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Posts Tagged ‘mail order homes’

The True Origins of the Sears Magnolia

February 10th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

The Sears Magnolia, offered from 1918-1922, seems to be a source of a much misinformation and confusion.

Yesterday, someone sent me a link to another purported “Magnolia” in Watseka, IL (719 South Fourth Street). And then a member in our “Sears Homes” Facebook group showcased a quote from author Daniel Reiff (Houses from Books) stating that even though the house in Watseka is not a Sears Magnolia, it may have been an inspiration for the Sears architects.

Built models might have also been an influence [for the Sears Magnolia]. Only one hundred miles from Chicago, in Watseka, IL is an impressive Colonial Revival built in 1903 with many features in common with the Magnolia (Houses from Books, p. 194).

I’d say there are a few other houses that have “many features in common with the Magnolia” - as in thousands.

The Magnolia would be best described as a Colonial Revival, which was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sears was not an innovator in anything, most of all, architectural design. They looked at what was popular and created their housing designs accordingly.

Judging from the photos in Houses from Books, much of Reiff’s research was centered in the Northeast, specifically the New York area. Mr. Reiff should have traveled down to the South, because we’re loaded with examples of what is commonly known as the Colonial Revival.

If I felt compelled to connect a specific house to the architect’s creation of the Sears Magnolia, I’d put my money on a 1910-built house in Blacksburg, SC (photos below).

The South Carolina “Magnolia” was built in 1910, and based on the home’s interior moldings, mantels, staircase and some other clues, I’d say that the 1910 build-date is pretty accurate. And although this is a wild guess, I suspect that it MAY BE a pattern book house.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia.

When Sears “borrowed” patterns from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets across the front of the Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

Mr. Reiff also identified a Sears Magnolia in Dunkirk, NY.


A second example of a brick Magnolia can be found in Dunkirk NY, Despite the lack of side wings because of the narrow lot, the similarities to the Sears model are still striking, but the house is much narrower than its model. In fact, although the 93 West Fourth Street is the same depth as the Magnolia (36′1 vs. 36), it is a full ten feet narrower (29.10 vs. 40.0)
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All of which are deal killers. Dimensions matter - a lot. However, Mr. Reiff pulls it out of the fire at the end with this:

The plan of the Dunkirk house is considerably different. Instead of the formal central hallway with staircase and rooms on either side, here the plan is far more compact; One enters the living room which runs across the front of the house in the middle of its long side; the stairs are at one end…Here we almost certainly have an instance of a local builder who studied the illustration in the Sears catalog and created his own version of it, without ordering the plans or, in all likelihood, any of the materials from Sears (p. 196).


Besides, if you were going to name a house “The Magnolia,” would your inspiration come from the frozen North?

I think not.

Now, where is that 9th Magnolia?

To see pictures of all eight Sears Magnolias, click here.

To read more about the “fake” Magnolia in SC, click here.

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If I was going to pick a house to have been a model for the Magnolia, Id pick this house in Blacksburg, SC!!

If I were going to pick a house to have been a "model" for the Magnolia, I'd pick this house in Blacksburg, South Carolina After all, this actually looks like a Magnolia!

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The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog. Some may describe it as a Colonial Revival, but really, it's a foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

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The Magnolia (1920 Modern Homes catalog).

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This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a model for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to cut it down to size for a kit house catalog.

This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a "model" for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to "cut it down to size" for inclusion in a kit house catalog. There are 15 small lites over the large windows on the first floor - just like the Magnolia. And, it's in South Carolina, just where you'd expect to find a "Magnolia"!

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The other big difference are the columns.

The other big difference is the columns. The real Magnolia has hollow wooden columns (made of poplar). The house in Blacksburg had columns made of concrete. Try shipping *that* from Chicago!

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The details around the eaves are also a little bit off.

The details around the eaves are also a little bit "off." The eave brackets on the SC house are more ornate (photo on right). The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The Blacksburg house has eight brackets. The Magnolia's dormer has four of these eave brackets. The Blacksburg house has three. These are the kind of details that really do matter. (The house on the left is a Magnolia in Nebraska which has since been torn down. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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But boy oh boy, its a close one!!

