Archive

Posts Tagged ‘sears homes in Illinois’

A *Beautifully* Original Magnolia in South Bend - For Sale!

June 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

For many years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to see a Magnolia in original condition.

Now, I know.

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend was recently listed for sale, and the Realtor kindly sent me a few pictures.

It can be described in one word:  STUNNING.

Or maybe two:  Original!

These photos give us a rare opportunity to step back in time almost 100 years, and see what the Sears Magnolia looked like when built.

If I was queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d insist that the potential buyers of this rare, historically significant home be required to do a proper, thoughtful and historically sensitive restoration (which is radically different from a remodeling). I’d demand that they find a way to preserve the home’s original features.

As my buddy Bill Inge says, “The first commandment of preservation is, ‘Thou shalt not destroy good old work.’”

The 3,895-square foot home is listed at $320,000. Situated on 1/3 of an acre, it has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half-baths. The listing says it was built in 1927, but we know that that’s not right. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

This house is a rare treasure. I hope its next owners “catch” the vision and see what a remarkable property it really is.

Ready to see some photos? You should get ready to be dazzled!

To buy this fine old house, click here.

To learn more about the history of the Sears Magnolia kit home, click here.

Interested in reading more about how these homes were built? Click here.

All photos are copyright Steve Matz, 2014.

*     *     *

The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

*

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

*

Mag

The Magnolia in South Bend is remarkable because it's in original condition.

*

A view from the inside.

A view from the inside.

*

house

This Magnolia still retains its original mouldings and trim but the inglenook and columns are not in place. It's possible that the house was built without these built-ins.

*

house

I suspect that this is the fireplace in the den.

*

house house

The den (right rear) was very small (only 8'9" deep). It's unusual to see the den in its original shape and size. It's also unusual to see a house from this vintage with a half-bath on the first floor (next to the den).

*

house

The Realtor had the good sense to photograph the staircase from the same angle as the original catalog image!

*

hfhfhf

Nice match, isn't it? Check out the French doors at the rear - both upper and lower level.

*

house

Nice, huh? :D

*

The best

There's something about these old nooks that just makes my heart skip a beat.

*

house house house

This is the very best picture of all. And perhaps the home's finest feature: A built-in nook, completely untouched by time, with the original tile floor, white hexagonal tiles with a blue flower center. This pattern is a classic feature found in early 20th Century Sears Homes. You can see the three original wooden windows behind the nook.

*

house

Fun comparison, isn't it? It's so rare to see these nooks still in place.

*

Another incredible feature is that

Not only does this house have its original Butler's Pantry, but it has the original sink, wooden surround and fixture. This house is such a rare find, and to think that it's a Sears Magnolia!

*

And it just gets better. Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, the dressing room, is the original sink, light fixtures and oak cabinetry - unpainted!

Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, is a surprisingly large dressing room. The fact that even the dressing room is original is a real testament to the home's prior owners, who had the wisdom to follow the #1 rule: "Thou shalt not destroy good old work." And this cabinetry was incredibly good work. In the corner, is the Magnolia's original sink, light fixtures and medicine chest - unpainted! If you look closely, you'll see the original cabinet pulls.

*

house

It's true that I am nutty as a fruitcake, but seeing this century-old Magnolia - wholly untouched by time - sends me. Original sink, original fixtures, original medicine chest, and an original light fixture (porcelain sconce). Just incredible. I'm a big fan of old plumbing but I've never seen a three-sided sink before.

*

house house

Close-up of the upstairs floorplan, showing that small sink in the dressing room.

*

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

*

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

*

To buy this fine old house, click here.

Interested in learning more about the Sears Magnolia? Click here.

*       *       *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New Information on Schoper, Illinois

December 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

All ghost towns have a fascinating history, and Schoper, Illinois is no different.

Located about eight miles from Carlinville, the town of Schoper (also known as Standard City) was originally Thomas Schoper’s 500-acre family farm. In 1918, Standard Oil of Indiana bought the farm (literally) from Schoper, and sunk a 300-feet deep coal mine.

After a coal shortage in 1917, Standard Oil wanted a reliable supply of coal to call their own. The coal was used to fire the stills that refined crude oil and turned it into gasoline.

After the completion of several gelogocial surveys (commissioned by Standard Oil), it was discovered that there was a seven-foot tall seam of coal in the ground at Schoper. As an added bonus, Schoper was near The Chicago and Alton rail line, which was centrally located between the refineries in Wood River (near St. Louis) and Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago).

In 1918, Standard Oil placed a $1 million order (for 192 houses) with Sears Roebuck and Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. The houses were purchased for employees in CarlinvilleWood River and Schoper, Illinois. One hundred and fifty six of the houses were built in Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 went to Wood River.

The 12 houses were built for the supervisors at the “Schoper Mine.” There were also boarding houses and dorms built at Schoper, for the miners.

By the mid-1920s, the boom at Schoper had gone bust. The price of coal dropped after The Great War (1918), and Standard Oil could now buy their coal cheaper from mines in Kentucky (which did not have unions) than they could mine it in Macoupin County.

In July 1925, a small column on the bottom page of the Macoupin County Enquirer sadly announced that the mine was closed for good.

Nine of the 12 little Sears Houses were painstakingly disassembled and left Schoper the same way they came in:  In pieces and loaded on a boxcar, headed off to destinations unknown.

Two of the Sears Homes were moved intact, to sites just outside of Standard City. The last Sears House at Schoper (The Sears Gladstone) was home to John McMillan and his wife, a supervisor with the mine. After the mine closed, he became a caretaker charged with myriad tasks, such as making sure the powerful fans down in the mine kept the methane down to acceptable levels.

