Posts Tagged ‘sears honor bilt’

Why I Love Ferguson, Missouri

October 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 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.


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.


And in the early 30s,

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



Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.



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



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



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



Sears Marina (1916)



A perfect Marina in Ferguson.



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



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



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!



Sears Barrington (1928).


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.


Gordon Van Tine

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



Very distinctive house!


Ferguson House

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


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!


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

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


CQ, CQ, CQ…Hopewell?

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Tonight, for the first time in months, I got on the ham radio, calling CQ on the 40-meter band.

My second contact was “Bob.”

In a flash, my buddy Milton (sitting with me) looked up Bob’s call sign on his computer, and started laughing hysterically.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “This guy’s in Hopewell!”

My oh my.

How is it that I can transmit a 100-watt signal through a magnificent antenna strung up high in the trees; a signal with the capacity to bounce off the ionosphere and travel all the way around the world, and I end up to talking to Hopewell?

Fortunately, Bob from Hopewell was a very pleasant fellow and we had a lovely chat.

He asked me if I was familiar with the many older homes in Hopewell. I told him that I was! And I suggested he check out my website.

Oh MY!

To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To visit the website for the Norfolk Ham Club, click here.



One of my very favorite movies is "Testament," which tells the story of a small town outside San Francisco, after San Francisco takes a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. In "Testament," Henry Abhart is the hero, because he's able to talk with the outside world when all other lines of communication have been lost. I highly recommend this movie. It's a tribute to the fact that, Ham Radio will always be reliable when other communications systems have failed.



The best of both worlds: A fine-looking antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Illinois.



Sears Avondale as seen in the 1919 catalog.


To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To read about Hopewell, click here.

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Modern Home #158: Did Anyone Love You Enough to Build You?

June 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 5 comments

There are many models of Sears Homes that I have never seen “in the flesh,” and Sears Modern Home #158 is one of them. It was offered only a short time (about 1910 to 1913), and yet, it was an attractive home with a good floor plan.

I hadn’t though much about this particular model until recently, when Sarah in our “Sears House” Facebook group mentioned that she’d found a reference to #158 in a contemporary book.

“Flesh and Bone” (a novel, written by Jefferson Bass and published in 2007), has several lines on our beloved Sears Modern Home #158.

The excerpt reads,

You know one of my favorite things about this house? Guess who created it.”

“Let’s see,” I said. “Surely I can dredge up the name from my encyclopedic knowledge of Chattanooga architects of the early 1900s…”

“Wasn’t a Chattanooga architect,” she grinned.


“Sears? Who Sears? From where - New York?”

“Not ‘Who Sears’: ‘Sears Who.’ Sears Roebuck, the department store,” she said, pointing to a wall.

There, she’d hung a framed page from the century-old Sears catalog, showing an ad for the house I was standing in. It bore the catchy name “Modern Home #158,” and a price tag of $1,548.

“Houses by mail order,” said Jess. “The house came into town on a freight car, in pieces. Probably four grand, all told, for the kit plus the caboodle.”

“I’m guessing it appreciated some since then.”

“Well, I appreciate it some,” she said.

I’d love to know why author Jefferson Bass picked #158. Does he know of one somewhere? Or did he pick it out of a book at random?

Is there a #158 in Chattanooga, TN (as is described in the story)?

I’d love to know!


158 1910

In the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown here), Model #158 was priced at $1,533. In Mr. Bass' novel "Flesh and Bone," it's given a price of $1,548.


He got the rice right.

In "Houses by Mail" (a 1985 field guide to Sears Homes - published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation), Sears Modern Home #158 is listed with a low price of $1,548. Seems likely that *this* was the source of Mr. Bass' info. The "four grand" is given as a total price, which is pretty close, and reflects the info shown here.


Beautiful house, too

Modern Home #158 was a classic foursquare with some a sprinkling of Prairie-style thrown in.


With servants quarters

Yes, a kit house with servant's quarters.



