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Posts Tagged ‘Roseberry’

New Information on Schoper, Illinois

December 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

All ghost towns have a fascinating history, and Schoper, Illinois is no different.

Located about eight miles from Carlinville, the town of Schoper (also known as Standard City) was originally Thomas Schoper’s 500-acre family farm. In 1918, Standard Oil of Indiana bought the farm (literally) from Schoper, and sunk a 300-feet deep coal mine.

After a coal shortage in 1917, Standard Oil wanted a reliable supply of coal to call their own. The coal was used to fire the stills that refined crude oil and turned it into gasoline.

After the completion of several gelogocial surveys (commissioned by Standard Oil), it was discovered that there was a seven-foot tall seam of coal in the ground at Schoper. As an added bonus, Schoper was near The Chicago and Alton rail line, which was centrally located between the refineries in Wood River (near St. Louis) and Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago).

In 1918, Standard Oil placed a $1 million order (for 192 houses) with Sears Roebuck and Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. The houses were purchased for employees in CarlinvilleWood River and Schoper, Illinois. One hundred and fifty six of the houses were built in Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 went to Wood River.

The 12 houses were built for the supervisors at the “Schoper Mine.” There were also boarding houses and dorms built at Schoper, for the miners.

By the mid-1920s, the boom at Schoper had gone bust. The price of coal dropped after The Great War (1918), and Standard Oil could now buy their coal cheaper from mines in Kentucky (which did not have unions) than they could mine it in Macoupin County.

In July 1925, a small column on the bottom page of the Macoupin County Enquirer sadly announced that the mine was closed for good.

Nine of the 12 little Sears Houses were painstakingly disassembled and left Schoper the same way they came in:  In pieces and loaded on a boxcar, headed off to destinations unknown.

Two of the Sears Homes were moved intact, to sites just outside of Standard City. The last Sears House at Schoper (The Sears Gladstone) was home to John McMillan and his wife, a supervisor with the mine. After the mine closed, he became a caretaker charged with myriad tasks, such as making sure the powerful fans down in the mine kept the methane down to acceptable levels.

McMillan’s little Gladstone eventually became rental property and burned down sometime in the mid-1990s.  The last remnant at the site was the Schoper Powerhouse and Mine Offices, a massive concrete Federalist structure which was torn down in Summer 2003.

And that was the whole story - until last month - when a reader sent me an email with new information. I’m not sure how he did it, but he found 1930s aerial maps of Schoper, which showed the footprints (and precise location) of the 12 little Sears Homes.

Scroll on down to enjoy the many photos, including the vintage aerial photo from 1937!

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Schoper

In the front pages of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this image was erroneously identified as a street view of the houses as "Schopper, Illinois." In fact, this was a picture of the 24 Sears Homes in Wood River. No pictures of Schoper appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

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house house house

Picture of Schoper from the late 1910s. At the foot of the sidewalk is a 12-bay garage, shared by the occupants of the 12 Sears Homes. The Power House is shown in the background (near Schoper Lake). The Whitehall, Gladstone and Warrenton are shown in the foreground.

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house schoper house

Schoper was the site of a massive, modern colliery (1921 Stanolind Record). As a side note, I have no idea what this massive piece of equipment is. If a reader can identify this, please leave a comment below.

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Mine Road

And here's a bit of that vintage aerial map, showing the placement of those 12 Sears Homes in Schoper (outlined with a red square). The building circled in red is the Schoper Powerhouse.

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map map map 1937

Close-up of the aerial map (1937). The four white squares on each street represent the footprint where the 12 Schoper homes were located.

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house house house house house

And what Rachel Shoemaker discovered - which is nearly unbelievable - is that if you look at this modern aerial view, you can still see the outline of 12 squares, representing the placement of those 12 Schoper houses.

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Schoper rose

It was claimed that the ’s six dynamos in the Schoper Power House had the potential to create enough electricity to power the entire state of Illinois. The local papers said it was the most powerful steam-driven power plant in the world. The smokestack was 213 feet tall and was the second highest peak in Macoupin County, only a little shorter than the spire atop the Macoupin County Courthouse in Carlinville. The picture above was taken in 2002, about a year before it was torn down.

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schoper house

The Schoper Power House, as seen in the 1921 Stanolind Record. When completed in mid-1919, the Power House also brought electricity to those twelve Sears houses. They were the only "electrified" houses in Schoper. The rest of the community would not know the joys of electric lights until power lines from Carlinville made their way to Standard City in the 1930s.

