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Posts Tagged ‘lewis’

Webster Groves, Missouri: Part III

August 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Webster Groves has a multitude of interesting old kit homes, and one of my favorite finds is this 1910s Dutch Colonial, offered by Lewis Homes.

Lewis was one of six national companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs in the early 20th Century. Sears was probably the best known of the kit home companies and Aladdin was probably the largest, but Lewis Manufacturing (based in Bay City, Michigan) was a serious contender.

It’s been many years since I drove the streets of Webster Groves, looking for kit homes, and I’m not surprised that I missed a few back in the day, such as this Lewis Homes Dutch Colonial (”The Winthrop”).

Last week, I was back in the St. Louis area, visiting family members and decided to revisit Webster Groves. I didn’t have time to do a thorough survey, but in the four hours I spent there, I found an abundance of kit homes.

To read my prior blogs about Webster Groves, click here and here.

Interested in learning more about marked lumber on kit homes? Click here.

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Webster Groves

What's not to love? It possesses "unusual charm and dignity"! (1924 catalog)

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The Wintrho

That inset front porch is a defining feature of the Lewis Winthrop.

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I sure do love a nice Dutch Colonial, and this one has a front porch!

I sure do love a nice Dutch Colonial, and this one has a front porch!

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Oh my, what a fine-looking home!

Oh my, what a fine-looking home!

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And it looks good from every angle!

And it looks good from every angle!

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Home

In this image, you can see those distinctive attic windows.

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house

Who wouldn't love coming home to this every evening? As philosopher Samuel Johnson wrote, "To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends."

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But heres where it gets frustrating.

But here's where it gets frustrating.

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As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons.

Here's a Lewis Winthrop I found in Toana, Virginia. Like the house shown above, it has no fireplace on the side, but rather three windows. Is this a pattern book version of the Lewis Winthrop? For now, I'm going to make an educated guess that these two homes are the Lewis Winthrop, because I haven't seen a pattern book match. But who knows! Time will tell!

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To read more about the Lewis Winthrop in Toana, Virginia, click here.

To read my prior blogs about Webster Groves, click here and here.

Interested in learning more about marked lumber on kit homes? Click here.

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Burnt Ordinary Kit Homes: Lewis Winthrop

March 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

Believe it or not, that title is not “word salad” or aphasia: It will make sense in a minute.

On Sunday (March 22), my husband and I visited Williamsburg and (per my request) we drove to Toano (a few miles west of Williamsburg) so that I could look for houses from Penniman. I didn’t see any Penniman houses, but this little pretty caught my eye. I wasn’t sure where I’d seen it, but my first impression was “Lewis Manufacturing.”

This morning, I looked it up and sure enough, it’s a Lewis Winthrop.  (Lewis was a kit-home company based in Bay City, Michigan which [like Sears and Aladdin] sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog.)

As to the title, Toano (in James City County, another interesting term) was founded in the late 1800s, and this little fork in the road was originally known as “Burnt Ordinary.” (Yeah, it puzzled me, too.) Like so many of our modern terms “ordinary” meant something a little different 200 years ago.

An ordinary was a place where food and drink was served. In the 1700s, there was an “ordinary” at that site known as John Lewis’ Ordinary, and it was subsequently named Fox’s Ordinary, which burned down in 1780. In 1781, George Washington’s cartographer marked the area as “Burnt Brick Ordinary.”

In later years, it was designated “Toano” which is an Indian word for “high ground.”

Whilst driving through the tiny town of Toano, I spotted this house and took a picture with my TV-phone (as my husband calls it).

Best of all, it was my first sighting of a Lewis Winthrop, and it’s in beautiful shape!

To read about another Lewis Home, click here.

What’s a Penniman? Click here!

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As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons.

As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons. I knew I'd seen it somewhere.

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This morning, I pulled out my catalogs and found it!

This morning, I pulled out my catalogs and found it! (1924 Lewis Homes).

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That indented porch was a feature that caught my eye.

That indented porch was a feature that caught my eye.