McMillan’s little Gladstone eventually became rental property and burned down sometime in the mid-1990s.  The last remnant at the site was the Schoper Powerhouse and Mine Offices, a massive concrete Federalist structure which was torn down in Summer 2003.

And that was the whole story - until last month - when a reader sent me an email with new information. I’m not sure how he did it, but he found 1930s aerial maps of Schoper, which showed the footprints (and precise location) of the 12 little Sears Homes.

Scroll on down to enjoy the many photos, including the vintage aerial photo from 1937!

*

Schoper

In the front pages of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this image was erroneously identified as a street view of the houses as "Schopper, Illinois." In fact, this was a picture of the 24 Sears Homes in Wood River. No pictures of Schoper appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

*

house house house

Picture of Schoper from the late 1910s. At the foot of the sidewalk is a 12-bay garage, shared by the occupants of the 12 Sears Homes. The Power House is shown in the background (near Schoper Lake). The Whitehall, Gladstone and Warrenton are shown in the foreground.

*

house schoper house

Schoper was the site of a massive, modern colliery (1921 Stanolind Record). As a side note, I have no idea what this massive piece of equipment is. If a reader can identify this, please leave a comment below.

*

Mine Road

And here's a bit of that vintage aerial map, showing the placement of those 12 Sears Homes in Schoper (outlined with a red square). The building circled in red is the Schoper Powerhouse.

*

map map map 1937

Close-up of the aerial map (1937). The four white squares on each street represent the footprint where the 12 Schoper homes were located.

*

house house house house house

And what Rachel Shoemaker discovered - which is nearly unbelievable - is that if you look at this modern aerial view, you can still see the outline of 12 squares, representing the placement of those 12 Schoper houses.

*

Schoper rose

It was claimed that the ’s six dynamos in the Schoper Power House had the potential to create enough electricity to power the entire state of Illinois. The local papers said it was the most powerful steam-driven power plant in the world. The smokestack was 213 feet tall and was the second highest peak in Macoupin County, only a little shorter than the spire atop the Macoupin County Courthouse in Carlinville. The picture above was taken in 2002, about a year before it was torn down.

*

schoper house

The Schoper Power House, as seen in the 1921 Stanolind Record. When completed in mid-1919, the Power House also brought electricity to those twelve Sears houses. They were the only "electrified" houses in Schoper. The rest of the community would not know the joys of electric lights until power lines from Carlinville made their way to Standard City in the 1930s.

*

house schoper

For many years, that last remaining Sears house (John McMillan's Gladstone) stood alone on a plot that was rapidly reverting to its primitive status as farmland. After the mines closed, McMillan became the mine’s caretaker. It was his job to descend into the deserted coal mine several times a week, grease the water pumps and turn them on. Ground water, which seeped into the mine, had to be pumped out frequently. He was also responsible for turning on the powerful ventilating fans to remove any build-up of firedamp - highly explosive methane gas - which accumulates in coal mines. As of 2003 (when this photo was taken), all that was left of the 12 Schoper Houses was this slight indent in the field.

*

Schoper Lake

When Schoper was created in the late 1910s, a creek alongside the powerhouse was damned up to create a seven-acre, 40-foot-deep lake. Underground pipes drafted water from the lake to the powerhouse for the steam engines.

*

To see the original vintage map, click here.

To read more about Carlinville’s kit homes, click here.

The above was excerpted from The Houses That Sears BuiltTo buy the book, click here.

*      *      *

A Sad Story That Needs a Good Ending: Carlinville’s “Standard Addition”

September 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In the early years of the 1900s,

About 1918, Standard Oil purchased 192 kit homes from Sears & Roebuck. Carlinville ended up with 156 of these homes (offered in eight models). The 12-block area where these homes were built (in an old wheat field) came to be known as Standard Addition. Sears proudly touted this sale to Standard Oil as "the largest order ever placed," and pictures of Carlinville appeared in the front pages of the Modern Homes catalog for many years. This letter (shown above) appeared on the back page of the catalog until 1929.

*

House

Standard Addition's homes - some of which were not wholly finished - appeared in the 1919 and 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Of the 192 houses sold to Standard Oil, 156 ended up in Carlinville, 24 were sent to Wood River (where Standard Oil had a large refinery) and 12 ended up in Schoper, IL (site of a large coal mine). Pictured above is the Warrenton model (left) and the Whitehall (right).

*

In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood first appeared in the Searsm Modern Homes catalog.

In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

*

house house house 1921

Close-up of the "birdseye view" from the 1921 catalog. From left to right is the Gladstone, Roseberry, Warrenton, and Whitehall. And look at that darling little building behind the Whitehall. Is it still there?

*

House

These homes were occasionally featured in "The Stanolind Record," an employee newsletter put out by Standard Oil. This image appeared with the caption, "Carlinville is coming out of the mud," which simply meant that streets would soon be laid, replacing the muddy roads.

*

All of which brings me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition is at great risk of being lost.

And all the photos above bring me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition - this unique, historic and one-of-a-kind community - is at great risk. This "Roseberry" on Johnson Street caught fire in early 2013 and has not been razed yet. Derelict houses (such as this) contribute heavily to blight, and once blight takes root in a neighborhood, reversal can take decades. At best, this house poses a threat to public health and safety. At worst, it's an anchor that's dragging this historic neighborhood further into the muck. Would you want to live next door to this? How many months before this house gets torn down?

