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Cradock: One of America’s First Planned Communities (Portsmouth, VA)

September 13th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

In 1918, while the War to End All Wars was raging in Europe, Cradock (a neighborhood in Portsmouth, VA) was born.

The US Government funded the creation of Cradock, and the implementation of the Garden City Concept (originally developed in the United Kingdom in 1898) was carried out by the United States Housing Corporation.

The USHC modeled their designs and standards for neighborhood planning on the Garden City model, which were self-contained, purposefully designed neighborhoods with a balance of residential housing, churches, schools, physicians, businesses, and other commerce.

In Cradock, a trolley down the main street (Prospect Parkway) carried workers to the nearby Norfolk Naval Shipyard (also in Portsmouth, despite the misleading name).

According to a National Registry application for this historic community, early advertisements for Cradock described it as “The Garden Spot of Tidewater.”

Named after British admiral Christopher Cradock, it was  hoped that the independent community would blend the positive features of city living with the quiet enjoyment of country life.

At the height of the war, the NNSY employed more than 11,000 people. By 1923, that number had returned to pre-war levels (about 2500). In 1920, the US government decided that Cradock was costing taxpayers too much money, and The US Housing Corporation abandoned the city. In local periodicals, Cradock became known as “The Orphan City.” In 1922, Norfolk Couny annexed the community.

In subsequent years, more homes were built in Cradock and that’s what piqued my interest. Cradock is home to several kit homes from Sears, Aladdin, and other early 20th Century kit homes.

What is a kit home? In the early 1900s, you could order almost anything out of a mail-order catalog. From 1908-1940, you could order a kit home from Sears and Roebuck! The 12,000-piece kits were shipped by rail and came with a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together!

Today, the only way to find these homes is literally one by one. And Cradock has several!

Through years of research, I’ve learned that more than 75% of all Sears Homeowners had no idea about the historic origins of their home until they talked to me and/or discovered their home on this website. Do these homeowners in Cradock know what they have?

Thanks so much to Lara for driving me around on her day off! :)

Enjoy the photos and please share the link on your Facebook page.

To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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Cradock

Cradock was based on "The Garden City" model, which became hugely popular in the early 1900s. Neighborhoods were self-contained with residential housing, businesses, banks, doctors, schools and post offices - all within one walkable area.

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A green-space and communal area was part of Cradocks original design.

A green-space and communal area was part of Cradock's original design. I'd love to know if the bandstand was original to the area, or was a modern-day addition.

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Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, Ive found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. The Aladdin Capitol was one of their fancier homes (1937 catalog).

Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, I've found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. Aladdin was based in Michigan, but had a huge mill in Wilmington, NC. The Aladdin Capitol (shown above) was one of their fancier homes (1931 catalog).

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Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin Capitol is in wonderful condition.

Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin "Capitol" is in wonderful condition.

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And its a perfect match to the old catalog image.

And it's a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes dont realize what they have.

Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes don't realize what they have.

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The Aladdin Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears.

The Sears Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears (1928).

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Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess it - probably - but its hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell.

Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess is - possibly - but it's hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell. In addition, there were a couple "plan book" houses that resembled the Sears Mitchell. It'd be fun to get inside this house and figure out if it is a Sears Mitchell.

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The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

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Picture perfect in every way.

Picture perfect in every way. Notice it has the three-window bay (partially hidden by a pine tree) and the box window on the home's front. The home's attic is a bit higher than the Walton, which was a common "customization" intended to create additional living space.

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The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans.

The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans and for several years.

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Close-up of the three-bedroom floorplan.

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Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, Floorplan C with the three bedrooms.

Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, "Floorplan C" with the three bedrooms. That front porch addition is unfortunate.

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On the main drag through Cradock is the Alhambra.

On the main drag through Cradock (where the trolly line once ran) is the Alhambra.

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This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didnt promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home.

This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didn't promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home. This Alhambra had been built by the owner's own father, and the family had always cherished and appreciated this home.

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The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

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This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that its almost 90 years old.

This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that it's almost 90 years old. That assymetrical gabled entry with small window is a distinctive feature of the Montrose. On this house, the front window and entry were "swapped" and if you study the home's floorplan, this is a simple switch to make. More than 30% of Sears Homes were modified when built.

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The Sears Conway (also known as The Uriel) was another popular model.

