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Posts Tagged ‘kit houses from Sears’

Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, I wrote about “The Experiment,” where Sears built two Sears Rodessas (small bungalows) side-by-side in Cairo, Illinois, to prove the superiority of the Ready-cut System. The two homes were built in the late 1910s, and now, almost 100 years later, those wonderful little houses are still standing.

Why did Sears choose the Rodessa for their experiment? I don’t know. It was a popular house for Sears, but it wasn’t that popular! If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was in the Top 50 Most Popular Designs.

However, it was, as the Sears ad promised, “a most attractive little home.” It was cute, simple and practical, which probably made it easy to build in a hurry.

In my travels, I’ve come across several Rodessas. In fact, there’s one not far from me in Urbana, Virginia. You can read about that house by clicking here.

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

Indeed, the Rodessa is a "pretty little home." And look at the price!!

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Little is right.

Look at those small bedrooms. In 2012, a room that measures 9-feet square is a walk-in closet!

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Busy kitchen

And what does that "B" stand for in the kitchen? BOILER!

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The boiler

The "boiler" (whose placement is indicated with the "B" in the floorplan) was a water heater with a water line that ran through the back of the cook stove. Pretty complicated affair.

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

In 1924, Mr. Kidwell built this Rodessa in Washington DC and sent this snapshot in to Sears and Roebuck. He was "fully satisfied" with his Ready-cut home.

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Happy 1926

In 1926, Sears put out a brochure that was titled, "Happy Homes." The Rodessa was featured within its pages. According to the accompanying text, it was built in Independence, MO.

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Happy

Not sure why Sears included a picture of corn with the testimonial.

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HeWood

It's endured some significant remodelings, but at least it's still standing. This transmogrified Rodessa is in Wood River, Illinois (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO). That salt-treated porch railing just does not work on this old bungalow.

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House

This Rodessa may look a little blue, but it's actually a very happy house with lots of good self-esteem. It's in Northern Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). Its located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana.

Here's the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). It's located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana. The plaque over the door reads, "Sears Roebuck House, 1924." I was told that the folks in Urbana didn't realize that Sears had 369 other kit home designs. This is a fairly common misconception. This 88-year-old house is in beautiful condition.

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And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL).

And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL). They were built in the late 1910s as part of an experiment to prove that "The Ready-Cut Method" was far more efficient than traditional building practices of the time.

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Ready

The house that was built using traditional building practices took 583 hours and the poor saps aren't finished yet. The yard is still a mess with scraps of lumber scattered hither and yon. The workers have collapsed on the front porch in utter despair and humiliation.

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house

Ah, but the pre-cut Sears Kit Home is all buttoned up and beautiful! They even had time to finish up the landscaping! The kitchen windows are wide open. They had so much time to spare that they went inside and cooked dinner!

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation. The clipped gables were gone, as were the dramatically oversized eaves. The unique shape of the front porch was replaced with a simpler gabled roof. In a word, its flair and panache had been replaced with pedestrian and dull.

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Learn more about the two Rodessas at the Sears Mill by clicking here.

How did Sears Homes become so popular so fast? Read about that here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? It’s just one click away!

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Hazelton: House of Threes (Part II)

November 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, the Hazelton is an easy house to spot, because of the unique window arrangement. I think of it as “The House of Threes.”

The Hazelton has three windows in that shed dormer. There are three windows on the wide of the house (in front of the bay window). And there are three windows flanking the front door (right and left). And there are six windows in that dining room bay (divisible by three).

To read the prior blog, click here.

The great majority of Sears Homes can be found in the Midwest, but Rachel Shoemaker found a bevy of these early 20th Century kit homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And she managed to get inside a Hazelton in wonderfully original condition!

Enjoy the photos below! And many thanks to Rachel for these wonderful photos.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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House

Floorplan of the Sears Hazelton.

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Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This house - nearing the 100-year-old mark - is still in wonderfully original condition. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Commemmorative

Commemorative plaque puts the home's age at an impressive 98 years. I'd love to know more about how the owners got this house on the National Register. In my travels, being a "Sears kit house" is not enough for this unique distinctive (as defined by the Secretary of Interior). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside, the house is in mostly original condition!

Inside, the house is in mostly original condition! Notice all the wooden trim, unpainted and with a beautiful patina. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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nice

Close-up on the other side of those bookcase colonnades. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place.

Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved.

The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved. The tile floor and walls are new, but were tastefully done, in a style that's in accord with the time period. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And old

And old ad from the Sears Roebuck building materials catalog shows a typical mantel available for $15. (Notice, gas logs were available for an extra $9.33.)

