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Jim Walter Homes: A Peek Inside the 1971 Catalog

December 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Recently, a fellow history lover (Carmen) sent me a photo of her 1954-built home and said that she’d heard it was a Jim Walters’ Home.

I dragged out my lone Jim Walter Homes catalog (November 1971), and didn’t find a match.

However, I had so much fun looking at the pictures, I decided to scan the catalog and share it here!

In the meantime, I’d love to find a few more Jim Walter catalogs. This Florida-based company sold more than 320,000  houses, which is more than Aladdin, Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Lewis Homes combined.

Jim Walter started his house-building business in 1946 and ceased operations in 2009. I recently purchased “Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story” (written by Alvin Moscow in 1995), and I haven’t read it all, but it’s an interesting book.

According to the book, Jim Walter was 23 when his business began, and in the mid-1980s, it was one of the top-200 largest industrial enterprises in the United States.

In 1961, Jim Walter acquired Celotex, a company that manufactured insulation materials that contained asbestos.

That didn’t end well for anyone.

According to an obit published in the New York Times , Jim Walter Homes employed 530 crews (3-5 men per crew) who would build out your home to any level of completion you wished - from shell to finished home.

At its peak, Jim Walter Homes had 25,000 employees, and annual sales of more than $2 billion.

Despite the connection with Celotex, a spokesperson for Jim Walter Homes affirmed that “asbestos was never used in any  Walter Homes.”

Jim Walter Homes filed for bankruptcy in December 1989, and in 1995, became known as Walter Industries. It closed in 2009.  Jim Walter died in January 2000.

To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

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Photo is from Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so were going to hope that Pineapple Press puts this photo under the broad umbrella

Photo is from "Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story" and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so we're going to hope that the publisher (Pineapple Press) puts this photo under the broad umbrella of Fair Use, which includes "quotation of excerpts in a review of criticism for purposes of illustration or comment" (from the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S., Library of Congress). Does this mean I need to write a short review of the book ? Haven't read it cover to cover, but it looks like a swell book. Does that count? :)

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Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

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Jim

I'm such a sap for history. I wonder what this building is used for now?

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The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers.

The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers. BTW, that 170,000 is of 1971. Does that mean they doubled their sales numbers by 2009? Hmmm...that's a little hard to believe. It's plausible, I suppose.

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Are you enjoying these photos? I am!

Men work. Women pick out swaths of fabric! Oh dear! I'm not sure what Missy is doing on the floor. Check out the text. "Your new home...will not be prefabricated in any way. Each board is cut to fit, one by one, on your building site." That's a puzzler, isn't it? I would have thought this lumber *was* precut!

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Jim

And I thought identifying the Sears bungalows in an early 1900s neighborhood was tough? Oh man! These houses are quite "simple" (to put it gently).

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Simple, but an affordable way to have three-bedrooms and a home of your own.

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Straight-forward design and a mere 760 square feet.

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The "Biscayne" kinda looks like the 1970s version of the cheapest way to cover air.

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House

"Can you imagine the overwhelming joy of your family?" The kid in the corner looks pretty morose, but the old man looks content. This photo is a bit creepy.

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This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog.

This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog, and it's a mere 1,142 square feet.

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Jim

The names are fancier than the houses.

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Hollywood? Is this the kind of house that Jolie Whats-her-name would buy?

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I'd have named the 2nd house: "Rebel without a flaws." Grammatically messy, but cute.

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Jim

Have you noticed that the front door on each of these houses has a small diamond window?

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This house got a full-page spread.

The Oxford (description below) got a full-page spread.

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Should someone tell Mom that she's wasting water, and probably aggravating the living daylights out of Dad? Notice that the house is described as "Colonial Style"? I guess it's the coach light by the front door that does it.

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Is "The Rambler" prone to run away in the wee hours? Or does it talk excessively? Or is it the size of the house? It's hard to say that a 760-square foot house is a "rambler."

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If you're old, you'll like this house.

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"Just plain good living...is what this plan has to offer."

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This one actually has a little bit of flair.

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Were Comanches known for their big families? The word for Comanche comes from the Ute word, kɨmantsi (enemy). What were they trying to tell us about this house?