But boy oh boy, it's a close one!!

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Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

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Even the interior floorplan was a good match!

However, the interior floorplan was not quite right, and that's a big deal, too.

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Heres the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

Here's the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

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And here are

In June 2012, I traveled to Anderson, SC and found these two Colonial Revivals within a block of each other. In the South, this house style is very popular and can be found in almost every old neighborhood. In fact, these houses might just be real Colonials (as opposed to a post-Civil war "Revival").

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The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, its just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!!  (Not)

The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, it's just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!! (Not)

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

Better yet, if you’d like to buy a copy or Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the now-deceased Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.

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Marguerite’s Beautiful and Beloved #124

February 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last year, Sears homeowner Marguerite Deppert saw my blogs (here and here) on Sears Modern Home #124 and sent me several wonderful photos of her own home, which she had recently purchased in Montvale, NJ.

It’s a real beauty and in gorgeous condition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Montvale has many Sears Homes, due in part to the fact that they’re less than 30 miles from Port Newark, where Sears had a large mill. (Sears had but two mills - one in Cairo, IL and one in Newark, NJ.)

Thanks so much to Marguerite Deppert for sharing these photos with me! I’ve been drooling over them all morning!

To see a wide variety of pictures of Sears Modern Home 124, click here.

Did you know there’s a #124 in Lincolnton, Georgia? Click here to see that.

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Number 124 was gone by 1918 (when Sears Homes were given names), but it seemed to be a fairly popular house. Its certainly distinctive!

Sears Modern Home #124 was gone from the catalogs by 1918 (when Sears Homes were given names), but it seemed to be a fairly popular house. It's certainly distinctive! (1916)

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Marguerites house was even mentioned in the 1916 catalog!

Marguerite's house was even mentioned in the 1916 catalog!

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Spaciosu floor plan.

Some of the older homes have rather "odd" floorplans, but #124 was quite sensible.

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Years ago, Rebecca Hunter and I toured the inside of the #124 in Crystal Lake, IL and that little bathroom shown above was really tucked away under that sloping roof. Interesting, but almost claustrophobic.

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Nice house, and a darn good price!

Nice house, and a darn good price!

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Oh my, what a house!

Oh my, what a house! Even the detail around the chimneys is a match to the vintage image! (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Wow.

The rock border on the driveway is a nice complement to the stone columns. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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phoo

A view from the side highlights that beautiful stone work on the chimney. The two chimneys are covered with stone to the roofline, and then above the roofline, they're brick. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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close up

Close up of those unique details on the front porch. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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What a fine-looking house. What a treasure for Montvale. And I suspect Marguerite is one of the happiest homeowners in America! (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Look at those wee tiny second-floor windows tucked up under that porch roof. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

What a beautiful house!

What a beautiful house! Just stunning. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Thanks again to Marguerite for sharing these wonderful photos!

To see a wide variety of pictures of Sears Modern Home 124, click here.

Did you know there’s a #124 in Lincolnton, Georgia? Click here to see that.

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Permanent Furniture III: Bookcase Colonnades

December 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the early 1980s, my husband and I looked at an Aladdin Shadowlawn for sale in Chesapeake, Virginia. We both fell head-over-heels in love with the solid-oak bookcase colonnades between the living room and dining room.

It was just last week that I learned that, in the early 1900s, these enchanting built-ins were known as “Permanent Furniture.”

“Permanent furniture” (built-in cabinetry) was a brilliant concept. The more “permanent furniture” present in a house, the less “temporary furniture” the new homeowners would need to purchase. And all these built-ins really did make best-possible use of small spaces.

To read more about permanent furniture, click here or here.

As always, thanks to Norfolk historian and librarian Bill Inge for sharing his wonderful old architecture books with moi!

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House

More than 30 years ago, we looked in the windows of this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, Virginia (near Chesapeake Square Mall) and caught a glimpse of the solid oak built-in bookcase colonnades and fell hopelessly in love. There's something about "permanent furniture" in old houses that still makes me swoon.

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The Aladdin Shadowlawn had beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn came with beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades (1919 catalog).

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These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck Building Materials catalog (1921).

