Archive

Posts Tagged ‘prefab homes’

Why I Love Ferguson, Missouri

October 5th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

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

Those were tough times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a lovely memory for so many different reasons.

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

Secondly, this was my rubicon.

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

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

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

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

That’s why I love Ferguson so much.

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

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

*

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

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

*

And in the early 30s,

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

*

Ferguson

Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.

*

Ferguson

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

*

Leanon

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

*

Lebanon

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

*

Marina

Sears Marina (1916)

*

Marina

A perfect Marina in Ferguson.

*

Lex

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

*

Lexington

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

*

compare

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

*

Ferguson

Sears Barrington (1928).

*

Pattern book

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

*

Gordon Van Tine

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

*

GVT

Very distinctive house!

*

Ferguson House

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

*

Spent years

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

*

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

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

*

A Kit House in Lebanon! (New Hampshire)

September 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last week, Hubby and I traveled to Vermont to see all the pretty things up there (including the Ben and Jerry’s Factory).

Sadly, I didn’t see much in the way of kit homes, but I did discover this gorgeous “San Fernando” offered by Lewis Homes (early 1920s).

The house is just across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire in a small town known as Lebanon. (We ended up staying at the Fireside Inn and Suites in West Lebanon.)

Lewis Homes was a kit home company (like Sears and Aladdin), and it was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sears and Aladdin tend to get all the ink, the fact is that there were six companies selling kit homes on a nation-wide basis.

As you can see from the pictures below, it is a gorgeous house and has its original windows and siding. Might even be the original storm windows!

To read about the other pretty houses I found in this area, click here.

Read about my train adventure by clicking here!

*     *     *

The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow.

The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow (1924 catalog).

*

It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

*

And with two floorplans!

And with two floorplans!

*

2

These floorplans appear to be the same (mostly), but this one is two feet longer (1924).

*

It really is a beautiful bungalow!

It really is a beautiful bungalow!

*

House

Located on Main Street in Lebanon, NH, this is a beautiful San Fernando!

*

Perfect - DOWN to the details!

Perfect - DOWN to the details!

*

windows

Hard to say for sure, but these are either original storms or fine-looking replacements.

*

Heres a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio.

Here's a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio. That's Dale looking at the house.

*

While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. That was great fun!

While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. The water is turqouise color due to some of the minerals leeching out from the rock.

*

Sears Catalog House, or Something Like it (Part II)

July 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

In my most recent blog, I talked about the fact that Hopewell’s “Collection of Sears Homes” (and I use that term loosely) was in the local news again.

At the end of that blog, I offered to help Hopewell sort through their historical chaff and find the wheat.

The fact is, at this point I’d be willing to donate my services (gratis), to help this small town (just outside of Richmond) get their Sears-home story straight. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this enticing offer may not be accepted.

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of letters and emails (yes, both) to some folks in Hopewell, making this same offer. I never heard a peep. Not a “Thanks, but no,” not a “we’re not interested,” or even a “Go to hell, Rosemary Thornton.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to hear something, rather than nothing.

In case anyone from Hopewell is reading this, I can tell you, I know a little something about Sears Homes. Here’s a short bio I use with the media:

Rose is the author of several books on early 20th Century kit homes. Rose and her work have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio. In print media, her story has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Christian Science Monitor and more.

Sounds darn good, doesn’t it?

So what can I do to help Hopewell correct their boo-boos?

I don’t know.

In the meantime, below is the “re-do” of a blog that was a personal favorite of mine. The idea was the brainstorm of Rachel Shoemaker, who loves both music and kit homes, and found a delightful way to blend the two topics.

You can read Rachel’s wonderful blog here.

Here’s the ditty that will  help you learn more about correctly identifying houses.

*       *       *

Ses

Here's a screen-shot of the Sesame Street ditty that tell us, "One of these things is not like the other." Its intent is to teach youngsters how to spot differences in similar items. Learning how to distinguish subtle differences in physical objects can be tough. Ever more so if you live in the small towns around Richmond (apparently).

*

houses

Let's try it with houses now.

