Archive

Posts Tagged ‘kit house’

Another One Bites The Dust?

December 20th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Several folks sent me a link about a kit house in northern Virginia that is being offered for sale with one very substantial condition: It has to be moved from its existing location.

Color me jaded, but in the last 15 years, I’ve seen this happen time and time and time again. Something (a college, government agency or corporation) wants to expand beyond its current borders, but an old house is blocking “progress” (a word I’ve come to hate), so to appease the crazy local historians, the bungalow-eating entity offers to “sell” the house in question.

But alas! No one comes forward and offers to buy the old house, so the onus is no longer on the bungalow-eating entity (hereafter called “BEE”); rather it’s the “lack of interested buyers” that have killed the home’s second chance at life.

It’s a win-win for the BEE, and a lose-lose for anyone who loves history and/or old houses and/or reducing waste at landfills and/or anyone who abhors waste.

Generalizations are only generally true, but generally speaking, moving a bungalow from Point A to Point B in a metro area is going to cost $75,000 - $100,000 and sometimes more. There are many other hassles and headaches involved in modern-day house moving. Let’s just say that it’s not something the average Joe has the financial resources and/or experience and/or ability to undertake.

Nonetheless, I’ll try to be hopeful during this holiday season that this house will prove to be the exception. We’ll know - by April 2016 - how this plays out.

Here’s the blurb from the site.

Historic Lewis House - Haymarket, Virginia The Town of Haymarket, Virginia is selling a historic house manufactured by Lewis Manufacturing of Bay City, Michigan, transported as a kit home by rail in about 1926 and erected at 14710 Washington Street, Haymarket Virginia. The identification of the house as a Lewis Manufacturing product is based on site findings such as the eaves bracket type, window and door trim taper treatments, pillar design and handwritten numbers in grease pencil in the attic. This house is the La Vitello model Craftsman-style bungalow. The Town of Haymarket, Virginia is accepting offers on the house in an effort to preserve it by having it relocated off site. All offers must be submitted to the Town Manager at 15000 Washington Street, Haymarket, Virginia 20169. Offers should include the purchase price and plan for relocation off site. The house must be moved by the end of April, 2016.

To read more about how homes were moved 100+ years ago, click here.

One more reason old houses should be preserved, not destroyed: The quality of lumber.

*

The house being offered for sale in northern Virginia is the Lewis La Vitello (1924).

The house being offered for sale in northern Virginia is the Lewis La Vitello (1924). Lewis was a kit home company based in Bay City, Michigan (as was Aladdin).

*

Nice floor plan, but the house in Haymarket, Virginia has had a massive addition globbed onto the side.

Nice floor plan, but the house in Haymarket, Virginia has had a massive addition globbed onto the side. That's a busy little hallway behind the dining room. And that "breakfast room" is quite massive!

*

Maybe if it gets moved, theyll leave this unappealingappendage behind.

Maybe if it gets moved, they'll leave this unappealingappendage behind.

*

It looks a lot better from the front.

It looks a lot better from the front.

*

house

That decking is unfortunate. The stonework is stunning. That will go bye-bye if the house is moved. It'll also go bye-bye if the house is destroyed. It's all such an egregious waste. As mentioned in a prior blog, about 40% of everything in our country's landfills is construction debris.

*

From

The view down the side. One of the lovely features of this old house is that it still has its original siding, and the eaves - those magnificent eaves - have not been chopped into bits and encased in aluminum.

*

And

Those oversized eaves make me swoon. What a house. What a pity.

*

Inside the La Vitello

Inside the La Vitello

*

house

Another view of the La Vitello from the 1924 Lewis Homes catalog.

*

Heres a La Vitello in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale P. Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Here's a La Vitello in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale P. Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

To read more about how homes were moved 100+ years ago, click here.

One more reason old houses should be preserved, not destroyed: The quality of lumber.

*

The Roycroft Twins in Jacksonville, Illinois

August 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 8 comments

Sears gets all the ink, but fact is, Gordon Van Tine was a very substantial (and impressive) kit home company, too. You can learn a lot about GVT by visiting Dale’s website here. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes, and Gordon Van Tine - based in Davenport, Iowa - sold about 50,000.

Both Dale and Rachel (another dear friend) managed to get their hands on a wonderful old original GVT brochure, filled with testimonials from Gordon Van Tine’s happiest customers, and shared it with me.

One ad in particular caught my eye: It was a pair of Gordon Van Tine homes built next door to each other in Jacksonville, Illinois. Well shoot, Jacksonville was only 90 minutes from Alton, where I often visit family.

Last week when I was in Alton, I drove out to Jacksonville and got some pictures of The Roycroft Twins!

I would love to return to Jacksonville and give a talk on the many other kit homes I found! Contact Rose and let’s make a date!

Tomorrow (or later this week), I plan to write a blog on the REST of the kit homes in J-ville.

