Posts Tagged ‘magnolia honor built’

Be Still My Heart: The Eighth Magnolia?

June 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 11 comments

Updated!! See detailed photos here!!

A few moments ago, my sleepy husband stuck his head into the room and said, “It’s 3:11  in the morning. Why are you still up?”

“Well, I think we’ve found our eighth Magnolia,” I replied.

“Oh,” he said quietly, as he toddled back to the bedroom.

No additional information was needed.

Every month, I get a handful of emails from people who are 100% certain that they’ve found the crème de la crème of all kit homes: The Sears Magnolia.

And 98% of the time, they’re wrong.

Sears sold kit homes from 1908-1940, and in that 32-year span, they offered 370 designs. Of those 370 designs, the Magnolia was the fairest of them all (and the biggest and the most expensive).

In 1918 (the year the Magnolia first appeared), 90 designs were offered, and only 13 of those homes cost more than $2,000. Not counting the Magnolia, the most expensive house in that catalog was the Preston, at $2,812.

The other 76 models offered in 1918 were under $2,000, and the overwhelming majority of those were less than $1,200.

The price tag for the Magnolia was $4,485.

Most of the Sears Homes in that 1918 catalog had less than 1,000 square feet, and the Magnolia had almost 3,000 square feet.

For years and years, it was widely believed that only six Magnolias had been built in the country, and yet their locations were not known. In time, those six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth had been destroyed by fire in Nebraska. (Of those six Magnolias, the house in Benson was the “newest” discovery, found in March 2010.)

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.

One dead (and cremated).

And then in May 2011 (thanks to this blog), someone  contacted me and said that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

I didn’t pay too much attention, because frankly, I’d heard it before, but fortunately, a friend and faithful reader (Heather Lukaszewski) did pay attention and she did a little research. She wrote me a nice note and said, “I think this may be the real deal.”

And that’s how we found the 7th Magnolia. 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!

Friday evening, someone contacted me and said that he lived in a house that was across the street from a Sears Magnolia. We exchanged several emails and I started to get pretty interested in this story. It had a lot more background and depth than the typical “There’s a Magnolia just down the street” stories.

Thanks to a lot of help from Rachel Shoemaker and Mark Hardin, we were able to see the house via Bing Maps, and I have to say, I think we’ve got a winner.

In fact, I’d be willing to say that I’m 90% certain that we’ve found our 8th Magnolia.

And the best part of all?

It’s in West Virginia.

I love West Virgina and I’m headed to Elkins in six weeks (with the aforementioned hubby) to visit family.

I’d sure love to stop by this sweet old kit house and check it out in person. Boy oh boy, would I love to see this fine house in the flesh.


Just wow.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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Magnolia 1918

The Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog, and yet, those leaves in the border are not Magnolia leaves. What a fraud!


1918  1918

Close-up of the Magnolia (1918)


house house

The Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Modern Homes catalog (shown above). In 1919, the Magnolia hit its highest price: $10,000, more than double its price in 1918.



In 1921, the price of the Sears Magnolia dropped to $6,489 and one year later, it would drop to $5,849. Following WW1, prices of building materials fluctated dramatically.


Magnolia Benson

In March 2011, a reader told me that there was a Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.


Janets house

The Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio was almost lost due to neglect but was lovingly restored in the 1990s. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet's Hess LaMonica and may not be reproduced without written permission.



Our 7th Magnolia, in Syracuse! And what a fine-looking kit house it is! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)


Magnolia columns

Close-up of the columns on the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama.


To learn more about the Sears Magnolias among us, click here.


To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!



“Strikingly Handsome!” - The Sherburne

June 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 9 comments

One of my personal favorite Sears Homes is the Sherburne. For one thing, it’s quite distinctive (and easier to identify than a very simple little house). And, it’s just so pretty. I love the lines, the big front porch, the steeply pitched roof and all those windows.

Enjoy the photos!

Strikingly handsome

The 1921 catalog described the Sherburne as "Strikingly handsome."


And popular (1920)

And apparently, it was popular too (1921).



The first floor had three spacious rooms.


Favorite graphic 1916

My favorite graphic of all time comes from the 1916 catalog, and features the Sherburne. Mom and Dad are living in squalor here, eyeballing the "plans" for their new house, The Sherburne. Look at their circumstance! The house they're in now has GAS lights! The curtains are threadbare, the rug is worn and tired, and the library table is so pedestrian! Such a primitive structure!