*

One of the houses above is different from the others.

If you guessed the brick house with the metal casement windows, you’re right!

For some time, Hopewell was promoting a brochure (showcasing a driving tour of alleged kit homes in Crescent Hills neighborhood) that identified this brick house as a Sears Dover.

But oh noes!! That’s not a Sears Dover!

The other three houses (the three that look just alike) are the Sears Dover.

More recently, Hopewell has modified this statement and now claims that this brick house is a Sears Maplewood.

Let’s see how that works.

*

Blue

Oh noes - AGAIN! One of these homes just doesn't belong! Which one is it? If you guessed the brick house, you're right! The other three homes are the Sears Maplewood.

*

houses

There's also the fact that the Sears Maplewood and Dover were never ever offered with metal casement windows. There's also the fact that this house was probably built after WW2. But hey, why let something like "historical fact" get in the way of a good story!

*

maple

Here's a Sears Maplewood (1930 catalog).

*

house

If you really think that the brick house above looks like a Sears Dover, I highly recommend the Sesame Street "Not like the other" series. It's helped many a lost soul find their way through the thickets of misidentified kit homes.

*

house

Meanwhile, in Hopewell, they have a cache of rare and unusual Aladdin Homes (like the one above) and what is being done to promote those houses? Nothing. Unbelievable.

*

To learn more about how to distinguish differences in certain objects, click here.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for the use of her photograph above (the blue Maplewood). You can visit Rebecca’s website here.

Visit Rachel’s website here.

Read about the bonanza of kit homes we found in Richmond!

If you’re from Hopewell, and you’d like to take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

If you’re not from Hopewell and you THINK they should take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

*       *       *

Sears Catalog House or Something Like It (Hopewell, VA)

July 25th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last week, Hopewell was in the local news again, touting their Sears Homes. I’m not going to post a link to the article that appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, because it was rife with errors.

I’m somewhat incredulous that a paper as prestigious as the Richmond Times Dispatch didn’t do some fact-checking before publishing this story.

The recording and publishing of history is such a sacred trust, and writers have a solemn charge to get the facts right, before sending this information into perpetuity.

And there’s this: I’ve been sought out and interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, BBC Radio, All Things Considered (PBS)  and more. I’ve been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, and MSNBC.

It’s disheartening to know that a newspaper so close to home ran this article without seeking me out for a quote, or even asking me to help with the fact checking (which I would have gladly done).

Hopewell and I have a history.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a small brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (click here), Hopewell is mighty mixed up about what is, and what is not a kit house.

Of those 44 purported “Sears Homes” in Crescent Hills, only eight are the real deal, and frankly, it may not be eight. Some of those eight could well be plan book homes.

On that “list of 44,” this house (see below) was featured.

To read more about Hopewell, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker who successfully identified this house!

*

Nice House

The brochure promoting the Hopewell Sears Homes stated that this was a Sears "Newbury." Ooh, nice try and thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts for you.

*

Ruh

The Hopewell brochure states that it looks JUST LIKE a Newbury, except for the "sloping roof, full width dormer, extra windows and round columns." Good grief, if that's our criteria I could say that my dog Teddy looks like just like a Sears Magnolia.

*

House

Except for the absence of a hip roof, full width windows, round columns and cypress wood, these two dwelling places are stunningly similar. You'll note that the subject on the right also does not have ears or fur, but both of these items could have easily been removed during an earlier remodeling.

*

Newbury

Sears Newbury, from the 1936 catalog.

*

compare

Wow, look at this! The house on the left is in Illinois and it actually LOOKS like a Newbury!

*

compare

Ruh Roh. These don't look anything alike!

*

Monticello

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know that this house in Hopewell came from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

*

Montie

In fact, "The Monticello" is on the cover of the catalog! What a beauty!

*

Wow

And lookie here. It is a very fine match!

*

Big and fancy

Did anyone from Hopewell ever go into this house and compare the interior layout? If so, I hope the homeowner gave their seeing-eye dog a tasty biscuit. The floor plan for the Monticello is radically different from the Sears Newbury (shown directly below). And the Monticello is 50% bigger. These details matter.

