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Posts Tagged ‘mary ellen mazey’

In Memoriam: BGSU Popular Culture House

August 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 13 comments

The Sears Lewiston/Wardway kit home at Bowling Green State University was destroyed last Friday - and in quite a rush.

This demolition went forward, in spite of an impressive groundswell of support, imploring BGSU president Mazey to delay the demolition for a few days. An online petition (asking Mazey to spare the house) quickly garnered 2,000+ signatures.

Others wrote and called the president’s office, begging them to have the house moved rather than destroyed. The cost to move the structure would have been about $18,000 (not a lot more than the cost of demolition).

All to no avail.

The college administration is probably hoping that all the upset over this old house will die down and be forgotten.

Please, don’t prove them right. Don’t let this singular act of wanton destruction and callous disregard for America’s history be forgotten.

Please think about the Popular Culture program at BGSU, which was housed in this old kit home. Many current and former students left comments at this blog and at the Facebook page, sharing happy memories of their time in this historically significant house.

Please think about Virgil Taylor, who spent countless hours poring over old mail-order catalogs, choosing just the house he wanted. Don’t forget Virgil’s dad (Jasper), who gave him the lot so that Virgil could build his fine Wardway Home.

Don’t forget about those two men, toiling side by side to unload the boxcar that arrived at the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931. The house in that boxcar, a custom order from Montgomery Ward, contained 750 pounds of nails, 10 pounds of wood putty, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 840 square yards of plaster lath, and more. In all, Virgil’s kit home came in a boxcar with more than 12,000 pieces of building materials.

Don’t forget how Virgil and Jasper lugged all those building materials out of the boxcar and into a wagon, and then onto the building site.

Working with a 75-page instruction book, Virgil and his father (and probably other family and friends) worked long hours, assembling their 12,000-piece kit home.

They started work on the house in early November and by late February (1932), they were mostly done. I’m sure a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” went into that house.

And last week, it took one big bulldozer less than a couple hours to reduce Virgil’s home to 1,500 tons of debris, soon to be buried and forever preserved at the local landfill. (By the way, that estimate of 1,500 tons is the approximate weight of the original structure, exclusive of all additions.)

To read earlier blogs on this topic (and learn more about Virgil’s house, click on the links below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

The Sorry Ending

Above all, please don’t forget about the little house that Virgil built.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylors beloved home.

As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylor's beloved home. As my friend used to say, it takes someone special to build something special. Any jackass can tear down a barn. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house a few days before President Mazey had her way with it.

Virgil's house a few days before BGSU administrators had their way with it. Notice the clean, straight angles on the roof. The house is still square and true, and it's truly reprehensible that the college decided to demolish, rather than relocate the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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It was a fine-looking house. And now its just a memory.

It was a fine-looking house. And now it's just a memory. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house.

Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.

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There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house.

There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Despite some serious searching, Ive not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs.  Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is a match to the pattern on the brick exterior.

Despite some serious searching, I've not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs. Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is also seen on the home's brick exterior. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Brick

See the brick pattern over the window? This was found on the lintels (over the window) and also in the front gable, and the fireplace. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another view of the homes interior.

Another view of the home's interior. Note the build-in china hutch. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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In Virgils home, this would have been the dining room.

In Virgil's home, this would have been the dining room. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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An old light fixture in the hallway.

An old light fixture in the hallway. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Virgils house arrived from the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with buillinger materials.

Virgil's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with building materials.

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mortgage

When Virgil bought his house, he also obtained a 15-year mortgage from Montgomery Ward. Sadly, he lost his house when Montgomery Ward foreclosed on him (and his wife) in 1936.

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A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures.

A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures. At the center of the page is the traditional Wardway fireplace.

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Virgils house in 1932, soon after completion.

Virgil's house in 1932, soon after completion.

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Virgils house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Virgil's house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Lumber from Virgils house. Photo is

Lumber from Virgil's house. It reads, "29722 (probably a model number), V. H. Taylor, Bowling Green Ohio, 128 No Church Street. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, click here.

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The Kit House at Bowling Green State University (Part V)

August 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 17 comments

Depressing update: The house was demolished this morning (Friday, August 10, 2012).  If you’re on the BGSU donations list, PLEASE call the Alumni Center and ask to be permanently removed from the “Donation Call List.” It’d be wise to explain (briefly) why you wish to be removed. The phone number is 888-839-2586.

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Earlier this week, I received an email response from BGSU, explaining why the historically significant kit house on their campus must be destroyed.

The loquacious note I received made two points, both of which make no sense to me.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

Point two: Moving the house to another site is not possible, because (and I’m quoting here), “it would simply fall apart if we attempted such an action.

