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Posts Tagged ‘precut’

The Edison: One of the Prettiest Little Bungalows Ever Built

November 21st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Aladdin Edison must have been a very popular house for Aladdin. It was small (600 square feet), affordable ($750 in 1914) and from an architectural standpoint, a real cutie pie. According  to the 1914 catalog, it was “One of the prettiest little bungalows ever built.”

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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In 1914, it was known as the Denver.

In 1914, it was known as the "Denver."

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There were minor differences

There were minor differences between the floorplan for the Denver (1914) and the Edison (1919).

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Edison

In the 1919 floor plan, the dining room has been moved to the front of the house and a bedroom has been enlarged. The bathroom got a lot smaller though. Good grief - six by eight? You'd have to step into the hallway to change your mind. Oh wait, there is no hallway. And a bedroom lost a closet.

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It wasnt until I started putting this blog together that I realized there were some other differences, too.

It wasn't until I started putting this blog together that I realized there were some other differences, too. The dormer on the Denver (right) is not as high on the roofline as the dormer on the Edison (left). That's a significant difference. The Denver (right) has four small windows across the front. The Edison has two big and two small.

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But

But I'd have to say I like the Edison better. And look at that hammock on the front porch!

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And heres a pretty little bungalow in Norfolk.

And here's a pretty little Edison in Norfolk. Looking good, too! However, it should be very afraid. It's perilously close to Old Dominion University, and colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Will it live to see its 100th birthday?

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It sits next door to this Edison (on 49th Street).

It sits right next door to this Edison (on 49th Street). Will ODU be able to resist gobbling up TWINKIE Edisons? Doubtful. Two little Edisons together - forever. I hope.

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In 1923, this ad appeared in the Ledger Dispatch (Norfolk).

In April 1923, this ad appeared in the Ledger Dispatch newspaper (Norfolk). My new full-time job is reading through hundreds and hundreds of pages of old newspapers, looking for information on Penniman. In the process, I do find some really unexpected and cool stuff, such as this ad. Even in 1923, it was described as "beautiful." Is it the blue house or the green house there on 49th Street? I wonder. But if you take a close look at this house, you'll notice that it has all the same furniture as the Edison in the 1919 catalog. Oopsie. Looks like J. Wesley Gardner infringed someone's copyright! The ad also says it has a poultry house in the back yard.

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Heres a cute little Edison in Hopewell, VA.

Here's a cute little Edison in Hopewell, VA. Ah but wait, look at that dormer! It's a Denver!

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Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

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And another.

This Hopewell Denver has a "sensitive" addition. Looks darn good!

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Oh NO!!! Blind!

Oh NO!!! It's had its eyes gouged out!!! This poor dear is in Hopewell, too.

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Oh

The tree in the front yard is dying of embarrassment.

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Lynch

The Edison seems to be prone to abuse. This unfortunate thing is in Lynchburg. Wrought iron? Really? And I'm not sure why there are two reflectors at the base of the step. Is it so people won't drive into the living room at night?

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Roanoke Rapids, NC also has an abundance of Edisons.

Roanoke Rapids, NC also has an abundance of Edisons. This one is a little rough around the edges.

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This one wishes someone would give it an overdose

This one is "all fixed up" (shudder). It's also in Roanoke Rapids.

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A palate cleanse.

This one needs some love, but the Japanese Lanterns are a nice touch (Roanoke Rapids).

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Heres a sweet little

And I saved one of my favorites for last. It's a a sweet little Denver in Crewe, VA. Seems likely that the addition (left front) was done when the house was originally built. This house is on Route 460 on the left side heading east. I always wave "hello" when I drive past it. Something about this little bungalow in Crewe always makes me smile.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

How many kit homes does Hopewell have? Click here to learn more!

To learn more about Roanoke Rapids and their amazing collection of houses, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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Waynesboro: WOW!

October 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

On October 17th, I gave a talk in Waynesboro on their kit homes. The day before, Anne (local history lover and kind soul) had driven me throughout the city, looking for kit homes.

And we found a bunch!

There are more than 40 photos below, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking!  :)

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Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it.

Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it. Plus, it appears to be from about the 1920s, which is when all my little pretties were built in Charlottesville.

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First, the Carlins.

First, the Carlins. I found five of them, in one three-block area. Someone in Waynesboro really loved their Carlins. Until recently, when someone really put a hurting on them. .