**

What

The Newbury is a modest, simple house (1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

*

If you dont love this house, theres something wrong with you!

According to the text in the ad, if you don't love the Monticello, there's something seriously wrong with you!

*

It’d really be swell if Hopewell would invite me back to do a thorough and proper survey. I would be more than happy to get the facts right and help them create a new brochure.

In fact, I really wish they’d give it a go. It’s time to make this right.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

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

*     *     *

The True Origins of the Sears Magnolia

February 10th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

The Sears Magnolia, offered from 1918-1922, seems to be a source of a much misinformation and confusion.

Yesterday, someone sent me a link to another purported “Magnolia” in Watseka, IL (719 South Fourth Street). And then a member in our “Sears Homes” Facebook group showcased a quote from author Daniel Reiff (Houses from Books) stating that even though the house in Watseka is not a Sears Magnolia, it may have been an inspiration for the Sears architects.

Built models might have also been an influence [for the Sears Magnolia]. Only one hundred miles from Chicago, in Watseka, IL is an impressive Colonial Revival built in 1903 with many features in common with the Magnolia (Houses from Books, p. 194).

I’d say there are a few other houses that have “many features in common with the Magnolia” - as in thousands.

The Magnolia would be best described as a Colonial Revival, which was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sears was not an innovator in anything, most of all, architectural design. They looked at what was popular and created their housing designs accordingly.

Judging from the photos in Houses from Books, much of Reiff’s research was centered in the Northeast, specifically the New York area. Mr. Reiff should have traveled down to the South, because we’re loaded with examples of what is commonly known as the Colonial Revival.

If I felt compelled to connect a specific house to the architect’s creation of the Sears Magnolia, I’d put my money on a 1910-built house in Blacksburg, SC (photos below).

The South Carolina “Magnolia” was built in 1910, and based on the home’s interior moldings, mantels, staircase and some other clues, I’d say that the 1910 build-date is pretty accurate. And although this is a wild guess, I suspect that it MAY BE a pattern book house.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia.

When Sears “borrowed” patterns from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets across the front of the Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

Mr. Reiff also identified a Sears Magnolia in Dunkirk, NY.


A second example of a brick Magnolia can be found in Dunkirk NY, Despite the lack of side wings because of the narrow lot, the similarities to the Sears model are still striking, but the house is much narrower than its model. In fact, although the 93 West Fourth Street is the same depth as the Magnolia (36′1 vs. 36), it is a full ten feet narrower (29.10 vs. 40.0)
.

All of which are deal killers. Dimensions matter - a lot. However, Mr. Reiff pulls it out of the fire at the end with this:

The plan of the Dunkirk house is considerably different. Instead of the formal central hallway with staircase and rooms on either side, here the plan is far more compact; One enters the living room which runs across the front of the house in the middle of its long side; the stairs are at one end…Here we almost certainly have an instance of a local builder who studied the illustration in the Sears catalog and created his own version of it, without ordering the plans or, in all likelihood, any of the materials from Sears (p. 196).


Besides, if you were going to name a house “The Magnolia,” would your inspiration come from the frozen North?

I think not.

Now, where is that 9th Magnolia?

To see pictures of all eight Sears Magnolias, click here.

To read more about the “fake” Magnolia in SC, click here.

*     *     *

If I was going to pick a house to have been a model for the Magnolia, Id pick this house in Blacksburg, SC!!

If I were going to pick a house to have been a "model" for the Magnolia, I'd pick this house in Blacksburg, South Carolina After all, this actually looks like a Magnolia!

*

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog. Some may describe it as a Colonial Revival, but really, it's a foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

*

!92

The Magnolia (1920 Modern Homes catalog).

*

This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a model for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to cut it down to size for a kit house catalog.

This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a "model" for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to "cut it down to size" for inclusion in a kit house catalog. There are 15 small lites over the large windows on the first floor - just like the Magnolia. And, it's in South Carolina, just where you'd expect to find a "Magnolia"!

*

The other big difference are the columns.