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house schoper

For many years, that last remaining Sears house (John McMillan's Gladstone) stood alone on a plot that was rapidly reverting to its primitive status as farmland. After the mines closed, McMillan became the mine’s caretaker. It was his job to descend into the deserted coal mine several times a week, grease the water pumps and turn them on. Ground water, which seeped into the mine, had to be pumped out frequently. He was also responsible for turning on the powerful ventilating fans to remove any build-up of firedamp - highly explosive methane gas - which accumulates in coal mines. As of 2003 (when this photo was taken), all that was left of the 12 Schoper Houses was this slight indent in the field.

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Schoper Lake

When Schoper was created in the late 1910s, a creek alongside the powerhouse was damned up to create a seven-acre, 40-foot-deep lake. Underground pipes drafted water from the lake to the powerhouse for the steam engines.

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To see the original vintage map, click here.

To read more about Carlinville’s kit homes, click here.

The above was excerpted from The Houses That Sears BuiltTo buy the book, click here.

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A Sad Story That Needs a Good Ending: Carlinville’s “Standard Addition”

September 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In the early years of the 1900s,

About 1918, Standard Oil purchased 192 kit homes from Sears & Roebuck. Carlinville ended up with 156 of these homes (offered in eight models). The 12-block area where these homes were built (in an old wheat field) came to be known as Standard Addition. Sears proudly touted this sale to Standard Oil as "the largest order ever placed," and pictures of Carlinville appeared in the front pages of the Modern Homes catalog for many years. This letter (shown above) appeared on the back page of the catalog until 1929.

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House

Standard Addition's homes - some of which were not wholly finished - appeared in the 1919 and 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Of the 192 houses sold to Standard Oil, 156 ended up in Carlinville, 24 were sent to Wood River (where Standard Oil had a large refinery) and 12 ended up in Schoper, IL (site of a large coal mine). Pictured above is the Warrenton model (left) and the Whitehall (right).

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In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood first appeared in the Searsm Modern Homes catalog.

In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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house house house 1921

Close-up of the "birdseye view" from the 1921 catalog. From left to right is the Gladstone, Roseberry, Warrenton, and Whitehall. And look at that darling little building behind the Whitehall. Is it still there?

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House

These homes were occasionally featured in "The Stanolind Record," an employee newsletter put out by Standard Oil. This image appeared with the caption, "Carlinville is coming out of the mud," which simply meant that streets would soon be laid, replacing the muddy roads.

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All of which brings me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition is at great risk of being lost.

And all the photos above bring me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition - this unique, historic and one-of-a-kind community - is at great risk. This "Roseberry" on Johnson Street caught fire in early 2013 and has not been razed yet. Derelict houses (such as this) contribute heavily to blight, and once blight takes root in a neighborhood, reversal can take decades. At best, this house poses a threat to public health and safety. At worst, it's an anchor that's dragging this historic neighborhood further into the muck. Would you want to live next door to this? How many months before this house gets torn down?

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Last month

Last month, a suspected meth lab was discovered in the 1000-block of Johnson Street, in the heart of Standard Addition. Once a house is used for "cooking" meth, making it suitable again for habitation can be expensive.

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Full story here: http://www.sj-r.com/breaking/x1367241203/Two-suspected-meth-labs-found-in-Carlinville

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And theres also the problem on insensitive remodeling.

And there's also the problem of insensitive remodeling. And it is quite a problem.

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Another

As built, these homes were very small (less than 1,100 square feet) but there are ways to increase square footage without diminishing the historicity of these unique homes.

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In short, it’s time for the state legislature and/or city council to step in and figure out what legislation is needed to protect this one-of-a-kind historic collection of Sears Homes in Carlinville. I’ve remained “astonished* that there is no signage, no billboards, no announcements of any kind welcoming the flat-lander tourist to come visit “Standard Addition.”

At the very least, there should be billboards in St. Louis, Alton (by the casino), Edwardsville and other “hot spots” inviting people to come see this fun collection of kit homes. There should be a website, self-guided driving brochures, maps, etc, promoting the area.

But there is nothing,

In my 14 years of experience in this niche field of America’s architectural history, I’ve never come across another collection of Sears kit homes quite like Standard Addition.

One week ago today, I drove through Standard Addition, admiring the pretty houses and dismayed by the blighted ones, and I glimpsed, more now than ever, something must be done to preserve and protect this neighborhood.

Before it’s too late.

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To learn more about the eight models in Standard Addition, click here.

To learn more about the building of Standard Addition (and the female supervisor of the project), click here.

In 2003, CBS Sunday Morning News came to Standard Addition.

To read about Illinois’ own ghost town (Schoper, IL), click right here.

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Classic Arts and Crafts Design: The Sears Ashmore

January 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 11 comments

The Sears Ashmore was not one of Sears most popular designs, but it surely was one of their prettiest, and it was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow.