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This one gets a special mention because its been disfigured.

This one gets a special mention because it's been disfigured.

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Dormer

Yeah, they really did that. Poor Carlin. Poor little Carlin.

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House house

Lots of signs on the melancholy Carlin, but fortunately there were no signs that forbade flash photography.

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The Hazleton

I call The Hazleton the "House of Threes" because it has several groupings of three windows, in the dormer, on the side, and on the front (with two groupings of three windows flanking the front door). and it has six windows in that bay window on the side. Plus, Hazleton has three syllables!

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While driving around her Google Car Rachel found this Hazleton on Bath Street, and she was right! It really is a Sears Hazleton.

While driving around her "Google Car" Rachel discovered this Hazleton on Bath Street. It's in beautiful shape and still has its original windows, siding and even front railings. What a treasure!

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Its got the funky side window, too.

It's got the funky side window, too.

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Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

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Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be!

Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be! Check out the interesting indent on the chimney!

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The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

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Waynesboro also likes their Crescents!

Waynesboro also likes their "Crescents"!

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Picture perfect!

Picture perfect!

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And theres even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

And there's even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

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The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

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Kind of a crummy photo, but it shows off the pretty Glenn Falls.

Is this a Glen Falls? Sure looks like it, but Rachel Shoemaker found the auditor's records for the house and the "footprint" is wrong. Perhaps it's a plan book house. More on that below.

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And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found this Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found an Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

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What a beauty!!

What a beauty!! Do the owners realize they have a Sears house? Not likely!

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The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog. Note the brick pillar at the far right.

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Waynesboro

The Conway in Waynesboro also has that brick pillar at the far right, just like the catalog image.

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The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

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The windows have been replaced, and its in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but its the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

The windows have been replaced, and it's in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but it's the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

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The Solace is a cute little house but wasnt hugely popular.

The Solace is a cute little house for Sears but wasn't hugely popular.

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The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

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Is this

Is this a Solace? I think it's very likely.

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The original pergola on the front porch is still visible.

The original pergola on the front porch is still visible, and it's also a spot-on match to the catalog.

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In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company).

In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company). Shown above is the cover of the 1918 GVT catalog.

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The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty, and it's a perfect match to the catalog image above!

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This charming bungalow was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

This "charming bungalow" was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

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Rachel also found this GVT

Rachel also found this GVT #530 in Waynesboro. Another beautiful match!

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Last but not least is this GVT #540.

Last but not least is this GVT #540, another very popular house!

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Its had some remodeling done, but you can still see that theres a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

It's had some remodeling done, but you can still see that there's a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

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Dumont

The Dumont is not a kit house, but a plan book house. With plan books, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials from a mail-order catalog. The homebuyer would obtain the building materials locally. Many thanks to Shari Davenport for sending me this image!

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Another fun find

Perfect! Just perfect!

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Two of them

And there are two of them!

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To read more about Waynesboro, click here.

To see what I found in Charlottesville, click here.

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The Ferndale: A Charming English Bungalow

April 21st, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

There are many ways to find a Sears House, but Andrew and Wendy Mutch found a very rare Sears House in Ann Arbor using a technique I had never thought about before: Reading the obituaries.

They discovered an obituary for an elderly woman that mentioned the building of a Sears House.  Seems that Helen Bethke and her husband Emil Bethke had built a kit home in 1931, and after enjoying 64 years of wedding bliss, Emil passed on (in 1995).

Andrew and Wendy were able to figure out Mrs. Bethke’s address, but couldn’t readily identify the model. In fact, when I first saw their photos, it took me a few minutes to figure it out.

And that’s because, it’s a model I’ve never seen before.

Now that’s a thrill!  :)

And frankly, the only reason I was able to identify this darling little house was because it was in mostly original condition. Had this beauty been slathered in vinyl siding and aluminum trim, I’d still be scratching my head and wondering.

Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Bethke did a fine, fine job keeping their Sears Fernwood in first-class shape. Let’s hope the home’s next owners follow their worthy example.

Mrs. Bethke’s obit:  On Aug. 31, 1930, Helen married Emil Carl Bethke, and after 64 years of marriage, he preceded her in death in June of 1995. They built their Sears kit home in 1931, and raised their children in that old West Side home on Koch Street.

To learn more about the kit homes in Ann Arbor, click here.

