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Posts Tagged ‘Rosemary Thornton’

Sometimes, It Takes a Village of Historians to Document a Hillrose…

February 5th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Until just a few months ago, I’d never seen a 1920s Sears Hillrose in real life. And then in August 2015, I had the delightful opportunity to visit a stunning Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. Shortly after I wrote that blog, Greg Decker and Carrie Milam (from our Sears Homes Facebook group) discovered a Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana, and took a plethora of first-class photos!

Next, Rachel Shoemaker had the presence of mind to check Rebecca Hunter’s wonderful book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map,” and found two more of this very same model in Convoy, Ohio and nearby Antwerp, Ohio. Fuzzy online images of the Sears Hillrose in Convoy really piqued my interest: It appeared to be in mostly original condition.

Next, I contacted the County Economic Development Officer in nearby Van Wert, Ohio, who forwarded my email to Adam Ries, with Main Street Van Wert Inc., who contacted Larry Webb at the Van Wert County Historical Society. Mr Webb was kind enough to run out to the house in Convoy and photograph the house from several angles.

Now if I could just get some photos of that Hillrose in Antwerp!

When the Hillrose was first offered, it was known as a “prize winner.” Read more about that here.

Thanks again to Larry Webb for these wonderful photos.
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The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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As you can see from these floor plans, it was an unusually spacious house.

As you can see from these floor plans, it was an unusually spacious house.

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Its a house with several distinctive features, making it easy to spot.

It's a house with several distinctive features, such as that slender window in the upstairs closet, the large squared bay at the rear and the off-center front door. The spacious porch with the flared columns is also eye-catching, but sometimes, porches get dramatically altered through the years.

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Many thanks to

Now that's a fine-looking house. It's so rare to find these 100-year-old houses in original condition. Yes, the house needs a little sprucing up, but it's a rarity and a real gem in a world filled with HGVT-crazed homeowners. Many thanks to Larry Webb at the Van Wert County Historical Society for providing these photos.

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My goodness, what a house.

My goodness, what a house. Once you see a house "in the flesh," it becomes infinitely easier to identify other models out in the world. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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From the homes side

These Sears Homes had cypress clapboards and window trim. Even without paint, this siding will endure for many years. However, it appears that the current owners are painting this classic old foursquare. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a glorious find on a road that literally straddles Indiana and Ohio. And quite a testament to old-fashioned paint, that would hang on through the decades! Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Mr. Webb had the presence of mind to photograph this home from the rear!

Mr. Webb had the presence of mind to photograph this home from the rear! This angle shows (again) how delightfully original this Hillrose is, with an original wooden storm door on the back porch. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you compare the floor plan to the Hillrose, you'll see how delightfully original this old kit house truly is. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And if you look really close, youll see another relic of a bygone era: A cistern.

And if you look really close, you'll see another relic of a bygone era: A cistern. See how the rounded downspout disappears into the ground, and the concrete pad on top of that area? Odds are good that this was an underground cistern (typically lined with brick) and this water was used for washing clothes, as it was the softest water imaginable. The beautiful old hand pump in the foreground may have been piped into that cistern. Photo is copyright 2016 Larry Webb and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, there's another Hillrose about 20 miles due north of our Hillrose in Convoy, Ohio. If someone could just hop in their Sears Allstate sedan and run up to Antwerp and get that photo...

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Thanks to Rebecca Hunter, Rachel was able to locate those two Hillroses in Ohio! This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter's well-researched book, Rachel was able to locate those two Hillroses in Ohio! This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

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Here's the Hillrose that Carrie Milam and Greg Decker found in Griffith, Indiana. Sadly, the front porch is MIA. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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When the Hillrose was first offered, it was known as a “prize winner.” Read more about that here.

Read about the Hillrose in Brandy Station here.

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The Sears Monterey - In Real Life!

February 2nd, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

Just two months ago, I wrote a blog lamenting the fact that I’d never found a Sears “Monterey.” Last night in our Facebook group, I learned that Jennifer Hoover-Vogel found one of these very rare Sears kit homes in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania!

Now as you feast your eyes upon this kit-house beauty, you’ll note it’s had some siding installed over the stucco (sad face), and the windows have been removed (oh dear), however, it’s still standing and there’s something to be said for that.

Many thanks to Jennifer for finding this treasure!

And thanks to the unknown (but delightful, generous and lovely) Realtor who posted these images when the house was for sale.

To read read about the Alhambra (a kissing cousin), click here.

To join our Facebook group, click here.

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Who doesnt love a Sears Monterey? (1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

Who doesn't love a Sears Monterey? (1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

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FP2

Same footprint as the Sears Alhambra, but slightly different exterior.

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FLoor Plan

Upstairs is a little different from the Alhambra, too!

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House

Exterior: Beautiful. Interior: Good.

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house

That is one sweet little house. Check out the parapet on the porch, dormer and staircase wing.

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Oh yea

Well, they put a hurting on that front porch, and they replaced the windows with something rather, uh, less than ideal, but other than that, it's a fine house.