The Sears Conway (also known as "The Uriel") was another popular model. Like so many of these kit homes, it also had an expandable attic.

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House

The substitute siding on this house doesn't do it any favors, and many of the home's unique features went bye-bye when that siding went up, but it's still identifiable as a Sears Conway.

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THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling Avondale (1920 catalog).

THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling "Avondale" (1920 catalog).

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Is this a Sterling Avondale? It sure looks like it!

Is this a Sterling "Avondale"? It sure looks like it! The privacy fence on the left hides the details, but the windows down the left side are a perfect match.

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Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

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Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod.

Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod: Squared columns, pilasters, gabled porch, sidelights by the front door and cut-out shutters.

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Now thats a nice match!

Now that's a nice match!

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You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs.

You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs to its porch gable. Notice that it's now made of plywood. It would not have been built with a plywood front in the 1930s.

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Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, its come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some homeowner pride in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmonds archives.)

Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, it's come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some "homeowner pride" in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmond's archives.)

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To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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“Colonial House with a Bungalow Effect” - And Maid’s Quarters!

September 7th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

It’s two, two, TWO houses in one! The catalog page featuring the Sears Arlington promoted it as a “Colonial House with a Bungalow Effect.”

Maybe we should just call it, “The Colongalow”! [Kah-lon-ga-low]

And what’s not to love about the melding of two housing styles?

Everyone who loves old houses has a soft spot for the Bungalow and the Colonial, and the Arlington features elements of both (or so the ad promises).

And our Colongalow has a maid’s room, which isn’t something you’d expect to find a kit home. There were a handful of Sears Homes that offered maid’s quarters, but the Arlington is one of the most modest (within that grouping).

Thanks again to Becky Gottschall for finding and photographing the Arlington in Pottstown shown below.

To learn more about The Bungalow Craze, click here.

You can read more on Pottstown here.

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Im not sure where the Colonial element comes in.

I'm not sure where the "Colonial" element comes in. Classic Colonial Revival architecture features symmetry inside and out, with a centered front door, central hallway and staircase, and symmetrical windows on the home's front. If someone can point out the Colonial influence on this classic Arts & Crafts bungalow, I'd love to see it! (1919 catalog)

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As you can see from the floorplan, it doesnt boast of a center hallway with a center staircase.

As you can see from the floorplan, it doesn't boast of a center hallway with a center staircase. And yet if you look at the room on the back left, you can see it boasts of a "maid's room."

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Howe

However, it is a spacious home with fair-sized bedrooms.

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That maids room is pretty tiny.

That maid's room is pretty tiny, but at least it has a closet.

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In the Baxters home, Hazels room was also right off the kitchen.

In the Baxter's home, Hazel's room was also right off the kitchen and yet look at the size! But Hazel wasn't your average maid, so maybe that's why she got such a suite deal. (Image is from "TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes," Mark Bennett, copyright 1996, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.)

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FFF

In addition to the spacious bedroom, she also had a walk-thru closet and her own attached bath. Plus, Mr. Bee bought her a great big color television for that nice en suite. Hazel had a good arrangement in the Baxter's home, and both "Sport" and "Missy" loved her dearly. But I digress. There are only a handful of Sears Homes that featured "Maid's Quarters" and our "Colongalow" was one of them. (Image is from "TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes," Mark Bennett, copyright 1996, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.)

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Becky Gotschall found this Arlington in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania.

Becky Gotschall found this Arlington in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania. The porch was enclosed, but it was tastefully done. And it's the only brick Arlington I've seen. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The large gabled dormer still retains its original siding. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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That appears to be a kitchen window that's been enclosed toward the home's rear. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Rachel Shoemaker found this Arlington in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Rachel Shoemaker found this Arlington in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2015 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Is this an Arlington on Deep Creek Blvd in Chesapeake? Im inclined to think that it probably is, even with the differences in the front porch.

Is this an Arlington at 212 George Washington Highway North in Chesapeake, Virginia? After studying it for a bit, I'd say probably not. It appears to have a broken porch roof, and that is NOT something a buyer would ever have customized! (The angle on the Arlington's front porch is the same as the primary roof.) Photo is copyright Teddy The Dog 2010 and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Admittedly, she did not take the photo, but she did find the house.

