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Posts Tagged ‘prefab houses’

A *Beautifully* Original Magnolia in South Bend - For Sale!

June 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

For many years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to see a Magnolia in original condition.

Now, I know.

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend was recently listed for sale, and the Realtor kindly sent me a few pictures.

It can be described in one word:  STUNNING.

Or maybe two:  Original!

These photos give us a rare opportunity to step back in time almost 100 years, and see what the Sears Magnolia looked like when built.

If I was queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d insist that the potential buyers of this rare, historically significant home be required to do a proper, thoughtful and historically sensitive restoration (which is radically different from a remodeling). I’d demand that they find a way to preserve the home’s original features.

As my buddy Bill Inge says, “The first commandment of preservation is, ‘Thou shalt not destroy good old work.’”

The 3,895-square foot home is listed at $320,000. Situated on 1/3 of an acre, it has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half-baths. The listing says it was built in 1927, but we know that that’s not right. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

This house is a rare treasure. I hope its next owners “catch” the vision and see what a remarkable property it really is.

Ready to see some photos? You should get ready to be dazzled!

To buy this fine old house, click here.

To learn more about the history of the Sears Magnolia kit home, click here.

Interested in reading more about how these homes were built? Click here.

All photos are copyright Steve Matz, 2014.

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The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

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The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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The Magnolia in South Bend is remarkable because it's in original condition.

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A view from the inside.

A view from the inside.

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This Magnolia still retains its original mouldings and trim but the inglenook and columns are not in place. It's possible that the house was built without these built-ins.

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I suspect that this is the fireplace in the den.

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The den (right rear) was very small (only 8'9" deep). It's unusual to see the den in its original shape and size. It's also unusual to see a house from this vintage with a half-bath on the first floor (next to the den).

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The Realtor had the good sense to photograph the staircase from the same angle as the original catalog image!

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Nice match, isn't it? Check out the French doors at the rear - both upper and lower level.

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Nice, huh? :D

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The best

There's something about these old nooks that just makes my heart skip a beat.

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This is the very best picture of all. And perhaps the home's finest feature: A built-in nook, completely untouched by time, with the original tile floor, white hexagonal tiles with a blue flower center. This pattern is a classic feature found in early 20th Century Sears Homes. You can see the three original wooden windows behind the nook.

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Fun comparison, isn't it? It's so rare to see these nooks still in place.

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Another incredible feature is that

Not only does this house have its original Butler's Pantry, but it has the original sink, wooden surround and fixture. This house is such a rare find, and to think that it's a Sears Magnolia!

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And it just gets better. Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, the dressing room, is the original sink, light fixtures and oak cabinetry - unpainted!

Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, is a surprisingly large dressing room. The fact that even the dressing room is original is a real testament to the home's prior owners, who had the wisdom to follow the #1 rule: "Thou shalt not destroy good old work." And this cabinetry was incredibly good work. In the corner, is the Magnolia's original sink, light fixtures and medicine chest - unpainted! If you look closely, you'll see the original cabinet pulls.

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It's true that I am nutty as a fruitcake, but seeing this century-old Magnolia - wholly untouched by time - sends me. Original sink, original fixtures, original medicine chest, and an original light fixture (porcelain sconce). Just incredible. I'm a big fan of old plumbing but I've never seen a three-sided sink before.

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Close-up of the upstairs floorplan, showing that small sink in the dressing room.

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And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

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A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

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To buy this fine old house, click here.

Interested in learning more about the Sears Magnolia? Click here.

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Levittown, Norfolk Virginia

March 29th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

“Rose, do you know what this thing is?”

That’s what my neighbor asked me Friday night, as we were standing in the front yard, enjoying the pleasant evening.

In the back of his truck, he showed me a 2×6 with a metal ring recessed into a matching groove. I closely examined the board and the ring and the groove. Then I had to admit, I didn’t have a clue.

“It came out of that house that they’re remodeling down the street,” he said. “It’s a roofing joist. I didn’t know what it was either, and I asked my nephew and he said it was a fastener. It had a square bolt that went through it, and that’s what held two pieces of wood together.”

“Like a nailing plate,” I said.

“Yeah, like a nailing plate.”

Back at home, we looked it up on the computer (using the patent number) and found it was a Teco Timber Ring.

Looking at this curiosity, I got to thinking it might help me solve another riddle. This Teco Ring came from “Bromley” (an adjacent neighborhood).