These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck "Building Materials" catalog (1921). Pretty basic and very plain and no shelving or bookcases. And who's Carlton? My guess is that he's someone that wasn't well liked at Sears. Maybe it started out as a practical joke. "Let's name those really boring colonnades after that boring guy, Carlton who never does anything but stand around and look goofy," and before they knew it, the $34 colonnades were listed in the Sears catalog as "Carlton Colonnades."

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1921

For $82.50, you could buy a colonnade that actually had a practical purpose (unlike Carlton).

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The

The Sears Osborn featured these bookcase colonnades with either wooden muntins or leaded glass doors (1919).

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No sooner had I returned Bill Inges 1927 Builders Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure. It was full of - colonnades!

No sooner had I returned Bill Inge's 1927 Builders' Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure, "Building With Assurance; Morgan Millwork." It was full of - colonnades! It was published in 1923.

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And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades.

And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades: "It's an imitation of nature itself." BTW, check out the lovebird logo.

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Nice

Nice way to dress up a doorway!

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These colonnades are simple, but quite attractive. That rug looks like a trip hazard, though. The dining room furniture looks like it came out of a dollhouse. The proportions are skewed.

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Aon d

Apparently Morgan had their own line of Carlton Colonnades.

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Much more ornate, and bigger bookcases, too. The original caption reads, "This Morgan standardized design offers a fine opportunity for tasty decoration with jardinieres, statuary, bric-a-brac, etc." I had to look up "jardinieres," because I've read a lot of books in my life but I have never seen that word. Turns out, "jardinieres" is a female gardener, allegedly. I'm not sure that even the most progressive 1920s housewife would be too keen on the idea of using built-in bookcases to store female gardeners.

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This one's my favorite: Rugged, sturdy, spacious and a built-in desk, too.

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That desk is pretty cool, even if he does have a lot of bills hidden inside of it.

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Another beautiful colonnade, but in use as a china hutch!

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A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. No foolin'.)

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To read about the Sears Magnolia we found in West Virginia, click here.

To read more about built-ins, click here.

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Permanent Furniture II: Beautiful Staircases

December 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, we seemed to place more value on the idea that we should surround ourselves with beauty.

The staircases shown in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork Catalog ranged from simple to fancy, and yet they’re all elegant and beautiful.

Too many modern staircases (post-1970) are not just utilitarian; they’re seriously ugly. Looking through several online listings of “new” houses for sale (under $500,000), I didn’t see any staircase pieces and parts that I haven’t seen for sale at Lowes. In other words, the focus of modern staircase building seems to be “fast, cheap and easy.”

What happened to the idea of making a beautiful entry?

As the 1920s text says below, “The staircase is the central feature of the hall or living room and must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling.”

Perhaps that explains why contemporary staircases are so blasé and unappealing.

The pedestrian staircases in modern homes are “in harmony” with their pedestrian surroundings.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing his historic architecture books with me!

Read about bookcase colonnades here!

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Staircase

Even the front page for this chapter is a thing of beauty!

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Stiarcase

"The designs...represent harmonious units." The text also adds, "The staircase...must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling." How many builders today stop and think about how much "harmony" is expressed by their creations? (In the text above, K.D. stands for "knocked down.")

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staircase 1

"For the modern American small home, this design is very pleasing and practical."

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staircase 2

Another very simple design, and yet it's quite attractive. This type of staircase is often found in mail-order kit homes, because it's both simple and easy to construct.

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staircase 8

According to the accompanying caption, those doors lead out to an "elevated sunporch." I don't recall ever seeing an elevated sunporch off a landing like this - in real life.

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staricase

Another simple staircase, but with a 90-degree twist.

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staircase 8

"The unusual panel effect is a distinctive feature of this staircase..."

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staircase 7

This staircase is categorized in the original literature as a "Colonial design."

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Another favorite staircase. Years ago, I looked at a house for sale in South Norfolk (Chesapeake, VA) on Park Avenue and it had this very same design, all with original varnish/shellac. I thought it was the prettiest bit of "permanent furniture" that I'd ever seen. I shudder to think what's become of that house and it's gorgeous interiors. Note the phone niche next to the bench.

