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Post #1000 - The Sears Magnolia in New Martinsville, WV

August 3rd, 2017 Sears Homes 15 comments

Last week, I traveled to New Martinsville, West Virginia to see what was purported to be the 9th Magnolia. Prior to this, there were only eight known Magnolias in the country. The Magnolia was the crème de la crème of Sears Homes, with countless accoutrements and fine features. To read more about the other Magnolias, click here.

The eight-hour trip to New Martinsville was quite lovely and the weather was beautiful. After examining the Magnolia in New Martinsville, I traveled to Elkins to visit Wayne’s family, and then on to Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was the trip from Elkins to home that went very badly. It should have taken less than 90 minutes to get from Elkins to White Sulphur Springs (and the interstate), but it took more than three hours.

I was as lost as I’ve ever been and frankly, utterly terrified. No cell service for three hours, and not one, but two Garmins that kept sending me around in circles, and roads that were as hazardous as any I’ve ever seen.

At one point, I went around a hairpin turn a little too fast and hit a very slick mudslide. This area had three days of non-stop rain. I hit that mudslide and lost control of the car. And - like so many places in them thar hills - there were no guardrails. In that split-second, I really thought that I was a goner. And in another split second, it was over. It was harrowing.

Had it not been for a small store in Belington (the first town I encountered), I’d probably have ended up on the back of a milk carton, lost forever in those hills, foraging for berries and edible bugs.

Nonetheless, I survived.

Now about that Magnolia…

It’s a puzzler. A real mystery wrapped inside an enigma. If you have an opinion on this house, I’d love to hear it.

Today, I’m of the opinion that the house was a custom-order from Sears, but that the framing lumber was obtained locally. I searched that house top-to-bottom for marks, stamped lumber, shipping labels and yet could find nothing.

And yet, the house has Sears hardware (see pictures below). And it was built sometime after 1930.

Please take a look at the images below and share your insights!

It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for the vintage photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, that has since been demolished. To read more about this Magnolia, click here.

The original blog on this house can be found here.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share the link on Facebook.

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In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year).

In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year). He was cooked and done after one date, but his website lived on, until 2010, when JASE GROUP redid it. (No dates were involved.) This blog on the New Martinsville Magnolia really is my 1000th post.

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The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1924, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias Ive encountered were built after 1922.

The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1922, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias I've encountered were built after 1922. The house in New Martinsville was built after 1930. The Magnolia (as designed) was 36-feet deep and 40-feet wide. The house in New Martinsville is 40-feet deep and 44-feet wide.

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At first glance, it all looks swell.

At first glance, it all looks swell. And while it doesn't have those little lites atop the first floor windows, it does have replacement windows and substitute sidings, and if I had been allowed to pull out the windows and take a good look, I suspect I'd find evidence that when built, it had the small transom lites over the windows.

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Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

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And

In fact, it looks real good!

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Inside, things look pretty good, too.

Inside, things look pretty good, too. (Left to right: Catalog image 1918, Sears Magnolia in Nebraska, and the New Martinsville Magnolia.) The only thing is, that flare at the bottom of the staircase is wrong. And the hallway is a little too wide. Those pilasters in the New Martinsville house are too close to the stairs. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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But

And yet when you go upstairs, things look good there, too. (House on right is the Magnolia in Nebraska.) Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside the

Looking toward the front door, it's a beautiful home, but is it a Magnolia? It sure is close.

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DD

With a little help from my friends, we now know that Dr. Schmied and his wife Anna occupied the house, and may have been the home's original owners. Dr. Schmied was the town mayor for a time, so he was definitely a man of some import. Given that New Martinsville is a small town, someone must know more about this house.

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Then theres this: The millwork isnt right. Sears didnt offer a volute like this at any time in their milwork catalogs.

Then there's this: The millwork isn't right. Sears didn't offer a volute like this at any time in their mill-work catalogs. And I'm not sure if that's a "volute" or just a cap. But it doesn't appear to be anything Sears offered.