And it had a pergola, too!

According to the testimonies that appeared in the catalog, there are Sears Ashmores in Abilene, TX and Fargo, ND.

Ashmore

This bungalow was a classic Arts & Crafts design (from the 1921 catalog).

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And theres one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I cant pay you, but Ill send you a signed copy of my book!!  :)

And there's one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I can't pay you, but I'll send you a signed copy of my book!! :)

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And theres one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

And there's one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

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The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features.

The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features. And it was a departure from the simple foursquares that were the bread and butter of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. The living room and dining room both have coffered ceilings, and there's a fireplace nook at one end of the massive living room, with a window seat at the other end.

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Heres an image from the 1916 catalog.

Here's an image from the 1916 catalog. Pre-1918 (before Sears Homes had names) this was the C250 model. "The Ashmore" sounds much more elegant.

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According to the page above, there’s also a Sears Ashmore in Fargo, ND! I’d like a photo of that, too.

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The cover of the 1921 Sears Buildign Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

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Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior views of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs.

Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior "views" of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs. The dining room (shown above) is outfitted with classic Arts & Crafts pieces. The oak wainscoting (topped with plate-rail) is shown, but not the coffered (beamed) ceiling.

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Another

One end of the 23-foot-long living room had a window seat (shown above).

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And the other end had a fireplace nook.

And the other end had a fireplace nook.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Heres a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Here's a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table. According to the floor plan, that's an ironing board in the wall to the right of the nook.

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And heres the worlds most beautiful Ashmore. Not too found of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. Its in Waverly, Illinois and its featured in my book, The Sears Homes of Illinois.  The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesnt do it for me.

And here's the world's most beautiful Ashmore. Not too fond of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. It's in Waverly, Illinois and it's featured in my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesn't do it for me. But thank goodness, it's in original condition and the vinyl siding salesmen have not decimated it.

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Doesnt that warm the cockles of your heart?

Doesn't that warm the cockles of your heart? Compare it to the house above, and you'll see it's a perfect match. My oh my, that's a sweet-looking house!

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Awesome

If this doesn't make your heart leap with joy, you should stop what you're doing right now and make sure that you still have a heart beat. Look at these porches. This sweet thing in Waverly still has its original porch railings.

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This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia.

And here's one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia. Isn't it dreamy?

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To become fascinated by yet another old story that Rose is involved in, click here.

To read about how and why the bungalow became so popular so fast, read here.

If you’ve visited this site more than ten times in the last year, state law requires that you leave a detailed and thoughtful comment below.

Okay, not really, but I wish you would.

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Stealth, Ninja Diphtheria

November 6th, 2011 Sears Homes 9 comments

Whilst in Wisconsin last week, I visited the Lake Mills Public Library, seeking information on Addie Hoyt Fargo. I read about 15 months of the Lake Mills Leader from November 1900 to February 1902 (when Enoch married Maddie). The Lake Mills Leader was a weekly, and I found this obituary published on June 20, 1901. The other Addie obit that I published earlier came from The Jefferson County UnionRead it here.

I suspect both of these obits were penned by Oatway. He made a couple boo boos on this one.

Addie

Actually, Addie was born in January 1872. Sheesh.

page two

At the bottom, it does say Addie had a funeral, but that would have been logistically problematic. Dead at two, buried by 10, how did they notify people? Typical Victorian funerals were grandiose affairs; the wealthier the better! More on that below.

This obit raises a lot of questions. First off, given that Oatway is the star of this obit, I think he wrote it in the wee hours. And the first obit (published here) said she got sick Tuesday late morning and died at 2:00 in the morning on Wednesday. Okay, so the midnight hour passed once. He defines that as two days. Huh.

And a second tidbit: Here he says there was a funeral. That’s not mentioned in the prior obit. But this was pre-telephone and pre-radio. How did they arrange a funeral? How did they notify mourners?  Did Enoch run door to door and say, “Addie’s dead - please come to our funeral? It’s being held in 45 minutes? And hurry!!”

Again - more questions than answers.

Now, about that obituary. Those of us spending time in the 21st Century have learned about the Heimlech Maneuver, and what’s the first thing we learned? If the person can talk, they are getting some air, and they’re not truly choking.

And what if they have the ability to actually “exclaim!”?

Hmmm.

Okay, so maybe her airway was restricted and she was in distress. That’s possible, but if those are the facts, she is NOT going to fall back on the bed and die.

That’s the first point.

Here’s the second.