This 2,200-square foot house was unusually spacious for a kit house. And check out the first-floor powder room! Another unusual feature for this era.



Two sets of staircases, and lots of space on the second floor.



Modern Home #158 was also shown on the cover of the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog (far right).


To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To join our Facebook group, click here.

1959 Was a Very Good Year - For Kitchens!

May 9th, 2014 Sears Homes 14 comments

My friend Bill Inge knows that I am trying to finish a book on Penniman, Virginia and yet today, he threw a real monkey wrench into the works. He lent me a 54-year-old book titled, “Better Homes and Gardens; Kitchen Ideas.”

Turquoise refrigerators, canary yellow cabinets, stainless steel countertops, pink built-in ranges - who could possibly gaze upon these gorgeous mid-century miracles and then look away!

Not I!

So this afternoon, instead of reading dusty old newspaper articles or scholarly tomes on WW1 munitions plants, I sat down and read this 1959 publication cover to cover.

And my oh my, these were gorgeous kitchens.

Take a look for yourself!

And many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing this treasure with me (I think)!  :D

To read about my very own “Atomic Kitchen” click here!


The publication Mr. Inge brought over is titled - innocuously enough - Kitchens

The publication Mr. Inge shared is titled - innocuously enough - "Kitchen Ideas." It should be titled, "How to spend 4.5 hours grinning from ear to ear whilst looking at pretty, pretty pictures of old kitchens."



This is artwork in architecture. I have one word: Wow



Dad eats potato chips while the children play with arsenic-laden Lincoln Logs on an asbestos floor. Their next stop was to go sample some of the lead paint on the home's exterior. And the coup de grace would be drinking water right out of the garden hose. The best part is, little Jimmy there probably washed his hands less than once a month, and played with sticks and dirt most of the time. And he'll probably live to be 117.



In the 1950s, we gave ourselves permission to enjoy bold colors. I love the yellow and red. And notice the wallpaper - it's gold and black. Just stunning. I'm not sure what that appliance next to the sink is, but I really want one.



Yes, the original caption says all this magic was created with spray paint.



Check out the lighting over Betty Crocker's head. And again - look at these colors. Pink and deep green.



Yellow and Robin's Egg Blue with pink accents (see the phone and curtains). So pretty. When did we decide that it was a good idea to have "industrial-looking kitchens" in our home? This kitchen exudes warmth, beauty and comfort.



I'm not even a fan of green, but this kitchen is stunning. Stainless steel counters, and yet it has a copper pendant light fixture. And the wicker furniture is a nice touch too.



A pink kitchen. And with red accents. Visual poetry. If I were a gazillionaire, I'd throw money at some smart contractor and have this kitchen re-created in my own home. And it has a built-in dishwasher, too.


My favorite:

My #1 favorite: A purple kitchen. Words fail me.


To read about my own “Atomic Kitchen,” click here.

To learn more about the book that I should be writing, click here.

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Another Mystery in Richmond!

March 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 17 comments

My blog on the Sears Houses in Richmond has gotten several hundred views in the last few days. I am tickled pink to see it, but I wish I knew what led folks to a 15-month old blog!

But in the meantime, I’ve made another *fascinating* discovery, which might lead me to a neighborhood of Sears Homes in Richmond!

Today, David Spriggs and I were doing research at the Norfolk Public Library, and I found this article (June 16, 1921) in the Richmond Times Dispatch. At first glance, it looks like another 1920s ad, but look closely.


The "beautiful bungalow" shown in the advertisement is a Sears Elsmore.


Check out the fine print.


And you can buy “all the material necessary to build this charming bungalow” - from Sears!

If you look closely at the house in the ad, youll see its a Sears Elsmore.

If you look closely at the house in the ad, you'll see it's a Sears "Elsmore." In fact, it's the picture right out of the Sears Modern Homes catalog!


This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.


Heres an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these beautiful bungalows built in Richmond?