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And when I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks just like a Little Debbie Honey Bun.

When I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks like a Honey Bun.

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For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right.

For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right. Then again, Sears didn't offer these tapered spindles (shown on the left) in their millwork catalog.

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And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servants quarters - is right where it should be.

And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servant's quarters - is right where it should be.

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This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldnt find them in the catalogs, either.

This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldn't find them in the catalogs, either.

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But then theres this...

But then there's this. This style knob and escutcheon was found throughout the Magnolia, and it was a model offered by Sears. Does Sears hardware make it a Sears House? It certainly does add to the intrigue.

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This was

Rhythmic door hardware was first offered in 1930, in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. And it's fairly unique. And it's "not a fad," but it is Art Deco. What's not to love! It blends into any home or building!

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Pretty nice

And then there's this, too. The garage (as shown in the 1938 catalog).

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The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

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This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

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The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed.

The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed. The inglenook is still intact. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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fff

The New Martinsville house was used for a time as a restaurant, so it's been dramatically altered, and yet those pilasters (edge of photo) are still in place.

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But the columns were moved to the back of the living room.

But the columns were moved to the back of the living room (near the front of the house).

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Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales).

Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales). Those three windows (covered in red drapes) are on the right front as you face the house.

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And the Butlers Pantry is in the right place, too. It is (as my friend James said), a butlers pantry for anorexics. Its pretty darn small.

And the Butler's Pantry is in the right place, too, between the dining room and kitchen. It is (as my friend James said), "a butler's pantry for anorexics." It's pretty darn small.

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On this side, there should be a sink, but its MIA.

On this side, there should be a sink, but it's MIA.

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Sears

As seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog - the first floor. Having seen the inside of several Magnolias, as well as this house in New Martinsville, I must say that it's a fairly good match to this unusual floor plan.

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And that tiny Butlers Pantry is right where it should be.

And that tiny Butler's Pantry is right where it should be, between the dining room and kitchen. You can also see the servants stairs on this close-up. These stairs lead to the servant's bedroom above.

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I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

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The back of the house is also a good match.

The back of the house is also a good match.

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As designed, this was an open porch. Its now enclosed. The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

As designed, this was an open porch. It's now enclosed, and you can see the French Doors leading to the servant's quarters (as per the original plan). The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

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ff

My pretty Magnolia, who has passed through your doors? Maybe they know your story!

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ITs

It's a beauty, but is it a Magnolia? As I said above, I think it's probably a Magnolia, built with local lumber and perhaps even millwork. There's so much that's right about the house, but also, there's much that is not a good match.

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The Juliet Porch on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering.

The "Juliet Porch" on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering. The spindles are right but it should have paneled columns at the corners. Was this rebuilt in later years? Also, the traditional Magnolia trim around the front door is missing.

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The trim around the Magnolias front door should look like this.

The trim around the Magnolia's front door should look like this. This Magnolia is also in West Virginia.

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R

For that shot of the Juliet Porch, I stood on top of that railing, balanced precariously and rather hopeful that I wouldn't topple to my death. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be a bad way to go. (Artistic re-creation of the actual event.)

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Is it a Magnolia?

Is it a Magnolia?

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It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

To see what makes Rose laugh out loud, click here.

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“Finding The Houses That Sears Built” - Available While Quantities Last!

May 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of the many casualties of The Very Bad Thing™ were my book sales, but for many months following Wayne’s death, I didn’t care about anything.

Last week, someone pointed out that the price of Finding The Houses That Sears Built - now out of print - had hit crazy new heights. I logged into a popular website for books and was astonished to see that this modest tome - used - was fetching more than $145. The cost of a new copy was $495, for a book with an original cover price of $19.95.

I went out into the garage and dug around in some boxes (of which there are many), and found that I had about 15 copies of this title. (Note: This sounds simple but it was quite complex. I’m currently “camped out” in a rental and surrounded by boxes!)

