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Posts Tagged ‘kit homes in chicago’

The Last Seven Books…

May 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

Nothing has been “orderly” about the last 12 months, and as a result, book orders have been delayed and a few orders fell between the cracks. Worst of all, several boxes of books got packed into storage which now (according to Harrison Moving) can’t be retrieved without a minimum $160 fee.

Every single thing in my life took a hit from The Bad Thing™.

However…

I have seven books left. That’s it for now. After these seven are gone, I’ll probably do one more reprinting and then that’s the end of the run.

Horise I, Horsie II and Horsie III are guarding the last seven books.

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Horsie

The last seven copies of "The Houses That Sears Built."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Penniman is another fascinating story. More on that here.

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Wonderful World of Westlys

July 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

One of Sears most popular kit homes was the Westly. It’s an easy house to identify because it’s quite unique. The roof line on the rear of the house does not come down as far as the roof line in the front. That dormer on the front is also pretty distinctive, with a door flanked by two windows, and the small railing in front.

Often (not always) the Sears Westly has the five piece eave brackets.  And it often has the distinctive columns found on about 24 of Sears most popular designs. Click here to learn more about those distinctive columns!

Westly

One of the distinctive features (inside) is that corner fireplace in the dining room! This is from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Close-up of the dormer on the Sears Westly

Close-up of the dormer on the Sears Westly, and a better view of the original railing.

A nearly perfect Westly in Oak Hill, WV

A nearly perfect Westly in Oak Hill, WV. The lower railings are original, but the upper railing has been replaced. Also note the original columns and five-piece eave brackets.

This Westly is in Lynchburg, VA

This Westly is in Lynchburg, VA. See that little closet window on the upper right? That's another pretty distinctive feature of the Sears Westly.

Elgin, IL has the largest collection of Sears Homes in the country. This Westly is one of 210 Sears Homes in this northwestern Chicago suburb.

Elgin, IL has the largest collection of Sears Homes in the country. This Westly is one of 210 Sears Homes in this northwestern Chicago suburb.

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Is this a Westly? I'd be willing to bet $50 that it is. However, wrought iron is *not* this home's friend. The porch remodel was especially hard on the porch, as it made the front porch DISAPPEAR. This house is located in Virginia. There are no five-piece eave brackets because there are no EAVES to bracket. If this house were a human being, it'd be outlined in white chalk and we'd be hunting for the murderer.

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This photo dates back to 2003, before the vinyl siding installers defrocked this house. Back then, this house was in stunningly original condition. The roof is Buckingham slate, which is unusual, but not unheard of for Sears Homes. In Sears Homes, the roofing joists were supersized, and collar-beams were added at each joist, to accommodate the extra weight of a slate roof. Buckingham slate (from Buckingham County) is one of the best slate shingles out there, and weighs in at 1,400 pounds per square. With minor maintenance every 100 years, the roof will last for eternity. This house is in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Sears Westly in Suffolk, Virginia

Sears Westly in downtown Suffolk (Virginia). It's been beautifully restored to its original glory and splendor, and has original siding and windows.

Superman slept here. Maybe. This Sears Westly is in Metropolis, IL.

Superman slept here. Maybe. This Sears Westly is in Metropolis, IL.

Sears

This Westly in Lewisburg, WV has had its dormer extended. The flat spot in front of that dormer on the Westly is prone to leaks. Extending the front roof and nclosing the space is one way to solve that problem.

Perfection defined. Located in Raleigh, this Westly is one of my all-time favorites.

Perfection defined. Located in Raleigh, this Westly is one of my all-time favorites. Original everything. And beautifully maintained.

Close-up of dormer and original railling.

Close-up of dormer and original railing.

And in Oklahoma! Its had a lot of improvements but this Westly is still standing.  Photo is copyright Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without written permission.

And in Oklahoma! It's had a lot of "improvements" but this Westly in Tulsa is still standing. Photo is copyright Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without written permission.