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To a flat-lander tourist such as myself, that stonework is stunning.

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That is a fancy floor. I wonder if the home's original owner had a background in flooring, and did his own "upgrade" while the house was under construction.

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Another view of that beautiful floor and lovely fireplace.

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The kitchens had a real hurting put on it, but from what Ive read, there are people in the world that like this kind of thing. Honestly, I wish I was one of them. It sure would simplify my life.

The kitchen's had a real hurting put on it, but from what I've read, there are people in the world that like this kind of thing. Honestly, I wish I was one of them. It sure would simplify my life. I am intrigued by the sign on top of the cabinet that says "Home." Is that in case someone forgets where they are, and start thinking that they're at a neighbor's house? It's a puzzle.

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Another view of the kitchen.

Another view of the kitchen. I'm highly allergic to stainless steel, beige tile floors, French provincial cabinetry and granite countertops, so that explains why this kitchen would be difficult for me to visit.

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There's that "home" sign again. Other than that, great dining room.

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The bathroom is more my ss

The bathroom is more my style. That double-apron porcelain tub makes me swoon.

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The bedrooms in this house seem unusually spacious.

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house

See that step to the left? It's on the floor-plan and is an access to the attic.

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Pretty yard

Even the back of the house is lovely!

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Wait, is that a koi pond? Okay, sign me up. I want the house. And the pond.

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A comparison of the two images. Fun house, isn't it?

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Many thanks to Jennifer for finding this treasure!

And thanks to the unknown (but delightful, generous and lovely) Realtor who posted these images.

To read read about the Alhambra (a kissing cousin), click here.

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Sears Modern Home, “The Winston”

January 31st, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

It’s been 17 years since I wrote my first article on Sears kit homes, and I’ve learned a lot in those years. Yet even now, there are still lots of surprises. That’s the nature of history, and probably the #1 reason I love history so much - it’s always shifting and changing - and there’s always something new to learn.

When Bob Gentzel posted pictures of his “Sears Winston” in our Facebook group, I was skeptical. I took a moment to study the house, but then I scrolled on to the next shiny bauble on Facebook, hoping that someone else might gently explain to him that it wasn’t really a Sears House. I was running out of nice things to say to people who were similarly confused.

A couple days after he posted his photos, I was looking up something in a plan book house and I stumbled across a Standard Homes Plan called, “The Winston.” Better yet, it was a spot-on match to Bob’s house in Pennsylvania. I went back to Bob’s photos on Facebook and posted the images I’d found from Standard Homes and explained to him that it was a plan-book house and people often confused plan-book houses with kit homes.

Bob was grateful to see his house in a plan-book catalog, but he remained insistent that it was a Sears House.

I asked how he knew it was a Sears House. His reply piqued my interest: “The name ‘Sears & Roebuck’ appears on the home’s original blueprints.” Frankly, I was still a little doubtful. I asked for photos, and Bob supplied them.

That’s when I became a believer. Bob Gentzel’s custom Sears House in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a real doozy. And it’s a real Sears House!

Thanks so much to Bob Gentzel for sharing this fascinating story and providing me with the photos below.

To read about another custom Sears House, click here.

Learn more about plan-book houses here.

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Its a Sears House, they always tell me, and I have to be the one to tell them, Sorry, Charlie. Its not even close. But in this case, I was wrong - this really IS a Sears House, built with plans from Standard Home Plans.

"It's a Sears House," is a refrain that's quite popular, but sometimes wrong, and often I have to be the one to tell them, "Sorry, Charlie. It's not even close." But in this case, I was wrong - this really IS a Sears House, built with plans from Standard Home Plans. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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When I found this image in the Standard Homes Planbook (1920s), I thought, Poor guy. Hes got a plan book house and he thinks its a kit home.

When I found this image in the Standard Homes Planbook (1920s), my first thought was, "Poor guy. He's got a plan-book house from Standard Homes and someone told him it's a kit home." Well, Bob's house is two amazing homes in one! It's a plan-book house - with blueprints and building materials from Sears & Roebuck, Chicago, Illinois.

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There's no arguing with this little tidbit, on the corner of the blueprints for Bob's house. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Blue

The describe the house as "Special Winston." Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And its special in other ways, too. The Winston (as shown in the SHP floor plan) is 26 feet wide. Bobs Special Winston is 34 feet wide, adding a lot of extra square footage to the house.

And it's special in other ways, too. The Winston (as shown in the SHP floor plan) is 26 feet wide. Bob's "Special Winston" is 34 feet wide, adding a lot of extra square footage to the house.

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Upstairs, there's a darling little alcove in that front gable.

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Bobs Special Winston has Sears La Tosca hardware.

Bob's "Special Winston" has Sears "La Tosca" hardware (1930 catalog image).

