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New Bern’s Numerous and Nobby Kit Homes (Or “How I Spent My Second Honeymoon Last Week”)

January 21st, 2016 Sears Homes 12 comments

How did New Bern come to have so many kit homes? Is it because of New Bern’s proximity to Aladdin’s largest mill in Wilmington, North Carolina? Perhaps, but how does that explain the grandiose Sears Homes I found on Spencer Street?

It’s a mystery, but I hope it’s one that this community will fully explore!

What is a kit home?

Sears is the best-known name in the kit home business, and they started selling houses through their mail-order catalogs in 1908. These “kits” came in a  boxcar in 12,000 pieces, and included a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house complete and ready for occupancy in about 90 days.

Sears closed their “Modern Homes Department” in 1940, and during a corporate house cleaning, all sales records were destroyed. The only way to find these homes today is literally one by one.

I’m confident that New Bern has many more kit homes than shown below. I saw less than 30% of the town, and I went through that 30% very  quickly! I’d love to return to New Bern soon and do a proper, thorough street-by-street survey.

If you enjoy the information and pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog on New Bern, click here.

Read about The Peach House in nearby Kinston here.

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New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state?

New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state? Most likely, yes. Image is from the 1923 Aladdin catalog.

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One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin Hampshire located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin "Hampshire" located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

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This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s.

This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s. It's a beautiful little house in wonderful condition. And it retains its original casement windows!

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Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes.

Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes, and the small fixed sashes flanking the fireplace. It's a thrill to see a 90-year-old house in original condition.

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What a cutie!

What a cutie! The house in New Bern is "flipped" (the mirror image).

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The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins), Id say its very likely.

Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins within Ghent), I'd say it's likely.

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The Pomona was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Pomona was one of Aladdin's most popular homes. I saw two of these in New Bern, and neglected to capture the address of the second one. The first one (in Ghent) is shown below.

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Its a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Berns Historic Ghent neighborhood.

It's a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Bern's Historic Ghent neighborhood, on Spencer Avenue. It's definitely a Pomona, but has endured a great deal of remodeling. The front porch is 100% enclosed.

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The Aladdin Cape Cod (1923) was another popular kit home.

The Aladdin "Cape Cod" (1923) was another popular kit home.

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Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, Supersize Me?

Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, "Supersize Me"? It is a nice match to the Aladdin, but it's much too wide. It's likely that this is a pattern-book house, but I haven't been able to find a corresponding match in my collection of early 1900s pattern books. More than 30% of kit homes were customized, so it's possible this was ordered "extra large" from the Aladdin mill.

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Gordon Van Tine,  like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT Roberts

Gordon Van Tine, like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT "Roberts"(also known as the #560).

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And heres a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

And here's a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

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Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this

Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this house and those clipped gables are what first catch your eye. If you find this missing "Mt. Vernon," please give me an address (and a photo)!

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And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the Osborn as a bungalow from the West. Its distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the "Osborn" as a bungalow "from the Golden West." It's distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

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Alson

It's had some remodeling, but it's very likely that this house on Spencer Avenue is the real deal: A Sears Osborn. Check out the tapered chimney, rafter tails and detailing on the porch railing.

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The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

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That

That side entry (originally with a pergola) is a unique feature of the Roanoke, as is the wooden awning and symmetry on the home's front. It's so lovely to see that awning still in place. And look to the left. What's that next door?

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And whats that next door to the Roanoke?

Is that a Sears Chelsea? Hmmm...

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Boy oh boy, its hard to know for sure.

Boy oh boy, it's hard to know for sure. In that the "Chelsea" (also known as #111) in New Bern was built without a basement, that side with the staircase bay is not going to have a doorway under it (as shown here). I'd have to see this house up close and personal to make a positive ID. For now, I'd say it's a "definite maybe."

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Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Chelsea.

Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Saratoga.

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Is this a Sears Chelsea?

Is this a Sears Saratoga? The Saratoga is 30 feet across the front. This house in New Bern looks much wider than that. Again, was it supersized? It's another house that is a "definite possibility." I'd need to see the interior to make a proper judgement. It certainly is a good match in many other ways.