The rear of the Westly is also very distinctive with this short wall and through-the-cornice dormer. Photo is copyright Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The rear of the Westly is also very distinctive with this short wall and through-the-cornice dormer. Photo is copyright Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

When I first saw this house in Ohio, I had an overwhelming urge to knock on their front door and demand that the homeowners surrender their Home Depot credit cards.

When I first saw this house in Ohio, I had an overwhelming urge to knock on their front door and demand that the homeowners surrender their Home Depot credit cards. If this were a dog, we'd test it for rabies and then put it down.

Sears Westly on Fauquier Avenue in Richmond

Sears Westly in Richmond, VA. If these walls could talk, this house would ask, "Do these railings make me look flat and dull?"

Westly in Midwestern suburb

Lastly is this Westly in Northerly suburb of Chicago. Poor Westly has had an entire neighborhood built behind it. In Illinois, they call this a condominium. In many other states, this is call "hideous."

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

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Those Darn House-Wreckers: Harris Brothers

February 10th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Harris Brothers was a small Chicago-based kit home company that started out life as a house-wrecking company. Today, we use another name to describe this line of work; something a little more delicate and environmentally friendly, like “Architectural Salvage.”

Of the six national companies, selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, Harris Brothers was probably the least-well known.

According to fellow researcher Rebecca Hunter, Harris Brothers got their start when they were awarded contracts to demolish exhibitions at the 1893 World’s Fair (also known as The Chicago World’s Fair). That same year, they were first incorporated as The Chicago House Wrecking Company. In 1913, they changed their name and their image: Harris Brothers.

Rebecca’s research shows that their last mail-order pre-cut house catalog was issued in 1931. From then until 1958, the company remained in business, selling millwork and building materials through mail order catalogs.

Identifying Harris Brothers’ homes is especially difficult because so many of these designs were also offered in popular building magazines and also in planbooks. Outside of the Midwest, one has to be especially careful because it’s virtually impossible to tell - from the exterior - if a house is a Harris Brothers’ kit home, or a house ordered from another source.

Harris Brothers catalog from 1915

Harris Brothers' catalog from 1915

Harris Brothers

It's 1917 and the happy couple on the cover are still reviewing the paperwork, trying to decide on their new home.

A letter explains

This letter (reprinted here in original colors) accompanied the Harris Brothers' catalog and extolled the many salutary benefits of owning a Harris Brothers' home. Those tilting houses in the left margin make me a little nervous. Kind of a "wizard of oz spinning house" thing.

The catalog was also filled with happy testimonials from happy buyers.

The catalog was also filled with happy testimonials from happy buyers.

Nice

"Cheap" is such a harsh sounding word.

Boxcar being loaded

Where's OSHA when you need them? This picture is from 1915.

Harris Brothers

Harris Brothers J-161, as seen in the 1917 catalog.

And here it is, in living color. Nice match, too.

And here it is, in living color. Nice match, too. This house is in Richmond, VA.

Harris Brothers

Harris Brothers

Sears Modern Home #190.

Sears Modern Home #190 or Harris Brothers J-84? It's impossible to know without inspecting the interior and comparing the precise room measurements of the two floorplans. From the exterior, these two homes are identical.This house is also in Richmond.

Harris Brothers

This is the Harris Brothers Ardmore, and it's not hard to spot this house with that unusual second floor poking up out of that roofline! (Vintage catalog image supplied by Dan Becker.)

Harris Brothers Ardmore in Suffolk, VA

Is it an Harris Brother's Ardmore ? Physically, it's a good match from the outside. This house is in Suffolk, VA. Darn tree wouldn't get out of the way, despite repeated warnings from a certain author. Even making chain-saw noises didn't help. The tree remained perfectly still, unfazed and unimpressed.

HB

This Ardmore is in Vinton, Virginia, a small town just outside of Roanoke.

Here it is: THe Harris Brothers kit home, the Ardmore. Id bet money that the owners have no idea that they have a kit home from a small, Chicago-based company.

Harris Brothers' Ardmore in Raleigh, NC.

And they sold pre-cut kit barns, too.

And they sold pre-cut kit barns, too.

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

To learn more about Rose, click here.

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