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Which

"La Tosca" was very popular in Sears Homes (1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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Bob found this

Glued to the back side of the blue prints, Bob found this unique tape. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And Bob has the o

And Bob has all manner of original documentation for the house, such as this wonderful letter. My favorite line is, "If you have any irregularity of any kind, write to us and we shall take prompt action." In other words, if you find anything missing or in error, we'll make it right. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And

This list delineates the special changes made to the Special Winston. And there were quite a few. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And its even signed!

And it's even signed! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And theres this...

And there's this. All these documents were passed along to Mr. and Mrs. Gentzel when they purchased the house in 1985. The Gentzels purchased the house from the daughter and son-in-law of the original owners. God bless the home's prior owners for hanging on to all this documentation and ephemera! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Its a mighty fancy kit house!

It's a mighty fancy "kit house"! You don't often find exposed beams in a 1930 house. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The fireplace mantel is fairly unusual, too.

The fireplace mantel is fairly unusual, too. I wonder if that's rock that's been locally quarried. I'm in awe that the house retains its original varnished woodwork. It's stunning. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The entry foyer made me swoon.

The entry foyer made me swoon. Every piece and part of that staircase is breathtakingly beautiful unpainted wood. I'd be interested to know what that little door is for. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And who doesnt love a breakfast nook?

And who doesn't love a breakfast nook? Unfortunately, these darling little nooks are often removed by an aggressive remodeler. Nice to see the original nook in this old house! Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Upstairs

Here's a view of the nook upstairs, in that front gable. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The house is a spacious beauty from top to bottom. Heres a view of the master bedroom, looking in to what is now a master bathroom.

The house is a spacious beauty from top to bottom. Here's a view of the master bedroom, looking in to what is now a master bathroom. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of the master bedroom, looking toward the hallway.

Another view of the master bedroom, looking toward the hallway. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Returning to the first floor, theres this little mystery.

Returning to the first floor, there's this little mystery. That's a door leading into the closet, and that's a small inward-swinging casement window inside the closet, but is that a SINK in the corner of the closet? Sure looks like it to me. But why a sink in the corner of a coat closet? Is it a graphic for a hat shelf? If so, it's a mighty odd one.

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Bob very graciously supplied a picture of the house from that angle, just to assuage my curiousity.

Bob very graciously supplied a picture of the house from that angle, just to assuage my curiosity. He also explained that his house had been modified, so that little closet wasn't present in his Special Winston. Photo is copyright 2015 Bob Gentzel and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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I found Bobs house in this reproduction of a 1920s Standard Home Plans catalog. I bought it a few years ago on Amazon. And I love that design on the front cover.

I found Bob's house in this reproduction of a 1920s Standard Home Plans catalog. I bought it a few years ago on Amazon. And I love that design on the front cover.

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And look whats next door to Bobs Special Winston.

Ruh Roe. Just look what's next door to Bob's "Special Winston."

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To read about another custom Sears House, click here.

Learn more about plan-book houses here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part II

January 27th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Thanks to the kindness of a Chicago-based FOSH (”Friend of Sears Homes”), we now have some stunning pictures of that house in River Forest, Illinois.

As mentioned in a prior blog, we have documentation establishing this residence as a “Sears kit home” built by long-time Sears employee Arthur Hoch. It was Arthur that turned to Sears’ “Architectural Service” for this beautiful spacious home.

Sometime in the 1910s, Arthur took a job with Sears & Roebuck in Chicago and quickly rose through the ranks. In the early 1930s, Arthur was living in River Forest, and sometime in the mid-1930s, he ordered this house from Sears. In 1954, Arthur Hoch retired from Sears, after more than 30 years of employment.

Arthur was a faithful employee and it appears that his faithfulness served him well. It’s no surprise that when this upper-level manager needed a home, he turned to his favorite retailer, Sears and Roebuck.

To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of architectural services to their customers (and employees).

In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of "architectural services" to their customers (and employees).

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When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses, such as this one, The Kismet in Elmhurst, Illinois.

When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses. Shown above is "The Kismet" in Elmhurst, Illinois. A small addition on the back adds some breathing room to the 520-square-foot cottage.

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Sears

This house shatters the notion of "those boxy little kit homes"! It's quite grand and in every way. In 2013, the historical society commissioned a full survey of the homes in River Forest and in the description that accompanied this house, there was no mention of its unique origins. It seems likely that they didn't know that this house was ordered by Arthur from Sears. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet

According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet but this appears to be an addition on the rear. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you look closely, you can see the differences in the brick.

If you look closely, you can see the differences in the old and new brick. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home.

Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home, probably close to 4,000 square feet. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a HOUSE!

What a HOUSE! Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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Kit Homes in Kinston - What a Bonanza!

January 25th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Was I surprised to find 19 Aladdin kit homes in Kinston? My oh my, yes! And those 19 were found during a very quick windshield survey. There are more lurking about, I’m sure.

Last week, my husband and I visited New Bern, and while there, we drove out to Kinston to look at the local architecture. Lo and behold, we found an Aladdin kit home on almost every street in the older neighborhoods. In one memorable area (near Harding and Pollock Streets) we found seven Aladdin homes together.

