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Posts Tagged ‘magnolia kit house’

Is it Really a Magnolia?

January 31st, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

For years, it’s been widely believed that only six Sears Magnolia kit homes were built in the country. Six.

They’re located in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama, North Carolina, and Ohio. There was a Magnolia in Nebraska, but it burned down many years ago. That’s six Magnolias. (By the way, the house featured in Nicholas Sparks‘ movie “The Notebook” is not a Sears House.)

Recently, someone contacted me through an internet forum and said they thought they might have a Sears House.

If only I had a penny for every time I heard that, I could buy a Magnolia of my own!  But this time, the picture I saw took my breath away. It appeared to be a Sears Magnolia. Due to my extreme excitement at this new find, I’m hoping to visit this sweet house in the not-too-distant future, but I think there’s a 97.653% chance that I’ve found my seventh Magnolia.

This is a remarkable find. For one thing, this means there could be 284 Magnolias in the country. For us Sears House aficionados, this is like Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile. Anything is now possible!  :)

What makes the Sears Magnolia so remarkable? Many things. It was the biggest and the best Sears Home that they offered. It was beautiful and grand and spacious and elegant and it was the Creme de la creme of Sears Homes. To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Below are some pictures from the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, featuring interior shots of this grand old dame.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1922 Modern Homes catalog. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1922 Modern Homes catalog. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Entry Hall of the grand house

Entry Hall of the grand house

The Living Room

The Living Room

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolias kitchen

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolia's kitchen

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To see the floorplan of the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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Sweet Home Alabama!

September 11th, 2010 Sears Homes 6 comments

Heretofore, there are only six known Magnolias in the country. Six. And there’s one in Alabama!

What is a Sears Home? These were kit homes, sold from the Sears Roebuck catalog from 1908-1940. The houses arrived by train, in 12,000-piece kits.  (And you thought putting together a VCR stand was tough!).  Each house came with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house finished within 90 days! Sears offered 370 designs, but the Sears Magnolia was by far, the biggest.

What a beauty this is! It’s a Sears Magnolia (Sears biggest and best house) in Piedmont, Alabama! (See pictures below.)

It is a Sweet Home in Alabama!! And if you’ve seen any other Magnolias in your town, please send me a photo!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes in Atlanta, Georgia, click here.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Close up of Corinthian columns on Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

On a prior post (Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama), I talked about photographing a Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. What I did not talk about was the trip. I traveled from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia and met up with my friend Nancy (who lives in Acworth), and then we rode together to Piedmont to photograph this house. I love Sears Homes. I love looking at them and I love photographing them and I love posting their portraits at my website.

That being said, I was mighty disappointed that I didn’t find any more Sears Homes between here and Atlanta. I’ve been searching for Sears Homes for a long, long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at this but this trip has not yielded many “finds.”

And then today, I found a note in my inbox from a nice fellow in Mobile (Alabama) telling me about an ecnclave of purported Sears Homes in Mobile. If anyone has any more information about these houses, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to see some photos of these houses. It’s been my experience that 95% of the time, these “neighborhoods” of Sears Homes are not Sears Homes or even kit homes from another company. They’re usually wild goose chases.

Please - someone from Mobile - write to me (thorntonrose@hotmail.com) and prove me wrong.

One of the best finds in Alabama: A sunflower field!

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

This (picture below) is the third Sears Magnolia I have visited in person. There were purportedly six built (but the validity of the fact is in question). Rebecca Hunter discovered that there’d been a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska (1) which had burned down many years ago. and Houses by Mail identified a Magnolia in South Bend (#2). In 2003, I appeared  on PBS History Detectives and the show featured a Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio (#3).  A few months after the show aired, someone in Pennsylvania contacted me with information about their Sears Magnolia - made of brick!

In March 2010, a “Friend of Sears Homes” emailed me and told me about a “Sears Home” in Benson, NC (#5). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Sears Home was the fifth Sears Magnolia!

This Magnolia (see below) is in Alabama. This would be the 6th known Sears Magnolia.

In my opinion, there are a few more out there. I suspect there are more than six Sears Magnolias in the world.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Beautiful Sears Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

September 8th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

What a beauty! And it’s dressed in yellow brick!

We found this Alhambra on a quiet little street, sitting high on a hill, and in a hoity-toity part of Atlanta. Wonder if the owners know it’s a Sears House?

Sears Home in Atlanta

Sears Home in Atlanta

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Babies Came Home on Friday

September 7th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Friday afternoon, my newest book (co-authored with Dale Wolicki) came home. This is my seventh book but it’s always so exciting to see a long-awaited dream come to fruition. Dale and I toiled over this book for five years. Hopefully, we’ll sell out that first printing within 90 days or so. It’s a beautiful book (347 pages!), filled with photos, vintage pictures, facts and details on the kit homes offered by Montgomery Ward.

To buy a copy, click here.

To read more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The cover of our new book.

The cover of our new book.

