I’ve seen a lot of houses in a lot of cities, but I’d have to say, the collection of kit homes I found in Raleigh is really remarkable. The houses were (for the most part) in wonderfully original condition, and the homeowners we met during our survey were absolutely joyous to learn that they lived in a kit home. And the diversity of kit homes was remarkable, too!
During the six hours we spent riding around on April 2, we found kit homes from Sears, Aladdin, Montgomery Ward, Gordon Van Tine, Harris Brothers and even Sterling Homes.
The other thing that made this collection remarkable is that Raleigh has some of the higher-end models offered by these kit home companies. To sneak a peek, scroll on down!
To see photos from my first visit to Raleigh (in February 2011), click here.
Rose will be giving a talk in Raleigh on Saturday, May 19th (Saturday) at the Rialto Theater. Learn more by clicking here.
The Sears Westly
One of the most perfect Sears Westlys that I have ever seen, anytime, anywhere.
And one of the prettiest Sears Crescents I have ever seen, anytime, anywhere. The dormers were probably original to the house. This was a common "upgrade" on the Sears Crescent, and added more light to the two small rooms on the 2nd floor.
Now who'd think that this is a Sears kit home? Strangely enough, it is.
Looking much like the day it was built is this Modern Home #163 in Raleigh. Every detail is perfect. And the best part - it retains its original siding, windows and rafter tails.
A view from the front of the house. Every detail is perfect. May God bless those pesky vinyl siding salesmen - and keep them FAR AWAY from this house!
The Sears Americus was one of the best selling designs that Sears offered. This image is from their 1921 catalog.
Not to sound like a broken record, but again - here is a PERFECT example of a Sears Americus, spared the fate of the typical Americus that's been "sided" and stripped of all significant architectural detail. This house in Boylan is in beautiful condition. Even the porch railings are original!
Close-up of the bracketing on the Americus.
These distinctive brackets are ruthlessly hacked off when these old houses are "wrapped" in aluminum, and yet these brackets are one of those "fine features" that make the Americus so attractive.
But wait, there’s more!
Close-up of the Sears Americus from the catalog page.
Another Sears Americus, and this one is in brick! So is the plural of Americus "Americii"?
Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.
And here's the Montrose in Raleigh! I didn't find this house. The owners found me and told me about it, and best of all, they already knew it was a Sears Montrose. Now that's unusual! The owners are working tirelessly to restore the grand old house and it appears that they're doing a first-class job. And this is another unusual Sears Home, and also in excellent condition.
Maybe if I’d told them I was coming, they would have baked me a cake (and moved the cans)!
Sears Argyle, from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Note the big bold columns on the homes front, and the faux beams around the eaves. Also note how the porch overhangs on one side, extending beyond the home's exterior wall.
This Argyle still has its original stuccoed pillars, complementing the stucco in the two gables. Note how the wood trim (verge boards and faux beams) are a perfect match to the catalog page above.
The Avalon from the 1921 catalog.
Again - perfect Avalon in perfect condition on Brooks Street in Raleigh. Even has its original casement windows.
The original windows on this Avalon are part of what make it such a perfect example!
Close-up of the Avalon
This Avalon is not in perfect condition, and the original windows are long gone.
In addition to Sears, Raleigh also has several kit homes from Aladdin. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and in business 40 years longer than Sears. They sold 75,000 kit homes (more than Sears). Aladdin was based in Bay City, Michigan, but they had a large mill in Wilmington, NC (which explains why I find so many Aladdins in the southeastern part of the country.
Aladdin Norfolk, from the 1923 catalog.
Aladdin Norfolk hiding behind some landscaping.
The Aladdin Shadowlawn was one of Aladdin's best selling homes.
Another beautiful kit home in Raleigh, looking much like the original catalog image.
Harris Brothers was a smaller kit-home company based in Chicago. The "LaGrange" was one of their most popular homes.
One of the distinctive features of the LaGrange is that rounded porch!
Is this the Harris Brothers "LaGrange"? I'm 90% confident it is, even though it is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.
Sterling Homes was another small kit home company. This image is from their 1932 catalog.
Is this a Sterling Homes "Avondale"? It surely does look like it.
Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog
This Aladdin Detroit has had its porch partially enclosed, but still bears all the hallmarks of the Detroit.
While driving around, we also spotted this house (see below). It’s a plan book house and was built as a four-family home. The house we saw in Raleigh has been converted into a single family and I should have taken a photo, but we were getting dog-tired after so many hours in the car. If anyone knows the address of this house in Raleigh, please leave a comment below.
Nice old house and the picture is from one of my 1920s plan books. Plan book homes were different from kit homes. With a plan book, you'd choose the house of your dreams and order the blueprints for the house, which also came with a comprehensive inventory of every thing you needed to buy to build your house. Building materials were not part of the deal. Those were purchased locally.
Here's an example of The Dumont in Chesapeake, VA.
And about an hour south of Raleigh, there’s the Sears Magnolia! There were only six Magnolias built in the country, and there’s one in Benson. This is the biggest and best of the Sears Homes.
Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog
This is but a sampling of the kit homes we found in Raleigh. To see photos from my first visit to Raleigh (in February 2011), click here.
In conclusion, the collection of kit homes in Raleigh really is remarkable and historically significant, and it’s my hope and prayer that people of Raleigh will start to think about what can be done to protect and preserve these homes.
To learn more about Sears Homes in nearby Rocky Mount, click here.
To buy Rose’s book, click here.
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