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Posts Tagged ‘sears bungalows’

This is a Sears House.

April 28th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

This really is a Sears House.

Can you guess which model it is?

I would never have guessed. Ever.

However, I was given a good clue.

So what do you think?

It’s in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and this photo was taken by Elisabeth Witt, who’s been running around getting photos for me. And they’re well-framed, first-class, high-resolution photos, which makes a big difference - usually.

But with this particular house, even an old pro would be stumped.

Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for the contemporary photos shown below.

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Model

Yes, it really is a Sears House. Which model would you guess?

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Does this help?

Does this help?

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Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

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Do you give up? You should.

Do you give up? You should. It's a Sears Hamilton.

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When Google mapped this neighborhood

When Google mapped this neighborhood in September 2014, the house above looked like this.

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Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

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Heres a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois.

Here's a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois. Photo is copyright 2009 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This photo (undated) is from the city assessors website.

This photo (undated) is from the Shorewood assessor's website.

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And if you zoom in on the details, youll see that this darling little house had its original windows, siding and even wooden storm windows.

And if you zoom in on the details, you'll see that this darling little house had its original windows, rafter tails, and even wooden storm windows. It was a fine-looking Hamilton.

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And then it got McMansioned.

And then it got McMansioned.

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And then it got McMansioned.

That trailer probably contains the dismembered bits of our little Hamilton.

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At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasnt 100% sure about the address.

At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasn't 100% sure about the address. But in this photo, you can see that our Hamilton sits next door to a blue craftsman-style bungalow.

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And then I noticed this.

And then I noticed this. It's definitely the house formerly known as "Hamilton."

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Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

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Believe it or not, it could have been worse.

Believe it or not my little Wisconsin Hammie, it could have been worse. At least you were spared the T-111 siding (Elgin IL). Perhaps this blog should be titled, "When Bad Things Happen to Good Bungalows."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read a happy, happy blog, click here.

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My Only Blog With an “R” Rating!

April 6th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Before you start reading this, please usher the children into another room and/or tell them to cover their ears and hum.

Sears only offered two models of kit homes that had a sink in the closet. One was their fanciest house (”The Magnolia”) and the other was one of their simplest designs (”The Cinderella”). Why put a sink in the corner of a dressing room or a closet? Running the necessary plumbing, drain lines and vent would have added some expense, so what’s the point?

There were a few obvious reasons: It gave the lady of the house a place to wash her “unmentionables” and it also gave the man a place to shave when the couple’s seven kids were hogging the bathroom.

But there might have been another lesser-known reason.

Are those kids gone? ;)

In the early 1900s, male prophylactics were “re-usable.” It wasn’t until the 1920s that latex was invented, and these particular items became single-use.

By the way, this particular insight as to the purpose of that master-bedroom sink is not my own, but was sent to me by a faithful reader of the blog. Best of all, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I’d love to give proper credit to the reader who shared this info with me, but I can’t remember who it was! Argh!

To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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house 1921

The Cinderella was a very modest house and apparently, they didn't sell too many of these. It was priced at $1,500 and yet only had a single bedroom. The dressing room was located off the living room.

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Cindy 1921

Close-up of the floorplan shows a sink in the dressing room.

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Cindy

Roll-away beds were heavily promoted for use in the Cinderella. Here, you can see the lady of the house has used the dressing room sink for washing out her delicate undergarments.

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DuMont

The DuMont was a pattern-book house offered in the 1920s. It also featured a sink in a closet.

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Dumont

Close-up of the sink in the DuMont off the master-bedroom.

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Sears Maggy 1921

Sears biggest and best house (The Magnolia) also had a sink in the closet.

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South bend

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana has the original built-in cabinets, and an original closet sink, together with original faucets. Quite a find, and a testament to the quality of the materials.

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South Bend

Close-up of the sink in the South Bend Magnolia. It also has its original medicine chest and light fixture. This picture is almost two years old. I hope the new owner does an honest restoration of the old house. In all my travels, I've never seen a three-sided sink like this.

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West Virginia

The Magnolia in West Virginia also has its original cabinets in the closet, but the sink has been replaced. Interesting that the sink is placed right next to that window.

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To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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Why I Love Ferguson, Missouri

October 5th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

In Fall 2002, I was broke, depressed, lonely and very worried about the future. Months earlier, my beloved mother had died unexpectedly and my marriage of 24 years had ended in divorce.

Those were tough times.

I had one thing going for me: My newly published book, The Houses That Sears Built.

