Posts Tagged ‘Principia College’

It’s People Like John P. Waters That Confuse Us Historians 100 Years Later.

April 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Until I started scanning a 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, I’d never heard of Sears Modern Home 264P165.

Prior to 1918, Sears Homes were given names rather than numbers, so we know that this unusual-looking home never made it to the 1918 catalog. In fact, it’s not in my 1912 catalog or my 1916 catalog, so it was short lived (to say the least).

And yet, by 1914, this house had been sold in New Braunfels, TX and Lansdowne, MD and New Orleans, Louisiana.

And it might have been sold to John P. Waters of Massena, Iowa.


Reading these testimonials can be a little tricky, and this testimonial written by John of Massena is also a little vague. Did he buy millwork?  Or did he buy this house?  The way this testimonial is positioned, one would surely think he bought Modern Home 264P165, and yet if you read it carefully, it seems more likely that John just purchased some millwork from Sears Roebuck sometime around 1914.

Too many times to count, people will approach me and insist that they have a Sears kit home. Despite my best efforts, I’m often unable to match their “alleged Sears House” to the 370 designs that Sears offered in the early 1900s.

When I ask these folks, “What makes you think it’s a Sears House?” they often have the same story: “My grandfather said his dad ordered it from Sears.”

Now I’ll know to ask these people, “Was your great-grandfather’s name John P. Waters?”

Because in the early 1900s, it was not unusual for people like John P. Waters to order lumber from Sears.

JUST lumber.

In 1895, Sears started offering building materials (lumber, millwork, windows, doors, sheathing, etc) through a specialty catalog. That was 13 years before the “Sears Modern Homes” program was even a glimmer in Richard Sears’ eye.

And it was in 1895 that the stories probably began:  “See that house on the corner? Old John bought every stick of lumber for his house from Sears.”

Forty years later it’s, “Grandpa John ordered his house from Sears!”

And after a full century has elapsed, someone sends me an email that says, “My great grandfather John built a Sears House!”

Maybe he did.

Or maybe he pulled a “John P. Waters” and just ordered the building materials from Sears.

To learn how to “read” lumber markings on old kit homes, click here.

To read about the wonderful kit homes of Charlottesville, click here.

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Sears Home

This house apparently was offered for only a couple years. And yet, there's one in Braunfels, Texas, Lansdown, Maryland and New Orleans, Louisiana (1914).


tricky testimonial

John P. Waters testimonial was for lumber, PROBABLY, and yet it appears on the page next to the picture of the 264P165.


house house

The 264P165 was a very unique house, which makes it easy to identify.


house house house

Here are the cities where three 264P165s were built.


house house hosue

Whoa, check out this floorplan! Look at the bathroom! I suppose the occupants were profoundly grateful that this 1914-era kit home even *had* a bathroom, as many of these early 20th Century kit homes did not have "indoor plumbing." And check out the "living hall." It has a fireplace!


house details

Have you seen this house? The details around the front porch should make it easy to identify, especially if you're in New Braunfels TX, Lansdowne MD or New Orleans.


An additional note: Apparently, Lansdowne is next door to Baltimore!

Have you seen a 264P165? Please leave a comment for Rose!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Sterling Homes and Hughes for President

February 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

The other day, I had occasion to dig out my 1917 Sterling Homes mail-order catalog and look for a picture of the Sterling Windemere. While I was rustling through the pages, I noticed that the words, “Hughes for President” had been scribbled on the catalog’s front cover (see below). Was this some kid, nominating his elder brother for president? Probably, I told myself.

When my husband came home a few hours later, I asked him, “have you ever heard of a 1916 presidential candidate named Hughes?

“Yes,” he replied, with hardly a pause. “Charles Evan Hughes.”

I love smart men.

Hughes, I later learned, resigned from his position as Associate Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court to run against Wilson in the 1916 presidential election. He put in a good showing, losing by a mere 594,000 votes.

Sterling Homes, as the image shows below, was an early 20th Century mail-order company that sold kit homes in a wide variety of sizes and price ranges. They were solid homes, built from high-quality southern yellow and white pine. The houses were sturdy and strong, and I’ve always been impressed with the attractiveness of Sterling Homes. They apparently had some competent and creative architects.

Sterling Homes 1917 catalog.

Sterling Homes 1917 catalog.

Sterling System

Sterling System, as shown in their 1917 catalog.

Sterling Windemere

Sterling Windemere

To read about the Sears Homes of Lynchburg and Roanoke, click here.

To read more about Sterling Homes, click here or you can click here

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Buster Keaton Does Sears Homes

August 6th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Released in September 1920, this Buster Keaton short depicts a happy couple (Buster and Sybil) being gifted a “ready-to-assemble” kit home. A jealous old beau alters the numbers marked on the framing members (which were marked to facilitate construction), thus wreaking havoc on poor Buster’s ability to erect the 12,000-piece kit.

On a personal note, I find it fascinating that kit homes were so common in 1920 that movie goers could be expected to have the foreknowledge about these mail-order houses, their “marked lumber,” as well as how they were to be assembled.

All that aside, this is a very cute little short, and I first discovered it in 2004, when my daughter Corey used this piece for a senior project she did for graduation from high school. I was honored and touched that my daughter was drawn to a movie on kit homes - because of her mama!  :)

Buster Keaton\’s \”One Week\”