On May 2nd, come to Rose’s lecture in Staunton, Virginia!

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Charming

The Ferndale was only offered for two years, 1929 and 1933. It's shown here in the 1929 catalog.

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house house hosue

Those dark shutters are not only pleasing, but functional!

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Ferndale

It tickles me that the tub on the Ferndale juts out in this floorplan.

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house house

It is indeed a "charming" little house.

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house house

And thanks to Mrs. Bethke, it's still in mostly original condition, looking much like it did when built in 1931. Will the new owners take good care of it, and preserve the original windows, siding and shutters? We can only hope. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house

Check out the detail around the front porch (1929 catalog).

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Picture perfect! Looks just like the catalog. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house

Now it's for sale, but 80 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Bethke bought it as a 12,000-piece kit from Sears and Reobuck, and then built their own home. Very impressive. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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side

A view of our darling Fernwood from the other side. If you look at the floorplan above, you'll see it's a perfect match. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the kit homes in Ann Arbor, click here.

On May 2nd, come to Rose’s lecture in Staunton, Virginia!

Want to learn a lot about Sears Homes in a hurry? Join us on Facebook!

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Marked Lumber

March 26th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Identifying early 20th Century kit homes can be a tricky business. For one thing, more than 30% of kit homes were customized when built, which makes identification even more challenging.

However, there is a quick and simple way to identify kit homes: Marked lumber.

If you find a mark (such as is shown below) on framing lumber in an early 1900s house, chances are good that you’ve found a kit house.

The marks themselves can tell you something about the kit home, too.

Sometimes.

Scroll on down to examine the wide variety of marks we’ve found on kit homes throughout the country.

And a special thanks to the many kit house researchers who contributed photos:

Rachel Shoemaker

Cindy Catanzaro

Ersela Jordan

Jeffrey N. Fritz

Doug Lewis

Andrew Mutch

B. Maura Townsend

Catarina Bannier

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Interested in learning more? Visit our group (”Sears Homes”) on Facebook!

To learn more about why the lumber in Sears Homes is so extraordinary, click here.

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Lumber was numbered with specific markings to help the novice homebuilder figure out how all those pieces and parts went together.

Lumber was numbered with specific markings to help the novice homebuilder figure out how all those pieces and parts went together (1928 catalog). The marked lumber, together with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book, enabled "a man of average abilities" to build his own home. Or so Sears promised.

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Lumber

Sears marked their lumber with a letter and a three-digit number. Usually. The font is solid (not stenciled) and about 7/8" of an inch tall. The mark can be found near the end of the joist, and also on the butt end (typically not visible after construction).

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Lumber s

Sometimes you have to peak around a few obstacles to find the number. Sears marks had a method. "D" was used for 2x8s, "C" was for 2x6s, and 2x4s were marked with "A" or "B."

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Sometimes the marks were not entirely straight.

Sometimes the marks were not entirely straight. Photo is copyright 2013 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And sometimes, theyre not easy to see.

And sometimes, they're a little smudged or fuzzy. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Example

Here's a good example, because you can see the mark both on the butt end and also on the face of the 2x4. Plus, this photo shows how faded those numbers typically become with a little age. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the 2x4 shown above.

Close-up of the 2x4 shown above. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Er

Another typical example, showing how faded these marks become over time. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And dont forget to look up!

And don't forget to look up! Note how it's visible on the right, but not the left. Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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Ready for a pop quiz? Wheres the mark?

Where's the mark? This is under a staircase, which, by the way, is a great spot for finding marked lumber. Another great spot is the plumbing access door (behind the tub/shower faucet).

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Did you find it?

Easy to miss, isn't it? And this is assuming bright lights, good vision and that there are no rats scampering around your feet. These marks are most often seen in basements, and the number of obstacles you're going to see in basements is staggering and distracting! Most basements are dimly lit and stuffed silly with all manner of trip hazards!

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close

An extreme close-up of the mark shown above between the two arrows. By the way, it was also very difficult to see when I took this photo, and it showed up better as a picture than it did in real life.

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Ersela took this photo and I thought it was a great photo. Shows those 2x4s stacked up

Ersela took this photo and I thought it was a great photo, demonstrating how the ends were stamped (and how they fade with time). Photo is copyright 2010 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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word word

My favorite marked lumber of all is this Vallonia staircase in Columbia, Illinois. The owners were so very proud of their Sears kit home that they purposefully turned the treads and risers wrong side out so that everyone could see that they'd built a kit home.

