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Posts Tagged ‘Ohio Sears Homes’

Be Still My Heart: The Eighth Magnolia?

June 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Updated!! See detailed photos here!!

A few moments ago, my sleepy husband stuck his head into the room and said, “It’s 3:11  in the morning. Why are you still up?”

“Well, I think we’ve found our eighth Magnolia,” I replied.

“Oh,” he said quietly, as he toddled back to the bedroom.

No additional information was needed.

Every month, I get a handful of emails from people who are 100% certain that they’ve found the crème de la crème of all kit homes: The Sears Magnolia.

And 98% of the time, they’re wrong.

Sears sold kit homes from 1908-1940, and in that 32-year span, they offered 370 designs. Of those 370 designs, the Magnolia was the fairest of them all (and the biggest and the most expensive).

In 1918 (the year the Magnolia first appeared), 90 designs were offered, and only 13 of those homes cost more than $2,000. Not counting the Magnolia, the most expensive house in that catalog was the Preston, at $2,812.

The other 76 models offered in 1918 were under $2,000, and the overwhelming majority of those were less than $1,200.

The price tag for the Magnolia was $4,485.

Most of the Sears Homes in that 1918 catalog had less than 1,000 square feet, and the Magnolia had almost 3,000 square feet.

For years and years, it was widely believed that only six Magnolias had been built in the country, and yet their locations were not known. In time, those six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth had been destroyed by fire in Nebraska. (Of those six Magnolias, the house in Benson was the “newest” discovery, found in March 2010.)

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.

One dead (and cremated).

And then in May 2011 (thanks to this blog), someone  contacted me and said that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

I didn’t pay too much attention, because frankly, I’d heard it before, but fortunately, a friend and faithful reader (Heather Lukaszewski) did pay attention and she did a little research. She wrote me a nice note and said, “I think this may be the real deal.”

And that’s how we found the 7th Magnolia. The discovery made the local papers, and it was all pretty exciting. Click here to read the article from May 2011.

All of which brings me to this newest discovery of an 8th Magnolia!

Friday evening, someone contacted me and said that he lived in a house that was across the street from a Sears Magnolia. We exchanged several emails and I started to get pretty interested in this story. It had a lot more background and depth than the typical “There’s a Magnolia just down the street” stories.

Thanks to a lot of help from Rachel Shoemaker and Mark Hardin, we were able to see the house via Bing Maps, and I have to say, I think we’ve got a winner.

In fact, I’d be willing to say that I’m 90% certain that we’ve found our 8th Magnolia.

And the best part of all?

It’s in West Virginia.

I love West Virgina and I’m headed to Elkins in six weeks (with the aforementioned hubby) to visit family.

I’d sure love to stop by this sweet old kit house and check it out in person. Boy oh boy, would I love to see this fine house in the flesh.

Wow.

Just wow.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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Magnolia 1918

The Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog, and yet, those leaves in the border are not Magnolia leaves. What a fraud!

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1918  1918

Close-up of the Magnolia (1918)

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The Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Modern Homes catalog (shown above). In 1919, the Magnolia hit its highest price: $10,000, more than double its price in 1918.

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1921

In 1921, the price of the Sears Magnolia dropped to $6,489 and one year later, it would drop to $5,849. Following WW1, prices of building materials fluctated dramatically.

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Magnolia Benson

In March 2011, a reader told me that there was a Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Janets house

The Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio was almost lost due to neglect but was lovingly restored in the 1990s. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet's Hess LaMonica and may not be reproduced without written permission.

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Syracue

Our 7th Magnolia, in Syracuse! And what a fine-looking kit house it is! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Magnolia columns

Close-up of the columns on the Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama.

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To learn more about the Sears Magnolias among us, click here.

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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The “Econo-Bilt” Vinemont

May 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

There are more than 100 models of Sears Homes that I’ve never laid eyes on, but fortunately, I have friends in Ohio places.

And Ohio is loaded with kit homes.

One of the houses I have never seen (in person) is the Econo-Bilt Vinemont.

Econo-Bilt homes are scarce as hen’s teeth, in part because, they were not very sturdy houses and are not as likely to endure through the decades.  And the “Econo-Bilt” homes were only sold for a few years (about 1915 - 1925).