*

Last month

Last month, a suspected meth lab was discovered in the 1000-block of Johnson Street, in the heart of Standard Addition. Once a house is used for "cooking" meth, making it suitable again for habitation can be expensive.

*

Full story here: http://www.sj-r.com/breaking/x1367241203/Two-suspected-meth-labs-found-in-Carlinville

*

And theres also the problem on insensitive remodeling.

And there's also the problem of insensitive remodeling. And it is quite a problem.

*

Another

As built, these homes were very small (less than 1,100 square feet) but there are ways to increase square footage without diminishing the historicity of these unique homes.

*

In short, it’s time for the state legislature and/or city council to step in and figure out what legislation is needed to protect this one-of-a-kind historic collection of Sears Homes in Carlinville. I’ve remained “astonished* that there is no signage, no billboards, no announcements of any kind welcoming the flat-lander tourist to come visit “Standard Addition.”

At the very least, there should be billboards in St. Louis, Alton (by the casino), Edwardsville and other “hot spots” inviting people to come see this fun collection of kit homes. There should be a website, self-guided driving brochures, maps, etc, promoting the area.

But there is nothing,

In my 14 years of experience in this niche field of America’s architectural history, I’ve never come across another collection of Sears kit homes quite like Standard Addition.

One week ago today, I drove through Standard Addition, admiring the pretty houses and dismayed by the blighted ones, and I glimpsed, more now than ever, something must be done to preserve and protect this neighborhood.

Before it’s too late.

*

To learn more about the eight models in Standard Addition, click here.

To learn more about the building of Standard Addition (and the female supervisor of the project), click here.

In 2003, CBS Sunday Morning News came to Standard Addition.

To read about Illinois’ own ghost town (Schoper, IL), click right here.

*   *    *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Eighth Magnolia - and - It’s In West Virginia (Part II)

August 25th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Yesterday, I blogged about the beautiful Sears Magnolia in West Virginia. And it is a beauty. (Read about it here.)

Today, I’d like to show off the interior of this wonderful old house.

First, a little history. The home’s owner believes - based on his research - that the house was built in late 1924 or early 1925. A reminiscence from a former neighbor puts the build date in the same time period. This jibes with the county tax record as well (which shows 1925), but tax records are notoriously unreliable on construction dates.

To be honest, when I first heard that this house was built in 1924, I was a little incredulous. The Sears Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Sears Modern Home catalog, and its last appearance was in the 1922 catalog.

Was it really possible that this Magnolia was purchased in 1924 or later?

In the basement of this glorious Eighth Magnolia, the owner showed me an old pedestal sink in the family bathroom (second floor). On its underside was a casting date of November 6, 1923. If this is the original sink (and based on what I saw, it probably is), then this kit house was shipped to West Virginia sometime after January 1924.

These “Modern Homes” catalogs that Sears distributed far and wide did not automatically self-destruct when the year ended. It’s altogether possible that the Magnolia’s original owner had been studying a 1918-1922 catalog for some time, and took a fancy to the Magnolia. He may not have realized that this model wasn’t offered after 1922.

Other than some post-war hyperinflation, the prices for building materials in the first three decades of 20th Century were relatively stable.

According to the neighbor’s reminiscence, the Magnolia cost $7,000 to purchase and another $7,000 to build.

It’s entirely plausible that the Magnolia sold for “about” $7,000 in 1924, especially with the upgrades that were offered with this house. (See price sheet further down this page.)

And if Sears Roebuck had a few old Magnolias hanging around the warehouse, I’m sure they would have been thrilled to unload them in 1924 or even beyond. And if they had most of one Magnolia ready to go, but it was missing a few parts, they could have easily milled those pieces to complete the kit.

In fact, if they did not do any milling or cutting until after an order was placed, it would also been fairly simple for Sears to fulfill an order from a two-year-old catalog.

In conclusion, is it possible this Magnolia wasn’t ordered until 1924 or 1925?

In a word, yes!

Enjoy the photos below! And if you know of a Sears Magnolia, send me a note!

*

The Magnolia appeared on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. These specialty catalogs were pricey to create, publish and ship, shipped to customers on request, and were not discarded when the year passed.

The Magnolia appeared on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. These specialty catalogs were expensive to create, publish and ship. Sears did not send out new catalogs each year to last years' customers. (There was a lot less waste in the world a scant 80 years ago.) These catalogs were shipped out upon request. And they were not automatically discarded when the year passed. In fact, 90+ years later, many of these catalogs are still kicking around (as is evidenced by activity at eBay).

*

house

Lisa Tabor (owner of the Magnolia in Syracuse, NY) graciously shared this image with me. She has the original blueprints for her Magnolia, framed and hanging in the entry foyer. This picture shows that her blueprints were drawn on March 25, 1921 for the home's buyer, Mr. Edward Knapp. This is for a house that was first offered in the Spring of 1918. If the blueprints were individually drafted for every Magnolia, it would be very easy for Sears to offer the Magnolia in later years. Photo is is copyright 2013 Lisa Tabor and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house house price

I've taken this price sheet (1921 catalog) and sliced the horizontal info into two segments so the print won't be so tiny. The hot water heating plant alone would add $921 to the price. Add in some plumbing ($622) and oil shades ($106) and that's another $738. In 1922, the Magnolia was offered for $5,849. That, plus the heat, plumbing and shades takes you to $7,498.

*

house house house

Here's your chance to peak in the windows of the Magnolia! (Image is from the Ladies' Home Journal, 2/1911.)

