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Posts Tagged ‘precut kits’

A “Country House” in the heart of Augusta, Georgia

July 24th, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

The word Villa literally means, “country house” and it’s also the name of Aladdin’s finest home.

Just like Sears, Aladdin sold kit homes through mail order catalogs. Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and lasted longer. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit house business (1908-1940). Aladdin started earlier (1906) and stayed in the game for 75 years (1981), and sold more than 75,000 homes.

The houses arrived via boxcar, and probably had more than 12,000 pieces and parts! Each kit came with detailed blueprints (designed for novices) and a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together!

As a resident of Virginia, I can happily report that there are more Aladdins in this part of the country than Sears Homes. Proximity is probably part of this. The Midwest is loaded with Sears Homes. Aladdin had mills in  North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Several months ago, someone told me about this Aladdin Villa in Augusta, Georgia. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember who originally provided the tidbit about this Aladdin Villa in Augusta, Georgia. Was it you, Rachel? ) Today I was poking around for a new blog topic and found this older file.

The photos shown below are from Steve Bracci Photography. Click on this link to learn more about this artist’s beautiful work.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Dr. Rebecca Hunter also has a wonderful website here.

And Rachel Shoemaker shares many rare photos of kit homes here.

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The Aladdin Villa was really their biggest and best home (1919).

The Villa was Aladdin's biggest and best home (1919).

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See what I mean about being big?

The home had a front staircase and a servants' staircase (accessible from the ktichen).

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And its also a genuinely beautiful home - even in black and white!

And it's also a genuinely beautiful home - even in black and white!

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Is there a more perfect house anywhere in Augusta?

Is there a more perfect house anywhere in Augusta? And that's not a rhetorical question. This house is breathtaking, and the color is perfect. This looks like a picture postcard. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Oh man.

The landscaping, fence and house create the perfect medley of colors. Mature landscaping and tall shade trees are one of the elements that make older homes so desirable. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Everything about this house is beautiful.

Everything about this house is so very beautiful. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And once you go inside, it only gets better.

And once you go inside, it only gets better. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And better and better.

Inside the home, the colors are equally striking. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Inside

Classic Villa staircase, still elegant after all these years. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And better.

That fireplace doesn't appear to be original, or it might have been an upgrade, but it's a nice fit for this fancy room. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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House

The living room is 16x26 and filled with light. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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Stunning

Can you imagine sunning on this stunning sunporch? If there are houses in heaven, this is the kind of place where I'd like to spend a lot of eternity. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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House

Typically, I'm not a big fan of red wallpaper with red accents, but this really works. The bright white trim and dark floors are the perfect complement. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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What a house.

What a house. Like something out of a dream book. Photo is copyright 2015 Steve Bracci Photography.

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And to think it came from a mail-order catalog!

And to think it came from a mail-order catalog!

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The photos shown above are from Steve Bracci Photography. Click on this link to learn more about this artist’s beautiful work.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Dr. Rebecca Hunter also has a wonderful website here.

And Rachel Shoemaker shares many rare photos of kit homes here.

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More on Jim Walter Homes…

December 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

In the last couple years, I’ve had probably about 20 requests for more information on Jim Walter Homes. As mentioned in a prior blog, the company started doing business in 1946 and ceased in 2009, having sold about 320,000 homes.

That’s a lot of houses.

Last week, Carmen Miller contacted me and asked if there was a way to authenticate a Jim Walter Home. (Carmen was interested because she had recently purchased an alleged Jim Walter Home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.)

I thought and thought about her question, and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

As it turns out, I do some of my best thinking when I’m semi-conscious. Bolting upright about 4:30 this morning, I had my answer: Grantee Records.

Jim Walter Homes (like Sears) offered a really sweet deal on mortgages on their kit homes; easy payments, unusually low downpayments and lower-than-market interest rates. Using Grantee Records (where mortgages are recorded), I could look up “Jim Walter Homes.”

I immediately awakened in-house counsel from his slumbers, who put a damper on my brilliance, and pointed out that I would need trustee names. I replied, “Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to try ‘Jim Walter Homes’ and see what happens.”

I was surprised at how much I found: Four houses within the computerized records in Portsmouth, Virginia!

If you enjoy the following information, you should thank the architecture-loving angel that whispered in my ear at 4:30 am. And thank Carmen, too!  :D

To read more about Jim Walter Homes, click here.

Thanks to Bill Inge for providing some super-fast research on a couple names!