Dr. Oatway was the county health officer and one of his duties was to file a report with the Wisconsin State Board of Health and report on the incidence of communicable disease in Lake Mills. This was a paid position (and he earned extra for epidemics), and it was a very important job.

In 1876, Wisconsin created a “State Board of Health” that compiled facts and stats on communicable diseases. “Health Officers” were appointed (and paid) by the state, and it was their job to help track, record and monitor the prevalence and severity of the dreaded scourges of the day such as diphtheria, small pox, consumption, cholera and typhoid.

Each year, these health officers filed a report with the state, wherein they answered several specific questions. Two of the most interesting questions they were asked were, “Are the laws regarding birth certificates and burial permits enforced in your community?” and “What’s the incidence of communicable disease in your community?”

In the report that Oatway filed with the state of Wisconsin for the period of time that included Addie’s death, Oatway stated, “the law requiring the report of dangerous contagious diseases is observed with regard to small pox, diphtheria and scarlet fever only.”

Reporting as the health officer, he mentions the deaths from a number of diseases but he says nothing about any cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills, or deaths from diphtheria in Lake Mills.

Okay, this is good news. There were no cases of diphtheria, and no one died from diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901.

Okay, so maybe he forgot ALL about treating Lake Mills’ most famous socialite, married to Lake Mills’ most wealthy man, living in Lake Mills’ most grandiose castle. Okay. Maybe.

But this wasn’t just diphtheria! This was stealth, Ninja, Knock-off-your-socks (and Put-on-your-boots?), Diphtheria!

It was an especially virulent bout of diphtheria! In Oatway’s own words, “[the diphtheria] had advanced with unusual rapidity…it was the most stubborn, and rapidly developing case he has ever met with, and the result seems to justify the belief that no human power or skill could have furnished relief…”

And Oatway’s narrative also states that he “resorted to the most modern means in use for battling with the disease, and made every effort to check the disease…”

In 1894, a German doctor discovered an anti-diphtheria serum that was found to have excellent results. In 1895, it was manufactured (and available) in the United States. About that time, the mortality rate from this dread disease started to plummet. In Wisconsin’s small towns, the 1901 death rate for patients with diphtheria was 9.1%, and that includes children (who had a much higher death rate from the disease).

In one of these 1901 health reports, another doctor writes a short essay explaining that he’d lost a young child to diphtheria, and it never would have happened, had it not been for the family’s neglect to notify the doctor earlier. The doctor’s angst shone through his words, that even a child shouldn’t die in such a time as this, with the availability of modern serums.

Even if there was no serum in Lake Mills, couldn’t someone be sent (by train) to Milwaukee to fetch a vial for Mrs. Fargo?

But I don’t think there was any diphtheria that day (or that year) in Lake Mills. I think Dr. Oatway told the truth on the 1901 report to the State Board of Health. Oatway knew that the burial permit was a state document, checked by the state, and used specifically to track the incidence of communicable diseases, and that’s why he was willing to falsify the death certificate (making up a number for the burial permit), but not the burial permit. The burial permit was being watched by the state, and it might even trigger an investigation from the state. (Especially given that no diphtheria had been present in Lake Mills for some time.)

The death certificate could be safely forged. The burial permit could not. That’s why there was no burial permit for Addie.

And this obituary makes it much more difficult to believe that Oatway could have forgotten all about Addie’s death when he filed that report with the State Board of Health for 1901. After all, it was the most (fill in the blank with adjectives) Diphtheria he had ever seen! How does one forget such a thing?

They don’t.

As to Addie picking that up in Portage? The Lake Mills Leader said she traveled there around June 6th. The communicability period for diphtheria germs is less than six days. There’s that Ninja Stealth Diphtheria again.

And the best part? The Health Officer for Portage reported that there were no cases (and no deaths) of diphtheria in 1901.

It’s that stealth component.

So in conclusion, Addie got diphtheria and died. But there were no cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901. But she got it from her trip to Portage. But there were no cases of diphtheria in Portage, either.

As my daughter says, “Maybe Addie had that stealth, Ninja, reach-up-out-from-under-the-canoe-and-grab-you, throw-your-boots-on-your-feet-while-you-lay-sick-in-bed, jump-up-and-scream-while-choking, and then flop backwards on the bed and die” Diphtheria.

Best explanation I’ve heard yet.

To read about Addie’s exhumation, click here.

Page one of Dr. Bentleys report from Portage, WI. This covered all of 1901.

From the State Board of Health Report, this is the first page one of Dr. Bentley's report from Portage, WI. This covered all of 1901. Page two continues below.

stealth

Dr. Bentley's report on Portage, second page (see top).