I’ve always wondered, why does Bromely have so many “Levittown houses”? We’ve got more than 75 “Jubilee” models, and they are identical to the houses built in Levittown (NY and PA).

Was there a connection between Bromley and Levitt’s assembly-line-method-of-house-building? Or did someone in Norfolk just “borrow” the Jubilee floorplan and build it en masse?

We know that William Levitt (creator and builder of Levittown) had a presence in Norfolk. In the early 1940s, he developed a tract of 750 homes in Norfolk known as “Oakdale Farms” (just off Little Creek Road).

According to Second Suburb: Levittown, Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), “Before Oakdale Farms, [the Levitts] undertook a detailed study of prefabrication techniques and erected several test houses. They saw the exigencies of war as ideal circumstances for adopting the practice for the construction mainstream” (p. 136).

On the following page, the Levitts pointed at Oakdale Farms as their “watershed that was crucial to their large-scale projects of the post-war years.”

William Levitt is quoted as saying that Norfolk “infected us with the fever of mass building…We saw house-building…with a tract of land as a factory, turning out low-cost houses as its product.”

Are our Norfolk “Jubilees” in Bromley a Levittown product?

The discovery of this Teco Timber Coupler adds some intrigue. The house where it came from is not the “Jubilee,” but it’s smack-dab in a neighborhood full of these Levittown-lookalikes.

Take a look and the pictures, and if anyone can shed any light on this new mystery, let me know!

Read more about the Teco Timber Ring here.

To read an excellent article on Levittown, click here.

A final thought: One of the sweetest parts about being the local “expert” is having friends who pull cool stuff out of trash piles and haul it home and show it to you.  ;)

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This Teco Timber Ring was found in a house in Bromley (section of Norfolk).

This Teco Timber Ring was found in a house in Bromley (section of Norfolk).

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It came out of a 1950s house thats been torn down to the studs and is being rebuilt. Curious thing is, its in a neighborhood full of Jubilee Levittown houses. Is there a connection?

It came out of a 1950s house that's been torn down to the studs and is being rebuilt. Curious thing is, it's in a neighborhood full of "Jubilee" Levittown houses. Is there a connection?

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This iconic image from Life Magazine shows the Levittown NY neighborhood in the late 1950s.

This iconic image from Life Magazine shows the Levittown NY neighborhood in the late 1950s. Now take a good look at the houses in the background. Notice the long thin windows on the 2nd floor? This was the "Jubilee" model found in Levittown NY and PA.

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Heres a picture of a Levittown Jubilee in New York.

Here's a picture of a Levittown Jubilee in New York. See photo credit directly below.

The photo above came from a blogger who wrote a terrific piece on Levittown. You can enjoy more of his wonderful images and photos by clicking here.

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And heres one of our Jubilees in Norfolks Bromely neighborhood.

And here's one of our "Jubilees" in Norfolk's Bromley neighborhood. Notice, it even has the same attic vents (in the peak of the gable) as the NY Jubilee.

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Ive not counted yet, but Id guess we have more than 75 of these models.

I've not counted yet, but I'd guess we have more than 75 of these models.

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This Jubilee in Levittown, NY is for sale. Its on Vermillion Way.

This Jubilee in Levittown, NY (Vermillion Way) is for sale. I'm posting it here because it shows the back side of these houses. The house in the foreground has had some modifications. The white house next door is more original.

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Just like its Levittown twin, the house in Norfolk has a bathroom dormer (on the rear) with an off-center window.

Just like its Levittown twin, the house in Norfolk has a bathroom dormer (on the rear) that comes off the peak with an off-center window.

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werid angle

Another curious feature is the different angle on that garage roof. It's a different pitch than the primary roof. This house is in Levittown, Pennsylvania.

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The mismatched roof pitch on the garage/carport is also a match.

Our Jubilees in Norfolk also have this feature (unusually pitched garage roof).

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This Norfolk Jubilee has its original windows.

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As does this one in Levittown, PA.

As does this one in Levittown, PA. And they're the same style of window that's present in the Norfolk homes.

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Was Bill Levitt involved in creating our own mini-Levittown here in Norfolk?

I’d sure love to know.

One things for sure - the houses are a perfect match - down to the windows, vents, and other details.

You can read a fun little article about The Jubilee here.