So for now, while supplies last, this book will be offered for sale for $44.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. All orders are shipped out via priority mail.

To order a copy, click here.

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Finding The Houses That Sears Built

When I logged onto this website, I was shocked to see that "Finding The Houses That Sears Built" had a "low price" of $145. That's pretty incredible. And the cost for a NEW book was $495.

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FINDING

Prices ranged from $145 to more than $300. That's just incredible.

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Teddy

Teddy the Dog wants you to know that there are only a few copies available.

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ffff

On a different note, I may need an intervention. I keep buying stuffed horses.

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Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be one Horsie™

Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be the original classic "Horsie."™

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Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

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Thanks for reading my blog. And thanks for leaving a comment. Every day, I read and re-read every kind word left at this site, and every kind word helps put another salutary stitch in my shattered and broken heart.

Teddy and I thank you for your kindness and your prayers.

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Thanks to Jim, We Found Sears Modern Home #158

April 11th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Twice in the last several months, I’ve done a blog on a Sears House that I’d never seen, but had hoped to see, and both times, readers have found those houses! The first one was the Sears Monterey, which Jennifer successfully found and identified in Pennsylvania. And now, Jim has found and identified a Sears Modern Home #158 in West Virginia!

I wrote Jim a letter and asked, “How did you do that?” He replied, “The listing said it was a Sears and it’s pretty unique design with the first-floor porch tucked under the bedrooms, so it wasn’t difficult to identify.”

Part of what piqued my interest in this house is that it merited an honorable mention in a book titled, “Flesh and Bone” by Jefferson Bass (2007).

Thanks to Jim for contacting me on this #158!

Many thanks to the unnamed and unknown Realtor who took the photos. If I knew who you were, I’d give you some link love.

To read about Jennifer’s find in Pennsylvania, click here.

The blog to which Jim responded can be found here.

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Sears Modern Home #158, as seen in the 1910 catalog.

Sears Modern Home #158, as seen in the 1910 catalog.

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Interesting floor plan

It always tickles me to find a Sears kit home with servant's quarters.

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Jhs

The bedroom on the front left is 12x20, which is massive for a Sears House.

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ff

Cement, brick and plaster were not included in the kit, due to weight and freight.

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Ffff

As Jim said, it's a pretty distinctive house!

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There it is, in all its beauty, in West Virginia.

There it is, in all its beauty, in West Virginia.

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Closer

If anyone ever decides to leave me a Sears House in their will, I hope it's in West Virginia. What a fabulous place to live! I'd also settle for Western Virginia. Or Southern Virginia. Or North Carolina. Or South Carolina. Maybe Maryland. And California. And even Hawaii. Heck, I'd take one anywhere.

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Cool

Put side-by-side, you can see that the house in West Virginia is a really nice match, down to the detail on the underside of the porch roof. And what a delight to see that those full-length porch railings are still in place.

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Nice back yard, too. Plenty of room back there for some horsies.

Nice back yard, too. Plenty of room back there for some horsies.

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The outside is lovely, but its the interior that made me swoon.

The outside is lovely, but it's the interior that made me swoon.

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My heart is all aflutter just looking at these images.

My heart is all aflutter just looking at these images.

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ss

Now that's a view to wake up to!

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Beautiful, isnt it?

Beautiful, isn't it?

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Nice front porch, too.

Does the swing convey? How about the adorable baby Adirondack chair?

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ff

The fireplace surround probably isn't original. Looks very 1950s to me. I could be wrong...

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However, Im fairly certain that all this original wood planking is original to the house. And its too beautiful for words. Heres hoping the new owner doesnt paint it or tear it out.

However, I'm fairly certain that all this original wood planking is original to the house. And it's too beautiful for words. Here's hoping the new owner doesn't paint it or tear it out.

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Thanks again to Jim for contacting me about this treasure!

Thanks again to Jim for contacting me about this treasure!

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To read about Jennifer’s find in Pennsylvania, click here.

