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Posts Tagged ‘sears and mail order’

Buster Keaton and Sears Homes

April 29th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Did you know that Buster Keaton did a short film about building a pre-cut kit house?

First released in 1920, the 20-minute film shows happy newlyweds (Buster and Sybil) receiving the gift of a “ready-to-assemble” kit home. Driven by jealousy, an old beau surreptitiously changes the numbers on the pre-cut framing members, thus wreaking havoc on Buster’s ability to build his 12,000-piece kit home.

As the saying goes, “True comedy is timeless.”

This is not only true comedy, but an awesome look back at a time when people built these kit homes. And it’s also interesting to think that - in 1920 - kit homes were such a big part of the American scene that moviegoers were expected to understand about “marked lumber.”

That “joke” would likely be lost on contemporary movie audiences because so little is known about this piece of America’s architectural history.

I first discovered “One Week” in Spring 2004, when my dear daughter highlighted this piece in a senior project. I was honored and touched that my daughter was drawn to an old movie about pre-cut kit homes - because of her mother’s career! :)

Click here to see Buster Keaton’s “One Week” on Youtube.

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Buster Keatons pre-cut kit house had a few minor problems.

Buster Keaton's pre-cut kit house had a few minor problems.

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It should have looked a little more like this.

It should have looked a little more like this. (Sears Whitehall under construction in Carlinville, IL - about 1919.)

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Sears kit homes did come with instruction books (as shown above).

Sears kit homes did come with instruction books (as shown above).

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The houses were ordered out of catalogs, such as this (1921).

The houses were ordered out of catalogs, such as this (1921).

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Framing members were marked (as shown) to help facilitate construction.

Framing members were marked (as shown) to help facilitate construction.

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To learn more about Sears Kit Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s latest book, click here.

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An Honorable Mention of the Honor Bilt “Honor” (in Washington, DC)

March 15th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

Sears offered 370 designs of homes during their 32 years in the kit home business (1908 - 1940), and not surprisingly, some models were more popular than others. One of the more unusual models is the Sears “Honor.”

The only Honor I’ve ever seen was in Washington, DC and that was in 2003. I’ve not seen one since then. And it’s a distinctive house, so they’re easy to spot!

Here are a few photos of the Honor-Bilt “Honor” in DC. And thanks to Catarina Bannier, a Realtor for sending me these wonderful photos. (You can visit Catarina’s website here.)

To learn more about why they’re called “Honor-Bilt” click here.

The Honor, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Honor, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Floor

Nice spacious floor plan and there's a half bath on the first floor!

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And theres a cubby in the kitchen for the refrigerator!

And there's a cubby in the kitchen (pantry) for the refrigerator!

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Close-up of the Sears Honor (1921).

Close-up of the Sears Honor (1921).

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And here it is, looking absolutely lovely!

And here it is, looking absolutely wonderful! One of the chimneys is missing, but that just means someone opted to not have the living room fireplace. I am puzzled as to why there's a plumbing vent over the dining room, though. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And in the basement, Catarina found the model number written on the floor joists!

And in the basement, Catarina found the model number written on the floor joist! This is a very good way to authenticate a Sears Home. The model number was scribbled in blue grease pencil before it left the mill at Cairo, IL. The floor joists were among the first pieces of lumber that'd be placed as the home was built, so they were on top of the bundles that left the Sears mill. Here, you can see the model number "3071." Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Model

In addition to names, Sears Homes were also given model numbers. The "Honor" was #3071.

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And the Honor still has its old ice box door on the back porch.

And the Honor still has its old "ice box" door on the back porch.

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To learn a lot more about ice box doors, click here.

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Back in the day, better-quality iceboxes had a little service door in the rear. It was called a Service Door. This enabled the the Ice Man to put a 10-pound block of ice into the ice box without traispsing through the house. Sawdust was used in the Ice House to insulate the blocks  of ice, and as the Ice Man walked up to the house, hed brush the sawdust off the ice as he walked. Invariably, some of that sawdust ended up in the kitchen.

Back in the day, better-quality iceboxes had a little service door in the rear. It was called a "Service Door." This enabled the the Ice Man to put a 10-pound block of ice into the ice box without traipsing through the house. Sawdust was used in the Ice House to insulate the blocks of ice, and as the Ice Man walked up to the house, he'd brush the sawdust off the ice as he walked. Invariably, some of that sawdust ended up in the kitchen.

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This

There was a corresponding door built into the house (shown above), that was a little bigger than the corresponding door on the ice box. This little door had another name: "The Jealous Husband's Door." Hauling those 25, 15 and 10 pound blocks of ice around all day really made a fellow fit and tan. I'm sure there were a few "Ice Men" that were real hotties! :)

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Inside the house, the old ice box is still in place!

Inside the house, the old ice box is still in place!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about “The Jealous Husband’s Door,” click here.

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The Best Thing That Happened Today…

March 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

The best thing that happened today was seeing a little Sears House that I’d never seen before. After traveling to about 500 towns and seeing thousands of Sears Homes, this is becoming an increasingly rare event! This afternoon in Crewe, Virginia (off Route 460, about an hour from Lynchburg), I saw this Sears Lucerne.

It’s a real cute house, and a perfect match to the original catalog image.

Crewe, Virginia is a big railroad town, and I found many kit homes within the city limits. (More on that in a subsequent blog.) The town also has a very cool train museum, with many interesting items on display, such as an old coal-fired steam locomotive and a more modern diesel electric locomotive. But my favorite find was this little $867 Sears House!

To read another blog about the abundance of Sears Homes in Crewe, click here.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

Comparison of the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy one of Rose’s splendiferous books, click here.

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