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on

This snippet appeared in the 1902 "Report of the State Board of Health" for Wisconsin and covered the the time period during which Addie Hoyt allegedly died of diphtheria. How did Oatway forget about Addie's horrible diphtheric death?

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on

This statement, taken from the above text and penned by Oatway, says that if there was a case of diphtheria in his town (Lake Mills), it *would* be reported.

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one

Unless you're paid off by Enoch Fargo to falsify a death certificate...

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Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Under the date (June 1901), Addie's death certificate reads, "Burial Permit #32." State law demanded accuracy in reporting of birth certificates and burial permits. He apparently felt compelled to tell the truth when he submitted his written report to the state of Wisconsin.

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Addies little

Was this what the well-dressed, sick-in-bed diphtheria patient wore in 1901? Based on the remnants found in Addie's grave, these were probably similar to the shoes that Addie was wearing (and was buried with) when she died in June 1901.

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Addie was exhumed on November 3, 2011. She will not be returning to Lake Mills.

Addie was exhumed on November 3, 2011. She will not be returning to Lake Mills. After the autopsy is complete, Addie's remains will be coming home with me.

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Exhumation under way.

Exhumation under way.

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Addies grave was empty by 12:00 noon.

Addie's grave was empty by 12:00 noon.

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The view on Friday morning.

The view on Friday morning. I would have preferred to have had that foot stone removed and discarded, but the city wanted it to remain.

Addie in 1886 (about 14 years old).

Addie in 1886 (about 14 years old).

Addie - close-up

Addie - close-up

Addie and her sister, Anna Hoyt (my great-grandmother).

Addie and her sister, Anna Hoyt (my great-grandmother).

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The Plan Book Homes of Portsmouth, Virginia

July 13th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

Tens of thousands of homeowners turned to Plan Books for their housing needs in the early 1900s. It was similar to buying a kit home, but with a few important differences. After browsing the pages of a plan book (filled with pretty pictures of pretty homes), you’d pick a house that fit your budget and your needs, and then send off a few dollars.

Within a few days or weeks, you’d receive a full set of blue prints, plus a list of the building materials you’d need to build your dream home.

In other words, you were buying blue prints and a building materials list, nothing more.

Plan book houses are so ubiquitous and the designs are so varied that a person could drive themselves nuts trying to find and identify all the plan book houses in their neighborhood. I’ve got one book of plans from the late 1920s, and it must have more than 500 house designs. And that was one company.

That being said, I did go through a “plan book phase” in my house hunting career, and here are a few of the houses I found in Portsmouth (and surrounding areas).

Nice little Tudor from the pages of a Homebuilders Planbook

Nice little Tudor from the pages of a popular early 1920s planbook.

Nice match in Portsmouth, Virginia on Rockbridge Road (Waterview section).

Nice match in Portsmouth, Virginia on Rockbridge Road (Waterview section).

Kind of a funky looking house.

Kind of a funky looking house with that arched porch roof.

Also on Rockbridge Road (Waterview), this house had some big dormers added.

Also on Rockbridge Road (Waterview), this house had some big dormers added.

Nice

This is one of my favorites. Nice design and good front porch (on the side).

Poor photo, but great house. I grew up next door to this house. My home was at 515 Nansemond Street, also in Waterview.

Poor photo, but great house. I grew up next door to this house. My home was at 515 Nansemond Street, also in Waterview.

Beautiful little Tudor Revival from the late 1920s

Beautiful little Tudor Revival from the late 1920s

This is my favorite match!  The house is a perfect match to the catalog image, and its even painted in the same colors! I sent these folks a color copy of this catalog page, but never heard back from them.

This is my favorite match! The house is a perfect match to the catalog image, and it's even painted in the same colors! I sent these folks a color copy of this catalog page, but never heard back from them. This house is on Riverside Drive (Waterview). Even the tiny little details are a spot-on match.

This was a duplex, and proved to be a popular design.

This was a four-unit apartment, and proved to be a popular design. I've seen three of these in my travels.

This one is in South Norfolk (near Portsmouth).

This one is in South Norfolk (near Portsmouth).

Thi

Pretty, pretty house.

house

The details around the front porch gable are a tiny bit different, but the rest of the house is a perfect match, down to the strap hinges on the front door. This house is in Park View (Portsmouth).

The Regent was also a popular plan book house.

The Regent was also a popular plan book house.

And this one is in the Colonial Place neighborhood in Norfolk!

And this one is in the Colonial Place neighborhood in Norfolk!

This last house is not in Portsmouth, but it is probably *THE* most popular plan book house Ive come across.

This last house is not in Portsmouth, but it is probably *THE* most popular plan book house I've come across.