The other big difference is the columns. The real Magnolia has hollow wooden columns (made of poplar). The house in Blacksburg had columns made of concrete. Try shipping *that* from Chicago!

*

The details around the eaves are also a little bit off.

The details around the eaves are also a little bit "off." The eave brackets on the SC house are more ornate (photo on right). The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The Blacksburg house has eight brackets. The Magnolia's dormer has four of these eave brackets. The Blacksburg house has three. These are the kind of details that really do matter. (The house on the left is a Magnolia in Nebraska which has since been torn down. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

But boy oh boy, its a close one!!

But boy oh boy, it's a close one!!

*

Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

*

Even the interior floorplan was a good match!

However, the interior floorplan was not quite right, and that's a big deal, too.

*

Heres the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

Here's the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

*

And here are

In June 2012, I traveled to Anderson, SC and found these two Colonial Revivals within a block of each other. In the South, this house style is very popular and can be found in almost every old neighborhood. In fact, these houses might just be real Colonials (as opposed to a post-Civil war "Revival").

*

The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, its just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!!  (Not)

The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, it's just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!! (Not)

*

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

Better yet, if you’d like to buy a copy or Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the now-deceased Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.

*     *     *

Marguerite’s Beautiful and Beloved #124

February 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

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

*

Marguerites house was even mentioned in the 1916 catalog!

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

*

Spaciosu floor plan.

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

*

SA

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

*

Nice house, and a darn good price!

Nice house, and a darn good price!

*

Oh my, what a house!

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

*

Wow.

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

*

phoo

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

*

close up

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

*

house

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

*

details

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

What a beautiful house!

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

*

Thanks again to Marguerite for sharing these wonderful photos!

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

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

*     *     *

Help Me Find These Hidden Treasures in Chester, PA!

September 11th, 2013 Sears Homes 12 comments

Say what you will about Facebook, but it is a great boon for those of us who love history.

Recently, the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) History page on Facebook picked up an old blog I did about these lost houses built by Sun Ship Building Company in Chester, PA and their interest in this topic has given me renewed hope that we might yet find these houses.

It’s one thing for me to sit around studying grainy images in 93-year-old catalogs, but it gets a lot more exciting when the local history lovers start hunting around for these treasures!

And this was quite a large collection of Sears Homes.

The neighborhood seems to extend on for several blocks. It’s certainly possible that 90 years later, these houses have been torn down, but I doubt that every last one of them is gone. And thanks to these wonderful old vintage images, I think our chances of finding these houses are very good!

Please pass this blog along to anyone and everyone who may have some knowledge of Sun Ship and/or Chester.

And please take a moment to read the loquacious captions. That’s where the fun stuff is!

If you can provide more info about these houses are, please leave a comment below.

Oh boy, my first UPDATE! Sun Shipbuilding was located at Route 291 and Harrah’s Blvd in Chester, PA. These houses would have been close by!

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming visit to Louisa, VA click here.

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

To join our group on Facebook, click here.

*    *    *

Sunship

In the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this front page featured several communities where large numbers of Sears House had been sold. The red arrow shows the houses built by Sun Ship. So that's our first clue: The houses were 100% finished by late 1918.

*

Zooming in a  bit, you can discern more detail.

Zooming in a bit, you can discern more detail. The neighborhood was three streets wide, but there's a large "green space" between the two rows on the left, and there appears to be another cluster of houses on the right, in the rear. So that's our second clue: The neighborhood was three streets wide, with one street some distance from the first.

*

Zoom

If you zoom in on the center, you can count the houses in the middle row. I see 10 houses, two Rositas and two Arcadias (models of Sears Homes). More detail on these two models below. And that's our third clue. Look at the roofline for this row. Front-gabled with a shed dormer (#1), very small house with a hipped roof and a porch with a tiny shed room (houses #2 and #3), and approximately seven more front-gabled houses with a shed dormer pointing in the other direction (away from the camera).