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One of the worlds most perfect Arlingtons in Gordonsville, VA.

One of the world's most perfect Arlingtons in Gordonsville, VA.

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The floorplan showing The Baxters Home came from this book, which is a mighty fun read. It features all our favorite TV homes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Personally, I love looking at floorplans and this book answers a few questions about the Petries home, and the Taylors home and the Baxters home.

The floorplan showing The Baxter's Home came from this book, which is a mighty fun read. It features all our favorite TV homes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Personally, I love looking at floorplans and this book answers a few questions about the Petrie's home, and the Taylor's home and the Baxter's home and more.

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To learn more about The Bungalow Craze, click here.

You can read more on Pottstown here.

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Pottstown - Where Have You Been All My Life?

September 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

Becky Gotschall initally contacted me through Facebook, and said that she’d found “a few kit homes” in her neck of the woods.

Inspired by her enthusiasm, I started “driving the streets” of Pottstown, Pennsylvania (via Google Maps™) and discovered this masculine-looking foursquare.

The house tickled a memory but I couldn’t quite remember where I’d seen it before. Next, I sent an email to Rachel and asked her to take a “quick peek” through her 23,939 catalogs and see if she could find this foursquare.

And amazingly, she did.

Rachel found it in her 1917 Sterling Homes catalog, and even emailed me the original scan.

As with the last blog, this house was also “discovered” through a collaborative effort involving myself, Rachel and Becky, who not only got this whole thing started, but went out and got some beautiful pictures of the grand old house.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Becky for discovering a Sterling “Imperial” which is one house I’ve never seen before!

To read about our other discoveries in Pottstown, click here.

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

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Sterling Something

The Sterling "Imperial" was one fine-looking foursquare (1917).

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1917

The pantry has a little access door for the ice box (1917). This was known as "the jealous husband's door," because it obviated the need for that dapper ice man to enter the home, and provided access through a small door on the porch. The Imperial was a traditional foursquare, with four rooms within its squarish shape. There's also a spacious polygon bay in the living room.

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house 12

Check out the "Maid's Room" on the second floor. As with the Vernon, it's directly over the kitchen, because that's the worst room on the second floor.

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House House

Close-up of that "interior view" shown above.

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My, but that's a handsome home. That three-window dormer must be pretty massive inside that attic. What makes it striking is that horizontal wood belt course just above the first floor, with clapboards below and shakes above.

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Looks like it walked off the pages of the Sterling catalog! The columns and railing are original and in good condition. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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House house

Looks majestic from all angles! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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HOUSE HOUSE

From this angle, you can see that cute little house in the back. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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Hey wait a second. Did that cute little tree come with the kit?

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housie

The same tree shows up in the current image! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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If you’d like to visit another very fun kit home website, click here.

Want to read more about “The Jealous Husband’s Icebox Door”?

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The Sheridan: A Jewel of a Bungalow In the Midst of a 1980s Neighborhood

August 8th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last week, I was in the St. Louis area, visiting my precious daughter and her family.

During our time together, we journeyed to Edwardsville, IL. I asked Levi (husband of precious daughter) to take me to a part of Edwardsville where there’s a lake, and he took me to the area around Circle Drive.

A quick glance at the post-Vietnam War houses told me I was in the wrong area, but as we continued around the lake, I spotted a familiar 1920s bungalow.

Taking a closer look, I realized we had found the lone 1920s house in a neighborhood full of very modern houses!

And even better, it was a perfect Gordon Van Tine #612 (also known as The Wardway “Sheridan”)!

Was this the original “Farm House” for that community? Did the original owner of this bungalow sell off 250 acres to create the modern subdivision that now surrounds it? I’d love to know.

The owners have taken good care of this old house, and again, I wonder, do they know that they have something special there?

And if you have any friends in the Edwardsville area, please share the link with them!

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

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Edwardsville House

The Gordon Van Tine #612 was a spacious, classic bungalow (1926 catalog).

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Dandy floorplan

The #612 had a dandy floorplan and spacious rooms.

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Close-up of the house. Love the porch!

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And here's the GVT 612 in Edwardsville, IL. The home's front door has been moved to the side. It'd be interesting to know if it was built this way, or modified in later yaers. I suspect it was built like this.

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If that side entry is not original to the house, it was certainly done with much care and forethought. And it makes sense, too!

