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Posts Tagged ‘hopewell sears homes’

Sears Catalog House, or Something Like it (Part II)

July 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

In my most recent blog, I talked about the fact that Hopewell’s “Collection of Sears Homes” (and I use that term loosely) was in the local news again.

At the end of that blog, I offered to help Hopewell sort through their historical chaff and find the wheat.

The fact is, at this point I’d be willing to donate my services (gratis), to help this small town (just outside of Richmond) get their Sears-home story straight. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this enticing offer may not be accepted.

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of letters and emails (yes, both) to some folks in Hopewell, making this same offer. I never heard a peep. Not a “Thanks, but no,” not a “we’re not interested,” or even a “Go to hell, Rosemary Thornton.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to hear something, rather than nothing.

In case anyone from Hopewell is reading this, I can tell you, I know a little something about Sears Homes. Here’s a short bio I use with the media:

Rose is the author of several books on early 20th Century kit homes. Rose and her work have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio. In print media, her story has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Christian Science Monitor and more.

Sounds darn good, doesn’t it?

So what can I do to help Hopewell correct their boo-boos?

I don’t know.

In the meantime, below is the “re-do” of a blog that was a personal favorite of mine. The idea was the brainstorm of Rachel Shoemaker, who loves both music and kit homes, and found a delightful way to blend the two topics.

You can read Rachel’s wonderful blog here.

Here’s the ditty that will  help you learn more about correctly identifying houses.

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Ses

Here's a screen-shot of the Sesame Street ditty that tell us, "One of these things is not like the other." Its intent is to teach youngsters how to spot differences in similar items. Learning how to distinguish subtle differences in physical objects can be tough. Ever more so if you live in the small towns around Richmond (apparently).

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houses

Let's try it with houses now.

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One of the houses above is different from the others.

If you guessed the brick house with the metal casement windows, you’re right!

For some time, Hopewell was promoting a brochure (showcasing a driving tour of alleged kit homes in Crescent Hills neighborhood) that identified this brick house as a Sears Dover.

But oh noes!! That’s not a Sears Dover!

The other three houses (the three that look just alike) are the Sears Dover.

More recently, Hopewell has modified this statement and now claims that this brick house is a Sears Maplewood.

Let’s see how that works.

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Blue

Oh noes - AGAIN! One of these homes just doesn't belong! Which one is it? If you guessed the brick house, you're right! The other three homes are the Sears Maplewood.

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houses

There's also the fact that the Sears Maplewood and Dover were never ever offered with metal casement windows. There's also the fact that this house was probably built after WW2. But hey, why let something like "historical fact" get in the way of a good story!

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maple

Here's a Sears Maplewood (1930 catalog).

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house

If you really think that the brick house above looks like a Sears Dover, I highly recommend the Sesame Street "Not like the other" series. It's helped many a lost soul find their way through the thickets of misidentified kit homes.

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house

Meanwhile, in Hopewell, they have a cache of rare and unusual Aladdin Homes (like the one above) and what is being done to promote those houses? Nothing. Unbelievable.

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To learn more about how to distinguish differences in certain objects, click here.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for the use of her photograph above (the blue Maplewood). You can visit Rebecca’s website here.

Visit Rachel’s website here.

Read about the bonanza of kit homes we found in Richmond!

If you’re from Hopewell, and you’d like to take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

If you’re not from Hopewell and you THINK they should take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

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Sears Catalog House or Something Like It (Hopewell, VA)

July 25th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last week, Hopewell was in the local news again, touting their Sears Homes. I’m not going to post a link to the article that appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, because it was rife with errors.

I’m somewhat incredulous that a paper as prestigious as the Richmond Times Dispatch didn’t do some fact-checking before publishing this story.

The recording and publishing of history is such a sacred trust, and writers have a solemn charge to get the facts right, before sending this information into perpetuity.

And there’s this: I’ve been sought out and interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, BBC Radio, All Things Considered (PBS)  and more. I’ve been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, and MSNBC.

It’s disheartening to know that a newspaper so close to home ran this article without seeking me out for a quote, or even asking me to help with the fact checking (which I would have gladly done).

Hopewell and I have a history.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a small brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (click here), Hopewell is mighty mixed up about what is, and what is not a kit house.

Of those 44 purported “Sears Homes” in Crescent Hills, only eight are the real deal, and frankly, it may not be eight. Some of those eight could well be plan book homes.

On that “list of 44,” this house (see below) was featured.

To read more about Hopewell, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker who successfully identified this house!

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Nice House

The brochure promoting the Hopewell Sears Homes stated that this was a Sears "Newbury." Ooh, nice try and thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts for you.