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They look quite European.

They appear to be of European descent. Mother's right hand is disfigured. Apparently, she hides the left hand in the pocket of her atomic housecoat when photos are taken, as it's the more seriously disfigured appendage. Dad graciously tries to look in the other direction.

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house

It does have a little more "flair" than the other JW homes. Still only one bathroom, though.

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Carmine recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I cant say that I do.

Carmen recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I can't say that I do.

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To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

Do you have a Jim Walter catalog you’d love to give me for a Christmas present? Please leave a comment below!  :D

Read about The Little Tower House by clicking here.

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$15 per pound: Sears Simplex Sectional Cottages

January 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Simplex Sectional Cottages were very simple houses - to say the least. They were - without a doubt - the bottom rung of the construction ladder. These were prefab vacation cottages that could be disassembled and packed away when it was time to go home and very quite primitive by today’s standards.

The 1922 Modern Homes catalog described Simplex Sectional Cottages as, “ideal seashore, lake, winter resort houses and substantial garages.” The 1919 catalog stated that they were ideal for summer or winter resorts because, “they can be quickly put up at the beginning of the season and then taken down and moved to a new location.”

Walls and gables came in whole sections, with windows and doors pre-hung in their frames. The small homes could be put together with basic tools and their assembly required no sawing or nailing. The houses were held together by strap irons, screws, metal clips and bolts.    Two men could assemble the house in eight hours, according to the 1923 catalog.

And this blog’s title? Came from the fifth image below, where a 13,800 pound house is offered for $887. That’s $15 per pound! It’s also $1.54 per square foot (24 x 24).

The images below came from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog:

House two

This graphic from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog shows the process of erecting a Simplex Sectional Cottage. Note the clock in the foreground.

House 3

As the clock demonstrated, this modest little house can be erected and ready for occupancy in a mere eight hours.

This says it all.

This says it all.

Wow.

If you want walls in your house, that'll raise the price of this house by 24%.

Wow

The price seems like a swinging deal. Let's see - that works out to about $15 per pound.

hosue 4

An overview of the prices in the 1921 catalog.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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To contact Rose Thornton, send her an email!  thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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Sears Homes of Northern Illinois

January 12th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

In early 2009, The History Press contacted me and asked me to write a book on the Sears Homes of Illinois. Interestingly enough, the title was to be The Sears Homes of Illinois.

In early February 2010, I left my home in Norfolk, Virginia and went to northern Illinois where I met up with Rebecca Hunter in Elgin.  For three whole days, kind and gracious Rebecca drove me throughout the northern Illinois suburbs, helping me photograph these amazing Sears Homes. Here are some of the houses from that trip (see pictures below).

To learn more about Rebecca, click here. Thanks to Dr. Rebecca Hunter, 213 Sears homes have been identified in Elgin. To learn more about the largest known collection of Sears homes in the country, visit the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, and check out The Elgin Illinois Sears House Research Project (by Rebecca Hunter). This book is also available for interlibrary loan within the state of Illinois. You can also visit Dr. Hunter’s website at www.kithouse.org.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read more about the Sears Homes in the Midwest, click here.


A bungalow from the Golden West the Osborn was another very popular house. This one is on a corner lot in Annapolis.

A "bungalow from the Golden West" the Osborn was another very popular house. This picture from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog also shows interior views of The Osborn.

Sears Osborn in St. Charles, Illinois

Sears Osborn in St. Charles, Illinois

The Sears Newcastle was a Colonial Revival and a popular design

The Sears Newcastle was a Colonial Revival and a popular design

Sears Newcastle in northern Illinois

Sears Newcastle in Geneva, Illinois

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka in St. Charles

Sears Matoka in St. Charles

Sears Fullerton

Sears Fullerton

Sears Fullerton in Aurora, Illinois

Sears Fullerton in Aurora, Illinois

Sears Fullerton in Elgin, Illinois

Sears Fullerton in Elgin, Illinois

Sears Del Rey

Sears Del Rey

Sears Del Rey in Wheaton, Illinois

Sears Del Rey in Wheaton, Illinois

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina (2024) in West Chicago

Sears Marina (2024) in Geneva, Illinois

The Sears Hamilton was a modest, but a big seller for Sears.