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staircase

"This panel buttress staircase is suitable for English or modern American homes. The complete absence of balusters and handrail make it easy to keep clean." While I do love the rope, I'm sure modern codes would not allow it.

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staircase

"The charm of this Colonial stairway is the continuous handrail ending in the graceful turning of a volute." Please raise your hand if you knew that this "round thing" at the end of the banister was known as a "volute." :D

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staircase 38

"Very suitable for the modest home without a reception hall." If a mother could have favorites, this would be one of mine. So pretty and so elegant, and yet, "suitable for a modest home."

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"The attractive arches give it real character."

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Another beautiful staircase. The window mirrors the pattern on the built-in bookcase.

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staircase

"The large central hall is an attribute of the Colonial home, the main feature of which is the stairway." This is the same stairway we had in our 1925 Colonial Revival on Gosnold Avenue (Norfolk), even down to the tapered spindles and center post. Lone difference is, we had three spindles per tread, where this has two. Nary a soul entered that reception hall without making a nice comment about the beauty of that staircase.

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staircase

"This is one of the simpler lines, very economical in construction."

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staircase

Not my favorite, but it must be a design of enduring appeal, because I've seen it in many post-WW2 houses. Original caption says the "sturdy lines of English architecture are faithfully retained in this beautiful stairway."

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staircase 187

"The unusual feature is the handrail is mitered into the newel cap." Makes sliding down a bannister much easier (and less painful). Although it's a mighty short run.

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staircase 8883

"For real charm and beauty, a winding stairs can not be excelled."

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"This Colonial stairway is very impressive." I agree. Check out the phone niche.

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In the 1920s, we seemed to have more of an understanding that it was important to surround yourself with beauty. Modern staircases are not just utilitarian; theyre ugly as sin.

The image on the left is from a $500,000 house currently for sale in Hampton Roads. The image on the right was a very simple design offered in the 1927 "Builders' Woodwork" catalog. In the 1920s, we seemed understand that low-priced and simple didn't have to equate with cheap and ugly.

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Stiars

To end on a happy note, I've always loved old houses, and that's due in large part to my mother, an artist, who always felt it was important to surround herself with beauty and light and color. She's shown here, sitting on the beautiful staircase of our Colonial Revival home in Waterview (Portsmouth, Virginia). It was about 1968, and she's holding "Bernard," a mutt she'd recently adopted from the local SPCA.

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To read Permanent Furniture, Part I, click here.

To read one of the most popular blogs at this site (featuring a beautiful staircase), click here.

Ready for a change of pace? Read about a really spooky basement here.

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Pennsgrove: Up Close and Personal

November 12th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

When I first learned that a Baltimorian had discovered a Pennsgrove in their very own neighborhood, I was more than a little dubious. After all, neither me nor my slightly obsessed house-hunting buddies had ever seen a Pennsgrove in the wild.

And yet, not only had my Baltimorians found a Pennsgrove, but now we’ve learned that they found THE Pennsgrove that had been used as the model for the image in the 1932 Sears catalog.

Now that’s an exciting find.

The Baltimorians (Tom and Jada Lawson) were kind enough to send me some high resolution photos so that we can really get a good look at this sweet thing.

And then last week while I was hanging out at the Sergeant Memorial Room (Norfolk Public Library), doing research on Penniman, Bill Inge (my #1 favorite librarian), sat down next to me and quietly confessed, “I think that Pennsgrove is  my favorite Sears House.”

Bill is not just an world-class librarian, but he’s also an incredibly interesting fellow and an indefatigable resource of historical knowledge. If there’s a person in this world that loves early 20th Century American history more than moi, it might just be Bill.

Many thanks to Tom and Jada for the wonderful photos and thanks to the city of Norfolk for having the wisdom and foresight to hire a true historian like Bill Inge.

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The Pennsgrove, as seen in the 1932 catalog.

The Pennsgrove, as seen in the 1932 catalog.

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Living Room 1932

Also in the 1932 catalog is a view of the living room in the Pennsgrove. Oh it'd be fun to get inside the Baltimore house and get a picture of the living room today - from the same angle!

