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Posts Tagged ‘sears and roebuck homes’

Sometimes, They’re Hiding Right By Your Biscuits…

April 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Having lived in Norfolk for seven years now, I have scoured every street in this city, searching for mail-order kit homes. I’ve ridden around with several friends, studied maps, queried long-time residents and harangued my husband and I was quite certain that I’d seen every early 20th Century neighborhood that Norfolk had to offer.

Wednesday night, my buddy Milton and I were on our way to CERT class, and we swung by Church’s Fried Chicken to buy some of their world-famous honey biscuits. For reasons I can’t explain, an integral part of the CERT class is a pot-luck supper. (We’re  expected to bring a piquant and palatable platter of something wonderful to these weekly classes.)

As we pulled out onto Virginia Beach Blvd, I noticed a lovely Dutch Colonial staring back at me.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “That Dutchie has an interior chimney,  just like the Martha Washington (Sears Home). Isn’t that something?”

And then I noticed that it had the curved porch roof, just like the Martha Washington.

And then I looked again and thought, “And it’s got those short windows centered on the second floor, just like the Martha Washington.”

Next, I looked at the small attic window and thought, “And it’s got that half-round window in the attic, just like the Martha Washington.”

As Milton drove down the road, I twisted my head around and saw that the Dutchie had the two distinctive bay windows on the side, just like the Martha Washington. Those two windows are an unusual architecture feature, and that was the clincher.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I told Milton. “I think that’s a Sears House.”

Now anyone who’s hung around me for more than 73 minutes knows that I’m a pretty big fan of Sears Homes, and my friends understand that a significant risk of riding around with Rose is that there will be many detours when we pass by early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Milton gladly obliged and gave me an opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this Dapper Dutchie.

That night at the CERT meeting, I kept thinking about the fact that one of the most spacious and fanciest Sears Homes ever offered was sitting right here in Norfolk, and after seven years of living in this city, I just now found it.

The next day, Milton picked me up around 11:00 am and we returned to the Sears Martha Washington so that I could take a multitude of photos. Sadly, as we drove through the adjoining neighborhoods, we saw that the nearby college (Norfolk State) had apparently swallowed up great gobs of surrounding bungalows.

Between that and some very aggressive redevelopment, it appears that hundreds of early 20th Century homes are now just a dusty memory at the local landfill.

Do the owners of this Martha Washington know what they have? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

What a find! What a treasure! And it’s right here in Norfolk!

So is there a Magnolia hiding somewhere nearby?  :)

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

To learn how to identify marked lumber, click here.

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The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house.

The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house. According to this page from the 1921 catalog, it had seven modern rooms. I wonder how many "old-fashioned" rooms it had?

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According to this

Here's a Martha Washington that was featured in the back pages of the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This house was built in Washington, DC, and shows the house shortly after it was finished.

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This line drawning from the 1921 catalog shows the

This line drawing from the 1921 catalog shows those two bay windows on the side.

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This was described as a snowy white kitchen de Lux.

This was described as a "snowy white kitchen de Lux." For its time, this really was a very modern kitchen. Notice the "good morning stairs" too the right, and the handy little stool under the sink. According to a 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the "average woman spends 3/4ths of her day in the kitchen." So maybe that's why she got a hard metal stool to sit on at the sink?

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Oh may

"Judge for yourself how attractive, bright and sanitary we have made this home for the housewife." And a "swinging seat"! I guess that's a desperate attempt to make kitchen work seem more recreational, and less like drudge work.

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CheckAn “exploded view” shows the home’s interior. That baby-grand piano looks mighty small!

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Second

Check out that bathtub on the rear of the house. And that's a sleeping porch in the upper right. Again, that furniture looks mighty small.

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As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

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Be still my quiveringg heart!

Be still my quivering heart! And it's right on Virginia Beach Boulevard!

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A view from the side.

A view from the side, showing off those bay windows.

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The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light),

The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light), and the badly crimped aluminum trim on that porch roof doesn't look too good, and the wrought-iron is a disappointment, but (and this is a big but), at least it's still standing.

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Before

The porch, in its pre-aluminum siding salesmen and pre-wrought-iron and pre-PVC state.

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compare

A comparison of the Martha Washington in DC with the house in Norfolk!

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And heres a Martha Washington in Cincinnatti, Ohio.

And here's a Martha Washington in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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To learn more about the Martha Washington, click here.

To learn more about biscuits, click here.

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It’s a Magnolia! Well, Not Really…

July 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Thanks wholly to Rachel Shoemaker, we’ve discovered another fancy kit home, and this one is in Angola, NY. In fact, thanks to Rachel, the old legends surrounding this old “mail-order” house will now be righted - we hope!

