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The Chesterfield Home: Of English Ancestry

February 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

“The Chesterfield home has an English ancestry which has stood the test of public favor for many centuries…”

The Sears Chesterfield was indeed a nobby tudoresque design, but apparently it didn’t catch on. And it was offered only in the 1926 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I’ve never seen one “in the flesh.”

However, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Andrew Mutch, Wendy Mutch and Melodie Nichols, we now have pictures of a beautiful Chesterfield in Clawson, Michigan.

For those visiting this page for the first time, you might be wondering, what is a Sears Home? These were 12,000-piece kits that were ordered right out of the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog.  The homes were offered from 1908 - 1940, and during their 32-years in the kit home business, 370 models were offered.

Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house built and ready for occupancy in 90 days. That could have been a little ambitious. Typically, it took novice homebuilders six months or more to finish these homes.

To learn more about this fascinating topic, click here.

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Text from the catalog page (1925)

In a pinch, you could offer this page to someone as an eye test, and see if they notice that the font gets smaller and smaller near the bottom. On a side note, I have no idea what an "informal massing of the walls" means (near the center of the text). Then again, I have never seen a "formal massing" of walls. Is it like an informal gathering? Are the walls just hanging out together, having one big quiet party? If you were a quiet wall and you didn't participate in these informal gatherings, would you be a wall flower? Or would you just be a wall wall? One has to wonder. (From 1926 catalog.)

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Pricey little dog, given the fact that this was 1926.

Pricey little dog, given the fact that this was 1926.

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I dont see any informal massing here.

I don't see any informal massing of the walls here. However, I bet that breakfast room was a chilly place on a balmy Michigan winter morning.

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Where are the informal masses?

I wonder if the "informal masses" are hiding in the spacious closets?

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Chesterfield, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Chesterfield, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty! It's been altered a bit but the original lines are still there. And the third floor of this house must be quite spacious. This house is in Clawson, Michigan which (thanks to Andrew, Wendy and Melodie) has been found to be a real hotbed of kit homes! Photo is copyright 2012 Melodie Nichols and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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From the side

A side view of the Chesterfield. Look at that enormous chimney. Photo is copyright 2012 Melodie Nichols and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Oh my stars, now we KNOW its a Sears Home! It has an S on the chimney!!

Oh my stars, now we KNOW it's a Sears Home! It has an "S" on the chimney!! Ah, not really. This is one CRAZY myth that is still bouncing around on the internet. That "S" on the chimney is a stylistic feature that has nothing to do with whether or not it's a Sears House. In this case, that "S" is part of the brace that helps keep that oversized chimney stable. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Nice shooting, Melodie! She did a perfect job of photographing the house from the same angle as the original catalog picture.

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To read the next blog (also about kit homes in Michigan), click here.

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The Rembrandt: A Masterpiece!

February 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

At first glance, the Rembrandt looks like a massive Dutch Colonial, but in fact, it was 1,672 square feet. As early 1900s housing goes, this was certainly a spacious home, but not dramatically so.

However…

Building this two-story home from a 12,000-piece kit that arrived via boxcar would certainly have been a challenge! Each piece of lumber was numbered to facilitate construction and the blueprints were written with extra detail and accompanying explanations (to help novices), and the kit came with a 75-page instruction book, however…

This still would have been quite a project to tackle!

Based on my research, about 50% of the people who purchased Sears Kit Homes hired contractors to build their house, and the other half spent a lot of time poring over those detailed blueprints and built the house themselves!

What is a Sears Home? Click here to learn more.

To watch Buster Keaton build a Sears Home, click here.

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The Sears Rembrandt

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For a "big" house, it had a very small kitchen!

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Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction, but still, building the Rembrandt from a kit would have been quite a task!

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Catalog image of the Rembrandt

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house house annapolis

The real deal in Annapolis, MD. And notice it has Buckingham Slate on the roof. Buckingham Slate is the crème de la crème of slate and weighs 1,400 pounds per square. When building a house that will have a slate roof, the roof is specially constructed to accommodate this tremendous amount of weight. Here in the Southeast, I've seen several Sears Homes with this Buckingham Slate roof.

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Sears Rembrandt in West Chicago, Illinois. Where's a chain saw when you need it?

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This Sears Rembrandt is in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Comparison of the Rembrandt in Ann Arbor with the original catalog picture.

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Beautiful house but it sure looks chilly!! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read more about the Sears Homes that Wendy and Andrew found in Michigan, click here and here.

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The Dresden: An Unusually Fine Bungalow

January 29th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Apparently, Ypsilanti and nearby Pittsfield Township are “hot spots” for finding kit homes!

Kit House Aficionados Andrew and Wendy Mutch have been supplying me with a plethora of first-class photos of kit homes from Sears, Wardway, Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin and more. I’m so very grateful to them.

They’ve obviously got a keen eye for detail and heretofore, every house they’ve identified has been identified correctly and that is quite a feat (and a rarity!).

And now they’ve moved beyond Sears Homes and into kit homes from Wardway, Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin.

Below you’ll find pictures of the Wardway Dresden. Is it a Wardway house or a Gordon Van Tine house? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know from exterior appearances alone. Orders for Wardway Homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

The only way to know if it’s a Wardway Home is to inspect millwork and/or shipping labels and/or (sometimes) framing members. A Wardway House will be marked “Montgomery Ward,” and a GVT house will be marked, “G.V.T.” (No kidding.)

Thanks so much to Andrew and Wendy for supplying all the wonderful photos!

Want to learn more about Wardway? Click here.

Dale Wolicki is the master of Gordon Van Tine kit homes. You can visit his awesome website by clicking here.

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Wardway

Wardway Homes were actually manufactured by another kit home company, Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa). Unlike Sears, Montgomery Ward did NOT have an entire division devoted to selling kit homes.

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The Wardway Dresden was featured in the front pages of the 1927 Wardway catalog.

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It was categorized as "An unusually nice bungalow" (1927 catalog).

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Some details on this "unusually fine bungalow."

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Several Wardway/GVT houses had these offset front porches, which makes identification so much easier. When I created my own field guide (from hundreds of old catalog pages), I created a section dedicated to houses with these offset porches.

Several Wardway/GVT houses had these offset front porches, which makes identification so much easier. When I created my own field guide (from hundreds of old catalog pages), I created a section dedicated to houses with these offset porches. It was - in my mind - a very distinctive feature.

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The Dresden - in all its shining splendor!

The Dresden - in all its shining splendor!

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Thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, I have an unusually fine photo of this unusually fine bungalow.

Thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, I have an unusually fine photo of this unusually fine bungalow. The house is located in Pittsfield Township (Michigan). Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. An aside: If only Andrew or Wendy kept a chain saw in the glove compartment (as I recommend), they could have easily remedied the pesky problem of this small tree blocking their view.

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Another fine photo of this fine bungalow.

Another fine photo of this fine bungalow. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And it still has its original siding and railings! Be still my heart! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To learn how to identify kit homes, click here.

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