*

More detail

There were six homes on the left side, and I do believe that's an outhouse at the end of the row. And I don't *think* the outhouse is there today. However, here's another clue. Side-gabled bungalow (first) with dormer facing the street, followed by four front-gabled bungalows with dormer facing the outhouse. Hipped-roof house with small shed roof on porch is at the end. And look at the placement of the sidwalks here, too. That probably hasn't changed TOO much.

*

house on the right

These houses on the right were really puzzling me, but I think I finally got them figured out. More on that in a moment.

*

House

The first house on the left side of the picture is easily identifiable as a Sears Arcadia. I believe the house next to it (and the subsequent four houses) are also the Sears Arcadia, turned 90 degrees. At the end, there's a small house with a hipped roof. Keep on scrolling down and all will become clear.

*

See what I mean?

The Sears "Arcadia." Except for the lady sitting on the front porch, it's a perfect match.

*

And now look at the middle row.

And now look at the middle row. That's an Arcadia turned 90 degrees on the lot. The dormer was only present on one side, and for the rest of the Arcadias, the dormer is facing away from the camera. But look at those little houses with hipped roofs! What might they be?

*

I suspect that these hipped roof houses are the Rosita.

I suspect that these hipped roof houses in Chester, PA are the "Rosita" (shown above). This was a very small house (and also bathroom-less, just like the Arcadia). The panoramic image first appeared in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog, and both the Rosita and Arcadia were offered in the 1918 catalog, so that's a good fit.

*

Look at the floorplan for the two houses.

Look at the floorplan for the two houses. The Rosita is on the left; the Arcadia is on the right. This is a minor detail, but look at the placement of the chimneys. The panoramic view shows that the chimneys are pretty closely aligned. On the Arcadia (right), the chimney is 9'4" from the home's rear. On the Rosita, it's 11'1" from the rear. That's *about* the representation shown in the old panoramic view. And it's a quirky feature, but look where the front door is on the Arcadia. It enters into the dining room! And, there is no bathroom in either house.

*

And the Arcadia

And the Arcadia floorplan really did lend itself to being spun 90 degrees on the lot. Here, I've taken the floorplan and turned it 90 degrees, and I've also added a doorway into the front bedroom, and moved the front door from the dining room (which is darn quirky) into the living room.

*

So heres what youre looking for: The

So here's what you're looking for: The Arcadia (left) and the Rosita (right). Note, a lot of things about a house can change through the years, but the chimney placement and roofline usually do not change. When you find these houses, they should all still be lined up, much like they appear in the vintage photos above. You should be able to look at them on Bing Aerial photos and count the rooflines - five side-gabled, two hipped, etc., and it should be a spot-on match to what is shown above in the street (panoramic) shots.

*

house on the right

Last but not least, what model are these houses on the right? I puzzled over them for some time. The first house in this row is an Arcadia. Notice how the next house juts out a bit further than the Arcadia? I think to "mix it up a bit," that they stuck a small front porch on an Arcadia turned 90 degrees. The proportions are right and the placement on the windows (on the side) is right. In Carlinville's "Standard Addition" (where Standard Oil built 156 Sears Homes), those houses also had minor architectural changes, so that the houses didn't look just the same.

*

Heres a Rosita in the flesh in Deerfield, VA.

Here's a Rosita "in the flesh" in Deerfield, VA. Somewhere in Chester, Pennsylvania, you have a whole neighborhood of these, and the Arcadias, built by Sun Ship Building Company about 1918, but where? Photo is copyright 2012 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

*    *    *

Almost as Good as a Magnolia! (Sears Pennsgrove!)

September 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

My website recently hit 750,000 views. That’s a lot of people reading about Sears Homes. And with all those visitors, I also get a lot of “I saw a neighborhood just full of Magnolias” emails.

And yet tonight (Thursday night), someone left a comment, saying that there was a Sears Pennsgrove in their neighborhood. The Pennsgrove is one of those rare kit homes that neither I, nor Rebecca, nor Dale have ever seen. And we’ve been looking!

A Pennsgrove.

In Baltimore.

And much to my surprise, they were right. It was a Sears Pennsgrove. The Pennsgrove was only offered in 1931 and 1932, which is part of the reason it’s so rare. Those were not boom years for American real estate.

