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Eight Pretty Maggies in a Row

August 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

As of last month, we’ve found eight Sears Magnolias. There are probably more, but where are they?

The last three Magnolias that were discovered (in North Carolina, New York and West Virginia) were found thanks to the readers of this blog.

So where’s Number Nine?  :)

If you know, please leave a comment below!

Below are pictures of the eight Magnolias.

Enjoy!

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

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When first offered

When first offered in 1918, the Magnolia was also offered as a "plan" (blueprints only) for $10.

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The Magnolia in Benson, NC was discovered when a faithful reader of the blog sent me a note and reported that shed seen a Magnolia featured on the news. She even sent me a link to the news story, so I was able to conform it was a Magnolia before I traveld five hours south to Benson.

The Magnolia in Benson, NC was discovered when a faithful reader of the blog sent me a note and reported that she'd seen a Magnolia featured on the news. She even sent me a link to the news story, so I was able to conform it was a Magnolia before I traveled five hours south to Benson. This Magnolia has been in constant use as a funeral home since the early 1940s. The interior has been pretty well gutted and rebuilt, but at least it's still standing.

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Canton, Ohio

The Magnolia in Canton, Ohio was almost lost in the 1980s. The roof had collapsed into the second floor, but the house was purchased by someone who truly loved old houses, and they did a thorough restoration of the home. In 2002, I visited this house when filming a segment for PBS's "History Detectives." Photo is courtesy Janet LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Located in the hills of West Virginia, this beautiful Magnolia also passed through its own shadow of death in the early 2000s. In 2003, it was purchased and lovingly restored.

Located in the hills of West Virginia, this beautiful Magnolia also passed through its own "shadow of death" in the early 2000s. In 2003, it was purchased and lovingly restored.

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In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was in pitiful shape (when these photos were taken). In late 1985, the house suffered additional damage when it caught fire. It was razed sometime in 1985.

In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was in pitiful shape (when these photos were taken). In late 1985, the house suffered additional damage when it caught fire. It was razed sometime in 1985. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Syracuse

The Seventh Magnolia (in Syracuse, NY) was also discovered thanks to a faithful reader of this blog. It was built by Edward Knapp for his two sisters sometime between 1918-1921. In the 1990s, it was purchased and restored by someone who loved the house and appreciated its unique history. Photo is courtesy Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana is now going through its own trying time. If you look at the underside of the front porch ceiling, you'll see moisture damage. The aluminum trim around the eaves and soffit is also falling away. Hopefully, this wonderful old house will be spared the fate of the Maggy in Nebraska. These photos are more than a year old, so perhaps good things are now happening for this house. Photo is courtesy James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is also needing a little love.

The Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is also needing a little love. It's sold three times in the last six years and when I was there in September 2010, it was looking a little ragged around the edges. However, it sold very recently (less than six months ago) and hopefully the new owners will return it to its former glory.

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Last but not least is this Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania. It was built as a brick house, and the floorplan was altered a bit when the house was built. Construction began in 1922 and was not completed until 1927.

Last but not least is this Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania. The brick exterior is original to the house and the floorplan was altered a bit when the house was built. Construction began in 1922 and was not completed until 1927. Photo is courtesy Bob Keeling and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And in Blacksburg, SC

This "almost-a-Magnolia" was discovered in Blacksburg, SC. According to the homeowner (and tax records) the house was built in 1910, and based on millwork and other design elements, that seems like a good date. The classic "widow's walk" (flat top) on the hipped roof is not in place (as with a traditional Magnolia). And see those tall columns? They're solid concrete. No kit house would have concrete two-story columns due to the tremendous weight. These homes were designed with the expectation that a "man of average abilities" could build them in 90 days - or less! I suspect that this house in Blacksburg was purchased from a planbook or architectural magazine, and then Sears "borrowed" the design, shaved a few feet off the footprint and the Sears Magnolia was born.

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The Magnolia was also known as Sears Modern Home #2089. I found this marking in the basement of the Magnolia in Benson, NC. When these framing members were shipped out of Cairo, Illinois, one of the mill workers grabbed a blue grease pencil and marked the top beam in the pile of lumber that was about to be loaded onto a train for Benson. Today, this faint mark can be used to authenticate that this is indeed a Sears kit home.

