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Posts Tagged ‘lustron’

The House of the Future (in 1948)

October 14th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Yesterday, I pulled off the interstate in Nashville, North Carolina to wait for a phone call from my brother. After sitting around for a few minutes, I decided to drive around Nashville and see what I could find.

And I found a Lustron!

Lustron in Nashville, NC

Lustron in Nashville, NC

It’s had a pretty substantial sun room added to the side, but it’s most definitely a Lustron!

And here’s one I found in Irwin, PA.

Lustron in Irwin

This Lustron in Irwin had been lovingly cared for!

Perhaps my favorite Lustron is the one I found in Danville, Virginia. This is such a beautiful photo, I can hardly believe that I’m the photographer!  :)  The deep blue skies and blossoming dogwood in the foreground are pretty nice, too.

Lustron in Danville

Lustron in Danville, Virginia

Lustron

Close-up of the window on Danville's Lustron.

So, what is a Lustron?

It was an all-steel house,  with walls made of 2×2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel finish. The roof was porcelain enamel steel, and unlike traditional roofing shingles, has a lifespan of at least 60 years (and perhaps much more).

“Never before has America seen a house like this,” read a 1949 advertisement for the Lustron, also hailed as “the house of the future.”

The modest ranches were designed and created by entrepreneur Carl Strandlunds to help deal with the severe housing shortage after World War II. Unfortunately, Lustrons never became very popular. Three years after the company first started (in 1947), it went into bankruptcy. Sixty years later, there’s still much debate about the reasons for the company’s collapse. The debate over the reasons for Lustron’s demise became a topic for a fascinating documentary.

Fewer than 3,000 Lustrons were created, and offered in pink, blue, brown and yellow.

Quantico, Virginia was home to the largest collection of Lustrons in the country, but those 60 houses were destroyed by our federal “save the spotted chipmunk, who-cares-if-it’s-a-historically-important-house” bureaucrats.

Yup, all those Lustron houses in Quantico are now gone. Some were moved, most were demolished.

On the inside walls of the Lustrons, nails could not be used. Instead, magnets are used to hang pictures. The porcelain enamel finish on the 2×2 panels is tough, which makes re-painting the panels virtually impossible. The Lustron (seen below) in Danville, Virginia was painted, and it’s trying hard to shed this second skin.

Painting a Lustron is akin to painting the top of your grandma’s 1965 Lady Kenmore washing machine. Painting porcelain enamel never ends well.

Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and not surprisingly, Columbus has an abundance of Lustrons. These little post-WW2 prefabs were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins, WV was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Lustron

Lustron in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The three-bedroom Lustrons were far less common than the two-bedroom Lustron. This one is in very good condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

Close-up

Close-up of Lustron wall and window. Homeowner has done a pretty good job of maintaining the home, with touched-up paint applied to exterior. When the porcelain enamel finish is nicked or chipped, it must be painted to prevent rusting of the steel panels. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These shingles are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These "shingles" are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The next Lustron is in Rocky Mount, NC. It’s been painted beige, but it should be draped in black for this little house should be mourned. The little home is now deceased, but the body hasn’t been buried yet. There is significant putrification occurring.

Very, very sad.

And heres a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the skin. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea.

This sad little Lustron appears to have died from carbuncles of the flesh. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Never a good idea to paint a Lustron. There are about 2,500 Lustrons in the country, and they really were ahead of their time. It's heart-wrenching to see one of these remarkable homes abused and abandoned.

Too sad for words.

Too sad for words.

To learn more, I recommend Tom Fetters’ book, “Lustron Homes.” It can be found at Amazon.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Lustron Homes

June 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 9 comments

“Never before has America seen a house like this,” read a 1949 advertisement for the Lustron, also hailed as “the house of the future.”

The Lustron was an all-steel house, with walls made of 2×2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel finish. The roof was porcelain enamel steel, and unlike traditional roofing shingles, has a lifespan of at least 60 years (and perhaps much more).

The modest ranches were designed and created by entrepreneur Carl Strandlunds to help deal with the severe housing shortage after World War II. Unfortunately, Lustrons never became very popular. Three years after the company first started (in 1947), it went into bankruptcy. Sixty years later, there’s still much debate about the reasons for the company’s collapse. The debate over the reasons for Lustron’s demise because a topic for a fascinating documentary.

About 2,500 Lustrons were created.