Working 100-hour weeks, I did nothing but promote that book and send out free copies to local media outlets. I slept and I worked. There wasn’t time or money for anything else.

If the book didn’t start selling fast, I’d have to do something I dreaded: Get a real job, and jobs in Alton, Illinois were tough to find.

Sometime in late 2002, I drove around Ferguson, Missouri and found a few Sears Homes. I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten how it unfolded from there, but I hooked up with a local architect and history lover named Alan. He put me in touch with a couple folks from the city of Ferguson. In time, I was hired to do a survey of the kit homes in the city of Ferguson.

Alan drove me around to the different neighborhoods and it was great fun. Most of what I knew about architecture came from reading books. Alan graciously answered my many simple questions about architecture. I will always remember his kindness and patience.

After I’d identified a few kit homes,  the city had a lovely ceremony, and each Sears Home owner was presented with a beautiful plaque. I was invited to be part of the presentation ceremony.

It was a lovely memory for so many different reasons.

First and foremost, the folks in Ferguson - homeowners, Alan the Architect, city officials and employees  - showed me so much kindness and respect.

Secondly, this was my rubicon.

My divorce had been heart-breaking, but this experience in Ferguson showed me that my work had value and my life had purpose, and that there were people in the world who shared my passion for these old houses.

Some time later, the kit homes in Ferguson were featured on “Show Me St. Louis” (a popular TV show),  and that also warmed the cockles of my heart, and gave me new hope that I could make a career out of this vocation.

In subsequent years, my book and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, MSNBC, NPR, BBC Radio, and many more. I’ve traveled to 25 states doing surveys and giving talks.

But it all started with the grace and kindess of the many fine folks in Ferguson.

That’s why I love Ferguson so much.

BTW, if you know the addresses of these homes or even street names, please send me a note or leave a comment.  When I did this survey, I didn’t know much about the other kit home companies. I’d love to come back and do a more thorough survey.

Lastly, these images are from 12-year-old slides. The colors are off and the images are grainy.

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One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in St. Louis is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country, and these were only placed in areas where sales had been strong. And once a Modern Homes sales center opened, sales were even stronger!

One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in the St. Louis area is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country.

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And in the early 30s,

Sears only placed these "Sales Centers" in communities where sales were strong.

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Ferguson

Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Ferguson

I remember the homeowner here was just THRILLED to learn she had a Sears House!

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Leanon

The Lebanon was a popular house for Sears (1921 catalog).

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Lebanon

Lovely Lebanon in Ferguson. Notice the placement of the door next to the one window.

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Marina

Sears Marina (1916)

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Marina

A perfect Marina in Ferguson.

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Lex

The Sears Lexington was one of their biggest and most expensive homes.

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Lexington

Initially, I'd missed this stately Lexington hiding behind the hedge, but this IS a Lexington!

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compare

Nice comparison of the Lexington entryway. Although it's somewhat obscured, you can see the fan light in the 1928 image. The details on the porch are spot on!

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Ferguson

Sears Barrington (1928).

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Pattern book

Although I initially identified this as a Barrington, I'm starting to wonder if it is a pattern book house. These many years later, I do not remember if we went inside this house.

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Gordon Van Tine

In addition to Sears Homes, I also found a Gordon Van Tine home in Ferguson.

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GVT

Very distinctive house!

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Ferguson House

The porch has been enclosed, but this is a lovely GVT #605 in Ferguson.

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Spent years

I have spent many years trying to identify this house. I've yet to find it in any pattern books, kit house catalogs or magazines. But hey - it's only been 12 years. I'm still looking!

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To read about the kit homes I found in Kirkwood, click here.

To learn more about 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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house house house

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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house house house

Oh dear - where's the potty?

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house house house

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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So Many Kit Homes in Waynesboro!

May 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Earlier this year, I had occasion to stop and visit Waynesboro and I found a few fine-looking Sears Homes.  Several days later, fellow kit house aficionado and researcher Linda Ramsey drove to the area and found four more kit Homes! (To see pictures, scroll down.)

On Thursday, October 17th, I’ll be returning to Waynesboro to give a talk on Sears Homes. It’ll be at the WTA Gateway, 329 W. Main St at 7:00pm. For more info, click here.

And you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home?

From 1908-1940, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Each 12,ooo-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days! During their 32 years in the kit house business, Sears and Roebuck sold about 70,000 houses, offered in 370 models.

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

*  The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.”

* The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

* Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.

Hope to see you Thursday night!

