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Posts Tagged ‘honor built’

The Final Touches of a Career…

February 3rd, 2019 Sears Homes 9 comments

When I started the “Sears Kit Homes” group on Facebook in 2009 (thanks to Rachel for remembering!), I dragged 12 friends into the group just so it wouldn’t look so pitiful. As the years passed, the group grew in numbers and I was gobsmacked when we passed the “1,000 members” mark.

In Fall 2018, when Sears started circling the drain, interest in the old kit homes was renewed, and I was doing 3-4 interviews per week (with the media) and that’s when membership in the Facebook group exploded.

As of today, it has 3,234 members and is still growing by leaps and bounds.

Yesterday, I mentioned (within the group) that I didn’t have many books left, and when these went, that was the end of it. Within hours, I sold more than 50 books (several different titles) and stayed up last night until 2:30 getting them packaged and ready for Monday’s mail.

As I said in a prior blog, I’ll always love the old kit homes, and I’ll still spin my head around when a pretty one passes me by, but the days of staying up until the wee hours inscribing, signing and packaging books are behind me.

Soon, I’ll be packing up my house and moving to the Midwest. Perhaps once I’m settled, I’ll revisit the question but for now, I’m done.

There are still 18 books left in my basement. It’d be swell to sell those last few before I head out! (Hint, hint!)

To buy the book, click here.

Join us on Facebook!

And if this book has brought you a blessing, please leave a comment below.

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In 2011, I snapped this photo in Edwardsville, IL and it still takes my breath away. I was there to do an architectural survey, and I stumbled upon this view and it reminded me of why I love the Midwest. I'm seriously considering moving to Edwardsville when I get to the Midwest.

In 2011, I snapped this photo in Edwardsville, IL and it still takes my breath away. I was there to do an architectural survey, and I stumbled upon this view and it reminded me of why I love the Midwest. Edwardsville has become a beautiful community, filled with shops and history and bucolic beauty. It may be where I land.

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The group now has more than 3,000 members and is still growing.

The group now has more than 3,000 members and is still growing.

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Saturday night, I stayed up until 2:30 am, signing, inscribing and packaging books. I'm still not sure how I'll get these to the post office.

Saturday night, I stayed up until 2:30 am, signing, inscribing and packaging books. I'm still not sure how I'll get these to the post office.

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First printed in 2002, this book has taken me to many wonderful places. It's been a fun run, but for now - for the first time in 17 years - it will be out of print. It would take another book to explain the many blessings of this book but in short, it was published just as my mother died and my marriage of 24 years came to an end. This book (and the grace of God) not only saved me, but it transformed my life and gave me a purpose. Best of all, it introduced me to hundreds of wonderful people, some of whom became lifelong friends.

First printed in 2002, this book has taken me to many wonderful places. It's been a fun run, but for now - for the first time in 17 years - it will be out of print. It would take another book to explain the many blessings of this book but in short, it was published just as my mother died and my marriage of 24 years came to an end. This book (and the grace of God) not only saved me, but transformed my life and gave me a purpose. Best of all, it introduced me to hundreds of wonderful people, some of whom became lifelong friends.

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

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The End of an Era…

January 24th, 2019 Sears Homes 11 comments

Sears appears to be going out of business, and in a few months, my little book business will follow suit.

In 1999, I started working on a book about Sears kit homes. In early 2002, it was self-published, and I used 50% of my net worth to produce 1,000 copies. In 2004, I did a comprehensive revision.

That fun little niche book changed my life in so many ways, and all of them good. Suddenly, I was “The Author” and was treated with much respect and admiration by many lovely people.

By 2004, I’d appeared on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, and my little book even made it to Jeopardy in the Summer of 2004. In print, the story of my unusual career had been featured in countless newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, and the Dallas Morning News (and about 100 others).

Before my lectures, I’d often get invited to join a group of history lovers at a local restaurant, and even though I never could eat a bite before my talk, I enjoyed getting to know folks. At one such dinner, a woman said to me, “We’re in the midst of a celebrity!” Excitedly, I glanced around the table and whispered, “Really? Where are they?”

She laughed and said, “No, I’m talking about YOU!”

In California, a faithful reader took me aside and said, “I’m so excited to meet you. In my world, you’re a rock star!”

