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Posts Tagged ‘prefabricated kit houses’

The Devonshire: Charming Home of Many Gables

February 21st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Thanks to Andrew Mutch and Melodie Nichols, I have many wonderful photos of kit homes in Michigan.

Recently, they sent me a several photos of Ann Arbor’s kit homes. It was my intention to write a blog showcasing these houses, but while preparing that blog, I got distracted by a single house in their collection: The Wardway Devonshire.

Now typically, I post the Wardway stories on the Wardway blog (click here to visit it), but this one time, I figured I’d post it here.

So many things about this house intrigued me. For one, the Devonshire was on the cover of the 1931 Wardway Homes catalog. Secondly, it was prominently featured in a testimonial, extolling the virtues of buying a Wardway Home. Third, the catalog page (1931) showed “interior shots” of the Devonshire.

And lastly, it’s a lovely Tudor Revival, with several distinctive features, and that makes it easy to identify!

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To read about the impressive collection of Sears Homes in beautiful Staunton, click here.

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The Devonshire was featured on the cover of the 1931 catalog.

The Devonshire was featured on the cover of the 1931 catalog.

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Oh, and it was a charmer!

Oh, and it was a charmer!

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Price was

Price was under $2,400, or a mere $47.50 a month!

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In the 1931 catalog, the Devonshire got a two-page spread!

In the 1931 catalog, the Devonshire got a two-page spread!

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And I love the descriptive text!

And "it's bound to please, no matter how exacting you are!"

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But look at these interior views!

But look at these interior views! If you buy the Devonshire, you can invite the society ladies for tea and not be embarrassed!

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living

You can even invite the ladies into the living room!

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Kitchens not too shabby either!

Kitchen's not too shabby either!

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Check

Check out that subway tile in the bathroom.

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Floorplan

The first floor had a sunporch and an open porch.

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Floorplan

Upstairs, there were three small bedrooms and a single bath.

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favorite part

But here's the best part. Mrs. William M. Parker wrote that she was pleased with her new Devonshire, and then she sent in a photograph of the old dump, er, ah, "house" where she paid the landlord $75 a month. Her new mortgage payment was about half of her old rent payment!

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favorite

Close-up on Mrs. Parker's glowing testimonial.

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nasty old house

And here's the old house that Mrs. Parker inhabited before her shiny new Wardway came into her life. I wonder if this house is still standing in Ann Arbor? Pretty distinctive house!

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Mrs.

Mrs. William Parker's much-loved house in Ann Arbor. Now that is very cool! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And now, 80 years later, Mrs. Parkers Devonshire is still the same color as the house on the cover!

And now, 80 years later, Mrs. Parker's Devonshire in Ann Arbor, Michigan is still the same color as the house on the cover! Hey, where's the red roof! :)

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To learn more about the other discoveries Melodie and Andrew have made in Michigan, click here.

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

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Sears Modern Home #138 in Somerville, NJ

July 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

There are several dozen Sears Homes that I have never seen “in the flesh,” but thanks to the kindness of fellow kit house aficionados, I’m “discovering” more of these rare houses. Hopefully by sharing these photos here, more and more of these rare Sears Kit Homes will be discovered.

Some years ago, the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee discovered that they had a Sears Modern Home #138 in their city. The house had been moved years ago (to prevent its being demolished) and yet even now, it’s still in delightfully original condition and even retains its original cobblestone chimney.

Many thanks to Marge Sullivan and the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) for sending these photos to me, and granting permission to publish them here.

Somerville has an abundance of kit homes. To see the Sears Milton in Somerville, click here!

SMH 128

Sears Modern Home #138 was offered only in the 1913 catalog, according to "Houses by Mail" (a field guide to Sears Homes published in 1985).

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Sears

First floor of the Sears Modern Home #138. Nice-size pantry!

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Sears

Three bedrooms AND a bathroom!

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Sears

Sears #138 in Somerville, NJ. Photo is copyright 2010, Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. This house was moved from another location (in Somerville) and during the move, the cobblestone columns and cheeks were lost, but the fireplace survived the move!

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Nice match!

Nice match to the #138 in Somerville!

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To read about the Sears Milton in Somerville, click here.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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The Beaumont: Extra Convenience

May 29th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

When Rebecca and I were reviewing and comparing our Life Lists, Rebecca identified the Sears Beaumont as one of the Sears Homes that she’d never seen.

“I’ve only seen one,” I told her, “and it was in Carlinville, Illinois.”

Rebecca laughed out loud and said, “I might have driven right past it and not noticed it!”

Me, too.

In 2004, I gave a talk in Carlinville on Sears Homes.

The event was organized by Beth Kaburick, Head Librarian at the Carlinville Public Library.  I was so impressed with her professionalism and her passion for Carlinville’s history. I had first met Beth in 1999, when I spent countless hours at her library, researching Sears Homes, first for an article, and then later for my books.