The older suburbs we visited had many wide-open spaces, suggesting that many of these early 20th Century kit homes have already been demolished.

If you’re new to this website, you may be wondering, what is a kit home? In the early 1900s, aspiring homeowners could order a “kit home” from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that the neophyte homebuilder could have the house ready for  occupancy in 90 days. In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, such as Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) and Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

Aladdin was bigger than Sears, in business longer, and sold more homes than Sears, but they’re not as well known as Sears. Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, which explains why Aladdin Homes were so popular in the Southeast.

Based on my research, the overwhelming majority of people living in these kit homes didn’t know what they had, until I contacted them (or they discovered their home on my blog).

What was the industry that promoted Kinston’s growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? Industries often turned to Aladdin to supply housing for the workers. It’s likely that someone turned to Aladdin for the houses we’re now finding in Kinston, but who was it?

Lastly, before we get into the photos, I’m hoping some progressive-minded soul in Kinston will contact me about coming back to town to do a thorough survey. Perhaps identifying these bungalows as historically significant kit homes can be a key to revitalizing parts of Kinston.

Let’s hope.

Contact Rose by leaving a comment below.

In addition to the 19 Aladdin homes, I found a lone Gordon Van Tine home: The Peach House Restaurant! And it’s a real beauty! You can read more about that by clicking here!

You can read here about the kit homes I found in New Bern, NC.

UPDATE! We found a Montgomery Ward kit home in Kinston, too!

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1914 Moosejaw

Aladdin sold more homes than Sears, but was not as well known.

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1916

What was the industry that promoted Kinston's growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? It seems very likely that *that* employer turned to Aladdin to supply worker homes in Kinston.

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houses

Aladdin had catalogs devoted to "solving the problem of industrial housing."

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Aladdin 1916

Aladdin was named for the magical genie who built "a house in a day" for his master. Apparently, Old Genie is perusing the latest catalog to find a snappy design.

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1919

The Shadow Lawn is one of my favorites. It was spacious and beautiful (1919).

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Shadow two

When I drove in Kinston, the first house I spotted was this Aladdin Shadowlawn on Lenoir Avenue. Looks like it walked right off the pages of the 1919 catalog (shown above).

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Shadow

During our brief time in Kinston, I initially missed this Shadowlawn (another beauty) on Atlantic Avenue. Shown above is a screenshot from Google Maps. It's another delightfully original house.

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1916

The "Colonial" was probably Aladdin's biggest (and fanciest) kit home.

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19 Colonial

And there's one in Kinston! Do the owners know that they're living in a kit home?

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1919 Classic Bungalow

The Pomona was a classic early 20th Century bungalow (1919).

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Pollock 805

This was my favorite Pomona in Kinston (which has three of them). This house still as so many of its original features, including the half-timber effect on the porch gable, original windows with diamond muntins and those rectangular eave brackets. And that appears to be an old wooden storm door.

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305 Washington

This Pomona on Washington Street is also a lovely home, but its windows have been replaced.

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810 Collge

The years have not been kind to this Pomona on College Street.

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Carolina 1923

In all my travels, I'd never seen an Aladdin "Carolina." It seems fitting that there are not one but two Carolinas in Kinston, North Carolina. This image is from the 1923 catalog.

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605 Rhem

This Carolina on Rhem Street is in picture-perfect condition.

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308 Capitol

This is an Aladdin "Carolina" and it does have its original windows, so that's a plus. It's had some insensitive remodeling. Anything salt-treated on an old house is just not a good plan.

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Willard 1919

I've not seen that many "Willards" in my travels, but there are two in Kinston (1919).

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Details

It's also a cute little house with lots of interesting details and features.

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Willard 413 Harding

And this Willard on Harding Street is perfect - right down to the lattice!

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Willard on Harding

From every angle, it's a beauty!

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Porch

And it's astounding that 100 years later, that lattice is still in such good shape.

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811 Pollock

On an opposing corner, I found this Willard which has had some remodeling, but still looks a lot like a Willard. It's a pity that the guy-wire got in the way of an otherwise perfect picture.

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1919

The Virginia was a popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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310 Capitola

This "Virginia" on Capitola Street is next door to the Carolina shown above!

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Capitola

Okay, so we lost the little girl (in the image on the right) and gained a trash can, but other than that, it's a lovely match. And a pretty house, too!

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Florence 1916

The Florence was a popular house for Aladdin and I've found an abundance of these in North Carolina's mill towns. There are two Florence models in Kinston.

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Florence

And they're across the street from each other. This is on Harding.

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406 Harding

And so is this one.

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1919 BLVD

The Aladdin Boulevard was not a hugely popular house (1919).

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BLVD

But it is distinctive with that low shed dormer and the window arrangement. The Boulevard has 12/1 windows on the front porch (1919).

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Street

This was the first "Boulevard" I've ever seen. On this model, someone took out those living windows when they put in that fireplace. There's also an addition on the rear of the house.

