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A Not-So-Nobby Neighborhood in Newport News With Numerous Kit Homes!

January 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

It’s called, “East End,” and it’s a badly blighted, crime-ridden part of the otherwise lovely, history laden city of Newport News (Virginia). Despite the fact that I’m a native of Tidewater, I never knew this neighborhood existed, until I stumbled upon it while looking for a particular house in Hampton!

After my fortuitous stumble into East End, I discovered a Sears kit home I had never seen before. After 12 years of playing with kit homes, that doesn’t happen too often these days. And yet here it was, in Newport News, which is next door to Norfolk (where I live). To learn more about these early 20th Century kit homes, click here.

The next day I returned to East End to get a better photo of this Sears House, and I found several more kit homes. I returned a couple days later and spent 90 minutes driving to and fro in this neighborhood. It’s my hope and prayer that this research might encourage the important people in Newport News to think about what can be done to preserve and protect this truly remarkable collection of kit homes.

As I told my husband, this is the type of discovery I’d expect to make in a Chicago suburb (where there’s an abundance of kit homes). Here in Virginia, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. And due to the straitened economic circumstances of this neighborhood, some of these houses are in largely original condition. (In addition to the Sears kit homes, I also found several houses from Aladdin, which also sold entire kit houses through mail order. In fact, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears!)

The research and writing of this blog consumed many, many hours of my life. Please share this link with others, who may have any interest in our cultural and architectural history.

Enjoy the many photos and please leave a comment below.

To read about the kit homes I found in Hampton, click here.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. Its a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one Ive seen in person.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. It's a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one I've ever seen "in the flesh."

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Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this homes original builder to leave this wonderful home. More than 50% of the time, these homes were built by average men and women who were just trying to capture a piece of the American Dream.

Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this home's original builder to leave this home that he'd built - with his own hands - for his family. These homes were built to last for GENERATIONS, and they were made with superior quality building materials. This house is on Marshall Avenue.

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Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Side-by-side comparison of the two images.

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The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

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Here it is, in PRISTINE condition. Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

Here it is, in PRISTINE condition, and sitting unobtrusively on Hampton Avenue (in Newport News). Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

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A comparison of the two images shows

A comparison of the two images. What a treasure!

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Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me!

Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me! This image (shown here) is from the 1914 Aladdin catalog. This is a classic Arts & Crafts design, and a beautiful house.

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A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. Made me gasp out loud, followed by paroxsyms of great joy.

A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. When I happened upon this house, I made a high-pitched happy noise, followed by paroxysms of great joy. But this poor old Aladdin Brentwood is in rough shape, and needs quite a bit of work. The balcony's railing (upper left of photo) is literally falling off the house. This house is across the street from the Pearl Bailey Public Library.

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Side by side comparison to the two houses.

Side by side comparison to the two houses. Pretty sweet house!

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog. The L-shaped front porch is a distinctive feature on the Aladdin Venus.

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And here it is.

What is it about this color and Aladdin Homes in East End?

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Another very nice match.

Another very nice match. As a side note, photographing this house was very difficult, as it was on the right side of the road on a one-way street (26th Street), and I wasn't prepared to park the car, and hoof it to the house just to get a good shot.

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The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a Sears Westly.

And here's a Sears Westly in good condition on 23rd Street.

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Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

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The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

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Look at the deatil of the brickword around the chimney!

Look at the detail of the brickwork on the chimney!

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And its for Better class workers!

This Sears Home was for "Better class" workers!

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Ouch.

Ouch. At least the satellite dish is dressed up for the holidays.

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Compare

Poor little "Carlin."

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Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

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I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but Im not convinced.

I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but I'm not convinced. There are a lot of things that are "just right" and match the Pelham very nicely. Notice the squared bay with a shed roof, and the four round columns on the front porch. It's a good match to the Pelham, but not perfect. Hard to see here, but in "person" you can tell that four windows in that gabled dormer were removed and sided over. And check out the action on the back roof. This classic bungalow is becoming an A-Frame. Icky.

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If you look closely at these windows, you can seem that a few have been blanked out and covered up.

If you look closely at this dormer, you can see that a few windows have been removed and covered up.

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From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

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This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right.

This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right. This house has so many odd architectural details (the pedimented porch, the two different-size dormers on the side, the bay under the larger dormer), but it's not 100% perfect.

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At the end of the day, Teddy and I were tired, and ready to come home.

