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Posts Tagged ‘precut kit homes’

In the Beginning, It Was Dearly Loved…

August 9th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

Sometime in the early 1910s, William Eathen Davison of Elkland, Missouri sat down with a Sears Modern Homes catalog and studied the kit homes offered within its pages. Ultimately, Mr. Davison settled on “Modern Home #113,” a spacious home with 2,200 square feet, four good-sized bedrooms, an indoor bathroom, two bay windows and a gambrel roof.

The best part was the price: $1,270 or about $29,000 in today’s money. Building an entire house from a kit was a novel idea, and Sears had just started their “Modern Homes” department a few  years earlier, in 1908.

But perhaps Mr. Davison realized that this was a sound value, and by building his own home, he’d save more than 30%, compared to traditional construction techniques. His kit would have arrived about six weeks after he placed the order. One can only imagine the excitement and anticipation that such an event would occasion!

Finally, there came a day when he received word that his boxcar had arrived at the Lebanon Train Depot. He probably gathered up a few friends (and their wagons) and hustled down to the depot to pick up his house. If Mr. Davison was typical, he would spend the next six months building his kit home. There were 12,000 pieces, detailed blue prints (designed for the novice homebuilder) and a 75-page instruction book. Mr. Davison had quite a project on his hands.

Born in 1888, Mr. Davison was probably in his mid-to-late 20s when he built this house, and leaned on friends and family to get the house closed-in and buttoned up before the bitter-cold Missouri winds came sweeping through the open farmland.

I can only imagine the joy and deep abiding sense of satisfaction Mr. Davison felt when the house was completed and ready for occupancy.

After the house was finished, he wrote Sears a letter and said, “It’s a lovely residence and is admired by all the country around…I am highly pleased.”

Through the years, I’ve interviewed several people who built their own homes, and one consistent theme I’ve heard is this:  The Mr. Davisons of the world would often tell their children, “This is our home now. My home, and your home, and long after we’re gone, this house will still be here. It’s a good house, and I built it myself. When I’m gone, this house will be yours. Tell your children that their grandfather built this home for you, and for them.”

But something happened to Mr. Davison’s dream house along the way. We know that Mr. Davison had the house finished by 1914 (when his testimony appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog), but we don’t know how long he lived there. Mr. Davison died in Los Angeles in 1941 (age 63).

Recently on Facebook, Sandy Fowler Maness posted a picture of a Sears Modern Home #113, and I found Mr. Davison’s testimonial in the 1914 catalog. I’m saddened to report that it’s a troubling picture, for Mr. Davison’s home is now in collapse.

Scroll on down for the pictures, but be forewarned, the house is in pitiable condition.

If Mr. Davison could see his house now, the house that was built with such care and forethought, I wonder what he’d say.

To read more about the “homes built with love,” click here.

Many thanks to Dixie Dill for granting permission to use her photo, and thanks to historian and writer Marilyn Smith for finding this house!

Thanks also to Sandy Fowler Maness for sharing this information.

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House

Modern Home #113 was mighty popular for a house that was so short-lived. It was offered from 1912-1915.

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Virgils house arrived from the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with buillinger materials.

Mr. Davison's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar containing about 12,000 pieces. Loaded with much care and forethought, these massive boxcars were packed to the ceiling with building materials. Most likely, the building materials were shipped from a massive Sears mill in Cairo, Illinois.

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House

After the house was finished, Sears asked homeowners to send a snapshot of their new home, together with a short testimonial. Here's Mr. Davison's testimonial. It tells quite a story (1914 catalog).

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Others

S. B. Walters of Uniontown also built a #113.

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House

At 2,200 square feet, it was quite spacious for its time.

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FP2

The indoor plumbing was also progressive for the early 1910s. In Sears first catalog (1908), about half of the houses were offered with indoor bathrooms.

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Jpse

We can only hope that the houses in Dwight, IL, Springfield, MA, Dunbar, and Harrisburg, PA are in good condition.

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House house

It was a fine-looking house with two porches. And lots of windows.