If they were pitching this “information” to some first-year architecture student, their prolix palaver might be more palatable, but I am not a first-year architecture student.

I am the author of six books on the topic of kit homes. My expert advice has been solicited and provided in two multimillion-dollar lawsuits. My books and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC and BBC Radio. I’ve been interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and 300 other newspapers and magazines.

Turns out, I know a little something about old houses in general, and early 20th Century kit homes in particular.

So let’s review these two points.

Point one: The home’s remodelings have diminished its historical value.

There’s so much that’s wrong with this statement, I’m not sure where to begin.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a solid old building made from superior quality materials harvested from virgin forests is one good reason to save this structure. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving the house “just because” it’s a classic example of a Wardway House (sold by Montgomery Ward in 1931) is yet another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason to save this house, it’s a mighty strong one.

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of the very last homes that was sold before Wardway Homes closed down their department is - again - another good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular stand-alone reason…

Saving this house “just because” it’s one of only 25,000 Wardway Homes that were built in the entire country is a good reason to save this house. And if this were the singular (well, you get the idea)…

And perhaps the most important reason is this: The BGSU house was a custom design from Wardway, and the BGSU Popular Culture Building was created in the perfect image and likeness of the Sears Lewiston.

It’s a Sears design (The Sears Lewiston), milled and manufactured by Montgomery Ward.

How many of those have I seen in my travels to 25 states?

Let me think about this for a minute.

Oh wait, there’s only ONE and there’s now a bulldozer poised in front of the house, just waiting to destroy it.

And what about moving it?

Experts have examined the structure and determined that it can be moved for less than $20,000.

Moving this house is a viable, realistic, win-win alternate solution.

So what about this “falling apart” business?

I don’t buy it.

I do not believe that this house would “fall apart” if it were jacked up and moved. Kit homes from this time period were extremely well built and incredibly solid. As mentioned in another blog, these framing members in this house are #1 Southern yellow pine, milled from trees that grew slowly in first growth forests. Slow-growing trees equals very dense lumber.

I’ve examined the lumber in dozens of old kit homes, and it is very dense, hard lumber. Homeowners report that they can’t drive a nail into the old floor joist without pre-drilling a hole. You’d have to see it to appreciate it.

And the “lumber” (and I use that word loosely) that you see stacked high at today’s big box stores doesn’t compare to the quality of lumber present in these pre-WW2 kit homes.

And that’s just the framing members.

The floors in these kit homes were typically oak (first floor), with hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths.

You read that right.

Maple. Solid, hardrock maple in the kitchens and baths. In the late 20s/early 30s, it was known that maple would take a beating in those humid, high-use rooms and last forever. I’ve met homeowners who pull up the old floor coverings in the kitchen and sand down those original maple floors.

They’re mighty pretty when they’re refinished.

That’s what BGSU is getting ready to knock down and send off to the landfill.

And it’s a sickening thought.

If BGSU really wants to destroy this historically significant house, there’s little I can do from my home in Norfolk, Virginia to stop them.

But I do know that they’re wrong about the home’s value: That house still retains a great deal of historical significance to the school, to the community and to the country.

And this house can be moved.

Tomorrow or perhaps early next week, this rare bit of Americana (handcrafted by a rugged individualist who went to the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931, and picked up 12,000 pieces of building material and turned it into a beautiful home), will be transmogrified into 1500 tons of ugly construction debris at an Ohio landfill.

It’s a damn shame.

Just a damn shame.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the homes original builder, stands in front of the house thats now on death row.

Virginia Taylor, the daughter of the home's original builder, stands in front of the house that's now on death row. You'll notice that the roofline has no sags and no dips. You'll also notice that the body of the house is in remarkably good condition. This house appears to be square and true. And - sans additions - it would not be difficult to move.

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A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

A picture of the house from happier days, when it was completed in 1932.

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Disgusting and disturbing.

Disgusting and disturbing. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unb

How many cans and bottles will BGSU have to recycle to compensate for the house they're sending to the landfill? Gosh, I can't count that high. The Wardway House - as offered in 1932 - weighed about 300,000 pounds, not counting the bricks. Id' say that BGSU will probably have to spend 20 years recycling everything in the college to offset this massive house dump they're getting ready to do. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sigh

Unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Just unbelievable.

Just unbelievable. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If any readers have any ideas what can be done to save this house, please contact me immediately. Leave a comment below and I will respond within the hour.

To read more about the house, click here.

Kit homes get moved surprisingly often. Read about that here.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

Sears Lynnhaven being moved in the 1980s in Muncie, IN.

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