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House

In this picture, you can see those 12/1 windows on the Kinston "Boulevard."

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1924 Sunshine

The "Sunshine" was a popular house with a really cute name (1924).

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Sunshine

"You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine..." This was the only Sunshine we found in Kinston.

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Street

These four models were lined up like little soldiers in a row on Pollock Street in Kinston.

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Harassment Street

The Willard is to the far left, with the Sunshine next, the Boulevard beyond it, and the Pomona at the end of the run. Kitty-corner to this Willard was The Perfect Willard, and the two Florences are behind this WIllard. These are the seven Aladdins mentioned above.

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Bruns 1923

I've been looking for an Aladdin Brunswick for a long time, butt prior to coming to Kinston, I'd never laid eyes on the real deal (1923 catalog).

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509 Washington

And Kinston has two of them. This house is on West Washington.

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Brunsh

A distinctive feature of the Brunswick is this window arrangement on the side of the house. The centered window is a staircase-landing window. The small windows are closet windows.

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Brusnswisk

This is another house that I missed on my first drive through town, and found when I was double-checking addresses via Google Maps. It's in pitiable shape. It's just off Perry and Atlantic, and just around the corner from that stunning Aladdin Shadowlawn. I hope this home has a hope of restoration.

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GVT

And the Gordon Van Tine #705 was the only non-Aladdin home I found in Kinston.

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Moo

Now this is a beautiful house - and it's also a restaurant!

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Gustatory Delights

Had we only been more familiar with the delicious delights offered at The Gordon Van Tine #705 Restaurant, errr, the "Peach House" we would have stopped there for lunch!

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At the end of the day,

At the end of our trip to Kinston, Hubby was mighty glad to get back to our "home away from home," The Aerie Bed and Breakfast in New Bern. He was tired of looking at houses.

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You can visit The Peach House website here.

To read about what I found in nearby New Bern, click here.

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“Flip or Flop” Flops with a Flippant Attitude on Asbestos

January 22nd, 2016 Sears Homes 5 comments

“Flip or Flop” (HGTV) really flopped on “Breaking Up” (Episode 407), which featured the remodel of a modest 1950s cottage in Torrance, California. The flooring throughout the small home, from stem to stern, was the original 9-inch floor tiles.

Nine-inch floor tiles + 1950s = this possibility: Asbestos.

Had the old tiles been left undisturbed, this would not have been an issue. They were not left undisturbed. They were picked at, busted up, chiseled, chipped and sawed through.

Asbestos, a naturally occuring fibrous mineral, was used in flooring materials from the 1920s to the 1980s (and maybe even beyond). In addition to its fire-resistant qualities, it also made flooring more durable, and substantially increased its longevity. In rooms with minimal foot traffic (such as basements), you can still find 1950s and 60s 9-inch tiles that retain much of their original luster and beauty. Encapsulation on this type of asbestos flooring is easy: Padding and carpet.

Asbestos is not good for your lungs, but it was not without merit in early 20th Century building materials. And I am the last one who’d suggest that we should all run around in a panic about asbestos, however…

It’d be prudent to show some respect for this mineral that can wreak such havoc with human lungs.

Throughout the 30-minute Flip or Flop program, not one word was spoken about testing the flooring for asbestos.

Not one word.

This is Torrance, California, which has two asbestos-testing labs less than three miles away. For a fee (less than $50), labs will examine a piece of floor tile using “polarized light microscopy” or PLM. Results are usually returned in less than 24 hours.

Perhaps the tiles had been tested off camera and it was determined that no asbestos was present in the tile or the mastic. If so, that should have at least been mentioned and discussed - if only in passing.

It was reckless and irresponsible to show this flooring without providing any mention at all about the age (1950s) and the size (9-inch tiles) and the black mastic being among the MOST likely flooring materials to have asbestos content. That means that this material should have been treated as PACM (Presumed Asbestos Containing Material).

Shame on HGTV.

To learn more about responsibly (and economically) mitigating asbestos risks in your own home, click here.

Here’s a good site that explains why you shouldn’t freak out when you find asbetsos.

And my favorite book on the topic is this one - “Haunted Housing: How Toxic Scare Stories are Spooking the Public Out of House and Home.”

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Episode #407 featured this small cottage in Torrance.

Episode #407 featured this small cottage in Torrance.

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Hosts

In this episode, the shows' hosts (Tarek and Christina) talked with their contractor (Israel) at length about the best way to correct the flooring problems, and yet there was no mention of the potential health risks.

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The 1950s floors

Throughout the house, the original 1950s 9-inch floor tiles were still in place.

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In

Intact floor tiles present no health hazard. It's when they become "friable" that the problem arises. For testing, you only need a small piece (1-inch), and results are usually returned in less than 24 hours.

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I literally winced when I saw an expert picking at the edges of the tiles.

I literally winced when I saw an "expert" picking at the edges of the tiles. This is a beautiful example of what you do NOT want to do with these tiles. In the 1950s and 60s, asbestos-based mastic was also prevalent, so it's not just the tiles that present a health risk, but the glue as well.