I found two of these in Beckley, WV and Ive seen countless others all over the country.

I found two of these in Beckley, WV and I've seen countless others all over the country.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Sears Ivanhoe

June 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Magnolia was Sears biggest and best kit home, but the Ivanhoe was a close second. In my travels, I’ve only seen a handful.

One of them was in Lewisburg, WV and the other was in Elmhurst, Illinois (see pictures of these homes below). I found a third in Northern Illinois but neglected to note the city. Carol Parish (Monmouth, IL) sent in a picture of an especially beautiful (and original) Ivanhoe in her city.

According to the testimonials found in the old Sears Modern Homes’ catalogs (and referenced in Rebecca Hunter’s book), there’s a Sears Ivanhoe in West Point, Virginia, but it faces the waterfront and despite letters written to the owners, I’ve not been able to get a photograph.

Recently I was scanning some old paperwork and stumbled across the Sears Ivanhoe (LaGrange, IL) featured in a Sears roofing brochure. I’d love to get a current photo of this BRICK Ivanhoe!  :)

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This Ivanhoe is located in LaGrange, IL. I wonder if it's still standing!

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Close-up of the letter written someone whose signature is illegible in a city whose name is misspelled. It's LaGrange, not LaGrauge.

Below are the Ivanhoes in Lewiston, West Virginia, Elmhurst, Illinois, and an unknown city in northern Illinois.

First, the original catalog image.

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog

Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe floorplan, second floor.

Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe floorplan, first floor.

Ivanhoe in Elmhurst, IL

Ivanhoe in Elmhurst, IL

And heres

And this beautiful Ivanhoe is in Monmouth, IL. Thanks to Carol Parish for snapping the photo and sending it along!!

Ivanhoe in Lewiston

Ivanhoe in Lewisburg, WV

This Ivanhoe is somewhere in Northern Illiois, but not sure where. The photo was taken in 2002.

This Ivanhoe is in Northern Illinois - somewhere (2002).

If you know of the location of an Ivanhoe, please leave a comment below. And if you own an Ivanhoe and would like to send me a picture, please do!  Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

If you’ d like to read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Carlinville, Illinois: Not The Largest Collection of Sears Homes

June 13th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Carlinville is a small city in central Illinois (population 5,400) with 152 Sears Homes in a 12-block area in a neighborhood known as Standard Addition. It is NOT the largest collection of Sears Homes in this country (as is often reported), but it does have the largest collection of contiguous Sears Homes.

Elgin, Illinois has the largest collection of Sears Homes, with more than 210 houses within its borders! (Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for this information!)

When I visit the Midwest every year or so, I stop in and say hello to Carlinville and Standard Addition. After all, it was this community of Sears Homes that launched my career and inspired me to start writing books on this topic! In 1999, I wrote an article for my editor (at Old House Web) about Sears Homes and that one article turned into a career, and what a blessing that career has been in my life.

And yet, with each visit, I see this neighborhood slip-sliding downward. It’s very sad to see, and I wish something could be done to preserve and protect this unique collection of Sears Homes. It’s an amazing piece of our architectural history, and is worthy of preservation.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article on Carlinville, click here.

A Sears Roseberry thats looking a little rough

This little Roseberry has had many modifications. It's kind of the Michael Jackson of architecture, with six too many nose jobs.

Yuck

When originally built in 1919, this Sears Warrenton looked very different. If walls could talk, this house would say "Ouch!"

Sears

Another Sears Warrenton with 1960s permastone, 1980s vinyl and 1990s aluminum columns.

More permastone dons the front of this Roseberry

The Permastone salesman had a lot of success peddling his wares in Carlinville.

Wow

Sears Gladstone with a closed-in front porch and a new porch added on. To their credit, the garage addition has been done thoughtfully with a hip roof that matches the original structure.

Sears Windsor.

The front porch on this Sears Windsor has been completely closed in. That one square window on the enclosed front porch is rather cyclopsian.

Vintage Carlinville

Vintage Carlinville. This photo was taken in the late 1910s when the houses in Carlinville were under construction. These houses were originally built by Standard Oil of Indiana for their coal miners in Carlinville.

To read another article on Sears Homes, click here.

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Carlinville and Schoper, Illinois

May 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Update! This article was updated in 2013. To read the latest, click here!

I love ghost towns. All ghost towns have a fascinating history, and this one in Schoper, Illinois is no different. It’s the real deal - a boom town that went bust and literally disappeared off the map.

It started in 1918, when Standard Oil of Indiana placed a $1 million order with Sears Roebuck and Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. Standard Oil purchased the houses for their workers in Carlinville, Wood River and Schoper, Illinois. Of those 192 houses, 156 landed in Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 went to Wood River.

Standard Oil was grateful for the dandy little houses, as is evidenced by this thank-you note that they wrote to Sears.

This thank you note graced the back pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs for many years.

This appeared on the back pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs for many years.

In Schoper, Illinois (about 8 miles from Carlinville), the 12 houses were built for the coal miners at a colliery that would become known as “Schoper Mine.”

Prior to the arrival of Standard Oil, this site had been a typical early 20th Century farm with one old house and a few outbuildings. By the late 1910s, more than 1000 people were living in “Schoper” and in 1920, the 500-acre farm was incorporated as a village and named Standard City.

Standard Oil needed a steady supply of coal to fuel the stills that refined the crude oil into gasoline. Carlinville and Schoper were ideal locations because of the seven-foot thick vein of coal, and also because of its location. The Chicago and Alton rail line ran between Standard Oil’s refineries in Wood River (near St. Louis) and Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago).

Providing homes to workers was a proven tact for creating a more stable workforce, and also attracted “family men,” who were more desirable employees for a plethora of reasons. And in these pre-OSHA days, it was a nice bonus. Mining was horribly dangerous, and an article in the Macoupin County Enquirer (dated September 19, 1923) said that 18 miners died that year in Macoupin County, which was in line with the national average of “one [miner] fatality per 279,354 tons of coal produced.”

Schoper was - at its peak - the largest coal mine in the state of Illinois, employing 650 men and hoisting up to 4,000 tones of coal each day. About 450 men worked at the Berry Mine (Carlinville), producing about 2,000 tons of coal per day.

Times were good. In the early 1920s, Schoper miners worked about 298 days per year, while nationwide, most coal miners were working about 200 days per year.

By the mid-1920s, the boom had gone bust. The price of coal dropped precipitously after The Great War (1918), and Standard Oil could now buy their coal from non-union Kentucky mines far cheaper than they could mine it in Macoupin County.

In July 1925, a small column on the bottom page of the Macoupin County Enquirer said the mine was closed for good.

Nine of the 12 little Sears Houses went out the way they came in:  In pieces and loaded on a boxcar. They were disassembled (which must have been a massive project, but probably provided work for a few idle coal miners), and shipped by train to destinations unknown. Two of the Sears Homes were moved intact, to sites just outside of Standard City. The last Sears House at Schoper (The Sears Gladstone) was home to John McMillan and his wife, a supervisor with the mine. After the mine closed, he became a caretaker making sure the powerful fans kept the methane down to acceptable levels.

McMillan’s little Gladstone eventually became rental property and burned down sometime in the mid-1990s.  The last remnant at the site was the Schoper Powerhouse and Mine Offices, a massive concrete structure which was torn down in Summer 2003.

There’s something about this former boom town that is compelling and even haunting. Driving into Standard City, you turn onto Mine Road to reach the site of the old mine, or hang a left for Cinder Road (made from old cinders). And then there’s Pershing Street, undoubtedly named for General John “Black Jack” Pershing, WW1 hero and commander of the American Expeditionary Force. Another street is Rice Street, probably named for Charles Rice, who handled real estate acquisitions for Standard Oil.

Standing on the plat land beside the abandoned, vandalized powerhouse, gazing out at Schoper Lake, you can close your eyes and almost hear the steam whistle signaling the end of a shift. Listen, really listen, and maybe you’ll hear the metal cables of the hoist groan and creak as a steel cage raises three dozen coal-blackened minders from 440 feet below grade.

Einstein said, “To those of us who are committed physicists, the  past, present and future are only illusion, however persistent.”

Nowhere in my experiences have I intuitively felt that this illusion of time is more fragile and ethereal than at the site of Schoper Mine. And you if you’re not a romantic/tangential/historical fanatic dream (as I am), but just someone who enjoys visiting towns that boomed and busted, it’s still worth the trip.

Just don’t speed and don’t litter and don’t tromp on the crops. Standard City is still home to about 100 folks, and they (rightfully so) love their community.

To read more about Carlinville’s kit homes, click here.

The above was excerpted from The Houses That Sears Built. To buy the book, click here.

To read about a fascinating ghost town in Virginia, click here.

Enjoy the photos below!

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One of the only known photos of the Sears Homes in Schoper, Illinois.

One of the only known photos of the Sears Homes in Schoper, Illinois. Note that the Sears Homes shown here have tar-paper roofs. After Schoper closed down, the houses were "wrecked" (deconstructed) and put back in railroad cars and shipped on down the line. Two of the houses were moved intact to other locations.

Picture of Mine 1 at Schoper, taken from the 1921 Stanolind Record

Picture of Mine 1 at Schoper, taken from the 1921 Stanolind Record

Vintage picture of the Schoper Powerhouse, also from the 1921 Stanolind Record

Vintage picture of the Schoper Powerhouse, also from the 1921 Stanolind Record. The Schoper powerhouse consumed more than 60 tons of coal per day. The smokestack was 213 feet tall and was the second highest point in all of Macoupin County. The highest point was the spire atop the Macoupin County courthouse.

words

This picture appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, promoting their wonderful little kit homes. It was labeled "Schopper" (sic) but in fact, it's a street view of the 24 Sears Homes in Wood River. The houses in Schoper were laid out on three streets in groups of four houses per street. Further, Sears didn't seem to know how to spell "Schoper."

The Schoper Powerhouse, photographed in 2002, about a year before it was torn down. This building also houses offices for the Schoper Mine.

The Schoper Powerhouse, photographed in 2002, about a year before it was torn down. This building also houses offices for the Schoper Mine.

Another view of the Schoper Powerhouse

Another view of the Schoper Powerhouse. When completed in 1919, this powerhouse supplied electricity to the 12 Sears Homes (just across the street). In November 1919, the city of Carlinville authorized spending $2,056 to run underground electrical lines from the Schoper powerhouse to Berry Mine in Carlinville, electrifying that mine as well.

When Schoper was created in the late 1910s, a creek that ran through an area beside the powerhouse was damned to create a seven-acre, 40-foot-deep lake - which became known as Schoper Lake. Underground pipes drafted water from the lake to the powerhouse for the steam engines. It was claimed that the six dynamos in this powerhouse had the potential to create enough electricity for the entire state of Illinois.

When Schoper was created in the late 1910s, a creek that ran through an area beside the powerhouse was damned to create a seven-acre, 40-foot-deep lake - which became known as Schoper Lake. Underground pipes drafted water from the lake to the powerhouse for the steam engines. It was claimed that the six dynamos in this powerhouse had the potential to create enough electricity for the entire state of Illinois.

This photo was taken in 2002, and it shows that all the remains of John McMillans Gladstone is a little dip in the soil and a short piece of driveway.

This photo was taken in 2002, and it shows that all the remains of John McMillan's Gladstone is a little dip in the soil and a short piece of driveway.

To read more about the largest order in the history of Sears homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Carlinville: “Coming Out of The Mud”

May 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

If you could go back in time 100 years, you might find it a little challenging to understand exactly what people were talking about. In the early 1900s, some words had radically different meanings.

For instance, there’s the word “slacker.” A slacker was any able-bodied young man who did not volunteer to serve in the military (and subsequently become part of the American Expeditionary Force).

Wanting to learn more about this time period in American history, I also studied World War 1. It wasn’t called WW1 until the late 1930s, when WW2 broke out. In the late 1910s, it was known as “The Great War.” When the American government was selling the citizens on the idea of another war, we were promised that this would be “The War to End All Wars.” (Turned out, they were wrong about that.)

One of the most chilling definitions I learned was the etymology of the term “basket-case.” During the The Great War, when a soldier lost his limbs in battle, a wicker basket was used to carry the limbless figure off the battlefield. One can only imagine the mental state of such a soldier. The fellow soldiers described him as “a real basket-case.”

“Smut” was another interesting term. It was a disease of the wheat crop, and in the early 1900s, smut damaged so much wheat that it caused a nation-wide shortage of wheat.

An article in the 1920 Stanolind Record (employee newsletter of Standard Oil) said that soon Carlinville residents would be “coming out of the mud.” (Carlinville’s “Standard Addition” neighborhood has 152 Sears Homes in a 12-block area. Carlinville is in central Illinois.) For several months, I could not glean the meaning of this unusual phrase. Finally, I found a clipping that said a neighborhood had just “come out of the mud.” It showed freshly paved streets and sidewalks. “Coming out of the mud” meant the subdivision now had proper sidewalks and city streets.

Vintage photo of Carlinvilles Standard Addition before it came out of the mud.

Vintage photo of Carlinville's Standard Addition before it "came out of the mud." This photo came from the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1918).

Carlinville

Another view of Muddy Carlinville (pre-paved streets and sidewalks). This photo came from the Stanolind Record (employee newsletter for Standard Oil).

Muddy

This picture appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, and it would appear the streets are in the process of being paved in this photo.

Carlinville

Carlinville's little Sears Homes under construction in about 1918.

To read about Carlinville today, click here.

To buy Rose’s book on Sears Homes, click here.

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Is That Really a Sears Kit Home? Nine Easy Ways to Tell.

May 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic.  Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

Haa

Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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