*

Reception Hall

As mentioned, everything in this house is picture-perfect. Every room is gorgeous and well-appointed and beautifully decorated. The entry hall is flanked by french doors leading to the living room (right) and dining room (left). The oak floors were replaced several years prior. Pulling off a floor vent, I found four layers: The original diagonal planking (subfloor), original tongue and groove oak floors, a layer of 3/8" plywood and it was topped with tongue and groove white oak floors. That's more than 2" of solid flooring. This house could double as a bomb shelter.

*

house house house house

The fan lite over the front door has lead muntins, not wooden, but they're probably original. The catalog image for the Magnolia shows wooden muntins (all four years), and yet the Magnolias in Canton, Ohio and Lincoln, Nebraska have the lead muntins. Was this an optional upgrade? Or a clue to when it was built? I'd love to know!

*

Living Room

The living room fireplace doesn't match the fireplace mantel shown in the catalog, and yet it's a perfect match to the mantel shown in the pictures of the Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska.

*

house house house FP

Close-up on the fireplace. The marble (surrounding the opening) was added. The hearth is also marble and not original. When built, it had a brick hearth and brick flanking the opening.

*

living room view

These french doors lead to a spacious sunporch. Note the many sconces.

*

house house house

Detail of the "ingleneuk" (or "inglenook") as we Americans are wont to say). Cozy, practical AND historic!

*

house living room

As mentioned earlier, every corner of this house looks like something out of glossy magazine. The french doors and hardware are either original or an accurate reproduction.

*

beautiful LF

Another view of the Magnolia's living room.

*

fake transom

A common feature found throughout the Magnolia is what I call, "the fake transom." I've never seen anything like this in any other Sears House. At first blush, you'd think this was a transom that had been filled in, but in fact, the house was built this way by design.

*

house house house

A view from the living room into the foyer and dining room.

*

Dining Room

There are a lot of windows in this dining room. In fact, I had a time getting the lighting right.

*

Wayne Ringer admires

Hubby admires the beautiful windows in the dining room. God bless the folks who restored this house several years ago - they saved the original wooden windows!

*

dining room

Close-up of the intricate moldings and millwork.

*

chance to peak in the windows

A view from the dining room.

*

house house house house

A view from the landing. When built, those spindles were stained with varnish to match the banister.

*

house house house house house

In the floorplan, a pair of french doors lead out to a small balcony on the home's rear. It seems likely this house was built with the windows in place of the french doors.

*

Laundry

The original door to the third floor (attic) was in the home's main hallway, but was moved around the corner to the small hallway that leads to the family bathroom. This was another very smart move, as it took out a landing and a tight 90-degree turn on that narrow attic staircase. Shown above is the doorway to the linen closet (next to the family bathroom). In the 1950s, a small shower stall was added to the bathroom, and that took out 90% of the depth in this linen closet, leaving only the small space you see above. This was turned into a laundry chute , which is also a thoughtful design. If you study the floorplan (shown further down), this all becomes clear.

*

house house house house

The floorplan shows these built-in cabinets in the master bedroom dressing room. Inside these cabinets are a "special shelf" for hats. In 1924 (or 25), there was a small cast-iron pedestal sink in the corner.

*

house on sink on dressing room

The walls on the dressing room have this faux subway tile. In fact, it's plaster that's been etched with lines and topped with a piece of trim. This was commonly used in bathrooms of the late 1910s and early 20s. I'm not sure why they used it in the dressing area.

*

much discussed sink

If you look at the floorplan, you'll see that this corner of the dressing room shows a small sink. Seems like an odd spot for a sink! To the left of the picture, you'll see door trim, which is the right edge of the door that leads out to the second-floor balcony (on the front). Curious placement!

*

In the other dressing room

If you had x-ray vision, you could look through this wall (shown above) and see the exact same sink on the other side of the wall. With all the plumbing (supply lines and drain) just inside the wall, adding another sink on the other side was pretty easy. This sink (shown above) is underneath one of the little windows that flanks the second-floor balcony on the home's front. It sits inside a spacious walk-in closet in the other front bedroom. This sink has been added, and the medicine chest shown here was originally on the OTHER side of the wall. It was moved here for reasons I can't begin to understand.

*

Attic is

As per the original floor plan, there is a permanent staircase to the attic, behind a door off the second-floor hallway. This attic was finished off and (like the rest of the house) is in beautiful condition. This dormer window is on the front of the house, and you can see a piece of the porch balcony (on the roof) through the small window.

*

kitchen

The original kitchen stopped at the end of that tall cabinet in the right of the picture. The entire 40-foot expanse of the back of the Magnolia was enlarged by about 10-feet, which dramatically increased the floor space of the kitchen. In addition. the interior staircase (which lead from the kitchen to the servant's quarters) was also removed which added about four feet of width to the Magnolia's kitchen.

*

more kitchen

The kitchen, as seen from the Butler's pantry.

*

den fireplace

The den in the Magnolia was a mere eight feet deep. Pretty miserable. The 40-foot wide addition across the back of the Magnolia opened up the den quite a bit, too. The original fireplace was replaced with a new masonry fireplace which was added on to the existing firebox. Notice the depth of the wall beside the fireplace.

*

butler pantry original

Incredibly, the butler's pantry is mostly original.

*

Butler Pantry 2

Base cabinets in the butler's pantry.

*

FP2

Study this floorplan for a bit and you'll soon figure out all the changes that were made to the West Virginia Magnolia.

*

two

The second floor is pretty darn busy. Check out the sink in the dressing room and you'll see how easy it'd be add another sink to the closet in the other front bedroom.

*

finding marked lumber in the basement wasnt easy. most of it was covered. dark with coal dust.

