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Posts Tagged ‘prefabricated kit’

This is a Sears House.

April 28th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

This really is a Sears House.

Can you guess which model it is?

I would never have guessed. Ever.

However, I was given a good clue.

So what do you think?

It’s in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and this photo was taken by Elisabeth Witt, who’s been running around getting photos for me. And they’re well-framed, first-class, high-resolution photos, which makes a big difference - usually.

But with this particular house, even an old pro would be stumped.

Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for the contemporary photos shown below.

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Model

Yes, it really is a Sears House. Which model would you guess?

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Does this help?

Does this help?

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Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

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Do you give up? You should.

Do you give up? You should. It's a Sears Hamilton.

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When Google mapped this neighborhood

When Google mapped this neighborhood in September 2014, the house above looked like this.

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Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

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Heres a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois.

Here's a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois. Photo is copyright 2009 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This photo (undated) is from the city assessors website.

This photo (undated) is from the Shorewood assessor's website.

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And if you zoom in on the details, youll see that this darling little house had its original windows, siding and even wooden storm windows.

And if you zoom in on the details, you'll see that this darling little house had its original windows, rafter tails, and even wooden storm windows. It was a fine-looking Hamilton.

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And then it got McMansioned.

And then it got McMansioned.

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And then it got McMansioned.

That trailer probably contains the dismembered bits of our little Hamilton.

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At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasnt 100% sure about the address.

At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasn't 100% sure about the address. But in this photo, you can see that our Hamilton sits next door to a blue craftsman-style bungalow.

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And then I noticed this.

And then I noticed this. It's definitely the house formerly known as "Hamilton."

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Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

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Believe it or not, it could have been worse.

Believe it or not my little Wisconsin Hammie, it could have been worse. At least you were spared the T-111 siding (Elgin IL). Perhaps this blog should be titled, "When Bad Things Happen to Good Bungalows."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read a happy, happy blog, click here.

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Waynesboro: WOW!

October 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

On October 17th, I gave a talk in Waynesboro on their kit homes. The day before, Anne (local history lover and kind soul) had driven me throughout the city, looking for kit homes.

And we found a bunch!

There are more than 40 photos below, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking!  :)

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Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it.

Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it. Plus, it appears to be from about the 1920s, which is when all my little pretties were built in Charlottesville.

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First, the Carlins.

First, the Carlins. I found five of them, in one three-block area. Someone in Waynesboro really loved their Carlins. Until recently, when someone really put a hurting on them. .

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This one gets a special mention because its been disfigured.

This one gets a special mention because it's been disfigured.

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Dormer

Yeah, they really did that. Poor Carlin. Poor little Carlin.

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House house

Lots of signs on the melancholy Carlin, but fortunately there were no signs that forbade flash photography.

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The Hazleton

I call The Hazleton the "House of Threes" because it has several groupings of three windows, in the dormer, on the side, and on the front (with two groupings of three windows flanking the front door). and it has six windows in that bay window on the side. Plus, Hazleton has three syllables!

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While driving around her Google Car Rachel found this Hazleton on Bath Street, and she was right! It really is a Sears Hazleton.

While driving around her "Google Car" Rachel discovered this Hazleton on Bath Street. It's in beautiful shape and still has its original windows, siding and even front railings. What a treasure!

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Its got the funky side window, too.

It's got the funky side window, too.

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Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

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Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be!

Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be! Check out the interesting indent on the chimney!

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The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

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Waynesboro also likes their Crescents!

Waynesboro also likes their "Crescents"!

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Picture perfect!

Picture perfect!

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And theres even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

And there's even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

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The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

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Kind of a crummy photo, but it shows off the pretty Glenn Falls.

Is this a Glen Falls? Sure looks like it, but Rachel Shoemaker found the auditor's records for the house and the "footprint" is wrong. Perhaps it's a plan book house. More on that below.

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And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found this Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found an Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

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What a beauty!!

What a beauty!! Do the owners realize they have a Sears house? Not likely!

