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Posts Tagged ‘modern homes’

Warning: Not For the Faint of Heart!

August 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 8 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 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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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 3 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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house house house house house

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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When Did Sears Close Their Modern Homes Department?

June 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

When exactly did Sears stop selling their “Modern Homes”?

In an interesting and well-researched blog about Sears Homes (written by my friend Lara), she points out that the sale of Sears kit homes did in fact continue after 1940.

For many years, I’ve declared that if your house was purchased outside of 1908-1940 (the years Sears sold these houses), it can not be a house from Sears.

Well, I have a couple modifications to make to that statement. :)

First, based on information I’ve gleaned through the years, it seems that Sears didn’t sell any of their homes their first year in business. In other words, 1908 was a dud!  The first Sears homes were sold in 1909. And if you find a pre-1912 Sears Home, you have found a rare bird.

Very few of their houses were sold before 1912. Very few, as in, about 1,000. (In February 1911, American Carpenter and Builder magazine reported that Sears had sold 1,000 houses thus far.)

As to the “other end” of that date, Sears put out their last Modern Homes catalog in 1939. The 1940 catalog was just a straight re-print of that 1939 catalog. While 1940 was the official “end date” of the Modern Homes department, was that really when they stopped selling kit homes?

Maybe not.

In late-1938, it looked like Sears was gearing up to revitalize their Modern Homes department. That year, they introduced nine new house styles, even sticking a 3-page supplement into the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog with the note:

Nine new Sears Modern Homes, too late for publication in the catalog are shown in this enclosure. Since they represent the latest thought in architectural design and planning, we think you’ll find them especially interesting.

The nine houses were The Colebrook, The Malden, The Yates, The Branford, The Lynn, The Fulton, The Nantucket, The Medford and The Warren. All but two of the houses were Cape Cods. (These homes appeared in a catalog dated 1938, but this 3-page supplement was dated January 1939.)

The enclosure that offered these nine new houses also promised that all of Sears Modern Homes met FHA requirements and Sears even offered to assist homebuyers with the FHA mortgage application process.

The FHA was created by the National Housing Act of 1934. (The history behind the FHA is both disturbing and fascinating. Read more here.)

In September 2, 1939, an article in Business Week said the young men at Sears wanted to give the Modern Homes department another go, but that upper management wouldn’t hear of it. Business Week stated “Upper management all sweated buckets bailing the company out of the big-scale housing catastrophe that followed the slap-happy 20s. [They] would cheerfully get out of the whole department if they only knew how to get their money out.”

The money they hoped to get out included the millions of dollars Sears had invested in their lumber mills, such as the $3.5 million recently invested in Norwood, Ohio and Port Newark, New Jersey.

Based on what I know today (and admittedly, that’s subject to change), I stand by my earlier statement that Sears issued their last Modern Homes catalog in 1940, and yet, as Lara pointed out, it also seems likely that Sears continued to sell off their remaining inventory until at least Spring 1941 (based on Lara’s research), and perhaps beyond, and it’s possible that some of the millwork and building materials that Sears sold post-1940s were bits and pieces of formerly whole kits.

So, if you think you have a Sears Modern Home that was purchased post-1940, I’d have to say - it’s very possible! (Note that I said “purchased,” not built. I’ve heard many stories of people buying a kit home and then spending several years getting it built!)

And Lara found newspaper advertisements proving that Sears sold their kit homes into Spring 1941! To read Lara’s blog, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Modern Homes department, click here.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the images (shown below) of the 1940 and 1941 General Merchandise catalogs.

Want to learn more? Join us on Facebook!

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The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

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Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years.

Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years. Above is one such storefront in Ohio. If you look closely at the sign in front of the center doorway, it says, "Sears Roebuck & Co. Honor Bilt Modern Homes."

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On the inside cover of the Sears Modern Homes catalog were interior pictures of the Colebrook.