If that side entry is not original to the house, it was certainly done with much care and forethought.

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Close up of the front porch, complete with an electric meter! Note the pattern on the chimney.

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The house has been modified on the side, too, but it's tastefully done.

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Here's a close-up of the catalog image, showing the home's side view

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To the rear of the house is a small addition that was also nicely done.

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Interior of the GVT #612, as seen in the 1926 catalog. Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing the scanned image!

The Living Room of the GVT #612, as seen in the 1926 catalog. Note the paired windows flanking the fireplace. Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing the scanned image!

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Sheridan

And here's another beautiful #612 in Northern West Virginia.

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To read more about the Sheridan, click here.

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

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Where Is This Little House?

July 28th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

Come August 2014, this website will celebrate its fourth birthday, and one of my very first posts at this site was about this little mystery house in Ohio (shown below).

Unfortunately, I never did find this house, or learn anything about the couple in the photo.

I suspect the house is somewhere in Ohio (which is where this post card was sent from) and I’m sure the couple (and their child) have gone on to heaven. The house in this photo was last offered in the mid-1910s Sears catalogs.

The diminutive foursquare is Sears Modern Home #106, and I purchased the post card from eBay in 2002. It cost $3, and I suspect that there weren’t a lot of folks who recognized this little house as Sears House.

If you know where this house is, or if you know the people pictured herein, please drop me a line?

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

And if you live in Ohio, please post this link on your Facebook page!  Maybe we can find this house!

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House

In 2003, I purchased this post card from eBay. I'd love to know where this house is. I suspect it's somewhere in Ohio, because this postcard was originally found in Ohio.

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Close-up of the little fam in front of the little house. Check out the detail on the porch railing.

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Close up

Extreme close-up of the fam. Dad doesn't look well.

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Number

You can see a house number hiding behind that column.

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house house

Modern Home 106, as seen in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Oh dear - where's the potty?

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The house in the photo has an extra dormer on the side, which probably made this small attic room more livable. At least, a *little* more livable!

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Close up

Who are they?

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Have you seen this house? If so, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about the big and fancy Sears models, click here!

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EPA: Erogo Pecunia Administratio

July 28th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

It’s been four years since EPA RRP became law, and yet based on my own admittedly unscientific survey, looks like it’s being largely ignored.

And in my opinion, that’s a good thing.

EPA RRP is an over-reaching, draconian government regulation with severe and long-reaching “unintended consequences,” such as decimating the value of old houses, and making the already onerous burden of old-house ownership ever more severe. If the lawmakers are truly concerned about the health of children (which is the claim), there are 1001 better (and more efficient) ways to invest and utilize taxpayer money.

Driving along in Norfolk neighborhoods, I often see work being performed on “old” houses (pre-1978), such as paint jobs, new window installation or other repairs that disturb “more than six square feet” of the home’s exterior.

According to EPA RRP, if more than six feet of a pre-1978’s home is disturbed, you must engage in all sorts of abatement procedures, including (but not limited to), tyvek suits, respirators, crime-scene tape, yellow warning signs posted at the corners of the property, and great quantities of six-mil plastic spread throughout the yard. (As this author writes, “The EPA just declared war on contractors, remodelers and homeowners…”)

In the last four years, I’ve probably seen three dozen job sites where “more than six square feet” is being disturbed, and yet how many times have I see compliance with the EPA RRP laws?

None.

Four years after this law was passed, many contractors have still not heard of EPA RRP. And those that are aware of it realize that the odds of getting caught are small.

While EPA estimated that RRP would add “about $35 per job” to the cost of repairs, real-world experience is showing that it adds three to five times that amount. Most homeowners already shop contractors by price.

One unintended consequence of this burdensome regulation is that it’s creating a bigger market for “fly-by-night” unlicensed contractors and their ilk.

Last but not least, EPA RRP also adds obscene amounts of six-mil plastic to America’s overburdened landfills.

For exterior work, contractors are required to put six-mil plastic out 10 feet from the work site (for the first floor), plus four feet for every additional story. This means that the guy painting your house will set up his 24′ ladder atop six-mil plastic, which is a violation of OSHA laws, but hey, OSHA’s fines are smaller than EPA’s, so you should probably break OSHA laws (given the choice).