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house house

The map book (showing a physical address for this site) is housed in Norfolk County (see red arrow) which is in Chesapeake, about 45 minutes away from downtown Portsmouth. Using the legal description and some help from my friend Milton, we figured out where this house is located. The trustees names are given as W. S. Sullivan and R. E. Kane, but the deed was found by searching for "Jim Walter Homes." At the top, this document references a "deed of satisfaction," showing that the mortgage has been paid in full. Notice the letterhead.

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Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above.

Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above. It was built in 1974, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this model in my 1972 catalog. It's endured some remodeling. Who knows what it looked like 40 years ago.

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Honestly, Im not sure what this document is, but I suspect its a cover letter for legal documents. Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouths land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

This appears to be nothing more than a cover letter for legal documents (which I did not find). Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouth's land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

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This one, I was able to identify.

I was able to identify this house on Highland Avenue. Construction started in 1988.

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Its The Oxford.

It's "The Oxford."

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Highland

Fancy name; simple house.

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match

According to city records, the house on Highland Avenue is 24 by 38 (912 square feet).

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Last

This also shows a trustee name of Robert E. Kane (for JW Homes). On another note, I can not make out the owner's last name. Is it Lyttle?

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And heres the little JW house that the Lyttles bought.

And here's the little JW house that the Lyttle's built on Holladay Street.

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As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And theres one I still cant locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that its located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, Legal description attached, but there was no attachment.

As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And there's one I still can't locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that it's located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, "Legal description attached," but there was no attachment.

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I’m on the hunt for a few more (earlier) catalogs. If you find one, please drop me a note!

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Jim Walter Homes: A Peek Inside the 1971 Catalog

December 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 13 comments

Recently, a fellow history lover (Carmen) sent me a photo of her 1954-built home and said that she’d heard it was a Jim Walters’ Home.

I dragged out my lone Jim Walter Homes catalog (November 1971), and didn’t find a match.

However, I had so much fun looking at the pictures, I decided to scan the catalog and share it here!

In the meantime, I’d love to find a few more Jim Walter catalogs. This Florida-based company sold more than 320,000  houses, which is more than Aladdin, Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Lewis Homes combined.

Jim Walter started his house-building business in 1946 and ceased operations in 2009. I recently purchased “Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story” (written by Alvin Moscow in 1995), and I haven’t read it all, but it’s an interesting book.

According to the book, Jim Walter was 23 when his business began, and in the mid-1980s, it was one of the top-200 largest industrial enterprises in the United States.

In 1961, Jim Walter acquired Celotex, a company that manufactured insulation materials that contained asbestos.

That didn’t end well for anyone.

According to an obit published in the New York Times , Jim Walter Homes employed 530 crews (3-5 men per crew) who would build out your home to any level of completion you wished - from shell to finished home.

At its peak, Jim Walter Homes had 25,000 employees, and annual sales of more than $2 billion.

Despite the connection with Celotex, a spokesperson for Jim Walter Homes affirmed that “asbestos was never used in any  Walter Homes.”

Jim Walter Homes filed for bankruptcy in December 1989, and in 1995, became known as Walter Industries. It closed in 2009.  Jim Walter died in January 2000.

To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

If you enjoyed reading this item, please share it on your Facebook page!

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Photo is from Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so were going to hope that Pineapple Press puts this photo under the broad umbrella

Photo is from "Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story" and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so we're going to hope that the publisher (Pineapple Press) puts this photo under the broad umbrella of Fair Use, which includes "quotation of excerpts in a review of criticism for purposes of illustration or comment" (from the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S., Library of Congress). Does this mean I need to write a short review of the book ? Haven't read it cover to cover, but it looks like a swell book. Does that count? :)

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Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

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Jim

I'm such a sap for history. I wonder what this building is used for now?

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The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers.

The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers. BTW, that 170,000 is of 1971. Does that mean they doubled their sales numbers by 2009? Hmmm...that's a little hard to believe. It's plausible, I suppose.

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Are you enjoying these photos? I am!

Men work. Women pick out swaths of fabric! Oh dear! I'm not sure what Missy is doing on the floor. Check out the text. "Your new home...will not be prefabricated in any way. Each board is cut to fit, one by one, on your building site." That's a puzzler, isn't it? I would have thought this lumber *was* precut!

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Jim

And I thought identifying the Sears bungalows in an early 1900s neighborhood was tough? Oh man! These houses are quite "simple" (to put it gently).

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Simple, but an affordable way to have three-bedrooms and a home of your own.

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F

Straight-forward design and a mere 760 square feet.

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wfe

The "Biscayne" kinda looks like the 1970s version of the cheapest way to cover air.

