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The Impressive Array of Kit Homes in Bowling Green, Ohio

August 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

When my dear friend Dale heard the saga about the threatened demolition of the Pop Culture Building (a mail-order kit home) at BGSU, he offered to send me photos of the other kit homes he’d found in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Bowling Green has an impressive array of kit homes, and I’m confident that there are more than we’ve documented below. For instance, in Rebecca Hunter’s book (Putting Sears Homes on the Map), she found that a Sears Argyle was built in Bowling Green in the 1910s or 20s.

Where is it now?

Either Dale didn’t see it (which is possible, as we rarely have time to examine every house on every street), or the Argyle also got in the way of progress, and met a fate similar to what may befall the Sears Lewiston.

Fact is, colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Seems as though colleges are often positioned in the heart of early 20th Century development, and as they expand and grow, the working-class and middle-class bungalows from the 1910s, 20s and 30s get gobbled up and spit out as landfill rubble.

The Wardway/Sears Lewiston at BGSU is a rarity, and less than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built (from 1909-1932). Even more interesting, based on my research, the Wardway “Lewiston” at BGSU may be the only one of its kind. To learn more about that home’s unique history, click here.

At some point, we need to stop destroying these historically significant homes.

Demolishing old houses is not very environmentally friendly, either. According to “The Slate Roof Bible” (2003, by Joseph Jenkins), 28% of the debris found in landfills is from demolition or remodeling.)

I’m still hopeful that Bowling Green State University will reverse their decision and not send 300,000+ pounds of kit home (sans additions) to the landfill on August 7th.

At the very least, this house should be MOVED and not destroyed.

Special thanks to architectural historian (and co-author) Dale Wolicki for providing the photos of the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio.

To read more about the potentially sad fate of the kit home at BGSU, click here.

UPDATED: To read about the realistically smart idea of MOVING the BGSU house, click here.

To sign a petition to help save this house, click here.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Heres a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Here's a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

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The Sears Willard was a popular house. Heres a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Willard was a popular house. Here's a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. Theres a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut.

Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. There's a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive house (1921).

Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive bungalow (1921).

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The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street.

The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street. You'll notice from the image above, this house is in mostly original condition. This is a rare treat to see these more modest homes unmolested by the asbestos/aluminum/vinyl siding salesmen. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unless its sitting at the landfill, theres also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. Id be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if theyve seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

Unless it's sitting at the landfill, there's also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. I'd be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if they've seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

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It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921).

Notice how the porch floor extends a little bit beyond the primary wall? That is a very distinctive feature, and makes it easier to identify this house.

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And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

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The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because its a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the Popular Culture program.

The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because it's a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the "Popular Culture" program. Photo is courtesy BGSU Pop Culture House. Yesterday (August 1st), the little house apparently borrowed someone's smart phone and using mirrors and lasers, took a picture of itself. This is one remarkable house. And then, the little house posted its own photo on its own Facebook page.

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In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

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Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando.

Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow.

Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow (1924 catalog).

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Another beauty.

Another beautiful bungalow in excellent condition. And it still has its original casement windows. Man, I love this house. Guess it's a good thing it's located safely away from the bungalow-eating state university? Elsewise, it might be feeling a little "disheveled" and living at the landfill. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward.

The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward (1929 catalog).

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Another fine-looking Wardway Home.

Another fine-looking Wardway Home in Bowling Green. Soon, it may be the *only* Wardway home in town. :( Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green.

And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus.

Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus. The house on the left was taken soon after the house was completed in February/March 1932. House on the right is the Sears Lewiston from the 1929 catalog.

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To learn more about the house at BGSU click here.

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Makes Its Owners Proud: The Argyle

April 13th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Probably one of their top-ten best selling models, the Sears Argyle was a quality home in countless ways, but in a very compact package. It was a mere 1,008-square-feet of house, and yet it had a myriad of fine features such as wainscoting topped with plate-rail in the dining room, beamed ceilings in the living room, with bookcase colonnades between the dining and living rooms.