The inside cover of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed interior color pictures of the Malden. Look at the cat sleeping in the sunlight on the carpeted floor. Bliss!

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Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 and 1941 Sears General Merchandise catalog (1940 shown above).

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And in those pages

And in that 1941 General Merchandise catalog, Rachel found this! Look at the small insert, where it says, "Interior Doors, now at Chicago, Norwood (site of the Sears Millwork plant) and Newark NJ" (site of one of their main mills). There's no doubt that Sears was looking for a way to sell off some of their remaining inventory, post-1940.

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Repeated here,

The "Chicago, Norwood, Newark" theme is repeated here, with a bolder graphic (Spring 1941). The Irish Setter is a nice touch, too.

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And my favorite image features this young couple

And my favorite image features this young couple moving through the steps of buying their own Sears Home! (Spring 1940.)

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Happy

The dapper couple begins their fun excursion into the world of homeownership.

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Its the Colebrook thats caught their heart, mind and imagination.

It's the "Colebrook" that's captured their heart, mind, imagination and wallet.

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As shown in the 1940

The four-room Cape Cod "Colebrook" (as shown in the 1940 catalog).

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To dream the impsso

Close-up of the individual frames shown on the catalog page above. Dapper Donna says, "We didn't even need to hire an architect!" (Spring 1940)

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Building

Sears was happy, happy, happy to be out of the mortgage business. According to "Catalogs and Counters," Sears liquidated more than $11 million in mortgages in 1934. In today's dollars, that would be more than $190 million, a fantastic sum for a business to absorb.

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building

A blind carpenter is shown here, sifting through the pre-cut lumber.

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Kitchen

'The stoker downstairs" was a reference to a new invention: The automatic coal stoker. This ingenious device used an auger to feed coal into the furnace or boiler in the basement. It was a remarkable advance in modern heating systems. No more shoveling coal into the fire-belching behemoth. The automatic stoker was a great labor saving device.

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The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big as is shown in the picture with the happy couple, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

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Building

While the Dapper couple are arguing about what to do with all their saved money, a grifter behind them is surreptitiously pocketing some cash he quietly lifted from Dapper Dan's wallet. I think the old lady on the left is in on it, too.

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A

In the Spring 1940 General Merchandise catalog, Sears asked, "What exactly is YOUR problem?" Who knew that Sears was the source of this popular mantra?

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To visit Lara’s blog, click here.

You can read Rachel’s blog 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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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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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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Is it or Isn’t it? (Gordon Van Tine #534)

March 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In Summer 2004, I visited the beautiful community of Cape Charles (on the Eastern Shore of Virginia), to give a talk on Sears Kit Homes. The folks there in Cape Charles treated me like a queen, and left me with many wonderful and happy memories of their hospitality and warmth and authenticity.

When I was there, I was driven around nearby communities as well, and in a town “across the street” (Route 13) from Cape Charles, I discovered this fine-looking old yellow bungalow. At first, I suspected it was a Gordon Van Tine kit house (Model #534), but once I got home and compared the photo to my catalog images, I decided it wasn’t a good “fit” and put it out of mind.

And then last month, Sears House aficionado and photographer Donna Bakke sent me pictures of a Sears kit house in Ohio, “The Paloma.”

As I compared that house to the line drawing, I saw that the actual proportions of the Sears Paloma were not a good match to the extant house. In fact, they were dramatically skewed.

And then my friend Rachel Shoemaker commented that she’d also discovered that these line drawings were often not good representations of the house itself.

So last week, I went through my old pictures and dragged out the Gordon Van Tine I’d seen on the Eastern Shore and as I got to studying it, I started to change my thought about the house. Based on what I saw in that Pomona (thanks to Donna), I’m now thinking, this could well be the Gordon Van Tine Model #534.

Ah, and a little PS. This house is on the east side of Route 13, “across” from Cape Charles and a little bit north. It’s in a tiny community and I neglected to get the name of this town. If anyone has any idea where this house is, I sure would be grateful to know!