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House

"Can you imagine the overwhelming joy of your family?" The kid in the corner looks pretty morose, but the old man looks content. This photo is a bit creepy.

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This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog.

This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog, and it's a mere 1,142 square feet.

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Jim

The names are fancier than the houses.

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fefe

Hollywood? Is this the kind of house that Jolie Whats-her-name would buy?

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I'd have named the 2nd house: "Rebel without a flaws." Grammatically messy, but cute.

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Jim

Have you noticed that the front door on each of these houses has a small diamond window?

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This house got a full-page spread.

The Oxford (description below) got a full-page spread.

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fefe

Should someone tell Mom that she's wasting water, and probably aggravating the living daylights out of Dad? Notice that the house is described as "Colonial Style"? I guess it's the coach light by the front door that does it.

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ff

Is "The Rambler" prone to run away in the wee hours? Or does it talk excessively? Or is it the size of the house? It's hard to say that a 760-square foot house is a "rambler."

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iiiii

If you're old, you'll like this house.

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yyy

"Just plain good living...is what this plan has to offer."

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This one actually has a little bit of flair.

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Pu

Were Comanches known for their big families? The word for Comanche comes from the Ute word, kɨmantsi (enemy). What were they trying to tell us about this house?

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They look quite European.

They appear to be of European descent. Mother's right hand is disfigured. Apparently, she hides the left hand in the pocket of her atomic housecoat when photos are taken, as it's the more seriously disfigured appendage. Dad graciously tries to look in the other direction.

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house

It does have a little more "flair" than the other JW homes. Still only one bathroom, though.

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Carmine recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I cant say that I do.

Carmen recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I can't say that I do.

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To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

Do you have a Jim Walter catalog you’d love to give me for a Christmas present? Please leave a comment below!  :D

Read about The Little Tower House by clicking here.

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Wardway #166: A Most Unusual Combination of Values

December 8th, 2014 Sears Homes 5 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.

Oh My Stars, It’s a Stone Ridge!

November 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Anyone who’s ever ridden in a car with me knows that there’s an ever-present hazard: In the midst of conversation, I may go completely silent, close my eyes for a second or two, and then I utter those eleven words that all my friends dread:

“Can we turn the car around? I think I saw something.”

And my friends know that “I think I saw something” is code for, “I just saw a kit house I have never ever seen before and we have to turn this car around right now or I will be not be able to utter a coherent sentence for the next two hours because all available processing power will go to thinking about that house we just passed.”

It happened last week. Milton and I were driving on Granby Street, on our way to Mary Pretlow Public Library (in Ocean View). We were chatting away when an old house caught my attention.

In mid-sentence, I stopped talking and spun my head around to look at the house.

Politely and calmly, Milton asked, “What did you see?”

“A Stone Ridge,” I replied with great excitement. “I can’t believe it. I’ve been looking for this house for years and years, and I’ve been driving right past it all this time.”

We pulled over to the curb while Milton snapped a few quick pictures with his handy-dandy cell phone.

Later that evening, sitting in the blissfully quiet library, I closed my eyes and called up the original catalog image from the recesses of my mind, and then compared it to the house we’d seen on Granby Street. After comparing the two images, I became more confident that the house on Granby was indeed, The Stone Ridge, from Sears.

I’m starting to think Milton is my Good Luck House-Hunting Charm. Last March when we were riding in his truck, I discovered another grand Sears House, The Martha Washington, also in Norfolk!

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The Stone Ridge, from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Stone Ridge, from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Floor plan spacious

The Stone Ridge was a pretty fance house, with plenty of closet space. The house on Granby does not have the optional fireplace. I wonder if it has the optional grand piano?

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Text 1921

"Here is a large comfortable house that will identify its owner as a person of good taste." And what happens if you sell the house? Do you lose your classy identity and become a person of poor tastes?

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1921 house

Beautiful house, and I love the river rock.

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oh baby

Be still my quivering heart! Fortunately, 90 years later, it still retains its original siding, windows, fine lines and elegance. If you could peak behind that tall tree on the right corner, you'd see the small bump-out (for the bedroom). The house on Granby is a spot-on match to the Sears "Stone Ridge" with two iddy-biddy differences. The Norfolk house does not have the dormers or the fireplace chimney. It's possible that the house was built *with* those small dormers, but they may have been removed during a roofing job. Or it's possible the house was built sans dormers.