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This

Yes, he's sawing through the tiles and mastic. If you look to the right of this image, you can see it fades out a bit. That's a cloud of dust behind these two guys. And you see they're all wearing nuisance masks? If this was asbestos, those masks would be wholly inadequate. The tiny asbestos fibers pass right through this type of face mask.

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Look closely, and youll see that the mastic under the tile appears to be black .

The mastic under the tile appears to be black, which is indicative of asbestos content. When testing these materials, both the tile and the glue would be suspect.

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Another great shot

And when not using saws, they used jackhammers and sledge hammers.

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We

In the 1950s and 60s, these tiles were all the rage.

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The

It was the infusion of "Vitamin A" that gave these tiles their strength and longevity.

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Kitch

This floor that looked so snappy in 1959 would be a homeowner's headache today.

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This graphic

This graphic from Patagon Inspects (www.patagoninspects.com) shows that the mid-century flooring material is more likely to be at risk of containing asbestos.

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Not very responsible reporting.

"Flip or Flop" gets an "F" for being so flippant.

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To learn more about responsibly (and economically) mitigating asbestos risks in your own home, click here.

Here’s a good site that explains why you shouldn’t freak out when you find asbetsos.

And my favorite book on the topic is this one - Haunted Housing: How Toxic Scare Stories are Spooking the Public Out of House and Home.

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New Bern’s Numerous and Nobby Kit Homes (Or “How I Spent My Second Honeymoon Last Week”)

January 21st, 2016 Sears Homes 11 comments

How did New Bern come to have so many kit homes? Is it because of New Bern’s proximity to Aladdin’s largest mill in Wilmington, North Carolina? Perhaps, but how does that explain the grandiose Sears Homes I found on Spencer Street?

It’s a mystery, but I hope it’s one that this community will fully explore!

What is a kit home?

Sears is the best-known name in the kit home business, and they started selling houses through their mail-order catalogs in 1908. These “kits” came in a  boxcar in 12,000 pieces, and included a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house complete and ready for occupancy in about 90 days.

Sears closed their “Modern Homes Department” in 1940, and during a corporate house cleaning, all sales records were destroyed. The only way to find these homes today is literally one by one.

I’m confident that New Bern has many more kit homes than shown below. I saw less than 30% of the town, and I went through that 30% very  quickly! I’d love to return to New Bern soon and do a proper, thorough street-by-street survey.

If you enjoy the information and pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog on New Bern, click here.

Read about The Peach House in nearby Kinston here.

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New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state?

New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state? Most likely, yes. Image is from the 1923 Aladdin catalog.

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One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin Hampshire located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin "Hampshire" located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

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This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s.

This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s. It's a beautiful little house in wonderful condition. And it retains its original casement windows!

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Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes.

Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes, and the small fixed sashes flanking the fireplace. It's a thrill to see a 90-year-old house in original condition.

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What a cutie!

What a cutie! The house in New Bern is "flipped" (the mirror image).

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The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins), Id say its very likely.

Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins within Ghent), I'd say it's likely.

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The Pomona was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Pomona was one of Aladdin's most popular homes. I saw two of these in New Bern, and neglected to capture the address of the second one. The first one (in Ghent) is shown below.

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Its a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Berns Historic Ghent neighborhood.

It's a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Bern's Historic Ghent neighborhood, on Spencer Avenue. It's definitely a Pomona, but has endured a great deal of remodeling. The front porch is 100% enclosed.

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The Aladdin Cape Cod (1923) was another popular kit home.

The Aladdin "Cape Cod" (1923) was another popular kit home.

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Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, Supersize Me?

Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, "Supersize Me"? It is a nice match to the Aladdin, but it's much too wide. It's likely that this is a pattern-book house, but I haven't been able to find a corresponding match in my collection of early 1900s pattern books. More than 30% of kit homes were customized, so it's possible this was ordered "extra large" from the Aladdin mill.

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Gordon Van Tine,  like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT Roberts

Gordon Van Tine, like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT "Roberts"(also known as the #560).

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And heres a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

And here's a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

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Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this

Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this house and those clipped gables are what first catch your eye. If you find this missing "Mt. Vernon," please give me an address (and a photo)!

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And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the Osborn as a bungalow from the West. Its distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the "Osborn" as a bungalow "from the Golden West." It's distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

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Alson

It's had some remodeling, but it's very likely that this house on Spencer Avenue is the real deal: A Sears Osborn. Check out the tapered chimney, rafter tails and detailing on the porch railing.

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The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

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That

That side entry (originally with a pergola) is a unique feature of the Roanoke, as is the wooden awning and symmetry on the home's front. It's so lovely to see that awning still in place. And look to the left. What's that next door?

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And whats that next door to the Roanoke?

Is that a Sears Chelsea? Hmmm...

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Boy oh boy, its hard to know for sure.