Beth went out of her way to help me with my research. In 2004, when I gave the talk in Carlinville, it was well publicized and well attended, thanks wholly to Beth. (Sadly, Beth died in June 2007 in a tragic car accident.)

It was after that talk that someone told me about a Sears Home outside of Standard Addition (where 150 Sears Homes are located). The gentleman gave me the street name but wasn’t sure of the specific address.

Immediately after the talk, I drove up and down that street - in the dark - trying to figure out which Sears House I’d missed! As the author of several books on kit homes, I’d driven on that street too many times to count, and had never seen any Sears Homes.

And there in the dark, I saw an interesting Colonial Revival/Bungalowish-type house with a familiar-looking attic window. I grabbed my dog-eared copy of Houses by Mail and hastily thumbed through it and found my match:  The house I’d found in the dark - thanks to a kind stranger at a lecture - was a Sears Beaumont.

That was eight years ago, and it was (and remains) the only Beaumont I’ve ever seen.

To see vintage pictures of Carlinville and Schoper, click here.

To read about the woman who supervised the construction of Standard Addition, click here.

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1919

In the 1919 catalog, the heading proclaimed that the Beaumont had "Extra convenience." Unfortunately, the text in the body offers no clue as to what they're talking about.

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1921

In 1921, the price on the Beaumont increased $500 or about 26%. Pretty steep increase for two year's time. And apparently what it gained in price it lost in "convenience." Now the heading had changed from the dramatic ("Extra convenience") to the pedestrian ("Six rooms and bath").

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floorplan 1921

The Beaumont's floorplan (1921 catalog).

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2004 or so

The Beaumont, as it looked in 2004.

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house

In February 2010, I traveled to Carlinville to do more research for my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." That's when this photograph was taken. Notice, a plague of vinyl siding salesmen had descended upon the house since the last photo in 2004.

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house also

Another view of the Beaumont.

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The attic window that caught my eye

That night, when I first saw the Beaumont, it was the attic window that caught my eye.

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Attic window again

Nice match to the catalog picture!

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To learn more about the 150 Sears Homes in Carlinville, click here or here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

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Rebecca’s Got a Brand New Book!

April 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

In 2001, I drove out to Columbia, Illinois to attend a talk on Sears Homes, given by Dr. Rebecca L. Hunter. I’d never met this woman, but I’d heard a lot about her from several different people.

I was already pretty intimidated by Dr. Hunter and I hadn’t even met her! She was well respected, a solid researcher, a scholar and obviously very well educated.

When we were first introduced in 2001, I was nervous as a cat, but Dr. Hunter - in addition to being hyper-intelligent - was also incredibly humble and unassuming and gracious.

We sat together at a luncheon after the talk and became fast friends. She invited me to visit her in Elgin (a Chicago suburb), and promised to show me all the architectural treasures she’d found in Northern Illinois, and to teach me all that she’d learned about Sears Homes.

The timing of our meeting was divinely inspired. I was in the middle of a divorce and truly terrified of what the future might hold for me. After 24 years of marriage, my husband had wanted out. I was an emotional mess, and I forewarned Rebecca. She was unimpressed. I also told her that I’d been married since I was 18, and that I’d never driven any substantial distance alone, and couldn’t imagine that I could make the six-hour drive from Alton (my home) to Elgin, Illinois.

Rebecca looked at me and said, “I’ll help you. I’ll give you precise directions and if you get lost, just call me. If you get really lost or feel overwhelmed, pull over and I’ll drive out and meet you, and you can just follow me into Elgin.”

It was an incredibly generous offer, and it was also a golden (and safe) opportunity for me to overcome my fear of traveling alone.

In February 2002, I made the trip from Alton to Elgin. Thanks to her incredibly detailed directions, I arrived at her front door in Elgin without a hitch. I knocked on her door and saw Rebecca’s beaming countenance. She was smiling from ear to ear.

She threw her arms around me and said, “I knew you could do it. I knew it.”

That moment is one of my favorite memories of my time on this earth.

Sears Houses were the bond that brought us together, but the real blessing of these kit homes have been the relationships they’ve forged. Even though we now live 1,200 miles apart, I consider Rebecca Hunter to be one of my dearest friends.

And I’m so happy to see that Dr. Hunter has just come out with a new book, and it’s a fine book, too! I thought I knew a lot about Sears Homes, but I’m delighted to report that I’ve learned many new things from reading “Mail Order Homes.”

Scroll down to take a sneak peek, and then dash over to Amazon.com and buy a copy. It makes a perfect gift, and don’t forget, Mother’s Day is on the horizon!!

Rebe

Rebecca's newest book is titled, "Mail Order Homes."

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Lots of beautiful color photos. Good graphics, and theyre crisp and clean.

Lots of beautiful color photos. Good graphics, and they're crisp and clean.

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Vintage photos, too.

The book has many vintage photos.

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Rebecca has photos of rare Sears Homes, too.

Rebecca has photos of rare Sears Homes, too.