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What a house

Saturday afternoon, I ran into my friend Bill Inge at the Mary Pretlow Library. He said, "I saw you standing in the middle of Granby Street, taking pictures of that old house." After I thought about it a minute, I asked him, "How did you know it was me?" He said, "Because I realized that you were the only person I knew that'd be standing in the middle of a busy road, snapping photos of an old bungalow."

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Detail

Look at the detail in this front gable. God bless the owners for leaving the house original.

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details

Looks just like it did in 1921!

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compare

The side-by-side comparison of the two images is stunning.

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house

And as a nice bonus, there's a Sears Argyle on the same block! (1919 catalog)

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bonus

And it's a fine-looking home, too!

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Oh

And a final thought, this fine home survived the Hurricane of 1933 which was a horrific storm. Many houses in Ocean View were destroyed by that storm. Let's see if this house will survive the vinyl siding salesman!

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To read more about the Sears Homes in Norfolk, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

William & Mary College and Kit Homes

October 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 12 comments

Recently, I was on the William and Mary College campus doing research on Penniman, Virginia. (You can read more about that here.)

As part of the research, I was reading through the early 1920s college yearbooks and happened upon an interesting photo in the 1922 yearbook, “The Colonial Echo.” It was a picture of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity fellows, seated in front of their fraternity house, an Aladdin Colonial.

How apropos, I thought to myself! What else would you buy for a college campus in a famous colonial town, but THE Colonial?

For first-time visitors to this site, Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears), sold entire kit houses through mail order catalogs in the early 20th Century. Each kit came with 10,000-12,000 pieces of house, and included a detailed instruction book, designed for the novice homebuilder.

Update: Andrew Mutch has found the house, but it’s not happy news.

Our Aladdin Colonial, aka “The Clark House” (located on Jamestown Avenue) was demolished in 2004.

A press release put out by the college in 2004 said the house was built in 1911 and had been deemed “physically unsound” ten years prior (1994).

Ding, ding, ding, nice try and thanks for playing.

The Colonial first appeared in the 1915 “Aladdin Houses” catalog for a price of $1,980, but the Colonial on the W&M campus was built in 1920 or 1921 (based on info gleaned from the college yearbooks). This means the 1911 date is quite a boo boo.

As to the “physically unsound” part, I have serious reservations about that, too.

It’s a good thing they got rid of that early 20th Century kit home with all that first-growth southern yellow pine from virgin forests, and those oily old cypress clapboards.

Not.

This was an egregious waste of America’s irreplaceable and most-precious resources. Approximately 30% of all waste found in landfills is construction debris. Doesn’t make much sense to fill a campus with recycling receptacles for paper, plastic and aluminum if you’re going to send 350,000 pounds of architectural history to the landfill.

Images of the 1922 William and Mary “Echo” came from www.archive.org.  If you have several hours to kill, I highly recommend their site!

And - again - many thanks to Rachel for finding these high-resolution images at archive.org!

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Words

While looking through the 1922 "Colonial Echo," I found a most interesting picture!

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Words

The full page from the 1922 "Echo" shows the Theta Delta Chi gang, seated in front of their freshly built Aladdin Colonial! Wouldn't it be interesting to know if these fellows assembled that Aladdin kit house on their own!

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What a beautiful

What a beautiful house! The Colonial was first offered in 1915. The image above is from the 1922 "Colonial Echo," so it's possible that the house was newly built (which may be why it merited its own photograph). I wonder how long it was used as the house for Theta Delta Chi?

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The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.

The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.

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Heres an Aladdin Colonial in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Colonial in Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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Rachel

Rachel Shoemaker, researcher extraordinaire, found this picture (also at archive.org) of the Theta Delta Chi boys gathered around the front porch of their newly built Aladdin Colonial in 1921 (from "The Colonial Echo" 1921). In prior years, the frat boys were photographed in front of a different (older) house. I would love to know - did these guys BUILD this house? What a pity that W&M saw fit to destroy this house in 2004. An aside, with 15 minutes of searching the yearbooks, Rachel figured out that this house was built in 1920 or 1921.

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In addition to the

In addition to the Aladdin Colonial shown above, Williamsburg also has a Sears kit home, "The Oak Park" (shown above). (Vintage image is from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.)

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And just down the street is this Wardway Mayflower. How appropos!

And just down the street is this Wardway "Mayflower." How apropos!

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To learn more about kit homes, click here.

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The Sears Elmhurst, Part II

October 11th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Recently, Rachel Shoemaker was looking through a Sears Modern Homes catalog (1930) when she discovered a testimonial for a Sears Elmhurst built in Flushing, New York. She then did some extra digging and was able to glean the home’s current address.