Schadenfreude and Mudita

September 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Ever hear of schadenfreude?  For years, I’d always called it, “The Crab Theory.”

Schadenfreude is a German word that means delighting in the misfortune of others. I had never heard of this word until I was doing some research for my book The Ugly Woman’s Guide to Internet Dating: What I Learned From 70 First Dates.

Put one crab in a five-gallon bucket and Mr. Crab will do everything in his power to scale its smooth wall and crawl out of that bucket. Put two or more crabs in a bucket and when one starts to climb up, the others will grab him and pull him back down into the bucket. Unfortunately, humans sometime exhibit the same tendencies as crabs.

In my own life, I’ve struggled mightily with envy, and I’m sorry to say that too many times, I had a decided leaning toward the crab/schadenfreude side.

And then one day, I read a story in the Christian Science Sentinel about a woman who’d spent a lifetime cultivating the habit of gratitude. She said that her mother had taught her to feel sincerely joyous and grateful for the good things that happened in other people’s lives, and to take it as a personal promise from God that, if it happened for them, it could happen for her, too.

The Buddhist have a word for this: Mudita. It’s the practice of finding joy in other people’s success and happiness.

The morning news is frequently awash in salacious and scurrilous scandals involving celebrities and their ilk. Yet we’re all “clay vessels,” and we’re all cracked pots and fallible and prone to foibles and missteps and mistakes and even lapses in good judgment. Who among us hasn’t lost our temper and said something we deeply regret? Who among us hasn’t surrendered to temptation when we could have done better? My point is, maybe the real need is to stop staring so hard at other people’s sins and take a better look at our own shortcomings and work on improving those.

Maybe we need to stop cultivating the habit of schadenfreude and work on mudita.

To read more, click here.

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Sears Alhambra in Downtown Portsmouth (Virginia)

September 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

This Sears Alhambra is in a section of town that was near Ida Barbour Park (public housing which has since been torn down). It’s been through many changes through the years, but is still in remarkably good condition. Notice how the red dumpster in the corner complements the red brick foundation. :)

The Sears Alhambra was one of their most popular homes. Note the parapet around the dormer and porch roof, and staircase wing. What a beauty!

To read more about the Sears Homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

From 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal: Modernize That Old House!

September 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Today, the magazine is heavy on diet tips and light on home related topics, but it wasn’t always that way. In the early 1900s, Ladies’ Home Journal was (get ready), a magazine devoted to improving the lot of women who wanted to be homeowners, or women who had achieved that high goal of homeownership.

This 1911 issue of LHJ devoted an entire section to fixing up old houses. The photos (and their captions) tell the whole story. One caption reads, “The foundation and timbers [of these old houses] are often better than are found in the houses built today.”

For the two images below, the caption reads:

It seems almost impossible to realize that the hospitable-looking house on the bottom (see second house below) was once the gloomy, desolate house on the top (see first house below), and the changes which transformed it were not great. First of all, the dull color of the old house and the overgrown condition of the ground in front of it are most forbidding. A comparison of the two pictures shows how much a little careful planting and fresh paint will do toward changing the whole atmosphere of the house. More rooms were added at the rear and a gambrel roof was built and into this were let two good-sized dormer windows. A large porch, which was extended into a porte-chochere was built, and the latter forms a nice balance to the right wing of the house.

Heres the before photo

Here's the "before" photo

And heres the after photo

And here's the "after" photo

More photos are below!

Take a moment and read the caption - and remember - this is from 1911!

Take a moment and read the caption - and remember - this is from 1911!

Another photo pair from the 1911 Ladies Home Journal

Another photo pair from the 1911 Ladies' Home Journal

Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

August 28th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In the mid-1880s, while working as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, Richard Warren Sears paid $50 for a shipment of watches that arrived at the train station and had been refused by a local merchant. Selling them to other railway agents and passengers, Sears turned $50 worth of watches into $500 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive and reliable passenger rail service, people could now travel hundreds of miles each day, but there was a problem with all this expeditious movement. In the early 1880s, the United States had 300 different time zones. You read that right: 300.

In November 1883, railway companies established four time zones to help manage and standardize the complex train schedules. As folks adapted to the new time zones, watches became a hot commodity.

In 1886, 23-year-old Sears invested his $5000 cash profit into a new watch business and called it the “R. W. Sears Watch Company.” He advertised his watches in regional newspapers and in a short time, he moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Around 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog, offering jewelry and watches within its 52 pages. By 1893, the little watch and jewelry catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. One year later, another 300 pages were added, creating a 507-page mail order catalog.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse closed-door meeting with his business partner Julius Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company. Sears’ reason for retiring: He “didn’t see the work as fun anymore.” A short time later, Sears sold his stock for $10 million dollars. There was another reason for his departure. Sears wanted more time to take care of his ailing wife, who had suffered from ill health for years.

In September 1914, at the age of 50, Sears died, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multi-million dollar mail order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Richard Warren Sears at his office at 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL

Richard Warren Sears at his office at 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read more about Sears Modern Homes, click here.

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