The blog to which Jim responded can be found here.

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The Croydon: A Spanking New Outlook!

February 22nd, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

So read the liner notes for the Sears “Croydon,” a darling Tudor Revival from the late 1930s.

From what we can discern, the Croydon was offered only in 1939 and 1940, the final two years of the Sears Modern Homes program. These post-1935 Sears Homes are scarce as hen’s teeth, and discovering a Croydon is a remarkable thing. And, it removes another “never seen this one” model from my life list!

The joy of discovering this rare bird goes wholly to Jeff S. Alterman, who not only found it, but provided all the photos you’ll see below.

To see Rose and Rebecca’s list list, click here.

Read more about Sears Homes here.

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For years and years, wed always believed that the 1939 and 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalogs were identical. Reading up on The Croydon we learned that this wasnt the case.

For years and years, we'd always believed that the 1939 and 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalogs were identical, and that the 1940 catalog was a straight reprint of the 1939. Reading up on "The Croydon" we learned that this wasn't the case.

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In 1940, the Croydon looked like this.

In the 1940 catalog, the Croydon looked like this.

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In the 1939 catalog, it looked like this.

In the 1939 catalog, it looked like this. Remember that feature in "Highlights Magazine" where readers were invited to spot the differences in two images? Let's play that game here.

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Here, Ill make it easier.

Here, I'll make it easier.

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The Croydon that Jeff found in Hastings-on-Hudson

The Croydon that Jeff found in Hastings-on-Hudson is a beautiful match to the 1939 catalog image. (I'm assuming you figured out the difference between the 1939 and the 1940 by now.) Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres a fun close-up of

And here's a fun close-up of the detail on that bell-cast asymmetrical front gable. I love this photo and am so tickled that Jeff's keen eye decided to zoom in on this. Plus, it shows that the Croydon had functional shutters - very unusual for a Sears Home. Only a handful of models had working shutters; most were ornamental. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Reason #1,489 that vinyl-siding salesmen should be legislatively banned from all old-house neighborhoods. Technicially, this is aluminum trim (not vinyl) but cmon. This is a special kind of ugly.

Reason #1,489 that vinyl-siding salesmen should be legislatively banned from old-house neighborhoods. Technically, this is aluminum trim (not vinyl) but c'mon. Instead of peddling your putrid products so aggressively, why not suggest to the homeowners that this particular piece of front-facing trim be left uncovered, and simply be re-painted once every 10 years or so. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Back to the happy comments: The Croydon was a beautiful house. What a pity that this model in Hastings-on-Hudson may be one of only a handful ever built in the country. However, this one is in beautiful condition. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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That upstairs is actually quite spacious.

That upstairs is actually spacious, with two bedrooms and a full bath. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you ascend in your Sears & Roebuck™ drone and remove the home's roof, this is what you'll find.

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As Sears Homes go, those two bedrooms are pretty spacious.

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Did you figure this out?

Did you figure this out? The 1939 model (left) has that dramatic bell-cast roof reaching almost to the ground, together with a short brick pedestal on the right side. The 1940 model (right) doesn't have those eye-catching features.

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Did you miss that small pedestal adjoining the gable when you first glanced at our Croydon in Hastings-on-Hudson? I sure did!

Did you miss that small pedestal adjoining the gable when you first glanced at our Croydon in Hastings-on-Hudson? I sure did! BTW, if one of my smart friends can give me the proper architectural term for that, I'd be grateful. I'm tempted to call it a "sideways cheek" but that is probably not right. Photo is copyright 2015 Jeff S. Alterman and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks so much to Jeff for sharing his expertise and his photos!

Thanks so much to Jeff for sharing his expertise and his photos!

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By the way, while google driving around a bit in Hastings-on-Hudson, I found this glorious Sears Gladstone around 17 Hillside, which Jeff tells me isnt included on the main list.

