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Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Sears Homes…

April 19th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

Especially in ads that appear on Craigs’ List.

Recently, someone in our Facebook Group (”Sears Homes”) pointed out that there was a Sears House listed for rent on Craigs’ List. In that this is not my first rodeo, I was dubious at best. I looked up the ad. I must admit, at first glance (without wearing eyeglasses), it did kinda sorta look a bit like a Sears Norwood. Kinda. Sorta. Problem was, it was too wide for the insufferably narrow Norwood, which is a mere 16′ wide.

I went to the assessor’s website and found the property card, which showed that the home for rent was 20′ wide, not 16′.

That’s enough to be a deal killer. In addition, these little front-gabled cottages were so common in early 20th Century America that you really have to be extra careful!

In 2004, I traveled to a city in middle Virginia to do a thorough survey of kit homes. I was introduced to a homeowner who’d paid a premium price for her bungalow because it had been promoted as a “Sears Kit Home.” I was put in the unfortunate position of  having to explain to her that it was not a kit home of any kind. She became very upset, and asked me if I was certain. Having spent 45 minutes examining the house from rooftop to basement, I told her I was quite sure. She said the Realtor and the lender’s appraiser had added some value because of the home’s “historical significance.”

I didn’t know what to tell her. It was a rough visit all the way around.

I wish Realtors would do a little tiny bit of research before blithely deciding that something is a Sears House. They claim to be “real estate professionals” and speaking as a former Realtor, they can and should do better than that.

To see the non-Sears-House ad, click here.

To read more about the Sears Mills in Norwood, Ohio and Cairo, Illinois, click here.

Want to learn a few tips about identifying Sears Homes? Click here.

Craigs

To add insult to injury, this house is advertised as "1908 Sears Home." The tax records show it was built in 1910. The Morely was first offered in 1918. The fact that this house is on the "Porter History Walk" makes it even more disturbing. Yikes. Has "research" become a dirty word?

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1690

The Norwood, from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog.

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1918

The Morley (1918 catalog) was very similar to the Norwood, but was 10 feet longer.

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1918

Side-by-side comparisons of the two floor plans highlight their differences.

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assessor

The city assessor's website shows the house in Porter is 20 feet wide. Sorry, but it's not a Sears House. I'm sure someone will leave a comment and say, "Maybe it's another model," and let me reassure you, this is not a Sears kit home.

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Heres a real life Morley in Norwood, Ohio.

Here's a real life Morley in Norwood, Ohio. Oh wait, it's not a Morley. Cindy Catanzaro looked up the assessor records and found it's a match for the Norwood, NOT the Morley. Oopsie.

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And a close-up of the address!

And a close-up of the address! Turns out, it's on Carthage Avenue.

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house

Close-up of the Sears Norwood. Notice that it has two windows flanking the front door.

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House

Here's a Norwood in Norwood, Ohio! How appropriate! You can see where the missing eave brackets once rested. Perhaps best of all, it looks like the house still has some of its orginal downspouts.

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literature

This is not a Sears House.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin for creating this meme. :)

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for creating this meme. :)

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To see the non-Sears-House ad, click here.

Want to learn a few tips about identifying Sears Homes? Click here.

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Strathmore + Willard = Strathard?

January 30th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So they built this.

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

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Nice match!

Nice match - at least on the front porch!

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

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

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

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A Bonnie Clyde!

December 28th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

More than 10 years ago, Dale Wolicki and I went tooling around Ohio, looking for kit homes. That was a lot of fun.

Dale was an especially patient driver, pulling over repeatedly, whenever I would screech, “STOP THE CAR!”

Back in those days, I was more likely to get out of the vehicle and walk around a bit, taking photos of the subject houses. One fine day, Dale decided I had lingered long enough at a house, and just as I was crawling back into his Mercury Mountaineer, he said…

“You need to get back in this car now, or the last thing you’re going to see are the taillights of a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer headed west.”

Well, that just slayed me.

I started laughing. And not those delicate, feminine giggles, but racking paroxysms of laughter, that left me - not only gasping for air - but unable to finish the climb into his very tall SUV. I stopped, right there in the middle of the street, half in and half out of his vehicle, looking like (and sounding like) an escapee from the local looney bin.

I don’t remember what else he said, but I do remember that every subsequent sentence that Dale spoke to me, caused me to laugh even more hysterically. In time, I regained my composure and climbed into the car and off we went.

That’s when Dale recommended that I keep my hands and feet (and body) in the vehicle at all times, and master a photographic technique he called, “the drive-by shooting.”

Ah, good times.

Many of the photos below came from that memorable adventure with Dale Wolicki.