Special thanks to Rachel for finding the street address of these two homes. Rachel has her own wonderful blog, and it can be found here.

*

The Roycroft, as seen in the 1929 GVT catalog.

The Roycroft, as seen in the 1929 GVT catalog.

*

Small house, but good floorplan.

Small house, but good floorplan.

*

house

It's a fine-looking house! Other than the twins in Jacksonville, I've never seen one - that I know of. After the vinyl-siding salesmen have their way with a house like this, it has the potential to be transmogrified into a homogenized, faceless, pedestrian, monotonous, dull, featureless front-gabled bore, so I may have missed the others.

*

Both Dale and Rachel managed to score this vintage 1920s brochure full of testimonials from happy GVT buyers.

Both Dale and Rachel managed to score this vintage 1920s brochure with testimonials from happy GVT buyers. It's a fun brochure and chocked full of photos.

*

I must say, I dont think Id eat much pudding if it looked like this.

I must say, I don't think I'd eat much pudding if it looked like this.

*

Inside the brochure, is this fun image.

Inside the brochure, is this fun image. Turns out that 440 North Clay was a business address for Mr. Fernandes, and not the site of the Roycroft Twins.

*

But Rachel turned on the ignition to her Google Car and did some virtual driving and found the twinkies on Church Street.

But Rachel turned on the ignition to her Google Car and did some virtual driving and found the twinkies just off West College Street in Jacksonville. (The image above is from the 1929 'Proof in the Pudding' brochure.)

*

And here they are today.

And here they are today. Fortunately, the porches and some other details have survived.

*

Twinkie #1.

Twinkie #1.

*

Twinkie #2.

Twinkie #2.

*

Just across the street from the Roycroft Twins, I found this!

Just across the street from the Roycroft Twins, I found this! Did Mr. Fernandes build this too?

*

And its in mostly original condition! What a fine-looking house!

And it's in good condition! What a fine-looking house!

*

Sears Wilmore, as seen in the 1940 Sears catalog.

And I found several Sears Homes in Jacksonville, too.

*

Perfection

Perfection. This was my favorite "Sears House" find, The Sears Wilmore, complete with white picket fence.

*

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, just put Mr. Mousie right here.

If you know Mr. Fernandes, please leave a comment!

*     *     *

Sweet Home, Alabama (Sears Magnolia)

April 26th, 2014 Sears Homes 10 comments

Sometime in 2005, the new owner of the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama sent me several dozen photos of the house. Recently, I rediscovered the CDs. Those photos reminded me that I also had a 1984 newspaper article about that Magnolia.

Unfortunately, I do not have any record of whose photos these are, so they appear below without attribution. I’m hoping someone reading this might help me figure out who took those pictures!

Below are the photos, and the 1984 article from The Anniston Star.

Piedmont boasts a Sears Catalog Mansion (November 1, 1984)

by Viveca Novak

Piedmont - When the late doctor Fain Webb and his wife filled out the order form Magnolia, the catalog description likened the Magnolia to the “famous residence at Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the poet Longfellow composed his immortal works.”

The Magnolia rolled into Piedmont in 1921 on a box car one day. Accompanying instructions told the dentist and his school-teacher wife how to assemble everythnig into the configuration of a dwelling.

“Everyone in Piedmont thought it was the prettiest house in town,” remembers Piedmont native Louise Golden. “Little did my mother dream that we would ever own the house.”

It was one day in 1964 that Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Woolf, Mrs. Golden’s parents, got a call from the Webb’s daughter who offered to sell them the homestead for the unbelievably low sum of $12,500.

At the time, Mrs. Woolf was 60 and her husband was 80, retired from years in the Inn business that included running the Piedmont Hotel in the late 1920s. With the help of a $20,000 loan from the Small Business Administration, the Woolfs made the necessary adjustments to complete their dream.

On January 1965, the Colonial Inn opened its doors for supper.

Four bedrooms upstairs were rented to help repay the loan, “but they were very careful about who they rented to, ” says Mrs. Golden, who returned to Piedmont to help her parents run the new venture.

The $2 Sunday smorgasboards attracted upwards of 100 people each week.

“We had Miss Alabama and Miss Poultry Queen for our Christmas Parade one year,” recalls Theresa Kaisor, city historian and asst school board superintendent. “We carried them over there to eat dinner.”

The Inn’s reputation spread far and wide and travelers of all kinds made the necessary detours to stop a night in Piedmont.

Two years later, Piedmont was mourning the closing of the inn, following the death of Mrs. Woolf. Though Mrs. Golden was urged to keep the inn open, it was a task she declined.

In 1970, the house underwent another rebirth with its sale - for $19,000 - to Calvin and Patricia Wingo, two history professors at Jacksonville State University who have a penchant for restoring old houses to their original grandeur.