Despite all that, Donna Bakke found this Vinemont in Cincinnati.

The Vinemont was offered only as a pre-cut kit home, which is doubly weird because - as an Econo-Bilt house - it was the bottom rung of the construction ladder.

After you placed your $1 good-faith deposit with Sears, you’d wait patiently for your list of building materials and blueprints to arrive. If you liked what you saw, you’d send in the balance due ($804 on the Vinemont), and you’d soon receive about 12,000 pieces of house and a 75-page instruction book.

By anyone’s standards, that’s a swinging deal.

The Vinemont (1921 catalog).

The Vinemont (1921 catalog).

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Yikes, it's only one bedroom!

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details on the house

But it's a good price.

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House close up

If you read the description, you'll see the exterior walls were "slate-surfaced siding."

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House in Cincinnati

Donna Bakke found this Vinemont in Cincinnati. I'm still dazzled that she recognized it. I think I would have driven right past it! (Photo is copyright 2010 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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details on the hosue

I have a theory about which I feel pretty strongly. If you're not able to get out and PAINT your porch columns every 15 years or so, don't BUY AN OLD HOUSE. I've seen a lot of bad things happen to old houses, but this is really painful to gaze upon. (Photo is copyright 2010 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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comparison

Donna did a good job getting a photo of the house from the *perfect* angle! No doubt about it - this is a Sears "Vinemont."

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Lighter Bilt was also known as Standard Bilt and Econo Bilt, but regardless of the name they affixed to this line of houses, they were still not suited for severe climates.

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To read the full list of Sears Houses that neither Rebecca nor I have ever seen, click here.

To learn more about the differences between Econo Bilt and Honor Bilt, click here.

To read the next fascinating blog, click here.

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An Abundance of Kit Homes in Tulsa (Updated!)

July 6th, 2011 Sears Homes 21 comments

Sears Homes in Tulsa?

That was my first thought when Rachel Shoemaker of Tulsa contacted me. She said that she thought there were several homes in her town.

Now if she’d been writing from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan or Ohio, I wouldn’t have been so surprised.

But Tulsa?

In the last 10 years, I’ve received probably 5,000 emails and I’ve never heard much from the folks in Oklahoma. In fact, Rebecca Hunter’s wonderful book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map” lists states with known Sears Homes. Rebecca went through thousands of pages of old catalogs, noting all the testimonials from folks, and then compiled that info into one easy-to-use book. There are two states that have no kit homes listed: Oklahoma and Oregon.

Besides, Oklahoma didn’t become a state until 1907. They were still fighting off Injuns and would not have had time to read a 75-page instruction book on how to build a kit that contained 12,000 pieces of house. (I’ve watched 106 episodes of Gunsmoke. I know about this stuff.)

Rachel sent me a couple photos and I was impressed. And then Sunday night (July 3), I stayed up way too late driving the streets of Tulsa via Google Maps, and I found two more kit homes.

If you know the address of a kit home in Oklahoma, please leave a comment below!

Below is a compilation of what Rachel has found  (with a little help from me). All photos of extant homes are copyright 2011 Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without written permission.  Photo of Wardway Modern Home #105 is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki.

And as an added note, if you enjoy these pictures, please leave a comment below for Rachel, as she has invested countless hours of her own time and money researching and photographing these houses.

This is an impressive array of kit homes, and this collection should be preserved and protected, and further research should be done. Don’t let this amazing chapter of Tulsa’s history fall back into the shadows of lost memories and forgotten treasures.

Westly

One of the distinctive features (inside) is that corner fireplace in the dining room! This is from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

And in Oklahoma! Its had a lot of improvements but this Westly is still standing.  Photo is copyright Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without written permission.

Unfortunately, it's had a lot of "improvements" but this Westly in Tulsa is still standing.

Ar

The Arlington was a beautiful and spacious bungalow. This image is from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Arlington

Tulsa's Arlington is not a spot-on match, but it's pretty darn close. The front porch was truncated to allow for placement on a narrow lot. This was a very common "customization."

One distinguising feature of the Arlington is this crazy array of windows on the staircase side. There are a whole lot of windows going on here.

