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Posts Tagged ‘prefab catalog houses’

Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 6 comments

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

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

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

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

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

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

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

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

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

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

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

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

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Beautiful Sears Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

September 8th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

What a beauty! And it’s dressed in yellow brick!

We found this Alhambra on a quiet little street, sitting high on a hill, and in a hoity-toity part of Atlanta. Wonder if the owners know it’s a Sears House?

Sears Home in Atlanta

Sears Home in Atlanta

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Babies Came Home on Friday

September 7th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Friday afternoon, my newest book (co-authored with Dale Wolicki) came home. This is my seventh book but it’s always so exciting to see a long-awaited dream come to fruition. Dale and I toiled over this book for five years. Hopefully, we’ll sell out that first printing within 90 days or so. It’s a beautiful book (347 pages!), filled with photos, vintage pictures, facts and details on the kit homes offered by Montgomery Ward.

To buy a copy, click here.

To read more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The cover of our new book.

The cover of our new book.

Schadenfreude and Mudita

September 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Ever hear of schadenfreude?  For years, I’d always called it, “The Crab Theory.”

Schadenfreude is a German word that means delighting in the misfortune of others. I had never heard of this word until I was doing some research for my book The Ugly Woman’s Guide to Internet Dating: What I Learned From 70 First Dates.

Put one crab in a five-gallon bucket and Mr. Crab will do everything in his power to scale its smooth wall and crawl out of that bucket. Put two or more crabs in a bucket and when one starts to climb up, the others will grab him and pull him back down into the bucket. Unfortunately, humans sometime exhibit the same tendencies as crabs.

In my own life, I’ve struggled mightily with envy, and I’m sorry to say that too many times, I had a decided leaning toward the crab/schadenfreude side.

And then one day, I read a story in the Christian Science Sentinel about a woman who’d spent a lifetime cultivating the habit of gratitude. She said that her mother had taught her to feel sincerely joyous and grateful for the good things that happened in other people’s lives, and to take it as a personal promise from God that, if it happened for them, it could happen for her, too.

The Buddhist have a word for this: Mudita. It’s the practice of finding joy in other people’s success and happiness.

The morning news is frequently awash in salacious and scurrilous scandals involving celebrities and their ilk. Yet we’re all “clay vessels,” and we’re all cracked pots and fallible and prone to foibles and missteps and mistakes and even lapses in good judgment. Who among us hasn’t lost our temper and said something we deeply regret? Who among us hasn’t surrendered to temptation when we could have done better? My point is, maybe the real need is to stop staring so hard at other people’s sins and take a better look at our own shortcomings and work on improving those.

Maybe we need to stop cultivating the habit of schadenfreude and work on mudita.

To read more, click here.

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Sears Alhambra in Downtown Portsmouth (Virginia)

September 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

This Sears Alhambra is in a section of town that was near Ida Barbour Park (public housing which has since been torn down). It’s been through many changes through the years, but is still in remarkably good condition. Notice how the red dumpster in the corner complements the red brick foundation. :)

The Sears Alhambra was one of their most popular homes. Note the parapet around the dormer and porch roof, and staircase wing. What a beauty!

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

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

From 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal: Modernize That Old House!

September 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Today, the magazine is heavy on diet tips and light on home related topics, but it wasn’t always that way. In the early 1900s, Ladies’ Home Journal was (get ready), a magazine devoted to improving the lot of women who wanted to be homeowners, or women who had achieved that high goal of homeownership.

This 1911 issue of LHJ devoted an entire section to fixing up old houses. The photos (and their captions) tell the whole story. One caption reads, “The foundation and timbers [of these old houses] are often better than are found in the houses built today.”

For the two images below, the caption reads:

It seems almost impossible to realize that the hospitable-looking house on the bottom (see second house below) was once the gloomy, desolate house on the top (see first house below), and the changes which transformed it were not great. First of all, the dull color of the old house and the overgrown condition of the ground in front of it are most forbidding. A comparison of the two pictures shows how much a little careful planting and fresh paint will do toward changing the whole atmosphere of the house. More rooms were added at the rear and a gambrel roof was built and into this were let two good-sized dormer windows. A large porch, which was extended into a porte-chochere was built, and the latter forms a nice balance to the right wing of the house.

Heres the before photo

Here's the "before" photo

And heres the after photo

And here's the "after" photo

More photos are below!

Take a moment and read the caption - and remember - this is from 1911!

Take a moment and read the caption - and remember - this is from 1911!

Another photo pair from the 1911 Ladies Home Journal

Another photo pair from the 1911 Ladies' Home Journal

Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

August 28th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In the mid-1880s, while working as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, Richard Warren Sears paid $50 for a shipment of watches that arrived at the train station and had been refused by a local merchant. Selling them to other railway agents and passengers, Sears turned $50 worth of watches into $500 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive and reliable passenger rail service, people could now travel hundreds of miles each day, but there was a problem with all this expeditious movement. In the early 1880s, the United States had 300 different time zones. You read that right: 300.

In November 1883, railway companies established four time zones to help manage and standardize the complex train schedules. As folks adapted to the new time zones, watches became a hot commodity.