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marked lumber

Years ago, I talked to an elder gent who remembered helping Mom and Dad build a Sears kit home. The father, standing on the building site, would yell out, "I need a G 503!" and the kids would scramble over the massive piles of framing members to find a beam marked G 503. The floor joist shown above was found in the Magnolia in WV.

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Now, about that 9th Magnolia…

Where is it?  :)

To learn more about how to identify a Sears Magnolia, click here.

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The Eighth Magnolia - and - It’s In West Virginia!

August 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 13 comments

For years and years, it was believed that only six Magnolias had been sold by Sears and Roebuck, but their locations were unknown.

As the years passed, the six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was lost in 1985 when it burned down.

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.  One dead (and cremated).

And then two years ago, one of my faithful readers reported that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

Turned out, they were right. 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.

In June 2013, someone left me a comment saying, that many years ago, he’d lived in a small town in West Virginia, and there was a Sears Magnolia just across the street from his home.

According to his reminiscence, the Magnolia was ordered from the Sears & Roebuck catalog in 1924, and the price was $7,000. The homeowner then paid a local builder another $7,000 to build the house. Rachel Shoemaker and I stayed up most of one night trying to figure out if this house was the real deal. About 4:00 am, we came to the conclusion that it was.

I contacted the homeowner (who was gracious enough to write back!) and asked if we could visit his wonderful Magnolia when we visited Elkins, later in the summer.

He said yes.

“Thrilled” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about this elegant home in West Virginia.

For one, this Maggy has been painstakingly and thoroughly restored. In the world of architectural preservation, there’s a massive difference between “remodeling” and “restoring.”

This Magnolia has truly been restored.

I’m a tough cookie with an eye for detail and a penchant for perfection and a passion for historicity, and I’m happy to report that the work done on this old house was absolutely first-class. This West Virginia “Maggy” is truly a wonder to behold. As the pictures will show, the house is a gem and every room looks like something out of a fancy architectural magazine. It really is that beautiful.

Secondly, I was so pleased to see that the house is in good hands. The home’s current owners love this house with their whole heart, and they genuinely appreciate their home’s unique history. They’re “caretakers” in the truest sense of the word, and they really do “get it.”

An interesting aside, my husband toured the house with me, and he was also smitten (and he’s not even a big architecture guy). When we returned to our car, he said quietly, “That really is a beautiful place they’ve got there.”

Enough words. Just wait until you see these pictures. You’ll fall in love with this house, just like I did.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

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The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922. It's shown here in the 1921 catalog

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The description shows it was fancy.

The description of the Magnolia gives some wonderful detail on the home's fine qualities (1921).

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price

A price list from the 1921 catalog shows detail on the optional extras for the Magnolia.

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What a fine-looking house!

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This magnificent Magnolia is now 88 years old, and still retains all its original stateliness, beauty and grandeur. Beginning in 2003, the house underwent a major, three-year-long restoration that saved this historically significant home.

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beautiful

The house sits on several acres on a beautifully landscaped lot in a small West Virginia town about two hours from my husband's ancestral home in Elkins, WV. The previous owners (who did the major three-year restoration) planted the two Magnolia trees at the front of the house. The house is even more beautiful "in person" than it is in these photos. It's stunning. Just stunning.

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This house has no bad sides. It is beautiful from every angle.

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Just imagine bobbing about in the pool on an August afternoon, sipping on a cool soda and gazing upward at a majestic Magnolia. Bliss! On a more architectural note, the 40' wide addition across the back added quite a bit of square footage and also expanded the size of the small den and kitchen.

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house

The floorplan for the first floor (shown here) shows how the addition to the rear of the house increased the square footage, expanded the den and the kitchen and did not diminish the home's original beauty. Major kudos to the architect who came up with this plan! Brilliant!

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And from the back of the house, you can get a good view of that distinctive Magnolia dormer.

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A view of the front yard from the second-floor balcony. West Virginia is a state filled with beautiful views, and this house is located in an unusually beautiful spot in West Virginia.