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Sometimes, youll be looking for a different kind of mark.

Sometimes, you'll be looking for a different kind of "mark." This board was nailed to the underside of the floorboards of a Sears Osborne (as seen in the basement). The Osborne's first owner and builder, H. K. Mohr, had saved a piece of wood from the original shipping crate. The house was in Sidney, Illinois but had been shipped into the train depot at Boncard, Illinois. These shipping creates, marked with the owner's name, were often saved. It's not uncommon to find that the old shipping crates were broken down and the lumber was re-used to build a coal bin or shelving. Notice this mark is stenciled, not solid (whereas the numbers are solid, not stenciled).

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Another lumber

You should also keep your eyes peeled for marks with blue grease pencil. This says "2089" and "Rose" (how apropos). This was found in the basement of a Sears Magnolia, and the first family's name was Rose. The Magnolia was also known as Model #2089 (hence the mark above). In the dark, dank basement, this mark was nearly impossible to see. The photo above was enhanced to make that old blue grease pencil easier to see. You'll going to have look long and hard to find some of these marks.

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And how did that blue grease pencil get there? When the kit homes were bundled and ready for shipment, mill workers would grab their blue grease pencil and walk up to the large pile of framing members and hastily scribble both the model number (#2089 in this case) and family name (”Rose”) on a beam. It was a way to be extra certain that the right house went to the right people.

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This isnt a mark per se, but its something else to be on the look out for.

This isn't a "mark" per se, but it's something else to be on the look out for. Shipping labels are often found on the back of millwork (baseboards, window trim, molding), and in most cases, they don't say "Sears" but have a return address of 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago. Sears was located at the corner of Homan Avenue and Arthington Street in downtown Chicago. In later years, they created a brand name of hardware and plumbing supplies known as "Homart." This was a combination of their two street names.

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In later years, Sears changed they way they did their marks.

In later years, Sears changed they way they did their marks. Jeffrey N. Fritz send me these photos of marked lumber found in his late 1930s Sears kit home. At first, I didn't know what to think. I'd never seen marks like this in a Sears House, but based on some other research he'd shared with me, there was little doubt that this was a late 1930s Sears kit home. By the way, Jeffrey if you're reading this, please send me an email or leave a comment! I can't find your email address! :) Photo is copyright 2010 Jeffrey N. Fritz and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the marked lumber Jeffrey found in his Sears House.

Close-up of the marked lumber Jeffrey found in his Sears House. Photo is copyright 2010 Jeffrey N. Fritz and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Aladdin was another kit home company and, like Sears, they sold kit homes out of a mail-order catalog. Aladdin (based in Bay City, MI) sold about 75,000 kit homes, which was *about* 5,000 more than Sears sold.

Aladdin was another kit home company and, like Sears, they sold kit homes out of a mail-order catalog. Aladdin (based in Bay City, MI) sold about 75,000 kit homes, which was *about* 5,000 more than Sears sold. Here's a piece of wood - probably off a shipping crate - found in an Aladdin house ("The Colonial") in Oklahoma. According to Rachel Shoemaker, the folks in town had assumed that this was a Sears kit home for many years. Sadly, the name "Aladdin" has largely been forgotten. To too many people, kit home = Sears home. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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Heres another example of marked lumber that Rachel found in Oklahoma.

Here's another example of marked lumber that Rachel found in that "Colonial" (model name) in Oklahoma. This one borders on being artwork! Either that, or the Aladdin Stamper that day was pretty well sloshed. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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Another example of a mark in blue grease pencil. Rach

Yet another example of marked lumber found in the *same* Aladdin Colonial in Oklahoma. You can also see a bit of blue grease pencil scribbled in the upper left hand corner. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission

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I found this mark on an old Aladdin Brentwood in Roanoke Rapids.

I found this mark on an old Aladdin Brentwood in Roanoke Rapids, NC. It was very faint, but still legible. So this represents three distinct types of lettering on Aladdin kit homes. The first one shown above is stenciled, with capital letters. The second one is solid (no breaks in the lettering) and is all caps. The example from my Brentwood is first letter capitalized, with the rest lower case, and solid (no stencil).

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Cindy

Cindy Catanzaro found this in an Aladdin kit home. It's all caps, and stenciled (as is shown in the first Aladdin example above). Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres another surprise from Sears.