For years, the people in Western New York thought this house (shown below) was a Sears Magnolia. In fact, newspaper articles were written about the house, hailing it as an “adaptation of the Sears Magnolia.”

If folks had been paying attention to the details, they would have known that the Sears Magnolia was only offered from 1918 to 1922. The house in Angola, was built in 1927.

Oopsie.

In fact, the big fancy house in Angola is a Sterling Vernon. Sterling (like Sears), sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Sears was the largest and most well-known of the mail-order kit home companies, but Sterling was also a pretty significant player. According to Architectural Historian Dale Wolicki, Sterling sold about 50,000 kit homes in the early 1900s.

Thanks to Rachel for finding this house and then (somehow) finding photos of the house - both old and new - which are shown below.

Thanks, Rachel!  :)

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Sears Magnolia? I dont think so. Looks a lot like a Sterling Vernon to me.

Sears Magnolia? I don't think so. Looks a lot like a Sterling Vernon to me. Photo credit is not known. If anyone reading this blog can identify the photographer, please contact me as soon as possible. This photo is apparently from 1982 (according to info found on the back).

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Original article, date unknown, identifying the house in Angola as a Sears Magnolia. This snippet was affixed to the back of a photograph of the house.

Original article, date unknown, identifying the house in Angola as a Sears Magnolia. This snippet was affixed to the back of a photograph of the house. (Note date at top of page.)

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The Sterling Vernon was featured on the cover of their 1928 catalog.

The Sterling Vernon was featured on the cover of their 1928 catalog.

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The Sterling Vernon, as seen on the cover of the 1928 catalog. Youll notice, the house in Angola looks a lot like THIS house! Thats because it came from a kit home company in Bay City, MI known as Sterling Homes.

You'll notice, the house in Angola looks a lot like THIS house! That's because it came from a kit home company in Bay City, MI known as Sterling Homes.

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Catalog page

Catalog page featuring the Sterling Vernon.

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text here Tiger Schmittendorf

Now in use as a Funeral Home, this massive old manse in Angola, NY was alleged to be a Sears Magnolia for many years. It was built in 1927, and it's not a Sears House, but a house sold by Sterling, based in Bay City, Michigan. This "Sterling Vernon" is 100% perfect - right down to the Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house

Another view of the Sterling Vernon in Angola, NY. Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Schmittendorf

Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Look at those porches! How pretty!! Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Schmitten

Photo is copyright 2012 Tiger Schmittendorf and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Now this is a Maggy!

The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918 - 1922.

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Maggy in Canton

Now THIS is a Sears Magnolia! This is one of seven known Magnolias in the country. This house is in Canton, Ohio. You'll note that this house looks a LOT like the catalog page above. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To see a Sterling Vernon found in Anderson, SC click here.

To read my favorite “Magnolia” story, click here.

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

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The Martha Washington: A Vision of Hospitality

May 11th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

There’s something about a Dutch Colonial that just makes me swoon, and the Martha Washington is a fine example of the Dutch Colonial design.

And it was spacious, too. Sans optional sunporch, the Martha Washington was about 1,800 square feet, with four good-sized bedrooms upstairs. Unlike so many early 20th Century homes, the Martha Washington also had an abundance of closet space.

As the text in the catalog page said, “The view to the visitor or passerby presents a vision of hospitality.”

An interesting bit of trivia: The Martha Washington has the same floor plan as the Sears Alhambra, with two small differences. The Martha Washington doesn’t have the box window on the front (as does the Alhambra) and the Alhambra is smaller. The Martha Washington is 28′ by 32′ and the Alhambra is 28′ by 28′.

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

To see more pictures of pretty kit homes, click here.

Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Honor Bilt "Martha Washington," as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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This testimonial appeared in the 1924 Sears catalog.

Mr. Brewood was darn happy with his Sears House in DC! (1924 Sears catalog).

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A side view of the Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

As seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Houseie

This Martha Washington in Lombard, IL has its original windows and STORM windows!

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How appropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia!  (Bedford, to be precise.)

How apropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia! (Bedford, to be precise.)

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Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition.  And it looks happy, too!  Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reprorduced without written permission.

Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition. The red door and green roof are nice complements. And the house *looks* happy, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Cincinnatti

Every Martha should have a flag flying in front of it! This beauty is in Cincinnati Ohio.

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Martha meets Maggy!  The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington was BUILT with these super-sized columns.

Martha meets Maggy! The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington (in Chicago area) was BUILT with these super-sized columns. And look - another flag!

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Floorplan

The Martha Washington (shown here) and the Alhambra (shown below) had the same floor plan, with two minor differences: The Alhambra had a box window on the front and the Martha Washington was four feet wider than the Alhambra.

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floorplan

Alhambra's floor plan.