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The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

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What a glorious house!

What a glorious house, and it's in such beautiful condition!

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And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. Its the ONLY #178 Ive seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. It's the ONLY #178 I've seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

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What fun to scratch one more house off my never seen this model list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

What fun to scratch one more house off my "never seen this model" list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

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The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many kissing cousins that looked very similar.

The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many "kissing cousins" that looked very similar. The position of the shed dormer and the depth of that front-facing gable are good clues for this model.

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Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

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Last but not least is the sweet little Starlight (1921).

Last but not least is the sweet little "Starlight" (1921).

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Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd.

Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd. Stay strong, little Starlight. Perhaps help is coming. Either that, or you'll be eaten by Kudzu soon, and it'll all be over.

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If you enjoy the pretty pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog I did on New Bern, click here.

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Oh My! Who Knew That New Bern Had So Many Kit Homes!

January 19th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Fun times in New Bern!

Mr. Hubby and I just returned from a visit to New Bern, NC where we stayed at the Aerie Bed and Breakfast and spent the days seeing the sights (and looking for kit homes).

Within New Bern’s Ghent neighborhood, we found an abundance of kit homes, and (a nice bonus) one turquoise Lustron, (all-steel homes from the late 1940s).

My favorite two finds within Ghent were the Sears Milton, and - just across the street - a Sears Modern Home #178  facing the Sears Milton. And here’s what’s even more fun: In the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, Modern Home #178 was featured on the same page as the Milton.

And I was surprised to find that these two radically different houses - The Milton and Modern Home #178 - share an identical floor plan! I’ve been playing around with Sears Homes for 15+ years and never noticed that before.

The next blog will showcase a few of the two dozen kit homes I found in New Bern, but today, it’s all about the Milton and it’s fraternal twin, Modern Home #178.

To read more about the Milton, click here.

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The Milton and Modern Home

The Sears Milton and Modern Home #178: Two different models, one floor plan. Sears Homes were given names in 1918. Modern Home #264P210 survived long enough in the catalog to merit a name: The Milton. Modern Home #178's last year was 1914.

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Both

Two houses - one floorplan. The Sears Milton in New Bern (across the street from #178) was customized when built, and does not have the traditional two-story bay window.

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Two houses - one floorplan.

Both first and second floors are identical in the Milton and Modern Home #178.

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The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

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Notice

Notice the massive eaves, and cornice returns on this grand house. It's a very distinctive house (thus making it easier to spot). In the Miltons that I've seen, those pergolas have been converted into a roof, covering the expansive front porch. Notice also the dramatic bracketing on the eaves. Dentil molding is found at the top of the columns and around the eaves.

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The

Absent that two-story bay window, every other detail on this Milton is spot-on.

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house

Here's a close-up of those distinctive cornice returns.

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Another view of this

Another view of this grand old kit home in New Bern, NC.

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Between landscaping obstacles

A surfeit of landscaping obstacles made photographing this old house a challenge. Note the tapered board on the underside of the first-floor porch roof, with a small block at its center. This is also a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178.

And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178. Beautiful! There must be s a story here, as to how these two spacious (and fancy) Sears Homes were built just across the street from one another!

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A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

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One of these Miltons is not like the other!

"One of these Miltons is not like the other!" On the far left (in blue shirt) is my BFF, Milton Crum, with Jim Silverstorf (holding an antenna tuner). When I first told Milton (blue shirt) about the Sears Milton (white clapboards), Milton said, "Now that's a darn fine name for a house!"

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My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

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Isnt it a darling little house?

Isn't it a darling little house?

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To read more about the Sears Milton, click here.

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Sears Modern Home #124 in Amherst Can Be Yours!

November 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

It was 2003 when I saw my first Sears Modern Home Model #124. I’d visited Rebecca Hunter in the Chicago area, and she took me to Crystal Lake to see “an authenticated #124.” It was all very exciting and Rebecca had even arranged for an inside tour. That was a very happy day.

More recently, Pat Kluetz left a comment at my blog that she’d discovered a Sears Modern Home #124 in Amherst, Wisconsin and it was for sale! She was kind enough to leave a link to the site.