Quantico, Virginia was home to the largest collection of Lustrons in the country, but those 60 houses are now gone. Some were moved, most were demolished. Turns out those macho Marines at Quantico weren’t too keen on living in a pink house! (The houses were offered in pink, blue, brown and yellow.)

On the inside walls of the Lustrons, nails could not be used. Instead, magnets are used to hang pictures. The porcelain enamel finish on the 2×2 panels is tough, which makes re-painting the panels virtually impossible. The Lustron (seen below) in Danville, Virginia was painted, and it’s trying hard to shed this second skin.

Painting a Lustron is akin to painting the top of your grandma’s 1965 Lady Kenmore washing machine. Painting porcelain enamel never works out too well.

NOTE: LUSTRON HOMES were not sold by Sears!! I don’t know where people get these notions!

Lustron in Danville

Lustron in Danville, Virginia

Lustron

Close-up of the window on Danville's Lustron.

Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and not surprisingly, Columbus has an abundance of Lustrons.  These little post-WW2 prefabs were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins, WV was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Lustron

Lustron in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The three-bedroom Lustrons were far less common than the two-bedroom Lustron. This one is in very good condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

Close-up

Close-up of Lustron wall and window. Homeowner has done a pretty good job of maintaining the home, with touched-up paint applied to exterior. When the porcelain enamel finish is nicked or chipped, it must be painted to prevent rusting of the steel panels. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These shingles are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These "shingles" are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The next Lustron is in Rocky Mount, NC. It’s been painted beige, but it should be draped in black for this little house should now be mourned. This little house has died, but the body hasn’t been buried yet. There is significant putrification occurring.

Very, very sad.

And heres a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the skin. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea.

This sad little Lustron appears to have died from carbuncles of the flesh. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Never a good idea to paint a Lustron. There are about 2,500 Lustrons in the country, and they really were ahead of their time. It's heart-wrenching to see one of these remarkable homes abused and abandoned.

Too sad for words.

Too sad for words.

To learn more, I recommend Tom Fetters’ book, “Lustron Homes.” It can be found at Amazon.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

*   *   *

Of Houses and Hubbies

June 13th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

I love Elkins, WV. It’s a beautiful place and a lovely city. And I love the people of Elkins, too. Especially this guy (pictured below), sitting on the rock.

His name is Wayne Ringer and he’s from Elkins, West Virginia.

He graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1977, and Washington and Lee (School of Law) in 1980. Last summer, we drove from Norfolk to Elkins to attend his cousin’s 30th Wedding Anniversary party (part of the Skidmore clan). It was a happy, happy time. Surprisingly, I found quite a few Sears Homes. (Story continues below photo of cutie-pie husband)

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins, poised atop a rock in the Cheat River

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The houses were shipped via rail and contained 30,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction manual and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in about 90 days. Today, there are about 70,000 Sears kit homes in America. Incredibly, about 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have! The purpose of this website is to help people learn more about this fascinating piece of America’s history.

Here are a few of the houses I found within the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears most popular kit homes.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears' most popular kit homes.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One things for sure: Its a beautiful old kit house!

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One thing's for sure: It's a beautiful old kit house. It's in South Elkins.

Sears Hazleton high atop the hillside in Elkins

Sears Hazleton from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. Looking at the house from the right side, you can see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, one small).

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. If you looked at this house from the right side, you'd see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, two small) on that left side. It's located in Wees Historic District.

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell

Sears Cornell. Although this looks like just another foursquare, this Cornell has a goofy floorplan, with a tiny bathroom (and tiny window) on its left side. When you look on the home's left side, you'll see that the oddly-placed bathroom window is right where it should be. THe Cornell was a very popular house for Sears, and I'm confident that this house is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Is this a Sears Marion? Id say it is. Its a good match on all sides and has a raised roof in the back, which was probably added in later years.

Is this a Sears Marion? I'd say it is. It's a good match on all sides and all the windows are in their right place. One eye-catching feature is the swoop of the bellcast roof on the front of the house. The raised roof in the back was obviously added in later years.

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale in Elkins, WV

Is this a Sears Glendale? It looks like it. However, it is not a spot-on match.