The Wingos tore up the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors, replaced the roof and wiring, repaired the bases of some of the columns and painted the whole house. Their son was born soon after they moved in.

Two families occupied the house between 1974, when the Wingos sold it, and 1980. It’s more recent history causes residents to shake their heads sadly. Under the ownership of Charles Grissom, from 1980 to this year, the house burned twice, destroying most of the interior on the first floor and the basement.

It has gone unoccupied for many months.

But the new owner, Winford Kines, hopes it will be a dream house once again, despite the fire damage and theft of one of the mantle pieces and an old pedestal sink.

Kines has begun cleaning out the burned basement and the yard in the initial stages of his project. It may take me a few years, but I hope to live in it someday, Kines said. He has already won a community for lifting the house above the status of neighborhood eyesore.

*

My #1 favorite Magnolia story here. It’s well worth the read!

Join us on Facebook!

What is it about Magnolias and fire?

*     *     *

The Sears Magnolia was quite a house (1922 catalog).

The Sears Magnolia was quite a house (1922 catalog).

*

In 2008 I visited the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. Unfortunately, no one was home.

In 2008 I visited the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. Unfortunately, no one was home.

*

I helped myself to a few good photos while I was in the neighborhood.

I helped myself to a few good photos while I was in the neighborhood.

*

This Magnolia

And walked around a bit.

*

And went up on the front porch.

And went up on the front porch.

*

Youll notice the dormer on this house is quite different than the dormer on the other Magnolias.

You'll notice the dormer on this house is quite different than the dormer on the other Magnolias. I've no idea how that came to be. It appears that the house has its original siding, so we can't blame this on the siding salesmen.

*

Some features of the house

Some features of the house remain intact, such as these oak columns in front of the living room fireplace. The inglenook window and built-in bench are missing.

*

Did you read the whole article before scrolling down to look at the photos? If so, youd know that someone broke into the house and stole a fireplace mantle. Im guessing this is the mantle.

Did you read the whole article before scrolling down to look at the photos? If so, you'd know that someone broke into the house and stole a fireplace mantle. I'm guessing this is the scene of the crime. However, what they're missing in mantles, they make up for in vacuum cleaners.

*

Bear

Incredibly, the windows and trim on the sunporch are all still original. Then again, all of these photos were snapped more than nine years ago. The antique oak filing cabinets are a nice touch, too, but they obstruct the windows a bit.

*

Another view of the sunporch windows.

Another view of the sunporch windows.

*

living room

This appears to be the dining room, in use as a parlor or den.

*

living room also

From the dining room, looking into the living room.

*

Looking

Remember reading about that fire? Apparently the staircase took a hit.

*

A really bad hit.

A really bad hit.

*

Definitely

The balustrade in the Magnolia was quite beautiful but sadly, in the Piedmont Magnolia, it's all gone. Here, it's been replaced them with 2x4s (gasp) and a planter stand (eek).

*

nebraska up

As a contrast, here's a picture of a Magnolia in Nebraska that is no longer with us. You can see that it had a beautiful balustrade. This house was razed about the same time the newspaper article above was written - mid 1980s. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Second floor sunporch.

It's nice to see the original doors are in place, even if the hardware didn't survive. This is the second floor bedroom (master bedroom).

*

Side

It's incredible that these original paneled newel posts survive (with balls on top), and yet the house has obviously been through some hard times. I know that the house sold recently. Perhaps now it will be restored.

*

My #1 favorite Magnolia story here. It’s well worth the read!

What is it about Magnolias and restaurants? Read about another Magnolia restaurant here.

What is it about Magnolias and fire?

*      *      *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The True Origins of the Sears Magnolia

February 10th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

The Sears Magnolia, offered from 1918-1922, seems to be a source of a much misinformation and confusion.

Yesterday, someone sent me a link to another purported “Magnolia” in Watseka, IL (719 South Fourth Street). And then a member in our “Sears Homes” Facebook group showcased a quote from author Daniel Reiff (Houses from Books) stating that even though the house in Watseka is not a Sears Magnolia, it may have been an inspiration for the Sears architects.

Built models might have also been an influence [for the Sears Magnolia]. Only one hundred miles from Chicago, in Watseka, IL is an impressive Colonial Revival built in 1903 with many features in common with the Magnolia (Houses from Books, p. 194).

I’d say there are a few other houses that have “many features in common with the Magnolia” - as in thousands.

The Magnolia would be best described as a Colonial Revival, which was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sears was not an innovator in anything, most of all, architectural design. They looked at what was popular and created their housing designs accordingly.

Judging from the photos in Houses from Books, much of Reiff’s research was centered in the Northeast, specifically the New York area. Mr. Reiff should have traveled down to the South, because we’re loaded with examples of what is commonly known as the Colonial Revival.

If I felt compelled to connect a specific house to the architect’s creation of the Sears Magnolia, I’d put my money on a 1910-built house in Blacksburg, SC (photos below).