Having read the listing, I was surprised to find that the Realtor didn’t mention this is a Sears House. I wonder if they know?

Many thanks to the unnamed Realtor who snapped all these wonderful photos! And thanks to Pat Kluetz for leaving a comment at my blog.

And if anyone wants to know what I want for Christmas…

:)

To see the original listing, click here.

You can visit Marguerite’s #124 by clicking here.

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Beautiful house

My oh my, what a fine-looking house and it's in such wonderfully original condition. It's listed for $175,000 and for those of us living near a coast, it defies belief that a house like this (on 2+ acres) could be purchased at such a low price.

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two crappy computers

This is my favorite photo, for so many different reasons. For one, it really highlights the beautiful condition of this 104-year-old house. Not only does it have original wooden windows, it also has wooden storms. Wow.

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and neither one of them worth a damn

The entire front porch is so inviting. Those white wicker chairs help too.

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Whats not to love about this o

And it even has a private drive. Be still my heart. Santa, are you listening?

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Side view

Sears House. Wisconsin. Two acres of bucolic bliss. Mature treees. Wow.

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house floor plan windows

Look at the size of those eaves! Notice all the windows across the back of the 2nd floor? Make a note of those many windows. More on that later. BTW, is that a ham radio antenna?

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And there are interior views too

And there are interior views too! I suspect that fireplace mantel is not original to the house. That's just not the type of brickwork you'd see in an early 1900s house.

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Staircase

That staircase is a beauty, and a good match to the floorplan.

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Anyone a Green Bay fan

You're left wondering: Who's their favorite football team?

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Sears Modern Home was offered first in the 1908 catalog. The image above is from the Sears Modern Homes 1914 catalog.

Sears Modern Home #124 was offered first in the 1908 catalog. The image above is from the 1914 catalog.

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It last appeared in the 1916 catalog (shown above).

It last appeared in the 1916 catalog (shown above).

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Pre-WW1 kit homes are pretty rare, and yet #124 appears to have been one of their most popular models.

Pre-WW1 kit homes are pretty rare, and yet #124 appears to have been one of their most popular models. With 1930 square feet, this was one of their largest houses.

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1916

Check out that bank of windows on the 2nd floor (by the landing). That's a whole lot of windows.

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Windows

Look at all those windows! The house in Amhurst, Wisconsin is a perfect match - front and rear!

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Fun House 1916

It's an unusual house, but lots of charm!

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What a beauty! Why isnt it being promoted in the listing as a kit house?

What a beauty! And such a good match to the catalog image. Why isn't it being promoted in the listing as a kit house? And you wonder, why would anyone leave this little slice of heaven?

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Sears Modern Home 124 in Crystal Lake Illinois

Here's the first #124 I ever saw, and it's in Crystal Lake Illinois.

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Marguerite

Located in Montvale, New Jersey, this #124 is also in beautiful condition. Those river rock columns are stunning. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sears Modern Home Taylorville

Even tiny Taylorville, IL has a Sears Modern Home #124.

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Augres Michigan Dale Wolicki

Dale Wolicki found this #124 in Augres, Michigan Check out the river rock on the column bases. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lincolnton Georgia  (Photo is copyright 2012 Steve and Teresa Howland and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And they're even in the deep South, and with fancy columns! This house is in Lincolnton, Georgia. (Photo is copyright 2012 Steve and Teresa Howland and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Rensselaer New York Realtor ad

Another commenter mentioned this #124 in Rensselaer. New York. Thanks to another unnamed Relator for sharing this photo. This house is lcoated at 913 Washington Avenue and is also for sale.

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house house h Medina Ohio

And Kris left a comment at my other blog on #124, saying that he'd found this house in Medina Ohio.

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1911 Seroco Paint Catalog

Modern Home #124 appeared in the 1911 Seroco Paint Catalog.

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Even though Modern Home #124 was offered only from 1908-1916, it proved to be a very popular house.

Even though Modern Home #124 was offered only from 1908-1916, it proved to be a very popular house.

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And while weve found the 124s in Montvale, Taylorville and Crystal Lake, there are still many MIA!