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Serfe

Sadly, today, Mr. Davison's 100-year-old house in Elkland is on the cusp of collapse. In 1914, Mr. Davison described it as being "in an open prairie" and it still sits out in the country, about one mile west of the Elkland Post Office. Photo is copyright 2015 Dixie Dill and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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House

It does sadden me to think about how Mr. Davison's dream home started with such promise.

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To read more about the “homes built with love,” click here.

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Aladdin Kit Homes - Build Your Own

May 5th, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

No

No profound and loquacious blogs today: Just a very cool advertisement from 1915.

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But whats really interesting is when you zoom in a bit on the prices.

But what's really interesting is when you zoom in a bit on the prices.

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And zoom in just a bit more...

And zoom in just a bit more...

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To read about the Aladdin Carnation (shown above on the left), click here.

To learn more about the Aladdins in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

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The Brentwood: A Home of Impressive Beauty (1952)

April 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Many times, I’ve written a note to someone to tell them that they’re living in an Aladdin Kit Home, and invariably, when they right back they’ll say, “I’m so excited to find out that I have a Sears House!”

In fact, I’d say that this happens 80% of the time.

Aladdin kit homes are not Sears kit homes. These are two different companies.

Sears gets all the press, but there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level and Sears was neither the biggest, nor the longest lived. Sears started selling homes in 1908 and was gone by 1940. Conversely, Aladdin issued their first catalog in 1906 and closed their doors in 1981. During their 32 years in the business, Sears sold about 70,000 homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes.

When I wrote my first article about kit homes in early 2000, many folks had never even heard of Sears Homes, so perhaps in time, people will come to appreciate (and know about) Aladdin. From an architectural standpoint, it’s a more interesting company, just because of the variety of housing styles offered through the decades.

And many thanks to Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for finding the beauty featured below! You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

To learn more about identify kit homes, click here.

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The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1952 catalog.

The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1951 catalog.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company.

Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company (1951 catalog).

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Picture

Close-up of the picture from the page above. The text explains why it's simple to build with the Readi-cut system. I was hoping that those are Aladdin houses in the background, but I don't think they are.

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Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), one man can now do the work of six!

Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), and a central site for pre-cutting all the framing lumber, one man can now do the work of six!

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The Brentwood was a dandy house.

The Brentwood was a dandy house with four floor plans with some variation.

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FP1

Floorplan one is the only house with a fireplace.

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FP21

Floorplan two is down to two bedrooms, but has a bigger kitchen/DR.

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FP3

Floorplan 2 and 3 have the same layout, but 3 is a smaller footrpint.

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FP4

Floorplan 3 and 4 are the same footprint, but with three bedrooms carved into the small space.

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FP4

This appears to be Floorplan #1, as it has a fireplace and a planter under that bedroom window. Apparently, the houses in this subdivision have tremendous water pressure. The guy with the house is being pushed backwards.

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Then again, he also looks like Americas first metrosexual.

Then again, he also looks like America's first metrosexual.

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Thie

Located in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Ranch is a perfect match to the catalog image. My favorite feature is that over sized, dramatic fireplace (which appears to have several flues). Photo is copyright 2015 Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

What a house!

What a house!

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You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611: Unusually Well Planned

April 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

These last few months, I’ve been doing a proper survey of kit homes in Hampton, Virginia. I went out yesterday to check one last section one last time (which I’ve now visited twice), when this handsome bungalow jumped out of the bushes and called my name.

This Gordon Van Tine Model #611 is on a main drag (300-block of North Mallory) which leaves me scratching my head. How did I miss it?

That will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe, together with, where did I put my husband’s truck keys.

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

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

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What a house!

Notice how the porch roof sits within the primary roof. Interesting feature.

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Oh yeah, baby! :D

Sadly, some vinyl siding salesman has pillaged the house, but other than that, it's a nice match. The railings have been replaced, but that's a relatively minor affair.

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Good match on this side, too!

Good match on this side, too!

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So

And did I mention it's on the main drag? :)

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

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Let’s Go to Buckroe! (Hampton, Virginia)

March 16th, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Last week, my friend Cynthia (a fellow old-house lover!) drove me around Hampton, Virginia searching for kit homes from the early 20th Century. We had a wonderful morning and a lot of fun, but after 3-1/2 hours, I was worn out!