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Garage

As kit homes go, this was a very busy house. The two-car attached garage was very unusual for a house of this vintage, and even more unusual for a Sears House. In fact, I believe that this is the only Sears House with a two-car attached garage (1932 catalog).

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send floor

The second floor makes the house seem crowded and small. And from an architectural standpoint, there's a lot of wasted space on this second level. And check out that third bedroom. It's a mere eight feet wide!

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Ah, but it sure is a beauty!

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Tom did a flawless job of photographing this house from the same angle as the original catalog image. And the best part: Even the shadows are falling in the same places. Check out the shadow on the arched entry by the garage. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Compa

The side-by-side comparisons are my favorite. What a house!

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phenomenal

The Pennsgrove is a real beauty, and the stone, brick, stucco and slate provide a stunning complement to one another. I love the half-timber look on that front gable. Personally, I think the balloons look a little tired though. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Check out that slate roof. Most likely, it's Buckingham Slate which weighs 1,400 pounds per square. Yes, you read that right. One ten by ten section of Buckingham Slate weighs 1,400 pounds. Houses with slate roofs are built extra sturdy to accommodate the tremendous weight. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks to Toms great images, we can really see the details.

Thanks to Tom's great pictures, we can really see the details. Notice this Pennsgrove still has the original light fixture! Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And original windows, too. I understand the house recently changed hands. Hopefully the new owners will also be good stewards of this historic home. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Nothing makes my heart go pitter-pat like the details. Check out the round downspouts. They may not be original, but they do look good. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Several people commented on the fact that the stone work around the front door is a perfect match to the old catalog image. That's when I started to realize that this is THE house shown in the 1932 catalog. This close-up proves it!

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What a house!

And I can't help but ask, do the owners know what they have? I surely hope so. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Don’t replace that slate roof! Read this first and it will change your life! No kidding!

To learn more about the Pennsgrove, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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Waynesboro: WOW!

October 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

On October 17th, I gave a talk in Waynesboro on their kit homes. The day before, Anne (local history lover and kind soul) had driven me throughout the city, looking for kit homes.

And we found a bunch!

There are more than 40 photos below, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking!  :)

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Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it.

Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it. Plus, it appears to be from about the 1920s, which is when all my little pretties were built in Charlottesville.

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First, the Carlins.

First, the Carlins. I found five of them, in one three-block area. Someone in Waynesboro really loved their Carlins. Until recently, when someone really put a hurting on them. .

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This one gets a special mention because its been disfigured.

This one gets a special mention because it's been disfigured.

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Dormer

Yeah, they really did that. Poor Carlin. Poor little Carlin.

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Lots of signs on the melancholy Carlin, but fortunately there were no signs that forbade flash photography.

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The Hazleton

I call The Hazleton the "House of Threes" because it has several groupings of three windows, in the dormer, on the side, and on the front (with two groupings of three windows flanking the front door). and it has six windows in that bay window on the side. Plus, Hazleton has three syllables!

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While driving around her Google Car Rachel found this Hazleton on Bath Street, and she was right! It really is a Sears Hazleton.

While driving around her "Google Car" Rachel discovered this Hazleton on Bath Street. It's in beautiful shape and still has its original windows, siding and even front railings. What a treasure!

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Its got the funky side window, too.

It's got the funky side window, too.

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Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

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Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be!

Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be! Check out the interesting indent on the chimney!

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The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

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Waynesboro also likes their Crescents!

Waynesboro also likes their "Crescents"!

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Picture perfect!

Picture perfect!

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And theres even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

And there's even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

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The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

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Kind of a crummy photo, but it shows off the pretty Glenn Falls.

Is this a Glen Falls? Sure looks like it, but Rachel Shoemaker found the auditor's records for the house and the "footprint" is wrong. Perhaps it's a plan book house. More on that below.

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And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found this Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found an Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

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What a beauty!!

What a beauty!! Do the owners realize they have a Sears house? Not likely!

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The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog. Note the brick pillar at the far right.

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Waynesboro

The Conway in Waynesboro also has that brick pillar at the far right, just like the catalog image.