At a hotel in Iowa, the clerk that was checking me in extended her hand across the tall granite counter that separated us and said, “Mrs. Thornton, I’d like to shake your hand. I read about you in yesterday’s paper, and I’ve always wanted to shake the hand of a real author.” (I remember thinking, “I hope you meet a real author one day!”)

There are no words to say how much those kind words touched my heart and lifted my spirits. And now it’s time to take a step of progress to The Next Super-Dooper Thing™.

In the last 20 years, I’ve written nine books, hundreds of newspaper articles and thousands of product blurbs. (Writing product blurbs on architectural products was the most difficult writing job I ever had, but it paid the bills.)

In the last 20 years, everything has changed, and now it’s time for a new chapter. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I know it’s time for a seismic shift. I’ll still write blogs on old houses, and I’ll still turn my head when I drive past a pretty Sears House, and I’ll still sign a few books for interested enthusiasts, but the halcyon days of Sears, and Sears kit homes are in my rear-view mirror.

In a few short weeks, I will hit the road in my little red Prius C. If you’d like to meet me, and you’re somewhere between Suffolk, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri, please leave a comment below.

You can hear Rose on a one-hour podcast (99% Invisible) here.

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Last week, I donated three boxes of Sears House ephemera and materials to the ODU Library (Norfolk, Virginia). This is the view from my windshield, as the archivist wheeled the cart from my car and into the library.

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In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.

In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.

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When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.

When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.

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There they go!

More than 3,000 35mm slides and a whole lot of history - going into ODU.

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Please leave a comment below!

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Last Chance to Buy Before Christmas - and Maybe Ever!

December 8th, 2018 Sears Homes 13 comments

“The Houses That Sears Built” was first published in April 2002, and since then, I’ve traveled to more than 25 states, for research, surveys and lectures. It’s been a fun run.

As of today, December 8, 2018, I’ve got 52 copies of this book on hand. After they’re sold, that’s it. There won’t be more reprints.

On the heels of a health-related issue, I had the opportunity to step back and take a long look at my life, and and it’s time for new adventures.

If you’d like to purchase a book, they can be purchased here or at Amazon.

An interesting aside: After the first of the year, I’m going to take a road trip. If you have a splendiferous kit home that you’d like to share, invite me over! ;)

Want to learn more about Sears Homes? Click here.

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Richard Warren Sears would not be pleased.


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Dolly and I get exasperated sometimes...

Sometimes, it feels like Dolly and I are soul mates.

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Picture

Not a lot of books left in my capacious garage!

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Another Picture

Seabiscuit and I are ready to hit the road.

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Want to learn more about Sears Homes? Click here.

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Boardwalk Empire and Sears Kit Homes

March 13th, 2018 Sears Homes 7 comments

The last few weeks, I’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire (HBO), set in 1920s Atlantic City. It’s centered around the real life story of prohibition-era gangster Enoch Johnson, who’s known as Enoch (”Nucky”) Thompson on the show.

From the start, one of my favorite characters has been Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon). Beginning with the second season, there’s a running story line about Van Alden (and his wife Sigrid) purchasing a kit home in 1923.

Of course, that piqued my interest!

Nonetheless, as is often the case with period dramas, there’s so much wrong with the facts behind this particular story line. I tried hard to ignore the many errors but ultimately decided to write a blog instead. :)

The story line suggests it’s a house from Bennett Homes, but the dialogue between Nelson and Sigrid makes it clear that this house came from Sears & Roebuck. It seems that the writers used those company names interchangeably.

Check out the pictures below (and their captions) to get the real story.

Thanks to Rachel for help identifying a few of these images!

Read about a large number of Sears kit homes in Atlantic City.

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

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Boardwalk

Nelson Van Alden (played by the inimitable Michael Shannon) is shown at his desk studying the pages of a 1922 Bennett Homes Catalog. When I first glimpsed this, I let out a little "oh my goodness" happy noise.

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Nelson

It's actually a Hollywood mock-up and not a real catalog. The front cover was probably pulled from an online source, and the rear cover is (apparently) from a reprint of the Bennett catalog. The storyline says that Nelson and Sigrid are living in Cicero, and yet they're buying a house from Bennett Homes from Towanda, New York? Cicero is just outside of Chicago, Illinois (home of Sears and Roebuck). Further, this cover is altered. Bennett Homes were *not* prefabricated. More on the cover below. NOTE: I'm not savvy enough to figure out how to remove close captions without taking a course at a local community college.