Recently, I got a sneak peak of the 2015 revisions to the EPA Lead Law. Everyone should be aware of this new legislation. It’s quoted below.

Effective July 1, 2012, EPA’s new “Biome Protection Act” adds an additional layer of protection to delicate ecosystems in our communities, including any and all surrounding wildlife potentially impacted by the adverse health effects of lead paint.

Any and all “at-risk” wildlife at the work site (including but not limited to insects that fly, crawl, creep and wiggle), must be humanely captured (in EPA approved containment vessels), tagged, and be outfitted with size-appropriate half-mask respirators with a HEPA filter, TYVEK suits and steel-toed shoes and then released.

Upon completion of construction project[s], impacted wildlife must be recaptured and all articles of protective gear removed. To insure the safety of said animals, blood samples must be obtained and then submitted to the EPA for review.

If elevated lead levels are found in surrounding wildlife, contractors will be held liable, and subject to fines not to exceed $12 billion.

Lowes

EPA: Erogo Pecunia Administratio

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Contractor whos just learned of EPA laws.

Contractor who's just learned of EPA laws.

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To read about happier topics, click here.

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The Sears “Groot-Mokum” in Scranton

May 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

How fitting that Sears would name one of their finest Dutch Colonials “The Amsterdam.”

After all, Amsterdam is the capital of The Netherlands!

In Dutch, the word Amsterdam translates into “Groot-Mokum” - hence, the title of this blog.

I did a blog on The Dandy Amsterdam more than two years ago, but since then, I’ve come across another Amsterdam in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I’m guessing that - due to cost and size - the Groot-Mokum was a pretty rare model for Sears. I’ve only seen one “in the flesh” and that was the model in Scranton. For reasons I’ve long since forgotten, I did not photograph the house in Scranton when I was there about 10 years ago, and just recently re-discovered these photos, sent by a Sears House Aficionado.

Unfortunately, the SHA did not include their name on the photos, so I don’t know who found this Amsterdam and/or who shot the photos. If it was you, please leave a comment below!  :D

BTW, if you have an Amsterdam in your neighborhood, take a photo and send it to me!

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At

At $3,578, the Groot-Mokum was a pricey affair (1928).

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Lots of room

The Groot Modum was a spacious house. Even had a Music Room!

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Four spacious bedroms

Love the four bedrooms, but not sure about the bathroom on the home's front.

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Beautiful house

The Amsterdam (1928)

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Whomever took this photo did a perfect job of getting it from the same angle as the catalog page.

Whomever took this photo did a stellar job of replicating the angle in the catalog page.

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The inscription on the back of the card is also very interesting!

The inscription on the back of the card is also very interesting! But who wrote it?

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Ooh

Side-by-side they're a nice match (minus the gabled porch add on).

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This Groot-Mokum is in

This Groot-Mokum is also in Pennsylvania, specifically Pittsburgh. (Photo is copyright 2011 Melody Snyder and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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

If you know who photographed the Scranton house, please leave a comment below!

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Thou Shalt Not Steal.

January 29th, 2014 Sears Homes 13 comments

There are more than 800 blogs at this site, and many thousands of photos. THOUSANDS of photos.

I love these old kit homes and I love this piece of our history, but I’m getting mighty disheartened and discouraged.

Today, I have discovered (for the umpteenth time) that my work - my photos - have been lifted en masse from my site and placed on someone else’s website without a speck of attribution or credit. In this lengthy essay, my name does not appear.

Photos yes - name NO.

The person (or people) who lifted my photos didn’t even bother to edit out some of the flaws in my photos, but simply copied and pasted them.

Sigh.

With few exceptions, each and every photo is the result of a great deal of personal expense and effort. And that doesn’t even touch on the amount of time (years, actually) it took to learn and memorize hundreds and hundreds of kit house designs. But, as I’ve said before, this is a labor of love and for the most part, folks seem genuinely grateful to be learning more about this piece of American architectural history.

Heaven knows, I don’t make enough money from this gig to keep body and soul together. In fact, I frequently have to throw my own money at this venture to keep it going.

How is it that people can think it’s okay to take someone’s work but not give credit? Did no one ever tell them that it’s wrong to take things without asking? When they were in school, did no one ever tell them that it’s wrong to copy the answers from someone else’s test? Have they never heard of the Ten Commandments?

