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Posts Tagged ‘sears houses in virginia’

Mini Mystery on the Majestic Maggy: SOLVED!

July 15th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Subtitled: How Time Changes Old Houses

In a few weeks, I’m taking a road trip to visit a Sears Magnolia. In preparation for the trip, I’ve been studying the floor plan, and happened upon a little mystery that has had me (and many others in our Facebook group) stumped!

Take a look!

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Floor plan shows

This is the 2nd floor of the Magnolia. The image is reversed (flipped) for reasons that will become evident later on. The mystery is that oval within a square in the dressing room (center room on the front). The dressing room was off the Master Bedroom, and there's a spot for dresses and hats, but what does the oval/square represent?

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House

At first glance, it looks like a sink but why would there be a sink so far from the rest of the plumbing (kitchen and baths)? And on the front of the house? The bathrooms (second floor) were on top of the kitchen (first floor) to conserve plumbing runs, which is typical. Plus, I studied several exterior photos of different Magnolias and couldn't see a vent pipe in the front roof area. That, coupled with the odd placement (far from kitchens and baths) ruled out plumbing. This dressing room is directly over the entry foyer, which ruled out laundry chute. Chutes were usually found in common areas (hallways, bathrooms).

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Cinderella

And then I found the answer is an unlikely place: The Ascetic Cinderella. This was one of the simplest little houses that Sears offered in their "Honor Bilt" line. It had only one bedroom, but it recommended that fold-away beds be used in the living room and dining room, and included a dressing room for stowage of beds.

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Common

The 1921 catalog featured a two-page spread on this simple bungalow.

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sinking feeling

And there in the corner of the dressing room (which housed the fold-away beds), was a tiny corner sink.

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plumbing runs be damned

The Cinderella was a very low-priced house, and yet, they ran plumbing lines from at least 25-feet away (the kitchen) to a lone fixture at the front of the house.

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simple

In fact, a close-up of one of the images in the 1921 catalog shows the dressing room with that corner sink. Presumably, Miss Cindy Lou (aka "The Little Lady") has rinsed out her unmentionables in the small sink, and is preparing to hang them up on the closet pole to her immediate left.

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All of which leads

All of which leads me to believe that the mystery oval within a square shown on the Magnolia's floor plan is indeed a sink. In fact, judging by the way it's drawn, I'm guessing it'd be a pedestal sink. After all, if they can stick a wee tiny sink on the front corner of the Cinderella's dressing room, then it seems likely they did the same (with a better sink) in the Magnolia's dressing room.

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And take a look at this thing.

And take a look at this thing. It's literally up against the door frame that leads to the front balcony. What a curious place for a pedestal sink. And the wall behind the sink is a little extra thick, which probably provides a chase for the plumbing to run over to the bathroom lines and join up there.

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lady

If we place Miss Cindy Lou in the Master Bedroom of the Magnolia (she likes the Magnolia a lot better than that CLH above), you'll see that she has quite a hike over to the family bathroom. And you'll see that these two front bedrooms are isolated from each other, so she can't even take the short cut through the other bedroom and into the bath. And maybe she has "unmentionables" that she needs to wash out each night that she doesn't wish to have seen in the family bathroom.

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Magnolia

Years ago, I had an opportunity to see a Magnolia with a second floor that had been "frozen in time" after World War II. Upstairs, they had created an apartment by taking out a wall and installing this prefab kitchen sink. The door on the right leads out to the 2nd floor balcony and the window to the left is the small window that originally was part of the bedroom closet. This photo was further affirmation that there was a sink in that dressing room. This kitchen sink is placed just where the old pedestal sink would have sat. If you had to add a kitchen to an old house, you'd pull out the pedestal sink and stick in your new (1940s) kitchen unit. Which is just what they did.

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house house

The red line represents the placement of the wall that was removed in order to install this kitchen sink.

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What they did

If you turn that floor plan around, so it's facing in the same direction as the image above, you can get a better idea of what's going on above. The Master Bedroom is to the right, and if you walked into that dressing room, you'd have a hat shelf on the left side of the dressing room and your pedestal sink would be on the far right - right up against that balcony door (which is a really quirky design). The blue line represents the placement of the 1940s pre-fab kitchen sink and the pink X's show the wall that was removed, creating a walk-through between the two rooms. The red star shows where I was standing when I took the photo above. :)

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house house house

Comparing these two images, you can get an idea of how it all went together. The red line on the left shows the placement of the 1920s wall, and the blue square shows the placement of the modern sink.

