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Posts Tagged ‘Sears barns’

Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part V)

November 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

One of the most interesting features  of Ham Radio is that its operators are expected to have access to alternative energy sources during times of regional or national emergency.

After all, what good is it to have a Ham Radio if you can’t use it when the power goes out?

For as many years as I can remember, I have been utterly fascinated by alternative energy sources. Capturing a tiny drop of the sun’s massive nuclear-reactive power (386 billion billion megaWatts) is a  fascinating concept.

After several tours of Mike Neal’s very own “Radio Shack,” and after receiving several helpful tutorials on this topic from Mr. Neal (and lots of specific guidance), I was ready to take the plunge.

My “solar project” started in earnest about a month ago when Mike sent me an email to let me know that Harbor Freight was having a sale on solar panels. This was the very set that Mike had at his house and he said it was “a good solar set-up for the money.”

With a $30 coupon (gifted to me from a fellow Ham), I got the $229 solar panels for $159. (The original price for the panels was $229, with a sale price of $189. The $30 coupon got me to $159.)

Because I’m highly allergic to crowds and shopping areas and loud noises and small children and fluorescent lights, I paid the extra six bucks to have the unit shipped directly to my house. It was well worth it.

It took about 12 hours to install the whole rig, and my oh my, it was a fun project. And watching those photovoltaic cells turn the sunlight into electricity is every bit as fascinating as I’d thought it would be.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d recommend that every homeowner in America have a set of these on their roof. It was a great learning experience. And I’ve shared all the nitty-gritty details below.

To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of this series.

House shed

The little shed in our back yard is now electrified, thanks to these three solar panels on the roof. Each panel produces 15 watts, for a total of 45 watts.

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solar thunder

I'm not sure why a corporation would adopt the name "THUNDERBOLT" for their solar products. Nonetheless, it's a sound value and seems to be a well-made product.

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Solar panels

The solar panels were set on a 2x4 which was fastened with screws into the roof and painted flat black. The PVC frame was secured to the 2x4 with 3/4" metal pipe clamps. This will enables us to change the angle of the panels (for winter and summer) without any major disassembling.

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house house house

This shot shows the panels and 2x4 more closely. In a mere 12 hours, the solar panels have already been assaulted by both birds (far left) and pine straw (bottom).

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Thinking about how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking.

Figuring out how to get the leads into the little shed took some thinking. In the end, I decided to drill a hole (3/4") through the 2x4 (and the roofing sheathing below). I reasoned that it'd be easier to patch a clean hole through a piece of lumber rather than trying to patch a hole in an irregular surface (such as an old roofing shingle).

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solar

Using stretchy weatherproofing tape (which probably has a much better name), I bound those three wires (from the three solar panels) together and fed them through the hole into the shed's interior. I purposefully used a lot of tape so it would fill the 3/4" hole. For the tiny gaps that remained, I used a compound putty substance (again, don't know the name but it looks a lot like Silly Putty). Back in the day, a contractor friend told me it was called "Dum Dum" because you use it to patch a dumb mistake. However, I'd like to point out that it should be called "Smart Smart" in this particular application.

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Inside,

Inside, the wires drop down from above and into the controller (right side on the shelf above the battery). From there, the wires go into the 12-volt deep cycle Marine battery. Another set of wires carries the power from the battery back to the inverter (left side on the shelf). The inverter turns the 12-volt current into 120 volts (for household use).

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The

The controller that came with the solar panels is quite impressive. The digital display is large and easy to read, and reports on the battery power (12.4 volts shown here). For $159, it's a pretty fancy set-up and a darn good deal.

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Another nice bonus that came with this set are these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed.

Another nice bonus that came with this set are two of these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed. They plug into the front of the controller (as shown in the picture of the controller above).

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The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for  $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

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Part of the problem I encountered was that, despite my reading and studying, I didnt understand a whole lot about how these things work.

Part of the problem I encountered whilst doing this project was, despite my reading and studying, I didn't understand a whole lot about how all these things work together. I asked Mike Neal, "What's the difference between a 200-watt inverter and a 750-watt inverter?" Fact is, a 200-watt inverter was whole lot cheaper. Mike explained, "Think of the battery as a bucket full of water. You can draw that water out with a swizzle stick or a milk-shake straw. The 200-watt inverter is a swizzle stick. The 750-watt inverter is a milk-shake straw."