Finding marked lumber in the basement proved a bit difficult. Most of the basement was finished, and there were only a few places were framing members were accessible, such as this space above the old coal bin. Secondly, the basement has a ceiling height of nine feet, so we were looking way over our heads! Looking at this piece, I thought I saw a number, but the wood was so dark it was tough to be sure. Do you see the number?

*

Wiped it down

The homeowner had two great ideas. One, he fetched us a small step ladder so we could get a little closer to the lumber. He also suggested we take a rag and wipe off the coal dust. Voilà! Now we're trying to figure out if that's a "C" or a "G"! We know that the Magnolia was also offered as a "plan," so finding these marked beams was a nice affirmation that this was "the whole kit and caboodle".

*

Attic markings

In the knee walls of the attic, I also spotted a mark!

*

attic markings close

It appears to say "A 155."

*

Maggy in the snow

The Magnolia's owner sent me a photo of his beautiful house, taken last year during a West Virginia snow storm. It's almost too perfect to be real. For my next birthday, I think I'd like a cake done up to look just like this.

*

house house house

The Magnolia as it appeared in the 1922 catalog.

*

Beautiful from every angle.

Many thanks to the homeowner for allowing me to spend two glorious hours at his beautiful home, examining it from top to bottom. If a mother was allowed to have favorites, this would be one of my favorite homes. :)

*

Of the eight known Magnolias in the country, three of them were discovered via comments left at this blog. That’s 37% of the Maggies being discovered thanks wholly to the readers (”bird dogs”) reporting on their finds.

So the most important question of the day is, where’s the ninth Magnolia?

Do tell!

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

To read a fascinating story about a 94-year-old man that recalled building a Magnolia in Canton, click here.

*   *   *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sears Magnolia in “The Notebook” (Sheesh!)

July 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Some rumors just never die.

There’s a persistent (and false) rumor making the rounds that beautiful Neo-Classical Revival home featured in “The Notebook,” is a Sears Magnolia.

Nope.

Not even close.

Not even close.

Let’s go right to the photos.

*

Black River

The house featured in "The Notebook" is the Black River Plantation House in Georgetown County (South Carolina). It is a beauty, but it's not a Sears House. And yes, I'm 100% certain. :) The photo above is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

*

Benson

Here's the real deal: A Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

*

Comparison

Now let's compare them side-by-side. At first glance, both homes have four walls, a roof, two-story columns and some windows. But that's where it stops. The Black River Plantation (on the left) has that massive front-gable atop that porch. The window arrangement on the non-Magnolia house is also quite different. And Black River Plantation is much larger than the Sears Magnolia. And look at how tall the Black River Plantation is! Notice how much space exists between those second-floor windows and the roofline. Those are important details. If you still think these houses are identical, drop me a note and I'll send some biscuits for your seeing-eye dog. The photo on the left is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

*

Heres a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

Here's a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

*

Heres the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Here's the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

*

Heres a color photo of the Black River Plantation.

Here's a color photo of the Black River Plantation. Again, notice how much space there is between the first and second floors, and the second and third floors. It is a stunningly beautiful house, isn't it? (Photo is copyright 2008 Brandon Coffey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

*

Oh my!

Oh my! The Black River Plantation doesn't look like this, does it?

*

Where did this nutty rumor get started? Apparently, here (see below). In 1994, the Black River Plantation was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Note the highlighted text below.

*

In 1994,

The author wrote that it's possible that Waddell "utilized one of these sources" (kit homes or plan book home). Well, I can't rule out plan books, but I can rule out "kit house." The Black River Plantation is most assuredly not a kit house. Of that, I am sure. At least they admitted that it was definitely NOT a kit home from Montgomery Ward.

*

And don’t get me started on the “Honor Built Homes marketed…during the late 19th Century…”

Whew boy!

In all fairness, not as much was known then (in 1994) as is known now about Sears kit homes. However, this pernicious rumor - that the house featured in The Notebook is a Sears Magnolia - seems to have taken on a life of its own.

On a happier note, look at some pictures of real Magnolias here.

And if you know of any REAL Magnolias, please leave a comment.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

When Did Sears Close Their Modern Homes Department?

June 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

When exactly did Sears stop selling their “Modern Homes”?

In an interesting and well-researched blog about Sears Homes (written by my friend Lara), she points out that the sale of Sears kit homes did in fact continue after 1940.

For many years, I’ve declared that if your house was purchased outside of 1908-1940 (the years Sears sold these houses), it can not be a house from Sears.

Well, I have a couple modifications to make to that statement. :)

First, based on information I’ve gleaned through the years, it seems that Sears didn’t sell any of their homes their first year in business. In other words, 1908 was a dud!  The first Sears homes were sold in 1909. And if you find a pre-1912 Sears Home, you have found a rare bird.

Very few of their houses were sold before 1912. Very few, as in, about 1,000. (In February 1911, American Carpenter and Builder magazine reported that Sears had sold 1,000 houses thus far.)

As to the “other end” of that date, Sears put out their last Modern Homes catalog in 1939. The 1940 catalog was just a straight re-print of that 1939 catalog. While 1940 was the official “end date” of the Modern Homes department, was that really when they stopped selling kit homes?

Maybe not.

In late-1938, it looked like Sears was gearing up to revitalize their Modern Homes department. That year, they introduced nine new house styles, even sticking a 3-page supplement into the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog with the note:

Nine new Sears Modern Homes, too late for publication in the catalog are shown in this enclosure. Since they represent the latest thought in architectural design and planning, we think you’ll find them especially interesting.