Cabinetry in the colonnades and built-in-bookcases by the fireplace featured leaded-glass doors.

In 1919, it was offered for $1,479 and was an exceptional value (even in 1919 dollars).

In 1916, the Argyle was offered for

In 1916, the Argyle was offered fora mere $881.

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By 1920, the price had jumped a bit to $1,479.

By 1920, the price had jumped a bit to $1,479.

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Living room

Notice the wainscoting in the dining room, topped with plate rail. Pretty fancy!

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The living room is equally fancy.

The living room is equally fancy. Notice the leaded glass in the built-in cabinetry.

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And from the 1916 catalog.

The Argyle bedroom, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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And the bathroom...

And the bathroom (as seen in the 1921 catalog).

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full page

The Argyle, as featured in the 1921 catalog.

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Argyle

Were there any "unhappy" Argyle owners? I hope not! (1921 catalog)

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It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921).

It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921). Notice how the porch floor extends a little bit beyond the primary wall? That is a very distinctive feature, and makes it easier to identify the Sears Argyle.

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The Argyle, as seen in the 1920 catalog.

The Argyle, as seen in the 1920 catalog.

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A *perfect* Sears Argyle in New Baden, IL.

A *perfect* Sears Argyle in New Baden, IL.

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Another near-perfect Argyle in Nampa, Idaho.

Another near-perfect Argyle in Nampa, Idaho.

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A nice, but neglected Argyle in Townsend, Virginia (Eastern Shore).

A nice, but neglected Argyle in Townsend, Virginia (Eastern Shore).

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Not surprisingly, little Cairo Illinois has an abundance of Sears kit homes, including a couple Argyles. There was a mill at Cairo, dedicated to turning trees into kit homes.

Not surprisingly, little Cairo Illinois has an abundance of Sears kit homes, including a couple Argyles. There was a mill at Cairo, dedicated to turning trees into kit homes. As is typical of most Argyles, the two closet windows are missing down this side. These often get covered up, or done away it. The advent of lights in every nook and cranny made closet windows unnecessary.

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Awesome Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

Awesome Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

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Pretty little Argyle in a not-so-pretty part of Norfolk, VA.

Pretty little Argyle in a not-so-pretty part of Norfolk, VA.

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One of the most screwed-up Argyles in the world. This house is located in an unnamed city in Illinois.

One of the most screwed-up Argyles in the world. This house is located in an unnamed city in Illinois.

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Argyle in Ocean View (Norfolk, VA).

Argyle in Ocean View (Norfolk, VA).

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Roanoke Rapids (North Carolina) is stuffed full of Aladdin Kit Homes. In fact, they have more than 50 Aladdin Homes in one small section of town. However, they also have a few Sears Homes, such as this Argyle.

Roanoke Rapids (North Carolina) is stuffed full of Aladdin Kit Homes. In fact, they have more than 50 Aladdin Homes in one small section of town. However, they also have a few Sears Homes, such as this Argyle.

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Icky Argyle in Wood River, Illinois.

Icky Argyle in Wood River, Illinois.

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And one more Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

And one more Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

To learn more about Sears kit homes, click here.

To learn about how to identify them, click here.

To learn about the family member that I had exhumed, click here.

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Sears Homes in Alabama

September 10th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

On a prior post (Sears Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama), I talked about photographing a Sears Magnolia in Piedmont. What I did not talk about was the trip. I traveled from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia and met up with my friend Nancy (who lives in Acworth), and then we rode together to Piedmont to photograph this house. I love Sears Homes. I love looking at them and I love photographing them and I love posting their portraits at my website.

That being said, I was mighty disappointed that I didn’t find any more Sears Homes between here and Atlanta. I’ve been searching for Sears Homes for a long, long time and I like to think I’m pretty good at this but this trip has not yielded many “finds.”