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The

The other helper in this project was my wonderful neighbor, Mike Mancini. I told him that I needed a deep-cycle marine battery and he got me a good deal on one at a local marine parts supply company. Plus, he gave me a ride out to the place and then hefted it out of his truck and out to my shed. This battery weighs about 50 pounds. I set it up on cinder blocks to make it easier to access, and I put the OSB down because I'd heard that batteries might discharge if placed directly atop masonry.

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Fie dollahs

You may notice the fine-looking wires shown in the picture above (of the battery). I bought these booster cables at General Dollar Store and paid $5 for the whole affair. I then cut the wires off from the clips and used them for the controller-to-battery run and the battery-to-inverter run. It's 10-gauge stranded copper wire.

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The

The last part of the project required anchoring the panels to the roof. In that the panels sit so high above the roof, they'll become a dandy sail in strong winds. Our solution was to tether the pvc frame to the opposite side of the shed. For the tether, I used 10-gauge stranded copper grounding wire. May seem like a waste, but I recently bought a spool of it to ground a couple antennas and masts and such. Seems I had about 400 feet left over from those other projects.

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Solar

Close-up of the tether on the PVC frame. It's not super taut, but it doesn't need to be. It's anchored into the steep side of the shed roof with an eye-bolt.

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Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such aas the many tall trees in our yard,

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such as the big old tall trees in our yard. After the "Solar System" was all set up, we were both AMAZED and pleased to see that it started charging immediately. What was so amazing? It was a dark, cold, gloomy overcast day. I can hardly wait to see how it does with a little sunlight!

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Total cost of the entire project:

Solar Panels - $159 plus $6 shipping (and tax)

Interstate battery - $114

750-watt inverter - $39

Battery terminals - $8

Wiring - $5  (thanks Dollar General!)

Incidentals - about $20 (zip ties, pipe clamps, tape)

Total investment:  $351

Entertainment value: Endless!  :)

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To learn more about why Ham Radio is so relevant and important TODAY, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

If you wish to contact Rosemary, please leave a comment below.

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GVT #605: Exceptionally Well Planned!

July 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

From 1995-2006, I lived in Southwestern Illinois, specifically Elsah, Alton and later, Godfrey.

While I was living in this area, I became enchanted with the topic of Sears Homes, and I spent countless hours of my life driving around Southwestern Illinois, staring at the pre-1940 architecture, hoping to find (and identify) a few kit homes.

One of my favorite finds in Alton was this Gordon Van Tine Model #605. Gordon Van Tine was another company that (like Sears) sold entire kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Number 605 was one of their more popular models. There are three of these houses in Alton. If someone in Alton could get me photos of the other two, I’d be very grateful!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Gordon Van Tine #605 as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #605 as seen in the 1922 catalog.

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The testimonial at the bottom of the page gives an address for Model #605 in California! My kingdom for a picture of THIS house!

The testimonial at the bottom of the page gives an address for Model #605 in California! My kingdom for a picture of THIS house!

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Floorplan for #605

Floorplan for #605

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And heres my favorite #605 - in Alton, Illinois. What a beauty!

When I first started doing research in Alton, several people told me that *this* was a Sears kit house. As I started to learn about these other kit home companies, I finally realized that it *was* a kit house, but it was a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. In my experience, this is a common mistake. About 80% of the people who THINK they have a "Sears Home" are wrong. The majority DO have a kit home, but it's from another company.

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To read the next fascinating blog, click here.

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Need to buy a house in Southwestern Illinois? Click here.

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The Sears Homes in Somerville, New Jersey

July 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

Prior to May 2012, I’d never heard of Somerville, New Jersey.

And then I wrote a blog on the Sears Milton, and on the catalog page that features the Sears Milton, there was a small snippet mentioning that the Milton had also been built in Somerville, New Jersey.

I contacted a few folks in Somerville, and Marge Sullivan was kind enough to respond. Better than just responding, Marge sent photos, too.

In fact, not only did Marge send photos of the Sears Milton, but she also sent photos of several other Sears Homes in Somerville.

For years, I’d suspected that New Jersey was awash in Sears kit homes.

Sears had three mills, and Port Newark (New Jersey) was home to Sears second largest mill. And there were also seven Sears Modern Homes Sales Centers in New Jersey. There were only 40 of these sales centers in the country.

Sears strategically placed sales centers in areas where sales were very strong. Not surprisingly, sales increased in areas that boasted of having a Sears Modern Homes Sales Center.

In New Jersey, their seven sales centers were in Camden, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Long Branch, Newark, Paterson and Plainfield.

To learn more about these unique retail stores, click here.