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Here

The brick work was re-done but the mantel looks much like it did in the 1915 catalog (above). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror.

Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside

These three windows are fancifully adorned on the inside. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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An early building materials catalog shows an old door

An early building materials catalog shows an original oak "Craftsman" door.

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And a real live example!

And a real live example! Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining

In the dining room, those four windows (in the bump out) also retain their original wood finish. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More built-ins!

One of the best features of a Sears kit home were all the built-ins. Even small cubby holes were turned into storage space. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few Sears Homes that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

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To read about the other kit homes in Tulsa, click here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Click here!

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Hazelton: House of Threes

November 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Hazelton is an easy house to spot, because of the unique window arrangement. It was one of the first Sears kit home designs that I memorized, because it is “The House of Threes.”

Take a good look at the windows. The Hazelton has three windows in that shed dormer. There are three windows on the wide of the house (in front of the bay window). And there are three windows flanking the front door (right and left). And there are six windows in that dining room bay (divisible by three).

And “Hazelton” is a three-syllable word!  :)

Another very distinctive feature is the tiny side windows in that dining room bay. Lots of early 20th Century bungalows have a small bump-out in the dining room, but very few have that small side window.

And take a good look at where that shed dormer is positioned on the roof. It’s a bit shy of the ridge board at the tippy top.

Many folks send me photos of houses that resemble the Hazelton, but they’re not paying close attention to the details, such as the placement of that shed dormer and the positioning of the windows. Every Hazelton is a bungalow, but every bungalow is not a Hazelton!

To read Part II on The Hazelton (with many interior shots of a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma) click here.

Sears Hazleton

Sears Hazleton

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Hazelton

Hazelton

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Hazleton

Hazletons abound in Illinois!

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Hazleton

Prior to 1918, Sears homes had numbers, not names. By the way, the Hazelton shown in the first picture is apparently in Bay Shore, NY. Wonder if it's still there?

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hazleton

Floor plan shows two bedrooms downstairs. What's the difference between a "chamber" and a bedroom? I wish I knew. Some say that a chamber is just a first-floor bedroom.

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hazleton

This Hazelton in Edwardsville, Illinois has been remodeled a bit.

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hazel

This photo was taken in 2003 when I visited Chilicothe, IL.

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haz

Illinois does love its Hazeltons. This house is in Tamms.

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Tulsa

A fine-looking Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and my not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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hazleton

Another seriously remodeled Hazleton. This one is in Litchfield, IL.

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Tomorrow, Ill post several interior photos of a Sears Hazelton in beautiful condition!! Same time, same channel!  :)

Tomorrow, I'll post several interior photos of a Sears Hazelton in beautiful condition!! Same time, same channel! :) (photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy the perfect Christmas gift for your friends, family, cat and dog, click here.

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The Kit House at Bowling Green State University (Part V)

August 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 17 comments

Depressing update: The house was demolished this morning (Friday, August 10, 2012).  If you’re on the BGSU donations list, PLEASE call the Alumni Center and ask to be permanently removed from the “Donation Call List.” It’d be wise to explain (briefly) why you wish to be removed. The phone number is 888-839-2586.

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Earlier this week, I received an email response from BGSU, explaining why the historically significant kit house on their campus must be destroyed.

The loquacious note I received made two points, both of which make no sense to me.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

Point two: Moving the house to another site is not possible, because (and I’m quoting here), “it would simply fall apart if we attempted such an action.

If they were pitching this “information” to some first-year architecture student, their prolix palaver might be more palatable, but I am not a first-year architecture student.

I am the author of six books on the topic of kit homes. My expert advice has been solicited and provided in two multimillion-dollar lawsuits. My books and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC and BBC Radio. I’ve been interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and 300 other newspapers and magazines.

Turns out, I know a little something about old houses in general, and early 20th Century kit homes in particular.

So let’s review these two points.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

There’s so much that’s wrong with this statement, I’m not sure where to begin.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a solid old building made from superior quality materials harvested from virgin forests is one good reason to save this structure. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a classic example of a Wardway House (sold by Montgomery Ward in 1931) is yet another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of the very last homes that was sold before Wardway Homes closed down their department is - again - another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason…

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of only 25,000 Wardway Homes that were built in the entire country is a good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular (well, you get the idea)…

And perhaps the most important reason is this: The BGSU house was a custom design from Wardway, and the BGSU Popular Culture Building was created in the perfect image and likeness of the Sears Lewiston.

It’s a Sears design (The Sears Lewiston), milled and manufactured by Montgomery Ward.

How many of those have I seen in my travels to 25 states?

Let me think about this for a minute.

