Archive

Posts Tagged ‘sears honor built’

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

January 21st, 2016 Sears Homes 11 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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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!

*

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.

*

What a cutie!

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

*

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

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

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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

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

*

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.

*

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).

*

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

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

*

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)!

*

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).

*

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.

*

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

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

*

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?

*

And whats that next door to the Roanoke?

Is that a Sears Chelsea? Hmmm...

*

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."

*

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.

*

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.

*

The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

The majestic Milton (1918 catalog).

*

What a glorious house!

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

*

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).

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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

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

*

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.

*

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.

*

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

January 19th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

Two houses - one floorplan.

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

*

The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

The Milton was one of Sears finest homes.

*

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.

*

The

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

*

house

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

*

Another view of this

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

*

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.

*

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!

*

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.

*

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!"

*

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!

*

Isnt it a darling little house?

Isn't it a darling little house?

*

To read more about the Sears Milton, click here.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

So they built this.

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

*

Nice match!

Nice match - at least on the front porch!

*

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.

*       *        *

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.

*

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.

*

house

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

*

house house 1916

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

*

hazleton

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

*

1919

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

*

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.

*

1919

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

*

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. ;)

*

Whitehall

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

*

house

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

*

Edwards

The Sears Crescent was another popular model (1921).

*

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!

*

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).

*

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!

*

Just in case you wanted a cute graphic...

Just in case you wanted a cute graphic...

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

Why I Love Ferguson, Missouri

October 5th, 2014 Sears Homes No 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.

*

Ferguson

Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.

*

Ferguson

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

*

Leanon

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

*

Lebanon

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

*

Marina

Sears Marina (1916)

*

Marina

A perfect Marina in Ferguson.

*

Lex

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

*

Lexington

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

*

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!

*

Ferguson

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.

*

GVT

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.

*

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

June 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 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!

*

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.

*

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.

*

FP2

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

*

And

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.

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

June 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

Now, I know.

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

It can be described in one word:  STUNNING.

Or maybe two:  Original!

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

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

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

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

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

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

To buy this fine old house, click here.

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

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

All photos are copyright Steve Matz, 2014.

*     *     *

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

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

*

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

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

*

Mag

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

*

A view from the inside.

A view from the inside.

*

house

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

*

house

I suspect that this is the fireplace in the den.

*

house house

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

*

house

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

*

hfhfhf

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

*

house

Nice, huh? :D

*

The best

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

*

house house house

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

*

house

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

*

Another incredible feature is that

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

*

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

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

*

house

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

*

house house

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

*

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

*

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

*

To buy this fine old house, click here.

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

*       *       *

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

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.

Article

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.

*     *     *

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

It’s a Mystery

February 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Take a guess what this item is (shown below).

Plaster

Looks kind of hairy and gross, doesn't it?

*

Does this help?

I'll give you a hint. It was found inside a 1920s home.

*

This should help you figure it out.

This should help you figure it out.

*

This pretty well gives it away.

This pretty well gives it away.

*

In fact, its a chunk of plaster that was cut out of a wall.

In fact, it's a chunk of plaster that was cut out of a wall to add a new outlet.

*

Up until sheetrock became widely accepted, a home’s interior walls were finished with plaster. Today, the word “plaster” is used loosely to describe any gypsum-based wall covering, but in fact, plaster is fairly unusual in post-WW2 homes and quite rare in post-1980s homes.

If you look at an old Sears catalog, you’ll find that while kit houses did not include plaster (due to shipping weight), your 12,000-piece kit house did come with good quality lath. In fact, the “Chelsea” (a 2,000-square-foot foursquare) came with 840 square yards of wooden lath. Sears estimated that a plasterer would charge you $200, which included nailing up all those thin strips of lath and applying three coats of plaster (1916).

Often, people talk about “old-fashioned horse-hair plaster,” but the binding agent in old plaster walls was more commonly cattle hair.

Plastering is fast becoming a lost art, and things have changed a bit in the last many decades. Today, a wire mesh is used in place of wooden lath. And I’m not sure what the contemporary binding agent is, but I seriously doubt it involves shaving dead cattle. However, you can still find good recipes online for making historically appropriate plaster to restore or repair the walls in your old house.

Old plaster walls ahve three coats: The scratch coat, the brown coat and the finish coat.

The scratch coat gets its name from the fact that it is scored so that the surface has a rough texture. This rough texture gives the brown coat (which contains a lot of sand) something to grip.

It’s the sand in the brown coat that helps the finish coat (which is about 1/8″) bond tightly to the walls.

According to the smart people, the scratch coat and brown coat are about 3/8″ thick, but the image shown above (from the 1920s house) tells a slightly different story. Making and applying plaster was a little bit like baking a cake: A lot depended on the cook, and his preferences and practices.

Plus, sometimes the “cook” was sober as a judge and sometimes the “cook” was so plastered (perhaps the source of the term?) that he couldn’t walk a straight line. Weather, humidity and quality of ingredients were other variables that affected the final product as well.

As always, if you have any thoughts to share, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

*

Back

This promotion, which appeared in a 1916 Sears Building Materials catalog, gives a pretty good explanation of how plaster was applied. I can't imagine how long it took to nail up all those lath boards (which were typically 1-inch wide). And the smudge pots were used to keep the temperature and humidity at a certain level while the plaster dried. Making and applying plaster was a slow, arduous process with many variables (1916 Sears Building Materials).

*

By 1916,

By 1916, "Sheet Plaster" had already gained a toe-hold in the market, but it wasn't until after WW2 that it really became popular. And yet even in modern custom-built homes, plaster walls are considered an upgrade (and they're mighty expensive, too). My 1962-built ranch has sheetrock walls and plaster ceilings, which seems an odd combination (photo is from 1916 Sears Building Materials).

*

Sheet

As shown in this 1916 Building Materials catalog, "Sheet Plaster" was much easier to install.

*

To read a *fascinating* article about the benefits of old plaster walls (and how it was made), click here.

Bob Vila drives me to hard liquor, but his writers did put together a nice piece on plaster. You can read it here.

*     *      *

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.

*        *        *

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.

*

compare

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.

*     *     *