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The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog. Note the brick pillar at the far right.

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Waynesboro

The Conway in Waynesboro also has that brick pillar at the far right, just like the catalog image.

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The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

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The windows have been replaced, and its in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but its the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

The windows have been replaced, and it's in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but it's the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

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The Solace is a cute little house but wasnt hugely popular.

The Solace is a cute little house for Sears but wasn't hugely popular.

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The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

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Is this

Is this a Solace? I think it's very likely.

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The original pergola on the front porch is still visible.

The original pergola on the front porch is still visible, and it's also a spot-on match to the catalog.

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In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company).

In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company). Shown above is the cover of the 1918 GVT catalog.

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The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty, and it's a perfect match to the catalog image above!

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This charming bungalow was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

This "charming bungalow" was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

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Rachel also found this GVT

Rachel also found this GVT #530 in Waynesboro. Another beautiful match!

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Last but not least is this GVT #540.

Last but not least is this GVT #540, another very popular house!

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Its had some remodeling done, but you can still see that theres a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

It's had some remodeling done, but you can still see that there's a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

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Dumont

The Dumont is not a kit house, but a plan book house. With plan books, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials from a mail-order catalog. The homebuyer would obtain the building materials locally. Many thanks to Shari Davenport for sending me this image!

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Another fun find

Perfect! Just perfect!

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Two of them

And there are two of them!

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To read more about Waynesboro, click here.

To see what I found in Charlottesville, click here.

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Albert Brown’s Awesome Old House in Mechanicsburg, Ohio

June 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 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.

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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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The Magnificent Milton - And There’s One In New York City!

May 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

In Spring 2010, my friend Rebecca sent me a note, asking if I knew about the Sears Milton in Stanley, Virginia. Four months later (August 2010), Hubby and I were standing in the front yard of the Sears Milton.

At the time, the 1,932-square foot house was being used as a Bed and Breakfast. The Milton House Inn website has now been taken down, so apparently, it’s a private residence again.

The house is located on the main drag, and it is an imposing structure in this beautiful (and tiny) town, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Stanley is about seven miles south of Luray, Virginia and about five hours west of Norfolk.)

The Milton did not appear in the 1912 catalog (or prior years), but I found it in the 1916 catalog. It last appeared in 1919, so its reign was brief. If you’d purchased a Milton in 1916, the price was $1,619 and by 1919, the price had jumped to $2,491, a shocking 54% increase. And, it was not offered as a pre-cut house.

When I was putting together this blog, I was surprised to find (according to an old testimonial) a Milton had also been built in New York City. This is a massive and impressive house, not far behind the Sears Magnolia in terms of grandeur. Its many unique features would certainly make it hard to miss.

Is the Sears Milton still standing in New York City? Boy, I sure would love to know.

What about the Miltons that were built in Fayette, Ohio and Somerville, NJ?  Are they still standing?

In 2008, someone sent me a newspaper article that claimed that the Sears Milton had been built (and torn down) in Carlinville, Illinois. I shared the photo with Rebecca Hunter, and she and I concur: The house in Carlinville (on Route 4) did not appear to have been a Sears Milton.

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

To read about the Sears Homes in Carlinville’s Standard Addition, click here.

The Sears Milton is a distinctive and unusually large house. Identifying this gem is easier than shooting slow-moving fishies in a wee-tiny barrel.

The Sears Milton is a distinctive and unusually large house. Identifying this gem is easier than shooting slow-moving fishies in a wee-tiny barrel. (1916 catalog)

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Spacious and awesome

That bay window (dining room) is quite large and is one of many identifying characteristics of the Sears Milton. The small windows on the side (flanking the fireplace) are another unique feature, asis the second floor porch with its unusual window placement.

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And as of 1916, several had been built, including one in New York City!

And as of 1916, several had been built, including one in New York City! Pics please?? :)

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Close-up of the house (1916).