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1922 cover

Here's the cover of the 1922 Bennett Homes catalog that Nelson is examining above. It's quite different than the image shown above. And you'll note that the word "pre-fabricated" does not appear anywhere on the cover. Neither do the children or the man (shown in the screen shot with Nelson).

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Rear cover

Shown here is the true rear cover for the catalog that Nelson is examining in the first image. You'll note that it is color - not black and white (as seen on "Boardwalk Empire").

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stripped

This is a shot of the "Sears & Roebuck House" (as it's described in the show). If you look closely at this house, you'll discover that it's a brick house that has been covered in diagonal planks, to replicate the look of a partially finished house. Notice the window frames, and the bracketing under the stoop. They're disappearing under the many layers of siding. Those are the clues that tell me - this house was dressed up with that fresh lumber to create the look they sought. The style of this house doesn't match ANY of the models offered by Sears, Gordon Van Tine, Bennett or any of the kit home companies with which I am familiar. Odds are good it's just a bungalow somewhere from the 1920s.

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Rear

This gives a better picture of the brackets on the stoop. Notice also that the windows are 2/2 (two lites - or panes - over two panes). Sears didn't offer 2/2 windows - ever. In fact, if I am trying to identify a potential kit house, I look at the windows first, and if they're 2/2, I discount it.

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next one

This shows the neighbor's brick bungalow, and notice, there's a billboard at the end of the street.

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Perfection in a box

"Perfection from a Box" is a lovely thought. So while the dialogue says that this is a Sears & Roebuck house, the imagery suggests it's a Bennett house. I suspect that the writers were using those terms (Sears - Bennett) interchangeably.

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Long view

Here's another view of those solid brick (not brick veneer) bungalows. And notice that the other houses are 6/6 windows, which would have been more typical in 1923. When Bennett (or Sears or Gordon Van Tine or the other companies) did an entire community of kit homes, they did NOT use the same model again and again. Nelson and Sigrid allegedly live in Cicero, Illinois. It would be interesting to know where these brick bungalows are located.

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copper

And there's this. I'm not sure what's happening under this kitchen sink, but I do know that copper plumbing was not in wide-spread use until the late 1940s or early 1950s. In 1923, it would have been galvanized supply lines and lead pipes for drains - typically. And those gate valves? Definitely not from the 1920s. Then again, neither is the plywood panel behind Nelson Van Alden.

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fff house

A native Norwegian, Sigrid struggles with her English. Another recurring them in this story line is that the house has many deficiencies, which is also not accurate. Sigrid asks Nelson repeatedly if he's contacted "The Sears Roebuck" to get these deficiencies addressed. In fact, customer satisfaction with these 12,000-piece kits was very high.

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Lots of dialogue on inferior

Through several episodes, Sigrid complains bitterly about problems with the house. This is a great line where Nelson explains that he has been in contact with Mr. Roebuck. In real life, Alvah Curtis Roebuck was no longer involved with the company in the 1920s, but was in Florida, making many very poor investments in land. He was bankrupted later, and in the 1930s, took a job at Sears & Roebuck cutting ribbons for the opening of new retail stores.

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images

When Bennett or Sears or the other kit home companies built entire neighborhoods, they mixed it up a bit as shown in the catalog page above (1923).

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c

Cicero is within 3 miles of Homan an Arthington Street (the home of Sears & Roebuck in the 1920s).

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secret

Nelson is one dapper fellow.

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Read about a large number of Sears kit homes in Atlantic City.

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

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To The Woman at the Veterinarian’s Office…

August 29th, 2017 Sears Homes 16 comments

Yesterday, suddenly, Teddy the Dog became ill. We dashed off the the vet, and while we waited to get “worked in,” I started getting “worked up.” Sitting beside the stainless steel table in the exam room, looking at my old dog, I started to cry. In my troubled mind, I knew this was the end for my little Sheltie.

“Old dogs really are the best, aren’t they?” I asked Teddy as I gently stroked her gray-tipped Sheltie ears. She looked at me with those big brown eyes, as if to say, “I may go first, but it is love that has bonded us together, and that bond will endure forever.” (She is a writer’s dog, after all. She’s quite pithy.)