The Sears Hamilton was a modest, but a big seller for Sears.

Sears Hamilton in Elgin, IL

Sears Hamilton in Elgin, IL

Perhaps one of their top ten most popular designs, the Sears Crescent was offered in two floor plans, with an expandable attic option in both plans.

Perhaps one of their top ten most popular designs, the Sears Crescent was offered in two floor plans, with an expandable attic option in both plans.

Crescent in Elmhurst, IL

Significantly remodeled Crescent in Elmhurst, IL

The most notable feature on the Americus (shown here from the 1925 catalog) was the oversized front porch roof, unique front columns and the second floor front wall that juts out a little from the first.

The most notable feature on the Americus (shown here from the 1925 catalog) was the oversized front porch roof, unique front columns and the second floor front wall that juts out a little from the first.

Sears Americus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Sears Americus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Sears Homes of Hampton Roads (Virginia)!

November 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

For years and years, I lived in the St. Louis area and that’s where I wrote my books on Sears Homes (and where I did all the research). In 2006, I moved back “home” to Hampton Roads (where I was born and raised), and it was pure fun to spend my spare time hunting for Sears Homes.

Below are just a few of the kit homes I’ve found in the area. Heretofore, I’ve found 52 in Portsmouth, 75 in Norfolk and about 15 in Chesapeake.

To read another article about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Westly

Sears Westly

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Suffolk, Virginia

Sears Westly in downtown Suffolk

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Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

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Aladdin is very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable.

Aladdin Kit Homes (a competitor of Sears) was very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable. Sears sold about 70,000 homes during their 32 years in the kit home business (1908-1940). However, Aladdin started in 1906 and went to 1981, selling about 75,000 houses.

This Aladdin Colonial is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed it was a Sears kit home. This is not uncommon. It *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

This Aladdin Colonial pictured below is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed the house pictured below was a "Sears kit home." This is not uncommon. This house (below) *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial. This one is in Suffolk.

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This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

Here's a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

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Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Heres an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Here's an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

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Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog. Note, this Shadowlawn has a porte cochere.

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

A darling Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA, just across from Lowes Hardware Store on Portsmouth Blvd West. This house was moved from another location, about a mile due east on Portsmouth Blvd and it appears to be in harm's way yet again - with all the retails shops that have sprouted up around it.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

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The Beckley (from Sears)

The Beckley (from Sears)

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sextants Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sexton's Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

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Ive also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

I've also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeakes Deep Creek area.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeake's Deep Creek area.

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And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, its been turned into a duplex.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, it's been turned into a duplex.

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Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

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Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolks Colonial Place

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolk's Colonial Place

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Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Here it is, right in Norfolks Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

Here it is, right in Norfolk's Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

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As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and heres the Aladdin Edison

As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and here's the Aladdin Edison

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

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Aladdin Detroit

Aladdin Detroit

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

To read the next article, click here:

Jim Walter Homes - Where’d They Go?

October 24th, 2010 Sears Homes 6 comments

In 1978, soon after my first husband and I were first married, we sat down and looked through a Jim Walter Homes catalog. The idea of building a kit home was hugely appealing to us. In the end, we decided to buy an existing home, but throughout the years, the idea of building our own sacred space held a special appeal.

In 1999, I was asked to write an article about the Sears Homes in Carlinville, Illinois. As a freelance writer scrambling to make a living, I gladly obliged. Once I laid eyes on those 156 Sears Homes in a 12-block area, I was completely and hopelessly in love. The 1000-word article that should have taken a few hours took a few weeks. The editor asked for “a couple photos” and I submitted 96 photos. This was back in the days of film, and those 96 photos represented FOUR ROLLS of film!

When that first article appeared, I was suddenly “the expert” on kit homes. I didn’t know that much about kit homes, but I did have a passion for the topic. I went looking for a book on the topic and found very little. “Houses by Mail” (a field guide to Sears Homes) was a fascinating book, but had very little textual history. And that’s how I came to write “The Houses That Sears Built.”