We visited several early 1900s neighborhoods, but found nothing remarkable, and then we went to the Buckroe area. (Having been raised in Hampton Roads, I remember a little ditty from a radio advertisement: “Let’s go to Buckroe!” Advertising must be a powerful medium because I haven’t heard that jingle in 40 years, but still remember it clearly. And yet I couldn’t find it on youtube or google. Strange.)

I’d been through the Buckroe section before, but apparently, I’d missed the sweet spots. With Cynthia’s help, I found a surfeit of Sears Homes I’d never seen before.

Check out the photos below for a real treat, and if you know anyone who loves old Hampton, please send them a link to this blog! :)

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In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and published by Susan Miller.

In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. I'm not sure what happened to Buckroe, but the area by the beach is now open field. I'm told that Buckroe Amusement Park was closed in 1985 and torn down in 1991. What a pity. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and is copyright Susan Miller.

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To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, visit Susan’s website here. Lots of wonderful pictures.

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While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look.

While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look. Note the three windows down the side? That caught my eye, as did the cut-out shuters.

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Oh my stars, its a Sears Claremont!  (1928)

Oh my stars, it's a Sears Claremont! (1928)

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Such a pretty little thing.

Such a pretty little thing. And other than the door, it's perfect!

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I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, theyre original too!

I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, they're original too! As are the Cypress shakes on the exterior.

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Cute, isnt it? And such a nice match.

Cute, isn't it? And such a nice match.

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fefe

Less than a block away on Seaboard, this Lewiston was just waiting to be discovered. That's the car window in the upper right of the frame. Oopsie.

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The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

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Its a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

It's a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

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fefe

Aladdin was a company which, like Sears, sold entire kit homes through mail-order.

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This is an Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable.

Just around the corner on Atlantic Avenue, I found this Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable. Due to the trees, you can't see the side, but that little bumpout is present on the far right of the home (just as it should be).

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assess

Here's a close-up of the Aladdin Madison from the 1931 catalog.

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Heres a photo from the Hampton Assessors website.

Here's a photo from the Hampton Assessor's website. In this photo, you can see that bump-out on the side, and also see how that front gable started life as an arched entry.

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Last but not least is the Fullerton. Id found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

Last but not least is the Fullerton. I'd found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

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What a nice match!

What a nice match, right down to the flared columns!

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To see an earlier blog I did on the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, click here.

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Wardway #166: A Most Unusual Combination of Values

December 8th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last month, I traveled to Oklahoma to visit Rachel Shoemaker, and we had a lovely couple days together.

Rachel drove me out to Chelsea (down historic Route 66), where we saw a picture-perfect Sears Saratoga. Next stop was just around the corner, where Rachel showed me a Wardway #166, a model I’ve never seen before!

And honestly, it’s a model I would have missed if I’d been on my own! It was offered only a handful of years in the mid-1910s Wardway catalogs.

And perhaps best of all, the interior of this house is in stunningly original condition, replete with solid oak woodwork, original light fixtures, windows and doors.

Many thanks to Rachel for finding this gem, and also for taking the photos!

To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

To read more about Wardway, click here.

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This Wardway Home #166 was only offered for a handful of years.

This Wardway Home #166 was only offered for a handful of years (1915 catalog).

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House

I love the "liner notes" on this house, especially the last line.

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Floor plan

What's the difference between a "verandah" and a porch? A "chamber" and a bedroom? I'm not sure. I would guess that a verandah is an open area, like a patio, and yet the verandah on the #166 is covered, not open.

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House

This bungalows is unusually spacious on the 2nd floor.

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House

Modern Home #166 is a real beauty, but the model in Chelsea, Oklahoma is the only one I've ever seen.

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Wardway House

This is one of the first pictures I've taken with my new TV-phone. Unfortunately, we were looking right into the sun, but it does show what a nice match this is to the catalog image.

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The homes exterior was stunning, but the inside was even more enchanting.

The home's exterior was stunning, but the inside was even more enchanting. Inside, we found that all the oak trim was original (and beautiful), and unpainted. The fireplace is made with glazed block. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. This means you.