The South Carolina “Magnolia” was built in 1910, and based on the home’s interior moldings, mantels, staircase and some other clues, I’d say that the 1910 build-date is pretty accurate. And although this is a wild guess, I suspect that it MAY BE a pattern book house.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia.

When Sears “borrowed” patterns from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets across the front of the Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

Mr. Reiff also identified a Sears Magnolia in Dunkirk, NY.


A second example of a brick Magnolia can be found in Dunkirk NY, Despite the lack of side wings because of the narrow lot, the similarities to the Sears model are still striking, but the house is much narrower than its model. In fact, although the 93 West Fourth Street is the same depth as the Magnolia (36′1 vs. 36), it is a full ten feet narrower (29.10 vs. 40.0)
.

All of which are deal killers. Dimensions matter - a lot. However, Mr. Reiff pulls it out of the fire at the end with this:

The plan of the Dunkirk house is considerably different. Instead of the formal central hallway with staircase and rooms on either side, here the plan is far more compact; One enters the living room which runs across the front of the house in the middle of its long side; the stairs are at one end…Here we almost certainly have an instance of a local builder who studied the illustration in the Sears catalog and created his own version of it, without ordering the plans or, in all likelihood, any of the materials from Sears (p. 196).


Besides, if you were going to name a house “The Magnolia,” would your inspiration come from the frozen North?

I think not.

Now, where is that 9th Magnolia?

To see pictures of all eight Sears Magnolias, click here.

To read more about the “fake” Magnolia in SC, click here.

*     *     *

If I was going to pick a house to have been a model for the Magnolia, Id pick this house in Blacksburg, SC!!

If I were going to pick a house to have been a "model" for the Magnolia, I'd pick this house in Blacksburg, South Carolina After all, this actually looks like a Magnolia!

*

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog. Some may describe it as a Colonial Revival, but really, it's a foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

*

!92

The Magnolia (1920 Modern Homes catalog).

*

This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a model for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to cut it down to size for a kit house catalog.

This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a "model" for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to "cut it down to size" for inclusion in a kit house catalog. There are 15 small lites over the large windows on the first floor - just like the Magnolia. And, it's in South Carolina, just where you'd expect to find a "Magnolia"!

*

The other big difference are the columns.

The other big difference is the columns. The real Magnolia has hollow wooden columns (made of poplar). The house in Blacksburg had columns made of concrete. Try shipping *that* from Chicago!

*

The details around the eaves are also a little bit off.

The details around the eaves are also a little bit "off." The eave brackets on the SC house are more ornate (photo on right). The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The Blacksburg house has eight brackets. The Magnolia's dormer has four of these eave brackets. The Blacksburg house has three. These are the kind of details that really do matter. (The house on the left is a Magnolia in Nebraska which has since been torn down. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

But boy oh boy, its a close one!!

But boy oh boy, it's a close one!!

*

Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

*

Even the interior floorplan was a good match!

However, the interior floorplan was not quite right, and that's a big deal, too.

*

Heres the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

Here's the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

*

And here are

In June 2012, I traveled to Anderson, SC and found these two Colonial Revivals within a block of each other. In the South, this house style is very popular and can be found in almost every old neighborhood. In fact, these houses might just be real Colonials (as opposed to a post-Civil war "Revival").

*

The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, its just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!!  (Not)

The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, it's just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!! (Not)

*

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

Better yet, if you’d like to buy a copy or Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the now-deceased Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.

*     *     *

Almost as Good as a Magnolia! (Sears Pennsgrove!)

September 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

My website recently hit 750,000 views. That’s a lot of people reading about Sears Homes. And with all those visitors, I also get a lot of “I saw a neighborhood just full of Magnolias” emails.

And yet tonight (Thursday night), someone left a comment, saying that there was a Sears Pennsgrove in their neighborhood. The Pennsgrove is one of those rare kit homes that neither I, nor Rebecca, nor Dale have ever seen. And we’ve been looking!

A Pennsgrove.

In Baltimore.

And much to my surprise, they were right. It was a Sears Pennsgrove. The Pennsgrove was only offered in 1931 and 1932, which is part of the reason it’s so rare. Those were not boom years for American real estate.

The Pennsgrove was truly a beautiful home, and fancy too. It’s spacious (about 2,200 square feet), has a two-car attached garage, and is full of unique features. Driving past this beauty, you’d never guess in a million years that this house came from Sears.

And yet it did.

Many thanks to Tom and Jada for telling me about this splendiferous Sears House in Baltimore. You can visit their website here.

Thanks also to the anonymous, gifted, talented and generous Realtor who so graciously permitted me to use her incredibly beautiful photos.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

*   *   *

Pretty fancy house for a kit, isnt it? (1932 catalog)

Pretty fancy house for a kit, isn't it? (1932 catalog)

*

I love the text in these old catalogs.