And while we've found the 124s in Montvale, Taylorville and Crystal Lake, there are still many MIA!

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To see the original listing, click here.

You can visit Marguerite’s #124 by clicking here.

Want to learn more about America’s front porches? Click here.

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Beautiful Six-Room Cottage: Modern Home #126

April 27th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Modern Home #126 appeared in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog (which was the year Sears opened their Modern Homes Department). By 1914, it shared a page with its fraternal twin, The Sears Elsmore (then known as Modern Home #208). By 1916, Modern Home #126 was gone.

In March 2002, The Houses That Sears Built hit the world and in a desperate bid to promote the book (and the topic), I did a survey of nearby Webster Groves, Missouri. (I was living in Alton, Illinois at the time - just across the Mississippi River from Webster Groves).

After doing the survey, I contacted several folks in Webster Groves and talked them into allowing me to give a lecture at the Webster Groves’ Library. Those were good times. It was my first “big” talk and was promoted in a local paper. We had about 80 people show up at the talk and 40 of them purchased a book! As I said, good times!

It was during that survey of Webster Groves that I found Modern Home #126. Rachel Shoemaker sent me a link to this house which recently sold. Unlike so many Realtor photos I’ve seen, the pictures of Modern Home #126 are beautifully done and in focus! Thanks to Circa Properties of St. Louis for allowing me to borrow these photos!  :) You can visit their website by clicking here.

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Kirkwood, click here.

Did you know that Ferguson was the first city to hire me to do a survey of kit homes? I’ll always be grateful for the kindness of the people of Ferguson.

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Modern Home #126 appeared in the first Sears Modern Homes catalog (1908).

Modern Home #126 appeared in the first Sears Modern Homes catalog (1908).

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By 1914, Sears Modern Home #126 was relegated to sharing a page with the newly offered Modern Home #208 which would later be known as the Sears Elsmore.

By 1914, Sears Modern Home #126 was relegated to sharing a page with the newly offered "Modern Home #208" which would later be known as the Sears Elsmore. By 1916, #126 was no longer offered.

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The Sears Elsmore became a popular house for Sears.

The Sears Elsmore became an immensely popular house for Sears (1921 catalog).

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Testimonials

And yet, Modern Home #126 had been a popular model (judging by the testimonials).

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The two homes shared a floorplan that was very close.

The two homes shared a floorplan that was very close. Perhaps do-it-yourself kit home builders didn't appreciate those chamfered corners on #126. Plus, the closets in #126 are a bit odd.

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Those chamfered corners and oversized eaves do create a unique appearance!

Those chamfered corners and over-sized eaves do create a unique and dramatic appearance!

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And heres Modern Home #126 in Webster Groves, one of my first discoveries!

And here's Modern Home #126 in Webster Groves, one of my "first" discoveries! And major kudos to the Realtor for snapping this photo from the right angle (to match the catalog page).

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And what a sheer joy to see that this fine old home still has its original eyes (windows).

And what a sheer joy to see that this fine old home still has its original "eyes" (windows) and siding! Can you imagine how it'd ruin the look of this home to put in some pedestrian vinyl windows?

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What a fine-looking home it is. Do the owners know that its a Sears House? This one, Id say maybe, because it was featured in that talk I gave in Webster Groves, so many years ago.

What a fine-looking home it is. Do the owners know that it's a Sears House? This one, I'd say "maybe," because it was featured in that talk I gave in Webster Groves, so many years ago.

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The floorplan featured for this listing shows its a perfect match to the old catalog image.

The floorplan featured for this listing shows it's a pretty good match to the old catalog image. The minor changes shown above (bathroom modifications, closet enlargement and added staircase to 2nd floor) could have been done when the house was built or in later years. Houses do tend to get remodeled a bit through the years.

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Cat

Modern Home #126 from the 1908 catalog.

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The interior of the Webster Groves #126 is also stunning.

The interior of the Webster Groves #126 is also stunning.

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The upstairs seems quite spacious. Im inclined to think that this 2nd floor was done when the home was built. The hipped roof on the Webster Groves house seems a bit higher than the standard-issue #126.