Within 90 days, my book was featured in The New York Times and then I was asked to appear on PBS’ History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News and more. From there, it was off to the races.

And that’s the “back story” of how I came to be an expert on kit homes.

Now, I’m interested in learning more about Jim Walter Homes, based in Tampa, Florida. For the last six weeks, I’ve been tirelessly searching eBay for ephemera from this company but I’ve found nothing. If anyone has any ideas on how to get some info on Jim Walter Homes, please drop me a line! I’m also interested in finding pictures of existing Jim Walter Homes.

To contact me, please leave a comment below!

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Cover of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Cover of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

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Pictured above is a Gordon Van Tine kit homes catalog from the late 30s/early 40s.

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Wardway Homes catalog, about 1931.

Aladdin Homes, about 1916

Aladdin Homes, 1917. I'm not sure, but I think that's the genie going back into the bottle, after building a house for his master. Love the post-apocalyptic orange sky!

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Sears Kit Condos

August 24th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Years ago, my friend Rebecca Hunter drove me to an Midwestern suburb and showed me this Sears Westly (see pictures below). She made me close my eyes as we pulled up to the house. Sitting squarely in front of it, I exclaimed that it looked  like a nice little Westly. Then she giggled a bit and pulled forward, so I could see “The rest of the story.”

I gasped in horror. Incredibly, someone built a neighborhood behind this once-darling Sears Westly. Why anyone would do this, is a puzzle. How anyone got zoning approval to do this is a BIGGER puzzle!!

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Westly from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Westly from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Westly in Midwestern suburb

Westly in Midwestern suburb

The Sears Homes in Elkins, West Virginia

August 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

My cutie-pie husband is from Elkins, West Virginia (see picture below).  Wayne graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1977, and Washington and Lee (School of Law) in 1980.  This weekend (August 20th), we drove from Norfolk to Elkins to attend his cousin’s 30th Wedding Anniversary party (part of the Skidmore clan). It was a happy, happy time.  Surprisingly, I found quite a few Sears Homes.  (Story continues below photo of cutie-pie husband)

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins, poised atop a rock in the Cheat River

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The houses were shipped via rail and contained 30,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction manual and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in about 90 days. Today, there are about 70,000 Sears kit homes in America. Incredibly, about 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have! The purpose of this website is to help people learn more about this fascinating piece of America’s history.

Here are a few of the houses I found within the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears most popular kit homes.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears' most popular kit homes.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One things for sure: Its a beautiful old kit house!

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One thing's for sure: It's a beautiful old kit house. It's in South Elkins.

Sears Hazleton high atop the hillside in Elkins

Sears Hazleton from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. Looking at the house from the right side, you can see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, one small).

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. If you looked at this house from the right side, you'd see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, two small) on that left side. It's located in Wees Historic District.

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell

Sears Cornell. Although this looks like just another foursquare, this Cornell has a goofy floorplan, with a tiny bathroom (and tiny window) on its left side. When you look on the home's left side, you'll see that the oddly-placed bathroom window is right where it should be. THe Cornell was a very popular house for Sears, and I'm confident that this house is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Is this a Sears Marion? Id say it is. Its a good match on all sides and has a raised roof in the back, which was probably added in later years.

Is this a Sears Marion? I'd say it is. It's a good match on all sides and all the windows are in their right place. One eye-catching feature is the swoop of the bellcast roof on the front of the house. The raised roof in the back was obviously added in later years.

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale in Elkins, WV

Is this a Sears Glendale? It looks like it. However, it is not a spot-on match.

And there’s even a Lustron Prefabricated post-WW2 home in Elkins.  Lustron Homes were made of 20-gage 2×2 metal tiles, covered with a porcelain enamel finish (just like the top of a high-dollar washing machines!).  These houses were all metal - inside and out - and hanging a picture required sticking magnets to the walls! Nails and other fasteners would damage the porcelain enamel finish. Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and less than 3000 Lustron Homes were sold in this country. They were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

To learn more about Lustrons, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

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Modern Maggy Wanna-Be: Not!