Close-up of the house (1916). As mentioned, this house has many unique features, such as the dentil molding, massive eave brackets, tiny attic window set in those deep gables, pergolas, and that massive two-story bay window. That second-story porch (with small windows on either side of the balcony door is also pretty distinctive.

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Here in the flesh

Landscaping prevented a shot that's more akin to the catalog image (as seen above), but there's no doubt about it: This is a Sears Milton. Note the dentil molding atop the columns.

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Straight on

My oh my, that's a fine-looking house! Note the two-story bays on the right!

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Another view

Another view of this wonderful old house.

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From the side

From this angle, you can see those two small windows flanking the chimney.

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Remnants of the rafter tails.

Underneath the flat porch roof are remnants of the old pergola. Note the unique cuts on the rafter tails.

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stanley wow

A view of the Magnificent Milton's front porch.

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Details around the second-story porch.

Details around the second-story porch.

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Comparison

Comparison of the catalog image and the house in Stanley, Virginia.

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To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Interested in seeing more photos of Sears Homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Click here.

The Miltons in New York, New Jersey and Ohio were built between 1913 -1916. Please leave a comment if you have any clue where these homes might be!

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Sears Modern Home #147 - And It’s Only $885

May 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In February 2003, I traveled to Flora, Illinois to give a talk on Sears Homes. It was one of my first “paid gigs,” and I was very excited about actually getting paid to do the thing I loved the most - talk about Sears Homes!

In celebration of this happy time, I treated myself to a fine automobile for the trip. The night before my talk, I went to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and rented a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.

My oh my, that was a sweet ride!

During the ride around Flora, I found several interesting houses, including the Sears Modern Home #147. The folks in Flora knew it was a kit house, but they didn’t know which model it was.

This was the first time I’d seen a #147, and it was - without any doubt - the nicest #147 that I ever did see. It was in remarkably original condition.

After I finished in Flora, I rode over to Olney (nearby town) to look for more kit  homes. While driving around in Olney, my shiny new Cadillac had mechanical problems and I had to take it to a nearby shop for emergency repairs. When I returned the car to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Wood River (near my home in Alton), the clerk was very apologetic. He offered to discount the price of the three-day rental. I told him, “That’s a good start.”

He then said, “How can I turn this into a good experience for you, Mrs. Thornton?”

I said, “How about a deeper discount? I just spent four hours standing outside a car dealership in Olney, Illinois, waiting for them to fix your car.”

He then offered to discount the price of the rental to nothing.

“That’ll work,” I told him.

Almost ten years later, when I look at these old photos, I remember that fine “Glacier White” Cadillac with its buttery soft “Cashmere Gray” leather seats. Despite our little mishap in Olney, that was one fine automobile.

And in the intervening 10 years, I’ve rented at least 20 cars from Enterprise. :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see more pretty pictures of Sears Homes, click here.

147 house

The Sears Modern Home #147 as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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147

Pretty simple house, but a good value at $885.

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147

Look at the columns - clad in clapboard!

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SMH 147

And here's the world's most perfect $147 in Flora, Illinois (near Olney).

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147

The details around the window are perfect!

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Want to see more pretty pictures? Click here.

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Buster Keaton and Sears Homes

April 29th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Did you know that Buster Keaton did a short film about building a pre-cut kit house?

First released in 1920, the 20-minute film shows happy newlyweds (Buster and Sybil) receiving the gift of a “ready-to-assemble” kit home. Driven by jealousy, an old beau surreptitiously changes the numbers on the pre-cut framing members, thus wreaking havoc on Buster’s ability to build his 12,000-piece kit home.

As the saying goes, “True comedy is timeless.”

This is not only true comedy, but an awesome look back at a time when people built these kit homes. And it’s also interesting to think that - in 1920 - kit homes were such a big part of the American scene that moviegoers were expected to understand about “marked lumber.”

That “joke” would likely be lost on contemporary movie audiences because so little is known about this piece of America’s architectural history.