Here's an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these "beautiful bungalows" built in Richmond?


Perhaps someone familiar with Richmond can help me find this neighborhood! Was the builder successful in pitching these Sears kit homes to the people who bought his lots?

This could be fun!!  Please leave a comment below if you know where this area is!

To learn more about the Sears Homes I found in Richmond, click here.

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The Laurel: A Degree of Character and Distinction

February 11th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Laurel is a model of Sears House that I have never seen in person, so it was pretty exciting to meet Valerie, who found our Facebook Group (“Sears Homes”) and immediately shared photos of her own Laurel.

I asked Valerie to send me a little background on how she came to fall in love with “Laurel,” and her email was so enchanting, I’m publishing it here!

She wrote,

I wanted to buy a home in Phoenixville, PA since it is an up-and-coming town and full of creative stores and music. It’s also the town where the movie house featured in the movie “The Blob” was filmed.

We have an annual Blob Fest where people re-enact the original event once a year, and run screaming out of the theater.

Our town is full of history. I also wanted to live near the Schuylkill Canal Lock 60.  The Schuylkill Canal Association has painstakingly restored 2.5 miles of the canal. Originally constructed in 1827, it was part of a historic 108-mile waterway linking Philadelphia to Port Carbon. It was built to serve the anthracite coal fields or the Coal Region of Pottsville.

That historic waterway is about 75 feet in front of my “Laurel.”

When the “Laurel” came on the market, the real estate listing said it was an “authentic Sears home,” but I didn’t know what that meant, and honestly, it didn’t really affect my decision to  buy the house.

I fell in love with this home the moment I walked inside, even with its less-than-attractive kitchen, painted florescent yellow and bright blue. Throughout the house, someone had painted the woodwork “Colonial Blue” and yellow.

The bathroom was also pretty beat-up looking.

The gorgeous archways in the living room, the many windows, the solid floors and charming character made me feel at home. I knew most of the things I didn’t like were just cosmetic, and the house was yelling for TLC.

I bought Lora (the pet name I gave the house) in Sept. 2008.

All my doors retain their original varnish (never painted) and have their original Sears hardware.

I think the exterior front lamps are original, and the hand rail on my steps is original. Of the 19 windows, seven of them are original to the house.  The floors were covered with purgo (why I’ll never know). From what I’ve seen, the original floors underneath were in fine condition. I had the floors done two years and they came out BEAUTIFUL!!

The day after I moved in, an old man in a small pickup truck caught my attention and yelled, “”You the new owner?”

I said, “Yes, as of yesterday!”

He told me that his dad had built this house and that it came in boxes off the train. (There’s still have a single train track in my back yard but there hasn’t been a train on that line in many years.)

Of course I invited him in. I could sense his mind was working at the memories of this house.

He told me that they enclosed the porch for his grandmother to live in who was very sick and his parents took care of her. He told me the back room (mudroom) was added for the ice deliveries. He said if they needed ice, they’d flip an ice sign (which was left hanging in a side window), and then the ice truck would know to stop and deliver ice!

Down in the basement, he showed me where the coal chute was. and s He shared the back bedroom with his brother, and his parents were in the front room. He talked about sliding downstairs in his pajamas, and listening to him talk, you could tell that the house brought back a lot of great memories!

I will never forget that visit. I regret not getting his contact info but he said he had some pictures of the house and promised to bring them by if he could find them. I have not heard from him since.

Soon after I moved in to Lora, my very kind neighbors told me I live in a Sears home! They said that two owners ago, an owner had the home’s original instruction manual (for building the house from a kit), but took it with him.

My neighbor Jim, who also lives in a kit home, told me he found a receipt for his house in the ceiling of his kitchen.

After these conversations I did some homework about Sears homes.

I discovered that my Laurel was built about 1932 (although the year is conflicting on county book it says 1932 but on my mortgage and other docs its 1933). The staircase landings have the square blocks (known as plinth blocks), and I found a shipping label while redoing my bathroom.