At the end of the day, Teddy The Amazing House Hunting Dog was tired, and ready to move on to the next adventure - LUNCH! We'd both had an exciting day with lots of fun discoveries, but we were glad to come home and chow down on some tasty kibble.

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I’m confident that there are many more kit homes in this small part of Newport News, and I hope to return one day (with a driver), and do a little more searching. It’s hard to focus on houses when there are so many people milling about in the street.  :(  Plus, while I was in this area, I saw TWO drivers blow past stop signs, without even pausing to glance at traffic. Scary. And then sometime last night, some poor soul was shot repeatedly in this very area.

Please leave a comment below, and please share this link with friends, via Facebook, twitter or even plain old email!

To learn more about the kit homes of Hampton Roads, click here.

To read about kit homes in nearby Hampton, click here.

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My Old House and My Old Trees

October 17th, 2010 Sears Homes 2 comments

According to descendants of my home’s original owner, the trees went up when the house was built. In other words, these three oak trees sitting pretty on three of the home’s four corners, were planted in 1925.

When we bought the house in March 2007, we had the trees trimmed so that dead limbs wouldn’t be coming down on our slate roof. Now one of the trees is showing signs of disease and has a dead limb, with missing bark. And that “dead limb” is about 1/3rd of the tree’s substance.

If anyone has any idea what this is, please let me know? We’ll be calling an arborist on Tuesday (when I can stay home all day), but that’s a long ways away.

My poor tree

The long tall limb that's missing its bark. There are no leaves at the top of this limb.

poor tree

poor tree

Sick tree

Close-up of the funky looking mess. These trees were trimmed in early March 2007, but this rot appeared in the last six weeks or so.

Tree

Close-up of trouble spot.

The second oak tree has this MUSHROOM growing in it. I dont know if this is truly a mushroom, or an evidence of some disease process.

The second oak tree has this MUSHROOM growing in it. I don't know if this is truly a mushroom, or an evidence of some disease process.

And this is whats sitting in the crook of my healthy tree.  :(

And this is what's sitting in the crook of my "healthy" tree. :(

Sears Homes of the Blue Ridge Mountains

August 18th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

For most of my years, I’ve dreamt of living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And I will get there one day. In the meantime, I’ll spend my spare time driving around in the hills, looking for Sears Homes. Do you know what a Sears Home is? These were true kits, 12,000 pieces of house, sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have one of these kits built in 90 days. Click here for more info on Sears kit homes.

Here are a few of the Sears kit homes I’ve found so far. First, my favorite find in Shenandoah, Virginia.

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

Original image from 1916 catalog

Original image from 1916 catalog

Sears Maytown - original catalog image

Sears Maytown - original catalog image

Sears Home in Shenandoah, Virginia

Sears Home in Shenandoah, Virginia

This next house is currently in use as a B&B. It’s the only Sears Milton I’ve ever seen, and it’s in Stanley, Virginia. It’s quite a magnificent house! Note the tall columns and flanking pergola on the front porch. The Milton was one of Sears’ biggest and best homes. Probably the only house that was fancier was the Sears Magnolia.

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Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

Sears Altona from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Altona from the Sears Modern Home's catalog

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte.

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte, West Virginia.

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024. This house is in Lewisburg, WV. Note how the shed dormer still retains its three little windows.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too. Here, you can see the Aladdin Genie going back into his bottle (presumably on the back porch) after building a house for his master in a day (I'm guessing here).

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdin's most popular homes.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

An Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. Sometimes, its hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it.  :)

Here's a nice Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. To the uninformed, this may look like a grove of trees, but there is an Aladdin House there. Sometimes, it's hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it. :)

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Heres the GVT Durant, a fairly popular little bungalow.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Here's the GVT "Durant," a fairly popular little bungalow.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.

The Lost Sears Homes of Atlantic City, NJ

August 12th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

A few days ago, I was looking through the pages of my 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog when I happened upon this page (see below). According to this little graphic, there were four Sears homes built in a row somewhere in a 1920s neighborhood in Atlantic City, NJ. I’d imagine there are many other Sears Homes in the area, too.

I live in Norfolk, Virginia and as soon as I can locate the general area of these little pretties (with a little help from my friends hopefully), it’s my intention to drive up there and check out the rest of the city.

There was a massive Sears Mill in Newark, NJ, so I’m confident that there are many Sears Homes in and around the New Jersey area.