The upstairs seems quite spacious. Those four small dormers add a lot of light to the room. I'm inclined to think that this 2nd floor was done when the home was built but it's almost impossible to know for sure. This house is now 100 years old or more.

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Heres another lovely #126 that Rebecca Hunter found in Quincy, Illinois.

Here's another lovely #126 that Rebecca Hunter found in Quincy, Illinois. It also has its original windows and siding (stucco). I find it most interesting that, without exception, every #126 I've seen has had columns or pillars added to that over-sized front porch overhang. Photo is copyright 2008 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lastly, heres Mr. Gilchrists Modern Home #126 at 2904 Meredith Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska!

Lastly, here's Mr. Gilchrist's Modern Home #126 at 2904 Meredith Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska! Photo is courtesy Douglas County Assessor's website (and they don't even KNOW how courteous they're being in sharing this image)!

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Interested in purchasing a quality home in St. Louis? Visit Circa Properties website here!

Check out Rebecca Hunter’s website by clicking here.

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Kirkwood, click here.

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Strathmore + Willard = Strathard?

January 30th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Strathmore has always been one of my favorite models of Sears Homes. Then again, Im a real sap for Tudoresque designs, and these Sears Tudors are utterly adorable.

The Strathmore has always been one of my favorite models of Sears Homes. Then again, I'm a real sap for Tudoresque designs, and these Sears Tudors are utterly adorable (1936 catalog). Seems like a very practical house, too.

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The Willard is another Sears neo-tudor thats also a darling little house.

The Willard is another Sears neo-tudor that's also a darling little house.

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It must have been a big seller for Sears, too. Ive found Willards throughout the country, including unusual spots like Norfolk, Virginia and Tallahassee, Alabama!

It must have been a big seller for Sears, too. I've found Willards throughout the country, including unusual spots like Norfolk, Virginia and Tallahassee, Alabama! And the Willard was featured in this advertisement, promoting the low cost of owning a Sears House.

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Apparently, sometime ago in Norwood Ohio, someone couldnt decide between the Willard and the Strathmore.

Apparently, sometime ago in Norwood Ohio, someone couldn't decide between the Willard and the Strathmore.

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So they built this.

So they built this. It's a Sears Willard, with the Strathmore foyer. Pretty cute, isn't it?

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Nice match!

Nice match - at least on the front porch!

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If you know the precise address of this house, please send it along. It’s in Norwood, Ohio and the street number is 2215 (visible in the photos above). All I need now is the street’s name!

Update! Dale Haynes (from our Sears House Facebook group) discovered the street address! This house is on Glenside in Norwood, Ohio! Yay for Dale!!!  :)

Want to learn more about why Norwood is so important to the story of Sears Homes? Click here.

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Warning: Not For the Faint of Heart!

August 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 9 comments

Dale and Rebecca found Sears Modern Home #174 while out tooling around in Iowa City a few weeks ago.

I have nothing more to add.

I’ll let the pictures tell the sad story.

But I warn you - do NOT scroll down unless you have a strong stomach! Graphic images to follow!

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Modern Home #124 looks a lot bigger than it is.

Modern Home #174 was a rare house. I've never seen one in real life.

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In fact, its a mere 18 feet wide.

Not very big, either. In fact, it's a mere 18 feet wide.

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Upstairs, you can see what a small house this is.

Upstairs, you can see what a small house this is.

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Looks promising, doesnt it?

Looks promising, doesn't it?

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Yeah.

Oh my. Oh me, oh my. If I knew how to embed music, I'd have the music from the shower scene in "Psycho" inserted here. This house has suffered a gruesome, wretched demise, far worse than any horror flick. Photo is copyright 2014 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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At least when Buster Keaton did something similiar to a kit house, it was funny.

At least when Buster Keaton did something similiar to a kit house, it was funny.

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To learn more about Buster Keaton’s short “One Week,” click here.

To see a blog on America’s 14 Ugliest Houses (which features a Sears Kit home originally featured on my site), click here.