And perhaps most interesting is that there’s a Sears Altona missing in Somerville. According to the Sears Modern Homes catalog, it was built in Somerville, but folks there are having a tough time finding it.

It may have been demolished or it may have been remodeled beyond all recognition. But we do know that one was built in Somerville, and that  L. B. Thatcher was the original builder. If someone in Somerville has access to a city directory, that last name may help in locating the missing Altona.

Many thanks to Marge Sullivan and also to the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee for sharing these wonderful photos!

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the Sears Milton in Somerville, click here.

Somewhere in Somerville, theres a Sears Altona!

Somewhere in Somerville, there's a Sears Altona!

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And according to this, it was built by L.

And according to this, it was built by L.B. Thatcher sometime before 1916.

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And theres a Sears Milton in Somerville, too.

And there's a Sears Milton in Somerville, too.

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Thanks to Marge Sullivan and the

Thanks to Marge Sullivan and the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee, we know where the Sears Milton is in Somerville! Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Arlington, from the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Arlington, from the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a real beauty in Somerville, NJ.

And here's a real beauty in Somerville, NJ. This house is such a good match to the catalog page that it makes me swoon! For 90+ years, the asbestos, aluminum and vinyl siding salesmen have been kept at bay! This Arlington retains its original siding, columns and windows. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Carlin (also known as the Windsor) was for better class workers. Ive often wondered what Sears offered for the lower class workers.

The Sears Carlin (also known as the Windsor) was for "better class workers." I've often wondered what Sears offered for the "lower class workers."

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Another beautiful example of a Sears kit home in Somerville, NJ.

Another beautiful example of a Sears kit home in Somerville, NJ. It's so delightful to see these homes in largely original condition. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And what all-American town doesnt have an Americus?

And what all-American town doesn't have an Americus?

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Actually, there are many All American Towns that do not have an Americus within their borders, but Somerville is not one of them. This Americus is a stunner, and even has its original railings.

Actually, there are many "All American Towns" that do not have an Americus within their borders, but Somerville is not one of them. This Americus is a stunner, and even has its original railings. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Cornell (also known as the Davenport) was a non-descript little foursquare, and it was also quite popular.

The Cornell (also known as the Davenport) was a non-descript little foursquare, and it was also quite popular. Shown here in the 1928 catalog, it endured to the bitter end, and was also featured in the 1940 catalog.

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houses

This Cornell in Somerville is feeling very festive! Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Berwyn was another hugely popular house for Sears. Its also easy to find with that double-arched entry and long-tall vent in the front gable.

The Berwyn was another hugely popular house for Sears. It's also easy to find with that double-arched entry and tall vent in the front gable. (1929)

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Is this little house in Somerville a Berwyn? My first impression is yes, it is. Its missing the long tall vent in the front gable, but replacing that with a double-sash window would be easy to do. The rest of the house is a spot-on match.

Is this little house in Somerville a Berwyn? My first impression is yes, it is. It's missing the long tall vent in the front gable, but replacing that with a double-sash window would be easy to do. The rest of the house is a spot-on match. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Lewiston, as

Look, it has an "S" on the chimney, and that's how you can tell it is a Sears Home! WRONG. That silly legend has persisted for many years, but it is NOT true. The "S" is just a stylistic element and has nothing to do with identifying a Sears House. (1930 catalog)

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Is this a Sears Lewiston in Somerville? On this house, it might be good to see a little more info. That metal casement window on the edge

Is this a Sears Lewiston in Somerville? Very possibly, and yet... On this house, it might be good to get a little more info. Is that a metal casement window on the left side? If so, that's a little worrisome. This style of house was hugely popular after WW2, and in my research, the quasi-Lewistons I've found with that metal casement window are always post-WW2. On the other hand, it's also very possible that this window was added in later years. The original wooden casement window that would have been in this spot was notoriously drafty. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Martha Washington is one of my favorite Sears Homes. (1921 catalog)

The Martha Washington is one of my favorite Sears Homes. (1921 catalog)

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Sears

The Martha Washington in Somerville is another beauty in original condition. Notice the darling benches (hopefully under repair in this photo), also appear in the original catalog picture above. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears

Sears Modern Home #138. Pretty rare house.

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Of all the Sears Homes in Somerville, this is my favorite, Sears Modern Home #138.

Of all the Sears Homes in Somerville, this is my favorite, Sears Modern Home #138. And - as with the other Sears Homes in Somerville - this one is in beautiful condition! Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And my friend Rachel recently discovered a Sears Cedars in Somerville. Itd be great to get a photo of that one, too!