And there’s even a Lustron Prefabricated post-WW2 home in Elkins. Lustron Homes were made of 20-gage 2×2 metal tiles, covered with a porcelain enamel finish (just like the top of a high-dollar washing machines!). These houses were all metal - inside and out - and hanging a picture required sticking magnets to the walls! Nails and other fasteners would damage the porcelain enamel finish. Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and less than 3000 Lustron Homes were sold in this country. They were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

To learn more about Lustrons, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

* * *

Rocky Mount is High on Sears Homes (Part II)

April 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

As mentioned in a prior post, I went through Rocky Mount, North Carolina several months ago and found a handful of kit homes, but apparently (without my handy dandy Garmin), I missed the good stuff. Today, I returned to Rocky Mount and this time (thanks to Garmin), I found all kinds of treasures in neighborhoods that I didn’t even know existed. (Read Part I here.)

All of the houses (below) are located in Rocky Mount, and most likely, the people living in these early 20th Century homes don’t realize that they have a kit home that came from a mail-order catalog.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

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The Aladdin Pasadena was a popular house, and a distintive one, too!

The Aladdin Pasadena was a popular house, and a distintive one, too!

This Pasadena has seen a few changes, but still retains the look of its original design.

This Pasadena has seen a few changes, but still retains the "look" of its original design.

The Aladdin Pomona was one of Aladdins most popular houses!

The Aladdin Pomona was one of Aladdin's most popular houses!

The siding people have had their way with this Aladdin Pomona, but fortunately it still retains its original railings!

The siding people have had their way with this Aladdin Pomona, but fortunately it still retains its original railings!

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was another very popular house for Aladdin.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was another very popular house for Aladdin. The eaves on this house are quite spectacular. Notice also the diamond muntins on that small second-floor window.

Despite a pretty substantial addition to the side, this Shadowlawn is still easily recognizable!

Despite a pretty substantial addition to the side, this Shadowlawn is still easily recognizable!

Heres an older Shadowlawn. Note the little window with the diamond panes.

Through the years, the Shadowlawn went through some changes! Is this an earlier model Shadowlawn? I'd say - probably it is. But it's not a spot-on match like the house above.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza

The dark colors hide its true beauty, but this Aladdin Plaza is in wonderfully original condition.

The dark colors hide its true beauty, but this Aladdin Plaza is in wonderfully original condition.

This Aladdin Plaza is NOT in wonderfully original condition.

This Aladdin Plaza is NOT in wonderfully original condition yet it retains some of its original features.

Aladdin Sherburne from the 1931 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Sherburne from the 1931 Aladdin catalog

Unfortunately, Im not able to scan an original image of the Aladdin Sherburne right now, but you have to trust me. It looks just like this.  :)

Beautiful Aladdin Shelburne on a beautiful lot!

Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

A nearly perfect Detroit in Rocky Mount!

A nearly perfect Detroit in Rocky Mount!

Aladdin Winthrop from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Winthrop from the 1919 catalog.

Slightly hidden behind a tree, this Aladdin Winthrop is still easy to spot with those small windows in the gabled bay, the four porch posts (two of which have no columns atop them) and the four windows across the front.

Slightly hidden behind a tree, this Aladdin Winthrop is still easy to spot with those small windows in the gabled bay, the four porch posts (two of which have no columns atop them) and the four windows across the front.

And finally, my two favorite finds of the day!

The first is the Aladdin Williamette. This house was offered only in the 1920 Aladdin catalog, and this Williamette in Rocky Mount is the only Williamette I have ever seen. And it’s just a perfect match.

Aladdin Williamette from the 1920 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Williamette from the 1920 Aladdin catalog

And here it is: The Aladdin Williamette in Rocky Mount, NC. More than 90% of the people living in these homes dont realize that theyre living in a kit home!

And here it is: The Aladdin Williamette in Rocky Mount, NC. More than 90% of the people living in these homes don't realize that they're living in a kit home!

The second house is the Sears Elmhurst. This was also a very rare house and looks nothing like a typical “kit” home. This neo-tudor is both spacious, grand and ornate, and has lots of fine features you won’t find on your average Sears House!

The Sears Elmhurst - a fine house!

The Sears Elmhurst - a fine house!

Sears Elmhurst in Rocky Mount. This really is a beautiful match, and the only difference is, the house in Rocky Mount has had an addition put onto the side.

Sears Elmhurst in Rocky Mount. This really is a beautiful match, and the only difference is, the house in Rocky Mount has had an addition put onto the both sides.

And heres a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the skin. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea.