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Marguerite’s Beautiful and Beloved #124

February 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 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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SA

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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house

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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details

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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New Information on Schoper, Illinois

December 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

All ghost towns have a fascinating history, and Schoper, Illinois is no different.

Located about eight miles from Carlinville, the town of Schoper (also known as Standard City) was originally Thomas Schoper’s 500-acre family farm. In 1918, Standard Oil of Indiana bought the farm (literally) from Schoper, and sunk a 300-feet deep coal mine.

After a coal shortage in 1917, Standard Oil wanted a reliable supply of coal to call their own. The coal was used to fire the stills that refined crude oil and turned it into gasoline.

After the completion of several gelogocial surveys (commissioned by Standard Oil), it was discovered that there was a seven-foot tall seam of coal in the ground at Schoper. As an added bonus, Schoper was near The Chicago and Alton rail line, which was centrally located between the refineries in Wood River (near St. Louis) and Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago).

In 1918, Standard Oil placed a $1 million order (for 192 houses) with Sears Roebuck and Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. The houses were purchased for employees in CarlinvilleWood River and Schoper, Illinois. One hundred and fifty six of the houses were built in Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 went to Wood River.

The 12 houses were built for the supervisors at the “Schoper Mine.” There were also boarding houses and dorms built at Schoper, for the miners.

By the mid-1920s, the boom at Schoper had gone bust. The price of coal dropped after The Great War (1918), and Standard Oil could now buy their coal cheaper from mines in Kentucky (which did not have unions) than they could mine it in Macoupin County.

In July 1925, a small column on the bottom page of the Macoupin County Enquirer sadly announced that the mine was closed for good.

Nine of the 12 little Sears Houses were painstakingly disassembled and left Schoper the same way they came in:  In pieces and loaded on a boxcar, headed off to destinations unknown.

Two of the Sears Homes were moved intact, to sites just outside of Standard City. The last Sears House at Schoper (The Sears Gladstone) was home to John McMillan and his wife, a supervisor with the mine. After the mine closed, he became a caretaker charged with myriad tasks, such as making sure the powerful fans down in the mine kept the methane down to acceptable levels.

McMillan’s little Gladstone eventually became rental property and burned down sometime in the mid-1990s.  The last remnant at the site was the Schoper Powerhouse and Mine Offices, a massive concrete Federalist structure which was torn down in Summer 2003.

And that was the whole story - until last month - when a reader sent me an email with new information. I’m not sure how he did it, but he found 1930s aerial maps of Schoper, which showed the footprints (and precise location) of the 12 little Sears Homes.

Scroll on down to enjoy the many photos, including the vintage aerial photo from 1937!

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Schoper

In the front pages of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this image was erroneously identified as a street view of the houses as "Schopper, Illinois." In fact, this was a picture of the 24 Sears Homes in Wood River. No pictures of Schoper appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

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Picture of Schoper from the late 1910s. At the foot of the sidewalk is a 12-bay garage, shared by the occupants of the 12 Sears Homes. The Power House is shown in the background (near Schoper Lake). The Whitehall, Gladstone and Warrenton are shown in the foreground.

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house schoper house

Schoper was the site of a massive, modern colliery (1921 Stanolind Record). As a side note, I have no idea what this massive piece of equipment is. If a reader can identify this, please leave a comment below.

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Mine Road

And here's a bit of that vintage aerial map, showing the placement of those 12 Sears Homes in Schoper (outlined with a red square). The building circled in red is the Schoper Powerhouse.

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map map map 1937

Close-up of the aerial map (1937). The four white squares on each street represent the footprint where the 12 Schoper homes were located.

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And what Rachel Shoemaker discovered - which is nearly unbelievable - is that if you look at this modern aerial view, you can still see the outline of 12 squares, representing the placement of those 12 Schoper houses.

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Schoper rose

It was claimed that the ’s six dynamos in the Schoper Power House had the potential to create enough electricity to power the entire state of Illinois. The local papers said it was the most powerful steam-driven power plant in the world. The smokestack was 213 feet tall and was the second highest peak in Macoupin County, only a little shorter than the spire atop the Macoupin County Courthouse in Carlinville. The picture above was taken in 2002, about a year before it was torn down.