More information on Levittown can be found here.

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The Home Stretch

March 7th, 2014 Sears Homes 10 comments

Twelve years ago, my life changed in so many ways and it all happened so fast.

January 2002, my beloved mother died suddenly. Less than 60 days later, my husband of 24 years asked for a divorce. Thirty days later, a close friend severed all ties with me. In 90 days, three of the most important people in my life were gone.

And yet a fresh green sprout of hope sprung up in the midst of those charred ashes of my life: My book on Sears Homes.

That book was a lifeline in too many ways to count, and it was an answer to so many prayers.

After the book was published (March 2002), I did some “back of the envelope ciphering” and figured I had enough cash on hand to survive 90 days. If my book had not “taken off” by then, I’d have to do something that scared the heck out of me: Get a real job.

Desperate to stretch my grocery budget, I ate very little and lost a lot of weight.

Sixty days out, I got a call from The New York Times. They were doing a feature story on Sears Homes and they’d heard I’d just written a book. A couple weeks later, my book and I hit the front page of the Real Estate Section. Next, I got a call from a producer at History Detectives. I appeared on the 2nd episode of the first season.

I was off to the races.

Since then, I’ve been featured on CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, MSNBC, BBC Radio, NPR Radio and more. In Summer 2004, my book was featured on Jeopardy!

In the last 12 years, I’ve given more than 200 lectures in 26 states. I’ve traveled many miles spreading the good news of this important and unique chapter in America’s architectural history. And I’ve met so many first-class folks along the way.

It’s truly been a big adventure and a whole lot of fun.

But, as the sophists say, all good things must come to an end.

The last three years, this business venture has not been profitable. The cost of everything keeps going up, and the profit margins keep going down. Three months ago, the last printing of The Houses That Sears Built came off the presses. When those books are gone, that’ll be the end.

In three or four months, the inventory at Amazon.com will be gone, and probably a few months after that, the stock of books I keep here at the house (sold through this website) will be exhausted.

I imagine I’ll never stop looking for kit homes, and I’ll keep writing at this website. Heck, when I’m in my 80s, I’ll probably still be yelling, “STOP THE CAR” to whomever is driving me around.

But the days of printing these books - an important chapter in my life - has come to a close.

If you’d like to purchase my books, they’re available at this website.

While supplies last.

:)

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Its certainly been a fun run.

It's certainly been a fun run. The book on the right (first edition) has been out of print for 10 years, but the book on the left is now - as of January 2014 - out of print. Amazon has some inventory to sell off, and I have a few boxes here at the hoouse from the last printing. That's the last of the lot.

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And yes

When the last of the books are gone, it'll be nice to have this space free again.

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In 2005, I visited Lorain, Ohio and it was quite a thrill to see my name on the theater marquis!

In 2005, I visited Lorain, Ohio and it was quite a thrill to see my name on the theater marquis!

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If you took a stroll down the hallway of my home, youd see how much I enjoyed being The Author of this fun little niche topic.

If you took a stroll down the hallway of my home here in Norfolk, you'd see some of the mementos from my travels.

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In Raleigh, NC, they made this big movie poster for my talk.

In Raleigh, NC, they made this big movie poster for my talk. For my birthday, my husband had it framed.

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In November 2010, my last book (The Sears Homes of Illinois) was published, and I did a book tour throughout Illinois.

In November 2010, my last book ("The Sears Homes of Illinois") was published, and I did a book tour throughout Illinois. That was also a good time, but wearying.

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A personal favorite. In 2004, I was invited to give a talk at The Smithsonian Museum (Postal Museum). That was such a thrill for me. The day I gave that talk, I felt like I had finally proven myself to be a "legitimate" author!

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And this was also a special lecture for me. I was at this lecture when I

And this was also a special lecture for me. I was at this lecture in Jefferson City when Wayne Ringer called me the very first time. Ninety days later, we were engaged to be married.

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Sometimes, unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game (from the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun).

"Sometimes, unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game" (from the movie, "Under the Tuscan Sun").

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If you’d like to purchase my books, they’re available at this website.

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The Laurel: A Degree of Character and Distinction

February 11th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Laurel is a model of Sears House that I have never seen in person, so it was pretty exciting to meet Valerie, who found our Facebook Group (“Sears Homes”) and immediately shared photos of her own Laurel.