And then today, I found a note in my inbox from a nice fellow in Mobile (Alabama) telling me about an ecnclave of purported Sears Homes in Mobile. If anyone has any more information about these houses, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to see some photos of these houses. It’s been my experience that 95% of the time, these “neighborhoods” of Sears Homes are not Sears Homes or even kit homes from another company. They’re usually wild goose chases.

Please - someone from Mobile - write to me (thorntonrose@hotmail.com) and prove me wrong.

One of the best finds in Alabama: A sunflower field!

Sunflowers in Alabama

Sunflowers in Alabama

More sunflowers

More sunflowers

Another Sears Magnolia - in Alabama!

September 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

This (picture below) is the third Sears Magnolia I have visited in person. There were purportedly six built (but the validity of the fact is in question). Rebecca Hunter discovered that there’d been a Sears Magnolia in Nebraska (1) which had burned down many years ago. and Houses by Mail identified a Magnolia in South Bend (#2). In 2003, I appeared  on PBS History Detectives and the show featured a Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio (#3).  A few months after the show aired, someone in Pennsylvania contacted me with information about their Sears Magnolia - made of brick!

In March 2010, a “Friend of Sears Homes” emailed me and told me about a “Sears Home” in Benson, NC (#5). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Sears Home was the fifth Sears Magnolia!

This Magnolia (see below) is in Alabama. This would be the 6th known Sears Magnolia.

In my opinion, there are a few more out there. I suspect there are more than six Sears Magnolias in the world.

Sears Magnolia in Alabama

Sears Magnolia in Alabama. Notice how the dormer on this house is different from the catalog picture (below) and from the other Sears Magnolias (see links above).

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Beautiful Sears Alhambra in Atlanta, Georgia

September 8th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

What a beauty! And it’s dressed in yellow brick!

We found this Alhambra on a quiet little street, sitting high on a hill, and in a hoity-toity part of Atlanta. Wonder if the owners know it’s a Sears House?

Sears Home in Atlanta

Sears Home in Atlanta

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original image from a 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Babies Came Home on Friday

September 7th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Friday afternoon, my newest book (co-authored with Dale Wolicki) came home. This is my seventh book but it’s always so exciting to see a long-awaited dream come to fruition. Dale and I toiled over this book for five years. Hopefully, we’ll sell out that first printing within 90 days or so. It’s a beautiful book (347 pages!), filled with photos, vintage pictures, facts and details on the kit homes offered by Montgomery Ward.

To buy a copy, click here.

To read more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

Teddy stands guard over the new books in my hallway

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

She was especially interested in the chapter on Neo-Tudor homes

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The Wardway Newport caught her eye.

The cover of our new book.

The cover of our new book.

Schadenfreude and Mudita

September 3rd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Ever hear of schadenfreude?  For years, I’d always called it, “The Crab Theory.”

Schadenfreude is a German word that means delighting in the misfortune of others. I had never heard of this word until I was doing some research for my book The Ugly Woman’s Guide to Internet Dating: What I Learned From 70 First Dates.

Put one crab in a five-gallon bucket and Mr. Crab will do everything in his power to scale its smooth wall and crawl out of that bucket. Put two or more crabs in a bucket and when one starts to climb up, the others will grab him and pull him back down into the bucket. Unfortunately, humans sometime exhibit the same tendencies as crabs.

In my own life, I’ve struggled mightily with envy, and I’m sorry to say that too many times, I had a decided leaning toward the crab/schadenfreude side.

And then one day, I read a story in the Christian Science Sentinel about a woman who’d spent a lifetime cultivating the habit of gratitude. She said that her mother had taught her to feel sincerely joyous and grateful for the good things that happened in other people’s lives, and to take it as a personal promise from God that, if it happened for them, it could happen for her, too.

The Buddhist have a word for this: Mudita. It’s the practice of finding joy in other people’s success and happiness.