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schoper house

The Schoper Power House, as seen in the 1921 Stanolind Record. When completed in mid-1919, the Power House also brought electricity to those twelve Sears houses. They were the only "electrified" houses in Schoper. The rest of the community would not know the joys of electric lights until power lines from Carlinville made their way to Standard City in the 1930s.

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house schoper

For many years, that last remaining Sears house (John McMillan's Gladstone) stood alone on a plot that was rapidly reverting to its primitive status as farmland. After the mines closed, McMillan became the mine’s caretaker. It was his job to descend into the deserted coal mine several times a week, grease the water pumps and turn them on. Ground water, which seeped into the mine, had to be pumped out frequently. He was also responsible for turning on the powerful ventilating fans to remove any build-up of firedamp - highly explosive methane gas - which accumulates in coal mines. As of 2003 (when this photo was taken), all that was left of the 12 Schoper Houses was this slight indent in the field.

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Schoper Lake

When Schoper was created in the late 1910s, a creek alongside the powerhouse was damned up to create a seven-acre, 40-foot-deep lake. Underground pipes drafted water from the lake to the powerhouse for the steam engines.

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To see the original vintage map, click here.

To read more about Carlinville’s kit homes, click here.

The above was excerpted from The Houses That Sears BuiltTo buy the book, click here.

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A Sad Story That Needs a Good Ending: Carlinville’s “Standard Addition”

September 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In the early years of the 1900s,

About 1918, Standard Oil purchased 192 kit homes from Sears & Roebuck. Carlinville ended up with 156 of these homes (offered in eight models). The 12-block area where these homes were built (in an old wheat field) came to be known as Standard Addition. Sears proudly touted this sale to Standard Oil as "the largest order ever placed," and pictures of Carlinville appeared in the front pages of the Modern Homes catalog for many years. This letter (shown above) appeared on the back page of the catalog until 1929.

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House

Standard Addition's homes - some of which were not wholly finished - appeared in the 1919 and 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Of the 192 houses sold to Standard Oil, 156 ended up in Carlinville, 24 were sent to Wood River (where Standard Oil had a large refinery) and 12 ended up in Schoper, IL (site of a large coal mine). Pictured above is the Warrenton model (left) and the Whitehall (right).

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In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood first appeared in the Searsm Modern Homes catalog.

In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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house house house 1921

Close-up of the "birdseye view" from the 1921 catalog. From left to right is the Gladstone, Roseberry, Warrenton, and Whitehall. And look at that darling little building behind the Whitehall. Is it still there?

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House

These homes were occasionally featured in "The Stanolind Record," an employee newsletter put out by Standard Oil. This image appeared with the caption, "Carlinville is coming out of the mud," which simply meant that streets would soon be laid, replacing the muddy roads.

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All of which brings me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition is at great risk of being lost.

And all the photos above bring me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition - this unique, historic and one-of-a-kind community - is at great risk. This "Roseberry" on Johnson Street caught fire in early 2013 and has not been razed yet. Derelict houses (such as this) contribute heavily to blight, and once blight takes root in a neighborhood, reversal can take decades. At best, this house poses a threat to public health and safety. At worst, it's an anchor that's dragging this historic neighborhood further into the muck. Would you want to live next door to this? How many months before this house gets torn down?

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Last month

Last month, a suspected meth lab was discovered in the 1000-block of Johnson Street, in the heart of Standard Addition. Once a house is used for "cooking" meth, making it suitable again for habitation can be expensive.

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Full story here: http://www.sj-r.com/breaking/x1367241203/Two-suspected-meth-labs-found-in-Carlinville

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And theres also the problem on insensitive remodeling.

And there's also the problem of insensitive remodeling. And it is quite a problem.

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Another

As built, these homes were very small (less than 1,100 square feet) but there are ways to increase square footage without diminishing the historicity of these unique homes.

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In short, it’s time for the state legislature and/or city council to step in and figure out what legislation is needed to protect this one-of-a-kind historic collection of Sears Homes in Carlinville. I’ve remained “astonished* that there is no signage, no billboards, no announcements of any kind welcoming the flat-lander tourist to come visit “Standard Addition.”