The nine houses were The Colebrook, The Malden, The Yates, The Branford, The Lynn, The Fulton, The Nantucket, The Medford and The Warren. All but two of the houses were Cape Cods. (These homes appeared in a catalog dated 1938, but this 3-page supplement was dated January 1939.)

The enclosure that offered these nine new houses also promised that all of Sears Modern Homes met FHA requirements and Sears even offered to assist homebuyers with the FHA mortgage application process.

The FHA was created by the National Housing Act of 1934. (The history behind the FHA is both disturbing and fascinating. Read more here.)

In September 2, 1939, an article in Business Week said the young men at Sears wanted to give the Modern Homes department another go, but that upper management wouldn’t hear of it. Business Week stated “Upper management all sweated buckets bailing the company out of the big-scale housing catastrophe that followed the slap-happy 20s. [They] would cheerfully get out of the whole department if they only knew how to get their money out.”

The money they hoped to get out included the millions of dollars Sears had invested in their lumber mills, such as the $3.5 million recently invested in Norwood, Ohio and Port Newark, New Jersey.

Based on what I know today (and admittedly, that’s subject to change), I stand by my earlier statement that Sears issued their last Modern Homes catalog in 1940, and yet, as Lara pointed out, it also seems likely that Sears continued to sell off their remaining inventory until at least Spring 1941 (based on Lara’s research), and perhaps beyond, and it’s possible that some of the millwork and building materials that Sears sold post-1940s were bits and pieces of formerly whole kits.

So, if you think you have a Sears Modern Home that was purchased post-1940, I’d have to say - it’s very possible! (Note that I said “purchased,” not built. I’ve heard many stories of people buying a kit home and then spending several years getting it built!)

And Lara found newspaper advertisements proving that Sears sold their kit homes into Spring 1941! To read Lara’s blog, click here.

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

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the images (shown below) of the 1940 and 1941 General Merchandise catalogs.

Want to learn more? Join us on Facebook!

*    *    *

The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

The last Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1939 and reprinted in 1940.

*

Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years.

Sears closed down their Modern Homes department (and the individual storefronts) in 1940, but probably continued to sell off inventory for several years. Above is one such storefront in Ohio. If you look closely at the sign in front of the center doorway, it says, "Sears Roebuck & Co. Honor Bilt Modern Homes."

*

On the inside cover of the Sears Modern Homes catalog were interior pictures of the Colebrook.

The inside cover of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed interior color pictures of the Malden. Look at the cat sleeping in the sunlight on the carpeted floor. Bliss!

*

Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 Sears General Merchandise catalog.

Rachel Shoemaker graciously shared many images from her own copy of the Spring 1940 and 1941 Sears General Merchandise catalog (1940 shown above).

*

And in those pages

And in that 1941 General Merchandise catalog, Rachel found this! Look at the small insert, where it says, "Interior Doors, now at Chicago, Norwood (site of the Sears Millwork plant) and Newark NJ" (site of one of their main mills). There's no doubt that Sears was looking for a way to sell off some of their remaining inventory, post-1940.

*

Repeated here,

The "Chicago, Norwood, Newark" theme is repeated here, with a bolder graphic (Spring 1941). The Irish Setter is a nice touch, too.

*

And my favorite image features this young couple

And my favorite image features this young couple moving through the steps of buying their own Sears Home! (Spring 1940.)

*

Happy

The dapper couple begins their fun excursion into the world of homeownership.

*

Its the Colebrook thats caught their heart, mind and imagination.

It's the "Colebrook" that's captured their heart, mind, imagination and wallet.

*

As shown in the 1940

The four-room Cape Cod "Colebrook" (as shown in the 1940 catalog).

*

To dream the impsso

Close-up of the individual frames shown on the catalog page above. Dapper Donna says, "We didn't even need to hire an architect!" (Spring 1940)

*

Building

Sears was happy, happy, happy to be out of the mortgage business. According to "Catalogs and Counters," Sears liquidated more than $11 million in mortgages in 1934. In today's dollars, that would be more than $190 million, a fantastic sum for a business to absorb.

*

building

A blind carpenter is shown here, sifting through the pre-cut lumber.

*

Kitchen

'The stoker downstairs" was a reference to a new invention: The automatic coal stoker. This ingenious device used an auger to feed coal into the furnace or boiler in the basement. It was a remarkable advance in modern heating systems. No more shoveling coal into the fire-belching behemoth. The automatic stoker was a great labor saving device.

*

The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

The kitchen in the Colebrook was nowhere near that big as is shown in the picture with the happy couple, but hey, why let details get in the way of such a sweet story?

*

Building

While the Dapper couple are arguing about what to do with all their saved money, a grifter behind them is surreptitiously pocketing some cash he quietly lifted from Dapper Dan's wallet. I think the old lady on the left is in on it, too.

*

A

In the Spring 1940 General Merchandise catalog, Sears asked, "What exactly is YOUR problem?" Who knew that Sears was the source of this popular mantra?

*

To visit Lara’s blog, click here.

You can read Rachel’s blog here.

*   *  *

About Those Photos You Love So Much…

June 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Sears Homes are my vocation, my passion and my joy.


And if you see a photo here that makes your heart go pitter-pat, I’m flattered and honored and pleased.


However…


Please do not lift the photos from my website without first asking permission. That’s just good manners, proper etiquette, common decency and a lovely way to honor the eighth commandment.


And if you suffer from some significant mental disability that does not enable you to take the necessary 74 seconds to leave a comment and ask for permission, then at least - at the VERY least - give attribution for my photograph.


Something like, “Photo is copyright 2013 Rosemary Thornton, from her website Searshomes.org, and may not be reproduced without written permission.”