Or do they simply lack the sophistication to understand that violation of intellectual property is just as wrong as stealing lawn furniture or bicycles or televisions? Or maybe they don’t realize that the laws governing intellectual property apply to internet content as well?

Tomorrow, I’ll return to happy, happy posts, but today, I’m so very disheartened and disappointed by these so-called historians who take other people’s work, and don’t put a single word of credit or attribution with their posts.

It’s enough to make a person abandon historical research altogether.

To read Part II, click here.

*Images from pre-1923 publications are now in the public domain, which means they can be reprinted without permission. And there is a difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is taking copyright-protected intellectual property without permission (such as is now happening regularly with my photos). Even if a work is out of copyright (public domain), it can still be plagiarized. If I copied every word from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1910 best-seller, “The Secret Garden,” and published it under my own name, that would be plagiarism. If I copied every word from Orson Scott Card’s 1980 best-seller “Ender’s Game,” that would be plagiarism and copyright infringement.

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Heres an example of one my photos that was borrowed with no attribution from my website. Thing is, its easy enough to find these photos in

Here's an example of one my photos that was "borrowed" with no attribution from my website. Thing is, it's easy enough to find these photos in an old Sears catalog. BTW, this is an advertisement for the Wizard Block Maker. I loved it because it looks like a mirror image of the famous evolution graphic, where man goes from being stooped over to upright. Then again, I'm pretty easily entertained.

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Block

The Wizard Block Maker was hugely popular and it's easy to find pictures of it in early Sears catalogs. I guess it's much easier to just lift it from my website?

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This is another image that has been borrowed time and time again with no attribution. Let me tell you about this image.

This is another image that has been "borrowed" time and time again with no attribution. Let me tell you about this image. It also appears in my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." To get this photo, I left my home in Norfolk, VA and traveled 1,000 miles to Illinois where I spent three weeks driving from Chicago to Cairo doing research and photographing houses. This photo (above) came from a Sears house near Champaign, IL. And that's the thing - there's a story of work and effort behind almost every photo I've published here. I have reconciled myself to the fact that people will use these photos without first asking permission, but at least put MY NAME with MY PHOTOS!! Please!

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And thats why, with my new book on Penniman, Ill be putting my website name on each and every photo that I post online.

And that's why, as I do research on Penniman, I'll be putting my website name on each and every photo that I post online. BTW, these are the "Ethels" in Penniman about 1918. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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Because, this really does take the fun out of the thing.

And I'm on the cusp of resorting to this, but it really does take the fun out of the thing.

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To read about the kit homes in Clifton Forge, click here.

To read a happy, happy post about my “Atomic Kitchen,” click here.

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Do You Have 60 Seconds To Save A Sears House? (Part III)

July 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Sears Lewiston (ordered from Montgomery Ward) in Bowling Green, Ohio is threatened with immediate demolition. As of this writing (July 31, 2012), the house is scheduled to be razed on August 7th.

Click here to read Part I and Part II of this story, which gives more background on the house and its original buyer/builder.

To sign a petition to help save the house, please click here. The goal is to garner 2,000 signatures. We’re getting very close. Your signature could make the difference.

The Sears Lewiston/Wardway Home is in the way of a proposed expansion at Bowling Green State University. Currently, this classic Neo-Tudor houses the college’s “Popular Culture Program.”

There are several reasons that this house is historically significant and should be saved.

For one, it’s real rarity in the world of kit homes.

We’ve now determined that this Sears Lewiston was not ordered from Sears, but from Montgomery Ward. It seems likely that Virgil H. Taylor (the home’s buyer and builder) had connections at Montgomery Ward.. Perhaps he sent them the catalog page from the Sears Modern Homes catalog, featuring the Sears Lewiston, and asked Montgomery Ward to “custom build” that model - just for him.

And apparently, they obliged. To learn more about why this house is a rarity in the world of kit homes, click here.

Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit home business. Wardway, by contrast, sold fewer than 25,000 kit homes.

That’s one of the reasons it’s such a thrill to find a Wardway Home that was modeled after a Sears Lewiston. Wardway Homes are a limited edition. How many Wardway Homes are there that are a perfect replica of a Sears Lewiston?

Probably just one. And unless BGSU reverses its decision to destroy this house, it’ll soon be just another pile of rubble sitting at the landfill.