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Her book covers much more than Sears Homes. Also has info on the other mail-order companies.

Her book covers much more than pre-cut Sears Homes. Also has info on "Homart Homes" and the other mail-order companies.

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Check out the table of contents!

Check out the table of contents!

To learn more about Rebecca’s book, click here.

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Bookcases and Little Wooden Churches

February 8th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In Spring 1972,  one of my junior high school teachers told the class to make a “special project” that featured some aspect of Colonial Williamsburg. As good Virginians, we were studying this period in American history for about the 7th time in my seven years of schooling.

Since conscious memory, I have  loved old houses and I loved drawing pictures of them and reading about them. It didn’t take long to decide I’d like to build a small model of a little wooden church, reminiscent of the Colonial period.

Other kids showed up with their hastily drawn pictures on large pieces of posterboard, but I had my little wooden church, replete with a cross, arched windows, double doors on the front and a removable roof with diminutive wooden pews inside. The gabled roof had a steep pitch of about 12/12, with generous eaves, true to the period. The windows were tall and thin, with an arch at the top.

I had mixed feelings about schoolwork and homework, but building this little wooden church gave me much pleasure and joy.

Kids crowded around my wooden creation, oohing and ahhing when I gently removed the roof and showed the little wooden pews inside. I eagerly anticipated the A+ this project surely would bring.

My accompanying written report was eventually returned to me with the grade scribbled in the upper right-hand corner. When I unfolded the paper, I gasped.

The teacher had given me a bold, red, angry “F.”

After class, I went to her desk and asked about the grade. She coolly replied, “I didn’t ask you to show me what your father could do. I wanted to see what you could do. You failed because you brought in someone else’s work, and claimed it as your own.”

If she’d been a wise woman, she would have asked questions about its construction. Maybe she would have queried me about what kind of saw I used to cut those arched windows. Or asked about the type of wood I used. Or asked what size nails I’d used to fasten the sides.

Instead, she presumed I was a liar.

Memory can be fickle, but as I recall, it was the first time in my life that an adult had accused me of lying. My parents occasionally asked me to be quite certain I was telling the truth during a few intense questionings, but no one had ever called me a liar.

I didn’t bother to tell her that my father wasn’t around much these days because it was obvious - she did not care. It’s true that, you may not remember what people say, but you’ll always remember how they make you feel.

She made me feel pretty low.

In the next day or two, I told my beloved brother Tom what had happened. Tom had been the helper at home. He’d driven me to the hardware store and spent 20 minutes teaching me how to select a saw blade for the old saw frame we had at home. He’d shown me how to drive nails in with a nail punch. He’d patiently taught me how to draw a proportionately accurate arch for those tiny windows, using a little math and a metal compass. My brother, Tom. He was a teacher by trade and also by birth. He loved to teach and he was good at it.

His response to the news of my failing grade was swift and sure. He contacted the teacher and in his most authoritative voice, he explained that I had indeed built this little church entirely by myself.

The next day, my “F” was changed to an “A.”

The school year ended a few weeks later and the teacher asked if she could keep the little wooden church in her classroom, to serve as an example of what can be accomplished by a motivated student.

I thought about it for all of six or seven seconds and said, “No.”

I’d hoped its absence would serve as an example that teachers should not assume that their students are liars, and/or that 7th-grade girls don’t know how to build things.

Today, I write about old houses and now have eight books under my belt. And I still love playing with wood.

It’s the truth.  :)

Check out the photos of the new bookcase I recently completed in my home in Norfolk!

Just so thered be no doubt, I built this puppy while Mr. Husband was out of town. It started with three little shelves on the bottom.

Just so there'd be no doubt, I built this puppy while Mr. Husband was out of town. It started with three little shelves on the bottom.

And then I built the shelves that would sit atop the base cabinet.

And then I built the shelves that would sit atop the base cabinet. The living room was the only place in the house big enough to create a working space for the 88" tall vertical risers.

When the first bookcase was complete, I lifted it into place. These bookcases were kinda big and bulky. I slept well at the end of each day.  :)

When the first bookcase was complete, I lifted it into place. These bookcases were kinda big and bulky. I slept well at the end of each day. :)

All three bookcases now in place.

All three bookcases now in place.

And theyre level, too!  The floor was not anything near level. Its an old sunporch - originally opn - and had a purposeful incline (to allow water to drain), plus it was a little low in one corner. Yay for shims!

And the shelves are level, too! The floor was not anything near level. It's an old sunporch - originally screened in and open - and was purposefully angled (to shed rain water), plus it was a little low in one corner. Shims saved the day.

Hubby Wayne has a heart-to-heart talk with Toucan Sam, after examining the bookcase that was built in his absence. He never asked if my father had helped built it.

Hubby Wayne has a heart-to-heart talk with Toucan Sam, after examining the bookcase that was built in his absence. Wayne never asked if my father had helped build it. He did mention that it was "an A+ job." :)

Its done!

It's done!

Another view!

Another view!

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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