And Cindy found this mark in an Aladdin kit home (The Stratford). It's yet a fourth type of marking: Numbers separated by a dash. And here's where it gets even more confusing. I've seen identical markings in mid-1930s Sears Homes. Same format, same font, a couple numbers separated by a single dash. So for a time, apparently Sears and Aladdin used the same marks. Not to be confused with Gordon Van Tine/Wardway, which were several numbers, separated by a dash. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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B. Maury Townsend found this blue grease pencil mark in her Aladdin Sherman (1912).

B. Maura Townsend found this blue grease pencil mark in her Aladdin Sherman (1912). It''d be great if we could break the "code." Is it a hand-written part number? That's the most-likely answer. Photo is copyright 2013 B. Maura Townsend and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Im sorry to say I dont have an example of a GVT/Wardway marked lumber, but this graphic from the 1929 catalog gives you an idea of what to look for.

I'm sorry to say I don't have a real-life example of a Gordon Van Tine/Wardway marked lumber, but this graphic from the 1929 catalog gives you an idea of what to look for. I've also seen just the numbers (no letter) separated by hyphens.

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And this expanded view of the same image shows they also stamped *words* on some of the lumber.

And this expanded view of the same image shows that Gordon Van Tine/Wardway also stamped *words* on some of the lumber.

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Agorn

Here's an example of blue grease pencil marks found in a Gordon Van Tine kit home in Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2012 Rachel Shoemaker and Doug Lewis and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This is also from a Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward kit house.

This is also from a Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward kit house. Again, it was from the original shipping crate that contained some of those 12,000 pieces and parts. If you find an old plank like this nailed to the old coal bin or used for a shelf, it might well be a kit home. This house was sold to Mathias Ringer of Quinter, Kansas and shipped into Beloit.

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To read  more about the kit home that Mathias Ringer bought, click here.

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Catarina discovered this mark on The Cheltenham, made by Lewis Manfuacturing (yet aother kit home company).

Catarina discovered this mark on The Cheltenham, made by Lewis Manufacturing (yet another kit home company). Is it a part number or a model number? Most likely, it's a model number and yet in the Lewis Homes catalog, no part numbers are listed for the Cheltenham. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Do you have photos of marked lumber to share? Please leave a comment below!

Want to learn more about Sears kit homes? Click here.

Click here to read the next fascinating blog.

Rachel Shoemaker has a blog of her own. Click here to read that.

You can check out Catarina’s blog here.

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How Many Pieces Are There in a Condo Kit?

February 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In 2002, I visited my friend Rebecca Hunter in Elgin, Illinois (southwest of Chicago) and she drove me out to Palantine to visit what she described as, “A very unusual Sears Westly.”

Of course, I was captivated and could hardly wait to see the thing.

She told me to close my eyes as we got close, so I did as she asked. When I felt the car come to a stop, she said, “Okay, you can open them.”

Sitting squarely in front of this old Westly, I remarked that it looked like a fine Westly. Yes, it had had some “improvements’ that weren’t historically sensitive, but it wasn’t too onerous.

Then Rebecca giggled a bit and moved the car forward a few feet, so I could get “the rest of the story.”

I gasped. I may have even hyperventilated just a wee bit.

Someone had built an entire neighborhood behind this once-beautiful Westly.

Why anyone would do this? Why would anyone WANT to do this? And how in the world did they get zoning approval?

And as an added note, for those who may be visiting this site for the first time, Sears did not sell “condo kits.”  :)

To learn more about Rebecca’s newest book (which I highly recommend), click here.

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house house

Sears Westly, as it appeared in the 1919 catalog.

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Palatine

And here's the Sears Westly in Palatine, IL. They built an entire neighborhood behind it!

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another view

Palate cleanse after that last picture.

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West Virginia Westly

Westly in West Virginia. In fact, it's in Oakhill.

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Suffolk

And here's a fine-looking Westly in Suffolk, VA.

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Porstmou

This Westly is in my hometown, Porstmouth, Virginia.

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Perfect Westly in Bellfonte, PA Rebecca

A perfect Westly in Bellfonte, Pennsylvania. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Westly Metropolis

A colorful Westly in Metropolis, Illinois (home of Superman).

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Nice

Red Bud, Illinois has several Sears Homes, including this one.