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The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

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The windows have been replaced, and its in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but its the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

The windows have been replaced, and it's in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but it's the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

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The Solace is a cute little house but wasnt hugely popular.

The Solace is a cute little house for Sears but wasn't hugely popular.

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The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

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Is this

Is this a Solace? I think it's very likely.

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The original pergola on the front porch is still visible.

The original pergola on the front porch is still visible, and it's also a spot-on match to the catalog.

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In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company).

In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company). Shown above is the cover of the 1918 GVT catalog.

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The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty, and it's a perfect match to the catalog image above!

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This charming bungalow was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

This "charming bungalow" was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

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Rachel also found this GVT

Rachel also found this GVT #530 in Waynesboro. Another beautiful match!

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Last but not least is this GVT #540.

Last but not least is this GVT #540, another very popular house!

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Its had some remodeling done, but you can still see that theres a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

It's had some remodeling done, but you can still see that there's a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

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Dumont

The Dumont is not a kit house, but a plan book house. With plan books, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials from a mail-order catalog. The homebuyer would obtain the building materials locally. Many thanks to Shari Davenport for sending me this image!

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Another fun find

Perfect! Just perfect!

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Two of them

And there are two of them!

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To read more about Waynesboro, click here.

To see what I found in Charlottesville, click here.

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Not For The Squeamish…

October 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

More than 30 years ago, I obtained my real estate license and became a bona fide Realtor in Portsmouth, Virginia. The very first house I listed was in Waterview (Portsmouth). Because I was so young (22 years old) and because I was such a neophyte, I spent a lot of time sitting in my client’s living room and holding  her hand - literally and figuratively.

My client was an elderly widow who lived alone in the vintage Spanish Revival home. As is often the case with elderly widows, her old house was in mostly original condition.

And this woman was also a long-time neighbor. Having grown up less than a block away, I had always admired this house. In the midst of a neighborhood full of brick Colonial Revivals, this Spanish-flavored house really stood out.

I remember - as a little girl - approaching the house on Halloween night, and pausing to admire the beautiful wrought-iron sconces that hung high on the home’s brick walls and the three tall arches that protected the spacious front porch. (Pausing for any reason, whilst trick or treating with my brother, was always a poor choice, as he was likely to dash to the front door ahead of me and tell the homeowner, “Please don’t give my little sister any candy. She just got out of the hospital late this afternoon and she promised our mother she wouldn’t accept any sweets.”)

In 1982, I listed the house for sale at $51,500. About 90 days later, it sold for $45,000 cash. An elderly gent purchased the house for use as rental property.

For years, every time I passed the house, I’d wave at it and whisper sweetly, “Hello my Pretty. You’re looking especially lovely today.”

And then one day in the late 1990s, as I drove past this house, I literally gasped.

Someone had decided to commit an act of lewd remuddling against this classic 1920s home.

I stopped the car and stared in horror. Workers were busy as little bees, placing roof trusses on the home’s flat roof. A couple masons were adding a few bricks here and there. And those sconces were unceremoniously ripped off and tossed into a dumpster.

I felt like screaming. I wanted to stop them. I almost cried. But there was nothing I could do.

After a few minutes, I started the car and continued on my way.

Last month, I discovered that my first MLS listing was actually a plan book house, offered in the 1927 Home Builder’s Catalog. “The Celilo” was offered in two floor plans (”A” and “B”). The house in Waterview was the “B” floorplan (with a 1/4 basement).

The pictures bespeak the horror far better than words.

And if any folks from Portsmouth know more about the dates when this lewd act occurred, please leave a comment below.

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The  cereliaus

The Celilo was a plan book house offered in the 1927 Home Builders Catalog.

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house house house

Incredibly, the Celilo in Portsmouth had a quarter basement.

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house house hosue

My "Celilo" was done in yellow brick, not stucoo (as shown above), but other than that, the house in the picture above was a spot-on match to the house in Portsmouth (pre-remuddling). Look at those wrought-iron sconces!

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house

Today, the Celilo looks pretty mundane (and that's the kindest thing I can say about it). The proportions of the house are just "off." Stacking a gable roof atop a Spanish Revival was not a good idea. And the damage done to the home's unique architectural style is irreparable.