The Pennsgrove was truly a beautiful home, and fancy too. It’s spacious (about 2,200 square feet), has a two-car attached garage, and is full of unique features. Driving past this beauty, you’d never guess in a million years that this house came from Sears.

And yet it did.

Many thanks to Tom and Jada for telling me about this splendiferous Sears House in Baltimore. You can visit their website here.

Thanks also to the anonymous, gifted, talented and generous Realtor who so graciously permitted me to use her incredibly beautiful photos.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

*   *   *

Pretty fancy house for a kit, isnt it? (1932 catalog)

Pretty fancy house for a kit, isn't it? (1932 catalog)

*

I love the text in these old catalogs.

"Pleasing proportions, picturesque detail, contrasting surfaces and softly blended colors give the Pennsgrove that rare charm characteristic of the countrysides of Kent and Surrey across the sea."

*

Two car attached garage? Wow.

Two car attached garage? Wow. And the garage is big enough to store pine trees, too!

*

house

Small bedrooms, but look at all that busyness off the master bedroom.

*

Nice house.

The Pennsgrove, as it appeared in the 1932 catalog.

*

And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

And the Pennsgrove as it appears today.

*

Wow

Gosh, what a house!

*

Inisde, the house has some delightful and quirky features.

Inside, the house has some delightful and quirky features, such as this opening onto the staircase. And look at that wood! It looks like the house is mostly in original condition.

*

stairs

Another view of the entry foyer.

*

A cute

This house has two full bathrooms, and in this bath, the original tub remains.

*

There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

There is something charming about a bathroom tucked under a dormer.

*

*

dining

Beautiful dining room with original wainscoting.

*

bed

Another dormer in an upstairs bedroom.

*

What have you got in YOUR neighborhood?

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

*   *   *

So Many Kit Homes in Waynesboro!

May 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Earlier this year, I had occasion to stop and visit Waynesboro and I found a few fine-looking Sears Homes.  Several days later, fellow kit house aficionado and researcher Linda Ramsey drove to the area and found four more kit Homes! (To see pictures, scroll down.)

On Thursday, October 17th, I’ll be returning to Waynesboro to give a talk on Sears Homes. It’ll be at the WTA Gateway, 329 W. Main St at 7:00pm. For more info, click here.

And you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home?

From 1908-1940, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Each 12,ooo-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days! During their 32 years in the kit house business, Sears and Roebuck sold about 70,000 houses, offered in 370 models.

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

*  The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.”

* The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

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

Hope to see you Thursday night!

Thanks so much to Linda Ramsey for driving out to Waynesboro and finding these Sears Homes (and photographing them!).

To learn more about the history of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming talk in Waynesboro, click here.

*   *   *

Brist

First, my #1 favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And what's so cool about this is it's not just a kit house, but it it came from Gordon Van Tine. GVT homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs (just like Sears Homes), however GVT Homes were not as popular as Sears. And the house in Waynesboro is the "Bristol," a very unusual Gordon Van Tine home!

*

First, my favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And whats so cool about this is its not just a kit house, but it it came from Montgomery Ward! Wardway Homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs, however Montgomery Ward homes were not that popular.

The floorplans could be flipped (or reversed), based on the owner's preferences. I've flipped the image above to match the house in Waynesboro. It's pretty unlikely that these homeowners know that they have a house that came from a mail-order catalog.

*

Briston

And here's the Wardway Bristol in Waynesboro! And it's just a spot-on match to the catalog! Many thanks to Linda Ramsey for getting this photo and finding this Wardway home! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were simple, boxy little affairs, and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all.

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were "simple, boxy little affairs," and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all. This is the interior view of the GVT Bristol, showing the 20' by 12' living room. Check out the vaulted ceiling and the long, tapered fireplace.

*

First, my favorite. This is the Sears Alhambra, a hugely popular house for Sears - and a beautiful one too. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog.

Next is "The Sears Alhambra," a close runner-up to the Wardway Bristol. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog. It was offered in frame, stucco and brick. Stucco was the most common siding.

*

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro!