I asked Valerie to send me a little background on how she came to fall in love with “Laurel,” and her email was so enchanting, I’m publishing it here!

She wrote,

I wanted to buy a home in Phoenixville, PA since it is an up-and-coming town and full of creative stores and music. It’s also the town where the movie house featured in the movie “The Blob” was filmed.

We have an annual Blob Fest where people re-enact the original event once a year, and run screaming out of the theater.

Our town is full of history. I also wanted to live near the Schuylkill Canal Lock 60.  The Schuylkill Canal Association has painstakingly restored 2.5 miles of the canal. Originally constructed in 1827, it was part of a historic 108-mile waterway linking Philadelphia to Port Carbon. It was built to serve the anthracite coal fields or the Coal Region of Pottsville.

That historic waterway is about 75 feet in front of my “Laurel.”

When the “Laurel” came on the market, the real estate listing said it was an “authentic Sears home,” but I didn’t know what that meant, and honestly, it didn’t really affect my decision to  buy the house.

I fell in love with this home the moment I walked inside, even with its less-than-attractive kitchen, painted florescent yellow and bright blue. Throughout the house, someone had painted the woodwork “Colonial Blue” and yellow.

The bathroom was also pretty beat-up looking.

The gorgeous archways in the living room, the many windows, the solid floors and charming character made me feel at home. I knew most of the things I didn’t like were just cosmetic, and the house was yelling for TLC.

I bought Lora (the pet name I gave the house) in Sept. 2008.

All my doors retain their original varnish (never painted) and have their original Sears hardware.

I think the exterior front lamps are original, and the hand rail on my steps is original. Of the 19 windows, seven of them are original to the house.  The floors were covered with purgo (why I’ll never know). From what I’ve seen, the original floors underneath were in fine condition. I had the floors done two years and they came out BEAUTIFUL!!

The day after I moved in, an old man in a small pickup truck caught my attention and yelled, “”You the new owner?”

I said, “Yes, as of yesterday!”

He told me that his dad had built this house and that it came in boxes off the train. (There’s still have a single train track in my back yard but there hasn’t been a train on that line in many years.)

Of course I invited him in. I could sense his mind was working at the memories of this house.

He told me that they enclosed the porch for his grandmother to live in who was very sick and his parents took care of her. He told me the back room (mudroom) was added for the ice deliveries. He said if they needed ice, they’d flip an ice sign (which was left hanging in a side window), and then the ice truck would know to stop and deliver ice!

Down in the basement, he showed me where the coal chute was. and s He shared the back bedroom with his brother, and his parents were in the front room. He talked about sliding downstairs in his pajamas, and listening to him talk, you could tell that the house brought back a lot of great memories!

I will never forget that visit. I regret not getting his contact info but he said he had some pictures of the house and promised to bring them by if he could find them. I have not heard from him since.

Soon after I moved in to Lora, my very kind neighbors told me I live in a Sears home! They said that two owners ago, an owner had the home’s original instruction manual (for building the house from a kit), but took it with him.

My neighbor Jim, who also lives in a kit home, told me he found a receipt for his house in the ceiling of his kitchen.

After these conversations I did some homework about Sears homes.

I discovered that my Laurel was built about 1932 (although the year is conflicting on county book it says 1932 but on my mortgage and other docs its 1933). The staircase landings have the square blocks (known as plinth blocks), and I found a shipping label while redoing my bathroom.

My bathtub has an “R” in the lower right corner. (Imagine how excited I was when I found that one!! It’s the only original plumbing fixture.)

I did not find any stamping on the framing members but I understand they always didn’t do that. Now I have the Sear’s kit home bug. I am searching for original documents and anything Sear’s home related.

I’m sorry this is so long I can go on and on. Ask anyone that knows me once they get me started on my house they can’t get away.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes (and those plinth blocks mentioned above), click here.

Want to join our “Sears Homes” group at Facebook? Click here.

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The Laurel is one of those models Ive never seen before.

The Laurel was a darling house and a good price, too (1928 catalog).

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It was also a narrow house, and could fit on a 25-foot lot. Plus, the front porch will be appreciated by all members of the household, so there's that.

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The house was a mere 19' wide, which made it ideal for small lots.

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Unlike so many kit homes of this time, the Laurel had two spacious bedrooms.

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It really is a darling house, and I love the cut-out shutters.