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house spanish

Even putting those sconces back up didn't help.

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soncen

If you look closely, you can see where the brick workers filled in this notched roof with more bricks. And then they had to paint it gray to hide the mismatched bricks and mortar.

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If you sneak a peek

Today, the only remnant of this home's Spanish-flavored origins is the old wrought-iron porch light. I'm surprised someone didn't toss these in the dumpster, too.

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House street messed

Words elude me.

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To learn more about the plan book houses of Portsmouth, click here.

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And Sometimes, They’re Hiding By The Post Office

September 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

How many times have I driven the streets of Norfolk, searching for kit homes?

Well, let’s just say it’s a number higher than 20. Earlier this year, I discovered a Martha Washington when Milton and I were on our way to buy some honey biscuits from Church’s.

That was a shocker.

And then yesterday, I had occasion to seek out and find a new post office here in Norview (by the airport) and on my way to the post office, I saw a PERFECT Aladdin kit house, The Maples.

Today, I drove down the same road (this time, with my camera), trying to get in position to surreptitiously get a photo, when I drove past a Sears Willard.

One street, and two perfect kit homes.

Wow.

Just wow.

And now I’m wondering if I’m going to find a Magnolia somewhere in Norfolk!

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The Maples was a darling little bungalow offered by Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan).

The Maples was a darling little bungalow offered by Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan).

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One little house, two floor plans.

One little house, two floor plans.

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house

The second floorplan has no bathroom.

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What a cute house!

What a cute house!

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Oh yeah, baby!

Oh yeah, baby! What a perfect match!

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The other surprise  was the Sears Willard, just one block from the post office.

The other surprise was the Sears Willard, just one block from the post office. The image above is from the 1928 catalog. The living room has three windows on the right side (seen above).

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The Willard was a very popular house for Sears.

The Willard was a very popular house for Sears.

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And here it

A perfect Willard, less than two miles from my house. Wow.

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To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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What Do George Bailey and Sears Roebuck Have in Common?

July 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Many folks think it’s a movie about one man’s life making a difference in this world, but I saw it a different way. I saw it as a movie that explained why homeownership is so important.

In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day declared that Americans had a patriotic duty to be homeowners. It was well-understood that home ownership was a boon to individuals and their families, but the “patriotic” angle made the point that homeownership also benefited neighborhoods and communities, and by extension, it benefited cities and even the country, as a whole.

To put a contemporary spin on this, what better modern-day model do we have than Detroit? How much of Detroit is now rental (non-owner occupied)? Despite 30 minutes of searching, I wasn’t able to find an answer, but I’d guess it’s a lot. (Heck, how much of Detroit’s housing is just not occupied by anyone?)

The early Sears Modern Homes catalogs made this point in a variety of ways, but in short it said this: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of prosperity, stability and peace.

In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees what Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born. Without George’s positive influence and his ever-fledgling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and many residents would have remained renters, rather than homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties.

And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family, and in a broader context, there is less stability in the community as well.

Look at Bert (the cop) and Ernie (the cab driver).

In this alternate “George-less” world, Ernie does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, he lives is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is largely to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

I’m of the opinion that Sears was, to small communities in the Midwest, what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls.

Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?

How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville, thanks to these little kit homes? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout the Midwest.

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In the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

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In the end, George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many peoples lives, enabling them to become homeowners. He saw that his town would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.

George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many people's lives, enabling them to become homeowners. The angel ("Clarence") showed George that Bedford Falls would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brother's Building and Loan.

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The value of homeownenrship was also touted in

The value of homeownership was also touted in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1921).

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Father is throwing out rent receipts - because theyre worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

Father is throwing out rent receipts - because they're worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

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Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway.

Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway. Even the little girl is lost in bliss! Is there a Hathaway in Lima, Ohio? It'd be fun to know!

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A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Learn more about the biggest and best Sears Home by clicking here!

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Sears Modern Home #179: Magnifico!

June 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 12 comments

Last month, a reporter contacted me and asked if I knew of any kit homes in Jacksonville, Florida. My first thought was, Whoa boy, that might be tough finding many kit homes that far south!”