Oh wait, there’s only ONE and there’s now a bulldozer poised in front of the house, just waiting to destroy it.

And what about moving it?

Experts have examined the structure and determined that it can be moved for less than $20,000.

Moving this house is a viable, realistic, win-win alternate solution.

So what about this “falling apart” business?

I don’t buy it.

I do not believe that this house would “fall apart” if it were jacked up and moved. Kit homes from this time period were extremely well built and incredibly solid. As mentioned in another blog, these framing members in this house are #1 Southern yellow pine, milled from trees that grew slowly in first growth forests. Slow-growing trees equals very dense lumber.

I’ve examined the lumber in dozens of old kit homes, and it is very dense, hard lumber. Homeowners report that they can’t drive a nail into the old floor joist without pre-drilling a hole. You’d have to see it to appreciate it.

And the “lumber” (and I use that word loosely) that you see stacked high at today’s big box stores doesn’t compare to the quality of lumber present in these pre-WW2 kit homes.

And that’s just the framing members.

The floors in these kit homes were typically oak (first floor), with hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths.

You read that right.

Maple. Solid, hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths. In the late 20s/early 30s, it was known that maple would take a beating in those humid, high-use rooms and last forever. I’ve met homeowners who pull up the old floor coverings in the kitchen and sand down those original maple floors.

They’re mighty pretty when they’re refinished.

That’s what BGSU is getting ready to knock down and send off to the landfill.

And it’s a sickening thought.

If BGSU really wants to destroy this historically significant house, there’s little I can do from my home in Norfolk, Virginia to stop them.

But I do know that they’re wrong about the home’s value: That house still retains a great deal of historical significance to the school, to the community and to the country.

And this house can be moved.

Tomorrow or perhaps early next week, this rare bit of Americana (handcrafted by a rugged individualist who went to the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931, and picked up 12,000 pieces of building material and turned it into a beautiful home), will be transmogrified into 1500 tons of ugly construction debris at an Ohio landfill.

It’s a damn shame.

Just a damn shame.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the homes original builder, stands in front of the house thats now on death row.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the home's original builder, stands in front of the house that's now on death row. You'll notice that the roofline has no sags and no dips. You'll also notice that the body of the house is in remarkably good condition. This house appears to be square and true. And - sans additions - it would not be difficult to move.

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A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

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Disgusting and disturbing.

Disgusting and disturbing. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unb

How many cans and bottles will BGSU have to recycle to compensate for the house they're sending to the landfill? Gosh, I can't count that high. The Wardway House - as offered in 1932 - weighed about 300,000 pounds, not counting the bricks. Id' say that BGSU will probably have to spend 20 years recycling everything in the college to offset this massive house dump they're getting ready to do. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sigh

Unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Just unbelievable.

Just unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If any readers have any ideas what can be done to save this house, please contact me immediately. Leave a comment below and I will respond within the hour.

To read more about the house, click here.

Kit homes get moved surprisingly often. Read about that here.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

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A Sears House Designed by “Uncle Sam”!

May 28th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The banner at the top of the catalog page identifies The Wabash as “Uncle Sam’s Idea.”

According to the accompanying text, this house was “planned and designed by United States Government architects.”

The house appeared in the Spring 1920 catalog, about two years after “The War to End All Wars” had finally ended (November 1917).

According to the original catalog page, The Wabash was built in Illinois (Hamlet, Ohio, Atlanta, Williamsfield, Farmer City, Cerro Gordo) and Indiana (Hoover and Indianapolis).

If any readers are near those towns, I’d love to get a photo!!  :)

To read about a Sears House at the other end of the price spectrum, click here.

To learn more, click here.

1920 catalog

The Wabash, as seen in the 1920 catalog. And only two columns!

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house up close

Take a look at the columns, Instead of the typical grouping of three columns at the corners, this house has only TWO. I guess that's how they made the house so darn affordable.

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text

Interesting text from the catalog page (1920).

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catalog

They must have thought a lot of the house because it was "featured" in the 1920 catalog, and had a two-page spread with interior shots.

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floorplan

This floorplan is a puzzle. No bathroom and yet there's an open space "cement floor" that appears to be a mud room of sorts. Seems like a waste of space in such a small house.

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dust trap

This "dust trap" is really intriguing. I suspect it was a place to dispose of ashes and such.

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house house

And what a fine kitchen it was! Did it really have subway-tile wainscoting? You can see the "dust trap" beside the wood box (beside the sink).

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house text

A little more info on the "handy fuel box" and "dust trap."

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house house

Spacious living room/dining room area.

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house house house

Sure would be nice to have a photo of the Wabash. It was built in these cities.

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To read the blog written one year ago today, click here.