To see the post on the Sears Paloma, click here.

To read more about the kit homes I saw in Cape Charles, click here.

To join our group (”Sears Homes”) on Facebook, click here.

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house

Is this the Gordon Van Tine #534? When I first saw this house, I was 80% certain that it was, and then when I really studied the photo and compared it to the catalog image, I changed my mind. And then last week, I changed my mind - again! Now I just hope the house is still standing!

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house house

It is exceptionally well planned! But it also looks BIG!

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How wide would you guess that house to be?

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GVT

And if you compare the two images side by side, you'd probably say that the GVT house is much wider than the little yellow house on the Eastern Shore.

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house

If you look at the floor plan, you'll see this house is only 26' wide. Is the yellow house 26' wide? Yes, I'd say that it is. Does the house shown in the line drawing look 26' wide? Nope. It looks much bigger.

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So, what if we were to skew the house a bit to make it look more like it was 26' wide?

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If you do a side-by-side comparison of the GVT 534 (with the catalog image skewed), they look like a perfect match. If someone can figure out where this house is, I'll go back and get a better picture.

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line

And there's also this fact. The little yellow house has the same windows as the GVT 534 and they're very distinctive windows. Plus, that pent roof is a unique feature. The more I study this house, the more I think it's a darn good match.

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Looks lke a match to me!

Looks like a match to me!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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So Many Kit Homes in Staunton, Virginia!

February 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 32 comments

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Rose is returning to Staunton May 2nd to give a talk on Sears Homes!

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Click here to learn more!

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In 2005, I stopped for a short visit in Staunton, Virginia and during that short visit, I spotted a beautiful Sears House overlooking Gypsy Hill Park. To my chagrin, I did not have my camera with me.

That was eight years ago. I’ve waited all these many years to get back to Staunton and take a photo of that wonderful old Sears House overlooking the park.

Thursday morning, I finally got my chance!

And I must say, it was worth the wait.

In addition to the house overlooking the park, I also drove around town a bit to see what else I could find. And I found quite a few interesting kit homes. Neither my husband nor myself know anything about Staunton, so we stumbled around a bit, trying to find the right neighborhoods (1920s/1930s housing within 1-2 miles of railroad tracks).

I’d love to return to Staunton when I can find a Staunton native who’d be willing to help a flatlander tourist do a proper architectural survey of all the best early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Because - I am confident that this historic mountain town has many more kit homes. Below I’ve featured just a few that we found driving through two small neighborhoods!

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what is  Sears kit home? Well…

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!). The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together  with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a  “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

In fact, Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!  When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one. In fact, based on my 12 years of experience, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

This is a piece of American history that is at great risk of being lost, which is why I travel all over the country, take photos and maintain this blog.

And on a side note, I had a terrible time getting good photos. Almost without exception, these houses were facing west, so my early morning photos were snapped looking right into the rising sun, creating a really poor photo. Alas!

To learn more about the kit homes in Staunton, please scroll on down!

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

1919 Maytown

The Sears Maytown as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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house house house

This is the Sears House that overlooks Gypsy Hill Park. It's a beautiful Maytown. Do the owners know that they have a Sears Home? More than 90% of the Sears Homeowners I've encountered do NOT realize they're living in a kit home from Sears.

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Sears Sears 1921

The Sears Westly, from the 1921 Modern Homes catalog.

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Westly Staunton

This Westly in Staunton has seen a few changes, but it's still easily identifiable as a Westly.

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house house

The Sears Lynnhaven was a popular house for Sears (1938).

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Staunton

And the Lynnhaven is all over Staunton. I found FIVE Lynnhavens in Staunton which was quite a surprise. This Lynnhaven is on N. Augusta Street, and a few hundred feet away - just across the street - is another Lynnhaven that's being used a business. The front door has been closed up, which doesn't look too attractive.

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house

The house above was at the corner of Belmont and Augusta. The Lynnhaven (a very popular house for Sears in general and Staunton in particular) was also known as "The Belmont."