Enjoy the photos that tell the story of Virgil’s custom-built Wardway Home. Designed by Sears. Copied by Wards.

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Unlike most home buyers, Virgil didnt start with the Wardway Catalog. He started with the Sears catalog.

Unlike most Wardway Home buyers, Virgil didn't start with the Wardway Catalog. He started with the Sears catalog.

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Virgil seemed to have fallen in love with a model found only in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, The Lewiston.

Virgil seemed to have fallen in love with a model found only in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, The Lewiston.

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In the Wardway catalog, Montgomery Ward promised that custom designs were no problem.

In the Wardway catalog, Montgomery Ward promised that "custom designs" were no problem.

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But the small print didnt say anything about designs from Sears and Roebuck!

But the small print didn't say anything about designs from Sears and Roebuck! All Wards needed was a photo, which Virgil may have cut out of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is what makes Virgil's house such a treasure. It came from both Sears and Wards - in a way! In my 12 years of searching, I've only found two other instances where this occurred.

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people

There in Ohio, Montgomery Wards had "a complete unit of our Field Service Organization to work with people like Virgil.

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Maybe Virgil got to meet The Wardway Man.

Maybe Virgil got to meet "The Wardway Man," who bore a stunning resemblance to James Cagney.

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Virgil was building a custom home - from the standpoint of Montgomery Ward. He was able

Virgil was building a custom home - from the standpoint of Montgomery Ward. And while it was patterned after the Sears Lewiston, it would be outfitted with several tell-tale Wardway features, such as door hardware, millwork, plumbing fixtures, etc.

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In 1932, Virgil H. Taylor pored over this instruction book, to figure out how to turn that 12,000-piece kit into something resembling a house.

When Virgil's house arrived in late 1931, Virgil pored over the 70+ page instruction book, struggling to figure out how to turn that 12,000-piece kit into something resembling a house.

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Virgil obtained a Wardway mortgage for his Wardway home. The 15-year mortgage came with a 6% interest rate and (typically) 25% downpayment. The lot could suffice as the 25% downpayment.

Virgil obtained a Wardway mortgage for his Wardway home. The 15-year mortgage came with a 6% interest rate and (typically) 25% down payment. The lot could suffice as the 25% down payment. The lot was apparently a gift from Virgil's father.

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This story is interesting for so many reasons, and heres a biggie. Virgil worked for the Sentinel Tribune as an advertising rep. And on March 1, 1932, a couple weeks before Wardway Homes closed down, this ad appeared in the Sentinel Tribune.

This story is interesting for so many reasons, and here's a biggie. Virgil worked for the "Sentinel Tribune" as an advertising rep. And on March 1, 1932, a couple weeks before Wardway Homes closed down, this ad appeared in the Sentinel Tribune. I'm not even sure what to make of that.

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Montgomery Ward had a requirement that the house be substantially complete and ready for occupancy four months after materials were received. Virgils 12,000 pieces of house were dlievered to the Bowling Green train station in early November 1931. This picture was taken soon after the house was completed.

Montgomery Ward had a requirement that the house be "substantially complete and ready for occupancy four months" after materials were received. Virgil's 12,000 pieces of house were delivered to the Bowling Green train station in early November 1931. This picture was taken soon after the house was completed. In the foreground, you can see that the yard has not been landscaped or seeded.

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Wardway did good. Virgils house was a spot-on match to the Sears Lewiston.

Wardway did good. Virgil's house was a spot-on match to the Sears Lewiston.

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Pretty darn impressive, in fact.

Pretty darn impressive, in fact. And I *love* it that the house in the old photo was taken from the SAME angle as the Sears Lewiston.

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Virgils door knobs

Inside the house, you'll find pristine examples of original Wardway Hardware, such as these "Rexford Door Knobs." (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Schucks and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house door

Wardway Homes were quite elegant. They did have pretty doors.

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door

And here's the door that ended up on Virgil's "custom-designed" Wardway Home.

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detail on door

Eighty years later, it's still a fine-looking door. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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detail on hinge

I love the detail given in the catalog images (1931 catalog).

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house hinge

And here's the Wardway hinge on Virgil's home. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hardware on door

The original lock set (1931 catalog).

