Posts Tagged ‘honor built sears homes’

Coming Out Of The Closet: Murphy Beds

November 12th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In the early years of the 20th Century, living a simple, modest, clutter-free life was an integral part of The Bungalow Craze.

Murphy Beds were an integral part of that “space-saving” mind-set. And they were very practical, too. After one’s morning prayers and ablutions, how often did one return to their sleeping quarters?

When the sun popped up in the morning, it was time to make the bed, fluff the pillows and tuck your bed back into the wall.

During tough economic times, there was an expectation that homeowners would take in needy family members. When times got really tough, homeowners took on borders, too.  (Bear in mind, this was before government became our All-in-all.)

The Murphy Bed made our little bungalows a little bit bigger, and a little more accommodating.

In the 1920s and 30s, the sale of Murphy Beds skyrocketed. In the 1950s and 60s, sales dropped, as Americans moved into bigger and bigger houses. In the 1990s and beyond, sales again are way up, due to a poor economy, high unemployment and rising housing costs.

Some of the early 20th Century kit homes offered by Sears and Aladdin featured Murphy Beds.

“The Cinderella” (so named because the house was so small it required less work), was a cute and cozy kit home offered by Sears in the early 1920s. This little bungalow made good use of its small spaces by incorporating a Murphy Bed. Take a look at the pictures below to see how they did things 100 years ago.

To learn more about built-ins in the 1920s kit home, click here.

To learn about breakfast nooks, click here.

Read about The Sorlien Ceiling Bed here!

If you enjoy the blog, please oh please, share the link on Facebook!  :)

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficient bungalow that saved the housewife

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficiently designed bungalow that saved the housewife much time and effort.



Interior views of The Cinderella (1921).



Less furniture to buy - less trouble and work. Good points, actually.



In the Cinderella, the beds were tucked into a closet during the day.



This is my favorite shot. This room was about five feet wide and ten feet deep, but it looks pretty darn spacious. And look at that sink at the end of the wall. Just a lone sink.



The Cinderella assumed that both Living and Dining Rooms would be used as sleeping spaces.


right order here

It's so easy, even a child can do it! Sort of.



Floorplan shows how tiny that "bed space" really is. It was 10'11" long and - if the drawing is anything near scale, it appears about five feet wide. In modern times, the folks looking at this house probably thought, "How odd! A big walk-in closet next to the living room, and it even has a sink in the corner!"


house house

"Dressing room and bed space." Pretty tiny space!!!


Calumet also

"Twenty rooms in 12." Eight of those 20 rooms were closets with a bed.


four rooms

Here are two of those eight "bedrooms." At least they have a window.



Close-up on the Murphy Bed in the Calumet.



And here's a real, live Calumet in Bloomington, IL.


Aladdin Sonoma (1919)

Like Sears, Aladdin (Bay City, MI) also sold kit homes through mail order. They had a line of wee tiny Aladdin homes known as "Aladdinettes." Here's a picture of the Sonoma (1919), one of their Aladdinnette houses.



The Aladdinnette's "bed space" was really tiny. Only 6'9" by 5'. You have to step out of the room to change your mind!!



Close-up of the Aladdinnette's "closet bed."


And despite those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

Despite what you've seen on those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

To read the next awesome blog, click here.

Interested in other early 20th Century space savers? Click here.

Youtube demonstration of a real Murphy Bed (1916).

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“One of These Things is Not Like The Other…”

August 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

My friend Rachel reminded me of this fun little ditty from Sesame Street, and suggested that perhaps a few of the 7.5 million people who *think* they have a Sears kit home should watch this video to learn a little more about the skills of observation.

You might want to click this link (Sesame Street video) while you scroll down to see the photos, because the music is so darn toe-tapping happy.

Take a look at this photo.


You may notice that one of these things is not like the others.


Now let’s try it with houses.



One of these houses is not like the others.


Did you figure out which one is not “like the others”?

Actually, I’m just funnin’ with you. It’s not hard to figure this one out.

The three wooden-frame houses with the big two-story columns and the hipped roof and the gabled dormer and the oversized front porch deck and the six windows across the second-floor front and the big picture windows on the first floor front and the two exterior doors stacked over each other are the Sears Magnolia.

The brick house with the one-story columns and the gabled roof (no dormer) and the small front porch deck and the three windows across the second floor front and the four double-hung windows on the first floor front and the one exterior front door is a nice house (but not a Sears House) in Hopewell, Virginia.

When I first visited Hopewell in 2003, I was told that this was a “Modified Magnolia.” More recently, I was told that someone had “identified” this house as a Sears Lexington.

The kind owners gave me a thorough tour of the home’s interior. Having inspected this house from top to bottom (literally), I’m wholly confident that this is not a Sears House of any kind.

In Crescent Hills (a subdivision of Hopewell), you’ll find eight Sears Homes. Eight. Total.

And please note, this house (the brick house above) is not one of them.

I was crestfallen to hear that Old House Journal recently did a feature story on the Sears Homes in Hopewell. I haven’t had the heart to read it. I can only hope and pray that they focused on those eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, and not the make-believe Magnolia shown above.

To see more examples of the Sears Homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read more about the misidentified homes in Hopewell, click here (Part One), here (Part Two) and here (Part Three). (There are a lot of them!)

To read about the Aladdin Kit Homes in Hopewell, click here.

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The Magnificent Milton - And There’s One In New York City!

May 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

In Spring 2010, my friend Rebecca sent me a note, asking if I knew about the Sears Milton in Stanley, Virginia. Four months later (August 2010), Hubby and I were standing in the front yard of the Sears Milton.

At the time, the 1,932-square foot house was being used as a Bed and Breakfast. The Milton House Inn website has now been taken down, so apparently, it’s a private residence again.