Thanks so much to Linda Ramsey for driving out to Waynesboro and finding these Sears Homes (and photographing them!).

To learn more about the history of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming talk in Waynesboro, click here.

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Brist

First, my #1 favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And what's so cool about this is it's not just a kit house, but it it came from Gordon Van Tine. GVT homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs (just like Sears Homes), however GVT Homes were not as popular as Sears. And the house in Waynesboro is the "Bristol," a very unusual Gordon Van Tine home!

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First, my favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And whats so cool about this is its not just a kit house, but it it came from Montgomery Ward! Wardway Homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs, however Montgomery Ward homes were not that popular.

The floorplans could be flipped (or reversed), based on the owner's preferences. I've flipped the image above to match the house in Waynesboro. It's pretty unlikely that these homeowners know that they have a house that came from a mail-order catalog.

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Briston

And here's the Wardway Bristol in Waynesboro! And it's just a spot-on match to the catalog! Many thanks to Linda Ramsey for getting this photo and finding this Wardway home! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were simple, boxy little affairs, and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all.

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were "simple, boxy little affairs," and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all. This is the interior view of the GVT Bristol, showing the 20' by 12' living room. Check out the vaulted ceiling and the long, tapered fireplace.

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First, my favorite. This is the Sears Alhambra, a hugely popular house for Sears - and a beautiful one too. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog.

Next is "The Sears Alhambra," a close runner-up to the Wardway Bristol. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog. It was offered in frame, stucco and brick. Stucco was the most common siding.

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Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro!

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro! And it's in brick! And it's also perfect in every detail! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Oh yeah!

Oh yeah! What a perfect match!!! Oh my goodness!!

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Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore.

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore. This house was also offered in stucoo, frame and brick, but was most often built as a frame house with clapboard siding.

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This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above!

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above! Like the Bristol, the floorplan has been reversed. Look at that distinctive front door, and the asymmetrical front gable.

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The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

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Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

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this is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (

This is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (Waynesboro house and catalog image).

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Sears Lynnhaven

The Lynnhaven was a very popular model for Sears. And it's also a lovely house.

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Its hiding behind a tree, but thats definitely a Lynnhaven back there.

It's hiding behind a tree, but that's definitely a Lynnhaven back there. Look at the details around the front door.

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Linda also found

Linda also found a Conway/Uriel. (This popular model was known by both names.)

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And what a fine Conway it is!

And what a fine Conway it is! And in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

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house

Again, a very nice match to the original catalog image! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

And here's a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

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One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

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Again, its in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

Again, it's in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

How many more kit homes are there in Waynesboro? Probably many more than I’ve found thus far.

I’ll be arriving in Waynesboro on Wednesday morning, so if you know of a Sears House in the area, leave a comment below!

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming visit, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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The Wardway Warrenton in West Virginia

May 27th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

In 2009, I visited the tiny town of Rainelle, West Virginia and discovered several Sears Homes on Main Street. That was a lovely surprise.

And another nice surprise was finding a Wardway Warrenton in town, too.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit-home business (1908-1940). Wardway sold about 25,000 kit homes in roughly the same time period (1909-1932). Gordon Van Tine (who manufactured the houses for Montgomery Ward) sold about 50,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats on Wardway and Gordon Van Tine.)

Because of the rarity of these Wardway Homes, it’s always a nice surprise to find one, especially so far from the Midwest (where Montgomery Wards was based).

Many thanks to Skip Deegans for traipsing out to Rainelle and getting these photos for me!

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

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Like Sears, Wardway kit homes were also

Like Sears, Wardway kit homes also had pre-cut lumber that was marked to facilitate construction. These many years later, those marks can help identify a house as a kit home.

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The Wardway Warrenton

The Wardway Warrenton was a "splendid home," and the accompanying text said it was "dignified and handsome." In fact, it was a six-bedroom home which was unusually large for a house of this time period. Recommended colors were cream paint (walls) with white trim. Yawn.

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house

The house was just shy of 2,200 square feet.

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Wardway

The Wardway Warrenton as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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house house hosue

Is this a Wardway Warrenton? Looks like it to me! Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Another view of the Wardway Warrenton in Rainelle, WV. Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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

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The Sunlight in Springfield!

January 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In today’s real estate market, a house with a mere 768 square foot would be considered pretty small, but in the 1920s, it proved to be a very popular size.  The Sears Sunlight had two diminutive bedrooms (12-feet by 10-feet) and a bathroom that was a mere 6-feet square.

