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Posts Tagged ‘prefabricated kit house’

Albert Brown’s Awesome Old House in Mechanicsburg, Ohio

June 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

In 1912, Albert Brown of Mechanicsburg, Ohio sent a lovely letter to Gordon Van Tine (a kit home company), praising House #126, which he’d recently purchased of them.  Albert was so enamored of the house that (he said in  his letter), it was his intention (in 1912) to buy and build two more houses and one barn from Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa).

In fact, Albert asked Gordon Van Tine for a placard for his house, identifying it as one of their own homes.

Gordon Van Tine published Albert’s letter in their 1913 mail-order catalog (and Albert’s letter is shown below).

We don’t know if Albert ever purchased or built those other two houses, or if Gordon Van Tine ever provided him with a placard for his house, but we do know that Albert bought his barn, and built it at the back of the lot, adjacent to House #126.

It’s pretty darn fun to rediscover this lost piece of history and “connect all the dots,” based just on a name and a short testimony found in a 1913 mail order catalog.

So, are there two more Gordon Van Tine houses there in Mechanicsburg, thanks to Albert? I’d love to know!

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for digging into this story and finding this amazing house (and getting an address!), and thanks to Cindy Goebel Catanzaro for taking so many wonderful photos!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine kit homes, click here.

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

hosue

House #126 as it appeared in the 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

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house 2

Close-up of the house that Albert selected (1913).

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testimony

Albert Brown's testimony appeared under #126 in the 1913 catalog.

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house 3

And here is Albert's house as it appears today. It's a real beauty, and a lovely match to the 1913 catalog image. If you look at the lower right of this photo, you can see the barn that Albert purchased in later years. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hosue 4

Notice the oval window in the front gable, and the small vestibule.

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house

This house in Mechanicsburg is in wonderfully original condition. I wonder if the current owners know about Albert, and his story? I wonder if they realize that they have a kit home? (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hosue detail

Close-up of that ornamental window. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house six

And a view from the side of the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And my favorite photo of all!  Cindy managed to get inside this house and found a vintage photo hanging on the wall. Is this Albert and friends? Oh, how Id love to know!!

And my favorite photo of all! Cindy managed to get inside this house and found a vintage photo of #126 hanging on the wall. Is this Albert and friends? Oh, how I'd love to know!!

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Close up of the folks. Who are these people?

Close up of the folks. Who are these people? They obviously love their dogs!

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barn too

Albert was so dazzled by the House #126 that he purchased this barn in later years.

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house house

Nice barn!

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house hosue barn

And here is Albert's GVT barn, sitting on the back edge of the lot. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Again, many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Mechanicsburg (with a little help from Ancestry.com) and thanks to Cindy Goebel Catanzara for running out to Mechanicsburg to get these wonderful photos!

Want to learn more about Gordon Van Tine? Click here.

Read more about these amazing kit homes by clicking here.

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A Sears Magnolia in South Carolina?

February 15th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

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:

Maggy May

Purported Magnolia in South Carolina.

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Windows

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 Sears Magnolias front porch

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

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.

Maggy in Benson

The Maggy in Benson, NC is a spot-on match.

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.  (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)

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.

Maggy May

The Maybe-Not-A-Magnolia in South Carolina.

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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