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house

This Lynnhaven has a slightly altered dormer (more wide than most). Is it still a Lynnhaven? I'm just not sure on this one. It's hard to be 100% certain without seeing the home's interior. The Lynnhaven has a handful of unique features, and this house possesses most of those "unique features."

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house

Another Lynnhaven? Did one builder buy a kit Lynnhaven from Sears in 1930 and build several of these houses from one set of blueprints? Very possible, as this was often done with Sears Homes.

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house house

And yet another Lynnhaven in Staunton. Are these all the real deal? Again, no way to know without an interior inspection, but my first impression is YES.

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house

Is this a real Lynnhaven? The front gable looks a little wider than the other houses.

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Sears Vallonia

Sears Vallonia as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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house

This house has been through a lot of remodeling but despite that, my impression is that this is a Sears Vallonia. On the side of the house is a bay window with two windows, spaced a couple feet apart. That's another unique feature, seen in the Sears Vallonia. The dormer is too tall, but this is a very common modification to the Sears Vallonia. Based on my 12 years experience, I'd say it *is* a Vallonia. And I'm usually right. ;)

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house house 1927

In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes, such as Gordon Van Tine and Montgomery Ward. Montgomery Ward did not have a "Modern Homes Department" (as Sears did). Montgomery Ward turned all orders over to Gordon Van Tine for fulfillment. So a Wardway House is a Gordon Van Tine house. The Mount Vernon (shown above) was a popular house for Wards (1927).

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Staunton, VA

And here's a perfect example of the Mount Vernon in Staunton, Virginia.

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Wardway 1930

The Wardway Kenwood was another popular Wardway Home (1930).

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house house

And this appears to be a Kenwood!

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In addition to Sears, there was also a kit home company known as Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of their most popular homes, The Montawk.

In addition to Sears, there was also a kit home company known as Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of their most popular homes, The Montawk (1920 catalog).

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Lewis Montawk? Maybe.

Is this a Lewis Montawk? Probably. Maybe!

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Sears

As mentioned above, Montgomery Ward didn't sell their own homes. Orders placed with Montgomery Ward were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine. Gordon Van Tine also created and published the Wardway Homes catalog. In 1931, Wardway Homes closed, but GVT continued on until the early 1940s. (Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing this scan!)

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Montgomery Ward didnt sell their own homes. Orders placed with Montgomery Ward were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine.

"The Roberts" (shown here and on the cover of the 1916 catalog) was one of their most popular models. It was spacious, grand and priced at under $1,300.

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Its another really poor photo, but this shows a beautiful Roberts on Augusta Avenue in Staunton, VA.

It's another really poor photo, but this shows a beautiful "Roberts" on Augusta Avenue in Staunton, VA. The house is in stunningly beautiful (and original) condition.

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Best for last.

I saved the best for last. Aladdin was a bigger kit home company that Sears, but not as well known. Aladdin is more prevalent in Virginia, because there was a large mill in North Carolina. Shown above is the Aladdin Plymouth - a "perfect home."

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Staunton

And here's a perfect example of the perfect home - the Plymouth! (In Staunton, Virginia)

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And this is not a kit home but a plan-book house. These were also quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was The Mayfield.

And this is not a "kit home" but a plan-book house. These were quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was "The Mayfield," (offered in a plan book titled, "Harris, McHenry and Baker").

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This Mayfield is in wonderful condition.

This "Mayfield" is in wonderful condition.

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Whilst driving through Staunton (via Google Maps), I found another kit home, The Cordova (Wardway/GVT).

Whilst "driving" through Staunton (via Google Maps), I found another kit home, The Cordova (Wardway/GVT) on Williams Street. It's had some rough remodeling, but its original features are still present. What a nice match!

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And

And on Straith Street, I saw a "Genessee" found in the "Harris, McHenry and Baker Planbook" (1920s). Look down the right side, and you'll see what a nice match it is!