An “expandable attic” was its saving grace.  There was a little bit of room on the second floor to add an extra bedroom or two (for short people).

The Sunlight is a hard house to identify because it’s small and - frankly - it looks like every other tiny bungalow that was built in the early 1900s.

I’ve never identified one on my own, but Cindy Catanzara and Rebecca Hunter seem to be old pros at finding these little houses!

One distinctive feature is the small clipped gable on the front and rear, and the hipped roof on the front porch, which juts out a bit beyond than the primary exterior walls. Another visual clue is the small enclosed space on the rear, but that often disappears after some remodeling.

Many thanks to Cindy Catanzaro for supplying so many wonderful photos of Sunlights in Springfield, Ohio!

1928 House house

The Sunlight, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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house hoouse house

Look at the size of those bedrooms!

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house hoouse house

The Sunlight (1928).

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house house

When I was in Elgin, Illinois in February 2010, Rebecca Hunter drove me out to this house and said, "Are you ready to see the most perfect Sunlight in the world?" It is in pristine condition and has been painstakingly restored. The homeowners have the original blueprints.

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house house house

Another view of the perfect Sunlight in Elgin, IL.

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Crystal Lake

Rebecca then drove me out to this Sunlight in Crystal Lake, Illinois. It's also in very good condition.

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Springfield Cindy

Cindy Catanzaro found this Sunlight in Springfield, Ohio. It's had some alterations, but is still identifiable as a Sunlight. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Springfield Cindy

Another view of the Sunlight in Springfield. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house springfield

This is an older picture showing a pretty little Sunlight that was feeling forlorn and forgotten. I'm happy to report that this home is now in the hands of a happy family who truly values the home's unique, historical origins. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house sprinngfield

Same house as shown above, this Sunlight is already starting to feel loved and cared for, thanks to its new owners! Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house

And you might notice that this Sunlight has had an addition put on the back. As originally built, it had a mere 768 square feet. Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Why did the bungalow become so popular so fast? Click here to read a fascinating bit of history.

To see more pictures of Sears Homes in Ohio, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears: My Hero

November 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Richard Warren Sears is one of my favorite characters in American history. He truly was a marketing genius, a fascinating entrepreneur and a real family man. Throughout his life, he maintained a deep and profound devotion to his family.

Richard Warren Sears was about 16 years old when his father died. That’s when Richard went to work to support the family.

By the mid-1880s, he’d found gainful employment as a railway station agent in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Early in his career, Sears paid a mere $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 $5000 in a few months.

His timing could not possibly have been any better.

With the advent of the steam locomotive, people could now travel easily throughout the country, but there was one problem with all this zipping to and fro:  In the early 1880s, our country had 300 time zones.

Many rural communities still relied on sun-time. Travelers headed west we’re expected to subtract one minute for every 12 miles of travel. Travelers headed east did the opposite.

Hope youre good at ciphering!

In November 1883, railway companies lobbied Congress to establish four time zones, to help standardize complicated train schedules. And what need did this new-fangled law breed? Watches.

Suddenly, they were a very 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 in regional newspapers and soon moved the business from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Occasionally the watches came back needing repairs, so in 1887, Sears decided it was time to hire a helper. A young watch repairman from Hammond, Indiana responded to Sears help wanted ad and was hired immediately.

And what was the watch repairman’s name?

Alvah Curtis Roebuck.

Richard and Alvah became good friends and eventually partners.

In 1891, Sears and Roebuck published their first mail order catalog (52 pages), offering jewelry and watches. By 1893, the little catalog had grown to 196 pages and offered a variety of items, including sewing machines, shoes, saddles and more. By the following year, the catalog hit 507 pages.

In 1895, Alvah Roebuck decided he wanted out. The 31-year old watch repairman’s health was collapsing under the strain of this new fast-growing business. The enormous burden of debt coupled with Sears wild ways of doing business were too much for mild-mannered, methodical Alvah.

He asked Sears to buy his one-third interest in the company for $25,000.

Of course, Sears didn’t have that kind of cash on hand, so he offered Chicago businessmen Aaron Nusbaum and Julius Rosenwald (Nusbaums brother-in-law) a one-half interest in the company. The price - $75,000, or $37,500 each. Six years later, in 1901, Rosenwald and Sears decided to buy out Nusbaum and offered him $1 million for his share of the business. Nusbaum refused and asked for $1.25 million, which he received.

(Pretty tidy profit for six years!)