The house is located on the main drag, and it is an imposing structure in this beautiful (and tiny) town, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Stanley is about seven miles south of Luray, Virginia and about five hours west of Norfolk.)

The Milton did not appear in the 1912 catalog (or prior years), but I found it in the 1916 catalog. It last appeared in 1919, so its reign was brief. If you’d purchased a Milton in 1916, the price was $1,619 and by 1919, the price had jumped to $2,491, a shocking 54% increase. And, it was not offered as a pre-cut house.

When I was putting together this blog, I was surprised to find (according to an old testimonial) a Milton had also been built in New York City. This is a massive and impressive house, not far behind the Sears Magnolia in terms of grandeur. Its many unique features would certainly make it hard to miss.

Is the Sears Milton still standing in New York City? Boy, I sure would love to know.

What about the Miltons that were built in Fayette, Ohio and Somerville, NJ?  Are they still standing?

In 2008, someone sent me a newspaper article that claimed that the Sears Milton had been built (and torn down) in Carlinville, Illinois. I shared the photo with Rebecca Hunter, and she and I concur: The house in Carlinville (on Route 4) did not appear to have been a Sears Milton.

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

To read about the Sears Homes in Carlinville’s Standard Addition, click here.

The Sears Milton is a distinctive and unusually large house. Identifying this gem is easier than shooting slow-moving fishies in a wee-tiny barrel.

The Sears Milton is a distinctive and unusually large house. Identifying this gem is easier than shooting slow-moving fishies in a wee-tiny barrel. (1916 catalog)


Spacious and awesome

That bay window (dining room) is quite large and is one of many identifying characteristics of the Sears Milton. The small windows on the side (flanking the fireplace) are another unique feature, asis the second floor porch with its unusual window placement.


And as of 1916, several had been built, including one in New York City!

And as of 1916, several had been built, including one in New York City! Pics please?? :)


Close-up of the house (1916).

Close-up of the house (1916). As mentioned, this house has many unique features, such as the dentil molding, massive eave brackets, tiny attic window set in those deep gables, pergolas, and that massive two-story bay window. That second-story porch (with small windows on either side of the balcony door is also pretty distinctive.


Here in the flesh

Landscaping prevented a shot that's more akin to the catalog image (as seen above), but there's no doubt about it: This is a Sears Milton. Note the dentil molding atop the columns.


Straight on

My oh my, that's a fine-looking house! Note the two-story bays on the right!


Another view

Another view of this wonderful old house.


From the side

From this angle, you can see those two small windows flanking the chimney.


Remnants of the rafter tails.

Underneath the flat porch roof are remnants of the old pergola. Note the unique cuts on the rafter tails.


stanley wow

A view of the Magnificent Milton's front porch.


Details around the second-story porch.

Details around the second-story porch.



Comparison of the catalog image and the house in Stanley, Virginia.


To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Interested in seeing more photos of Sears Homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Click here.

The Miltons in New York, New Jersey and Ohio were built between 1913 -1916. Please leave a comment if you have any clue where these homes might be!

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The Beaumont: Extra Convenience

May 29th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

When Rebecca and I were reviewing and comparing our Life Lists, Rebecca identified the Sears Beaumont as one of the Sears Homes that she’d never seen.

“I’ve only seen one,” I told her, “and it was in Carlinville, Illinois.”

Rebecca laughed out loud and said, “I might have driven right past it and not noticed it!”

Me, too.

In 2004, I gave a talk in Carlinville on Sears Homes.

The event was organized by Beth Kaburick, Head Librarian at the Carlinville Public Library.  I was so impressed with her professionalism and her passion for Carlinville’s history. I had first met Beth in 1999, when I spent countless hours at her library, researching Sears Homes, first for an article, and then later for my books.

Beth went out of her way to help me with my research. In 2004, when I gave the talk in Carlinville, it was well publicized and well attended, thanks wholly to Beth. (Sadly, Beth died in June 2007 in a tragic car accident.)

It was after that talk that someone told me about a Sears Home outside of Standard Addition (where 150 Sears Homes are located). The gentleman gave me the street name but wasn’t sure of the specific address.

Immediately after the talk, I drove up and down that street - in the dark - trying to figure out which Sears House I’d missed! As the author of several books on kit homes, I’d driven on that street too many times to count, and had never seen any Sears Homes.

And there in the dark, I saw an interesting Colonial Revival/Bungalowish-type house with a familiar-looking attic window. I grabbed my dog-eared copy of Houses by Mail and hastily thumbed through it and found my match:  The house I’d found in the dark - thanks to a kind stranger at a lecture - was a Sears Beaumont.

That was eight years ago, and it was (and remains) the only Beaumont I’ve ever seen.

To see vintage pictures of Carlinville and Schoper, click here.

To read about the woman who supervised the construction of Standard Addition, click here.



In the 1919 catalog, the heading proclaimed that the Beaumont had "Extra convenience." Unfortunately, the text in the body offers no clue as to what they're talking about.



In 1921, the price on the Beaumont increased $500 or about 26%. Pretty steep increase for two year's time. And apparently what it gained in price it lost in "convenience." Now the heading had changed from the dramatic ("Extra convenience") to the pedestrian ("Six rooms and bath").


floorplan 1921

The Beaumont's floorplan (1921 catalog).


2004 or so

The Beaumont, as it looked in 2004.



In February 2010, I traveled to Carlinville to do more research for my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." That's when this photograph was taken. Notice, a plague of vinyl siding salesmen had descended upon the house since the last photo in 2004.


house also

Another view of the Beaumont.


The attic window that caught my eye

That night, when I first saw the Beaumont, it was the attic window that caught my eye.


Attic window again

Nice match to the catalog picture!


To learn more about the 150 Sears Homes in Carlinville, click here or here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

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