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Ruh

The Hopewell brochure states that it looks JUST LIKE a Newbury, except for the "sloping roof, full width dormer, extra windows and round columns." Good grief, if that's our criteria I could say that my dog Teddy looks like just like a Sears Magnolia.

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House

Except for the absence of a hip roof, full width windows, round columns and cypress wood, these two dwelling places are stunningly similar. You'll note that the subject on the right also does not have ears or fur, but both of these items could have easily been removed during an earlier remodeling.

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Newbury

Sears Newbury, from the 1936 catalog.

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compare

Wow, look at this! The house on the left is in Illinois and it actually LOOKS like a Newbury!

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compare

Ruh Roh. These don't look anything alike!

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Monticello

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know that this house in Hopewell came from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

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Montie

In fact, "The Monticello" is on the cover of the catalog! What a beauty!

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Wow

And lookie here. It is a very fine match!

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Big and fancy

Did anyone from Hopewell ever go into this house and compare the interior layout? If so, I hope the homeowner gave their seeing-eye dog a tasty biscuit. The floor plan for the Monticello is radically different from the Sears Newbury (shown directly below). And the Monticello is 50% bigger. These details matter.

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What

The Newbury is a modest, simple house (1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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If you dont love this house, theres something wrong with you!

According to the text in the ad, if you don't love the Monticello, there's something seriously wrong with you!

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It’d really be swell if Hopewell would invite me back to do a thorough and proper survey. I would be more than happy to get the facts right and help them create a new brochure.

In fact, I really wish they’d give it a go. It’s time to make this right.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

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

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“One of These Things is Not Like the Other…” (Part III)

September 1st, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

As the song goes, “One of these things doesn’t belong.”

In Hopewell, they’re really struggling with this concept as it applies to Sears Homes.

Here we go.

Learning how to distinguish subtle differences in physical objects can be tough.

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Lets try it with houses now.

Let's try it with houses now.

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One of the houses above is different from the others.

If you guessed the brick house wth the metal casement windows, you’re right!

In 2003, Hopewell was promoting a brochure (showcasing a driving tour of alleged kit homes in Crescent Hills neighborhood) that identified this brick house as a Sears Dover.

Whoopsie! That’s not a Sears Dover!

The other three houses (that look just alike) are the Sears Dover.

More recently, Hopewell has modified this statement and now claims that this brick house is a Sears Maplewood.

Let’s see how that works.

Ruh-roh!

Ruh-roh! One of these homes just doesn't belong! Which one is it? If you guessed the brick house, you're right! The other three homes are the Sears Maplewood.

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Heres the lovely brick NON-SEARS HOUSE in Hopewell.

Here's a better view of the lovely NON-SEARS HOUSE in Hopewell.

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And heres a Sears Maplewood (1930).

And here's a Sears Maplewood (1930).

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Do these houses look anything alike to you?

Well, they both have windows! And a roof! And  a door!

But that’s about it.

You know

I don't know who's promoting this false info on these non-Sears Homes in Hopewell, but perhaps they need to give a little thought to this "not like the others" concept. I highly recommend these Sesame Street videos for people who think that the house in Hopewell looks like a Sears Dover or Sears Maplewood.

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To learn more about how to distinguish differences in certain objects, click here.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for the use of her photograph above (the blue Maplewood). You can visit Rebecca’s website here.

I’ve written a great deal about Hopewell.

Read Part I here.

Part II is here.

And if you want to read about the eight real Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 7)

April 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The driving-tour brochure offered by the tourism office in Hopewell, VA is called, “The Sears Roebuck Houses by Mail Neighborhood.”

Not everyone would agree that eight Sears Homes within a six-block area represents a “neighborhood.” But then again, sometimes people get a little confused about what constitutes a Sears Home. As the author of several books on this topic, I feel confident in saying that a true Sears House must have both building materials and blueprints from Sears.

From 1908-1940, Sears offered a specialty catalog promoting and selling their “Sears Modern Homes.” Today these old catalogs fetch $50 - $200 at online auction sites.

catalog

In the 1920s, the "Modern Homes" catalogs had 100-140 pages, and offered 80-100 designs. This is the 1922 catalog, and the Sears Lexington is on its cover.

Prospective homeowners would choose from several designs and pick a house that fit their budget and their needs. Next, they’d send in a $1 good faith deposit to Sears Roebuck, and Sears would send them blueprints, and a complete list of everything they’d need to build their home. If the homeowner liked what he saw, he’d send in the balance of his money and Sears sent him (typically by rail), 12,000 pieces of house, together with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.