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How

And if you look at the molding above that small window, you'll see that it's missing a corner. I suspect that it was built that way, to accommodate the extra-thick chase wall there (between the bedroom closet and the Master Bedroom dressing room).

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house house house

This is an original "Family Bathroom" Sears Magnolia pedestal sink. Most likely, this was the same sink that was present in that Master Bedroom dressing room. Note how the plumbing lines come up out of the floor, rather than through the rear wall.

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The Magnolia was only offered from 1918 - 1922.

The Magnolia was only offered from 1918 - 1922 (1918 catalog shown above). We know of only eight Magnolias that were built, and one of them (in Nebraska) was razed in 1985.

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house house house

Here's a real live Magnolia in Canton, Ohio, and it's in beautiful condition! Photo is copyright 2011 Janet Hess LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In conclusion, I’m now confident that the “oval within a square” shown on the floorplan is a sink. And apparently, placing a small sink in a dressing room was not uncommon in the 1920s.

If any readers know the reasons behind placing a small sink in a front bedroom, I’d love to know!

To read more about the Magnolia, click here.

Interested in learning about the Cinderella? Click here.

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Is it or Isn’t it? (Gordon Van Tine #534)

March 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In Summer 2004, I visited the beautiful community of Cape Charles (on the Eastern Shore of Virginia), to give a talk on Sears Kit Homes. The folks there in Cape Charles treated me like a queen, and left me with many wonderful and happy memories of their hospitality and warmth and authenticity.

When I was there, I was driven around nearby communities as well, and in a town “across the street” (Route 13) from Cape Charles, I discovered this fine-looking old yellow bungalow. At first, I suspected it was a Gordon Van Tine kit house (Model #534), but once I got home and compared the photo to my catalog images, I decided it wasn’t a good “fit” and put it out of mind.

And then last month, Sears House aficionado and photographer Donna Bakke sent me pictures of a Sears kit house in Ohio, “The Paloma.”

As I compared that house to the line drawing, I saw that the actual proportions of the Sears Paloma were not a good match to the extant house. In fact, they were dramatically skewed.

And then my friend Rachel Shoemaker commented that she’d also discovered that these line drawings were often not good representations of the house itself.

So last week, I went through my old pictures and dragged out the Gordon Van Tine I’d seen on the Eastern Shore and as I got to studying it, I started to change my thought about the house. Based on what I saw in that Pomona (thanks to Donna), I’m now thinking, this could well be the Gordon Van Tine Model #534.

Ah, and a little PS. This house is on the east side of Route 13, “across” from Cape Charles and a little bit north. It’s in a tiny community and I neglected to get the name of this town. If anyone has any idea where this house is, I sure would be grateful to know!

To see the post on the Sears Paloma, click here.

To read more about the kit homes I saw in Cape Charles, click here.

To join our group (”Sears Homes”) on Facebook, click here.

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house

Is this the Gordon Van Tine #534? When I first saw this house, I was 80% certain that it was, and then when I really studied the photo and compared it to the catalog image, I changed my mind. And then last week, I changed my mind - again! Now I just hope the house is still standing!

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house house

It is exceptionally well planned! But it also looks BIG!

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house

How wide would you guess that house to be?

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GVT

And if you compare the two images side by side, you'd probably say that the GVT house is much wider than the little yellow house on the Eastern Shore.

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house

If you look at the floor plan, you'll see this house is only 26' wide. Is the yellow house 26' wide? Yes, I'd say that it is. Does the house shown in the line drawing look 26' wide? Nope. It looks much bigger.

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house house

So, what if we were to skew the house a bit to make it look more like it was 26' wide?

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house

If you do a side-by-side comparison of the GVT 534 (with the catalog image skewed), they look like a perfect match. If someone can figure out where this house is, I'll go back and get a better picture.

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line

And there's also this fact. The little yellow house has the same windows as the GVT 534 and they're very distinctive windows. Plus, that pent roof is a unique feature. The more I study this house, the more I think it's a darn good match.

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Looks lke a match to me!

Looks like a match to me!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Adorable Attleboro - Right Here in Portsmouth, Virginia

May 15th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Post-1930s Sears kit homes are hard to find. Sales of the 12,000-piece, do-it-yourself kits plummeted in the early years after the Great Depression.  But one of the most popular post-depression kit homes is the Sears Attleboro.