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Living room

If you're a lover of solid oak trim, this house will make you swoon. Throughout the house, the quarter-sawn oak trim is unpainted, original and has a stunning patina. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Light fixture

Even the light fixtures are original. BTW, I'm sure there is a specific name for this type of fixture (at the junction of two beams), but I don't know what it is. If you do, pleave leave a comment below? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining Room or parlor

And yes, those pocket doors are also solid oak. (View into the parlor.) Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Bow swar

Leaded-glass windows abound, and are in flawless condition. Let's pause and say a little prayer that the home's next owner doesn't rip these out in favor of some shiny new plastic crap windows. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Living

Standing in the living room, looking toward the dining room. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Check out those bookcase colonnades in the dining room. Oh me, oh my. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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ffff

Will the new owner have the sense to preserve these old fixtures? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Hallway shot

Standing in the front hallway, looking toward the stairs. This staircase was captivating. It looks like a traditional staircase, and yet there's a door that swings closed on the third stair. And check out that newel post. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of that stunning staircase balustrade.

A better view of the stunning staircase balustrade. Those shallow blocks at the top of each spindle give it a real prairie-style look, and add to its majesty and elegance. I was captivated by this design. I may be in love with this house. Actually, I think I am. The design of these little bonus architectural elements is so simple, and yet also beautiful. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Staircase

Another view of that balustrade. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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usptars

There are some houses that "only a mother could love," but this house really is a shining jewel. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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upstairs

A peek into the upstairs bedroom (on the home's front). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Better view

Close-up on those windows (looking out at the street). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Original windows (and hardware) on the side of the house (2nd floor). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Bathroom

And even the bathroom is in vintage condition! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of bathroom floor tile.

I suppose I could have picked up that bit of debris on the floor, but still, it's a great shot of that floor tile, isn't it? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even the bathroom has beautiful windows!

Even the bathroom has beautiful windows and original cabinetry. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are also original. The floor is not. :) In the 1980s, I lived in a house in Portsmouth, Virginia with that same floor tile. That's an old floor! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Beautifl hardware

Close-up of the beautiful drawer pulls. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Exterior

I thought traveling to Oklahoma in November would keep me safe from the snow. I was wrong. Nonetheless, made for a nice picture of the home's exterior. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a house!

Oh little brick bungalow, you really do have a "most unusual combination of values." I do love you so! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

To read more about Wardway, click here.

Why I Love Ferguson, Missouri

October 5th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

In Fall 2002, I was broke, depressed, lonely and very worried about the future. Months earlier, my beloved mother had died unexpectedly and my marriage of 24 years had ended in divorce.

Those were tough times.

I had one thing going for me: My newly published book, The Houses That Sears Built.

Working 100-hour weeks, I did nothing but promote that book and send out free copies to local media outlets. I slept and I worked. There wasn’t time or money for anything else.

If the book didn’t start selling fast, I’d have to do something I dreaded: Get a real job, and jobs in Alton, Illinois were tough to find.

Sometime in late 2002, I drove around Ferguson, Missouri and found a few Sears Homes. I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten how it unfolded from there, but I hooked up with a local architect and history lover named Alan. He put me in touch with a couple folks from the city of Ferguson. In time, I was hired to do a survey of the kit homes in the city of Ferguson.

Alan drove me around to the different neighborhoods and it was great fun. Most of what I knew about architecture came from reading books. Alan graciously answered my many simple questions about architecture. I will always remember his kindness and patience.

After I’d identified a few kit homes,  the city had a lovely ceremony, and each Sears Home owner was presented with a beautiful plaque. I was invited to be part of the presentation ceremony.

It was a lovely memory for so many different reasons.

First and foremost, the folks in Ferguson - homeowners, Alan the Architect, city officials and employees  - showed me so much kindness and respect.

Secondly, this was my rubicon.

My divorce had been heart-breaking, but this experience in Ferguson showed me that my work had value and my life had purpose, and that there were people in the world who shared my passion for these old houses.

Some time later, the kit homes in Ferguson were featured on “Show Me St. Louis” (a popular TV show),  and that also warmed the cockles of my heart, and gave me new hope that I could make a career out of this vocation.

In subsequent years, my book and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, MSNBC, NPR, BBC Radio, and many more. I’ve traveled to 25 states doing surveys and giving talks.