In posting this info, I’m hoping and praying some kind soul that’s familiar with the area will drop me a note and tell me where to find these four little Marinas in Atlantic City, NJ. Simply post your response in the comments section (below) and leave an email address and you’ll hear from me pretty quickly.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

The Little Marinas of Atlantic City, NJ

The Little Marinas of Atlantic City, NJ

This is a Sears Marina. This is a close-up of the house Im looking for in Atlantic City, NJ

This is a Sears Marina. This is a close-up of the house I'm looking for in Atlantic City, NJ

Close-up of the other Marina with a shed (flat) former. Theres one of these in this grouping in Atlantic City, NJ

Close-up of the "other" Marina with a shed (flat) former. There's one of these in this grouping in Atlantic City, NJ

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Everything I know about the Sears Homes in Atlantic City, I learned from this paragraph in the 1923 Modern Homes catalog.

Everything I know about the Sears Homes in Atlantic City, I learned from this paragraph in the 1923 Modern Homes catalog.

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Cover of the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Cover of the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Sears Homes of Hampton Roads (Virginia)

August 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes 10 comments

For years and years, I lived in the St. Louis area and that’s where I wrote my books on Sears Homes (and where I did all the research). In 2006, I moved back “home” to Hampton Roads (where I was born and raised), and it was pure fun to spend my spare time hunting for Sears Homes.

Here are a few of the houses that I found. BTW, if you find this interesting, please spread the word about this impressive collection in Hampton Roads and email this link.

And if you think you know the location of a Sears Home, please send me a note at thorntonrose@hotmail.com.

These are just a few of the kit homes I’ve found in the area. Heretofore, I’ve found 52 in Portsmouth, 75 in Norfolk and about 15 in Chesapeake.

To read another article about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

Sears Westly

Sears Westly

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Suffolk, Virginia

Sears Westly in downtown Suffolk

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Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

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Aladdin is very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable.

Aladdin Kit Homes (a competitor of Sears) was very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable. Sears sold about 70,000 homes during their 32 years in the kit home business (1908-1940). However, Aladdin started in 1906 and went to 1981, selling about 75,000 houses.

This Aladdin Colonial is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed it was a Sears kit home. This is not uncommon. It *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

This Aladdin Colonial pictured below is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed the house pictured below was a "Sears kit home." This is not uncommon. This house (below) *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial. This one is in Suffolk.

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This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

Here's a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

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Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Heres an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Here's an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

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Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

A darling Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA, just across from Lowes Hardware Store on Portsmouth Blvd West. This house was moved from another location, about a mile due east on Portsmouth Blvd and it appears to be in harm's way yet again - with all the retails shops that have sprouted up around it.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog. Note, this Shadowlawn has a porte cochere.

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The Beckley (from Sears)

The Beckley (from Sears)

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sextants Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sexton's Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

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Ive also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

I've also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeakes Deep Creek area.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeake's Deep Creek area.

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And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, its been turned into a duplex.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, it's been turned into a duplex.

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Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

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Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolks Colonial Place

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolk's Colonial Place

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Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Here it is, right in Norfolks Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

Here it is, right in Norfolk's Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

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As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and heres the Aladdin Edison

As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and here's the Aladdin Edison

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

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Aladdin Detroit

Aladdin Detroit

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

To read the next article, click here:

Sexy Sexton’s Sears House - in Newport News

August 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

According to local lore, the sexton’s home at the Greenlawn Cemetery (in Newport News, Virginia) is a Sears Home. As is so typical with these “legends,” no one knows which model of Sears Home, only that it came from the Sears Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s. (Sears offered 370 models of their kit homes.)

Recently, I went out to Greenlawn Cemetery (Newport News, VA) to see if the sexton’s home was the real deal.

More than 80% of the time, these “stories” about Sears Homes turn out to be erroneous. Most of the time, people do indeed have a kit home, but it’s a kit home from a different company. In addition to Sears, there were five other companies that sold kit homes on a national level (such as Montgomery Ward, Sterling, Harris Bros,  Lewis Manufacturing, Gordon Van Tine and more).

While I was out at Greenlawn, I took some pictures of the house and walked around and studied it a bit. I’d still like to get into the house to confirm this, but I’m at least 90% certain this is a Sears “Berkeley.” However, before I declare this an official, authenticated Sears Home, I’d need to see the home’s interior.

The house at Greenlawn is not a spot-on match to the catalog image. The windows are significantly different, as is the front porch (which has been enclosed).

The Berkeley, as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Berkeley, as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Berkeley at Greenlawn Cemetery

The Berkeley at Greenlawn Cemetery

Nice quiet neighborhood

Front yard of The Berkeley. It's a nice quiet neighborhood.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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