I have invested tens of thousands of dollars in obtaining many of these photos. I have traveled the height and breadth of this great country, documenting and photographing these kit homes. I have spent 13 years seeking and finding (and photographing) these old kit homes.


So please, do not take these photos and claim them as your own (which is what you’re doing if my name doesn’t appear near them). Please post my name and a copyright notice wherever these photos are used.


AFTER you ask permission to use them.


From a beleaguered historian, thank you.

*   *   *

You have to admit

You have to admit, a copyright notice on each photo would take away the fun.

*

To see one teensy example of how many of my photographs have been removed - with no attribution - click on this link and make a note of the images there - and then google  “identifying Sears Homes” and see how many times my photos have left home, sans consent.

*   *  *

The Sears Bandon: Neat, Practical And Modern

January 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Sears Bandon is a rare bird indeed. The only one I’ve ever found was in Pulaski, Illinois, not far from the Sears Lumber Mill in Cairo, Illinois. That mill was the site of a 40-acre mill where Sears created and produced up to 250 pre-cut kit homes per month. It was a tremendous operation with more than 100 employees at its peak, and 20 acres of outbuildings.

It was also the site of “The Experiment.” Click here to see the only remnant of the Sears Mill in Cairo.

In 2001, whilst doing research on  Sears Homes at the Cairo Public Library, I stumbled across a little item in their vertical file about a Sears Bandon built in nearby Pulaski. Later that day, I hopped into the car and drove out to Pulaski and found my Bandon on the main drag through town. It was perfect in every way.

In March 2010, when I traveled to Illinois to do research for my newest book (”The Sears Homes of Illinois“), I went back to Pulaski to get newer/better photos. While standing on this main drag in this tiny town, I had three people stop and ask me if I needed help.

Speaking as a former long-time resident of Illinois, I don’t miss those long, cold Illinois winters, but I surely do miss the kind, generous, hard-working folks of small-town Midwestern America. They’re truly the crème de la crème of our country.

Below is the information I found in the vertical files at the Cairo Public Library;

The house (identified specifically as the Sears Bandon) was built in 1921. According to this document, the lumber for this kit home was shipped from the Sears mill in Cairo. It gave the following costs:

Cost of The Bandon $2794.00
Plaster (extra)  $133.00
Material to finish attic rooms  $241.00
Complete hot water heating system  $403.66
Wire and light fixtures  $133.66
Labor for carpenter (including masonry work)  $1600.00

Total $5305.32

This document also stated that, in 1924, a Sears Cyclone Barn (shipped from Cairo, IL) was built on the property. The kit barn cost $943.00.

Is there a Sears Home in your neck of the woods? Please send photos to Magnolia2047@gmail.com.

Enjoy the photos!

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasnt it more popular? Ive only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois.

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasn't it more popular? I've only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois (image is from 1921 catalog).

*

It had a very busy floor plan. Note

It had a very busy floor plan, and it's the only house I've ever seen with a "dining porch." This room - which jutted out from the rest of the house - had ventilation on three sides, and seven windows.

*

Close

Close-up of the floorplan shows how busy this house is! Look at the kitchen! The ice box was in the staircase landing. And the kitchen was oh-so tiny!

*

And it was a fine-looking house!

And it was a fine-looking house!

*

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

*

Nice, isnt it?  :)

Nice, isn't it? :)

*

house

The 1921 catalog image included this thumbnail from straight--on.

*

Pretty, pretty house!

Pretty, pretty house! While southern Illinois does have some of the nicest people, it also some of the worst, mean, loud and scary-looking dogs! These dogs never did stop barking!

*

The  Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

The Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

*

Its perfect! Down to the details!!

It's perfect! Down to the details!!

*

And its in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

And it's in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

*

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

*

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

*

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

*

Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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

*   *   *

Pretty, Pretty Preston!

December 28th, 2012 Sears Homes 11 comments

Houses By Mail” (published 1985) is a wonderful field guide for those seeking more information on the 370 models of Sears kit homes that were offered from 1908 - 1940. The book contains some factual errors, but it’s still one of my favorites and has a cherished spot in my library and in my heart.

The house featured on the cover of “Houses By Mail” is the Sears Preston. It’s a puzzle as to why the publisher selected this particular house, as it was a pretty rare model.

When Pete Sanders first discovered a Sears Preston in Berkley, Michigan, it was love at first sight.

“The character of the house was outstanding,” he said. “I loved it, and I left a note in the door, asking about buying it.”

Pete says he didn’t realize it was a Sears House until after he purchased it.

Pete told me, “Once I got inside the house, I was really in love. It had nine-foot ceilings, and the built-in bookcases had amazing detail.”

Pete has very good taste in houses!

The Preston was one of the top five fanciest (and most expensive) houses that Sears offered, right up there with the Magnolia and the Lexington.

Is there a Preston in your neighborhood? Send me a photo!

And thanks to Pete Sanders, Catarina Bannier and Judy Davids for supplying all these wonderful photos!

The Sears Preston was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes. Its shown here in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Preston was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes. It's shown here in the 1921 catalog. Note the price. The Preston was second only to the Magnolia in terms of price and grandeur. The Sears Magnolia was the most expensive house that Sears offered.

*

Close-up of the Prestons dining room.

Close-up of the Preston's dining room.

*

Notice the detail on the living room fireplace. This is a classic design for a Sears fireplace.

Notice the detail on the living room fireplace. This is a classic design for a "Sears" fireplace.

*

This was the only house Sears offered that showcased the optional wall safe.