I first discovered “One Week” in Spring 2004, when my dear daughter highlighted this piece in a senior project. I was honored and touched that my daughter was drawn to an old movie about pre-cut kit homes - because of her mother’s career! :)

Click here to see Buster Keaton’s “One Week” on Youtube.

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Buster Keatons pre-cut kit house had a few minor problems.

Buster Keaton's pre-cut kit house had a few minor problems.

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It should have looked a little more like this.

It should have looked a little more like this. (Sears Whitehall under construction in Carlinville, IL - about 1919.)

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Sears kit homes did come with instruction books (as shown above).

Sears kit homes did come with instruction books (as shown above).

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The houses were ordered out of catalogs, such as this (1921).

The houses were ordered out of catalogs, such as this (1921).

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Framing members were marked (as shown) to help facilitate construction.

Framing members were marked (as shown) to help facilitate construction.

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To learn more about Sears Kit Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s latest book, click here.

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Did You Know About This *Other* Website?

April 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

For five years, Dale Wolicki and I labored to write a book on Wardway Homes titled, The Mail Order Homes of Montgomery Ward. My oh my, did we work hard on that book!

This incredible tome has 347 pages and more than 500 vintage and extant photos of the kit homes sold by Montgomery Ward in the early 1900s. Dr. Rebecca Hunter wrote a couple chapters for us, too. I suspect that Dale put a few thousand miles on his Mercury Mountaineer, photographing houses from Mississippi to Michigan and Kentucky to Pennsylvania.

Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs. Sears started in 1908; Montgomery Ward started in 1909. Montgomery Ward saw the writing on the wall and closed down their “modern homes” department in 1932; Sears held on another eight years until 1940.

Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit home business. Based on our best guess, we suspect that Montgomery Ward sold about 25,000 kit homes.

Dale and I maintain a website devoted to Wardway Homes here. It’s another website that’s just stuffed full of information on Wardway Homes.

To visit the website, click here.

To learn more about our book, click here.

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Wardway Homes

Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. This is the cover of their 1931 catalog.

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And they did have some truly beautiful homes.

And they did have some truly beautiful homes.

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Dale and I worked for five years to research and write this book.

Dale and I worked for five years to research and write this book.

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Teddy

Teddy especially enjoyed reading about the Wardway Newport.

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Wayne Ringer stands in front of the

Wayne Ringer stands in front of the Norfolk and Western's 1218 (A Class), the last known 2-6-6-4. When built in 1943, this was the most powerful steam locomotive in the world. I'm including this photo here because these were the type of trains that hauled the 12,000-piece kit homes from the southern mills to waiting customers in all 48 states. And I'm also including this photo because this is just a cool photo. This train is now on display in Roanoke, Virginia at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

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Pic

From the 1919 Pacific Ready Cut Homes catalog, this picture shows two workmen loading 12,000 pieces of kit house into a boxcar.

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Montgomery Ward offered many kit homes, but this is one of my favorites. They named it The Kenmore.

Montgomery Ward offered many kit homes, but this is one of my favorites. They named it "The Kenmore."

Learn more about Wardway Homes by clicking here.

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The Back Story of “The Houses That Sears Built”

January 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

In February 2012, it will have been 10 years since I published my book, The Houses That Sears Built. Writing that book was a labor of love, but it was also an incredibly intense experience.  By Christmas 2001, I had nearly finished the manuscript.

For our Christmas vacation that year, our family (my husband and three daughters) had planned to fly to Portsmouth, Virginia to visit our families. (We were living in the St. Louis area at the time.)

About three weeks before the holidays, I decided to cancel my plans and stay home and finish up the manuscript. I was on a roll, and after two years, it was time to put my nose to the grindstone and get it done. But one of those “little voices” told me that this was an important trip, and that I needed to stick with the plan and spend Christmas in Portsmouth.