In fact, Rachel wrote a blog on her wonderful discovery (click here to see it).

Now, we need someone near Flushing to snap a few photos of this grand and elegant home in Flushing. If you’re near the area, please leave a comment below and I’ll contact you toote suite!

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Testimoniaal

Here's the testimonial that Rachel found in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Zvonecs loved their house

I have a feeling that the Zvanovec's are no longer extending an open invitation to visit their home. Nonetheless, it sounds like they really did love their home, and were very proud of it.

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As Rachel points out in her blog, this must have been one of the first Elmhursts built, because it appeared in the 1929

Close-up of this beautiful Sears Elmhurst in Flushing, NY. Look at the beautiful stone work on the front porch.

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And heres the Elmhurst recently discovered in St. Louis.

And here's the Elmhurst recently discovered in St. Louis.

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An Elmhurst in a Chicago suburb (originally discovered by Rebecca Hunter).

Here's an Elmhurst in a Chicago suburb (originally discovered by Rebecca Hunter). Notice this house has the decorative blocks under the faux half timbering on that front gable. These blocks are missing from the Elmhurst in St. Louis and Flushing, NY. This Elmhurst and the one in Flushing are both brick veneer, whereas the one in St. Louis is solid brick. As mentioned in the prior blog, solid brick is very unusual on a Sears kit home.

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Is this a Sears Elmhurst? I think its likely but Im not certain. This house is in Rocky Mount, NC where I found an abundance of kit homes from both Sears and Aladdin.

Is this a Sears Elmhurst? I think it's likely but I'm not certain. It's in Rocky Mount, NC where I found an abundance of kit homes from both Sears and Aladdin. It's not a spot-on match but it's darn close! This is such an unusual house, I'd be inclined to say it probably is an Elmhurst. Probably. Notice, those decorative blocks are in place under the front gable.

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The Elmhurst was featured in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog and had a two-page spread.

The Elmhurst was "featured" in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog and had a two-page spread, including this colorized image. Notice, the blocks are shown in the catalog image.

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Are you near Flushing? Would you be willing to get some good, high-resolution photos for us?

If so, please leave a comment below!

To read more about the kit homes I found in Rocky Mount, click here.

To read  more about the Elmhurst, click here.

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Inside The Sears Elmhurst (St. Louis)

October 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 18 comments

Several weeks ago, a reader of this blog told me that he owned a Sears Elmhurst in St. Louis, and he was kind enough to send me a few photos. To my surprise and delight, he was right!  It really was an Elmhurst.

Last month, I visited the Elmhurst “in person” and my oh my, what a treat!

The home’s current owners have a deep abiding respect and appreciation for the unique origins of their historic home. In other words, they really love their old Sears House, and have been faithfully researching the history of this beautiful old house, and restoring it, inch by inch.

Thanks so much to the home’s owners who were gracious enough to let me take a tour of their home and share a few photos of its interior!

Elmhurst first appeared in the 1928

The Sears Elmhurst was a classic (and classy) Tudor Revival with a "half-timber effect" on the second story. Inside, it had three bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths. The house in St. Louis is in mostly original condition.

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house floorplan

The living room and dining room were spacious. The kitchen and lavatory were not.

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Cover of the 1932

The cover of the 1932 "Homes of Today" showed this fetching entryway, which is from the Elmhurst. It's kind of a "Twilight Zone" doorway, out of the hubbub of busy city living and into another dimension of peace and joy and "the satisfaction that comes from building your own home" (as Sears promised in their literature).

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house 1930 catalog

In the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the Elmhurst was given a two-page spread.

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house 1930

Even in the simplified line drawings (from the 1930 catalog) the Elmhurst looks quite elegant.

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The Elmhurst in St. Louis is a perfect match to the catalog image. Just perfect.

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house gerst

The St. Louis house is being faithfully restored by its current owners, and it's a real beauty.

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Elmhurst compare

Close-up of that entryway shown on the front cover of the 1932 catalog.

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Mike gerst elmhurst

And a fine side-by-side contrast of the St. Louis Elmhurst (left) and the entryway shown in the catalog.

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house ricin

The 1932 "Homes of Today" Sears Modern Homes catalog showed this view of the Elmhurst built in Ohio.

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house stairs

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is a good match to the black/white image above.

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house house stairs

The "Elmhurst built in Ohio" is shown here on the right, and the Elmhurst in St. Louis in on the left. The details are perfect with two lone exceptions: The front door is hinged different in the St. Louis house, and that decorative "S" is missing from the base of the wrought-iron staircase railing (which looks like it'd be a knee-buster anyway). The flip-flops are missing from the Elmhurst in Ohio.