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All that remains

All that remains is the deadbolt escutcheon. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house house house

hThese were solid homes, made with first-growth lumber from virgin forests. It's a quality of lumber and building materials that we will never again see in this country. To send it off to the landfill is a sin.

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house house house

Inside the house, the lumber is marked, "From Montgomery Ward and Company, Davenport, Iowa." (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Schucks and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house house house

This plan shows the name of the buyer and the train depot to which the kit home was shipped. The address below is address of Virgil's parents, where Virgil lived when he placed the order. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Schucks and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Today, Virgils house is threatened with demolition. Please visit the link at the top of the page and save the petition that can HELP save this house.

Today, Virgil's house is threatened with demolition. Please visit the link at the top of the page and sign the petition that can HELP save this house. Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

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According to “The Slate Roof Bible” (Joseph Jenkins, 2003), construction and demolition debris make up 28% of the volume at landfills. The “greenest” thing that BGSU can do is to restore the house and let it remain at its current location. The second greenest thing would be to relocate the original structure to another site.

One thing is for sure: Our landfills do *not* need another historically significant house.

Click here to read Part I and Part II of this blog.

Click here to sign the petition.

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The Kit Homes of Chapel Hill, NC

May 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Chapel Hill is a city full of hazards for a house hunter such as myself.

First, there are the trees. Lots and lots of mature trees, which makes it difficult to see the houses.

Secondly, there are bushes. Ligustrums, Photinias, Hollies, Nandina and Wax Myrtles are everywhere. And they’re really big, too!

Third, it’s a college town, full of students who think nothing of stepping off the curb in front of a slow-moving Camry. That was just scary.

And last, the streets are very narrow and labyrinthine, winding to and fro.

And that’s how I missed the Ardara (or so I tell myself). There’s a famous Sears House in Chapel Hill, built in the 1920s and still occupied by its original resident! I’d love to get a high-resolution photo of this house, because I never saw it!  :(

Perhaps next time I’m in the area, someone will drive me around. That makes house-hunting much easier!

However, I did see that the town has a “Rosemary Street,” and better yet, of the three kit homes I found, two of them are on Rosemary Street!

Now that’s a fine town!

Brentwood

In North Carolina, I've found far more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. Aladdin (like Sears), sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so it's not surprising that there are so many Aladdins in this part of the country.

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house

The Brentwood (shown above) was one of Aladdin's biggest houses. It's a classic "Arts & Crafts" design, and was offered in the 1910s and 1920s.

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chapel hill

Located on Rosemary Street, this Brentwood is in incredibly beautiful shape. The owners obviously love their home. After discovering this house, I did something that I *never* do anymore. I parked the car and walked up the driveway and knocked on their door. I'm highly allergic to people, and yet, this sweet thing was worth it. No one answered, so I'm hoping if they read this blog, they'll leave a comment. I'd love to see the inside some time. This house is in amazingly original condition and has been beautifully maintained. The owners get my award for "Most Beautiful Aladdin Brentwood in the United States."

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Aladdin

A comparison of the Aladdin Brentwood (catalog image and Chapel Hill house).

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The Harris Brothers

Harris Brothers was yet another kit home company, based in Chicago.

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Due to that darn landscaping, I could not get a good photo

Due to that darn landscaping, I could not get a good photo but if you look closely at the fireplace chimney, windows and porch overhang, you can see that this is a Harris Brothers N-1000. And it has the rounded porch (as shown in the catalog page).

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The Aladdin Inverness

The Aladdin Inverness had a very interesting roofline!

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And that roofline makes it easy to identify!

And that distinctive roofline makes it easy to identify! Notice the three brick pillars that just kind of sit there, with no purpose in life (other than serving as a plant stand).

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And here it is!

Also located on Rosemary Street (yay!), this little house is a perfect example of the Aladdin Inverness. Even has the three brick pillars out front! This house is near downtown. I wonder if the folks in Chapel Hill know that it's a kit house?

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ahoseComparison of the two houses. Pretty sweet, huh?

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And the one that got away...

And the one that got away. Somewhere in Chapel Hill is a Sears Ardara. I'd love to get a photo of this house. I can't believe I missed it!

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

To read about the large collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

Or if you’re tired of reading about houses and want to read about my shiny new horseless carriage, click here.

Did you enjoy the blog? Please leave a comment!

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