Boy oh boy, it's hard to know for sure. In that the "Chelsea" (also known as #111) in New Bern was built without a basement, that side with the staircase bay is not going to have a doorway under it (as shown here). I'd have to see this house up close and personal to make a positive ID. For now, I'd say it's a "definite maybe."

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Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Chelsea.

Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Saratoga.

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Is this a Sears Chelsea?

Is this a Sears Saratoga? The Saratoga is 30 feet across the front. This house in New Bern looks much wider than that. Again, was it supersized? It's another house that is a "definite possibility." I'd need to see the interior to make a proper judgement. It certainly is a good match in many other ways.

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The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

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What a glorious house!

What a glorious house, and it's in such beautiful condition!

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And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. Its the ONLY #178 Ive seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. It's the ONLY #178 I've seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

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What fun to scratch one more house off my never seen this model list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

What fun to scratch one more house off my "never seen this model" list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

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The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many kissing cousins that looked very similar.

The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many "kissing cousins" that looked very similar. The position of the shed dormer and the depth of that front-facing gable are good clues for this model.

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Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

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Last but not least is the sweet little Starlight (1921).

Last but not least is the sweet little "Starlight" (1921).

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Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd.

Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd. Stay strong, little Starlight. Perhaps help is coming. Either that, or you'll be eaten by Kudzu soon, and it'll all be over.

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If you enjoy the pretty pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog I did on New Bern, click here.

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Oh My! Who Knew That New Bern Had So Many Kit Homes!

January 19th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Fun times in New Bern!

Mr. Hubby and I just returned from a visit to New Bern, NC where we stayed at the Aerie Bed and Breakfast and spent the days seeing the sights (and looking for kit homes).

Within New Bern’s Ghent neighborhood, we found an abundance of kit homes, and (a nice bonus) one turquoise Lustron, (all-steel homes from the late 1940s).

My favorite two finds within Ghent were the Sears Milton, and - just across the street - a Sears Modern Home #178  facing the Sears Milton. And here’s what’s even more fun: In the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, Modern Home #178 was featured on the same page as the Milton.

And I was surprised to find that these two radically different houses - The Milton and Modern Home #178 - share an identical floor plan! I’ve been playing around with Sears Homes for 15+ years and never noticed that before.

The next blog will showcase a few of the two dozen kit homes I found in New Bern, but today, it’s all about the Milton and it’s fraternal twin, Modern Home #178.

To read more about the Milton, click here.

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The Milton and Modern Home

The Sears Milton and Modern Home #178: Two different models, one floor plan. Sears Homes were given names in 1918. Modern Home #264P210 survived long enough in the catalog to merit a name: The Milton. Modern Home #178's last year was 1914.

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Both

Two houses - one floorplan. The Sears Milton in New Bern (across the street from #178) was customized when built, and does not have the traditional two-story bay window.

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Two houses - one floorplan.

Both first and second floors are identical in the Milton and Modern Home #178.

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The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

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Notice

Notice the massive eaves, and cornice returns on this grand house. It's a very distinctive house (thus making it easier to spot). In the Miltons that I've seen, those pergolas have been converted into a roof, covering the expansive front porch. Notice also the dramatic bracketing on the eaves. Dentil molding is found at the top of the columns and around the eaves.

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The

Absent that two-story bay window, every other detail on this Milton is spot-on.

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house

Here's a close-up of those distinctive cornice returns.

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Another view of this

Another view of this grand old kit home in New Bern, NC.

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Between landscaping obstacles

A surfeit of landscaping obstacles made photographing this old house a challenge. Note the tapered board on the underside of the first-floor porch roof, with a small block at its center. This is also a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178.

And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178. Beautiful! There must be s a story here, as to how these two spacious (and fancy) Sears Homes were built just across the street from one another!

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A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

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One of these Miltons is not like the other!

"One of these Miltons is not like the other!" On the far left (in blue shirt) is my BFF, Milton Crum, with Jim Silverstorf (holding an antenna tuner). When I first told Milton (blue shirt) about the Sears Milton (white clapboards), Milton said, "Now that's a darn fine name for a house!"

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My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

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Isnt it a darling little house?

Isn't it a darling little house?

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To read more about the Sears Milton, click here.

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And a Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana!

January 1st, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

A couple days ago, I did a “preview” blog on a stunning Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia (about three hours north of my home in Norfolk), and posted it in our Facebook group, Sears Homes, together with a blurb saying that there were other Hillroses in Griffith (Indiana), Alvada (Ohio), Stratford (Iowa), Waterman (Illinois), and Houghton (New York).

A long-time member of that group - Carrie Milam - spoke right up and offered to go find the Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana. I was tickled pink, as the Hillrose in Brandy Station was the only Sears “Hillrose” I’d ever seen.

Here’s the thing: Folks often promise to “go find that house” and I never hear back from them, but Carrie and her husband Greg jumped right in their car and started hunting for the house. Carrie said that it took about an hour to find our missing (and forgotten) Hillrose.

The house in Griffith has endured many changes in the last 95 years, but it’s still standing.

Thanks so much to Carrie Milam and Greg Decker for supplying the photos!

