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!
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 was a darling house and a good price, too (1928 catalog).
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.
The house was a mere 19' wide, which made it ideal for small lots.
Unlike so many kit homes of this time, the Laurel had two spacious bedrooms.
It really is a darling house, and I love the cut-out shutters.
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!
"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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