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house la tosca

La Tosca door hardware was a very popular choice in Sears Homes.

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house house la tosca

The LaTosca door hardware, as seen in the Elmhurst and as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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phone niche

The moldings and trim in this Elmhurst are birch, according to the owner. Based on the research he's done, I'd say he's probably right. The owner is doing a remarkable job of restoring the inherent beauty of all the original wood trim throughout the house. The patina and beauty of the natural wood finish on this phone niche isn't accurately represented by this dark photo. While walking through the house, I couldn't help but to "reach out and touch" the beautiful wood trim. It really is that beautiful.

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house house door

The 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed this view of the front door (interior). Note that the stylistic "S" is missing from the wrought-iron railing in this picture.

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front door stuff

There was a wall that blocked my shooting the door and staircase from the same angle as shown above, but I got pretty close. This house was a one-hour trip from my brother's home in Elsah, IL (where I was staying), but once I saw the inside of this house, I was mighty glad I'd made the effort. In every way that an old house can be truly stunning, this house *was* stunning. It's a real gem in the heart of St. Louis.

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comparison

Comparison showing the 1930 catalog image and the real live house in St. Louis.

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Wall

From this view (near the landing), you get a better idea of the size of the hallway.

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kitchen 1932

The kitchen of the Elmhurst (as shown in the 1932 catalog). This appears to be a photo, and the picture was taken by someone standing with their backside leaning hard against the right rear corner of the house, looking toward the door that opens into the dining room. Notice the La Tosca hardware on the door.

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kitchen today

The Elmhurst's kitchen today, from that dining room door, looking toward the right rear corner. While I'm a big fan of all things old, even I'd agree that the kitchen needed a little bit of updating for the 21st Century.

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Most Sears kit homes had maple floors in the kitchen and bath (underneath tile and other floor coverings). The owners of the Elmhurst tried to restored the maple floor in their kitchen but it was too far gone.

Most Sears kit homes had maple floors in the kitchen and bath (underneath the floor coverings). The owners of the Elmhurst tried to restored the maple floor in their kitchen but these floors were really intended to be used as a subfloor, not a primary floor.

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house inside

The fireplace in the living room has the same square slate tiles as seen on the front porch.

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house hallway upstairs

This over-sized landing window was another lovely feature of the Elmhurst. As seen from the outside, this is the tall dormer window just to the right of the front porch (as seen from the street).

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window staircase

Downstairs looking up at the staircase window.

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house elmhurst

A distinctive feature found in two-story Sears kit homes are these plinth blocks. These square blocks were used to help the novice homebuilder cope with complex joints. The landing of the Elmhurst had three of these plinth blocks on one landing. I do believe that that's the most plinth blocks I've ever seen in one kit house.

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house plinth block

The plinth block at this juncture is actually two-steps tall.

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business card

While doing some work on the home, the owner found this business card inside a wall. I've seen a lot of very cool ephemera in my fun career, but this is one of the best. There were only 40 Sears Modern Homes "Sales Centers" in the country and there was one in St. Louis. Folks could stroll into these storefronts and get a first-hand look at the quality of framing members, millwork, heating equipment and plumbing fixtures. Apparently Miss Manning visited the Sears Modern Homes Sales Center and had some discussion with Marcelle Elton about her new Elmhurst.

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pipe tag pipe tag

The home's current owners found this tag attached to a cast-iron pipe inside the kitchen wall. It shows that the home's purchaser was a "Miss Margaret Manning" of Clayton, Missouri. For those interested in genealogy, I would LOVE to know where Miss Manning lived before she purchased the house in St. Louis and what she did for a living. Lastly, I'd also be interested in knowing how long she lived in this house.

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house pipe tag pipe tag

Close-up of the tab shows a return address of 925 Homan Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois.

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houe exterior house

From all angles, the Elmhurst is quite stunning.

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On the inside, those dormers look like this.

On the inside, those dormers look like this.

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house solid brick

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is an enigma for several reasons. One, this is not a frame house with brick veneer (like every other "brick" Sears kit house I've ever seen). This house is solid brick, and when the owner remodeled the kitchen, he said the exterior walls had furring strips (typical of a solid brick house). And the flashing and original gutters were copper. When built, the house had a tile roof. These are all significant upgrades and probably cost the home's first owner quite a bit extra.

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gerst home

This photo was taken by the home's current owner. You can see a remnant of the tile roof on the ridge of the house. And if you look closely, you can see the copper flashing around the chimney.