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro! And it's in brick! And it's also perfect in every detail! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah! What a perfect match!!! Oh my goodness!!

*

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore.

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore. This house was also offered in stucoo, frame and brick, but was most often built as a frame house with clapboard siding.

*

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above!

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above! Like the Bristol, the floorplan has been reversed. Look at that distinctive front door, and the asymmetrical front gable.

*

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

*

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

*

this is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (

This is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (Waynesboro house and catalog image).

*

Sears Lynnhaven

The Lynnhaven was a very popular model for Sears. And it's also a lovely house.

*

Its hiding behind a tree, but thats definitely a Lynnhaven back there.

It's hiding behind a tree, but that's definitely a Lynnhaven back there. Look at the details around the front door.

*

Linda also found

Linda also found a Conway/Uriel. (This popular model was known by both names.)

*

And what a fine Conway it is!

And what a fine Conway it is! And in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

*

house

Again, a very nice match to the original catalog image! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And heres a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

And here's a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

*

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

*

Again, its in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

Again, it's in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

How many more kit homes are there in Waynesboro? Probably many more than I’ve found thus far.

I’ll be arriving in Waynesboro on Wednesday morning, so if you know of a Sears House in the area, leave a comment below!

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming visit, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

*   *   *

The Bellewood: A Happy Combination!

April 26th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

“The Bellewood is another happy combination of a well laid out floor plan with a modern exterior” (1932 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

And it’s also a real cutie-pie of a house.  With only 1,000 square feet of living area, it’s not surprising that people often convert the attic into usable living space.

The Bellewood is not an easy house to find, mostly because, it was only offered a short time (1931 - 1933), which also happened to be the first years of the Great Depression. In 1931, housing starts plummeted, so finding any post-1930 Sears Home is a special treat. (In January 1931, the Chicago Tribune reported that housing starts for the year [1930] were down 53%.)

Post-1930 Sears Homes are hard to find, and yet, there was one Sears House that will still selling by the hundreds in the early 1930s: The Crafton!

By the way, are you near Staunton? If so, come to our lecture on May 2nd!  :)  A good time will be had by all!

*

1933 catalog house

The Bellewood (1933). Note that the Sears Modern Homes department is now known as the "Home Construction Division." In 1934, Sears closed down their kit homes department and in 1935, they reopened it for a short time. In 1940, the whole program was shuttered once and for all.

*

1932 text

In 1932, it was described as a "Happy combination of a well laid out floor plan with a modern attractive exterior." In 1933, it was simply "an up-to-the-minute...design." How pedestrian.

*

house floor plan

The Bellewood had a very simple floorplan, with two large closets and a tiny bathroom.

*

*

Bellewood 1933

The Bellewood, as seen in the 1933 catalog.

*

1932 catalog house

A close-up of the house as seen in 1932.

*

Bellewood in Hopewell

Here's a lovely Bellewood in Hopewell, Virginia. Notice the vent on the 2nd floor has been replaced with a double-hung window. There's probably not a lot of head room on that 2nd floor.

*

Andrew Mutch Ann Arbor

This Bellewood (Ann Arbor, MI) is in wonderfully original condition. It still has its original windows, siding and trim. Down this wall, there should be a single window in the living room, and paired windows in the dining room, and kitchen. The living room window is paired, and the dining room windows are missing. Given that it has its original siding, it was probably built this way. There's certainly room for another set of windows down that long wall. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Ann Arbor Bellewood house

The "short side" of the Sears Bellewood in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*
*

house shutters

The Bellewood came with "batten" shutters (shown here).

*

house shutters

The Bellewood in Ann Arbor still has its original shutters! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Lara Solinicke Des Plaines IL

And Lara Solinicke found this beautiful Bellewood in Des Plaines, Illinois. What a pretty house!! Again, that upstairs vent has been replaced with a double-hung window! Photo is copyright 2013 Lara Solickne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Does Hopewell, VA have a large collection of Sears Homes? No, they do NOT. However, they do have a Bellewood (and a handful of others). Click here to learn more.

Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here!

*   *   *