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Meet Me in Louisa! (September 15th at 2:00 pm)

September 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

This Sunday (September 15th), I’ll be in Louisa, Virginia (near Charlottesville) giving a talk on the kit homes in Louisa County.

In the last 12 years, I’ve given more than 250 lectures in 26 states, and the #1 comment I hear from attendees is, “This was such fun, and I learned so much!”

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

*  The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.”

* The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

* Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.


I hope you’ll be able to come out and join us on September 15th at 2:00 pm, at 214 Fredericksburg Avenue in Louisa.

The auditorium only holds 200 people, so get there early!

And if you know anyone who loves old houses, please invite them to join you!

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Woo-hoo!

Okay, actually this is a simple mailer that Aladdin sent out to their customers the late 1910s to let people know that their Aladdin catalog was on its way. It was so cute I decided I could use it here.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears (in terms of mail-order kit home sales). Here in Southern Virginia, Ive found far more Aladdin Houses than Sears.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears (in terms of mail-order kit home sales). Here in Southern Virginia, I've found far more Aladdin Houses than Sears. While Aladdin was based in Bay City (Michigan), they had a very large mill in Wilmington, NC. The red dot shows where Louisa is located. Or that's what my husband claims. I have plenty of trouble with maps that have lots of detail. Maps like this leave me feeling like I need to lie down for a bit.

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One of my favorite finds in Louisa was this Aladdin Cape Cod (model name).

One of my favorite finds in Louisa was this Aladdin "Cape Cod" (model name).

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Ooh la la, what a pretty house!

Ooh la la, what a pretty house! And it's in Louisa!

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Also found an Aladdin Madison! (From the 1937 catalog)

Also found an Aladdin Madison! (From the 1937 catalog)

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Oh

The front entry has been squared up and enclosed, but other than that, it's a good match!

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My favorite find was the Aladdin Kentucky!

My favorite find was the Aladdin Kentucky! (From the 1915 catalog).

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This was a spacious and fine home.

This was a spacious and fine home.

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Now thats a gorgeous house!

Of all the houses I've found in my house-hunting career, this beauty is certainly one of my Top Ten Favorites. It looks much like it did when it first appeared in the 1912 Aladdin Homes catalog. Original windows, original cypress clapboards, original columns and porch. Good golly, what a house.

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Man oh man, what a match!

Man oh man, what a match!

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Ill also be talking about what I found in nearby communities, such as this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Orange!

I'll also be talking about what I found in nearby communities, such as this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Orange!

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Another

And what a fine-looking Shadowlawn it is.

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The Wexford, from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Wexford, from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Mineral is best known as the epicenter of the August 2011 earthquake. Its also the home to a perfect Sears Wexford.

Mineral is best known as the epicenter of the August 2011 earthquake. It's also the home to a perfect Sears Wexford. The house was "reversed" from the original image shown in the catalog, which was a common option.

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And look

And look what I found in Charlottesville!

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And look what I found in Charlottesville!

It's a picture-perfect Sears Rockford! Charlottesville has several kit homes that I discovered during a quickie drive-through. I'm sure there are many more just begging to be found.

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To get more information about the upcoming talk, please contact Elaine at info@louisacountyhistoricalsociety.org

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About Rose:

Rose Thornton has traveled throughout the country, seeking and finding Sears Homes. In that time, she’s written dozens of newspaper and magazine articles and several books.

Rose is the author of The Houses That Sears Built (2002,) Finding the Houses That Sears Built (2004) and she’s the co-author of California’s Kit Homes (2004) and Montgomery Wards Mail-Order Homes (2010). Rose’s newest book - The Sears Homes of Illinois - was published in 2011.

Rose has traveled to 26 states to give more than 200 lectures on Sears Homes, from Bungalow Heaven in Los Angeles to The Smithsonian in Washington, DC. She has addressed a wide variety of audiences from architectural preservationists in Boston, St. Louis and Chicago to kit home enthusiasts in small towns across America.

Rose has appeared on PBS (History Detectives), A&E (Biography), CBS (Sunday Morning News) and her book was featured in its own category on Jeopardy. She is considered the country’s #1 authority on kit homes. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street JournalNew York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Old House Journal, American Bungalow, Blue Ridge Country and about 100 other publications. Twice in the last three years, the story of her unique career was picked up by the AP and in May 2009, she was interviewed on BBC Radio.

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The Sears Wexford in Mineral, Virginia

March 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Originally known as “Tolersville,” this tiny town opted to change its name to “Mineral” in the early 1900s.

Seems that there was gold in them there hills of Louisa County (where Mineral is located), and at its peak, there were 15 gold mines within three miles of the town. Copper, mica and sulfur were also discovered and mined.

On August 23, 2011, Mineral became famous for another reason: An earthquake. At 1:51 pm, a 5.8 magnitude quake was centered in the tiny town, and rattled windows from DC to Norfolk (where I live) and beyond. In Mineral, the roof collapsed on the town hall, and three public schools suffered significant damage. (This earthquake also occurred at be precise moment that my late father’s ashes were scattered. That was more than a little spooky.)

Last week, I drove up to Charlottesville to take a licensing test for Ham Radio (the “Extra” exam). On my way, I drove through Louisa, Gordonsville and Mineral, looking for kit homes.

In Mineral, I only saw one home, The Sears Wexford, but it was a fine-looking house. Next door to the Wexford was a beautiful old church serenading me with heavenly music. I parked my car next to the church for a time and just reveled in the euphonious melodies.

It really was a lovely thing and an unexpected delight.

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1936 wexvorf

The Wexford was also known as The Bridgeport (1936 catalog).

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two floorplans

It was offered in two floorplans, and "B" had a dining room.

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the other

Floorplan A was a bit smaller, with a kitchen nook instead of a dining room.

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house house house

The Wexford, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

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Sears House in Mineral

Is this a Sears Wexford? Can't say for certain, but I'd guess that it probably is, and my guesses are usually right! :) On this Wexford, the porch is not off the living room, but off of a bedroom (it appears). Note the details around that front porch. It's a good match! I'd love to get inside at some point and check for marked lumber.

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Wexford Cairo

This Wexford is in Cairo, Illinois on Roebuck Road (about 1/2 mile from the site of the original Sears Mill). Years ago, this Wexford was on Sears and Roebuck Road, but when the interstate came through in the 1970s, it sliced the road into two pieces. One side was renamed Sears Road (where the old mill was located), and the other side was named Roebuck Road. On my Garmin, it still shows the two pieces of this old road as "Sears and Roebuck Road." Ah, Sears and Roebuck Road: Married by commerce, divorced by the interstate.

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I hope to be returning to this area in a month or two. If you know of a kit home in this part of the state, please leave a comment below!

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To read about the Sears Kit Homes in Gordonsville, click here.

Or you can read about the Aladdin kit homes in Louisa by clicking here.

Come back tomorrow to read about the kit homes I found in Charlottesville.

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