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ick

Ruh Roh. What happened here? Nothing good.

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ickagin

Eek. A Westly in Norfolk, Virginia. Eek (again).

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I see you every day but you never write!  :)  Please leave a comment below.

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The Sunlight in Springfield!

January 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

In today’s real estate market, a house with a mere 768 square foot would be considered pretty small, but in the 1920s, it proved to be a very popular size.  The Sears Sunlight had two diminutive bedrooms (12-feet by 10-feet) and a bathroom that was a mere 6-feet square.

An “expandable attic” was its saving grace.  There was a little bit of room on the second floor to add an extra bedroom or two (for short people).

The Sunlight is a hard house to identify because it’s small and - frankly - it looks like every other tiny bungalow that was built in the early 1900s.

I’ve never identified one on my own, but Cindy Catanzara and Rebecca Hunter seem to be old pros at finding these little houses!

One distinctive feature is the small clipped gable on the front and rear, and the hipped roof on the front porch, which juts out a bit beyond than the primary exterior walls. Another visual clue is the small enclosed space on the rear, but that often disappears after some remodeling.

Many thanks to Cindy Catanzaro for supplying so many wonderful photos of Sunlights in Springfield, Ohio!

1928 House house

The Sunlight, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Look at the size of those bedrooms!

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The Sunlight (1928).

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When I was in Elgin, Illinois in February 2010, Rebecca Hunter drove me out to this house and said, "Are you ready to see the most perfect Sunlight in the world?" It is in pristine condition and has been painstakingly restored. The homeowners have the original blueprints.

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Another view of the perfect Sunlight in Elgin, IL.

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Crystal Lake

Rebecca then drove me out to this Sunlight in Crystal Lake, Illinois. It's also in very good condition.

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Springfield Cindy

Cindy Catanzaro found this Sunlight in Springfield, Ohio. It's had some alterations, but is still identifiable as a Sunlight. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Springfield Cindy

Another view of the Sunlight in Springfield. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house springfield

This is an older picture showing a pretty little Sunlight that was feeling forlorn and forgotten. I'm happy to report that this home is now in the hands of a happy family who truly values the home's unique, historical origins. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house sprinngfield

Same house as shown above, this Sunlight is already starting to feel loved and cared for, thanks to its new owners! Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house

And you might notice that this Sunlight has had an addition put on the back. As originally built, it had a mere 768 square feet. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Why did the bungalow become so popular so fast? Click here to read a fascinating bit of history.

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

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part V)

November 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

One of the most interesting features  of Ham Radio is that its operators are expected to have access to alternative energy sources during times of regional or national emergency.

After all, what good is it to have a Ham Radio if you can’t use it when the power goes out?

For as many years as I can remember, I have been utterly fascinated by alternative energy sources. Capturing a tiny drop of the sun’s massive nuclear-reactive power (386 billion billion megaWatts) is a  fascinating concept.

After several tours of Mike Neal’s very own “Radio Shack,” and after receiving several helpful tutorials on this topic from Mr. Neal (and lots of specific guidance), I was ready to take the plunge.

My “solar project” started in earnest about a month ago when Mike sent me an email to let me know that Harbor Freight was having a sale on solar panels. This was the very set that Mike had at his house and he said it was “a good solar set-up for the money.”

With a $30 coupon (gifted to me from a fellow Ham), I got the $229 solar panels for $159. (The original price for the panels was $229, with a sale price of $189. The $30 coupon got me to $159.)

Because I’m highly allergic to crowds and shopping areas and loud noises and small children and fluorescent lights, I paid the extra six bucks to have the unit shipped directly to my house. It was well worth it.

It took about 12 hours to install the whole rig, and my oh my, it was a fun project. And watching those photovoltaic cells turn the sunlight into electricity is every bit as fascinating as I’d thought it would be.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d recommend that every homeowner in America have a set of these on their roof. It was a great learning experience. And I’ve shared all the nitty-gritty details below.

To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of this series.

House shed

The little shed in our back yard is now electrified, thanks to these three solar panels on the roof. Each panel produces 15 watts, for a total of 45 watts.

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solar thunder

I'm not sure why a corporation would adopt the name "THUNDERBOLT" for their solar products. Nonetheless, it's a sound value and seems to be a well-made product.