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And here's Valerie's real-life Laurel in Phoenixville. What a gem! And it's in brick! Photo is copyright 2014 Valerie Chochla and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Pictured side-by-side, you can see what a good match it is!

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"Lora" looks very happy, doesn't it? And it warms the cockles of my heart to know that someone will love and appreciate this fine old house. Photo is copyright 2014 Valerie Chochla and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about why these old houses are so valuable (and irreplaceable), click here.

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Those Riverview Bungalows and a Virginia Ghost Town

February 7th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

If you love history or if you just like looking at pictures of old houses, you won’t want to miss our talk at the next CPRV Civic League Meeting.

David Spriggs and I will give a talk Monday night, featuring more than 100 vintage photos (many of which were recently discovered) showcasing a chapter of Riverview’s history that has been all but forgotten.

The talk is at 7:00 pm at the Eggleston Garden Center at 110 Lavalette Avenue in Norfolk (February 10th, Monday).

Scroll on down for a quick preview of some of the images we’ll be featuring Monday night.

Enjoy the photos below - and hope to see you Monday night!

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The image on the left

The house on the left is on Ethel Avenue in Riverview (circa 1948). The house on the right shows the same bungalow in Penniman, Virginia (Spring 1918). The photograph on the right was taken shortly after the house was built. Penniman was located six miles east of Williamsburg, and it was a town "built by DuPont." After World War I, the houses in Penniman were placed on barges and moved to several cities, including Norfolk! Cheatham Annex is now located where Penniman once stood. Photo on right is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Penniman was located on the York River and covered more than 6,000 acres.

Penniman was located on the York River and covered more than 6,000 acres. At its peak, Penniman had about 15,000 residents, and had its own hospital, hotel, movie theater, bank and post office. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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If you look closely at the screened-in front porch of this Riverview house, you'll notice the original railings in place from its former life on the York River. This house is also on Ethel Avenue (1948).

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Penniman was

The houses that now sit on Ethel and Lavalette were the "permanent houses" built at Penniman, and they can be seen in the background (near the water's edge). Most of the houses seen in this photo were temporary structures with tarpaper siding and roofing. Pretty primitive. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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If you look

If you look closely at these 1948 photos, you'll see extra skirting around the bottom of the houses. This is probably from "the big move" and was an effort to cover up the new foundations built for the incoming houses.

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The houses were shipped from Penniman by barge.

The houses were shipped from Penniman by barge. The houses shown here ended up in the Riverfront neighborhood (Major and Glenroie Avenue). The photo is from the December 1921 Virginia Pilot. Many thanks to Robert Hitchings for finding this newspaper article!

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One of our big breaks came when fellow researcher Mark Hardin discovered that our Ethels had been built at Dupont, Washington (another DuPont plant) and Ramsay, Montana.

One of our big breaks came when fellow researcher Mark Hardin discovered that our "Ethels" had been built at Dupont, Washington (site of another DuPont plant) and Ramsay, Montana. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

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This photo shows the original placement of the Ethel Bungalows at Penniman. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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And we discovered that this house (and a second one on Beach Street) also came from Penniman.

We discovered that this house on Ethel (and another one on Beach Street) came from Penniman.

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Hope you can join us Monday night, at 7:00 pm at the Eggleston Garden Center at 110 Lavalette Avenue in Norfolk.

To see images of several “Ethel Bungalows” from 1948, click here.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Marguerite’s Beautiful and Beloved #124

February 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marguerites house was even mentioned in the 1916 catalog!

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

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Spaciosu floor plan.

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

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

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Nice house, and a darn good price!

Nice house, and a darn good price!

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Oh my, what a house!

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

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Wow.

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

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phoo

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

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close up

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

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

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

What a beautiful house!

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

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Thanks again to Marguerite for sharing these wonderful photos!

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

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

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My Favorite Magnolia Story - As Told By A Builder Who Built A Maggy

February 3rd, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

This blog originally appeared at this site November 2011. That was more than two years ago, and I thought it’d be worthwhile to print this again.  Enjoy!

In September 2002, I flew to Akron, Ohio to work with a producer for a new show that was tentatively called, History Detectives. They were very excited about launching the new program with a story on Sears Homes. I would appear on the second episode, in a story centered around some purported Sears Homes in Firestone Park in Akron.

The filming started at a beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. What a thrill that was, to see my first Sears Magnolia up close and personal!