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When I first contacted the homes owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

When I first contacted the home's owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

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Beautiful house. Just beautiful.

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And much praise is due to the folks who did the restoration on the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved.

And much praise is due to the folks who restored the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved. These windows - with a little love and care - will last for generations.

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On

It's claimed that the Sears Magnolia was the only kit that was required two boxcars (as opposed to one) for shipment. I suspect the six two-story columns were part of the reason for the second boxcar. When shipped, these columns were in pieces (length-wise) which were to be assembled on site. The bases on these columns were recently replaced.

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The porch floor on the other Magnolias I've seen is poured concrete. On the West Virginia Magnolia, the terrace is tiled, with several floor drains. I've read that they get lots of snow in WV so maybe the floor drains help with that.

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And in the basement, we found

And in the basement, we found marked lumber!

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My next blog

Return to this blog tomorrow, and come inside for a tour of this beautiful home. You're in for a treat!

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To read Part II of this blog (and see interior photos) click here.
Is there a Sears Magnolia in your neighborhood?

Of the eight Sears Magnolias that have been discovered, three of them were found thanks to the loyal readers of this blog. If you know of a Magnolia, please leave a comment below!

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Be Still My Heart: The Eighth Magnolia?

June 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 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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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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Ann Arbor: An Impressive Ensemble of Kit Homes

March 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Many folks enjoy seeking and finding kit homes, but they’re not sure where to begin. Between Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling and Harris Brothers, there were at least a couple thousand designs.

If you want to find kit homes, how do you begin?

Well, this very blog might be an ideal starting point because as it turns out, Ann Arbor has a lovely smorgasbord of “typical” (and very popular) kit homes from Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Take a few moments and memorize these photos, and then see if you can find these houses in your town!

Be forewarned, it’s a lot of fun and highly addictive. Bet you can’t stop at just one!

If you’re able, you might even visit one of these communities that has an abundance of kit homes (as identified by this blog).  Interested in finding such a city? Go to the search box at the top of the page (right side) and type in your state and see what pops up. There are 700 blogs at this site and several thousand photos representing 32 states. That’s a  lot of places!

And what about Ann Arbor? Well, thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, we have a gaggle of photos from that city highlighting the many kit homes. One recommendation: You might want to don a sweater before gazing upon these pictures. Just looking at all those snow-covered houses gives me the shivers!

Thanks to Andrew and Wendy for supplying all these wonderful pictures of kit homes in Ann Arbor.

Did you know that there’s a “Sears Home Group” on Facebook? Join us!

To learn more about Wardway, click here.

Interested in Sears kit homes? Click here.

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The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And heres a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

And here's a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Notice the bracketing for the flower boxes (2nd floor window) is still in place. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but theyre different houses. Do you see the difference between the two?

The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but they have a few minor differences. Do you see the difference between the two? The Brookwood is smaller, and has two living room windows (and the Barrington has three). For a time, I'd get these two confused, and then it dawned on me that "Brookwood" has two syllables and two windows! Barrington has three! This is from the 1933 catalog.

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And heres

And here's a fine-looking Brookwood in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

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Heres a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor.

Here's a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor. You may notice it has two windows down the left side, where the catalog has three. This was a very common alteration. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another beautiful Dover.

Another beautiful Dover in Ann Arbor. However, this house looks really cold. The extra snow shovels on the porch are part of that "chilly look" I suppose. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

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Not only does it have the original windows, but it has the original wooden storm windows too, and even the half-round gutters are true to 1928. Are these original or just high-quality replacements? Tough to know, but they sure do look good. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rembrandt was one of their finer homes.

The Rembrandt, a classic Dutch Colonial, was one of their finer homes.

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Another perfect match. How cool is that?!

Another perfect match. Note that the windows on the 2nd floor are centered over those paired windows on the first floor. This single detail can help figure out - is it a Sears Rembrandt, or just another pretty Dutch Colonial? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

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Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if its a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows.

Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if it's a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows. Study this single detail, and it will help you easily differentiate the Puritan from the look-alikes. As with all these houses, also pay attention the chimney placement. Remodelings come and go, but chimneys don't move. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

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Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor.

Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor. Still has its original railings. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

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And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition!

And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Hathaway was another popular house (1928).

The Hathaway was another popular house (1928), and distinctive enough that it's easy to identify. Just look at all those clipped gables!

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Ann

Anther very fine match. Sadly, this house has been hit with some permastone (front first floor), but other than that, it's a dandy! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another fine match

Another fine little Hathaway in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ann Arbor

I wonder if the Realtor knows it's a Sears kit house? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these houses don't realize what they have. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Conway, as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Conway (also known as "Uriel"), as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor!

Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor! Notice the original bracketing under the oversized front gable, and that "phantom" brick pillar on the far right. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As seen in the 1928 catalog, The Ashland.

As seen in the 1928 catalog, "The Ashland."

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Ash

Where's a good chainsaw when you need one? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing.

As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of GVT's biggest and bet kit homes, "The #711." Quite a house!

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And what a fine 711 it is!

And what a fine 711 it is! By the way, this was a huge house, measuring 48' wide and 30' deep, giving a total of 2,880 square feet. I have to double check, but I believe this was the largest kit home that was offered by Gordon Van Tine, and size-wise, it's the same as the Sears Magnolia (also 2,880 square feet). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

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Wlak

That offset front porch is a distinctive feature of the Wardway Laurel. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Laurel as seen from the other side.

The Laurel as seen from the other side. That small side porch is original to the house, and surprisingly - in still open (as when built). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

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I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog.

I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

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I surely do love a house dressed up in pink.

I surely do love a house dressed up in pink. I really do. This Cranford is (like so many of the houses in Ann Arbor) in largely original condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

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Is this a Wardway Kenwood? />

Is this a Wardway Kenwood? Most likely it is, but the inset door is not a spot-on match. However, this house has had a substitute siding installed, and the door may have been squared off to accommodate the replacement siding. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Perhaps Wardways most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

Perhaps Wardway's most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

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Crescent

And here's a fine example of the pretty, pretty Priscilla! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so its not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so it's not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

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Ann Arbors very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesnt it?

Ann Arbor's very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesn't it? The offset front door and the tiny closet window beside it are classic defining features of the Marlboro. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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That little closet window is still in place, but it's been partially closed up. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward, and she can be a great help when were out hunting for kit homes.

Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading "The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward," and thanks to her tireless studying, she can be a great help when we're out hunting for kit homes. She's not called "Teddy the Wonder Dog" for nothing!

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To order your own copy of the “The Mail Order Homes of Montgomery Ward” click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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Married By Commerce; Divorced By The Interstate

January 15th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, the Sears Mill at Cairo, Illinois was an impressive operation, covering 40 acres and employing about 80 full-time workers. About 20 acres were “under roof.” In other words, the site had 20 acres of buildings.

That’s a lot of buildings.

Each day, the railroad cars brought enormous quantities of yellow pine and cypress into the mill, right out of the virgin forests in Louisiana and Mississippi. The 80 employees turned those logs into 10-12 kit homes per day, and each pre-cut home had 12,000 pieces of lumber. That’s a lot of lumber and a lot of work.

The mill (actually in a tiny town just outside of Cairo) was in Urbandale, Illinois. It was located on “Sears and Roebuck Road.” When the interstate came through in the 1970s, it cut a wide swath right through Sears and Roebuck Road, creating two stretches of dead end street on either side of I-57.

On one side, it’s now known as Sears Road. On the other, it’s Roebuck Road.

And on Roebuck Road, there’s another bonus: The Sears Wexford.

A Sears House on Roebuck Road. Or maybe it’s a Roebuck house on Roebuck Road?

Either way, Garmin apparently never got the memo that Sears Roebuck Road had been sliced into two pieces.

And to hear the song that inspired blog’s title, click here:  Married By The Bible, Divorced By The Law.

Special thanks to long-time Cairo resident Richard Kearney, who gave up a day of his life to be my tour guide throughout this area.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Garmin never got the memo about the divorce of Sears and Roebuck Road.

Garmin never got the memo about the divorce of Sears and Roebuck Road.

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Sears

Sears Road is right off of State Highway 37 in Urbandale, IL.