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Thanks to Sarah (commenter), for telling me about this kit house on Route 11 in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Thanks to Sarah Puckett (who left a comment last night below), for telling me about this kit house on Route 11 in Weyer's Cave, Virginia. It's a perfect Sears "Dover" and a very nice find! Please keep those cards and letters coming!! :) BTW, I'd love to have a better photo of this "Dover"! Anyone willing to get me a picture?

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Today, February 25, I found yet another perfect little Sears House (The Berwyn) on Noon Avenue!

Today (2/25), I found yet another perfect little Sears House ("The Berwyn"). It's on Noon Avenue! The image above is from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And look what fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker found in the Aladdin records! Its an Aladdin Stanhope

And look what fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker found in the Aladdin records! It's an Aladdin Stanhope, sold to William Alfred Linkenhoker of Staunton, VA. Does this mean there's a Stanhope in Staunton? Probably so. Now the question is, how do we find Mr. Linkenhoker's home in the mid-1920s? Rachel checked out the 1920 and 1930 census. In 1920, William Alfred Linkenhoker was a renter and by 1930, he was living in Summers, WV. (Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

Wherefore art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

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Heres a

Here's a perfect Aladdin Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids). Where is the Stanhope in Staunton? Please leave a comment below!

I’d love to return to Staunton soon and do a proper survey and maybe even give a talk on this topic. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to contact me and/or learn more about these kit homes.

To learn more about Rose and her obsession with kit homes, click here.

To read about the kit homes in nearby Harrisonburg, VA, click here.

To see an incredible video about the importance of the Sears catalog in early America, click here (PBS Experience, 1991).

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The Crescent: “For Folks Who Like a Touch of Individuality”

January 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

The Crescent was a very popular kit house for Sears, and I’d venture to guess that it was one of their top ten most popular designs.

It was offered in two floorplans (Mama-sized and Papa-sized) and with an optional extra-high roof (Grandpapa sized).

Because of this, Crescents can be found in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the pitch of the porch roof was changed to be more proportionate to the primary roof. Today, this results in all manner of confusion about whether or not a Crescent is the real deal.

Below are several examples of Sears Crescents from all over the country.

House 1

Sears Crescent, as seen in the 1929 Modern Homes catalog.

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House 2

"Interior Views" of the Crescent (1929).

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kitchen 1929

Close-up of the Crescent's kitchen (1929).

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LR 1929

Nice looking living room, too!

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Bed

The bedrooms weren't' this big but why let details get in the way of a nice story?

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The Crescent was offered with two floorplans.

The Crescent was offered with two floorplans, C33258A (shown here).

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And this

And this C3259A (the larger floorplan). Note it has THREE columns on the front porch.

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Adding a dormer to the optional finished second floor would have created a lot more space.

Adding a couple dormers (on the front) to the optional "finished" second floor would have created a lot more space. The finished second floor was only offered with the smaller Crescent. But that does not mean that someone couldn't finish off the 2nd floor on their own!

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Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn (Illinois) has a Crescent with three dormer windows.

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Ypsilanti Andrew Mutch

This dormered Crescent is in Ypsilanti. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ypsilanti Andrew Mutch

In Ypsilanti, they like their Crescents with dormers! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Godfrey

A sad little Crescent waits for death in Godfrey, IL. Again, note the unique angle of the porch roof. This has also been authenticated as a Sears Home.

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Raleigh

A picture-perfect Crescent in Raleigh. The dormers were original to the house.

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West Point

Some Crescents have very steep porch roofs and some have very shallow. This Crescent in West Point has been authenticated by Rose as the real deal.

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Atlanta Crescent

This Crescent look-a-like is in Atlanta. I suspect it is NOT a Crescent.

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Crescent Wheaton

A Sears Crescent in Wheaton, IL.

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Eastern Shore MD

Hubby and I found this Crescent on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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Elmhurst IL

Is this a Sears Crescent? It's in Elmhurst IL.