Kids wow

But Dad and Mom are already dreaming The American Dream and they've sent in their $1 good faith deposit to Sears. They have started on the path to the "Materialization" of their great dream. And it's a Sears Sherburne!


More weirdness

And now they're moved up to the "Realization" of their wonderful dream! The manifestation of all that dreaming (and working) is an imposing, three-story Sears Sherburne!


Happy ending

And what follows "Anticipation, Materialization and Realization"? Gratification! The kids are dancing a jig! Mom and Dad are happy, happy, happy! And look at the house! They now have electric lights! And a phonograph! And a mantel clock and artwork on the walls! Why, even the library table has grown a marble top. They now have a thick, plush rug!


house in Rudyard

This Sherburne is in Rudyard, Michigan (and is the house mentioned in the testimonial above). This photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.


House in Urbana

This beauty is in Urbana, Illinois. I love the colors on this house. This photo is copyright 2008 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.



And this one is in Decatur, Illinois.


pictures of house

In the 1916 catalog, the Sherburne was $800 less than 1921.


Scary guy

In both the 1916 and 1921 catalogs, this scary guy is on the front porch.


To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about my other favorite Sears kit house, click here.

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The Frangible Fosgate or The Diminuitive Delevan?

May 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Fosgate and Delevan were two very similar houses offered by Sears in the early 1920s. At first glance, I thought they were the same house, but after looking at the floorplan, I saw that the Fosgate was a little bigger than the Delevan.

And the Fosgate was “Standard Bilt,” while the Delevan was “Honor Bilt.”

Honor Bilt” was Sears’ best. “Standard Bilt” was pretty flimsy, and not suited for extreme weather or longevity.

The Delevan was 22′ by 22′ (pretty tiny), and the Fosgate was 24′ by 24′ (a little less tiny).

As a point of comparison, the Delevan was the size of my den. And the bedrooms in this house were the size of many walk-in closets.

To learn more about the difference between Standard Bilt and Honor Bilt, click here.

Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

title title

"Nice and cozy" is one way of describing a house with 480 square feet (1920).



Holy moly, look at the size of the bedrooms. And the bathroom! Not enough room in there to change your mind! (The Delevan, 1921 catalog).


test in 1920 catalog and the above was 1920

Now this is a real puzzle. If you look at the houses on Gamble Street in Shelby, there are no Delevans. This insert appeared on the page with the Delevan (see above, just beside the home's floorplan). And yet, there on Gamble Street you'll see a Sears Fullerton. What exactly did Mr. Thornill build?


this is from the 1925 catalog

The Fosgate appeared in the 1925 catalog. As you can see, it looks a whole lot like the Delevan. The lone obvious difference (from the outside) is that the Fosgate does not have a window in that front bedroom, where the Delevan DOES. The Fosgate is also two feet longer and wider, and it is "Standard Bilt" compared to the Honor Bilt Delevan.


1921 Fosgate

The Delevan was a pricey little affair in 1921. The year before, it was a mere $696.


Lacon Illinois Sears Fosgate or delevan

Located in Laconic Lacon, Illinois, is this a Fosgate or a Delevan? My first impression is that it's a Fosgate (because of the width).


Cindys photo

Located in Ohio, this little house appears to be the Fosgate, because it's missing that bedroom window on the side. The front porch has certainly been embellished. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without permission.)


Cindys photo

Same house, different angle. You can see the kitchen window at the rear. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without permission.)


Cincinnatti Donna Bakke

Is this the Fosgate or the Delevan? Judging by the width, I'd *guess* it's the Delevan, but it's mighty hard to know for sure. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakker and can not be used or reproduced without permission.)


To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Addie Hoyt Fargo, click here.

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Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

February 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

Yesterday, after a massive “tidy up all the mess in the attic” project, I found photos of the Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. In Fall 2002, PBS History Detectives invited me to appear on their second episode (first season), to do a story on the Sears Homes in Akron. The filming started at the Sears Magnolia in Canton. Filming the 15-minute segment took eight days.

It was an incredible amount of fun and a good time was had by all. I took many photos, and after cleaning up my large attic, I finally found those photos.


Sears Magnolia from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Close-up of the columns. In some models, the Magnolia had Corinthian columns, and in others, they were Ionic.