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Solar panels

The solar panels were set on a 2x4 which was fastened with screws into the roof and painted flat black. The PVC frame was secured to the 2x4 with 3/4" metal pipe clamps. This will enables us to change the angle of the panels (for winter and summer) without any major disassembling.

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house house house

This shot shows the panels and 2x4 more closely. In a mere 12 hours, the solar panels have already been assaulted by both birds (far left) and pine straw (bottom).

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Thinking about how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking.

Figuring out how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking. In the end, I decided to drill a hole (3/4") through the 2x4 (and the roofing sheathing below). I reasoned that it'd be easier to patch a clean hole through a piece of lumber rather than trying to patch a hole in an irregular surface (such as an old roofing shingle).

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solar

Using stretchy weatherproofing tape (which probably has a much better name), I bound those three wires (from the three solar panels) together and fed them through the hole into the shed's interior. I purposefully used a lot of tape so it would fill the 3/4" hole. For the tiny gaps that remained, I used a compound putty substance (again, don't know the name but it looks a lot like Silly Putty). Back in the day, a contractor friend told me it was called "Dum Dum" because you use it to patch a dumb mistake. However, I'd like to point out that it should be called "Smart Smart" in this particular application.

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Inside,

Inside, the wires drop down from above and into the controller (right side on the shelf above the battery). From there, the wires go into the 12-volt deep cycle Marine battery. Another set of wires carries the power from the battery back to the inverter (left side on the shelf). The inverter turns the 12-volt current into 120 volts (for household use).

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The

The controller that came with the solar panels is quite impressive. The digital display is large and easy to read, and reports on the battery power (12.4 volts shown here). For $159, it's a pretty fancy set-up and a darn good deal.

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Another nice bonus that came with this set are these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed.

Another nice bonus that came with this set are two of these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed. They plug into the front of the controller (as shown in the picture of the controller above).

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The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for  $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

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Part of the problem I encountered was that, despite my reading and studying, I didnt understand a whole lot about how these things work.

Part of the problem I encountered whilst doing this project was, despite my reading and studying, I didn't understand a whole lot about how all these things work together. I asked Mike Neal, "What's the difference between a 200-watt inverter and a 750-watt inverter?" Fact is, a 200-watt inverter was whole lot cheaper. Mike explained, "Think of the battery as a bucket full of water. You can draw that water out with a swizzle stick or a milk-shake straw. The 200-watt inverter is a swizzle stick. The 750-watt inverter is a milk-shake straw."

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The

The other helper in this project was my wonderful neighbor, Mike Mancini. I told him that I needed a deep-cycle marine battery and he got me a good deal on one at a local marine parts supply company. Plus, he gave me a ride out to the place and then hefted it out of his truck and out to my shed. This battery weighs about 50 pounds. I set it up on cinder blocks to make it easier to access, and I put the OSB down because I'd heard that batteries might discharge if placed directly atop masonry.

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Fie dollahs

You may notice the fine-looking wires shown in the picture above (of the battery). I bought these booster cables at General Dollar Store and paid $5 for the whole affair. I then cut the wires off from the clips and used them for the controller-to-battery run and the battery-to-inverter run. It's 10-gauge stranded copper wire.

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The

The last part of the project required anchoring the panels to the roof. In that the panels sit so high above the roof, they'll become a dandy sail in strong winds. Our solution was to tether the pvc frame to the opposite side of the shed. For the tether, I used 10-gauge stranded copper grounding wire. May seem like a waste, but I recently bought a spool of it to ground a couple antennas and masts and such. Seems I had about 400 feet left over from those other projects.

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Solar

Close-up of the tether on the PVC frame. It's not super taut, but it doesn't need to be. It's anchored into the steep side of the shed roof with an eye-bolt.

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Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such aas the many tall trees in our yard,

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such as the big old tall trees in our yard. After the "Solar System" was all set up, we were both AMAZED and pleased to see that it started charging immediately. What was so amazing? It was a dark, cold, gloomy overcast day. I can hardly wait to see how it does with a little sunlight!

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Total cost of the entire project:

Solar Panels - $159 plus $6 shipping (and tax)

Interstate battery - $114

750-watt inverter - $39

Battery terminals - $8

Wiring - $5  (thanks Dollar General!)

Incidentals - about $20 (zip ties, pipe clamps, tape)

Total investment:  $351

Entertainment value: Endless!  :)

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To learn more about why Ham Radio is so relevant and important TODAY, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

If you wish to contact Rosemary, please leave a comment below.