While "google driving" around a bit in Hastings-on-Hudson, I found this glorious Sears "Gladstone" around 17 Hillside, which Jeff tells me isn't included on the main list. I'd love to come to Hastings-on-Hudson sometime a do a proper street-by-street survey! I found several Sears Homes (and a rare GVT house) in a short time in this delightful New York town.

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Thanks again to Jeff S. Alterman for the beautiful  pictures.

To join our happy group on Facebook, click here.

Did you love Highlights Magazine as a kid? You’ll want to read this.

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New Bern’s Numerous and Nobby Kit Homes (Or “How I Spent My Second Honeymoon Last Week”)

January 21st, 2016 Sears Homes 13 comments

How did New Bern come to have so many kit homes? Is it because of New Bern’s proximity to Aladdin’s largest mill in Wilmington, North Carolina? Perhaps, but how does that explain the grandiose Sears Homes I found on Spencer Street?

It’s a mystery, but I hope it’s one that this community will fully explore!

What is a kit home?

Sears is the best-known name in the kit home business, and they started selling houses through their mail-order catalogs in 1908. These “kits” came in a  boxcar in 12,000 pieces, and included a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house complete and ready for occupancy in about 90 days.

Sears closed their “Modern Homes Department” in 1940, and during a corporate house cleaning, all sales records were destroyed. The only way to find these homes today is literally one by one.

I’m confident that New Bern has many more kit homes than shown below. I saw less than 30% of the town, and I went through that 30% very  quickly! I’d love to return to New Bern soon and do a proper, thorough street-by-street survey.

If you enjoy the information and pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog on New Bern, click here.

Read about The Peach House in nearby Kinston here.

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New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state?

New Bern has many Aladdin kit homes. Is that due to their proximity to a large Aladdin Mill in the southern part of the state? Most likely, yes. Image is from the 1923 Aladdin catalog.

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One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin Hampshire located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

One of my favorite finds in New Bern was the Aladdin "Hampshire" located in the heart of the historic downtown. This house was offered in the early 1920s.

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This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s.

This must surely be infill, because the houses around it all date to the mid-to-late 1800s. It's a beautiful little house in wonderful condition. And it retains its original casement windows!

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Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes.

Due to heavy landscaping, I had trouble getting a good shot, but you can see that little bay window poking up from the bushes, and the small fixed sashes flanking the fireplace. It's a thrill to see a 90-year-old house in original condition.

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What a cutie!

What a cutie! The house in New Bern is "flipped" (the mirror image).

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The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

The Aladdin Plaza was another very popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins), Id say its very likely.

Is this an Aladdin Plaza? Given its proximity (near other Aladdins within Ghent), I'd say it's likely.

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The Pomona was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Pomona was one of Aladdin's most popular homes. I saw two of these in New Bern, and neglected to capture the address of the second one. The first one (in Ghent) is shown below.

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Its a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Berns Historic Ghent neighborhood.

It's a terrible picture, but it shows a piece of the Aladdin Pomona in New Bern's Historic Ghent neighborhood, on Spencer Avenue. It's definitely a Pomona, but has endured a great deal of remodeling. The front porch is 100% enclosed.

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The Aladdin Cape Cod (1923) was another popular kit home.

The Aladdin "Cape Cod" (1923) was another popular kit home.

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Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, Supersize Me?

Did someone order an Aladdin Cape Cod from the Wilmington Mill and say, "Supersize Me"? It is a nice match to the Aladdin, but it's much too wide. It's likely that this is a pattern-book house, but I haven't been able to find a corresponding match in my collection of early 1900s pattern books. More than 30% of kit homes were customized, so it's possible this was ordered "extra large" from the Aladdin mill.

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Gordon Van Tine,  like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT Roberts

Gordon Van Tine, like Sears and Aladdin, also sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Shown here is the GVT "Roberts"(also known as the #560).

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And heres a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

And here's a near-perfect Roberts I found on Rhem Avenue.