But it all started with the grace and kindess of the many fine folks in Ferguson.

That’s why I love Ferguson so much.

BTW, if you know the addresses of these homes or even street names, please send me a note or leave a comment.  When I did this survey, I didn’t know much about the other kit home companies. I’d love to come back and do a more thorough survey.

Lastly, these images are from 12-year-old slides. The colors are off and the images are grainy.

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One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in St. Louis is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country, and these were only placed in areas where sales had been strong. And once a Modern Homes sales center opened, sales were even stronger!

One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in the St. Louis area is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country.

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And in the early 30s,

Sears only placed these "Sales Centers" in communities where sales were strong.

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Ferguson

Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Ferguson

I remember the homeowner here was just THRILLED to learn she had a Sears House!

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Leanon

The Lebanon was a popular house for Sears (1921 catalog).

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Lebanon

Lovely Lebanon in Ferguson. Notice the placement of the door next to the one window.

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Marina

Sears Marina (1916)

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Marina

A perfect Marina in Ferguson.

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Lex

The Sears Lexington was one of their biggest and most expensive homes.

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Lexington

Initially, I'd missed this stately Lexington hiding behind the hedge, but this IS a Lexington!

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compare

Nice comparison of the Lexington entryway. Although it's somewhat obscured, you can see the fan light in the 1928 image. The details on the porch are spot on!

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Ferguson

Sears Barrington (1928).

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Pattern book

Although I initially identified this as a Barrington, I'm starting to wonder if it is a pattern book house. These many years later, I do not remember if we went inside this house.

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Gordon Van Tine

In addition to Sears Homes, I also found a Gordon Van Tine home in Ferguson.

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GVT

Very distinctive house!

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Ferguson House

The porch has been enclosed, but this is a lovely GVT #605 in Ferguson.

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Spent years

I have spent many years trying to identify this house. I've yet to find it in any pattern books, kit house catalogs or magazines. But hey - it's only been 12 years. I'm still looking!

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

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

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Marguerite’s Beautiful and Beloved #124

February 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last year, Sears homeowner Marguerite Deppert saw my blogs (here and here) on Sears Modern Home #124 and sent me several wonderful photos of her own home, which she had recently purchased in Montvale, NJ.

It’s a real beauty and in gorgeous condition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Montvale has many Sears Homes, due in part to the fact that they’re less than 30 miles from Port Newark, where Sears had a large mill. (Sears had but two mills - one in Cairo, IL and one in Newark, NJ.)

Thanks so much to Marguerite Deppert for sharing these photos with me! I’ve been drooling over them all morning!

To see a wide variety of pictures of Sears Modern Home 124, click here.

Did you know there’s a #124 in Lincolnton, Georgia? Click here to see that.

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Number 124 was gone by 1918 (when Sears Homes were given names), but it seemed to be a fairly popular house. Its certainly distinctive!

Sears Modern Home #124 was gone from the catalogs by 1918 (when Sears Homes were given names), but it seemed to be a fairly popular house. It's certainly distinctive! (1916)

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Marguerites house was even mentioned in the 1916 catalog!

Marguerite's house was even mentioned in the 1916 catalog!

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Spaciosu floor plan.

Some of the older homes have rather "odd" floorplans, but #124 was quite sensible.

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SA

Years ago, Rebecca Hunter and I toured the inside of the #124 in Crystal Lake, IL and that little bathroom shown above was really tucked away under that sloping roof. Interesting, but almost claustrophobic.

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Nice house, and a darn good price!

Nice house, and a darn good price!

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Oh my, what a house!

Oh my, what a house! Even the detail around the chimneys is a match to the vintage image! (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Wow.

The rock border on the driveway is a nice complement to the stone columns. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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phoo

A view from the side highlights that beautiful stone work on the chimney. The two chimneys are covered with stone to the roofline, and then above the roofline, they're brick. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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close up

Close up of those unique details on the front porch. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house

What a fine-looking house. What a treasure for Montvale. And I suspect Marguerite is one of the happiest homeowners in America! (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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details

Look at those wee tiny second-floor windows tucked up under that porch roof. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

What a beautiful house!

What a beautiful house! Just stunning. (Photo is copyright 2013 Marguerite Deppert and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Thanks again to Marguerite for sharing these wonderful photos!