One distinguising feature of the Arlington is this crazy array of windows on the staircase side. There are a whole lot of windows going on here.

Floor plan of the first floor shows detail

Room arrangement of the first floor shows what a grandiose house this was. Note the spacious rooms and the maid's quarters!

Detail of the Arlingtons roof, which is also quite distinctive

Detail of the Arlington's roof, which is also quite distinctive

And the house in Tulsa is a perfect match.

And the house in Tulsa is a very good match. About 30-50% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and this Arlington has a few minor changes (such as the truncated porch) but those are fairly inconsequential. I'd say that this house is almost certainly a Sears Arlington.

Said to be the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, this Saratoga is in wonderful condition.

Said to be the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, this Saratoga is in wonderful condition.

The Saratoga, as seen in the 1921 Sears catalog.

The Saratoga, as seen in the 1921 Sears catalog.

Sara

And from the 1916 catalog. Note the big price difference between 1921 and 1916. "The War to End All Wars" created a housing shortage and hyperinflation in the cost of building materials.

The Avondale was built a

The Avondale was built at the Illinois State Fair (late 1910s) and furnished with items from the Sears Roebuck catalog. This post card shows the Avondale at the State Fair. Note the stained class windows on the front and flanking the fireplace. Nice house, and popular too.

Sears Avondale in Chelsea, OK. Was this the first Sears House in Oklahoma? Itll be fun to find out!

Sears Avondale in Chelsea, OK. Was this the first Sears House in Oklahoma? It'll be fun to find out! This picture shows the mirror image of the house above. Landscaping prevented taking a shot from the same side (as shown above).

Woodland

Woodland as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears

This view of the Woodland shows those two windows flanking the front door, and it's also a good shot of that itty bitty window inside the dormer on the third floor. The closet window (small window between the two second floor windows) is gone, probably hidden underneath the 1940s shingle-type siding. It's very common to see these little closet windows covered over when the substitute sidings go up.

Sad

Sad little Woodland, all dressed down and waiting to die.

Close-up of porch column detail

Close-up of porch column detail

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Those unique porch columns, together with the windows flanking the front door suggest this is a Sears Woodland.

Aladdin was another kit home company, but they were actually bigger than Sears. Sears stopped selling kit homes in 1940, but Aladdin continued on until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 homes and Aladdin sold more than 75,000.

Aladdin was another kit home company, but they were actually bigger than Sears. Sears stopped selling kit homes in 1940, but Aladdin continued on until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 homes and Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) sold more than 75,000. The Aladdin Sunshine (shown above) was a fairly popular house for Aladdin.

A near perfect Aladdin Sunshine in Tulsa.

A nice little Aladdin Sunshine in Tulsa.

One of the biggest and best Aladdin kit homes was the Shadowlawn.

One of the biggest and best Aladdin kit homes was the Shadowlawn.

Al

Is it an Aladdin Shadowlawn? Tough to say without an interior inspection, but it sure is a nice match, and even has the porte cochere (carport). It's a real beauty.

The Shadowlawns living room, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Shadowlawn's living room, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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. Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa) probably sold about 50,000 kit homes. The "Roberts" (shown above) was a very popular house for GVT. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the numbers on Aladdin and GVT.

Gordon Van Tine

Although the front porch has been altered a bit and the side porches have been closed in, it's still likely that this is a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts."

Perhaps my favorite find in Tulsa was this GVT 712 (as seen in the 1921 catalog).

Perhaps my favorite find in Tulsa was this GVT 712 (as seen in the 1921 catalog).

And here it is, in the flesh. A real live GVT #712 in Tulsa. This is not a very common house, and Ive only seen one other (in Shipman, IL).

And here it is, in the flesh. A real live GVT #712 in Tulsa. This is not a very common house, and I've only seen one other (in Shipman, IL).

The Hudson was offered in the

The Hudson was offered in the late 1920s and early 30s.

Here is Tulsas Hudson.

Rachel has spent some quality time sitting in front of this house and studying the details. She feels strongly that this is a GVT Hudson. I have a few niggling doubts, but it certainly bears further investigation. An interior inspection would settle the question once and for all. Either way, this house proves what makes identification challenging.