Close-up of the columns. In some models, the Magnolia had Corinthian columns, and in others, they were Ionic.

And in this Magnolia, theres a Magnolia room!

And in this Magnolia, there's a Magnolia room!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about early 20th Century breakfast nooks, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Cairo, Illinois: A Trip Back in Time

August 5th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

The first time I saw downtown Cairo, I stopped my car in the middle of the street and stared in disbelief. The entire business district, which comprised several blocks of brick streets in beautiful condition, was empty - deserted and devoid of all movement. Had it not been for a piece of trash blowing down the middle of the street, the scene could have been a still-frame.

The stillness, the quiet, the absence of any sign of life was fascinating, yet also left me wondering if the next sound I heard would be the theme from The Twilight Zone with a voice-over by Rod Serling.

Looking at the stunning late-1800s commercial architecture - most of which was in original condition and all of which had been abandoned - my intuitive sense told me that folks had left this place in a hurry. And as I began researching the area, I learned my hunch was on mark.

In the mid-1960s, racial unrest and riots were a sad part of the American landscape, but in Cairo, things went especially badly. African-Americans, weary of Jim Crow laws and disparate treatment, threatened to boycott businesses that employed only whites. White business owners responded by closing their stores. Large numbers of families - white and black - left the area and never returned. The population plummeted. Today, downtown Cairo is a ghost town - an incredible time capsule - frozen in the 1960s. The city that once boasted of 14,000 citizens now has about 3000 people living within its borders.

In the early 1900s, Cairo was the site of a 40-acre Sears Mill, where Sears kit homes were milled and shipped out to all 48 states. It was a busy, industrial town and the Sears Mill was one of several businesses there.

I’ve returned to Cairo several times since that first visit in 2002, and each time, I make a point to drive through that incredible downtown area. I park my car and stare. I stare at the old buildings which are in fair to decent condition and still look much like they did when built 100+ years ago. I look at the store fronts whose doorways have not been darkened by a customer in many years. I study the two movie theatres that look much like they did when built in the 1920s and 30s. I take in the long view and look at the streetscapes, devoid of movement or activity.

Just behind those fantastic old commercial buildings lies a seawall and the Ohio River. I do believe that the city could build a fantastic tourism industry off this downtown area alone. I’ve never seen a sight like it.

Apparently, word is getting out, because on my last visit, I saw two tourists taking a plethora of photos of this eerie but fascinating downtown. However, if you decide to visit - come prepared. Cairo has no public bathrooms, no fast-food joints and no public water fountains. About 15 minutes away, just across the Ohio River, is Wickliffe, Kentucky - site of the nearest public restroom. The nearest Burger Doodle is 30 miles southwest in Cape Girardeau.

One thing Cairo does have is plenty of vacant lots, such as 1501 Commercial Avenue. This corner lot is a few blocks from the downtown area and according to the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, it was the site of a beautiful “Elsmore” (Honor-Bilt home). The testimonial on page 111 of the catalog reads, “Built by R. P. Fitzjearl, 1501 Commercial Avenue, Cairo, IL. He says, ‘Already-cut lumber saves one-third of time. Plans as simple as reading a book.’”

When I drive through Cairo, I look at all those empty lots and try not to think about how many Sears homes have been torn down in the intervening years. Several? Dozens? Or worse?

Thus far, I’ve identified about 30 Sears homes in Cairo. Many are in poor condition and a few more may be torn down before the city awakens to its architecture treasures. The addresses of these Sears homes are at the Cairo Public Library on Washington Street and make for a fun driving tour. Learn more about Sears Homes here.

Entrance to Cairo

Entrance to Cairo

This was once an architectural gem: An 1860s building with Mansard roof and round windows.

This was once an architectural gem: An 1860s building with Mansard roof and round windows.

The last remnant of the Sears Mill are two little Sears Modern Homes (The Rodessas) built side by side to prove the superiority of pre-cut kit homes to traditional stick built lumber.

The last remnant of the Sears Mill in Cairo, Illinois are two little Sears Modern Homes (The Rodessas) built side by side to prove the superiority of pre-cut kit homes to traditional stick built lumber. They were built in 1919, and are now surrounded by acres and acres of farmland. The Sears Mill closed in 1940, and the buildings (mills and storage sheds) disappeared sometime later.

Original catalog image featuring the little Sears Rodessa

Original catalog image featuring the little Sears Rodessa