"Pleasing proportions, picturesque detail, contrasting surfaces and softly blended colors give the Pennsgrove that rare charm characteristic of the countrysides of Kent and Surrey across the sea."

*

Two car attached garage? Wow.

Two car attached garage? Wow. And the garage is big enough to store pine trees, too!

*

house

Small bedrooms, but look at all that busyness off the master bedroom.

*

Nice house.

The Pennsgrove, as it appeared in the 1932 catalog.

*

And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

*

Wow

Gosh, what a house!

*

Inisde, the house has some delightful and quirky features.

Inside, the house has some delightful and quirky features, such as this opening onto the staircase. And look at that wood! It looks like the house is mostly in original condition.

*

stairs

Another view of the entry foyer.

*

A cute

This house has two full bathrooms, and in this bath, the original tub remains.

*

There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

*

*

dining

Beautiful dining room with original wainscoting.

*

bed

Another dormer in an upstairs bedroom.

*

What have you got in YOUR neighborhood?

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

*   *   *

Eight Pretty Maggies in a Row

August 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 19 comments

As of last month, we’ve found eight Sears Magnolias. There are probably more, but where are they?

The last three Magnolias that were discovered (in North Carolina, New York and West Virginia) were found thanks to the readers of this blog.

So where’s Number Nine?  :)

If you know, please leave a comment below!

Below are pictures of the eight Magnolias.

Enjoy!

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

*

When first offered

When first offered in 1918, the Magnolia was also offered as a "plan" (blueprints only) for $10.

*

The Magnolia in Benson, NC was discovered when a faithful reader of the blog sent me a note and reported that shed seen a Magnolia featured on the news. She even sent me a link to the news story, so I was able to conform it was a Magnolia before I traveld five hours south to Benson.

The Magnolia in Benson, NC was discovered when a faithful reader of the blog sent me a note and reported that she'd seen a Magnolia featured on the news. She even sent me a link to the news story, so I was able to conform it was a Magnolia before I traveled five hours south to Benson. This Magnolia has been in constant use as a funeral home since the early 1940s. The interior has been pretty well gutted and rebuilt, but at least it's still standing.

*

Canton, Ohio

The Magnolia in Canton, Ohio was almost lost in the 1980s. The roof had collapsed into the second floor, but the house was purchased by someone who truly loved old houses, and they did a thorough restoration of the home. In 2002, I visited this house when filming a segment for PBS's "History Detectives." Photo is courtesy Janet LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Located in the hills of West Virginia, this beautiful Magnolia also passed through its own shadow of death in the early 2000s. In 2003, it was purchased and lovingly restored.

Located in the hills of West Virginia, this beautiful Magnolia also passed through its own "shadow of death" in the early 2000s. In 2003, it was purchased and lovingly restored.

*

In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was in pitiful shape (when these photos were taken). In late 1985, the house suffered additional damage when it caught fire. It was razed sometime in 1985.

In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was in pitiful shape (when these photos were taken). In late 1985, the house suffered additional damage when it caught fire. It was razed sometime in 1985. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Syracuse

The Seventh Magnolia (in Syracuse, NY) was also discovered thanks to a faithful reader of this blog. It was built by Edward Knapp for his two sisters sometime between 1918-1921. In the 1990s, it was purchased and restored by someone who loved the house and appreciated its unique history. Photo is courtesy Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house house

The Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana is now going through its own trying time. If you look at the underside of the front porch ceiling, you'll see moisture damage. The aluminum trim around the eaves and soffit is also falling away. Hopefully, this wonderful old house will be spared the fate of the Maggy in Nebraska. These photos are more than a year old, so perhaps good things are now happening for this house. Photo is courtesy James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is also needing a little love.

The Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is also needing a little love. It's sold three times in the last six years and when I was there in September 2010, it was looking a little ragged around the edges. However, it sold very recently (less than six months ago) and hopefully the new owners will return it to its former glory.

*

Last but not least is this Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania. It was built as a brick house, and the floorplan was altered a bit when the house was built. Construction began in 1922 and was not completed until 1927.

Last but not least is this Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania. The brick exterior is original to the house and the floorplan was altered a bit when the house was built. Construction began in 1922 and was not completed until 1927. Photo is courtesy Bob Keeling and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And in Blacksburg, SC

This "almost-a-Magnolia" was discovered in Blacksburg, SC. According to the homeowner (and tax records) the house was built in 1910, and based on millwork and other design elements, that seems like a good date. The classic "widow's walk" (flat top) on the hipped roof is not in place (as with a traditional Magnolia). And see those tall columns? They're solid concrete. No kit house would have concrete two-story columns due to the tremendous weight. These homes were designed with the expectation that a "man of average abilities" could build them in 90 days - or less! I suspect that this house in Blacksburg was purchased from a planbook or architectural magazine, and then Sears "borrowed" the design, shaved a few feet off the footprint and the Sears Magnolia was born.