On Christmas Eve, we had dinner with my mother.  We were so happy to see her, and spend time with her. And I had a surprise. I’d just had a big article published in a national magazine.  She was so proud of me, and asked me to read the article out loud to her, which I did. My dear mother looked at me and just beamed.

“My beautiful daughter,” she said with a big smile. “My beautiful famous daughter. I’m so proud of you.”

And at that moment, I almost slipped and told her my secret: My new book was going to be dedicated to her, Betty B. Fuller. The inscription would read, All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always clung to me.

It was a quote from Abraham Lincoln and it described exactly how I felt.

Throughout my life, my mother’s prayers had been such a blessing and support. She was always my #1 cheerleader and my dearest friend.

That night, when we left her house, I told her that we’d be back in just a few hours - on Christmas morning!  She hugged me tight and started swaying side to side a little bit, while whispering in my ear, “My beautiful daughter. I love you so much.”

The next morning, she didn’t answer the door and she didn’t answer the phone. I used my key to get into the house and that’s when we found her - still in bed - ashen and barely breathing.  She never regained consciousness, and died a short time later.

Twelve days later, I returned home, hardly able to think about that book of mine. Suddenly, it seemed so completely unimportant.  However, I eventually pulled myself together enough to finish it and take the manuscript to the printer.

That was February 2002. Later that month, my husband of 24 years told me that he now understood Paul in the Bible, and that like Paul, he realized he was not the marrying kind. He asked for a divorce. And so ended a relationship that had begun in 1968. I’d met Tom when I was in third grade.

I moved out of the family home, and into a low-rent singles’ apartment and tried desperately to start a new life.

The Houses That Sears Built - was more than just a book. It became my raison d’être, literally.  The book - and the career that came with it  - gave me a sense of purpose and pride and unspeakable joy. Less than 60 days after its publication, I was interviewed for a feature article in the New York Times. That was a wonderful break.

Next, I was invited to appear in a new show being developed for PBS, tentatively titled, The History Detectives. From there, I ended up on A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News and more. In July 2004, my book made it to Jeopardy!

By Summer 2006, I’d done more than 500 interviews and had appeared in almost every national newspaper in America, including, Christian Science Monitor, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. In June 2006, my story appeared in the Wall Street Journal - front page - and above the fold! That was the coup of my career.

And in Summer 2006, I met Wayne Ringer. Six months later, we were married.

I’ve always believed in God’s timing, and the timing of this book’s publication and the start of my new life could not have possibly been any better.

And it was FUN. I traveled all over the country and was a featured speaker at countless venues and seminars and preservation conferences and I was treated like a queen. I really liked being treated like a queen!

The book - and the career that followed - restored my soul and healed my shattered self-esteem. Divorce is tough.

In 2004, I traveled to a small town in the Midwest, and stayed at a Marriott Hotel. The organizers of the event had made all the arrangements for me, and that was always much appreciated. When I checked in at the desk, the clerk looked up from her computer screen, smiled at me and said, “You’re Rosemary Thornton?”

I said, “Yes,” and she reached her hand across the counter and said, “Can I shake your hand? I’ve always wanted to meet a real author.”

It was (and still is) one of the best memories of my career.

And it all started with one little self-published tome on Sears Kit Homes.  Ten years ago, this month.

Only 3,000 copies of this first edition were sold, and by then, Id written an updated version, which has sold almost 15,000 copies now.  The first edition now fetches a handsome price.

Only 3,000 copies of this "first edition" were sold, and by then, I'd written an updated version, which has been in print since February 2004. The first edition (now out of print) fetches a handsome price.

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In May 2006, I gave a talk here.

In May 2006, I gave a talk in Jefferson City, Missouri. While in Jefferson City, I had my first telephone conversation with Wayne, the man who'd become my husband.

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In 2010, The History Press contacted me and asked if Id be interested in writing a coffee-table book on Sears Homes. The Sears Homes of Illinois was the result, and this was - without any doubts - my last book on kit homes.