Hopewell’s Crescent Hills’ neighborhood has eight of these Sears Homes. Click here to see photos of those eight Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, this brochure also shows many houses - identified as Sears Homes - that clearly are not Sears Homes.

The first house listed on this brochure is at 211 Oakwood Avenue, and it’s identified as a Sears Lexington and that is an error.

Some people have an eye for detail, and some people don’t, but the Sears Lexington and the house at 211 Oakwood are radically different in every conceivable way.

Lex

This house (211 Oakwood) is listed in the city's well-promoted brochure as a Sears Lexington. Hmmm. Let's see. What does it have in common with the Sears Lexington? They both have windows and doors. That's about it. The home's "footprint" is something that must be considered. In this case, the two homes are not even close. The Lexington is 34' wide. The house above is several feet wider. That's one of about 3,197 reasons that this house (above) does not match the Sears Lexington (below).

Sears Lexington

Sears Lexington from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog.

If you’ve read my books, you’d know that interior floorplan is a key in determining if your subject house is (or is not) a Sears House.  Room measurements are important, too! If your purported Lexington has a bedroom that’s 10′3 by 14′5, your subject house should have a bedroom that is 10′3 by 14′5!  After you’ve seen (and measured) a few Sears Homes, you’ll find that this is an accurate way of authenticating Sears Homes.

In 2003, I was invited to inspect the interior of the house at 211 Oakwood and the floorplan is completely different from the Lexington. The floorplan, room arrangement, room size, ceiling height - every single architectural element is different.  The only common ground is that both houses have bedrooms and bathrooms and a living room, dining room and a kitchen.

That’s it.

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. Youre NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. You're NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

This is my 7th blog on this topic - of the not-even-close non-Sears-Homes in Hopewell, but of all the houses I’ve discussed here, this “Lexington” at 211 Oakwood is far and away the most glaring example. In other articles, I’ve delineated, point by point, why the subject house is not a match to the Sears House. But if I started that with this house at 211 Oakwood, it’d fill way too much bandwidth and the entire internet system might go down.

In short, I’m confident that the house on 211 Oakwood is neither a Lexington, nor is it a Sears Home of any kind.

Cmon, really?

C'mon, really?

And on a more serious note, it saddens me to see history misrepresented. It saddens me greatly.

By the way, this is what a Sears Lexington looks like “in the flesh.” You’ll notice, it looks a lot like the catalog picture.

Sears

Sears Lexington in Northern Illinois.

Lex

You might notice that the house (in Northern Illinois) looks a whole lot like this catalog picture.

To read about the other houses in Hopewell, click here.

To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read about happy, happy Sears homes, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part V)

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia is the proud owner of eight bona fide Sears homes in the Crescent Hills area.  That’s well and good, but they also have entire neighborhoods of Aladdin kit homes in other parts of Hopewell.   It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight houses, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel sorely neglected!

Most likely, the majority of the Aladdin Kit Homes were ordered by Dupont in 1914, for their dynamite factory in Hopewell.  And there along the waterfront - on Ramsey Avenue - are the Aladdin Wenonah, an Aladdin Brighton, and an Aladdin Plaza.

The Plaza sits at the end of Ramsey, and I’d just love to know - do these homeowners know that they’re sitting in a piece of Americana, enjoying their restful slumbers in a historically significant kit home, that was shipped in from Bay City, Michigan via boxcar, with 12,000 pieces of house?  And what about the city itself? Are they aware of these precious architectural gems that sit within its borders, uncelebrated, unheralded and unprotected?

It’d be a dandy idea for the city - at the very least -  to put a placard in front of these homes, identifying them as Aladdin kit homes, or perhaps include them on their tourism brochures. Urbana, Virginia has ONE Sears House, and look what they’ve done!

A city full of architecturally significant homes is a terrible thing to waste.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

To read Part VI, click here.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV.

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part IV)

March 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much energy and ink is invested in these eight Sears Homes, while the Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in this small Richmond suburb, I might feel snubbed!

The Aladdin homes are mostly worker cottages and definitely more modest than their fancy cousins in Crescent Hills, but these small homes also have an important story to tell. They tell about Dupont coming to Hopewell in the early 1900s and building a factory and creating jobs and investing in modest homes for their workers.

And it’s a part of Hopewell’s history that’s disappearing. Judging by the empty lots,  countless numbers of these modest homes have already been leveled. Perhaps as people become aware that this is a piece of Hopewell’s history, the remaining houses might be spared.

Aladdin, like Sears, was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Kit homes sold by both Aladdin and Sears were made with top-quality lumber and builing materials. In fact, Aladdin offered their customers “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…”

These were good houses, made with building materials the likes of we will never again see in this country. At the very least, the lumber in these homes should be salvaged when the homes are leveled. At the very least.