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One Chilly Kilbourne in West Virginia

October 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

My friend Ersela lives in a part of West Virginia that is currently getting hammered by an especially chilly version of Hurricane Sandy. Thus far, almost two feet of wet snow has fallen on her beautiful Kilbourne.

Here in Norfolk (where I live), “Sandy” only hit us with a glancing blow. We had minor power outages, some wind (gusts up to 75 mph) and some rain (about six inches locally), and some tidal flooding (about seven feet above normal) but we got off light. And we know it.

And frankly, coastal storms are just part of living on the Eastern Seaboard. We get Nor’Easters on a regular basis. In fact, the Nor’Easter of 2009 caused Hampton Roads about as much trouble as Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to Ersela, we have other family in West Virginia, and many of them live in Elkins. The entire town of Elkins is also inundated with snow. The town has lost power, and roofs are starting to collapse under the weight of the thick, wet blanket of snow.

But West Virginians are a tough breed. Most of the ones that I’ve met are true-blue “preppers.” Many (if not most) households in West Virginia have a heat source independent of traditional central heating systems, such as wood stoves or coal stoves. When the lights go out, the heat stays on.

Gosh I love West Virginia!  :)

Many thanks to Ersela for allowing me to publish these photos.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Erselas home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this Kilbourne was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

It looks like something out of a Christmas card, but this is Ersela's home in West Virginia. Ersela did an amazing amount of research and learned that this "Kilbourne" was built using old Sears blueprints, but the building materials were not obtained from Sears. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful home. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ersela

Another beautiful view of Ersela's beautiful Kilbourne. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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COmfy

I can personally attest to the delights of sitting on the homey porch of the Kilbourne.

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homey porch

"Many have remarked about the 'homey porch.'" Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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tornade

Years ago, a tornado went through this area and did some damage to the house, and took out two small windows flanking the fireplace. In this photo, you can see that the windows have been bricked up. Photo is copyright 2012 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

From the 1928 catalog.

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house

Here's a picture from the Sears Modern Homes catalog showing two children getting ready to blow up a Sears Kilbourne off in the distance. Or that's what it looks like to be. Looks like "Sis" has her hand on the plunger and Big Brother is just waiting for the Big BOOM!

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second

The second floor has an odd arrangement. Two dormers are dedicated to closet space.

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house

The Kilbourne had an "expandable" attic, which explains the five/eight room option.

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My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, Naturally, unaccented English.

My favorite West Virginian! He tells me that he was so poor, he grew up playing with nothing but sticks and dirt! Not sure I believe that, but he sure does have a great accent! He calls it, "Naturally, unaccented English."

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To learn more about West Virginia, click here.

To read more about the kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

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Gosh I Wish I Could Find This House! (It Might Be Ohio Somewhere)

September 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

More than 10 years ago, I was sitting in the basement of my home in Alton, Illinois looking at photos of houses on eBay when I found a picture of a Sears Modern Home #106. The picture-postcard was being offered for $3.00.

There was no mention on the listing that this was a Sears House. I suspect that part of this card’s history had been long forgotten.

I bid $25.00 on the card. I really, really, REALLY wanted to win that postcard.

And I did!

The card was supposedly found at an estate sale in Ohio. That was all the information the owner could share. Unfortunately, the back of the card is completely blank.

It sure would be fun to find out where this little house is now. And what a genealogical boon that would be for the descendants of this family to have a picture of Great-grandma and Great-grandpa with great Aunt Alma in the front yard of their newly built Sears Home.

Back in the day, Sears asked their customers to take “a snapshot” of their newly built kit home and send it into to them. Some of these photos were then featured in the catalogs. I suspect that this was the reason this picture was taken.

Each month, more than 30,000 people visit this website. Have you seen this house, or these people?

If so, please leave a comment below!

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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house

I suspect this photo was taken soon after the house was built. Sears asked new homeowners to send in pictures of their newly built Sears kit home. This photo may have been a response to that request.

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people

Close-up of the little family. Father looks rather ill. Mother looks very well coiffed.

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catalog 1908

Modern Home #106 as seen in the 1908 catalog.

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lfoo

Floor plan for Modern Home #106.

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dlowe up

Close-up of the dormer with its marginal lites.

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Full

The full image of the post card. Note the house next door.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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