Last week, I put 897 miles on the old Camry driving from Norfolk to Raleigh to South Carolina (and making a few stops along the way). I’d heard that there was a Sears Magnolia in western South Carolina, so I decided to check it out.
Here are some photos:
Purported Magnolia in South Carolina.
Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.
The windows in the SC Maggy are right. These are replacement windows, but the original proportions and space are correct. The small lites at the top are original, and they're a spot-on match to the Sears Magnolia.
Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. The two-story columns are an eye-catching feature. Also notice the distinctive roof lines and unique details around the front porch. At its core, the Sears Magnolia is a classic foursquare with delusions of grandeur.
Sears Magnolia in SC. While the Magnolia has a fan lite (semi-circle) over the front door, this one has a rectangle. Still, that's not a huge difference and not a deal breaker.
The Maggy in Benson, NC is a spot-on match.
A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio
Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.
Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling) Done in brick, this Sears Magnolia also is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.
The Maybe-Not-A-Magnolia in South Carolina.
The Magnolia in Alabama is also not a spot-on match to the original catalog image. Most obvious is that attic dormer, which is much simpler than the Magnolia dormer. Yet this house in Piedmont Alabama is a Sears Magnolia.
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In conclusion, after spending about two hours inspecting the house in South Carolina, I’m of the opinion that it is NOT a Sears Magnolia. The lumber in the house just did not look like Sears lumber. I’ve seen many basements of many Sears Homes, and the lumber in this South Carolina house was much lighter and had a rougher cut.
I suspect that this beautiful old house was offered in a plan book somewhere in the early 1900s, and in later years, architects at Sears discovered the planbook and created the “Sears Magnolia” in the image and likeness of that plan book house. That’s a theory. I really don’t know.
What I do know is that the house in South Carolina was built in 1910*, and while the Magnolia’s footprint is 36 x 40, the footprint of the South Carolina house is 39 x 43, exactly three feet bigger in both directions. The interior rooms are adjusted accordingly. And if the Sears Magnolia began life as a pattern book house, or plan book house, this is exactly what Sears would have done to “modify” the design for their needs. At least a dozen times, I’ve found the identical twins of Sears designs in plan books and architectural magazines, a year or ten before it appeared in the pages of a Sears Modern Homes catalog. Typically, Sears would shave a couple feet off the floor plan and give it a nice name and voila! It’s Sears Modern Home #84736.
However, this is just a theory. I’m not sure. From the exterior, this house surely does look like a Sears Magnolia, but it’s not quite “perfect.” If anyone has any ideas, as Ross Perot once said, “I’m all ears.”
* The construction date of 1910 is not a confirmed fact, but came from tax records. Based on the interior design, I suspect that’s an accurate date. The house had coal-burning fireplaces in every room - no exceptions - and coal-burning fireplaces were very common in that time period (very early 1900s).
To buy Rose’s book, click here.
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