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And Roebuck Road is on the other side, accessible by Seven Mile Road. Note the little Sears Wexford, waving merrily from the background!

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Close up of the Sears Wexford (also known as the Bridgeford) on Roebuck Road.

Close up of the Sears Wexford (also known as the "Bridgeford) on "Roebuck Road."

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Original catalog image of the Sears (and Roebuck) Wexford (from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

Original catalog image of the Sears (and Roebuck) Wexford (from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog). The house in Urbandale is a spot-on match!

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Comparison of the two houses.

Comparison of the two images.

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This item appeared in the February 1912 issue of American Carpenter and Builder, annoucing the opening of the new mill at Cairo.

This item appeared in the February 1912 issue of American Carpenter and Builder, announcing the opening of the new mill at Cairo.

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Close up of the text.

Close up of the text.

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The only thing that remains at the site of the old Sears Mill are these two Rodessas, built about 1918, to demonstrate the superiority of Sears pre-cut homes. One house was built using traditional methods (stick built, with all pieces cut by hand), and the other Rodessa was a pre-cut Sears Home.

The only remnant of the old 40-acre Sears Mill in Cairo/Urbandale are these two Rodessas, built in 1918, to demonstrate the superiority of Sears pre-cut homes. One house was built using traditional methods (stick built, with all pieces cut by hand), and the other Rodessa was a pre-cut Sears Home.

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The Rodessa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Rodessa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

To read about Addie Hoyt, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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94-year-old Builder Explains How He Began Construction on the Sears Magnolia in Ohio

November 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In September 2002, I was invited to appear on a brand new show called PBS History Detectives. It was my first appearance on national television and it was a very exciting time. One of the houses featured in that show was the Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. I’d be appearing on their second episode (first season), to do a story on the alleged Sears Homes in Firestone Park. The filming started at the Sears Magnolia in Canton. Filming the 15-minute segment took eight days.

Sometime around 1990, Canton writer T. E. Prather wrote a short piece about the building of the Sears Magnolia there in Canton, Ohio. The title was “Magnolia: Neo Classic Revival Revived!”

What’s remarkable about this article is that it quotes the 94-year-old builder who helped build the Magnolia in 1923.

Clarence Swallow was the builder of nearly 300 homes in this area, and in 1923, he was a 27-year-old carpenter. He was hired by Canton Attorney Leroy Contie, Sr., to supervise the total construction of Contie’s Magnolia.

The catalog price of this pre-cut house was $5,140. With the price of the Ridgewood lot, plastering, electrical work, plumbing, plus other extras, te total cost of the home was approximately $18,000.

Swallow explains how the crates of numbered, top-quality, pre-cut lumber and supplies were brought to the building site by horse-drawn wagons. Swallow and his two-man crew sorted through the giant jig-saw puzzle of packages and began construction in the summer of 1923. The framing went up on the pre-formed concrete foundation through the summer and autumn. By the first snowfall, the Magnolia was under roof. Then Ennon Plumbing, Eclipse Electric, and several plasterers worked through the winter as Swallow and crew completed the interior trim work.

The six fluted yellow poplar Corinthian porch columns were precisely set in place to support the two-story front portico. The side lights [flanking] the front entrance and an elliptical fanlight under a second floor balcony were the center focus of the main entry.

The original elegance of this early 1920s Magnolia has yielded a small bit to being unoccupied over the past couple years. Yet it has been featured in the Smithsonian (November 1985) and was the featured home of Ohio Historical Society’s publication , Timeline in early 1989.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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!

This Magnolia is in Benson, NC and the photo dates back to the late 1940s. This house has been in use as a funeral home for many decades.

This Magnolia is in Benson, NC and the photo dates back to the late 1940s. This house has been in use as a funeral home for many decades. I'm sorry I do not have the name of the original photographer, for I'd prefer to give proper photo credit here.

But you have to love the name of this funeral home (in the 40s).

But you have to love the name of this funeral home (in the 40s).

These unique windows are an important identifying feature for the Sears Magnolia. Theyre pretty unique!