This was the only house Sears offered with an optional wall safe. I see some Federal Reserve notes on the bottom, but what's in the top shelf?

*

The Preston also had a built-in breakfast nook.

The Preston also had a built-in breakfast nook.

*

The floorplan shows the massive rooms.

The floorplan shows the massive rooms. The living room was 27' long. That's a big room.

*

Upstairs

Upstairs had four modest bedrooms and a sleeping porch.

*

It really was (and is) a beautiful home.

It really was (and is) a beautiful home.

*

And heres the house that Pete Sanders fell in love with in Berkley, Michigan.

And here's the house that Pete Sanders fell in love with in Berkley, Michigan. The dormers were removed and the front entry was remodeled sometime in the early 1930s. Photo is copyright 2012 Judy Davids and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Incredibly, Pete has some vintage photos of the house.

Incredibly, Pete has some vintage photos of the house. This photo shows the house with the original dormers and entry-way. Even the flower boxes are in place. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

bicycle

This shot shows a cute little kid on a big bike and also the home's original entryway. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And the homes rear.

And the home's rear. One of the unique features of the Preston was that it was one of only FIVE models that Sears offered with functional shutters. (In addition to The Preston, the other Sears Homes with real shutters were The Puritan, The Lexington, Martha Washington and The Verona.) The other Sears Homes had decorative shutters that were permanently affixed to the wall. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And a wonderful photo showing a picture-perfect picket fence.

And a wonderful photo showing a picture-perfect picket fence for a perfect and pretty Preston. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Close-up of the house

Close-up of the house. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Another view of the house

Another view of the house, post-entry-way remodel. The dormers were removed when the entry-way was squared off. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

house

Another view of the house, showcasing that incredible fence. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The Baldwins owned the home in the 1930s.

The Baldwins owned the home in the 1930s. Judging from this photo, they didn't have the official Sears fireplace (shown above). You can see a piece of the original built-in bookcases behind Father's left shoulder. Ernest R. Baldwin (seated) was the mayor of Berkley from 1932 to 1944. Those were tough years to be a mayor of any town. Florence Church Baldwin is seated beside him. Also pictured are their two sons, Robert and James. Ernest R. Baldwin was a veteran from The Great War. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Pete really scored a bonanza with these photos of the homes interior.

Pete really scored a bonanza with these photos of the home's interior. This is the living room, adjoining the entry hall. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And check out the bedroom!

And check out the bedroom! What a perfect picture, encapsulating the furnishings and lifestyles of the early 1930s. Photo is courtesy of Pete Sanders and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The Preston is a very rare Sears kit home, but Catarina Bannier found one in the Washington DC area.

The Preston is a very rare Sears kit home, but Catarina Bannier found one in the Washington DC area. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And I found this one in Wyoming, Ohio in 2003.

And I found this one in Wyoming, Ohio in 2003.

*

It is indeed a real beauty.

It is indeed a real beauty.

*

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

To join our group on Facebook, click here.

*   *   *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Willard: A Two-Story English Cottage

December 5th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Neo-Tudors (also called Tudor Revivals) have always had a special place in my heart. They’re cute, practical and distinctive.

The Sears Willard was one of their most popular designs, and because of its many distinctive features, it’s easy to spot.

Scroll on down to see several real-life examples of The Willard.

The Sears Willard was the house featured in a promotion showcasing affordable monthly payments.

The Sears Willard was the house featured in a promotion showcasing affordable monthly payments. It's a darling house, and the payments aren't too bad either.

*

The Sears Willard, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

The Sears Willard, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

*

Think you may have a Willard? Wont be hard to figure out if you can get inside! Look at the many unique features on this floorplan!

Think you may have a Willard? Won't be hard to figure out if you can get inside! Look at the many unique features on this floorplan!

*

It is a darling house!

It is a darling house!

*

In all my house-hunting career, Ive never photographed a Sears Willard from the right angle. Something in my muscle memory demands that I take the photo from THIS angle.

In all my house-hunting career, I've never photographed a Sears Willard from the right angle. Something in my muscle memory demands that I take the photo from THIS angle. Nonetheless, you can see a few of those distinctive features from this angle. Notice the three windows in a row on the right side, and the dainty cornice return. Also notice the nine lites (windows) in the front door. This brick Willard is in Colonial Heights, VA.

*

This house is photographed from the correct angle, but its not my photo.

This house is photographed from the correct angle, but it's not my photo. This Willard is in Bowling Green, Ohio and the photo was taken by Dale Patrick Wolicki (copyright 2010, and can not be reprinted or used without written permission).

*

And heres another Willard

This Willard was not photographed by me, but you can see that Rebecca Hunter (the photographer) has the same problem with muscle memory that I do. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and can not be reprinted or used without written permission). We just yearn to photograph this house from the three-window side.

*

Galax, Virginia is a fun little town with lots of rolling hills which makes photography a bit challenging.

Galax, Virginia is a fun little town with lots of rolling hills which makes photography a bit challenging. Lots of utility wires in this photo, but it's definitely a Willard (with a modified dormer) in Galax. Unfortunately, as built, that dormer (with a flat roof in front of the dormer window) leaks like a sieve, so people often build out the dormer to enclose that flat spot.

*

One fine little Willard in Peoria, Illinois.

One fine little Willard in Peoria, Illinois. Again, from the wrong angle.

*

house

Here's the lone Willard photo I have taken from the correct angle. It's in Crystal Lake, IL.

*

And another fine Willard in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

And another fine Willard in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Look at the angle. Sigh.

*

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Interested in Wardway (Montgomery Ward) kit homes? Click here.

*   *   *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,