The morning news is frequently awash in salacious and scurrilous scandals involving celebrities and their ilk. Yet we’re all “clay vessels,” and we’re all cracked pots and fallible and prone to foibles and missteps and mistakes and even lapses in good judgment. Who among us hasn’t lost our temper and said something we deeply regret? Who among us hasn’t surrendered to temptation when we could have done better? My point is, maybe the real need is to stop staring so hard at other people’s sins and take a better look at our own shortcomings and work on improving those.

Maybe we need to stop cultivating the habit of schadenfreude and work on mudita.

To read more, click here.

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Sears Alhambra in Downtown Portsmouth (Virginia)

September 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

This Sears Alhambra is in a section of town that was near Ida Barbour Park (public housing which has since been torn down). It’s been through many changes through the years, but is still in remarkably good condition. Notice how the red dumpster in the corner complements the red brick foundation. :)

The Sears Alhambra was one of their most popular homes. Note the parapet around the dormer and porch roof, and staircase wing. What a beauty!

To read more about the Sears Homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

From 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal: Modernize That Old House!

September 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Today, the magazine is heavy on diet tips and light on home related topics, but it wasn’t always that way. In the early 1900s, Ladies’ Home Journal was (get ready), a magazine devoted to improving the lot of women who wanted to be homeowners, or women who had achieved that high goal of homeownership.

This 1911 issue of LHJ devoted an entire section to fixing up old houses. The photos (and their captions) tell the whole story. One caption reads, “The foundation and timbers [of these old houses] are often better than are found in the houses built today.”

For the two images below, the caption reads:

It seems almost impossible to realize that the hospitable-looking house on the bottom (see second house below) was once the gloomy, desolate house on the top (see first house below), and the changes which transformed it were not great. First of all, the dull color of the old house and the overgrown condition of the ground in front of it are most forbidding. A comparison of the two pictures shows how much a little careful planting and fresh paint will do toward changing the whole atmosphere of the house. More rooms were added at the rear and a gambrel roof was built and into this were let two good-sized dormer windows. A large porch, which was extended into a porte-chochere was built, and the latter forms a nice balance to the right wing of the house.

Heres the before photo

Here's the "before" photo

And heres the after photo

And here's the "after" photo

More photos are below!

Take a moment and read the caption - and remember - this is from 1911!

Take a moment and read the caption - and remember - this is from 1911!

Another photo pair from the 1911 Ladies Home Journal

Another photo pair from the 1911 Ladies' Home Journal

Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

August 28th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In the mid-1880s, while working as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, Richard Warren Sears paid $50 for a shipment of watches that arrived at the train station and had been refused by a local merchant. Selling them to other railway agents and passengers, Sears turned $50 worth of watches into $500 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive and reliable passenger rail service, people could now travel hundreds of miles each day, but there was a problem with all this expeditious movement. In the early 1880s, the United States had 300 different time zones. You read that right: 300.

In November 1883, railway companies established four time zones to help manage and standardize the complex train schedules. As folks adapted to the new time zones, watches became a hot commodity.

In 1886, 23-year-old Sears invested his $5000 cash profit into a new watch business and called it the “R. W. Sears Watch Company.” He advertised his watches in regional newspapers and in a short time, he moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Around 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog, offering jewelry and watches within its 52 pages. By 1893, the little watch and jewelry catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. One year later, another 300 pages were added, creating a 507-page mail order catalog.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse closed-door meeting with his business partner Julius Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company. Sears’ reason for retiring: He “didn’t see the work as fun anymore.” A short time later, Sears sold his stock for $10 million dollars. There was another reason for his departure. Sears wanted more time to take care of his ailing wife, who had suffered from ill health for years.

In September 1914, at the age of 50, Sears died, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multi-million dollar mail order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Richard Warren Sears at his office at 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL

Richard Warren Sears at his office at 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read more about Sears Modern Homes, click here.

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