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Elmhurst in Chitown

There's another Elmhurst in a Chicago suburb that Rebecca Hunter found. This Elmhurst has concrete sills (as you'd expect to see on a kit house, because it's simpler than laying brick), but the house in St. Louis had *brick* sills.

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house 1930

The Elmhurst was beautiful, but not very popular. It was offered from 1929 to 1932.

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And look what my buddy Rachel found in her 1929 Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes catalog! Its an Elmhurst that was built in Long Island, NY. And Rachel even found the house - as it stands today - in New York!

And look what my buddy Rachel found in her 1929 "Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes" catalog! It's an Elmhurst that was built in Long Island, NY. And Rachel even found the house - as it stands today - in New York! Who wants to get a photo of this house? :)

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Thanks again to the home’s current owners for sharing their Elmhurst with me (and the readers of this blog!). It’s a real treasure.

To read more about Rachel’s discovery in New York, click here.

To join our group of Facebook (”Sears Homes”), click here.

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A Magnolia in Alton, Illinois?! Sort Of!

September 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

About 1999 or so, my [then] husband and I went to an open house in Alton, Illinois where we saw a darling house.

Last month, while I was looking through a 1952 Aladdin Homes catalog, I [re]discovered that darling house! The house my husband and I had toured in 1999 was actually an Aladdin kit house, “The Magnolia.”

In other words, this house - from Aladdin Homes in Bay City Michigan - came from a mail-order catalog and was shipped to the Alton train station in a box car. The house arrived in about 10,000 pieces and came with a detailed instruction book and a promise that an average fellow could have the house assembled in 90 days.

For the next few days, I really struggled to remember where I’d seen that house, and to the best of my recollection, it was not far from our home in Upper Alton (on Pine Street). Memory can be fickle, but I’d bet money that we saw the house on a little cross street not far from Edwards Street.

In 2006, I left Alton and moved to Norfolk, VA (which makes it harder to find kit homes in Southwestern Illinois).

Last week, I was in Alton visiting family and put more than 80 miles on my rental car, criss-crossing the short streets in Upper Alton. I had Garmin set on “slime trail” so that it left a light-blue line on every street that I traversed. (Have I mentioned how much I love my Garmin?)

Despite driving throughout this area many times over a course of several days, I never did find the Aladdin Magnolia. Now I’m starting to wonder if I saw this house in Godfrey (next door to Alton).

This Magnolia would have been built in the early 1950s, and when we saw it in 1999, it looked much like the house shown in this image. In other words, it had not been “remodeled,” so it should be easy to find. I distinctly remember the oversized living room window and the cantilevers under that second-floor balcony. I also remember the scalloped trim on that front gable.

But where is it?

Please leave a comment below if you know this home’s location. And please feel free to share this link with others who might know the answer to my mystery!

Thanks!!

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The cover of the 1952 catalog.

In 1952, sales of Aladdin kit homes were probably booming. Sears was out of the kit-house business and WW2 was over, and our nation came into a time of previously unknown prosperity and growth. (1952 catalog cover)

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Boxcar stacking

One of my favorite images from the 1952 catalog is this line-drawing showing a "phantom box car." The sides of the box car were invisible to showcase the intricate stacking of 10,000 pieces of kit house (1952 catalog).

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Alton has a Magnolia

Alton has a Magnolia, just like this, but where is it?

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Altons Magnolia

Detail of the first floor. It's a small house, but has a half-bath on the first floor.

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Alton FP

The second floor has three small bedrooms and an oddly-shaped bath tub.

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Maggy

Close-up of the Magnolia in Alton. Or is it Godfrey?

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Garmin

Whoever invented the "slime trail" feature of Garmin is my hero. Back in the day, I used maps and highlighters to figure out which streets I'd traversed. This shows the early hours of my search. By the time I left town Sunday night, almost every street in Upper Alton had the blue slime trail.

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Have you seen the Magnolia in Alton? If so, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about my other discoveries in River Bend, click here.

To see pictures of my favorite Alton kit house, click here.

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Staunton, Virginia: More Amazing Finds

May 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

A couple days ago (May 1st),  I returned to Staunton to do a little more research on the kit homes in the city (in preparation for my talk on May 2nd), and this time, I was driven around by Frank Strassler, head of the Historic Staunton Foundation. It’s a lot easier to focus on kit homes when someone else is doing all the driving, and especially when that someone else knows where they’re going!

We found many kit homes that I’d not seen during a prior visit, and the most intriguing find was the four Harris Brothers kit homes we discovered. Frankly, I suspect there are more than four HB houses in Staunton, but I’m not that familiar with this company and, I have very few of their catalogs.