In 2010, "The History Press" contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in writing a coffee-table book on Sears Homes. "The Sears Homes of Illinois" was the result, and this was - without any doubts - my last book on kit homes.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To see the kit homes of Norfolk, click here.

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The Sears Homes of Suffolk (Virginia)

January 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

One of my favorite memories from childhood was riding with my father to Suffolk to visit the peanut vendors and inspect their product. My father was an assistant manager at Skippy Peanut Butter in Portsmouth, and also their purchasing agent.

Suffolk has always been one of my favorite places in Virginia.  And it’s also the largest city in Virginia, and the Peanut Capital of the World. Here in Hampton Roads, it’s our fastest-growing city, thanks to the low-crime rates and above-average schools.

Perhaps best of all, it has a significant collection of kit homes.

Sears kit homes were sold from 1908-1940. Sears and Roebuck was based in Chicago, but Sears Homes were sold in all 48 states. These 12,000-piece kits were shipped by boxcar, and came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house built and ready for occupancy in 90 days.

Here in Southeastern Virginia, we also have many kit homes from Aladdin. They were based in Bay City, Michigan, but Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906, and continued until 1981.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I would create a simple pamphlet showing these kit homes and their addresses (and a map) and offer them to visitors as a self-guided driving tour. I’d also put a little plaque on the homes, identifying them as kit homes. This is a very nice collection of kit homes in Suffolk, and something should be done to promote them.

All of the houses shown below are located in Suffolk.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To see a Sears Home in Urbana with a little plaque, click here.

Sears Osborn, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Osborn, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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There are a lot of trees and bushes in Suffolk, which made it difficult to get good photographs. Here's a Sears Osborn in an older section of Suffolk. Note the details around the brickwork.

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The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears. This is from the 1916 catalog. The floorplan shows a fireplace in the corner of the dining room, which is an unusual feature in a Sears House!

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Close-up of the Sears Westly

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This Westly is happy, and feels very good about life. It's a good match to the original catalog image, and even though it's been "updated," the work was thoughtfully done.

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Putting wrought iron on an old house is not a good idea.

Putting wrought iron on an old house is not a good idea. Plus, they removed the porch deck. And the columns. And the eaves. And the unique trim. And the personality.

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The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes.

The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes.

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Crummy photo due to poor lighting, but you can it is a Glenn Falls.

Crummy photo due to poor lighting, but you can it is a Glenn Falls, in brick!

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Sears Elsmore was another very popular house for Sears.

Sears Elsmore was another very popular house for Sears.

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Its been through some changes, but its still an Elsmore.

It's been through some changes, but it's still an Elsmore. Note the nine/one windows, and also the original eave brackets. You can also see bits of those unique columns on the front porch.

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As mentioned, in addition to Sears, there as also a mail-order company called Aladdin. This is an Aladdin Colonial, which was Aladdins biggest and fanciest house.

As mentioned, in addition to Sears, there as also a mail-order company called Aladdin. This is an Aladdin Colonial, which was Aladdin's biggest and fanciest house.

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This is a real beauty, and its right there in Suffolk!

This is a real beauty, and it's right there in Suffolk!

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The Aladdin Lamberton, from the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Lamberton, from the 1919 catalog.

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Its been converted into a duplex, but its still a Lamberton.

It's been converted into a duplex, and remuddled a bit. Is this a Lamberton? I'd say - with 90% certainty - that it is. Because of the many changes, it's hard to be sure. Look at the front porch roof. That's still a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

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And theres also a Harris Brothers house in Suffolk. Harris Brothers was a small kit home company based in Chicago.

And there's also a Harris Brothers house in Suffolk. Harris Brothers was a small kit home company based in Chicago.

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Suffolk

Again - the trees. Sigh. However, you can see (even with a tree in the way) that this is a perfect match to the Harris Brother house (shown above).

Last is this house from Gordon Van Tine. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and there are several GVT houses here in Hampton Roads.