Following a nationwide depression in 1907, Rosenwald and Sears were at loggerheads on the best course of action to weather the economic storm. This disagreement really did highlight their radically different concepts about everything.

On November 1, 1908, 44-year-old Richard W. Sears emerged from a terse, closed-door meeting with Rosenwald and announced that he would resign as President from his own company.

Sears reason for retiring: He didnt 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 from kidney disease, having turned $50 worth of pocket watches into a multimillion dollar mail-order empire. His estate was valued at more than $20 million.

Not too bad for a kid that got his start selling unwanted watches at a little train depot in Redwood Falls.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

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Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. Hes shown here in his office in Sears World Headquarters (Chicago).

Richard Warren Sears was one smart cookie. He's shown here in his office the Sears' Headquarters (Chicago), at the corner of Homan Avenue and Arthington Street. It's claimed that Mr. Sears had one of the very first telephones in the state of Illinois. He had another telephone installed in his mother's home in Oak Park. Now *that's* a good son! :)

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Look at that telephone!

Look at that telephone! I bet that would fetch a pretty price on eBay! And you may notice that Mr. Sears is holding a Sears catalog in his right hand. He was quite the promoter.

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Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown above).

Sears retired from his own company in 1908, which was the same years that Sears issued its first "Sears Modern Homes" catalog (shown above).

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Did you know that Sears sold cars in the 1950s? You’ll never guess the brand name they gave to their vehicles!  :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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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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“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, I wrote about “The Experiment,” where Sears built two Sears Rodessas (small bungalows) side-by-side in Cairo, Illinois, to prove the superiority of the Ready-cut System. The two homes were built in the late 1910s, and now, almost 100 years later, those wonderful little houses are still standing.

Why did Sears choose the Rodessa for their experiment? I don’t know. It was a popular house for Sears, but it wasn’t that popular! If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was in the Top 50 Most Popular Designs.

However, it was, as the Sears ad promised, “a most attractive little home.” It was cute, simple and practical, which probably made it easy to build in a hurry.

In my travels, I’ve come across several Rodessas. In fact, there’s one not far from me in Urbana, Virginia. You can read about that house by clicking here.

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

Indeed, the Rodessa is a "pretty little home." And look at the price!!

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Little is right.

Look at those small bedrooms. In 2012, a room that measures 9-feet square is a walk-in closet!

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Busy kitchen

And what does that "B" stand for in the kitchen? BOILER!

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The boiler

The "boiler" (whose placement is indicated with the "B" in the floorplan) was a water heater with a water line that ran through the back of the cook stove. Pretty complicated affair.

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

In 1924, Mr. Kidwell built this Rodessa in Washington DC and sent this snapshot in to Sears and Roebuck. He was "fully satisfied" with his Ready-cut home.

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Happy 1926

In 1926, Sears put out a brochure that was titled, "Happy Homes." The Rodessa was featured within its pages. According to the accompanying text, it was built in Independence, MO.

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Happy

Not sure why Sears included a picture of corn with the testimonial.

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HeWood

It's endured some significant remodelings, but at least it's still standing. This transmogrified Rodessa is in Wood River, Illinois (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO). That salt-treated porch railing just does not work on this old bungalow.

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House

This Rodessa may look a little blue, but it's actually a very happy house with lots of good self-esteem. It's in Northern Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). Its located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana.

Here's the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). It's located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana. The plaque over the door reads, "Sears Roebuck House, 1924." I was told that the folks in Urbana didn't realize that Sears had 369 other kit home designs. This is a fairly common misconception. This 88-year-old house is in beautiful condition.

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And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL).

And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL). They were built in the late 1910s as part of an experiment to prove that "The Ready-Cut Method" was far more efficient than traditional building practices of the time.

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Ready

The house that was built using traditional building practices took 583 hours and the poor saps aren't finished yet. The yard is still a mess with scraps of lumber scattered hither and yon. The workers have collapsed on the front porch in utter despair and humiliation.

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house

Ah, but the pre-cut Sears Kit Home is all buttoned up and beautiful! They even had time to finish up the landscaping! The kitchen windows are wide open. They had so much time to spare that they went inside and cooked dinner!

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation. The clipped gables were gone, as were the dramatically oversized eaves. The unique shape of the front porch was replaced with a simpler gabled roof. In a word, its flair and panache had been replaced with pedestrian and dull.

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Learn more about the two Rodessas at the Sears Mill by clicking here.

How did Sears Homes become so popular so fast? Read about that here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? It’s just one click away!

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