*

house house house

The Magnolia was also known as Sears Modern Home #2089. I found this marking in the basement of the Magnolia in Benson, NC. When these framing members were shipped out of Cairo, Illinois, one of the mill workers grabbed a blue grease pencil and marked the top beam in the pile of lumber that was about to be loaded onto a train for Benson. Today, this faint mark can be used to authenticate that this is indeed a Sears kit home.

*

marked lumber

Years ago, I talked to an elder gent who remembered helping Mom and Dad build a Sears kit home. The father, standing on the building site, would yell out, "I need a G 503!" and the kids would scramble over the massive piles of framing members to find a beam marked G 503. The floor joist shown above was found in the Magnolia in WV.

*

Now, about that 9th Magnolia…

Where is it?  :)

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

*     *     *

The Eighth Magnolia - and - It’s In West Virginia!

August 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 14 comments

For years and years, it was believed that only six Magnolias had been sold by Sears and Roebuck, but their locations were unknown.

As the years passed, the six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was lost in 1985 when it burned down.

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.  One dead (and cremated).

And then two years ago, one of my faithful readers reported that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

Turned out, they were right. The discovery made the local papers, and it was all pretty exciting.  Click here to read the article from May 2011.

All of which brings me to this newest discovery of an 8th Magnolia.

In June 2013, someone left me a comment saying, that many years ago, he’d lived in a small town in West Virginia, and there was a Sears Magnolia just across the street from his home.

According to his reminiscence, the Magnolia was ordered from the Sears & Roebuck catalog in 1924, and the price was $7,000. The homeowner then paid a local builder another $7,000 to build the house. Rachel Shoemaker and I stayed up most of one night trying to figure out if this house was the real deal. About 4:00 am, we came to the conclusion that it was.

I contacted the homeowner (who was gracious enough to write back!) and asked if we could visit his wonderful Magnolia when we visited Elkins, later in the summer.

He said yes.

“Thrilled” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about this elegant home in West Virginia.

For one, this Maggy has been painstakingly and thoroughly restored. In the world of architectural preservation, there’s a massive difference between “remodeling” and “restoring.”

This Magnolia has truly been restored.

I’m a tough cookie with an eye for detail and a penchant for perfection and a passion for historicity, and I’m happy to report that the work done on this old house was absolutely first-class. This West Virginia “Maggy” is truly a wonder to behold. As the pictures will show, the house is a gem and every room looks like something out of a fancy architectural magazine. It really is that beautiful.

Secondly, I was so pleased to see that the house is in good hands. The home’s current owners love this house with their whole heart, and they genuinely appreciate their home’s unique history. They’re “caretakers” in the truest sense of the word, and they really do “get it.”

An interesting aside, my husband toured the house with me, and he was also smitten (and he’s not even a big architecture guy). When we returned to our car, he said quietly, “That really is a beautiful place they’ve got there.”

Enough words. Just wait until you see these pictures. You’ll fall in love with this house, just like I did.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

*    *    *

house house

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922. It's shown here in the 1921 catalog

*

The description shows it was fancy.

The description of the Magnolia gives some wonderful detail on the home's fine qualities (1921).

*

price

A price list from the 1921 catalog shows detail on the optional extras for the Magnolia.

*

house house house

What a fine-looking house!

*

house house

This magnificent Magnolia is now 88 years old, and still retains all its original stateliness, beauty and grandeur. Beginning in 2003, the house underwent a major, three-year-long restoration that saved this historically significant home.

*

beautiful

The house sits on several acres on a beautifully landscaped lot in a small West Virginia town about two hours from my husband's ancestral home in Elkins, WV. The previous owners (who did the major three-year restoration) planted the two Magnolia trees at the front of the house. The house is even more beautiful "in person" than it is in these photos. It's stunning. Just stunning.

*

house

This house has no bad sides. It is beautiful from every angle.

*

house

Just imagine bobbing about in the pool on an August afternoon, sipping on a cool soda and gazing upward at a majestic Magnolia. Bliss! On a more architectural note, the 40' wide addition across the back added quite a bit of square footage and also expanded the size of the small den and kitchen.

*

house

The floorplan for the first floor (shown here) shows how the addition to the rear of the house increased the square footage, expanded the den and the kitchen and did not diminish the home's original beauty. Major kudos to the architect who came up with this plan! Brilliant!

*

house house

And from the back of the house, you can get a good view of that distinctive Magnolia dormer.

*

house

A view of the front yard from the second-floor balcony. West Virginia is a state filled with beautiful views, and this house is located in an unusually beautiful spot in West Virginia.

*

When I first contacted the homes owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

When I first contacted the home's owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

*

house house

Beautiful house. Just beautiful.

*

And much praise is due to the folks who did the restoration on the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved.