Its

It's the details around the front porch that trouble me. The Hudson does not have a transom, while this house does. The Hudson does not have exterior lights flanking the door, and the ornamentation around the door is more grandiose on the Tulsa house (compared to the GVT).

Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes, but they can be tough to find, especially in land as far south as Tulsa! Based on some educated guessing, fewer than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built. In Tulsa, we found Modern Home #105. It’s a modest little house, but it’s also a distinctive house with several eye-catching features. And perhaps best of all, “Farmers all over the country are giving this comfortable home the preference.”

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Notice the paired box windows on the right side of this floorplan. This is a very distinctive feature of #105. This catalog image shows a vestibule, but that feature disappeared in future catalogs.

Tulsa

Montgomery Ward kit house #105 in Tulsa. Note the pair of box windows and the steeply pitched roof.

Here's a #105 from the same side. This house (shown for comparison) is in North Belle Vernon, PA. Photo is courtesy of Dale Wolicki and can not be reproduced without written permission.

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According to "Many More Historic Homes in Tulsa" (by John Brooks Walton - 2003), there was a Sears Corona in Tulsa which was torn down years ago. Walton states that this house was located at 618 S. Delaware in Tulsa. It's a real shame that this house was torn down, as this was one of Sears finest homes, and it was also one of their more spacious homes. As the heading states on this 1919 catalog page, it was a classic early 20th Century American bungalow. If the countless hours of work invested in this one single blog can accomplish ONE thing, perhaps it can be this: Maybe we can halt the destruction of any more irreplaceable, uniquely American and historically significant kit homes in Tulsa.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, click here.

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Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

February 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Yesterday, after a massive “tidy up all the mess in the attic” project, I found photos of the Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. In Fall 2002, PBS History Detectives invited me to appear on their second episode (first season), to do a story on the Sears Homes in Akron. The filming started at the Sears Magnolia in Canton. Filming the 15-minute segment took eight days.

It was an incredible amount of fun and a good time was had by all. I took many photos, and after cleaning up my large attic, I finally found those photos.

Enjoy!

Sears Magnolia from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Close-up of the columns. In some models, the Magnolia had Corinthian columns, and in others, they were Ionic.

Close-up of the columns. In some models, the Magnolia had Corinthian columns, and in others, they were Ionic.

And in this Magnolia, theres a Magnolia room!

And in this Magnolia, there's a Magnolia room!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about early 20th Century breakfast nooks, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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From California Comes The Idea for This Classic Bungalow…

January 14th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

So read the advertisement for the Avalon in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Avalon (an Honor Bilt home) is one of my favorite houses. It’s a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow with lot of flair and style. It’s got a nice floorplan (three bedrooms in about 1350 square feet), a wide-open porch, and a beautiful fireplace in the living room.

Pictured below is the original catalog image (from 1921), followed by a Sears Avalon I found in Richmond, Virginia.

Avalon from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Avalon from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Avalon in Richmond, in beautifully original condition

Sears Avalon in Richmond, in beautifully original condition

Avalon in Dekalb, Illinois

Avalon in Dekalb, Illinois

Avalon on Route 20 in Pennsylvania. Photo used with permission from Pat The Sears House Fan.

Avalon on Route 20 in Pennsylvania. Note the three little windows on the home's left side. Photo used with permission from Pat Burton.

Want to learn more about Sears Homes? Click here for more information.

Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

The Magnificent Magnolia in North Carolina!

September 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks to a FOSH (Friend of Sears Homes), I found the 5th known Sears Magnolia in the country. Joy sent me a link last week to a story on a Sears Home just outside of Raleigh. When I clicked on the link, I had no idea the show would be featuring a Sears Magnolia - the Creme de la creme of Sears Homes!

The happy owners of the Magnolia allowed me to tour the inside of the house, where I found proof that it was indeed a Sears Magnolia (as if there were any doubt). Click on this link to read more about that.

This was the second Magnolia that I’ve been inside. The first was in Canton, Ohio. In 2002, PBS’s History Detectives did a segment on Sears Homes, and invited me to be part of the program.

There are also Sears Magnolias in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Alabama.

To see more pictures of Sears Homes in Raleigh, click here.

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Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog