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Posts Tagged ‘rosemary thornton and sears homes’

Jacksonville, Illinois and Their Many Kit Homes!

November 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

In August 2014, I traveled to Jacksonville to get photos of two Gordon Van Tine homes that were built side-by-side in the early 1920s and featured in a promotional booklet. While I was there, I drove around the rest of the city and discovered several kit homes, from several different companies!

And bear in mind, this was a quick trip in search of the “low-hanging fruit,” so I’m sure there are many more kit homes in Jacksonville.

Perhaps most interesting is that Jacksonville has more kit homes from Gordon Van Tine than any other company. Gordon Van Tine was a kit home company based in Davenport, Iowa.

I also found kit homes from Montgomery Ward and Aladdin.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if Jacksonville hired me to return and do a proper survey and give a talk? Heck yes!

These blogs - which feature one city’s many kit homes - take many, many hours to prepare and write up, so if you enjoy the following pictures, please take a moment and share it with others, or best of all - SHARE IT on your Facebook page.

Enjoy the pictures!

To contact Rose, leave a comment below!

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Barrington

The Sears Barrington was a very popular house (1928 catalog).

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house house

Here's a beautiful Barrington in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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thishouse

This Barrington is another beauty. It needs some paint, but retains its original cedar shakes and wooden windows. All that's missing is the original hospitality bench (as seen in the catalog image above).

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1940

The Sears Wilmore as seen in the 1940 catalog (Sears last "Modern Homes" catalog).

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Sears Wilmore

Tihs may well be the prettiest Sears Wilmore I've ever seen. The picket fence is a lovely touch.

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house 1919

Aladdin was another kit home company, and was larger than Sears. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906 and didn't cease until 1981. Aladdin sold about 75,000 homes during their 75 years in business.

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Aladdin Pomona

Perfect Aladdin Pomona just outside of Jacksonville. It has the original windows with diamond muntins.

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1919 Detroit

The Aladdin Detroit was almost as popular as the Pomona (1919 catalog).

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Aladdin Detroit

Is this an Aladdin Detroit? I'd say it is. Probably. An interior inspection would settle the question.

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GVT Hudson

The Hudson was a fine-looking Tudoresque Gordon Van Tine house.

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GVT Hudson

As a commercial structure, this GVT Hudson is a bit garish, but it's still recognizable.

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househouse

Check out the elaborate doorway with its broken pediment detailing .

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GVT Hudson

And there it is! Looking just like the catalog image above!

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Twinkies Proof

Mr. Fernandes' Twinkies appeared in a 1920s Gordon Van Tine publication, "Proof of the Pudding." Apparently, the North Clay address was Mr. Fernandes' business address, and not the site of the two homes. The model name was "The Roycroft." Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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Twinkies

Mr. Fernandes' Twinkies in 2014. Do the folks in Jacksonville know that these two houses are Gordon Van Tine "Roycrofts"? Based on my research, odds are good that the homeowners don't know what they have.

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GVT 1916

This was an advertisement for GVT Model 583 which appeared in a 1916 magazine (courtesy Rachel Shoemaker).

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GVT 1916 583

Close-up of the Gordon Van Tine 583 (1916). Note the small window on the front gable.

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house

A perfect GVT #583 in Jacksonville! And look at the little window in the gable!

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1926 catalog

Model #603 was one of many Dutch Colonials offered by Gordon Van Tine (1926)

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house house

Despite the abundance of trees, I'm confident that this is GVT #603. It's a good match on the home's sides as well (not visible from this not-so-great photo).

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This is

The Gordon Van Tine #615 is easy to identify due to the unique window arrangement on the side, including the through-the-cornice shed dormer, and the three windows on the 2nd floor front.

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house house

And here's the Gordon Van Tine #615 looking picture perfect!

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Cranford

The Montgomery Ward "Cranford" (1930 catalog) is another house that's easy to identify because it's full of unique angles. It's a Dutch Colonial with two gables stuck on its front. Easy to spot!

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house house cranmore

Is this a Wardway Cranmore? Sure looks like it to me!

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Jacksonville certainly has many more kit homes than I identified during my 60-minute drive through town. If you’d like to contact Rose about coming to Jacksonville, please leave a comment below.

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To learn more about the GVT Twinkies I found in Jacksonville, click here.

Click here to see another impressive collection of kit homes in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

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

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A Kit House in Lebanon! (New Hampshire)

September 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last week, Hubby and I traveled to Vermont to see all the pretty things up there (including the Ben and Jerry’s Factory).

Sadly, I didn’t see much in the way of kit homes, but I did discover this gorgeous “San Fernando” offered by Lewis Homes (early 1920s).

The house is just across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire in a small town known as Lebanon. (We ended up staying at the Fireside Inn and Suites in West Lebanon.)

Lewis Homes was a kit home company (like Sears and Aladdin), and it was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sears and Aladdin tend to get all the ink, the fact is that there were six companies selling kit homes on a nation-wide basis.

As you can see from the pictures below, it is a gorgeous house and has its original windows and siding. Might even be the original storm windows!

To read about the other pretty houses I found in this area, click here.

Read about my train adventure by clicking here!

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The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow.

The Lewis San Fernando is a beautiful bungalow (1924 catalog).

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It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

It merited a two-page spread in the 1924 catalog!

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And with two floorplans!

And with two floorplans!

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2

These floorplans appear to be the same (mostly), but this one is two feet longer (1924).

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It really is a beautiful bungalow!

It really is a beautiful bungalow!

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House

Located on Main Street in Lebanon, NH, this is a beautiful San Fernando!

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Perfect - DOWN to the details!

Perfect - DOWN to the details!

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windows

Hard to say for sure, but these are either original storms or fine-looking replacements.

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Heres a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio.

Here's a San Fernando that Dale and I found in Ohio. That's Dale looking at the house.

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While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. That was great fun!

While in Vermont, we drove up to Graniteville to visit the Rock of Ages Quarry. The water is turqouise color due to some of the minerals leeching out from the rock.

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Permanent Furniture II: Beautiful Staircases

December 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, we seemed to place more value on the idea that we should surround ourselves with beauty.

The staircases shown in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork Catalog ranged from simple to fancy, and yet they’re all elegant and beautiful.

Too many modern staircases (post-1970) are not just utilitarian; they’re seriously ugly. Looking through several online listings of “new” houses for sale (under $500,000), I didn’t see any staircase pieces and parts that I haven’t seen for sale at Lowes. In other words, the focus of modern staircase building seems to be “fast, cheap and easy.”

What happened to the idea of making a beautiful entry?

As the 1920s text says below, “The staircase is the central feature of the hall or living room and must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling.”

Perhaps that explains why contemporary staircases are so blasé and unappealing.

The pedestrian staircases in modern homes are “in harmony” with their pedestrian surroundings.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing his historic architecture books with me!

Read about bookcase colonnades here!

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Staircase

Even the front page for this chapter is a thing of beauty!

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Stiarcase

"The designs...represent harmonious units." The text also adds, "The staircase...must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling." How many builders today stop and think about how much "harmony" is expressed by their creations? (In the text above, K.D. stands for "knocked down.")

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staircase 1

"For the modern American small home, this design is very pleasing and practical."

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staircase 2

Another very simple design, and yet it's quite attractive. This type of staircase is often found in mail-order kit homes, because it's both simple and easy to construct.

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staircase 8

According to the accompanying caption, those doors lead out to an "elevated sunporch." I don't recall ever seeing an elevated sunporch off a landing like this - in real life.

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staricase

Another simple staircase, but with a 90-degree twist.

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staircase 8

"The unusual panel effect is a distinctive feature of this staircase..."

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staircase 7

This staircase is categorized in the original literature as a "Colonial design."

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house house house

Another favorite staircase. Years ago, I looked at a house for sale in South Norfolk (Chesapeake, VA) on Park Avenue and it had this very same design, all with original varnish/shellac. I thought it was the prettiest bit of "permanent furniture" that I'd ever seen. I shudder to think what's become of that house and it's gorgeous interiors. Note the phone niche next to the bench.

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staircase

"This panel buttress staircase is suitable for English or modern American homes. The complete absence of balusters and handrail make it easy to keep clean." While I do love the rope, I'm sure modern codes would not allow it.

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staircase

"The charm of this Colonial stairway is the continuous handrail ending in the graceful turning of a volute." Please raise your hand if you knew that this "round thing" at the end of the banister was known as a "volute." :D

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staircase 38

"Very suitable for the modest home without a reception hall." If a mother could have favorites, this would be one of mine. So pretty and so elegant, and yet, "suitable for a modest home."

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house house

"The attractive arches give it real character."

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house house house

Another beautiful staircase. The window mirrors the pattern on the built-in bookcase.

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staircase

"The large central hall is an attribute of the Colonial home, the main feature of which is the stairway." This is the same stairway we had in our 1925 Colonial Revival on Gosnold Avenue (Norfolk), even down to the tapered spindles and center post. Lone difference is, we had three spindles per tread, where this has two. Nary a soul entered that reception hall without making a nice comment about the beauty of that staircase.

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staircase

"This is one of the simpler lines, very economical in construction."

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staircase

Not my favorite, but it must be a design of enduring appeal, because I've seen it in many post-WW2 houses. Original caption says the "sturdy lines of English architecture are faithfully retained in this beautiful stairway."

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staircase 187

"The unusual feature is the handrail is mitered into the newel cap." Makes sliding down a bannister much easier (and less painful). Although it's a mighty short run.

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staircase 8883

"For real charm and beauty, a winding stairs can not be excelled."

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staircaseieie

"This Colonial stairway is very impressive." I agree. Check out the phone niche.

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In the 1920s, we seemed to have more of an understanding that it was important to surround yourself with beauty. Modern staircases are not just utilitarian; theyre ugly as sin.

The image on the left is from a $500,000 house currently for sale in Hampton Roads. The image on the right was a very simple design offered in the 1927 "Builders' Woodwork" catalog. In the 1920s, we seemed understand that low-priced and simple didn't have to equate with cheap and ugly.

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Stiars

To end on a happy note, I've always loved old houses, and that's due in large part to my mother, an artist, who always felt it was important to surround herself with beauty and light and color. She's shown here, sitting on the beautiful staircase of our Colonial Revival home in Waterview (Portsmouth, Virginia). It was about 1968, and she's holding "Bernard," a mutt she'd recently adopted from the local SPCA.

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To read Permanent Furniture, Part I, click here.

To read one of the most popular blogs at this site (featuring a beautiful staircase), click here.

Ready for a change of pace? Read about a really spooky basement here.

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The Fargo Mansion: An Architectural Gem in Wisconsin

September 16th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

During my stay in Lake Mills in early September (2011), I was invited by gracious innkeepers Tom and Barry to be their guest at the Fargo Mansion Inn. So for two glorious days and two restful nights, I lived and moved and had my being inside the walls of this unspeakably beautiful old manse on Mulberry Street.

I’m an architectural historian. I’ve seen plenty of old houses. If I had a nickle for every old house I’ve seen…

However, the Fargo Mansion is in a class by itself. It’s an extraordinary building that’s been meticulously and faithfully restored to its former splendor. And it’s massive, with 7,500 square feet of architectural grandeur. Every single spot where your eyeballs happen to rest is a new view of opulence and magnificence and Victorian luxuriance.

When the Fargo Manse came into Tom and Barry’s life in the early 1980s, it was slated for demolition with a failing roof (and rain water infiltration), boarded up windows, frozen and busted pipes  (radiators and domestic water) and many of the fireplace mantels and moldings were gone. In anticipation of the home’s demolition, all utility connections had been removed from the building. Built in 1881, it’s a classic Queen Anne house, with towers and turrets and Victorian refinements and frippery and fretwork.

It’s disturbing to think that Wisconsin nearly lost this architectural gem.

In addition to its being a real gem, this was my great Aunt Addie’s home. Judging by the many photos I have of her in this house, this was a happy home for Addie - for a time. She moved in as a bride of 24 years old, and she died there, five years later.

This is one of those times when words are inadequate, so feast your eyes on the photos below. And if you’re ever within 100 miles of The Fargo Inn Mansion, you really should treat yourself to a night or two at the Inn. And did I mention, the breakfast that Tom served was one of the Top 15 Best Breakfasts I’ve ever had in my 52 years? And that morning memory was sweetened ever more when Tom brought in a small painted porcelain vase and set it down beside me on the table.

“This was your Aunt Addie’s,” he said softly. “I knew you’d like to see it.”

He was right.


The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in with her new husband, Enoch Fargo.  Enoch was 22 years older than Addie.

The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in.

Addie in front of the Fargo Mansion.

Addie in front of the Fargo Mansion.

The fam

The fam sits on the front step of the Fargo Mansion. Addie is on the lower left, with Enoch seated above her. Elsie (born 1876) is on the upper right and Mattie (born 1884) is on the lower right. Elsie was a scant four years younger than her new step-mother, Addie.

The same spot, 110 years later.

The same spot, 110 years later.

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Addie prepares to board the train. According to Mary Wilson's book ("The History of Lake Mills"), Addie was inspired to start a local chapter of the DAR when she met Mrs. James Sydney Peck on a train ride, coming home from Sparta. Note the traveling bag at Addie's side.

Just inside the main entry is this small (and high) window. Notice the beveled glass and ornate quartersawn oak trim. At first glance, I thought this was a mirror. I thought Id joined Addies world when I stood in front of this mirror and no one was looking back!

Just inside the main entry is this small (and high) window. Notice the beveled glass and ornate quartersawn oak trim. At first glance, I thought this was a mirror. I thought I'd joined Addie's world when I stood in front of this "mirror" and no one was looking back!

Interior shots of the mansion. This is the music room.

The music room inside the Fargo Mansion. I believe this is Mattie (seated with book), Addie at the piano and Elsie standing (far right).

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The grand staircase in the front reception hall. The woodwork is beautifully sculpted.

Close-up of the newel post.

Close-up of the newel post.

This is a shot from the foyer looking into the music room. If you look closely, youll see a guitar in the background.

This is a shot from the foyer looking into the music room. If you look closely, you'll see a guitar in the background. Note the newel post on the right.

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This is a closer view of the "music room" (seen above) taken from the stairs, but it shows the horse-hair bench that sits within the rounded tower. According to Innkeeper Tom Boycks, this bench is original to the house.

Looking into the dining room

This tiled "solarium" sat at the edge of the expansive dining room. Tom explained that with its southern exposure, it made the perfect spot for growing plants and other greenery. The floor inside the massive bay window is tiled. At the far left was a small sink (cold water and a drain) for watering the plants, which was removed in later years.

Close-up  of the tiled floor

Close-up of the tiled floor, which is in beautiful condition. The floors throughout the Fargo Manse are maple, upstairs and downstairs, and they're in stunningly beautiful condition.

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Notice the massive windows in the front parlor. As Tom pointed out, it's a tough house to decorate. It's all windows and doorways and radiators and fireplaces.

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Detail of the oak trim and frieze in the front parlor.

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This shot was taken from the steps, looking down toward the front door. Notice that curved wall by the front door. And all that wainscoting and trim is quartersawn oak. See that radiator to the far right? Every radiator throughout the house was destroyed when the house endured a Wisconsin winter with no heat. Tom and Barry sought out and found salvaged radiators for every room in this 7,500 square foot house. That's what's so remarkable about the Fargo Manse. To look at it today, you'd never guess that they started with a shell of a building, and brought it back to life.

Another view of this incredible staircase

Another view of this incredible staircase (second floor).

Curved hallway on the second fllor.

Curved hallway on the second floor.

Addies room is at the top of the stairs.

Addie's room is at the top of the stairs.

Close-up

Addie was a beautiful young woman. She was 24 here.

Addie in her wedding gown?

Addie in her wedding gown.

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My favorite photo of all.

My favorite photo of all. I love the detail and the beauty and the opulence. This was Addie in the master bedroom, now known as the Enoch Fargo room.

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Close-up of the bed.

Happier times at the Fargo Mansion

Addie loved her cats. Judging by the look on this one's face, I'm not sure the feeling was mutual.

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Addie stands in a bower of flowers on the grounds of the Fargo Mansion.

The Fargo Mansion today (or yesterday, actually).

The Fargo Mansion as it appears today. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Fargo Mansion in Lake Mills. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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This grandiose Victorian manse was built in 1881 and extensively remodeled about three or four years later. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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The porch of the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

Mattie

Addie sits with someone (Elsie?) on the front porch of the house. The original fretwork and railings are still evident in the contemporary picture (above).

Addie in front of the house

Addie standing in the home's side yard.

Tall tower

Tall tower of the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Porte Cochere on the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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A view of the home's rear. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Addie's obituary.

If you’ve any information to share, please leave a comment below.

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Was Aunt Addie Shot in the Head? (Part IX)

August 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In a few days, I’ll be visiting Lake Mills, Wisconsin, and giving a talk about Aunt Addie. To learn more about Aunt Addie, click here.

Here’s the super short version:  On June 19, 1901 Addie Hoyt Fargo - a 29-year-old socialite in the prime of her life - died very suddenly and unexpectedly from diphtheria. Married to one of Lake Mills’ wealthiest men, Addie lived with Enoch and his two daughters in one of Lake Mills‘ most grandiose homes, The Fargo Mansion.

According to local lore and two published reports, Addie Hoyt Fargo didn’t really die of diphtheria. That was a contrived story created to cover up the truth: Addie died from a gunshot wound to the head, delivered by her ever-loving husband, Enoch Fargo.

The 51-year-old Enoch Fargo was in love with Maddie Hoyt (no relation to Addie) and wanted Addie out of the way so he could marry Maddie. The same sources claim that Dr. William H. Oatway openly stated years later, “No one was fooled” by Oatway’s alleged falsification of Addie’s death certificate (showing diphtheria as the cause of death), and that folks knew Enoch had killed his young wife as she lay sleeping in her bed.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

My involvement in this began on June 13, 2011 when I was cleaning out my late father’s apartment and found a couple old photo albums amongst his possession. Inside the old albums were pictures of people I knew nothing about, and a couple photos were dated 1896. I would later learn that these were photos of my great Aunt Addie, born in 1872, married in 1896, and dead - at the age of 29 - in 1901.

This is the 9th blog I’ve written about Addie’s death and I’ve posted dozens of pictures but of all the pictures I’ve posted, there are four photos that I find especially haunting. I’ve included them below.

Addie

This is a photo of Addie's home in Lake Mills, known as The Fargo Mansion. The handwriting on this photo is distinctively different from the handwriting on the other photos and the other photos' captions are written underneath the photo (on the album page) probably in Addie's own hand. This is a guess, but I'd bet money this caption was written by Addie's sister, Anna Hoyt Whitmore. This photo album was a gift from Anna to the Whitmores (Anna and Wilbur).

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So what makes this so haunting? Addie died in 1901. When did her family find out she was dead? Apparently, not immediately.

My fathers twin brother - Ed Fuller - is still alive and well and possesses an impressive degree of mental accuity.

My father's twin brother - Ed Fuller - is still alive and well and living on the West Coast. For a man of 92, he still possesses an impressive degree of mental acuity. Despite some rigorous questioning, the fact is he knew nothing of Addie Hoyt Fargo. What makes this even more incredible is that Addie's sister - Anna Hoyt Whitmore (Ed's grandmother) - lived with Ed for a time. Anna Hoyt lived to be 99 years old, and was sharp as a tack right to the end of her life. This story of Addie Hoyt Fargo was apparently one family secret that was never discussed. Which brings me back to the original question: When did the family - then living in Denver - first learn that Addie Hoyt Fargo was dead? Because judging by this photo, it appears that she was assumed alive as late as 1904.

My favorite photo of all.

Another haunting photo, this shows Addie sitting in her bedroom. Sadly, this is the very room where she was supposedly shot in her sleep.

Addie

There's a sweetness and naivete on this young woman's face that is wholly compelling. She was just a girl - 24 years old - and full of hope and dreams and ideas. Perhaps she'd planned on having a whole passel of children or maybe she was looking forward to being a socialite, carrying the torch for whatever causes that filled her heart with passion. She's so young and sincere-looking in this photo. So untarnished by the world. And five years later, she'd be dead, murdered (allegedly) by the man that had promised to love her for the rest of his life.

Addie

The most haunting photo of them all, is this one. It's a comparison of Addie's wedding photo with the last known photo taken sometime in late 1900. This photo presents an argument that Addie was sickly at the end of her life. Given the jagged and receding hairline (on the right), one could make a case that she was suffering from arsenic poisoning. There's also a swollen lip and other distortions around her nose. Perhaps she fell down a flight of stairs and landed on her face. I understand that Victorian-era women were very prone to such accidents. It's my theory that this photo - sent to her brother-in-law Wilbur Whitmore - was a plea to save her from this hellish marriage - before it was too late. Her message was not received in time.

Contrast

This shows the remarkable difference in the hairline.

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Comparison of Addie's lips, showing the swelling and misalignment (on the latter photo on right).

To read part VIII, click here.

To read Part VII, click here.

To read Part VI, click here.

To read Part V, click here.

To read Part IV, click here.

To read Part III, click here.

To read Part II, click here.

Endless Entertainment - From an Old Vintage Catalog

June 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog has proven to be a source of endless entertainment for me. But then again, I’m pretty easily entertained. I’ve started scanning catalogs and ephemera so that it may be preserved and shared with a larger audience. And this website’s traffic is growing every day. In May, this site had more than 22,000 visitors.

Read the captions below to see what *I* see when I look at this 1921 catalog’s cover.

Pretty darn interesting!

The cover

The cover of the 1921 catalog is so interesting for so many reasons.

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people

We have the people showing up to look at the new house under construction.

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killer

Like the opening scenes of a low-budget horror flick, they have no idea that a massive elephant has surreptitiously blended into the landscaping behind them, and waits to pounce. Red arrow above is centered atop the forehead of the threatening beast.

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wow

"We just came from looking at those crappy little houses behind us," the man might be saying. "Over yonder is one of those little Sears kit homes." Pictured through this window is the Sears Ashmore, a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

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"That's right," says the woman who wears a hat with a flared brim and oversized bow." The kitchen in that crummy Elsmore right behind me was abysmal."

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Verona

The second man speaks up and says, "And that Verona was so blase! Who'd want to buy a cookie-cutter kit home when you can have something nice that you've designed yourself!"

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people

"Yes," the man with the blueprints says, "We looked at those three little boxes behind us, but we want to talk to you about this nice house that you're building here!"

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tools

But oh no! These people shouldn't be turning to this fellow for help and guidance! He doesn't even know how to build a carpenter's tool box! How could he possibly build an entire home!

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boar

The house isn't even roughed in yet, and the door isn't set, and yet he's putting in the lath board! Plus, there are several puddles with a strange yellow substance throughout the house. Icky!

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dude

And some of that yellow stuff is on the carpenter, too!

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house

And perhaps most interesting, the house featured on the cover is clearly not a Sears kit home. Sears never ever offered a house with these arched windows. So the homebuyers have turned their back on the three Sears Homes (behind them), and are talking to this fellow about a custom-built house. Pretty darn interesting. And this image shows a better view of that angry elephant in the background.

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And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured.

And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured. Top is the Sears Sherburne, and along the bottom are the Sears Roanoke (two left) and the Sears Matoka (two on the right).

To read another article on Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Honor Bilt Homes: Why Couldn’t They Spell “Bilt” Correctly?

June 18th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Sears offered three grades in all their lines: Good, better and best. In the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the housing lines were known as Honor-Bilt, Econo Built (later known as “Standard Built) and Lighter Built.  (To learn more about these “lesser grades” [Econo, Standard and Lighter], click here.)

Honor-Bilt homes (their best grade and most popular line) utilized traditional construction standards, such as double headers over the doors and windows, double floors (primary floors over subfloors), exterior sheathing under clapboard or cedar shingles and wall studs on 16-inch centers.

Below are a few of my favorite pages, delineating the fine features that define the Honor Bilt house.

Honor Bilt

Honor Bilt houses had pre-cut lumber and trim, as shown above. Notice the fellow above, working on a Sears Glenn Falls (1938 catalog).

Honor

Honor Bilt kit homes came with 27 gallons of paint, and 10 pounds of wood putty. And the paint was mixed by a Master paint mixer, or so this ad promises.

A list of the many benefits of an Honor Bilt home.

A list of the many benefits of an Honor Bilt home (1938 catalog).

Part 2 of that amazing list!

Part 2 of that amazing list!

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Several pages in the 1938 catalog were devoted to extolling the virtues of the Honor Bilt Modern Home.

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When Sears went from balloon construction to platform construction, it was a big deal and was persistently touted in all their literature, such as this 1938 catalog.

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A comparison of Honor Bilt and Standard Built from the 1921 catalog.

Honor

From the 1921 catalog, this 13-item list shows the specific benefits of the Honor Bilt home.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Have You Seen This House? (Part 6)

May 20th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Here in Norfolk, we have 16 little bungalows that were originally built at another location, and then moved here by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922.  (Thanks to Norfolk historian David Spriggs for finding that date, and also finding the name of the man who moved them!  To learn more about what David learned, click here.)

Back in April, we learned that 3,000 miles away in Dupont, Washington, there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory there. Thanks to Lee and Joh from the Dupont Historical Museum in Dupont, Washington, I now have a vintage newspaper article that says the little houses were built in Fall 1909.

And then old-house lover and researcher Mark Hardin found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” (our pet name for these little houses) in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.)

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington and Butte, Montana.

Recently, in the name of history, old-house lover Mark Mckillop took a trip to Dupont, Washington and photographed more than 100 of the houses in that tiny village , and then sent me the photos. His photographs prove (as we suspected) that the Ethel Bungalows in Dupont are indeed identical to the Ethel Bungalows here in Norfolk.

To read more about what we’ve learned thus far, read Part Five of this ongoing (and fascinating) story.

Despite all we’ve learned, may unanswered questions remain. Are these “Ethels” kit homes from Aladdin? Are they pattern book houses? If not, where did DuPont get this design? Why are these houses popping up in several of Dupont’s neighborhoods? And where did the houses in Norfolk come from?

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!

Our Ethel Bungalow in Dupont, Washington. All photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Our "Ethel Bungalow" in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Dupont Ethel is in largely original condition. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

I wish Mark had taken his chain saw with him. Landscaping is always a problem when photographing old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Ethel in Dupont has seen a little modification. Vinyl siding is not a friend of old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This is such a distinctive little house. Have you seen it in your neighborhood? (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Next are the photos of our Ethels, which art in Norfolk. As you’ll see from the photos below, they really are a good match to the houses in Dupont, Washington.

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell, Virginia and Carney Point, New Jersey and Old Hickory, TN. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Delightful Bunch of Kit Homes in Ocean View (Norfolk, VA)

March 5th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

My dear friend Sam Evans was born and raised in Ocean View and he’s told me many delightful stories about his growing-up years. My favorite was his telling about the day he met Ollie Mae. He was 11 years old, and she was 9. Three years later, he proposed to her. Ollie Mae replied, “Sam, I’m only 12!”

Sam told her, “I didn’t want to wait ’til the last minute!”

They were married a few years later, and when Ollie Mae passed on in 2002, they’d been married for more than six decades, and together for seven decades.

In addition to romantic love stories, Ocean View has interesting architectural history, too. It’s got dozens of kit homes.

Below are some of the hidden architectural treasures I’ve found in Ocean View. To learn more about the kit homes here in Norfolk, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

This Arts & Crafts bungalow is the Sears Ashmore and its one of my favorite houses. Its a real beauty of a house, and Ive seen about five in my many travels, so its pretty rare.

This Arts & Crafts bungalow is the Sears Ashmore and it's one of my favorite houses. It's a real beauty of a house, and I've seen about five in my many travels, so it's pretty rare.

And heres that Aristrocrat of Bungalows on a side street just off of Granby in Ocean View.

And here's that "Aristrocrat of Bungalows" on a side street just off of Granby in Ocean View.

This is a Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 catalog.

This is a Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 catalog.

And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

The Vallonia was a very popular model. This Craftsman style bungalow had an expandable attic and was perfect for a growing family!

The Vallonia was a very popular model. This Craftsman style bungalow had an expandable attic and was perfect for a growing family!

This Vallonia has been converted into a duplex, but its still in good condition.

This Vallonia has been converted into a duplex, but it's still in good condition.

Note the detail on the porch columns. About two dozen Sears Homes had this unusual arrangement on the porch columns.

Note the detail on the porch columns. About two dozen Sears Homes had this unusual arrangement on the porch columns.

Close-up of the column on the Ocean View house

Close-up of the column on the Ocean View house

There are two of the Harris Brothers kit homes in Ocean View. Very unusual house. Harris Brothers was a small company based in Chicago, IL.

There are two of the Harris Brothers kit homes in Ocean View. Very distinctive-looking house. Harris Brothers was a small company based in Chicago, IL.

It was known as Harris Brothers Home #1000, and was a popular design for this kit home company, but there are not many Harris Brother homes in Virginia.

It was known as Harris Brothers Home #1000, and was a popular design for this kit home company, but there are not many Harris Brother homes in Virginia. Notice the curved front porch (now closed in). Even original flower-box brackets are still in place.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

Here's a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" and in perfect condition!

The Westly was another very popular house for Sears.

The Westly was another very popular house for Sears.

Like the other Craftsman-style bungalow in Ocean View, this Sears Westly has also been turned into a duplex.

Like the other Craftsman-style bungalow in Ocean View, this Sears Westly has also been turned into a duplex.

From the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Barrington in Ocean View!

Sears Barrington in Ocean View!

This was not a kit home, but a house design from a plan book. Prospective homeowners would browse the pages of a catalog and find a home that they liked, and after sending in their dollars, theyd receive a full set of blueprints and a full inventory of what was needed to build their dream home. Building supplies were purchased locally.

This was not a kit home, but a house design from a "plan book." Prospective homeowners would browse the pages of a catalog and find a home that they liked, and after sending in their dollars, they'd receive a full set of blueprints and a full inventory of what was needed to build their dream home. Building supplies were purchased locally.

The Carrville (Homebuilders Catalog)

The Carrville (Homebuilder's Catalog)

Sears Brookwood, from the 1933 catalog.

Sears Brookwood, from the 1933 catalog.

Brookwood in Ocean View!

The Brookwood was a smaller version of the Barrington. It was four feet shorter and two feet narrower.

And the last remnant of the Evans Garage in Ocean View (owned by Sam Evans father).

The last remnant of the Evan's Garage (owned by Sam Evan's father).

To learn more about Sears Homes in Norfolk, click here.

To read about Rose the Ham, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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