For a long time, it’s been widely believed that there just aren’t that many kit homes in the deep south.

The reporter and I exchanged a few emails, and much to my delight, she said that she’d found a kit house, Sears Modern Home #179.

Reading her email, I thought, “Suuuuuuure it is.”

Model #179 is a rarity, and neither me, nor Rebecca Hunter, nor Dale Wolicki have ever seen a Model #179.  This model was only offered for two years (1912 and 1913), and it’s a very distinctive house with a quirky floor plan.

But it turned out, this reporter was right.

And not only had she found Modern Home #179, this house was in beautiful condition!

And better yet, the home’s owners, Tami and George Lugeanbeal knew that they had a Sears House, and they love their remarkable, unique, historically significant kit home.  (Just across  the street from Modern Home #179, I found another delightful surprise: An Aladdin Georgia, and just like its pristine neighbor, the “Georgia” was also in beautifully original condition. Click here to read about that.)

George was kind enough to send me several photos of his wonderful house, so that all may see and enjoy this beautiful, rare and lovingly restored 99-year-old Sears Kit Home.

Thanks to Tami and George Lugeanbeal for sharing these pictures, and also thanks to Amanda Durish Cook (Florida Times-Union) for finding the Lugeanbeals and their beautiful Sears House!

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1913 colorized.

Modern Home #179 (offered in 1912 and 1913). George sent me this image, and it's been colorized. Not . Not sure where George found it, but it's a nice representation.

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As mentioned, the original floor plan is a little funky.

As mentioned, the original floor plan is a little funky. The bathroom is off the kitchen, and there is no bathroom upstairs (as built). Plus, the living room has nothing behind it.

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Up on the third floor, George found an original shipping label.

George found an original shipping label on that dormer window in the attic. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ship

On the left of the shipping label it reads "If not delivered in 15 days, return to 925 Homan Avenue in Chicago" (Sears headquarters). The destination for this kit house was originally Ortega Train Depot, on the CRI and P, which is the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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George has something every old house owner dreams of: An image of his house from the 1940s.

George has something every old house owner dreams of: An image of his house from the 1940s. Photo is courtesy George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Georges Modern Home #179 as seen in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Modern Home #179 as seen in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And

And here it is, in the flesh! What a beauty! And it looks much like it did when built 99 years ago. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Modern Home #179 also has the worlds most perfect front porch.

One day, I hope to visit Modern Home #179 and sit in one of those white rockers. This is surely one of the prettiest front porches in the world. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Porchy porch porch porch

Look at those columns, still as straight and true as they were when first erected 99 years ago. According to George's information, the house was built in 1914. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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One of the features that makes this house so wonderful are the details. This bracket

One of the features that makes this house so wonderful are the details. If you look at the original catalog image, you'll see this bracket on the underside of the front porch roof. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Modern Home #179, as seen from another angle.

This looks like an ad for Sears Weatherbeater Paints, doesn't it? "Weatherbeater, by Sears, for great American homes, like yours." It's the perfect encapsulation of all that was right with America 100 years ago, and it's also a beautiful home. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wow

From this angle, you can easily see that bay window on the first floor. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The interior has some interesting details, too

The interior has some interesting details, too, such as this long, cool stack of drawers. Was this built as drawers, or was it originally a linen closet, or perhaps an ironing board cabinet? Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And some cool door hardware, too!

And George's #179 some cool door hardware, too! Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More very cool door hardware, from Sears & Roebuck!

More very cool door hardware, from Sears & Roebuck! Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the pièce de résistance is a letter that George and Tami found hidden in a wall from the homes prior occupant.

And the pièce de résistance is a letter that George and Tami found tucked away in a wall from the home's prior occupant. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And here it is, in Jacksonville, Florida. And I never would have found it had it not been for that reporter from the

And here it is, in Jacksonville, Florida. And I never would have found it had it not been for that reporter from the Florida Times-Union. Photo is copyright 2013 George Lugeanbeal and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks to George and Tami for sharing so many wonderful photos! And thanks to Amanda Durish Cook for finding the Lugeanbeals!

To read about the beautiful Aladdin kit home just across the street, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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