To see a wide variety of pictures of Sears Modern Home 124, click here.

Did you know there’s a #124 in Lincolnton, Georgia? Click here to see that.

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Thou Shalt Not Steal, Part II

January 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 9 comments

Who owns this pre-1923 image from an old Sears catalog?

Who owns this photo?

Shown above is a Wizard block-making machine. These were hugely popular for Sears and now they're in great demand as collectors' items. Apparently, they were well made and worked as promised. All for a mere $57.50!

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I sure don’t want my wonderful fun-laden website to turn into an on-going tutorial on copyright issues, but several times in the last few years, people have asked me, “Isn’t an image from an old catalog the property of the creator of that catalog?”

With the blog I published on January 29th, that question has arisen again.

With a caveat that the following is *my* understanding of the vagaries and complexities of intellectual property as it relates to pre-1923 images, I’ll give this a shot, but bear in mind…

I am just a lowly writer. My husband is the smarty-pants lawyer, but even he is reluctant to render an opinion on intellectual property issues because these laws are intricate, complicated and forever changing.

With that in mind, here goes.

The image shown above is pre-1923, which means it is in the public domain (and therefore, no longer has copyright protection). The image originally appeared in a 1910s Sears Concrete Block catalog. After scanning the image, I also cleaned it up a bit, cropping it down and removing spots and crease marks.

Practically speaking, anyone who knows how to use “copy and paste” can lift that image from my site and run with it (as many people have). However, there needs to be some consideration as to what was involved in my acquiring that image.

1)  Research. How many people even know that Sears offered these block-making machines? How many people are aware that Sears had a specialty catalog devoted to block-making?

2) Expense. Through the years, I’ve spent countless thousands of dollars on research materials and old catalogs. And the expense of acquiring these materials doesn’t even touch on the time I’ve spent on the road, giving lectures and listening to people’s stories after the lectures. Because of this, I’ve learned so much from people of all ages, throughout the country. Such education is invaluable and irreplaceable, but it does not come cheap.

3)  Time. I don’t have the emotional courage to add up how many hours I’ve spent researching architectural history, but I’ve written six books on this topic and that alone has required thousands of hours. And scanning a 100+page catalog can take HOURS.

4)  Expertise, which, honestly, combines all of the above.

And then there’s the labor involved.

In most cases, the process of scanning a 90-year-old catalog destroys the binding. You’re left with an abundance of brittle pages that must be stored in an acid-free envelope or folder. And after the scanning is done, there’s the long, slow process of cleaning up each and every image.

Back to my original question: Who owns the image?

The following comes from Wikipedia:

In Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. (1999), the New York District Court held that “a photograph which is no more than a copy of a work of another as exact as science and technology permits lacks originality. That is not to say that such a feat is trivial, simply not original”.

In spite of the effort and labor involved in creating professional-quality slides from the original works of art, the Court held that copyright did not subsist as they were simply slavish copies of the works of art represented.

Although that case related to photographs rather than scans, it would be reasonable to say that by analogy the US courts would not grant copyright to a scan which has been enhanced - even manually - with a view to creating an image which is as similar as possible to the original.

Where the enhancement has gone beyond that, for example in bringing out selected details or colors not easily visible in the original, Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. may be less persuasive, and such cases should be considered on their own facts.

Seems that even for the courts, these are murky waters.

From my reading of Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., the act of scanning does not in and of itself constitute the creation of a “new” image that can be protected by copyright (which does not bode well for all the poor saps who scan pre-1923 catalogs and sell the CDs on eBay).

Conversely, when it comes to my contemporay photographs, those are most certainly protected by modern copyright laws.

However, even if my “scanned and enhanced pre-1923 images” are not protected by copyright laws (and it appears they may not be), the fact remains that from a literary standpoint, the ethical and professional thing to do is to give attribution and credit when materials are taken from another source.

And as Rachel has pointed out, it’s also the smart thing to do. This website gets 1,200+ visitors every day. Sharing some “Link love” is a sure-fire way to boost visitors at your own website.

In conclusion, if you wish to use any images from my site, please - oh please - just put my name with the image. Something like, “This image is used courtesy Rosemary Thornton,” or, “Image is courtesy searshomes.org.”