My bathtub has an “R” in the lower right corner. (Imagine how excited I was when I found that one!! It’s the only original plumbing fixture.)

I did not find any stamping on the framing members but I understand they always didn’t do that. Now I have the Sear’s kit home bug. I am searching for original documents and anything Sear’s home related.

I’m sorry this is so long I can go on and on. Ask anyone that knows me once they get me started on my house they can’t get away.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes (and those plinth blocks mentioned above), click here.

Want to join our “Sears Homes” group at Facebook? Click here.

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The Laurel is one of those models Ive never seen before.

The Laurel was a darling house and a good price, too (1928 catalog).


house 1928

It was also a narrow house, and could fit on a 25-foot lot. Plus, the front porch will be appreciated by all members of the household, so there's that.


house house

The house was a mere 19' wide, which made it ideal for small lots.


house house house

Unlike so many kit homes of this time, the Laurel had two spacious bedrooms.


house ext

It really is a darling house, and I love the cut-out shutters.


house house house

And here's Valerie's real-life Laurel in Phoenixville. What a gem! And it's in brick! Photo is copyright 2014 Valerie Chochla and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.



Pictured side-by-side, you can see what a good match it is!


house house house

"Lora" looks very happy, doesn't it? And it warms the cockles of my heart to know that someone will love and appreciate this fine old house. Photo is copyright 2014 Valerie Chochla and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.


To learn more about why these old houses are so valuable (and irreplaceable), click here.

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There Are Some Things Better Than Sears Homes…

December 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

This Christmas, my newlywed daughter came to Virginia for a visit, and as a lovely bonus, she brought along her new husband (Levi) and her four-year-old stepson, “Ollie.”

Ollie is a darling little boy and while they were here, our house saw more activity and busy-ness than I think it’s ever seen before.

And I loved every minute of it.

When they pulled into our driveway at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, Levi opened the back door of the Family Truxter and there was little Ollie, sitting patiently in his car seat. He caught a glimpse of me standing in the driveway and in the sweetest little voice, he exclaimed, “There’s Gwandma Wose!”

It brought tears to my eyes.

Cleaning up the house today has been tough, and I’ve felt myself tear up a few times. Under the couch, I found a handful of sea shells that we gathered during our walk by the seashore, and on a desk in the living room, I found the little stuffed dog that Auntie Crystal gave him. I put away the books “Pop” read to him and I discovered a toy left behind in the bathtub.

I can’t face the spare bedroom yet, where I tucked him into bed Monday night and read him several books.

There in the semi-dark room, between stories, he reached out and held my hand and said, “I love you, Grandma Rose.” I told him, “I love you more,” and he replied, “I love you more, too.”

I was falling asleep by the fifth book when he said (in a very serious voice), “I think you should go get into your own bed.”

The little family packed up their little car and returned to St. Louis Thursday and the house is so quiet that it is unnerving.

As my wise friend Janet LaMonica told me last month when my daughter got married, “Rosemary, years ago I learned, there is no such thing as ’step-grandchildren.”

Janet was right.

It may take a few days before I’m ready to write about old houses again. Somehow, they just don’t seem as important right now.

And now it’s time to check out those airfares to St. Louis…


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Christmas this year was an extra-important time, b

Christmas this year was extra special, because it was to be Ollie's first Christmas with us.


And Ollie loved his little car!

And Ollie loved his little electric car!



The little car has a little horn which works well in these situations. Father is trying to protect Pop's big truck from an accident caused by a little driver. BTW, those little headlights light up.



Corey and Auntie Crystal watch from a safe distance. The family Truxter sits in the driveway. When Ollie rode past us, we all paid special attention to our toes! That little car is heavy!


There were also dogs involved. Ollie loves dogs even more than he loves cars! He ran up on the front porch trying to catch Roxey (our neighbors labradoodle). Roxey saw him coming and made a run for it.