I cried a few more tears and then sobered up.

When the doctor appeared, he asked what was going on, and I explained that she’d had diarrhea and now the soft skin on her pink tummy was sloughing off.

With much gravitas, I told him, “It’s either a skin malady, or she’s dying. I need to know which.”

And then I stifled another crying jag.

He examined her thoroughly and said, “She’s not dying. She’s got a bacterial skin infection. We can get this cleared up with proper medication. She’s going to be fine.”

I don’t remember the doctor’s name, but he was a patient soul. When he said she was going to be fine, I started to cry again.

I can’t lose Teddy. Not yet. She’s the last remnant of my once-normal life. I asked my buddy Milton if she’d aged precipitously in the last 16 months. He replied quietly, “We all have. This has changed us forever.”

Teddy was there when Wayne ended his life. She heard it, saw it, and apparently tried to “wake him up” by licking him and circling the chair repeatedly.

Teddy lost both of her “people” that day. Wayne died. I lost my mind. For a time.

Both Teddy and Mother are doing better these days, but we still are struggling. We’re in rental housing and that’s not ideal, but it was the best we could do with the mess that we were left. In the first four months, Teddy had two surgeries, both of which involved life-threatening emergencies. In that same time, I had a minor outpatient surgery - the first in my life.

Before The Bad Thing™, Teddy was the most laid-back dog you’d ever meet. Thunder storms, loud noises, fireworks did not faze her one bit. Now, she’s a different dog. Loud noises cause her much anxiety. Both Teddy and I put some effort into avoiding loud noises. And when she’s on leash, she’s showing some aggression to other dogs, big or small.

Because of this, I try to keep a tight handle on her around other dogs, but yesterday in the vet’s office, some woman with her little Yorkie thought it’d be cute to let her dog sniff my dog. I was at the counter paying the bill and didn’t see her approach. Teddy snarled and her hackles went up and she bared her teeth. She was poised and ready to strike.

As I reined in Teddy, I saw the look of disgust on the woman’s face and saw her whisper something to her husband as she walked away. I’ve seen this same face when Teddy and I are out for our evening constitutionals.

I would love to grab these people by the lapels and say, “This is not my little dog’s fault. This is not my fault. This is just a result of some really ugly trauma and we’re all doing our best.”

One of my “dog people” friends told me that in Teddy’s world - Teddy probably feels like she is protecting me. She’s fine at Doggy Day Care (which we visit a couple times a month), but the trouble starts when she’s on leash with me, out in the world.

That comment helped a lot, and gave me much peace. Dear little Teddy sees me as someone that needs protecting. Endears her to me ever more, if that’s possible.

Someone else said, “She’s just reacting to your anxiety. If you calm down, she’ll be fine.”

That was not helpful. In fact, it hurt like hell.

In the meantime, Teddy and I move through the days and we are both striving to stay healthy. And the good news is, 24 hours later, Teddy’s skin infection is already on the mend.

To read more about Teddy, click here.

To learn about the big fancy Sears House - the Magnolia - click here.

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Teddy

On a rainy Tuesday in Southeastern Virginia, Teddy watches the world go by. The tips of those precious little prick ears turned white in the days following Wayne's suicide.

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To read more about Teddy, click here.

To learn about the big fancy Sears House - the Magnolia - click here.

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Housing Rosemary, Part III

August 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 7 comments

We’re sneaking up on 11 months since I moved into my rental home, and never in a million years did I think that I’d remain in this little rental for this long. I was quite confident that I’d find my new “forever home” lickety split.

It’s been a long and winding road, searching for my “forever home” and in that time, I’ve switched back and forth from old houses (1950s) to new (1990-2010) back to old (1930s) and every place in-between.

I’ve looked at ranches, two-story homes, foursquares, Tudor Revivals, Colonial Revivals, International Style, Cape Cods, classic Mid-Century Modern houses, Log Homes, and plain old farmhouses. There have been many interesting experiences, such as the time I crawled under a house with a licensed home inspector and pointed out a couple things he missed.

When we emerged from the crawlspace, he offered me a job with his company.

Or the time I met another inspector at a house that I was going to write a contract on, and he said, “Rosemary, is that you?” And I said, “Mortimer*, is that you?” And he said, “Why, I can’t believe I’m standing here talking to you! I haven’t seen you in 30+ years!” (The benefits of returning to your home town after a few years.)