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Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this

Within New Bern, I found two of these Gordon Van Tine homes, but neglected to make a note of the address. The porch on this house and those clipped gables are what first catch your eye. If you find this missing "Mt. Vernon," please give me an address (and a photo)!

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And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the Osborn as a bungalow from the West. Its distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

And now Sears. The Sears catalog identified the "Osborn" as a bungalow "from the Golden West." It's distinctive and easy to pick out in a crowd (1921 catalog).

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Alson

It's had some remodeling, but it's very likely that this house on Spencer Avenue is the real deal: A Sears Osborn. Check out the tapered chimney, rafter tails and detailing on the porch railing.

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The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

The Sears Roanoke is another distinctive Sears house (1921).

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That

That side entry (originally with a pergola) is a unique feature of the Roanoke, as is the wooden awning and symmetry on the home's front. It's so lovely to see that awning still in place. And look to the left. What's that next door?

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And whats that next door to the Roanoke?

Is that a Sears Chelsea? Hmmm...

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Boy oh boy, its hard to know for sure.

Boy oh boy, it's hard to know for sure. In that the "Chelsea" (also known as #111) in New Bern was built without a basement, that side with the staircase bay is not going to have a doorway under it (as shown here). I'd have to see this house up close and personal to make a positive ID. For now, I'd say it's a "definite maybe."

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Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Chelsea.

Just down the street from the Roanoke and Chelsea is something that looks a lot like a Sears Saratoga.

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Is this a Sears Chelsea?

Is this a Sears Saratoga? The Saratoga is 30 feet across the front. This house in New Bern looks much wider than that. Again, was it supersized? It's another house that is a "definite possibility." I'd need to see the interior to make a proper judgement. It certainly is a good match in many other ways.

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The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

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What a glorious house!

What a glorious house, and it's in such beautiful condition!

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And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. Its the ONLY #178 Ive seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

And just across the street from the Milton is Modern Home #178. It's the ONLY #178 I've seen in my many years of traveling (25 states and 200 cities).

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What fun to scratch one more house off my never seen this model list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

What fun to scratch one more house off my "never seen this model" list! And right in New Bern, North Carolina.

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The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many kissing cousins that looked very similar.

The Lynnhaven is a tricky model to identify authoritatively because it had so many "kissing cousins" that looked very similar. The position of the shed dormer and the depth of that front-facing gable are good clues for this model.

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Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

Is this the Real Deal? Might be. It looks like a good match.

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Last but not least is the sweet little Starlight (1921).

Last but not least is the sweet little "Starlight" (1921).

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Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd.

Forlorn and forgotten, it sits next door to the RollerLand Skating Rink in the 3500-block of Neuse Blvd. Stay strong, little Starlight. Perhaps help is coming. Either that, or you'll be eaten by Kudzu soon, and it'll all be over.

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If you enjoy the pretty pictures, please share this link with friends on Facebook and/or via email!

To contact Rose (who art in Norfolk) about returning to New Bern, please leave a comment below!

To read the prior blog I did on New Bern, click here.

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Oh My! Who Knew That New Bern Had So Many Kit Homes!

January 19th, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

Fun times in New Bern!

Mr. Hubby and I just returned from a visit to New Bern, NC where we stayed at the Aerie Bed and Breakfast and spent the days seeing the sights (and looking for kit homes).

Within New Bern’s Ghent neighborhood, we found an abundance of kit homes, and (a nice bonus) one turquoise Lustron, (all-steel homes from the late 1940s).

My favorite two finds within Ghent were the Sears Milton, and - just across the street - a Sears Modern Home #178  facing the Sears Milton. And here’s what’s even more fun: In the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, Modern Home #178 was featured on the same page as the Milton.

And I was surprised to find that these two radically different houses - The Milton and Modern Home #178 - share an identical floor plan! I’ve been playing around with Sears Homes for 15+ years and never noticed that before.

The next blog will showcase a few of the two dozen kit homes I found in New Bern, but today, it’s all about the Milton and it’s fraternal twin, Modern Home #178.