There were also dogs involved. Ollie loves dogs even more than he loves cars! He ran up on the front porch trying to catch "Roxey" (our neighbor's labradoodle). Roxey saw him coming and made a run for it.


The Family Truxter all packed up and headed back to the Alton area.

The Family Truxter all packed up and headed back to the Alton area.


To read one of my favorite blogs, click here.

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Permanent Furniture III: Bookcase Colonnades

December 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1980s, my husband and I looked at an Aladdin Shadowlawn for sale in Chesapeake, Virginia. We both fell head-over-heels in love with the solid-oak bookcase colonnades between the living room and dining room.

It was just last week that I learned that, in the early 1900s, these enchanting built-ins were known as “Permanent Furniture.”

“Permanent furniture” (built-in cabinetry) was a brilliant concept. The more “permanent furniture” present in a house, the less “temporary furniture” the new homeowners would need to purchase. And all these built-ins really did make best-possible use of small spaces.

To read more about permanent furniture, click here or here.

As always, thanks to Norfolk historian and librarian Bill Inge for sharing his wonderful old architecture books with moi!

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More than 30 years ago, we looked in the windows of this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, Virginia (near Chesapeake Square Mall) and caught a glimpse of the solid oak built-in bookcase colonnades and fell hopelessly in love. There's something about "permanent furniture" in old houses that still makes me swoon.


The Aladdin Shadowlawn had beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn came with beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades (1919 catalog).


These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck Building Materials catalog (1921).

These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck "Building Materials" catalog (1921). Pretty basic and very plain and no shelving or bookcases. And who's Carlton? My guess is that he's someone that wasn't well liked at Sears. Maybe it started out as a practical joke. "Let's name those really boring colonnades after that boring guy, Carlton who never does anything but stand around and look goofy," and before they knew it, the $34 colonnades were listed in the Sears catalog as "Carlton Colonnades."



For $82.50, you could buy a colonnade that actually had a practical purpose (unlike Carlton).



The Sears Osborn featured these bookcase colonnades with either wooden muntins or leaded glass doors (1919).


No sooner had I returned Bill Inges 1927 Builders Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure. It was full of - colonnades!

No sooner had I returned Bill Inge's 1927 Builders' Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure, "Building With Assurance; Morgan Millwork." It was full of - colonnades! It was published in 1923.


And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades.

And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades: "It's an imitation of nature itself." BTW, check out the lovebird logo.



Nice way to dress up a doorway!



These colonnades are simple, but quite attractive. That rug looks like a trip hazard, though. The dining room furniture looks like it came out of a dollhouse. The proportions are skewed.


Aon d

Apparently Morgan had their own line of Carlton Colonnades.



Much more ornate, and bigger bookcases, too. The original caption reads, "This Morgan standardized design offers a fine opportunity for tasty decoration with jardinieres, statuary, bric-a-brac, etc." I had to look up "jardinieres," because I've read a lot of books in my life but I have never seen that word. Turns out, "jardinieres" is a female gardener, allegedly. I'm not sure that even the most progressive 1920s housewife would be too keen on the idea of using built-in bookcases to store female gardeners.



This one's my favorite: Rugged, sturdy, spacious and a built-in desk, too.



That desk is pretty cool, even if he does have a lot of bills hidden inside of it.



Another beautiful colonnade, but in use as a china hutch!


A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. No foolin'.)


To read about the Sears Magnolia we found in West Virginia, click here.

To read more about built-ins, click here.

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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.



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?



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:


And theres also the problem on insensitive remodeling.

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



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.

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Sometimes, They’re Hiding Right By Your Biscuits…

April 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Having lived in Norfolk for seven years now, I have scoured every street in this city, searching for mail-order kit homes. I’ve ridden around with several friends, studied maps, queried long-time residents and harangued my husband and I was quite certain that I’d seen every early 20th Century neighborhood that Norfolk had to offer.