We caught up with each other and then after a few minutes of “old home week,” he took me aside and quietly said, “You really need to be cautious if you’re going to buy this house. I was under this house 18 months ago, and it needs a whole lot of work.”

And there was the time I ran into an old high school chum when I was looking at an old house and she said, “Be careful with that one. During the last Nor’easter, there was about 12″ of water in the basement.”

And then there was that “interesting” real estate agent that I met at an open house in Suffolk. She asked me what I did for a living. I responded casually that I wrote books about old houses. She replied with, “I sold the very first Sears and Roebuck kit house ever built in this country, and it was right there in Portsmouth, Virginia” and I laughed and said, “Oh my goodness, there’s so much wrong with that seemingly simple sentence that I can’t begin to explain it, but please do tell me, how old is the roof on this house?”

In my desperate bid to find myself and start a new life, I keep hoping that this housing question will soon be settled. In the meantime, I continue to read, and write, and pray, and hope that there will be a day when my first and last thought of every single day is not “why did he do this to me?”

As always, I’ve deeply grateful for every prayer, every loving word, and every kind comment.

* “Mortimer” was not his real name.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

And I could always buy a lighthouse for $15,000!

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Houses

Today, I was looking at a neighborhood in Chesapeake, Virginia that was once populated with 1950s houses and vast expanses of farmland. Today, it's awash in these less-than-aesthetically pleasing McMansions, which are priced at $350,000 and up. Not my cup of tea.

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Toilet

In my house-hunting travels, I've seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

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In my house-hunting travels, Ive seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

Whenever I see a house with a heavy-duty cage around the a/c compressor, I know I'm in the wrong neighborhood. And I think that three deadbolts on the door is another sign. This house is in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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Were running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the bigun) is Cocoa Puffs.

We're running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the big'un) is "Cocoa Puffs."

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One of the loveliest gifts I received yesterday came from Clyde Nordan (

I've looked at homes throughout Hampton Roads and points west, but every now and then, I've dreamt of grabbing my passport and fleeing the country. The image above is courtesy Clyde Nordan of Clyde Nordan Photography in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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The First Sears House? Nope.

The First Sears House? Nope. This Sears Westly is at the corner of Winchester and King Street (Westhaven section). This house was featured on WVEC-TV several years ago (about 2004). It's been sold and remodeled and sold and remodeled a few times. Most likely, it was built in the mid-to-late 1910s.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

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Post #1000 - The Sears Magnolia in New Martinsville, WV

August 3rd, 2017 Sears Homes 18 comments

Last week, I traveled to New Martinsville, West Virginia to see what was purported to be the 9th Magnolia. Prior to this, there were only eight known Magnolias in the country. The Magnolia was the crème de la crème of Sears Homes, with countless accoutrements and fine features. To read more about the other Magnolias, click here.

The eight-hour trip to New Martinsville was quite lovely and the weather was beautiful. After examining the Magnolia in New Martinsville, I traveled to Elkins to visit Wayne’s family, and then on to Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was the trip from Elkins to home that went very badly. It should have taken less than 90 minutes to get from Elkins to White Sulphur Springs (and the interstate), but it took more than three hours.

I was as lost as I’ve ever been and frankly, utterly terrified. No cell service for three hours, and not one, but two Garmins that kept sending me around in circles, and roads that were as hazardous as any I’ve ever seen.

At one point, I went around a hairpin turn a little too fast and hit a very slick mudslide. This area had three days of non-stop rain. I hit that mudslide and lost control of the car. And - like so many places in them thar hills - there were no guardrails. In that split-second, I really thought that I was a goner. And in another split second, it was over. It was harrowing.

Had it not been for a small store in Belington (the first town I encountered), I’d probably have ended up on the back of a milk carton, lost forever in those hills, foraging for berries and edible bugs.

Nonetheless, I survived.

Now about that Magnolia…

It’s a puzzler. A real mystery wrapped inside an enigma. If you have an opinion on this house, I’d love to hear it.

Today, I’m of the opinion that the house was a custom-order from Sears, but that the framing lumber was obtained locally. I searched that house top-to-bottom for marks, stamped lumber, shipping labels and yet could find nothing.