It’s just the right thing to do.

And now, back to happy things.

To read about my beautiful “Atomic Kitchen,” click here.

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This is one of the happiest pictures I could find. Its my brother Eddie, licking the beaters after Mother had made some wonderful dessert.

This is one of the happiest pictures I could find. It's my brother Eddie, licking the beaters after Mother had made some wonderful dessert (about 1958). He stands in front of our home's fine-looking metal cabinets that were in our 1925 Colonial Revival house in Portsmouth. Check out the round handles on the cabinet's front. And to the left is a top-loading portable dishwasher, which we used to store dishes. It had a glass top, and some plumber told Mother that if she ever hooked it up to the sink, our entire plumbing system would explode and we'd have to have new lines installed, all the way from the city reservoir system to our sink. Or something like that. One night, when my parents went out, my brothers hooked up the dishwasher and let it run through a cycle. We were all relieved and pleased when nothing exploded. Lastly, check out Eddie's flannel-lined pants. So very cool!

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Another happy picture is me,

Here's a happy picture of moi, studying the intricacies of our beautiful wooden staircase (just out of view). I always loved that staircase with its solid walnut banister, terminating with a winding volute. I spent my hours wondering how it was all assembled. Mother is jiggling the crib in an effort to distract me (about 1960). To this day, a soft jiggle is still thoroughly distracting.

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To read about Frank’s beautiful Strathmore in Waldwick, NJ, click here.

Interested in the Sears Wizard? Click here!

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Bob Beckel’s Christmas Crescent

December 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Friday night, Milton and I turned on the television and saw “The Five” (talk show on Fox News, with five commentators, including Bob Beckel).  Within 30 seconds, the program showed a picture of Bob Beckel’s house, and I exclaimed to Milton, “Oh my goodness. It’s a Sears Crescent!”

Sure enough, after I got a close look, I saw it was a Christmas Crescent.

What is a Sears house? Sears homes were 12,000-piece kit houses, and each kit came with a a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days. The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.” The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.

Or one television show at a time.  :)

At some point, the classic Crescent windows in Mr. Beckel’s house were discarded and replaced (and that’s a real pity) but the house does have its original cypress clapboards. The small shed dormer was probably added later, but it *might* have been original to the house. There was some usable space on the 2nd floor, and dormers are a frequent addition to the Sears Crescent.

Mr. Beckel, did you know you have a Sears house? If you’re like 90% of Americans, you did NOT know - until now!

To read more about the Sears Crescent, click here.

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Bob Beckels house, all decked out for the holidays.

Bob Beckel's house, all decked out for the holidays. Although it's barely visible in this photo, at the top of the porch's arch, you can see a faint triangle there. This is one of the classic signs of a Sears Crescent.

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Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Judging by the placement of the fireplace, Mr. Beckels house is a

This photo shows that triangle on the porch's peak more clearly. And notice the three large columns on the corners of the porch. All classic Crescent features. And it has its original siding!

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Flippped

The Crescent was offered from 1918-1928. Image above is from the 1928 catalog. Note the unusual windows, the triangle in the porch's peak, and the three columns. That massive porch is its most distinctive feature.

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RaleighThe dormers were original to this Crescent in Raleigh, NC.

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A darling

A darling little Crescent in Wheeling, WV, sitting like a jewel atop the hill.

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One of my favorite Crescents in Bloomington, IL.

One of my favorite Crescents in Bloomington, IL. It still has the original lattice work, as shown in the catalog images. And like Mr. Beckel's house, it has the optional fireplace.

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In 1928

In 1928, the "super-sized Crescent" (as Mr. Beckel has) was a mere $2,195. The larger floorplan is shown in the upper right. The 2nd floor layout is on the lower right.

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This testimonial

Jerome Kelly from an unnamed city really loves his little Crescent.

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To learn more about the Sears Crescent (with interior views), click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

Are there more kit homes in Beckel’s neighborhood of Brookmont? Without a doubt. There was a Sears Modern Homes Sales Center nearby, and these were only placed in communities where sales were already strong. Plus, sales went way up after one of these retail stores was opened in the area.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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