expose the original maple. Beautiful, aren't they?

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Rrrrr

And this is what that large bay window looks like inside.

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house windo

I love this intricate detail on the wood trim.

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another angle

Another view of that spacious bay window.

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fffeeeff

Didn't I promise you that it was a grand and glorious home?

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To read more about the Hillrose, click here.

Want to learn more about how to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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