The Sears Clyde (from the 1920s) was a modest little bungalow offered in two floorplans. It’s such a simple little front-gabled house, it might be tough to identify, except for the fact that it has a unique front porch, partially covered and partially open, with a third column base  that looks a bit out of place.

It also had five-piece eave brackets, and most Clydes had a fireplace.

It must have been a very popular house because I’ve discovered many Clydes in many parts of the country.

Enjoy the many photos below!

Read about the many kit homes of Jacksonville, IL by clicking here.

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1928

The Sears Clyde, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Two floorpalns

The smaller of the two floorplans, 9030A was a mere 20' wide.

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1928

Both houses were 38' feet long, but 9030B had an extra 4' of width.

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Cute

This image (from the 1928 catalog) shows that the bay has a single window, whereas many bungalows would have two or three windows. Notice the French door on the home's front.

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The 1922 catalog

The 1922 catalog shows a few minor differences, such as the half-timber effect on the front gables and also the gable ornament on the front porch and bay window. On this earlier model, the front porch has two levels, open wooden railings and stuccoed columns. Both 1922 and 1928 models had the two floorplans. Best of all is the potted plant on the third column.

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This sweet thing in West Lafayette, IN is my hands-down favorite.

This sweet thing in West Lafayette, IN is my hands-down favorite. They must have known we were coming because they set out a potted plant on that third column. It also has the two-level porch deck. I think I am in love.

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They have the

They have the planter but not the fern. Drat. However, what they lack in plants, they make up for in complicated downspout systems. Sadly, this sweet thing (also in West Lafayette), has replacement windows and a very unattractive front door. I suspect it's the later model (based on the lack of Arts & Crafts details).

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This Bonnie Clyde is in Norwood, Ohio where Sears had a large lumber mill. Not surprisingly, Norwood is loaded with Sears Homes (including several Clydes).

This Bonnie Clyde is in Norwood, Ohio where Sears had a large lumber mill. Not surprisingly, Norwood is loaded with Sears Homes (including several Clydes). This appears to be 9030A (note the three single windows).

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These images all come from old slides, buried in a box for the last 13 years. This was one of maybe 25 slides (out of 2,000) that had never been labeled, but I immediately recognized it as Flora, IL. The fine folks of Flori hired me to do a survey of kit homes, and it was one of my very first paid gigs. Happy memories.

This Clyde also has replacement windows, but retains a few features, such as the five-piece eave brackets and gable ornaments. These images all come from old 35mm slides, buried in a box for the last decade. This was one of maybe 25 slides (out of 2,000) that had never been labeled, but I immediately recognized it as Flora, IL. The fine folks of Flori hired me to do a survey of kit homes, and it was one of my very first paid gigs. Happy memories.

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And a beautiful Clyde that Andrew and Wendy Mutch found in Ann Arbor, Michigan! (Photo is copyright 2014 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And a beautiful *almost wholly original* Clyde that Andrew and Wendy Mutch found in Ann Arbor, Michigan! (Photo is copyright 2014 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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I learned to identify kit homes by driving around Alton/Godfrey (Illinois) where I lived for 12 years. However...I didnt discover this Clyde in Alton until several years into my new vocation.

I learned to identify kit homes by driving around Alton/Godfrey (Illinois) where I lived for 12 years. However...I didn't discover this Clyde in Alton until several years into my new vocation. And as I've been looking at this photo, I'm starting to think it's a Sears Olivia with a Clyde's front porch.

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Dayton, Ohio is home to

This Clyde in Dayton, Ohio has the two-level porch.

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And heres a gorgeous Clyde that Rebecca Hunter found in Barrington, IL. (Photo is copyright 2014 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without writtern permission.)

And here's a gorgeous Clyde that Rebecca Hunter found in Barrington, IL. (Photo is copyright 2014 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without writtern permission.)

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Lastly, there a Sears Clyde

Lastly, there's a Sears Clyde in Kansas built by Mr. O'Neil (1922 catalog).

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Thanks to an updated Google Map, we can now see the Clyde in Wamego.

Thanks to an updated Google Map, we can now see Mr. O'Neil's Clyde in Wamego! And what a cute little house it is! Mr. O'Neil apparently decided against the fireplace. Special thanks to Google for capturing an angle that matches the original catalog image above!.

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To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

To join our merry band on Facebook, click here.

Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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The Sears Bandon: Neat, Practical And Modern

January 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Sears Bandon is a rare bird indeed. The only one I’ve ever found was in Pulaski, Illinois, not far from the Sears Lumber Mill in Cairo, Illinois. That mill was the site of a 40-acre mill where Sears created and produced up to 250 pre-cut kit homes per month. It was a tremendous operation with more than 100 employees at its peak, and 20 acres of outbuildings.

It was also the site of “The Experiment.” Click here to see the only remnant of the Sears Mill in Cairo.

In 2001, whilst doing research on  Sears Homes at the Cairo Public Library, I stumbled across a little item in their vertical file about a Sears Bandon built in nearby Pulaski. Later that day, I hopped into the car and drove out to Pulaski and found my Bandon on the main drag through town. It was perfect in every way.

In March 2010, when I traveled to Illinois to do research for my newest book (”The Sears Homes of Illinois“), I went back to Pulaski to get newer/better photos. While standing on this main drag in this tiny town, I had three people stop and ask me if I needed help.

Speaking as a former long-time resident of Illinois, I don’t miss those long, cold Illinois winters, but I surely do miss the kind, generous, hard-working folks of small-town Midwestern America. They’re truly the crème de la crème of our country.

Below is the information I found in the vertical files at the Cairo Public Library;

The house (identified specifically as the Sears Bandon) was built in 1921. According to this document, the lumber for this kit home was shipped from the Sears mill in Cairo. It gave the following costs:

Cost of The Bandon $2794.00
Plaster (extra)  $133.00
Material to finish attic rooms  $241.00
Complete hot water heating system  $403.66
Wire and light fixtures  $133.66
Labor for carpenter (including masonry work)  $1600.00

Total $5305.32

This document also stated that, in 1924, a Sears Cyclone Barn (shipped from Cairo, IL) was built on the property. The kit barn cost $943.00.

Is there a Sears Home in your neck of the woods? Please send photos to Magnolia2047@gmail.com.

Enjoy the photos!

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasnt it more popular? Ive only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois.

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasn't it more popular? I've only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois (image is from 1921 catalog).

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It had a very busy floor plan. Note

It had a very busy floor plan, and it's the only house I've ever seen with a "dining porch." This room - which jutted out from the rest of the house - had ventilation on three sides, and seven windows.

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Close

Close-up of the floorplan shows how busy this house is! Look at the kitchen! The ice box was in the staircase landing. And the kitchen was oh-so tiny!

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And it was a fine-looking house!

And it was a fine-looking house!

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And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

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Nice, isnt it?  :)

Nice, isn't it? :)

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house

The 1921 catalog image included this thumbnail from straight--on.

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Pretty, pretty house!

Pretty, pretty house! While southern Illinois does have some of the nicest people, it also some of the worst, mean, loud and scary-looking dogs! These dogs never did stop barking!

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The  Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

The Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

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Its perfect! Down to the details!!

It's perfect! Down to the details!!

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And its in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

And it's in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

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From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

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As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

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The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

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Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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

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The Halfway House, by Sears & Roebuck

April 22nd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In 2002, someone called to tell me that they had a Sears House.  (This was way back in the day when my business cards included my personal phone number.)

The caller said, “I live in Washington, DC and I own a Sears Home.”

I asked if she knew which model it was.

She replied, “I sure do. It’s the Halfway House.”

“The Halfway House?” I asked, hoping I’d merely misunderstood.

“Yes, that’s right,” she said.

I asked if she could spell that for me, and she did. I had heard her correctly the first time.

I knew that Sears sold “The Morphine Cure,” in the early days (a patent remedy for breaking a morphine addiction),  and I knew that Sears offered “The Heidelberg Electric Belt” (guaranteed to restore men’s “vitality”).

But I was not aware that Sears had offered any 12,000-piece reformatory kit houses.

I asked the caller to send me a photo. A few days later, a picture arrived in the mail. It was a picture of the Sears Hathaway.

Sears Hathaway (1921 catalog).

Sears Hathaway, first offered with two bedrooms. (1921 catalog).

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It was also offered in a three-bedroom model (1928).

In later years, they offered in a three-bedroom model (1928).

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Floorplan

The third bedroom was created by adding that little bump to the right rear.

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Sears Hathaway in Elmhusrt Illinois

Sears Hathaway in Elmhurst Illinois - in brick!

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Perfect little Hathaway in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Perfect little Hathaway in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm guessing the address is 1627 but I suppose it could also be 1267 (or 2716 in some Mideastern countries). (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another Cincinnati Hathaway, courtesy of Donna Bakke.

Another Cincinnati Hathaway, courtesy of Donna Bakke. Not sure why it has two doors. Surely this tiny house has not been turned into two apartments! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sears Hathaway in Wyoming, Ohio.

Sears Hathaway in Wyoming, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And heres a Halfway House in Hampton!

And here's a Halfway House in Hampton, Virginia!

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My favorite Hathaway is this one in Newport News, Virginia.