And my friend Rachel recently discovered a Sears Cedars in Somerville. It'd be great to get a photo of that one, too!

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Do you know where the Sears Altona is in Somerville? If so, please leave a comment below!

To read the next blog, click here.

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Albert Brown’s Awesome Old House in Mechanicsburg, Ohio

June 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

In 1912, Albert Brown of Mechanicsburg, Ohio sent a lovely letter to Gordon Van Tine (a kit home company), praising House #126, which he’d recently purchased of them.  Albert was so enamored of the house that (he said in  his letter), it was his intention (in 1912) to buy and build two more houses and one barn from Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa).

In fact, Albert asked Gordon Van Tine for a placard for his house, identifying it as one of their own homes.

Gordon Van Tine published Albert’s letter in their 1913 mail-order catalog (and Albert’s letter is shown below).

We don’t know if Albert ever purchased or built those other two houses, or if Gordon Van Tine ever provided him with a placard for his house, but we do know that Albert bought his barn, and built it at the back of the lot, adjacent to House #126.

It’s pretty darn fun to rediscover this lost piece of history and “connect all the dots,” based just on a name and a short testimony found in a 1913 mail order catalog.

So, are there two more Gordon Van Tine houses there in Mechanicsburg, thanks to Albert? I’d love to know!

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for digging into this story and finding this amazing house (and getting an address!), and thanks to Cindy Goebel Catanzaro for taking so many wonderful photos!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine kit homes, click here.

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

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House #126 as it appeared in the 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

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house 2

Close-up of the house that Albert selected (1913).

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testimony

Albert Brown's testimony appeared under #126 in the 1913 catalog.

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house 3

And here is Albert's house as it appears today. It's a real beauty, and a lovely match to the 1913 catalog image. If you look at the lower right of this photo, you can see the barn that Albert purchased in later years. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hosue 4

Notice the oval window in the front gable, and the small vestibule.

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house

This house in Mechanicsburg is in wonderfully original condition. I wonder if the current owners know about Albert, and his story? I wonder if they realize that they have a kit home? (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hosue detail

Close-up of that ornamental window. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house six

And a view from the side of the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And my favorite photo of all!  Cindy managed to get inside this house and found a vintage photo hanging on the wall. Is this Albert and friends? Oh, how Id love to know!!

And my favorite photo of all! Cindy managed to get inside this house and found a vintage photo of #126 hanging on the wall. Is this Albert and friends? Oh, how I'd love to know!!

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Close up of the folks. Who are these people?

Close up of the folks. Who are these people? They obviously love their dogs!

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barn too

Albert was so dazzled by the House #126 that he purchased this barn in later years.

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house house

Nice barn!

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house hosue barn

And here is Albert's GVT barn, sitting on the back edge of the lot. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Again, many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Mechanicsburg (with a little help from Ancestry.com) and thanks to Cindy Goebel Catanzara for running out to Mechanicsburg to get these wonderful photos!

Want to learn more about Gordon Van Tine? Click here.

Read more about these amazing kit homes by clicking here.

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Asbestos Lumber: Two Great Ideas Together!

May 12th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

It’s two great ideas together in one - asbestos lumber!

According to the ad in the 1915 American Carpenter and Builder (trade magazine), this “lumber” was made with Portland Cement and asbestos, and the final product could be sawed, drilled or screwed - just like regular lumber.

I’d love to know more about this product!  :)

Asbestos Lumber: Its two great products in one!

Asbestos Lumber: It's two great products in one!

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And in 2012, the EPA considers asbestos one of the "great disasters."

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Picture of a school gymnasium in New York with this radical new product.

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To see pictures of Sears Homes (which were built with non-asbestos lumber), click here.

To see pictures of happy Sears Homes, click here.

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Sears Barns: Just Add Critters

November 8th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Just like Sears Homes, these barns were sold as kits, complete with pre-cut lumber, nails, roofing, doors and everything that you needed. Pictured below is a barn in Mattoon, Illinois and Pulaski, Illinois. Both farms have a Sears kit home on the land.

For more information on Sears Barns, look for Rebecca Hunter’s Book of Barns. Click here to buy.

Want to learn more about Sears Homes? Click here.

Sears Barn in Mattoon, IL.

Sears Barn in Mattoon, IL.

Sears Cyclone Barn in Pulaski, Illinois.

Sears "Cyclone" Barn in Pulaski, Illinois. Notice that this barn matches the model of the cover of Rebecca's book below.

Seears barns

Rebecca and Dale's book on Sears kit barns is a wonderful resource!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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