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On the upstairs, the bathroom window is gone, which is not uncommon. These houses were built with tubs, and when its time to put in a shower, the bathroom window often disappears. This has has vinyl siding, so its easy to cover up such changes.

On the upstairs, the bathroom window is gone, which is not uncommon. These houses were built with tubs, and when it was time to put in a shower, the bathroom window often disappeared. This home had vinyl siding installed, so its easy to cover up such changes. Notice also the tiny closet window is gone. Removing this window creates a little bit more space in an already tiny closet. The "sewing room" (on the right rear) has no window on the side, which is also a good match to the house in Toano.

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Close-up on the sewing room side.

Close-up on the "sewing room" side.

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Toana

Unfortunately, that room addition on the side looks a lot like a mobile home.

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That darn tree made photographing the old house extra tough.

That darn tree made photographing the old house extra tough.

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Pretty house!

Pretty house! And I'm pleased that I "guessed" the right angle for my shot!

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Rebecca’s Got a Brand New Book!

April 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

In 2001, I drove out to Columbia, Illinois to attend a talk on Sears Homes, given by Dr. Rebecca L. Hunter. I’d never met this woman, but I’d heard a lot about her from several different people.

I was already pretty intimidated by Dr. Hunter and I hadn’t even met her! She was well respected, a solid researcher, a scholar and obviously very well educated.

When we were first introduced in 2001, I was nervous as a cat, but Dr. Hunter - in addition to being hyper-intelligent - was also incredibly humble and unassuming and gracious.

We sat together at a luncheon after the talk and became fast friends. She invited me to visit her in Elgin (a Chicago suburb), and promised to show me all the architectural treasures she’d found in Northern Illinois, and to teach me all that she’d learned about Sears Homes.

The timing of our meeting was divinely inspired. I was in the middle of a divorce and truly terrified of what the future might hold for me. After 24 years of marriage, my husband had wanted out. I was an emotional mess, and I forewarned Rebecca. She was unimpressed. I also told her that I’d been married since I was 18, and that I’d never driven any substantial distance alone, and couldn’t imagine that I could make the six-hour drive from Alton (my home) to Elgin, Illinois.

Rebecca looked at me and said, “I’ll help you. I’ll give you precise directions and if you get lost, just call me. If you get really lost or feel overwhelmed, pull over and I’ll drive out and meet you, and you can just follow me into Elgin.”

It was an incredibly generous offer, and it was also a golden (and safe) opportunity for me to overcome my fear of traveling alone.

In February 2002, I made the trip from Alton to Elgin. Thanks to her incredibly detailed directions, I arrived at her front door in Elgin without a hitch. I knocked on her door and saw Rebecca’s beaming countenance. She was smiling from ear to ear.

She threw her arms around me and said, “I knew you could do it. I knew it.”

That moment is one of my favorite memories of my time on this earth.

Sears Houses were the bond that brought us together, but the real blessing of these kit homes have been the relationships they’ve forged. Even though we now live 1,200 miles apart, I consider Rebecca Hunter to be one of my dearest friends.

And I’m so happy to see that Dr. Hunter has just come out with a new book, and it’s a fine book, too! I thought I knew a lot about Sears Homes, but I’m delighted to report that I’ve learned many new things from reading “Mail Order Homes.”

Scroll down to take a sneak peek, and then dash over to Amazon.com and buy a copy. It makes a perfect gift, and don’t forget, Mother’s Day is on the horizon!!

Rebe

Rebecca's newest book is titled, "Mail Order Homes."

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Lots of beautiful color photos. Good graphics, and theyre crisp and clean.

Lots of beautiful color photos. Good graphics, and they're crisp and clean.

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Vintage photos, too.

The book has many vintage photos.

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Rebecca has photos of rare Sears Homes, too.

Rebecca has photos of rare Sears Homes, too.

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Her book covers much more than Sears Homes. Also has info on the other mail-order companies.

Her book covers much more than pre-cut Sears Homes. Also has info on "Homart Homes" and the other mail-order companies.

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Check out the table of contents!

Check out the table of contents!

To learn more about Rebecca’s book, click here.

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