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Posts Tagged ‘Ringer’

The Sears Homes in Elkins, West Virginia

August 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

My cutie-pie husband is from Elkins, West Virginia (see picture below).  Wayne graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1977, and Washington and Lee (School of Law) in 1980.  This weekend (August 20th), we drove from Norfolk to Elkins to attend his cousin’s 30th Wedding Anniversary party (part of the Skidmore clan). It was a happy, happy time.  Surprisingly, I found quite a few Sears Homes.  (Story continues below photo of cutie-pie husband)

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins, poised atop a rock in the Cheat River

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The houses were shipped via rail and contained 30,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction manual and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in about 90 days. Today, there are about 70,000 Sears kit homes in America. Incredibly, about 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have! The purpose of this website is to help people learn more about this fascinating piece of America’s history.

Here are a few of the houses I found within the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears most popular kit homes.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears' most popular kit homes.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One things for sure: Its a beautiful old kit house!

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One thing's for sure: It's a beautiful old kit house. It's in South Elkins.

Sears Hazleton high atop the hillside in Elkins

Sears Hazleton from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. Looking at the house from the right side, you can see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, one small).

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. If you looked at this house from the right side, you'd see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, two small) on that left side. It's located in Wees Historic District.

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell

Sears Cornell. Although this looks like just another foursquare, this Cornell has a goofy floorplan, with a tiny bathroom (and tiny window) on its left side. When you look on the home's left side, you'll see that the oddly-placed bathroom window is right where it should be. THe Cornell was a very popular house for Sears, and I'm confident that this house is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Is this a Sears Marion? Id say it is. Its a good match on all sides and has a raised roof in the back, which was probably added in later years.

Is this a Sears Marion? I'd say it is. It's a good match on all sides and all the windows are in their right place. One eye-catching feature is the swoop of the bellcast roof on the front of the house. The raised roof in the back was obviously added in later years.

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale in Elkins, WV

Is this a Sears Glendale? It looks like it. However, it is not a spot-on match.

And there’s even a Lustron Prefabricated post-WW2 home in Elkins.  Lustron Homes were made of 20-gage 2×2 metal tiles, covered with a porcelain enamel finish (just like the top of a high-dollar washing machines!).  These houses were all metal - inside and out - and hanging a picture required sticking magnets to the walls! Nails and other fasteners would damage the porcelain enamel finish. Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and less than 3000 Lustron Homes were sold in this country. They were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

To learn more about Lustrons, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

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Sometimes, They’re Sitting in the Middle of Kansas Cornfields

August 5th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In 2007, I traveled to Quinter, Kansas to visit Gale Ringer and learn more about his family’s “Ohio.” His grandfather, Mathias Ringer had purchased the Wardway kit home before World War I, and amazingly, this house had stayed in the family through the generations.

During my three-day stay with the Ringer family, we went driving around other parts of Kansas and that’s when we found the Aladdin Villa, sitting in the middle of a very large field.

As soon as possible, I sent a photo of the house to Dale Wolicki (who is THE expert on Aladdin Homes) and he could hardly believe that we’d stumbled upon one of Aladdin’s fanciest homes in such a quiet, rural area.

Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears), sold entire houses through their mail order catalog. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906 and outlasted all the competition, finally closing their doors in 1981.

Not surprisingly, North Carolina has many Aladdin Kit Homes. Aladdin had a massive mill in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Do you have a Villa in your city? If so, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears - in its day - but not as well known. They sold about 75,000 kit homes during their 75 years in business.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears - in its day - but not as well known. They sold about 75,000 kit homes during their 75 years in business. This page appeared in the 1914 catalog, before they opened their mill in Wilmington, NC.

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The Villa was their biggest fanciest house.

The Villa was their biggest fanciest house.

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Look at the size of these rooms!

Look at the size of these rooms!

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The 1919 catalog featured interior views of the Aladdin Living Room.

The 1919 catalog featured "interior" views of the Aladdin Living Room.

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And the dining room...

And the dining room...

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The Villa, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

The Villa, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

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This Villa is one of the prettiest Ive ever seen. Its in Atlanta.

This Villa is one of the prettiest I've ever seen. It's in Atlanta.

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This Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

This Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

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Driving around the Quinter area with the Ringer family in 2007, I discovered this perfect Aladdin Villa sitting in the middle of a massive Kansas cornfield. The Villa was probably Aladdins biggest and best house.

And this is the Villa in Kansas, sitting in the middle of a massive Kansas cornfield.

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Aladdin Villa from the catalog

Look at the price! That was an expensive house in the 1910s!

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To learn more about Aladdin Kit Homes, click here.

Old Kit Homes and Writing Gigs

August 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Writing about Sears Homes has been a fun gig, but my income from this career has been quite modest. Modest, as in less than $12,000 on my best year - which included a lot of lectures and traveling and working long, long days. But, there are other means of compensation beyond dollars.

My co-author Dale and I have just finished a new book on the kit homes of Montgomery Ward. As part of this research, I pored over old Wardway Homes catalogs, reading the many testimonials from happy customers. And I saw an especially interesting testimonial from a man named “Ringer” in Quinter, Kansas.

“We are well pleased with our Ohio which bought of you,” wrote Mathias Ringer in the 1919 Wardway Homes catalog. “Everybody is welcome on the Ringer Ranch. Everything is modern and is from Montgomery Ward, furniture and all. We want to build two more of these later on” (page 44).

Thanks to Google, I quickly found that Quinter, Kansas is not a very big place so I took a gamble and sent a letter to all the Ringers in Quinter, Kansas. I sent a copy of the testimonial with my letter and told them about my project. Within 30 days, I had a letter from a Gail Ringer, telling me that Mathias Ringer was his grandfather and that Mathias had relocated to Quinter from Somerset County, Pennsylvania to get away from the coal mines. Then 19 years old, Mathias was told that he had the early stages of black lung, and that if he got out of the coal mines and into a better climate, he might live many more years.

And that’s how Mathias Ringer landed in Quinter, Kansas.

Gail Ringer invited me to come out to Quinter and stay with him for a few days and see the Wardway Ohio (a spacious cross-gabled kit home) that his grandfather had built. I readily accepted the invitation.

I flew into Hayes, Kansas, a wee tiny airport. Gail and his son met me at the airport and drove me back to Quinter. After all the traveling (from Norfolk!) I saw the Wardway Ohio that Mathias Ringer had built in 1919. The Ringers treated me like family and it was a very happy few days. Gail Ringer regaled me with stories of his grandfather and father. He shared his memories of growing up in the Wardway Ohio (pictured below). This trip reminded of the significant perks of being a writer. I had the time of my life, and it was a delight to find people who had such a clear and strong sense of family and integrity.

Several weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail that my friend Gail Ringer had passed on. It had been my hope that he’d see a copy of this new book on Wardway Homes before he died (with his interview inside), but it didn’t work out that way.

In the letter from Gail’s son, he wrote, “His anticipation of your 2007 visit was like a spring tonic for him. When the plans for your arrival began to materialize, he perked up immensely. Thanks so much for your part in reviving his spirit.”

As I said, sometimes the best recompense comes in non-pecuniary forms.

Wardway Ohio - from the 1921 Wardway catalog

Wardway Ohio - from the 1921 Wardway catalog

Testimonial that caught my eye in the Wardway Homes catalog

Testimonial in slightly different form in the 1921 Wardway Homes catalog

The Ringer Ranch in Kansas

The Ringer Ranch in Kansas

And sometimes, there’s a little bit of fame, too!

Fame

Fame

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway homes, click here.

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