These unique windows are an important identifying feature for the Sears Magnolia. They're pretty unique! Notice the 9/1 windows on the side, and the smaller lites above the larger windows. People send me a lot of photos of purported Magnolias. If they'd stop and examine the windows, that'd answer their questions right then and there!

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Entry Hall of the grand house

Entry Hall of the grand house

The Living Room

The Living Room

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolias kitchen

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolia's kitchen

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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Looking For Info on Jim Walter’s Homes!

June 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In 1978, soon after my first husband and I were first married, we sat down and looked through a Jim Walter Homes catalog. The idea of building a kit home was hugely appealing to us. In the end, we decided to buy an existing home, but throughout the years, the idea of building our own sacred space held a special appeal.

In 1999, I was asked to write an article about the Sears Homes in Carlinville, Illinois. As a freelance writer scrambling to make a living, I gladly obliged. Once I laid eyes on those 156 Sears Homes in a 12-block area, I was completely and hopelessly in love. The 1000-word article that should have taken a few hours took a few weeks. The editor asked for “a couple photos” and I submitted 96 photos. This was back in the days of film, and those 96 photos represented FOUR ROLLS of film!

When that first article appeared, I was suddenly “the expert” on kit homes. I didn’t know that much about kit homes, but I did have a passion for the topic. I went looking for a book on the topic and found very little. “Houses by Mail” (a field guide to Sears Homes) was a fascinating book, but had very little textual history. And that’s how I came to write “The Houses That Sears Built.”

Within 90 days, my book was featured in The New York Times and then I was asked to appear on PBS’ History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News and more. From there, it was off to the races.

And that’s the “back story” of how I came to be an expert on kit homes.

Now, I’m interested in learning more about Jim Walter Homes, based in Tampa, Florida. For the last six weeks, I’ve been tirelessly searching eBay for ephemera from this company but I’ve found nothing. If anyone has any ideas on how to get some info on Jim Walter Homes, please drop me a line! I’m also interested in finding pictures of existing Jim Walter Homes.

To contact me, please leave a comment below!

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Cover of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Cover of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

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Pictured above is a Gordon Van Tine kit homes catalog from the late 30s/early 40s.

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Wardway Homes catalog, about 1931.

Aladdin Homes, about 1916

Aladdin Homes, 1917. I'm not sure, but I think that's the genie going back into the bottle, after building a house for his master. Love the post-apocalyptic orange sky!

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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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Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

On a prior post (Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama), I talked about photographing a Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. What I did not talk about was the trip. I traveled from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia and met up with my friend Nancy (who lives in Acworth), and then we rode together to Piedmont to photograph this house. I love Sears Homes. I love looking at them and I love photographing them and I love posting their portraits at my website.

That being said, I was mighty disappointed that I didn’t find any more Sears Homes between here and Atlanta. I’ve been searching for Sears Homes for a long, long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at this but this trip has not yielded many “finds.”

And then today, I found a note in my inbox from a nice fellow in Mobile (Alabama) telling me about an ecnclave of purported Sears Homes in Mobile. If anyone has any more information about these houses, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to see some photos of these houses. It’s been my experience that 95% of the time, these “neighborhoods” of Sears Homes are not Sears Homes or even kit homes from another company. They’re usually wild goose chases.

Please - someone from Mobile - write to me (thorntonrose@hotmail.com) and prove me wrong.

One of the best finds in Alabama: A sunflower field!

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

This (picture below) is the third Sears Magnolia I have visited in person. There were purportedly six built (but the validity of the fact is in question). Rebecca Hunter discovered that there’d been a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska (1) which had burned down many years ago. and Houses by Mail identified a Magnolia in South Bend (#2). In 2003, I appeared  on PBS History Detectives and the show featured a Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio (#3).  A few months after the show aired, someone in Pennsylvania contacted me with information about their Sears Magnolia - made of brick!

In March 2010, a “Friend of Sears Homes” emailed me and told me about a “Sears Home” in Benson, NC (#5). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Sears Home was the fifth Sears Magnolia!

This Magnolia (see below) is in Alabama. This would be the 6th known Sears Magnolia.

In my opinion, there are a few more out there. I suspect there are more than six Sears Magnolias in the world.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog