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South Carolina, Churlish Chiggers, and Fake Maggies

July 25th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Last month, I spent several days traveling in South Carolina. I visited many cities in the northern part of South Carolina but found very few Sears Homes. The highlight of the trip was Anderson, where I found several kit homes from Sterling Homes (a competitor to Sears).

Click here to see photos of those houses.

I did, however, find more than 20 chiggers. Or should I say, they found me. I was in Pumpkintown, SC merrily traipsing through a happy, happy meadow when I picked up Satan’s microscopic hitchhikers.

Suffice it to say, my sufferings in the next few days rivaled that of Job, who used pottery shards to relieve the itch of his sores. (Having endured this misery, I’m now convinced that old Job hisself got into a mess of chiggers.)

But I digress…

During an earlier trip to Blacksburg, South Carolina (February 2011), I’d visited the twin of the Sears Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg turned out to be a fake Sears Magnolia. And yet, it was so close to the real thing. After spending three days at this fine house, I decided it could not be a Magnolia.

In retrospect, I believe it may have been an early pattern book house, and that the fine folks at Sears discovered this pattern book design and incorporated it into their “Book of Modern Homes,” calling it, The Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg was built about 1910 (according to tax records), which also fits with my pattern book theory.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia, which is interesting (and also fits with the above theory). When Sears “borrowed” patters from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a tiny bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made a lot of sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

I seriously doubt the SCFM is the only one of its kind. Does your town have a fake Magnolia?

To read my favorite blog on the Sears Magnolia, click here. It’s an old carpenter telling about HOW he built a Magnolia in the 1920s.

To read about the sweet ride that carried me to old South Carolina, click here.

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The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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And heres the SCFM in Blacksburg. Its NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.

And here's the SCFM in Blacksburg. It's NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.

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Really, really close.

Really, really close.

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I mean, cmon. You cant get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly.

I mean, c'mon. You can't get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly. All the details are just so darn close...

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Even has those distinctive marginal lites.

Even has those distinctive marginal lites.

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And the porch is a good match, too.

And the porch is a good match, too.

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One of the first thigns that caught my eye were these columns. Theyre concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.

One of the first details that caught my eye were these columns. They're concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.

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And its a beauty, too.

Minus the concrete columns, it's still such a good match.

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Inside the house, it has a Magnolia room!

Inside the house, it has a "Magnolia Room"! How apropos!

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The citys records show that this house was built in 1910, and those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect theyre close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s.

The city's records show that this house was built in 1910, and oftimes, those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect they're close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s. The Magnolia had two fireplaces, both wood-burning.

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This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall...

This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall, but that's one of the problems. The floorplan for this SCFM is NOT a good match to the Magnolia's floorplan. Plus, the Sears Magnolia had nine-foot ceilings. The ceilings in this house were 10' or more.

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The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot.

The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot. It's much closer to the front of the house, whereas the SCFM's staircase is much further back, and its hallway goes straight back to a rear entry door (unlike the floorplan above).

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In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!

In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!

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Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. Its LAVENDAR!

Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. It's LAVENDER!

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If you see this house, send me an email!

Such a beauty - but it's not from Sears.

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This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio.

This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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Oh No! It’s Not a Sears Kit House!

May 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last weekend in Raleigh, I gave a talk on Sears Homes. More than 200 people attended the talk and about 50 folks came prepared with photos of their own “Sears Home.”

About 75% of the time, I am not able to identify the house in their photo as a Sears Home. However, I’m usually able to identify the houses as a kit home from another company (such as Aladdin or Gordon Van Tine or Wardway).

Also - as is typical - some people were puzzled as to why their house wasn’t a match to any of the 370 designs that Sears offered. These folks had grown up hearing that “Grandfather bought the house from the Sears catalog and patiently waited for it to arrive at the train station,” and then went to work building his “Sears House.”

So what’s going on?

Well…

You have to begin with a simple question.  What is a Sears house?

A Sears house is a kit home, wherein both blueprints and materials were purchased from the Sears Modern Homes catalog during their years of operation; 1908 - 1940.

Sears began selling building supplies in 1895, but they did not sell kit homes until 1908. Building supply catalogs from Sears offered almost everything you needed to build a house, but the first Sears Modern Homes catalog, offering the package deal, did not appear until 1908.

Sears did sell house designs - blueprints - in the early 1900s.

In fact, both Sears and Montgomery Wards promoted and sold an identical 4 x 6-inch booklet titled Practical Homebuilder with 115 different blueprints priced from $2.50 - $8.00, for houses that would cost $500 - $3500 to construct.  But these were not Sears Modern Homes or even a precursor to Sears Modern Homes.  Practical Homebuilder was created by Frederick Drake & Company and imprinted with the Sears or Wards name on the cover page and sold through their general merchandise catalogs.

I suspect that - in many cases - “Grandfather” purchased his blue prints from the Practical Homebuilder booklet (imprinted with the Sears Roebuck name and logo), and then ordered all his lumber from the Sears Building Materials Catalog, and then waited for his “Sears House” to arrive.

Again, to be a true “Sears House,” both blueprints and (at least some of the) building materials should have been purchased from the Sears Modern Homes catalog between 1908-1940. If any one of those three elements are missing: Blueprints, building materials or timing (1908-1940), it’s not a true Sears kit home.

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Rare

The 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog is very rare and one of the hardest to find today.

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This image appeared on the back page of the very rare 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

This image appeared on the back page of the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I've put a blue star on the houses that are either extensively customized Sears designs, or are not identifiable as a Sears Model at all. Of the 15 images shown here, nine of these houses do not appear to be "Sears Homes."

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This house presents a beautiful example.

This house presents a beautiful example of a house that is *not* a true Sears kit home. It is not one of the 370 models that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business. In fact, it looks a lot more like the Aladdin "Virginia" than any thing Sears ever offered. And yet, the building materials came from Sears, and it's possible even the blueprints were ordered out of the Sears catalog.

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People

Mr. Turk was pretty pleased was pretty pleased with the transaction.

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I'm not sure what to think of that front door.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

To learn about kit homes from Montgomery Ward, click here.

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