Down by the waterfront, on Ramsey Street, I found a perfect Wenonah (and that is the correct spelling). This is a fairly unusual house for Aladdin, and I’ve only seen two in my house hunting career.

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell.

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell. The windows have been replaced and the porch roof was extended, but it's still clearly an Aladdin Wenonah.

The next house is an Aladdin Brighton, and it’s the only “Brighton” I’ve ever seen. And while I’m not 100% sure it’s an Aladdin Brighton, the fact is, it’s smack dab in the heart of a significant collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell. There are kit homes on all three sides of this house, and a river sits behind it.  As mentioned above, Ramsey Road seems to be the place where the supervisor’s homes were located.

The Brighton was a spacious and beautiful home, and it’s very believable that this house could have been built for upper management.

Aladdin Brighton

Aladdin Brighton from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Close-up of the house seen in the catalog

Close-up of the Aladdin Brighton, as seen in the catalog

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Detail

Notice this interesting detail on the porch column.

Notice this detail on the front porch. Pretty distinctive feature.

And it's also present on the house in Hopewell. Pretty distinctive feature.

blah

Close-up of the dining room gabled bay, which is a good match to the catalog image above.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

The Brightons floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

The Brighton's floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

Unfortunately, the landscaping around the house prevented me from getting better photos, but based on the high number of Aladdin kit homes in this neighborhood, and the striking similarities between The Brighton and the subject house, I’d say the little white bungalow on Ramsey Street is indeed an Aladdin Brighton!

To read Part V, click here.

Click here to read Part I, Part II and Part III of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 3)

March 21st, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

As mentioned in Part 1, I recently visited Hopewell (Virginia) for the first time in several years.

In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time.  Unfortunately, there was a downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Driving through the city, I discovered that most of the “Sears Homes” in their infamous Crescent Hills neighborhood were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure - with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes - was not to be changed.

It was one of the most upsetting events in my professional career. History is important and must be kept pure from defects or errors. That’s something about which I feel passionate.

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many non-kit homes were still being wrongly identified as Sears Homes. To help clarify what I’m talking about, I’m going to post the Hopewell house, together with an original catalog image and (where possible), an extant example of that kit home in real life.

Click on the links to see Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.

Hopewell claims to have several “Rochelles” (see pictures of these houses below).

I have enough information to have an authoritative opinion on this.  ;)

Here’s the Rochelle (1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog). It’s a cute little neo-tudor with many distinctive features.

The Rochelle, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

The Rochelle, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

Rochelle

Notice how the front gable on this Rochelle is asymmetrical. In other words, it extends much further down the left side than the right. And notice the little stylistic feature to the right of the front door. It's touches like this little gabled wall, that give the Rochelle its tudor-esque charm. Also notice how the gable on the roof goes all the way up to the roofline. And lastly, this is a house with a small attic, suitable for storage but not living space.

Gable

Here's one of Hopewell's so-called "Rochelles." Oh dear - the roof is much too high! And there's a full bedroom in that upstairs area! And look, the front gable (with the door) is symetrical. Why that's nothing like the catalog picture! And the front gable is much wider, with two little windows. Plus, that gable behind that (to the left, with the two bedroom windows) actually extends quite a bit beyond the primary wall. And on the right side, there's a little nook for the fireplace that extends three or four feet beyond the roof line. And look at the windows! The house above has three on the right and two on the left. The Rochelle has one and one. In short, these houses are quite different. Last but not least, the furnace chimney on this house is in the rear. In the Sears house, it's near the center of the house. That's actually a pretty important detail.

Rochelle

Again, for comparison, here's the Sears house.

And heres the non-Sears house in Hopewell.

And here's another Hopewell "NOR" (Not-a-Rochelle).

Rochelle

Again, for comparison, here's the Sears house.

Oopsie.

Nice awnings, though.

Well maybe we could focus on what these houses (extant photos) have in common with the Sears Rochelle.

1)  They have walls and windows

2)  They have lots of lumber.

3)  They have pointy rooflines.

4)  They have pretty green stuff in the front yard.

That’s about it.

Sears Homes were offered in 370 designs, and they were purposefully designed to emulate the popular housing styles of the day. To authenticate a Sears Home, you must start with visual clues. These three Hopewell homes are lacking in that regard. Next, you should check the “footprint” of the house. These houses are not the same dimensions as the Rochelle. That single fact right there is a deal breaker.

A comparison of the two homes

A comparison of the two homes

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

To read Part 1, or Part 2 of this story, here and here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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