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Crescent Elgin

This poor Crescent in Elgin, IL has had a hurting put on it. Rebecca Hunter has authenticated this house as a Sears Crescent.

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Elgin

It's been remodeled, but you can still see it's a Crescent. (Elgin, Illinois)

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Elgins also

This Crescent is also in Elgin, IL.

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Elgins also

Elgin Illinois has the largest known collection of Sears Homes in the country. They have a lot of Sears Crescents, too!

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Crystal Lake

Not surprisingly, the Chicago suburbs are full of Sears Homes. This one is in Crystal Lake.

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Champaign

Another beautiful Crescent. This one is in Champaign, IL.

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house Charlotte

I stalked this house for 30 solid minutes, but the young woman on the porch never did hang up the phone, so in desperation, I snapped a photo of the house, phone caller and all. This beauty is in Charlotte, NC.

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Chharlotte

A perfect Crescent in Charlotte, NC.

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Bloomginton

This Crescent also has the less-steep pitch on the porch roof, but it's most likely a Sears Crescent. Notice the medallion inside the front porch (on the wall).

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Bloomington

This photo was taken in 2003 (and it was scanned from an old slide) and it's in Bloomington, IL.

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Wood Riiver

Is this a Crescent? The pitch of the porch roof is much less than that of the traditional porch roof in other Crescents, but I'd be inclined to say it probably is a Crescent. This house is in Wood River, Illinois.

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Alton

This Crescent has a dramatically raised second floor. To compensate for the extra steep pitch of the roof, the porch roof was also raised a bit. This beauty is in Alton, Illinois.

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Ypsilanti

Yet another dormered Crescent is in Ypsilanti. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And one of my favorites: A beautiul and well-loved Crescent in Webster Groves, MO (near St. Louis).

A beautiful and well-loved Crescent in Webster Groves, MO (near St. Louis). Again, look at the variation on the pitch of that porch roof, and yet this is an authenticated Sears Home.

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house Wilmette, IL Rebecca

Now this house has some dormers! It's in Illinois, and was discovered by Rebecca Hunter. Photo is copyright 2013 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Crescent was a perennial favorite aand was offered from 1919 to 1933.

The Crescent was a perennial favorite and was offered from 1919 to 1933. It's shown here in the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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Hey, You Good-Looking Norwood, You…

January 27th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Thanks to Kit House Aficionado Andrew Mutch, I now have pictures of a picture-perfect Wardway Norwood in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Truthfully, if I’d been driving past this Wardway Norwood, I probably would have kept driving because I would not have recognized it as a kit home!

But major kudos to Andrew for not only spotting it, but correctly identifying it! And more kudos to Andrew for sending me a picture!!  :)

Do you have remarkable pictures of kit homes that you’d like to share? Please contact me at Rosemary.ringer@gmail.com.

And thanks so much to Andrew Mutch for sending along this photo!

To learn a LOT more about Wardway Homes, please click here.

To learn more about kit homes in general, visit Rebecca Hunter’s website, here.

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Boy, I tell you, if Id been the one driving past this Wardway Kit Home, I probably would have KEPT driving!!  Thanks to Andrew Mutch for finding and identifying this house!

If I'd been the one driving past this Wardway Kit Home, I probably would have KEPT driving!! Thanks to Andrew Mutch for finding and identifying this house! (1927 catalog image). And the title of the blog, you may notice, comes from the headline above: "Good Looking and Roomy!"

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Nice floor plan, too!

Nice floor plan, too! CLASSIC foursquare design!

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I love these descriptions!

I love these descriptions! The plain lines are "skillfully relieved"!

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Ward

Not a bad deal, either. And for $16 extra, they'll throw in some shades.

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It is a good-looking house.

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And here it is in Ann Arbor, Michigan! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here it is in Ann Arbor, Michigan! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks again to Andrew for sending along the photos!

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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