And much praise is due to the folks who restored the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved. These windows - with a little love and care - will last for generations.

*

On

It's claimed that the Sears Magnolia was the only kit that was required two boxcars (as opposed to one) for shipment. I suspect the six two-story columns were part of the reason for the second boxcar. When shipped, these columns were in pieces (length-wise) which were to be assembled on site. The bases on these columns were recently replaced.

*

house house

The porch floor on the other Magnolias I've seen is poured concrete. On the West Virginia Magnolia, the terrace is tiled, with several floor drains. I've read that they get lots of snow in WV so maybe the floor drains help with that.

*

And in the basement, we found

And in the basement, we found marked lumber!

*

My next blog

Return to this blog tomorrow, and come inside for a tour of this beautiful home. You're in for a treat!

*

To read Part II of this blog (and see interior photos) click here.
Is there a Sears Magnolia in your neighborhood?

Of the eight Sears Magnolias that have been discovered, three of them were found thanks to the loyal readers of this blog. If you know of a Magnolia, please leave a comment below!

*   *   *

Eighty Percent of the People Who Think They Have a Sears House Are Wrong.

June 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Yes, that’s a true fact.

Back in the day, I actually kept track of such numbers, and back in the day, I found that about 80% of the people who thought they had a Sears kit home were wrong.

Eighty percent.

Typically, these folks did in fact have a kit home, but it turned out to be a kit home from another company.

I doubt that there’s an adult alive today that hasn’t heard of Sears and Roebuck, but how many people have heard of Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Sterling, Harris Brothers or Lewis Manufacturing? How many people know that Montgomery Ward sold kit homes in the early 1900s?

So while the legend of a “kit house” might survive through the generations, the facts of the story often get confused.

Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) actually sold more kit homes than Sears, and was in business far long than Sears, but still, when it comes to kit homes, people assume that all kit homes came from Sears. (Aladdin started selling mail-order kit homes in 1906 and stopped in 1981. Sears started in 1908 and stopped in 1940.)

Which leads me to the topic of today’s blog.

Last week, friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker discovered a blog about a “Sears House” in Melbourne, Florida. Rachel took one look at the house featured in the blog and realized, it was not a Sears House, but rather, a kit home sold by Gordon Van Tine.

To read the blog, click here.

In the blog, the house in Melbourne is misidentified as a Sears Gordon, but (thanks to researchers Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker), we now know that this is a physical impossibility.

After doing some digging, Rachel and Mark found that the little Cape Cod style house was not only present, but occupied when the 1930 Census was conducted.

So this “Ready-Cut” house was already built and occupied in 1930. But the Sears Gordon did not appear in the Sears Modern Homes catalog until Spring 1931. And then there’s the fact that the Sears Gordon really doesn’t look much like the little house in Melbourne.

Again, this is a very common mistake.

And there’s another piece to this story. Rachel, who’s quite adept at finding kit homes via Google Maps, found that to the left of the little Cape Cod is another Gordon Van Tine house (Model #530). And to the right is a Gordon Van Tine Model #613, with a Gordon Van Tine garage!

There’s a story there, but what is it? How did three Gordon Van Tine homes end up in one cluster?

Based on my experience, it was probably a family enterprise. This was pretty common.

If you have any information to the back story of these three Gordon Van Tine houses, please oh please leave a comment below!

To read the original blog featuring this subject house, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

*  *  *

*

The auditors website shows the little cape cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

The auditor's website has a photo showing the little Cape Cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

*

GVT 620

The catalog page for the GVT 620 (1927). Hmmm, it looks a lot like the house above!

*

The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little cape cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little Cape Cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

*

A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the

A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the left is the Melbourne house and the house on the right is the Sears Gordon.

*

Ooh, now thats a nice match!

Ooh, now that's a nice match! Why, those two houses look just alike!

*

In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, Proof of the Pudding, and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, youll see its a spot-on match!

In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, "Proof of the Pudding," and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, you'll see it's a spot-on match!

*

And just a couple weeks ago, I saw the GVT #620 on an episode of Undercover Boss.

And just a couple weeks ago, I spotted a GVT #620 on an episode of "Undercover Boss."

*

But wait, theres more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

But wait, there's more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

*

Oh yeah!

The double dormers make this house easy to spot. Gordon Van Tine Model #530 sits to the immediate left of the house featured in the blog (GVT #620). Photo is from auditor's website.

*

And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 next door to the #530!

And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 to the right of the GVT #620.

*

Wow

So how did Palmetto Street in Melbourne end up with a Gordon Van Tine #613 (shown above), a number #530 (with the double dormers) and a #620 (with the triple dormers)? And why isn't there a house in this cluster with just ONE dormer? Photo is from auditor's website.

*

house house

As mentioned above, misidentifying Sears Homes is a very common mistake. Last month in Staunton, Virginia, the owners of the home above were quite certain this was a Sears kit home. In fact, it turned out to be a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. And a lovely match, at that!