In 1886, 23-year-old Sears invested his $5000 cash profit into a new watch business and called it the “R. W. Sears Watch Company.” He advertised his watches in regional newspapers and in a short time, he moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Around 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog, offering jewelry and watches within its 52 pages. By 1893, the little watch and jewelry catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. One year later, another 300 pages were added, creating a 507-page mail order catalog.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse closed-door meeting with his business partner Julius Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company. Sears’ reason for retiring: He “didn’t see the work as fun anymore.” A short time later, Sears sold his stock for $10 million dollars. There was another reason for his departure. Sears wanted more time to take care of his ailing wife, who had suffered from ill health for years.

In September 1914, at the age of 50, Sears died, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multi-million dollar mail order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Richard Warren Sears at his office at 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL

Richard Warren Sears at his office at 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read more about Sears Modern Homes, click here.

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The Amazing Collection of Sears Homes - in the Midwest!

August 28th, 2010 Sears Homes 10 comments

Sears Homes were kit homes that were sold right out of the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s. More than 370 designs of kit homes were offered - everything ranging from Arts and Crafts bungalows to foursquares to Colonial Revivals. These homes came in 30,000-piece kits and were shipped to all 48 states. Sears promised that a man of average abilities could have these homes assembled in about 90 days.

Today, the only way to find these kit homes is literally one by one. And that’s what I do. When I decided that Sears Homes would be my career, I endeavored to memorize each of those 370 designs of Sears Homes. Now I can drive the streets of small town America and find the Sears Homes - one by one.

Not surprisingly, the Midwest has an amazing collection of Sears Homes in particular and kit homes in general. Below are a few pictures of the kit homes I’ve found during my travels in the Midwest.

In addition to Sears, there were other companies that sold kit homes, including Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, Montgomery Ward, Harris Brothers and more.

To read about an Illinois ghost town that once had many Sears Homes, click here.

Did you know Buster Keaton built a kit home? Learn more about that here.

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Interested in old murder mysteries? Click here to read about my Aunt Addie!

The Sears Sherburne was not a very popular house, but it was a beauty!

The Sears Sherburne was not a very popular house, but it was a beauty!

Close-up of the catalog image

Close-up of the catalog image

Sears Sherburne in Peoria, IL

Sears Sherburne in Decatur, IL

Sears Willard, as seen in a 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard, as seen in a 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard in Peoria, Illinois

Sears Willard in Peoria, Illinois

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The Sears Ivanhoe was one of thir most magnificent homes.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of their most magnificent homes.

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

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The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The only Bandon Ive ever seen was in Pulaski, Illinois (near Cairo, at the southern most end of Illinois).

The only "Bandon" I've ever seen was in Pulaski, Illinois (near Cairo, at the southern most end of Illinois). This Bandon is a perfect match to the catalog picture.

A pre-WW1 Sears Home: Modern Home #264P202

A pre-WW1 Sears Home: Modern Home #264P202

The Sears #264P202 in the flesh. This house is in Okawville, IL

The Sears #264P202 in the flesh. This house is in Okawville, IL

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From the Sears Modern Homes catalog, heres the Sears Glendale

From the Sears Modern Homes catalog, here's the Sears Glendale

Sears Glendale in Cairo, Illinois

Sears Glendale in Cairo, Illinois

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Sears Gladstone from the Modern Homes catalog

Sears Gladstone from the Modern Homes catalog

A Sears Gladstone in Carbondale, Illinois

A Sears Gladstone in Carbondale, Illinois

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Sears Fullerton

Sears Fullerton

This Fullerton is in Aurora, Illinois

This Fullerton is in Aurora, Illinois

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The Alhambra was a very popular model for Sears

The Alhambra was a very popular model for Sears

An Alhambra in Casey, Illinois

An Alhambra in Casey, Illinois

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The Sears Argyle was also a very popular house for Sears

The Sears Argyle was also a very popular house for Sears

Heres a Sears Argyle in New Baden, Illinois.

Here's a Sears Argyle in New Baden, Illinois.

Below is a perfect little Crescent in Bloomington, Illinois. Every detail is perfect!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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To see more pictures of Sears Homes, click here.

Portsmouth’s Got a Brand-New Train

August 26th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Recently, Norfolk and Western’s #1134 settled into its new home in downtown Portsmouth. According to the The Lost Engines of Roanoke website, the old steam locomotive was rescued from the Virginia Scrap Iron and Metal Yard in Roanoke, Virginia where it had been dying a slow-death by rust for the last 60 years. The website also states that #1134 and her siblings (#917, 1118 and 1151) landed there in in the 1950s, having been relegated to the scrap heap when newer, more modern steam engines were ordered by the railroads.

The Virginian Pilot reports that on Tuesday (May 18, 2010), the 250,000-pound locomotive was back on the tracks again at its new home in Portsmouth. Unfortunately, this shining black beauty is not ready to be run out of town on a rail. She’s had a “cosmetic restoration,” meaning that she’ll never ride the rails again under her own steam.

Nonetheless, it’s wonderful that a handful of visionaries in Portsmouth have worked so tirelessly to preserve a piece of our country’s past. And Norfolk and Western’s #1134 is the capstone in the privately-funded Railroad Museum of Virginia. According to the article in the Pilot, contributions are welcome and can be made to:

The Railroad Museum of Virginia, Inc.
c/o Willard J. Moody Sr. Esq.
500 Crawford St. Suite 300
Portsmouth, VA 23704

The beautiful and cosmetically restored #1134 sits on the rails in downtown Portsmouth

The beautiful and cosmetically restored #1134 sits on the rails in downtown Portsmouth

Another view of N&W 1134

Another view of N&W 1134

close up of the wheels

close up of the wheels