And yet, the house has Sears hardware (see pictures below). And it was built sometime after 1930.

Please take a look at the images below and share your insights!

It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for the vintage photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, that has since been demolished. To read more about this Magnolia, click here.

The original blog on this house can be found here.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share the link on Facebook.

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In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year).

In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year). He was cooked and done after one date, but his website lived on, until 2010, when JASE GROUP redid it. (No dates were involved.) This blog on the New Martinsville Magnolia really is my 1000th post.

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The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1924, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias Ive encountered were built after 1922.

The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1922, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias I've encountered were built after 1922. The house in New Martinsville was built after 1930. The Magnolia (as designed) was 36-feet deep and 40-feet wide. The house in New Martinsville is 40-feet deep and 44-feet wide.

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At first glance, it all looks swell.

At first glance, it all looks swell. And while it doesn't have those little lites atop the first floor windows, it does have replacement windows and substitute sidings, and if I had been allowed to pull out the windows and take a good look, I suspect I'd find evidence that when built, it had the small transom lites over the windows.

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Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

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And

In fact, it looks real good!

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Inside, things look pretty good, too.

Inside, things look pretty good, too. (Left to right: Catalog image 1918, Sears Magnolia in Nebraska, and the New Martinsville Magnolia.) The only thing is, that flare at the bottom of the staircase is wrong. And the hallway is a little too wide. Those pilasters in the New Martinsville house are too close to the stairs. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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But

And yet when you go upstairs, things look good there, too. (House on right is the Magnolia in Nebraska.) Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside the

Looking toward the front door, it's a beautiful home, but is it a Magnolia? It sure is close.

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DD

With a little help from my friends, we now know that Dr. Schmied and his wife Anna occupied the house, and may have been the home's original owners. Dr. Schmied was the town mayor for a time, so he was definitely a man of some import. Given that New Martinsville is a small town, someone must know more about this house.

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Then theres this: The millwork isnt right. Sears didnt offer a volute like this at any time in their milwork catalogs.

Then there's this: The millwork isn't right. Sears didn't offer a volute like this at any time in their mill-work catalogs. And I'm not sure if that's a "volute" or just a cap. But it doesn't appear to be anything Sears offered.

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And when I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks just like a Little Debbie Honey Bun.

When I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks like a Honey Bun.

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For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right.

For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right. Then again, Sears didn't offer these tapered spindles (shown on the left) in their millwork catalog.

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And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servants quarters - is right where it should be.

And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servant's quarters - is right where it should be.

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This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldnt find them in the catalogs, either.

This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldn't find them in the catalogs, either.

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But then theres this...

But then there's this. This style knob and escutcheon was found throughout the Magnolia, and it was a model offered by Sears. Does Sears hardware make it a Sears House? It certainly does add to the intrigue.

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This was

Rhythmic door hardware was first offered in 1930, in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. And it's fairly unique. And it's "not a fad," but it is Art Deco. What's not to love! It blends into any home or building!

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Pretty nice

And then there's this, too. The garage (as shown in the 1938 catalog).

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The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

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This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

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The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed.

The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed. The inglenook is still intact. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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fff

The New Martinsville house was used for a time as a restaurant, so it's been dramatically altered, and yet those pilasters (edge of photo) are still in place.

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But the columns were moved to the back of the living room.

But the columns were moved to the back of the living room (near the front of the house).

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Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales).

Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales). Those three windows (covered in red drapes) are on the right front as you face the house.

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And the Butlers Pantry is in the right place, too. It is (as my friend James said), a butlers pantry for anorexics. Its pretty darn small.

And the Butler's Pantry is in the right place, too, between the dining room and kitchen. It is (as my friend James said), "a butler's pantry for anorexics." It's pretty darn small.

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On this side, there should be a sink, but its MIA.

On this side, there should be a sink, but it's MIA.

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Sears

As seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog - the first floor. Having seen the inside of several Magnolias, as well as this house in New Martinsville, I must say that it's a fairly good match to this unusual floor plan.

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And that tiny Butlers Pantry is right where it should be.

And that tiny Butler's Pantry is right where it should be, between the dining room and kitchen. You can also see the servants stairs on this close-up. These stairs lead to the servant's bedroom above.

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I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

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The back of the house is also a good match.

The back of the house is also a good match.