August 17th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

The Sears Magnolia was the biggest, fanciest and prettiest home. According to legend, there were only a few Magnolias built in the country, and heretofore, only six have been found (Benson, NC., South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana). The sixth was in Nebraska, and has since been torn down.

Everyone loves Sears kit homes. People are enchanted and intrigued by the idea that you could order a kit home out of a mail-order catalog and have it shipped (via train) to your building site. These were true kits, arriving in 12,000-piece kits (including a 75-page instruction book). Sears promised that a man of average abilities could have one assembled in 90 days.

But there’s another reason we love these homes: They’re beautiful. They’re well-designed and thoughtfully arranged, with nice profiles and proportions and lines.

Recently I was driving through a 1990s neighborhood and spotted this house (second photo below - with beige vinyl siding). If the Sears Magnolia were built today, it might look something like this. However, in my humble opinion, this is not an attractive home. It lacks those nice profiles and proportions and lines. It is, to be blunt, uninspiring and boring.

Then again, I’m just biding my time here until they figure out this time travel so I can get back to where I belong: The 1920s.

A Sears Magnolia in Benson:
maggy_benson_nc

Contemporary Magnolia Maybe Sorta Kinda

Modern house in modern area

Modern house in modern area

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Poor Little Aladdin Shadowlawn

August 17th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the 1980s, I rode by this house (see pics below) and saw that it had been lifted from its foundation, and according to the placard in the window, was headed to a new site, about 2 miles west on Portsmouth Blvd (Route 337).  A new foundation was prepared at the new site - just down the road - and then one day the house was moved.

Now, in 2010, the house is again standing in harm’s way. Across the street from this spacious two-story bungalow is a sprawling, growing, mega-monster shopping mall and complex, with the requisite Applebys, Olive Garden, Lowes, Home Depot, BJs, Walmart, 16-screen movie house, Michaels, Target, Dillards and about 250 more homogenized American stores.

I’d be surprised if this house is not already zoned commercial, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the house is purchased and demolished by some over-zealous developer. Pity, too. The house pictured here is a classic Aladdin Shadowlawn, one of Aladdin’s fancier kit homes.

Aladdin was based in Bay City, Michigan and started selling kit homes in 1906. They remained in business until 1981, selling about 75,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats on Aladdin!) The Hampton Roads area has dozens of Aladdin kit homes, probably because of the Aladdin mill in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina.

However, we may soon have one less.

To read more about the kit homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Sears Homes of Lewisburg, West Virginia

August 16th, 2010 Sears Homes 6 comments

In 2006, a woman in Beckley, West Virginia sent me an email. “Ersela” thought she’d found about 40 kit homes in Beckley, and wanted to ask if I was available to come to her town and give a lecture. For the next several months, we talked back and forth and in 2008, I went to Beckley and gave a talk on Sears Kit Homes. Over the course of a couple years, I also visited Charleston and Lewisburg, and the surrounding areas.

I’m still amazed and impressed by how many kit homes I’ve found in these communities. How did so many kit homes end up in West Virginia? I’ve no idea. This is a picture-heavy post so I’ll keep the words to a minimum. Enjoy the photos, and please leave a comment. And if you know why West Virginia has so many kit homes, please comment on that, too! And - if I have misidentified a city, please let me know.

To see pictures of Sears Homes in Charleston, West Virginia click here.

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

To read about my favorite Sears Home in Rainelle, click here.

Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

Sears Altona from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Altona from the Sears Modern Home's catalog

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte.

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte.

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024. This house is in Lewisburg. Note how the shed dormer still retains its three little windows.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too. Here, you can see the Aladdin Genie going back into his bottle (presumably on the back porch) after building a house for his master in a day (I'm guessing here).

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdin's most popular homes.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

An Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. Sometimes, its hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it.  :)

Here's a nice Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. To the uninformed, this may look like a grove of trees, but there is an Aladdin House there. Sometimes, it's hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it. :)

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Heres the GVT Durant, a fairly popular little bungalow.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Here's the GVT "Durant," a fairly popular little bungalow.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.