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The kitchen!

And the kitchen was "the last word in convenience and sanitary comfort"!!

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houseie

The Martha Washington.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

See more pictures of fine-looking old houses by clicking here.

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A Beautiful Saratoga in Mukwonago, Wisconsin

March 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

My great aunt Addie has a lot of friends in Wisconsin. Even though Addie has been dead 111 years, she’s still a popular girl and Addie has more than 450 friends on Facebook.

At this website, my blogs on Addie have been viewed by more than 40,000 people.

And thanks to Addie, I’ve become friends with a woman named Heather who lives in Wisconsin. Heather reminds me of my own daughters. Heather is incredibly intelligent, well-read, sagacious, and best of all, she has a compassionate heart. Smart people are a blast, but when you find someone who’s smart and kind and wise, that’s a wonderful thing.

Heather possesses all those qualities. And she loves Sears Homes, too!

Recently, Heather found and photographed a beautiful old Sears House in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. It’s quite a house, and it’s in largely original condition.

To learn about the “Good, better, best” quality offered in the Sears Roebuck catalog, click here.

Sears Saratoga

Sears Saratoga, as seen in the 1922 catalog. Look at the price!

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Saratoga

Saratoga in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, looking much like it did when it was built more than 90 years ago. (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Saratoga house

Close-up of the line drawing in the 1922 catalog.

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Saratoga window

Detail on the Saratoga's ornate window

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Park Avenue window

And what a perfect match it is to the original picture! (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Detail on the columns

The columns are also a perfect match to the old catalog image. (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Column

Column as seen in the 1922 catalog.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Aunt Addie’s exhumation, click here.

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Homart Homes: I Know Where You Live (Part II)

July 4th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

From 1948-1951, Sears sold prefabricated houses known as Homart Homes. These small houses were shipped by truck (not train) and arrived in sections measuring 4′ by 8′ to 8′ by 8′. Fasteners were included with these diminutive homes, and the houses were bolted together at the site. They were very modest homes with very simple lines and shallow roofs. Most were 600-850 square feet.

Based on some educated guessing from reading old catalogs, fewer than 3,000 Homart Homes were built.

And now I need a little help from my friends. The 1949 Homart Homes catalog lists several addresses where Homart Homes were built. I’d love to have photos of these houses to publish at this site. I’d be so grateful if someone could get me a photo of these houses. When photographing houses, remember to remain on a public right-of-way (street or public sidewalk) when shooting your photos.

The addresses (as found in the 1949 Homart Homes catalog) are:

Albert C. Helm, 615 North 10th Street, Monmouth, Illinois.

R. W. Countryman, 614 E. Avenue, Nevada, Iowa.

Dale Keeth, 495 Melmore Street, Tifflin, Ohio

Lawrence Clemen, 1845 University Avenue, Dubuque, Iowa

Harold Snell, 426 4th Street, LaSalle, Illinois

Clarence Wyman, Cerro Gordo, Illinois

Richard J. Gilbert, Gox 565, New Glarus, Wisconsin

Jeffrey Hicks, Route 2, Box 479, Pekin, Illinois

Elmer Timm, 3238 Schlueter Road, Madison, Wisconsin

Pictures from the original Homart Homes catalog is below. The house you’re photographing should bear some slight resemblance to these modest homes below. Rarely, cities will re-number houses, so these addresses are not guaranteed to be Homart Homes, but it’s 99% likely that they are. Because these homes are so modest, they often undergo extensive remodeling.

To read Part I (more info on Homart Homes), click here.

To see pictures of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Homart Homes were very modest prefab homes offered after WW2. Today, its nearly impossible to find these houses, because they were so plain and in subsequent years, most have been covered with substitute sidings.

Homart Homes were very modest prefab homes offered after WW2. Today, it's nearly impossible to find these houses, because they were so plain and in subsequent years, most have been covered with substitute sidings.

Small

For the most part, these were very modest homes.

small

Look at the size of the rooms in this first house!

bigger

This was their most spacious Homart Home, but you can see from the photo below, this is also a pretty modest house. One of the bedrooms is 7 feet by 9 feet. As long as Junior never outgrows his crib, this should work just fine.

bigg

This was the largest Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog, and it's not very big at all.

Homart Homes arrived in sections, which were bolted together.

Homart Homes arrived in sections, which were bolted together.

These porches could be a clue in identifying Homart Homes. Every Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog had this unique configuration on the front stoop.

These porches could be a clue in identifying Homart Homes. Every Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog had this unique configuration on the front stoop.

A variation of that unique woodwork around the stoop.

A variation of that unique woodwork around the stoop.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes. And usually, they just don't "age" as well as the sturdier "Modern Homes" (Honor Bilt homes).

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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