To read more about the Hillrose in Brandy Station, click here.

Why is the Hillrose such a prize? Read about it here.

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The Hillrose, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

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And weve still got a few missing!

And we've still got a few missing!

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1916

It's a distinctive house with some remarkable features, such as that oversized bay with three windows and a wide attic dormer with a small squared window. The window arrangement on the 2nd floor is also unique. It's unusual for a foursquare of this vintage to have two sets of three windows (with the widest window in the center), and smaller windows on the first floor. In other words, this house should be easy to spot!

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FP

Lots of nice features inside too, such as a wash room for the hired hands (1918).

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Upstairs

There are four bedrooms upstairs, but they're not too big.

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Sweet thing, isnt it?

Sweet thing, isn't it?

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And here it is in Griffith, Indiana, on North Harvey Street.

And here it is in Griffith, Indiana. It's been through many changes, but I'd bet my hat that it's a Hillrose. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A close-up on that bay shows that the details are right.

A close-up on that bay shows that the details are right. In place of the diminutive small window (between the two long windows), there's a full-size window, but it's altogether possible that the house was built this way. The smaller window (shown in the catalog image) probably got swallowed up by that large addition on the rear. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Long

If you look down that left side and compare it to the floorplan, you can see that it's a good match. There's a tiny window in that closet (between the two large rooms on the left). Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

The Hillrose in Brandy Station (shown on the right) has a door at the end of that first floor hallway, and a small porch has been added to the side of the house.

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fff

The 2nd floor is also a good match to the floorplan. That small window on the 2nd floor is a landing window. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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So what happened to the porch?

So what happened to the porch?

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The Hillrose in Brandy Station still has its magnificent porch

The Hillrose in Brandy Station still has its magnificent porch but it's endured some significant repairs through the years. What a pity that the Hillrose in Indiana suffered a porchectomy. That's a grievous loss for a foursquare.

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The vinyl-siding installers also had their way with the attic window.

The vinyl-siding installers also had their way with the attic window. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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With a little bit different angle provided by Google maps, you can see its definintely a Hillrose dormer.

With a little bit different angle provided by Google maps, you can see it's definitely a Hillrose dormer.

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F

Perhaps one day, the home's happy owners might consider restoring the front porch. That brick decking is a puzzle, as it looks newer than the home, and yet it appears to have the same footprint as the original porch. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Just around the corner from the Hillrose, Carrie and Greg found this darling Sears Crescent.

Just around the corner from the Hillrose, Carrie and Greg found this darling Sears Crescent. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Nice match, isnt it? (1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

Nice match, isn't it? (1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog)

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So where are those other Hillroses?  :D

So where are those other Hillroses? :D

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Thanks again to Carrie and Greg for finding this house and providing the wonderful photos.

To read more about the Hillrose in Brandy Station, click here.

Why is the Hillrose such a prize? Read about it here.

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Montrose - or Something Like It…

December 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Sometimes, looks can be really deceiving.

Take Hubby for example. He’s a handsome fellow, and a tough-as-nails litigator, and yet he has a tender heart and a sweet nature.

Wayne

Wayne, the hubby. With his Christmas tie. And his tender heart.

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And heres another place where looks can be deceiving.

And here's another place where looks can be deceiving: Sears Homes and their clones. These are two different houses - theoretically. They sure do look alike.

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This is a Sears Montrose.

This is a Sears Montrose (1928).

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This is not.

This is a design from the 1923 Homebuilder's Catalog: "The Arlington."

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Heres the floorplan for the Sears Montrose (1st floor).

Here's the floorplan for the Sears Montrose (1st floor).

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Heres the floorplan for the other house.

Here's the floorplan for the Homebuilder's Arlington.

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Heres a comparison of the two - side by side.

When you compare the two side-by-side, you can see some minor differences, but not a lot. They're almost the same house. Interior room dimensions were shifted just a wee bit, but other than that, these two are mighty close.

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And a comparison of the second floor.

And a comparison of the second floor shows a few other minor differences - again - mainly with room dimensions. And these are line drawings, so the proportions are not always accurately reflected.

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So how do you distinguish these look-alikes? How can you tell if its a Sears House (or an Aladdin, or GVT or Lewis), or its twinkie from Homebuilders?

So how do you distinguish these look-alikes? How can you tell if it's a Sears House (or an Aladdin, or GVT or Lewis), or its twinkie from Homebuilder's?

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Its a question that may have no easy answer.

It's a question that may have no easy answer. Shown above is a Montrose in Kirkwood, MO.

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And within my collection of Sears Montroses - I am left wondering, how many of these are Homebuilders designs?

And within my collection of Sears "Montroses" - I wonder, how many of these are Homebuilder's designs? (House shown above is in Moorefield, WV.)

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Its a puzzler!

It's a puzzler! (Portsmouth, Virginia)

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Good thing theres only one Wayne! ;)

Good thing there's only one Wayne! ;)

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To learn more about the Montrose, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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