To read more about the Milton, click here.

Updated: Will I ever be able to return to New Bern? I doubt it. New Bern is the place where my husband and I celebrated our honeymoon, and also a second honeymoon in January 2016. And in January 2016, while I sat reading in another room of our suite, he made some phone calls in preparation of his upcoming suicide in April. Just seeing these pictures causes me so much strife. His suicide ruined every single thing.

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The Milton and Modern Home

The Sears Milton and Modern Home #178: Two different models, one floor plan. Sears Homes were given names in 1918. Modern Home #264P210 survived long enough in the catalog to merit a name: The Milton. Modern Home #178's last year was 1914.

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Both

Two houses - one floorplan. The Sears Milton in New Bern (across the street from #178) was customized when built, and does not have the traditional two-story bay window.

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Two houses - one floorplan.

Both first and second floors are identical in the Milton and Modern Home #178.

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The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

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Notice

Notice the massive eaves, and cornice returns on this grand house. It's a very distinctive house (thus making it easier to spot). In the Miltons that I've seen, those pergolas have been converted into a roof, covering the expansive front porch. Notice also the dramatic bracketing on the eaves. Dentil molding is found at the top of the columns and around the eaves.

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The

Absent that two-story bay window, every other detail on this Milton is spot-on.

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house

Here's a close-up of those distinctive cornice returns.

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Another view of this

Another view of this grand old kit home in New Bern, NC.

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Between landscaping obstacles

A surfeit of landscaping obstacles made photographing this old house a challenge. Note the tapered board on the underside of the first-floor porch roof, with a small block at its center. This is also a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178.

And just across the street is the Sears Modern Home #178. Beautiful! There must be s a story here, as to how these two spacious (and fancy) Sears Homes were built just across the street from one another!

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A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

A view of the Milton, as seen from the front yard of #178.

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One of these Miltons is not like the other!

"One of these Miltons is not like the other!" On the far left (in blue shirt) is my BFF, Milton Crum, with Jim Silverstorf (holding an antenna tuner). When I first told Milton (blue shirt) about the Sears Milton (white clapboards), Milton said, "Now that's a darn fine name for a house!"

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My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

My next blog - the OTHER 22 kit homes I found within New Bern, including this little cutie in the 600-block of Broad Street!

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Isnt it a darling little house?

Isn't it a darling little house?

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To read more about the Sears Milton, click here.

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Strathmore + Willard = Strathard?

January 30th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Strathmore has always been one of my favorite models of Sears Homes. Then again, Im a real sap for Tudoresque designs, and these Sears Tudors are utterly adorable.

The Strathmore has always been one of my favorite models of Sears Homes. Then again, I'm a real sap for Tudoresque designs, and these Sears Tudors are utterly adorable (1936 catalog). Seems like a very practical house, too.

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The Willard is another Sears neo-tudor thats also a darling little house.

The Willard is another Sears neo-tudor that's also a darling little house.

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It must have been a big seller for Sears, too. Ive found Willards throughout the country, including unusual spots like Norfolk, Virginia and Tallahassee, Alabama!

It must have been a big seller for Sears, too. I've found Willards throughout the country, including unusual spots like Norfolk, Virginia and Tallahassee, Alabama! And the Willard was featured in this advertisement, promoting the low cost of owning a Sears House.

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Apparently, sometime ago in Norwood Ohio, someone couldnt decide between the Willard and the Strathmore.

Apparently, sometime ago in Norwood Ohio, someone couldn't decide between the Willard and the Strathmore.

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So they built this.

So they built this. It's a Sears Willard, with the Strathmore foyer. Pretty cute, isn't it?

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Nice match!

Nice match - at least on the front porch!

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If you know the precise address of this house, please send it along. It’s in Norwood, Ohio and the street number is 2215 (visible in the photos above). All I need now is the street’s name!