Last is this house from Gordon Van Tine. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and there are several GVT houses here in Hampton Roads.

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Its been through some changes, but its a GVT #501.

It's been through some changes, but it's still easy to see that it's a GVT #501.

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When youre trying to identify Sears Homes, you should look for this mark on the lumber.

When you're trying to identify Sears Homes, you should look for this mark on the lumber. This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, helped the novice homebuilder put together these homes.

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Aladdin used a different marking system on their lumber, such as this.

Aladdin used a different marking system on their lumber, such as this.

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If you’d like to learn more about the kit homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

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Sears Pre-cut Kit Garages: A Dandy Place for Your Automobile

October 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Sears sold kit homes, and they also sold kit garages.  In fact, in the late 1910s, they offered a specialty catalog of nothing but their pre-cut kit garages.

Identifying a “Sears kit garage” is far more difficult than identifying kit homes, because they’re such simple structures.

Two of the “Sears garages” shown below are probably custom-built structures, designed (and built) after the house, and intended to mirror the design elements of the existing home.

Enjoy the photos below.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

The Sears Osborn was a unique home with its oriental peak on the roofline.

The Sears Osborn was a unique home with its "oriental peak" on the roofline.

And God bless these dear owners who had this garage custom-built to match their beautiful Osborn. Sears didnt offer this design in their catalogs, but it sure is a nice match to the original Sears House!

And God bless these dear owners who had this garage custom-built to match their beautiful Osborn. Sears didn't offer this design in their catalogs, but it sure is a nice match to the original Sears House!

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This could be an original Sears garage. It sits on the same lot as a Sears Fullerton in Olmstead, Illinois and has several distinctive features that suggest it certainly could be from Sears.

Is this a Sears garage?

Is this a Sears garage? I'd guess that it may be a "super-sized" Sears garage. It shares living space with a Sears Newbury in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This house is sized to accommodate a post-WW2 sedan. Since Sears stopped selling kit houses (and garages) in 1939, it's more likely to have been added after the fact. Nonetheless, it was beautifully done and it's precise age stumped the expert! (This photograph is courtesy of Sandra Spann and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. Copyright 2011, Sandra Spann.)

In the back pages of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, youll find a page devoted to their garages.

In the back pages of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, you'll find a page devoted to their garages.

Notice that one of them is designed to match the Sears Alhambra.

Notice that the lower left garage is designed to match the Sears Alhambra.

Close-up of the Alhambra garage.

Close-up of the Alhambra garage.

The appearance of their kit garages had changed quite a bit by the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The appearance of their kit garages had changed quite a bit by the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

A second page from the 1938 catalog.

A second page from the 1938 catalog.

And from the 1940 catalog.

And from the 1940 catalog.

This early 1920s specialty catalog was devoted to the kit garages sold by Sears.

This 1919 specialty catalog was devoted to the kit garages sold by Sears. The one featured here is actually a prefab garage, which was shipped in sections, and could be assembled in under six hours (according to Sears).

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For reasons I don't understand, these were called "Star Garages."

Close-up of one of the models

Close-up of one of the models. Notice the five-piece eave brackets which match the Olmstead garage (above).

If you preferred ugly and cheap, they could help with that, too.

If you preferred "ugly and cheap," they could help with that, too.

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Less cheap, but still. Ick. I love how these graphics are flashing a little bit of fender. Kinda sexy, isn't it?

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A pedestrian garage with an ever more pedestrian name.

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"The Manor" even sounds expensive (because it is).

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This is a "simplex" garage, which means it is prefab (shipped in sections, and bolts together pretty darn fast). "Pre-cut" means the house is shipped with pre-cut framing members. A "pre-cut" house (or garage) is similar to a stick-built structure, but the framing members are already cut to the right lengths, so the time-consuming chore of measuring and sawing is already taken care of.

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Another "Simplex" prefab garage. Look at the size!!! 9x12.

To learn more about Sears barns, click here.

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