And here's a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the flesh. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea. There are about 2,500 Lustrons in the country, and they really were ahead of their time. It's heart-wrenching to see one of these remarkable homes abused and abandoned.

Too sad for words.

Too sad for words.

Aladdin

I'd love to know what this building is! It's massive and appears empty. If you know its original (or current) purpose, please leave a comment below.

Enjoy the photos, and if you know of anyone in Rocky Mount who might be interested in learning more about these amazing and delightful discoveries, please share this link!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

* * *

West Point, Virginia: Sears Homes - Yes, Military Academy - No.

September 26th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Recently I made the 90-minute drive to West Point, Virginia, looking for Sears Homes. Thanks to Rebecca Hunter’s book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map,” I knew there were at least four Sears Homes in West Point. Her book is a compilation of testimonials from old Sears catalogs, organized by city and state.

Her book listed one testimonial in Norfolk, Virginia and yet I’ve found more than 50 Sears Homes here in Norfolk. “Putting Sears Homes on the Map” listed four Sears Homes in West Point. Proportionately speaking, that meant there should be at least 200 Sears Homes in the tiny town!

I’m saddened to report that I couldn’t even find the four that were listed. Her book listed the Whitehall, the Greenview, the Ivanhoe and the Avoca. I found the Ivanhoe, but couldn’t get close enough to take a photo. It sat on a supersized lot, bordering the water. Unfortunately, it faced the water, making it especially difficult to get a photo! However, I did find (and photograph) the Avoca.

An aside:  Despite the fact that I’ve lived in the Hampton Roads area for more than three decades, I didn’t realize that Virginia was not home to the famous Military Academy of West Point! Only recently did I learn that it’s in New York. Who knew? Not me, obviously.

So, where’s the Whitehall and the Greenview? More than likely, the Whitehall has been torn down. I went up and down those streets in West Point many times and if there was a Whitehall to be found, I would have seen it. The Greenview was such a simple little house that it could have been remodeled beyond recognition. Below are catalog images of these two houses. If you find them in West Point, drop me a note.

Here are the Sears Homes that I found in West Point, Virginia.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Avoca has seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Avoca has seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Crescent

Sears Avoca in West Point.

Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Crescent

Perfect Sears Crescent in West Point. This is in wonderfully original condition!

Sears Cranmore

Sears Cranmore. Kind of a crummy picture, but it was surrounded by trees and bushes and more trees and more bushes. Nonetheless, I am confident that this is a Sears Cranmore.

The Sears Homes of West Point probably rode into town on these very railroad tracks!

The Sears Homes of West Point probably rode into town on these very railroad tracks!

Sears Greenview from the Sears Modern Homes catalog. We know one of these was built in West Point, but where?

Sears Greenview from the Sears Modern Homes catalog. We know one of these was built in West Point, but where?

Sears Whitehall. We know there was a Sears Whitehall built in West Point, but I suspect its been torn down.

Sears Whitehall. We know there was a Sears Whitehall built in West Point, but I suspect it's been torn down.

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog. There's one of these on the waterfront of West Point, but no one was home at the house. I'd love to get a photo!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

Sears Kit Condos

August 24th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Years ago, my friend Rebecca Hunter drove me to an Midwestern suburb and showed me this Sears Westly (see pictures below). She made me close my eyes as we pulled up to the house. Sitting squarely in front of it, I exclaimed that it looked  like a nice little Westly. Then she giggled a bit and pulled forward, so I could see “The rest of the story.”

I gasped in horror. Incredibly, someone built a neighborhood behind this once-darling Sears Westly. Why anyone would do this, is a puzzle. How anyone got zoning approval to do this is a BIGGER puzzle!!

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Westly from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Westly from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Westly in Midwestern suburb

Westly in Midwestern suburb

The Sears Homes in Elkins, West Virginia

August 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

My cutie-pie husband is from Elkins, West Virginia (see picture below).  Wayne graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1977, and Washington and Lee (School of Law) in 1980.  This weekend (August 20th), we drove from Norfolk to Elkins to attend his cousin’s 30th Wedding Anniversary party (part of the Skidmore clan). It was a happy, happy time.  Surprisingly, I found quite a few Sears Homes.  (Story continues below photo of cutie-pie husband)

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins, poised atop a rock in the Cheat River

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The houses were shipped via rail and contained 30,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction manual and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in about 90 days. Today, there are about 70,000 Sears kit homes in America. Incredibly, about 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have! The purpose of this website is to help people learn more about this fascinating piece of America’s history.