Harris Brothers (formerly the Chicago House Wrecking Company) was based in Chicago, Illinois. How did four Harris Brothers houses end up in Staunton? And three of them were in the same neighborhood (Sears Hill).

Hopefully, some of Staunton’s history loving residents will poke around a bit more, because I’m sure there are many more hidden architectural treasures just waiting to be found.

And, a little aside:   My favorite memory of the lecture on Thursday evening? I asked the crowd (128 attendees!), “Before there was a World War Two, does anyone know what we called World War One?”

To my utter delight and astonishment, a cacophony of voices replied, “The Great War.”

It was sheer bliss to realize that I was surrounded by so many history lovers. In all my travels, there’s typically a lone voice (or less), that correctly answers that question. The people of Staunton really do love their history, and better yet, they know their history, and that’s such a joy to behold.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

OOOH, an update! Read about my newest find in Staunton here!

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First, my favorite find in Staunton.

First, my favorite find in Staunton. Shown above is Modern Home #2028 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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Now thats a big house!

It looks like a massive house, but in fact, it's 22 feet wide and 29 feet deep.

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Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didnt consciously remember having seen this house, and yet...

Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didn't consciously remember having seen this house, and yet, when I got back to my hotel and started going through the old catalogs, I realized it was a perfect match to the Harris Brothers #2028!

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Pretty

And, as a nice bonus, I even managed to snap my one photo from the perfect angle! Though not easily seen in the photo above, the house in Staunton has the two bay windows, just as it should!

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house house house

The other three Harris Brothers homes were in one neighborhood: Sears Hill. Shown above is Modern Home #1017 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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house house

The HB 1017, as seen in 1923.

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house house

And here's the 1017 in Staunton! Look at the unique window arrangement on the home's front. And check out those unique columns, and the bracketing under the eaves. It was tough to get a good photo, but the little attic window is also a spot-on match to the catalog page. The house is 24 feet' wide and 36 feet deep. The dimensions of this house (shown above) seem to be a good match! The line drawings (from the original catalogs) are sometimes a little bit off in scale and proportion.

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If you look down the side, youll see its a good match there, too.

If you look down the side, you'll see it's a good match there, too. BTW, Staunton is very hilly, and I learned that it's tough to get good house photos in hilly neighborhoods! And, the angle skews the proportions. Short of carrying a 20-foot stepladder around on top of the Camry, I'm not sure how to solve this.

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house house

HB # 1025 was another "favorite" find for me, and yet another kit home that I'd never seen before. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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HB # 1025 was another favorite find for me, and yet another kit home that Id never seen before.

HBClose-up of HB #1025. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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bottom

At the lower right of that catalog page (seen above), is an actual photo of a HB #1025. This photo shows off those beautiful six casement windows on the front.

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Be still my heart!!! Heres a real life example

What a fine house! Here's a real life example of HB #1025. And look at those pretty casement windows! Were it not for those original windows, I'm not sure I would have recognized this 90-year-old kit home.

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house house house

Another view of those wonderful old casements. By the way, apparently this house is for sale. Someone should contact the owner and let them know - this is a kit house!

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Close-up of the porch columns.

Close-up of the porch columns. And this house still has its original gutters.

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house house house

HB #1007 was one of their more popular designs, however... It's also a house that has several "twins." Given that Staunton's #1007 is within three houses of the other two HB homes, I'm going to assume that the model in Staunton is indeed from Harris Brothers.

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Nice house, isnt it?

Nice house, isn't it? Love the rocking chairs!

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Stauntons own HB #1017.

Staunton's own HB #1017.

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While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door.

While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door. And it has an unusual window arrangement down the right side (as shown here). This image is from the 1919 catalog.

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The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image.

The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image. Was the house built sans dormer, or was it removed during a roofing job? Hard to know, but I'd guess that it was built this way. And, this house is next door to the big Harris Brothers foursquare (#2028).

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Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton.

Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton (1938 catalog).

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This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton.

This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton. It squeezes three bedrooms into 960 square feet.

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Close-up on the Winona.

A key feature in identifying this very simple house is the small space between those two windows in the gabled bay (dining room).

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What a nice match!

What a nice match!

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And the other side is a good match, too!

And the other side is a good match, too!

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Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr.

Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr. Linkenholer.

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As seen in the 1919 catalog, heres a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope.

As seen in the 1919 catalog, here's a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope. Where's Mr. Linkholer's Stanhope? I'd love to know!

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

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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