The filming took place in March and it was very cold in Ohio. Seemed like it was either snowing, getting ready to snow, or just finishing up with snow. I never saw a blue sky during my time in Ohio.

Despite the cold weather, it was a happy, happy event for me - all the way around. Throughout the eight days of filming, I was treated like a queen and I had my own “gaffer,” who fetched me donuts and hot cocoa and gloves and any little thing my heart desired. What fun!

Years after that big event, someone sent me an article about the building of that Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. It was written sometime in the early 1990s by a Canton history buff, T. E. Prather. The title was “Magnolia: Neo Classic Revival Revived!”

What’s remarkable about this article is that it quotes the 94-year-old builder who helped build the Magnolia in 1923. (Unfortunately, it was a short newspaper clipping, and there was no newspaper name attached! I’d love to know where this originally appeared.)

Clarence Swallow was the builder of nearly 300 homes in this area, and in 1923, he was a 27-year-old carpenter. He was hired by Canton Attorney Leroy Contie, Sr., to supervise the total construction of Contie’s Magnolia.

The catalog price of this pre-cut house was $5,140. With the price of the Ridgewood lot, plastering, electrical work, plumbing, plus other extras, te total cost of the home was approximately $18,000.

Swallow explains how the crates of numbered, top-quality, pre-cut lumber and supplies were brought to the building site by horse-drawn wagons. Swallow and his two-man crew sorted through the giant jig-saw puzzle of packages and began construction in the summer of 1923.

The framing went up on the pre-formed concrete foundation through the summer and autumn. By the first snowfall, the Magnolia was under roof. Then Ennon Plumbing, Eclipse Electric, and several plasterers worked through the winter as Swallow and crew completed the interior trim work.

The six fluted yellow poplar Corinthian porch columns were precisely set in place to support the two-story front portico. The side lights [flanking] the front entrance and an elliptical fanlight under a second floor balcony were the center focus of the main entry.

The original elegance of this early 1920s Magnolia has yielded a small bit to being unoccupied over the past couple years. Yet it has been featured in the Smithsonian (November 1985) and was the featured home of Ohio Historical Society’s publication , Timeline in early 1989.


To read my second favorite blog about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

And we found an eighth Magnolia in West Virginia! Read about that here!

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The Magnolia was the finest house that Sears offered (cover 1918).

The Magnolia was the finest house that Sears offered (cover 1918).

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Although I never did see one with a red roof.

Although I never did see one with a red roof.

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It was offered from 1918 - 1922, and sold for about $5,000 (depending on year). In 1920, the price hit $9,990 due to post-war hyperinflation of building materials.

It was offered from 1918 - 1922, and sold for about $5,000 (depending on year). In 1920, the price hit $9,990 due to post-war hyperinflation of building materials.

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One of my favorite Magnolias in Benson, SC.

One of my favorite Magnolias in Benson, SC.

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Another gorgeous Magnolia in West Virginia.

Another gorgeous Magnolia in West Virginia.

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The Magnolia in South Bend (which is currently for sale). Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

The Magnolia in South Bend (which is currently for sale). Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is looking a little rough, but its recently been sold and maybe itll get a new chance at life.

This Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is looking a little rough, but it's recently been sold and maybe it'll get a new chance at life. It does need some lovin'.

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A brick Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania.

A brick Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania.

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And a STUNNING Magnolia in Syracuse, NY. Its also a real beauty.

And a STUNNING Magnolia in Syracuse, NY. It's also a real beauty. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Rest in peace, old Maggy. This was torn down in 1986. Sigh.

Rest in peace, old Maggy. This was torn down in 1986. Sigh. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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

To see the inside of a Magnolia, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Thou Shalt Not Steal, Part II

January 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 9 comments

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

Who owns this photo?

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

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

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

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

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

With that in mind, here goes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there’s the labor involved.

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

Back to my original question: Who owns the image?

The following comes from Wikipedia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just the right thing to do.

And now, back to happy things.

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

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

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

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Another happy picture is me,

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

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

Interested in the Sears Wizard? Click here!

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Frank’s Beautiful Strathmore In Waldwick, NJ

January 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

Sometime in the 1930s, a man named Frank Workman not only built a Sears Strathmore, but he had the wisdom to document part of the process through photographs.

About 80 years later, a kind soul named Ms. Dickinson had the wisdom to save those photos and put them on eBay.