Wednesday night, my buddy Milton and I were on our way to CERT class, and we swung by Church’s Fried Chicken to buy some of their world-famous honey biscuits. For reasons I can’t explain, an integral part of the CERT class is a pot-luck supper. (We’re  expected to bring a piquant and palatable platter of something wonderful to these weekly classes.)

As we pulled out onto Virginia Beach Blvd, I noticed a lovely Dutch Colonial staring back at me.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “That Dutchie has an interior chimney,  just like the Martha Washington (Sears Home). Isn’t that something?”

And then I noticed that it had the curved porch roof, just like the Martha Washington.

And then I looked again and thought, “And it’s got those short windows centered on the second floor, just like the Martha Washington.”

Next, I looked at the small attic window and thought, “And it’s got that half-round window in the attic, just like the Martha Washington.”

As Milton drove down the road, I twisted my head around and saw that the Dutchie had the two distinctive bay windows on the side, just like the Martha Washington. Those two windows are an unusual architecture feature, and that was the clincher.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I told Milton. “I think that’s a Sears House.”

Now anyone who’s hung around me for more than 73 minutes knows that I’m a pretty big fan of Sears Homes, and my friends understand that a significant risk of riding around with Rose is that there will be many detours when we pass by early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Milton gladly obliged and gave me an opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this Dapper Dutchie.

That night at the CERT meeting, I kept thinking about the fact that one of the most spacious and fanciest Sears Homes ever offered was sitting right here in Norfolk, and after seven years of living in this city, I just now found it.

The next day, Milton picked me up around 11:00 am and we returned to the Sears Martha Washington so that I could take a multitude of photos. Sadly, as we drove through the adjoining neighborhoods, we saw that the nearby college (Norfolk State) had apparently swallowed up great gobs of surrounding bungalows.

Between that and some very aggressive redevelopment, it appears that hundreds of early 20th Century homes are now just a dusty memory at the local landfill.

Do the owners of this Martha Washington know what they have? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

What a find! What a treasure! And it’s right here in Norfolk!

So is there a Magnolia hiding somewhere nearby?  :)

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

To learn how to identify marked lumber, click here.

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The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house.

The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house. According to this page from the 1921 catalog, it had seven modern rooms. I wonder how many "old-fashioned" rooms it had?


According to this

Here's a Martha Washington that was featured in the back pages of the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This house was built in Washington, DC, and shows the house shortly after it was finished.


This line drawning from the 1921 catalog shows the

This line drawing from the 1921 catalog shows those two bay windows on the side.


This was described as a snowy white kitchen de Lux.

This was described as a "snowy white kitchen de Lux." For its time, this really was a very modern kitchen. Notice the "good morning stairs" too the right, and the handy little stool under the sink. According to a 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the "average woman spends 3/4ths of her day in the kitchen." So maybe that's why she got a hard metal stool to sit on at the sink?


Oh may

"Judge for yourself how attractive, bright and sanitary we have made this home for the housewife." And a "swinging seat"! I guess that's a desperate attempt to make kitchen work seem more recreational, and less like drudge work.


CheckAn “exploded view” shows the home’s interior. That baby-grand piano looks mighty small!



Check out that bathtub on the rear of the house. And that's a sleeping porch in the upper right. Again, that furniture looks mighty small.


As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!


Be still my quiveringg heart!

Be still my quivering heart! And it's right on Virginia Beach Boulevard!


A view from the side.

A view from the side, showing off those bay windows.


The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light),

The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light), and the badly crimped aluminum trim on that porch roof doesn't look too good, and the wrought-iron is a disappointment, but (and this is a big but), at least it's still standing.



The porch, in its pre-aluminum siding salesmen and pre-wrought-iron and pre-PVC state.



A comparison of the Martha Washington in DC with the house in Norfolk!


And heres a Martha Washington in Cincinnatti, Ohio.

And here's a Martha Washington in Cincinnati, Ohio.


To learn more about the Martha Washington, click here.

To learn more about biscuits, click here.

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