My favorite Hathaway is this one in Newport News, Virginia. It still has its original lattice work on the porch! Every detail is perfect.

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Comparison of the two images.

Comparison of the two images.

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Look at the details on the porch!

Look at the details on the porch!

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And compare it to the original catalog picture!

And compare it to the original catalog picture!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Addie Hoyt, click here.

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The Niota: 1200 Square Feet For $942

April 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Not a bad deal to buy 1,200 square feet of kit house for less than $1,000, even in 1916!

The Sears Niota - despite its being a good value and a cute house - was not a popular model for Sears.  And yet, according to a small promotional ad that appeared in the 1916 catalog, the Niota had been built in Elmhurst, IN, Westerville, Ohio, Indianapolis, IN, Napleton, MN and Springfield, MO.

And in Wood River, Illinois, too.

The house was offered in StoneKote, which was Sears own stucco-type covering. As with most of the kit homes, buyers could opt for stucco, block, brick, stone or wood. Today, way too many of these homes are now covered with substitute sidings (such as aluminum or vinyl), which makes identification even more difficult.

To read more about the many Sears Homes in Wood River (and Amoco), click here.

Niota

One might hope that those columns are a unique feature to help in identifying the Sears Niota, and yet sometimes, they get removed (1916 catalog).

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Niota catalog 1916

The kitchen was so small you'd have to step out to the porch to change your mind. Lots of rooms on this first floor, and they're all pretty modest.

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niota fp

At least the bedrooms have closets. That's a plus.

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niota

Close-up of the Sears Niota.

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niota wood river

And here it is, in Wood River, Illinois. Notice that those unique columns have been chopped off at the roofline and also covered in that hideous house-hiding PVC material, known as "vinyl siding." The original columns - poking through the porch ceiling as they did - were probably prone to roof leaks and all manner of maintenance problems.

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Niota more

Niotas were built in several places in the Midwest. It'd be fun to see pictures of these Niotas.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about my Aunt Addie, click here.

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Cairo, Illinois: When Bad Things Happen to Little Cities…

February 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 9 comments

In its heyday, Cairo was a bustling river town and was home to captains of industry, shipping magnates, wealthy business people and other “people of note.” It’s even mentioned in James A Michener’s epic miniseries, “Centennial.” IT earned a spot in Michener’s book because in the late 1800s, Cairo was the gateway to the west.

The first time I saw downtown Cairo, I stopped my car in the middle of the deserted street and stared in disbelief. The entire business district, which comprised several blocks of brick streets in beautiful condition, was empty - silent, still and devoid of all movement. Had it not been for a piece of trash blowing down the middle of the street, the scene before me would have been wholly motionless.

The stillness, the quiet, the absence of any sign of life was fascinating, yet also left me wondering if the next sound I heard would be the theme from The Twilight Zone with a voice-over by Rod Serling.

In the mid-1960s, racial unrest and riots were a sad part of the American landscape, but in Cairo, things went especially badly. African-Americans, weary of Jim Crow laws and disparate treatment, threatened to boycott businesses that employed only whites. White business owners responded by closing their stores. Large numbers of families left the area and never returned. Industry left. Businesses closed. Wealthy people took their capital and moved away.

Today, downtown Cairo is a ghost town - an incredible time capsule - frozen in the 1960s. The city that once boasted of 14,000 citizens now has about 3000 people living within its borders.

Outside of downtown, things aren’t much better. The burnt out hull of old buildings remain, the architectural victims of bored miscreants.  There’s no money in the state or local budget to raze the remnants of these destroyed homes. Folks often say California is on the cusp of bankruptcy. Illinois can’t be far behind, and Cairo is the poster-child for an American city that went from princely to pauper.

In the early 1900s, Cairo was the site of a 40-acre Sears Mill, where Sears kit homes were milled and shipped out to all 48 states. It was a vibrant business, in an important southern town. Cairo’s location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers made it a natural for shipping and distribution. At the turn of the last century, Cairo (pronounced “Care-Roe”) could boast of having four major rail lines, enabling it to become a centralized shipping point for lumber harvested from the South and sent to the North.

In Spring 2010, I returned to Cairo and visited the town again. More burned out buildings, more desolation, more depressing sites.  What’s happening to our once-great land that we now have cities that are in collapse, and states that are in bankruptcy?

I’ve nothing pithy to add to this sad story. Pictures tell the story far better than I could.

Entrance to Cairo
Entrance to Cairo. The old flood dates are no longer in working, but the old rivers still work really, really well.

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Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

Hospital in Cairo

Is there a doctor in the house?

School

School's out for summer. And for the rest of time.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three houses in a row.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three burned out houses in a row.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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