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As designed, this was an open porch. Its now enclosed. The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

As designed, this was an open porch. It's now enclosed, and you can see the French Doors leading to the servant's quarters (as per the original plan). The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

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My pretty Magnolia, who has passed through your doors? Maybe they know your story!

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ITs

It's a beauty, but is it a Magnolia? As I said above, I think it's probably a Magnolia, built with local lumber and perhaps even millwork. There's so much that's right about the house, but also, there's much that is not a good match.

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The Juliet Porch on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering.

The "Juliet Porch" on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering. The spindles are right but it should have paneled columns at the corners. Was this rebuilt in later years? Also, the traditional Magnolia trim around the front door is missing.

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The trim around the Magnolias front door should look like this.

The trim around the Magnolia's front door should look like this. This Magnolia is also in West Virginia.

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For that shot of the Juliet Porch, I stood on top of that railing, balanced precariously and rather hopeful that I wouldn't topple to my death. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be a bad way to go. (Artistic re-creation of the actual event.)

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Is it a Magnolia?

Is it a Magnolia?

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It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

To see what makes Rose laugh out loud, click here.

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The Open Floor Plan and the Downfall of Society

May 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 26 comments

Last February, as Robert, Pat and I sat together in Robert’s Sears Home, he said, “The open floor plan will probably be considered one of the most heinous atrocities ever committed against American architecture.”

A man after my own heart.

When historians write about the unraveling of society, it will probably all be traced back to The Open Floor Plan.

Who decided it was a good idea to remove every wall and door from a house?

For months, I’ve been looking for a home for me and Teddy and The Horsies™.

We’ve found a few homes that are close, but nothing has been a real match yet.

For a variety of reasons, I’m hoping to find a house that’s not more than 50 years old and well built and in a safe area. And most importantly, I want a house that does NOT have an “Open Floor Plan.”

It’s not bad enough that the big ugly houses with open floor plans are taking over the planet, but even older homes are not safe.

Reading through listings for once-lovely 1950s and 60s brick ranches, I’ve found this awful comment: “Completely renovated with new and inviting open floor plan.”

Though I’m not a woman given to strong language, this phrase hits a nerve and induces me to say things that are quite unladylike.

I don’t want to smell the kitchen or worse, SEE the kitchen. I don’t want to see the dining room. I need lots of doors and walls between me and the world. My secret to good housekeeping is plenty of heavy doors and hiding places. If I wanted to live in an open commune, I’d move to Berkeley. I want private areas and secret rooms. My dream house would have an underground bomb shelter with vintage rations from the Eisenhower era.

How do you paint  your own house when the living room wall is 17-feet tall? How do you change a light fixture on a chain that’s seven feet taller than you on your tallest ladder? How do you kill spiders ensconced in a dark corner at the tippy top of a cathedral ceiling?

The Open Floor Plan: stultissimus notio!

If you enjoyed this, please share the link on your Facebook page!

Need a palate cleanse? Read about Sears Homes here.

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Dumb

This makes no sense to me. In fact, I'd say it's one of the most foolish things a person could do to a house. I looked at this house, hoping it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It was.

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So open that its brains fall out

So open that its brains fall out? This is a lovely log cabin recently listed in a nearby city. This 1,500-square foot space is - for all purposes - one big room.

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Open

Twitch, twitch.

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Open More

Blech. And how do you clean those windows above the door?

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Open and depressing

What a waste of space and energy and materials.

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This one is the very worst. This hosue started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

This one is the very worst. This house started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

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But they managed to make it ugly on the exterior, too.

It started life as a lovely brick ranch (1950s) with good symmetry. Closing in that garage was not a good idea. Having seen many of these "flipped" houses, I can tell you that, for the most part, they're not well done.

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I hate open

The Aladdin Villa (a kit home) had lots of doors. I love doors. I hate open.

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Villa

Here's a real life Villa in Augusta, Georgia, and I'm sure it still has a lot of doors and walls.

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And then there were seven...

The Seven Horsies of the Apocalypse detest open floor plans. And yes, there are now SEVEN horsies. Number Seven (center stage) was a gift, so that's good because now I have enablers of my Stuffed Horsie Habit. Yay! :D

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Read more about the Aladdin Villa here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED House That Sears Built, Part V

February 25th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

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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house

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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