*

The owners of that house in Staunton were THRILLED to learn the true facts about their house, and it’s my hope the owner of the GVT #620 will be equally thrilled to learn the true facts about her beloved home in Melbourne.

*

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

*   *   *

The Thrift Book of a Nation

May 26th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Earlier this week, my friend Rachel posted a picture of this 1922 Sears catalog in our Facebook group “Sears Homes.”

I found it utterly enchanting.

The cover shows a little girl dashing out to the mailbox to retrieve the goodies that just arrived from Sears & Roebuck. In the background, there’s a Sears Silo, a Sears Barn, and a Sears kit home, The Silverdale.

It’s an entire farm built by Sears!

Years ago, I interviewed Joseph Origer who’d purchased a Sears Hammond (kit house) out of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog.  He was inspired to buy a Sears House by his father.

Mr. Origer explained,

My dad built a Sears kit silo in 1911 and he was so impressed with the quality of the lumber (all cypress) that he decided to buy and build Sears Modern Home #101.

I remember my father telling me that his kit home was all number one lumber and material. All the building materials cost $879 and the total expense, including all carpenter labor, was less than $1500. I still have the itemized list of materials for that house!

When I decided to marry and stay on the farm, my parents suggested we go to Chicago and pick out another Sears home. Dad said, “you know the material will be good.”

These 60-plus years The Hammond has been a wonderful house. I am glad I built it. This house has been well maintained inside and out, and it is still just as good as new.

Mr. Origer’s experience was probably fairly typical. Potential customers might have been hesitant to purchase an entire kit house, but they were ready and willing to buy chicken coops, silos, corn cribs, milk sheds, tool houses and more.

How many American farms were filled with Sears outbuildings and kit homes?

I wish I knew!

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing these wonderful images!

house hose

Cover of the 1922 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

*

ban

The barn in the background is a Sears kit barn, L2055.

*

Sears barn 1918

The Sears barn as seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

*

house ouse house house house

Unnamed, happy child with severely deformed left leg and mangled left hand rushes out to the mailbox to see what parcels have arrived from Sears and Roebuck.

*

house house house

These must be some of Sears best customers! Not only did they order a house, silo and barn from Sears, but each day they receive a plethora of packages!

*

house house

Close-up of the Sears Silverdale. But what kind of car is that?

*

silverdale

The Silverdale, as seen in the 1916 Sears catalog.

*

Hettick, IL

A real live Silverdale in Hettick, IL.

*

house hose

Thanks again to Rachel for sharing this wonderful picture!

*

To learn more about the amazing Mr. Sears, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

*   *   *

Some People Can Just Watch TV…

May 23rd, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

But I’m not one of them.

Since 1981, I’ve worked for myself, owning a series of small businesses, some of which have been successful and some of which have not.  Currently, I only have one small business (”Gentle Beam Publications”) which publishes a handful of my own titles (such as “The Houses That Sears Built”).

All of which goes to explain why my #1 favorite show on Prime-Time TV is Undercover Boss.

Thursday afternoon, I finally got around to watching an episode which aired sometime earlier in the month (episode: “Epic Employees”), when I saw a house in the background that caught my eye. I hit the pause button on the DVR and took a closer look.

Next, I pulled out an old GVT catalog and thumbed through it, looking for the cute little house with the clipped gables and three dormers.

Sure enough, I was right. The house on Undercover Boss was a Gordon Van Tine kit home, Model #620.

For several months, I’d been hoping to find this model, as I’ve never seen one, and there it was. On TELEVISION!

Do you have a GVT Model #620 in your neighborhood? If so, please send me a photo!

And please do tell me, what is it like to be able to watch TV without studying all the houses in the background?  :)

To read the next splendiferous blog, click here.

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

*   *   *

house house house

The house shown in this scene from "Undercover Boss" is actually a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. What's it like to watch television without studying all the houses in the background? I do wonder about that sometimes. Strikes me as a little boring, actually!

*

house house

Close-up of the cute little house with the three dormers.

*

house

After seeing the house on television, I pulled up this image of GVT #620 (1927 catalog)!

*

house house

It was a darling little house with a good floor plan.

*

house

Note the three windows on the one side and the bay window on the side.

*

house

No doubt, it's the GVT #620 in the background. If you look close, you'll see the edge of the bay window with a shed dormer (just above the gray hair). What a fine little house!

*

According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVTs Proof of the Pudding), theres a #612 in

According to the 1927 testimonial booklet (GVT's "Proof of the Pudding"), there's a #620 in Palisades, NJ. And in this testimonial, they even give us an address!

*

And

And here's another GVT 620. This one is in Peshastin, Washington.

*

house house

The #620 in Peshastin was built by F. H. Tompkins.

*

Do you live near Peshastin or Palisades? If so, I’d love a photo!

*   *   *