Here are a few of the houses I found within the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears most popular kit homes.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears' most popular kit homes.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One things for sure: Its a beautiful old kit house!

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One thing's for sure: It's a beautiful old kit house. It's in South Elkins.

Sears Hazleton high atop the hillside in Elkins

Sears Hazleton from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. Looking at the house from the right side, you can see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, one small).

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. If you looked at this house from the right side, you'd see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, two small) on that left side. It's located in Wees Historic District.

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell

Sears Cornell. Although this looks like just another foursquare, this Cornell has a goofy floorplan, with a tiny bathroom (and tiny window) on its left side. When you look on the home's left side, you'll see that the oddly-placed bathroom window is right where it should be. THe Cornell was a very popular house for Sears, and I'm confident that this house is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Is this a Sears Marion? Id say it is. Its a good match on all sides and has a raised roof in the back, which was probably added in later years.

Is this a Sears Marion? I'd say it is. It's a good match on all sides and all the windows are in their right place. One eye-catching feature is the swoop of the bellcast roof on the front of the house. The raised roof in the back was obviously added in later years.

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale in Elkins, WV

Is this a Sears Glendale? It looks like it. However, it is not a spot-on match.

And there’s even a Lustron Prefabricated post-WW2 home in Elkins.  Lustron Homes were made of 20-gage 2×2 metal tiles, covered with a porcelain enamel finish (just like the top of a high-dollar washing machines!).  These houses were all metal - inside and out - and hanging a picture required sticking magnets to the walls! Nails and other fasteners would damage the porcelain enamel finish. Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and less than 3000 Lustron Homes were sold in this country. They were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

To learn more about Lustrons, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

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Why Is the Porch Ceiling Blue?

August 13th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

Years ago, I was reading an early 20th Century book on house painting and there, amidst the many ads for “high quality, high lead” paints and “natural horse hair bristle brushes” was a little snippet on painting porch ceilings. “Sky Blue” was the preferred color for porch ceilings, the article said, because it was a known fact that mud daubers and wasps would not build a nest against a blue ceiling.

One hundred years ago, front porches were a big part of American culture and they became - in a way - auxiliary living rooms. Elderly folks have told me that when they were little kids and it was raining outside, their mom would send them out to the front porch to play - for the day!

The porch was a place for social gatherings, too. City sidewalks bustled with pedestrians moving to and fro, and front porches provided a window on the world and a place to chat with neighbors and catch up on the local happenings.

Front porches were comfortable, too. Before World War Two, air conditioning was something you found at a few movie theaters. In these pre-A/C days, front porches (and their fresh breezes) provided a little relief from the summer’s heat.

And all of that could be ruined by a few stings from an angry wasp.

One hundred years ago, homes were built intelligently and thoughtfully, and everything builders did had a good practical reason behind it, including using the color blue on porch ceilings.

Thus far, no mud daubers or wasps have built a nest against my sky-blue porch ceiling on my newly painted home here in Norfolk.

Thus far, no mud daubers or wasps have built a nest against my sky-blue porch ceiling on my newly painted home here in Norfolk.

The Prettiest Little Sears Mitchell That You Ever Did See…

August 12th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

In Fall 2005, I traveled with a dear friend to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Along the way, we passed five little Sears Homes in a row. It was late in the day and the sun was setting, and I thought I’d never forget where those little houses were. I meant to make a note of it as soon as we arrived at our destination - and I completely forgot.

In 2008 and 2009,  I went back to West Virginia several times to give talks in Beckley, Lewisburg and Charleston. Each time, Ersela, Sandy and I (a kit home triumvirate) drove countless hours trying to find those five Sears Homes in a row. I finally gave up.

And then on my last day in Lewisburg, Skip Deegan asked me to take a ride with him through Rainelle, WV. Finally, after years of wondering, I rediscovered not five, but 10 Sears Homes on one street in greater downtown Rainelle. What a bonus! Below is one of my favorite finds of that trip. A perfect little Sears Mitchell, right on the main drag through town.

Notice the beautiful mountains in the background!

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

Sears Mitchell from an early 1930s catalog

Sears Mitchell from an early 1930s catalog

Sears Mitchell in Rainelle, WV

Sears Mitchell in Rainelle, WV