Update! Dale Haynes (from our Sears House Facebook group) discovered the street address! This house is on Glenside in Norwood, Ohio! Yay for Dale!!!  :)

Want to learn more about why Norwood is so important to the story of Sears Homes? Click here.

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Rosemary is Coming to Edwardsville, Illinois!

November 5th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

On November 13th, I’ll be in Edwardsville, giving a talk on their kit homes!

It’ll be a fun time, and there will be many surprises, too!

After my talk when folks tell me their stories, my #2 favorite comment is, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven past that house not realizing that it was something special! You really opened my eyes to our town’s history!”  (My #1 favorite comment is, “You’re the funniest lecturer I’ve ever heard. You missed your calling as a comedian!”)

To see a preview of Thursday’s talk, scroll on down.

Details: Rose will be at the Wildey Theater (252 North Main Street) on Thursday, November 13th at 7:00. Admission is free, but come early for a good seat! For more information, contact event organizer Cindy Reinhardt at 618-656-1294.

What is a Sears House? In the early 1900s, Sears sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs. The 12,000-piece kits came with everything you’d need to build your home, including a 75-page instruction book! Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house ready for occupancy in less than 90 days. After Sears closed their Modern Homes Department in 1940, the sales records were lost, and the only way to find these homes today is literally one-by-one.

Are you on Facebook? Please share the link and spread the happy news!  :)

To learn more about identifying these kit homes, click here.

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GVT 612

In addition to Sears, there were five national companies selling kit homes through mail order. Gordon Van Tine was one of the larger companies. Shown above is the Gordon Van Tine #612. It's a beautiful home and very spacious too. People tend to think of "kit homes" as simple little boxy affairs, but that's not accurate.

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house

Here's the Gordon Van Tine #612 in Edwardsville. What a beauty!

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house house 1916

Here's the Sears Hazleton, as seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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hazleton

And a perfect example of The Hazleton in Edwardsville. Just perfect.

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1919

The Sears Maytown was a popular house (1919 catalog).

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house house

I'm told that originally, this was a Frat House for SIUE. It seems to have survived. Years ago, I talked to the homeowner and told them what they had but they didn't seem too thrilled. That was at least 10 years ago.

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1919

One of my favorites: The Sears Hollywood (1919).

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house

For years and years, I've sturggled to figure out if this is a Sears Hollywood. Still haven't decided. There's a funny story that goes with this house. I'll share it Thursday night. ;)

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Whitehall

The Sears Whitehall was one of Sears' most popular models (1919).

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house

Another perfect example in Edwardsville. This photo was taken in March 2010.

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Edwards

The Sears Crescent was another popular model (1921).

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Is this a Sears Crescent on West Park? Id love to have an opportunity to go inside and figure it out!

Is this a Sears Crescent on West Park? I'd love to get inside and figure it out!

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1919 Rose

Montgomery Ward was one of the national companies that - like Sears - sold kit homes through mail-order catalogs. Some of their houses were quite simple, such as the Wardway "Roseland" (1919 catalog).

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Thanks

Rachel Shoemaker spotted this little Roseland in Edwardsville! And its distinctive front porch is still intact! Do these folks know they have a kit home? Probably not!

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Just in case you wanted a cute graphic...

Just in case you wanted a cute graphic...

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For more information, contact event organizer Cindy Reinhardt at 618-656-1294.
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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.

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

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

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And in the early 30s,

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

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Ferguson

Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Ferguson

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

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Leanon

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

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Lebanon

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

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Marina

Sears Marina (1916)

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Marina

A perfect Marina in Ferguson.

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Lex

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

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Lexington

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

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compare

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

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Ferguson

Sears Barrington (1928).

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Pattern book

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

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Gordon Van Tine

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

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GVT

Very distinctive house!

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Ferguson House

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

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Spent years

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

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

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

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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.”

“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!

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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.

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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.

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Beautiful house, too

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

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With servants quarters

Yes, a kit house with servant's quarters.

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FP1

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.

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FP2

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

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And

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

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To join our Facebook group, click here.