At the very least, there should be billboards in St. Louis, Alton (by the casino), Edwardsville and other “hot spots” inviting people to come see this fun collection of kit homes. There should be a website, self-guided driving brochures, maps, etc, promoting the area.

But there is nothing,

In my 14 years of experience in this niche field of America’s architectural history, I’ve never come across another collection of Sears kit homes quite like Standard Addition.

One week ago today, I drove through Standard Addition, admiring the pretty houses and dismayed by the blighted ones, and I glimpsed, more now than ever, something must be done to preserve and protect this neighborhood.

Before it’s too late.

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To learn more about the eight models in Standard Addition, click here.

To learn more about the building of Standard Addition (and the female supervisor of the project), click here.

In 2003, CBS Sunday Morning News came to Standard Addition.

To read about Illinois’ own ghost town (Schoper, IL), click right here.

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It’s People Like John P. Waters That Confuse Us Historians 100 Years Later.

April 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Until I started scanning a 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, I’d never heard of Sears Modern Home 264P165.

Prior to 1918, Sears Homes were given names rather than numbers, so we know that this unusual-looking home never made it to the 1918 catalog. In fact, it’s not in my 1912 catalog or my 1916 catalog, so it was short lived (to say the least).

And yet, by 1914, this house had been sold in New Braunfels, TX and Lansdowne, MD and New Orleans, Louisiana.

And it might have been sold to John P. Waters of Massena, Iowa.

Maybe.

Reading these testimonials can be a little tricky, and this testimonial written by John of Massena is also a little vague. Did he buy millwork?  Or did he buy this house?  The way this testimonial is positioned, one would surely think he bought Modern Home 264P165, and yet if you read it carefully, it seems more likely that John just purchased some millwork from Sears Roebuck sometime around 1914.

Too many times to count, people will approach me and insist that they have a Sears kit home. Despite my best efforts, I’m often unable to match their “alleged Sears House” to the 370 designs that Sears offered in the early 1900s.

When I ask these folks, “What makes you think it’s a Sears House?” they often have the same story: “My grandfather said his dad ordered it from Sears.”

Now I’ll know to ask these people, “Was your great-grandfather’s name John P. Waters?”

Because in the early 1900s, it was not unusual for people like John P. Waters to order lumber from Sears.

JUST lumber.

In 1895, Sears started offering building materials (lumber, millwork, windows, doors, sheathing, etc) through a specialty catalog. That was 13 years before the “Sears Modern Homes” program was even a glimmer in Richard Sears’ eye.

And it was in 1895 that the stories probably began:  “See that house on the corner? Old John bought every stick of lumber for his house from Sears.”

Forty years later it’s, “Grandpa John ordered his house from Sears!”

And after a full century has elapsed, someone sends me an email that says, “My great grandfather John built a Sears House!”

Maybe he did.

Or maybe he pulled a “John P. Waters” and just ordered the building materials from Sears.

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To learn how to “read” lumber markings on old kit homes, click here.

To read about the wonderful kit homes of Charlottesville, click here.

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Sears Home

This house apparently was offered for only a couple years. And yet, there's one in Braunfels, Texas, Lansdown, Maryland and New Orleans, Louisiana (1914).

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tricky testimonial

John P. Waters testimonial was for lumber, PROBABLY, and yet it appears on the page next to the picture of the 264P165.

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house house

The 264P165 was a very unique house, which makes it easy to identify.

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Here are the cities where three 264P165s were built.

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house house hosue

Whoa, check out this floorplan! Look at the bathroom! I suppose the occupants were profoundly grateful that this 1914-era kit home even *had* a bathroom, as many of these early 20th Century kit homes did not have "indoor plumbing." And check out the "living hall." It has a fireplace!

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house details

Have you seen this house? The details around the front porch should make it easy to identify, especially if you're in New Braunfels TX, Lansdowne MD or New Orleans.

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An additional note: Apparently, Lansdowne is next door to Baltimore!

Have you seen a 264P165? Please leave a comment for Rose!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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