Last week, yet another kind soul named Dale Wolicki had the wisdom to send me a link to these photos, and I hastily put in a bid and subsequently won this treasure trove!

Thanks to Frank, and Ms. Dickinson, and Mr. Wolicki, at least 2,000 people will now enjoy these many photos of a Sears Strathmore being built at 21 Pennington Avenue in Waldwick, NJ.

Ms. Dickinson reports that Frank’s daughter (shown in photos below) lived in the house until recently. These houses were built with so much love, and the first families intended that these houses be passed down through the generations.

But unfortunately…

According to the wonderful note Ms. Dickinson included with these photos, Frank’s house was demolished about one month ago. How many Sears Homes are we going to tear down before someone decides that they’re worthy of preservation?

So very frustrating.

Frank Workman obviously took great pride in his beautiful Strathmore. How disturbing that someone in Waldwick, NJ saw fit to tear it down.

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Frank

Frank Workman must have been quite a character. He's standing on the side of his Strathmore in Waldwick, NJ. Perhaps Frank had Indian roots. Or maybe he just really liked this headdress.

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Frank

Frank really liked that headdress and he really liked his house.

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The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you dont find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception.

The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you don't find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception. It had an expandable attic, for extra square footage (1936).

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Good florplan

The Strathmore had 1-1/2 baths, which was a plus. The kitchen was a mere 12-feet by 7-feet.

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Ive always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

I've always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

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Side view of the Strathmore under construction.

Side view of the Strathmore under construction. Note, the planking is horizontal. On many houses of this vintage, the planking runs diagonally. However, this house ended up with cypress shakes, so maybe that's why the planks are run horizontal.

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This is a close-up of those packing crates.

Close-up of those packing crates (seen in the foreground of the photo above). I suspect that the quality of lumber used in these packing crates is far superior to the "premium" lumber currently being sold at the big box stores.

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What a grand photo!

What a grand photo, and it really demonstrates a different time in American architectural history. Years ago, I knew a man who built his own home in Elsah, Illinois and it was all the rage in Jersey County. He was a novice homebuilder who undertook to build his own home "from scratch." And yet in 1930s, people didn't think anything of buying a kit home and building it themselves.

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I love

And here's a close-up of that same photo. Look at that make-shift ladder! And that wooden scaffolding looks a bit primitive, too. Looks like Frank might have been doing his own brick work. My favorite item in this photo is the 55-gallon drum overturned on its side. For the life of me, I can't imagine what would have been in that drum. Paint and varnish were supplied in one and two-gallon metal buckets.

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Another i

Another view of the home's front, during construction.

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Franks daughters

According to Ms. Dickinson, Frank's daughter lived in this house until very recently. Judging by the clothes, it looks like this photo dates to the late 1930s, or shortly after the house was finished. It seems likely that these are Frank's two daughters, seated on the "cheek" of the front porch. Check out the original batten shutters behind the girls.

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Another view of the two daughters.

Another view of the two daughters. And judging by the steps, it does seem likely that Frank did his own brickwork. Kind of reminds me of the Lucy episode where she rebuilt the brick barbecue pit in the backyard.

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Another view of the completed house, date unknown.

Another view of the completed house, date unknown. However, it's interesting to note that those three windows next to the fireplace have already been replaced. Originally, these three had diamond muntins.

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Frank loved cars, too.

Frank loved cars, too. The home's left side is shown here. Can anyone identify the year of this car? My best guess is early 1930s, or even late 192os.

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View of

Good view of the home's left side, and kitchen door.

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Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

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Frank

Oh Frank, I'm sorry to say that your beautiful Strathmore - built with such love and care - is now sitting in a landfill somewhere. When will we decide to stop tearing down old kit homes?

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And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, its still standing.

And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, it's still standing. Then again, I haven't been down that street in four years, so who knows.

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To learn more about what makes Sears Homes so valuable (and worthy of restoration and preservation), click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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Bob Beckel’s Christmas Crescent

December 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

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

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

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

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

Or one television show at a time.  :)

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

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

To read more about the Sears Crescent, click here.

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Bob Beckels house, all decked out for the holidays.

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

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Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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

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

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Flippped

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

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

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A darling

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

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One of my favorite Crescents in Bloomington, IL.

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

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In 1928

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

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This testimonial

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

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

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

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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