Several years ago, when I did a survey of kit homes for the city of Portsmouth, I was delighted and surprised to find the Sears Attleboro in the Shea Terrace section of Portsmouth. It’s in beautiful condition, and the owners have done a fine job of keeping it maintained.

I wonder if they realize what a treasure they have!

The Sears Attleboro was on the cover of the 1936 catalog.

The Sears Attleboro was on the cover of the 1938 catalog.

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And what a fine little house it was!

And what a fine little house it was!

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If you read the fine print, youll see that the screened-in porch could be built on the *back* of the house, instead of the side.

If you read the fine print, you'll see that the screened-in porch could be built on the *back* of the house, instead of the side.

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That side porch was offset a bit from the house.

That side porch was offset a bit from the house. Notice the three small columns in each corner.

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The Attleboro - as shown in 1938.

The Attleboro - as shown in 1938.

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And here it is, in the flesh.

And here it is, in the "flesh." That side porch is offset (as it should be)!

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Close-up of the porch.

Close-up of the porch.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Aunt Addie’s exhumation, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Was Aunt Addie Shot in the Head? (Part VIII)

August 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 6 comments

In a handful of days, I’m headed to Lake Mills, and yet I still don’t know where Dr. Oatway lived in the early 1900s!

There’s a reason that this is so very important.

My great Aunt (Addie Hoyt Fargo) died on June 19, 1901, allegedly from a gunshot wound to the head, delivered by her ever-loving husband, Enoch Fargo. Her 51-year-old husband (Enoch Fargo) had fallen in love with Maddie Hoyt (no relation to Addie), and wanted to marry Maddie.

According to local lore and two published accounts, Dr. William H. Oatway (Enoch’s personal physician and the attending physician at Addie’s death) openly stated years later, “No one was fooled” by his alleged falsification of Addie’s death certificate (showing diphtheria as the cause of death). Folks knew Enoch had killed his young wife as she lay sleeping in her bed. More on that here.

Thanks to Heather Lukaszewski, we’ve now got an obituary for Doctor Oatway (from 1944).

I’m publishing the obit here in the hopes that someone might find some additional clues that I have overlooked. It’s happened before! I hope it’ll happen again!  :)  And maybe - just maybe - someone has a photo of Dr. Oatway!

The obituary, as it appeared in the Waukesha Daily Freeman on  January 3, 1944.

Wauckesha - Dr. William H. Oatway, 72, prominent Waukesha physician, who practiced here for 30 years, died Sunday afternoon at his home, 144 S. East Avenue. Dr. Oatway had been ill for several months and last June submitted to an operation.

After a short rest, he returned to his office in the Putney block but a month ago was forced to his home again because of illness.

Funeral services will be held for Dr. Oatway Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm in the Presbyterian church. The Reverend L. E. Bradfield will officiate. Interment will be in Prairie Home cemetery. Dr. Oatway was born in Carlston Place, Ontario, Canada and was educated in Canada at MacGill university. He graduated in medicine from the Milwaukee Medical College, which later became Marquelle University in 1897, and practiced general medicine in lake Mills for 15 years.

He specialized in eye, ear, nose and throat treatments, and held degrees from the Polyclinic in New York and from Vienna Austria. He began his practice in Waukesha in 1913. Dr. Oatway held memberships in the Waukesha county, the state, and the American Medical Societies and at one time, held the presidency of the Waukesha County Medical society. He was a Mason, a member of the Elks Country Club and was a charter member of the Kiwanis club here.

During World War 1, Dr. Oatway served on the state draft board of appeal and later was a consultant staff member of the government hospital at Resthaven. He is survived by his wife, Alice Hanlon Oatway, a son, Dr. William H. Oatway of Tuscon, Arizona; a daughter, Mrs. Charles Dornbusch, Chicago, and a grandson, William H. Oatway III of Tuscon.

Friends may call at the family resident, 144 S. East Avenue. The Randle Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

To read Part VII, click here.

To read Part VI, click here.

To read Part V, click here.

To read Part IV, click here.

To read Part III, click here.

To read Part II, click here.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo. This is labeled as their wedding photo from 1896.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo in 1896 at the time of their wedding. Addie was 22 years younger than Enoch. He allegedly murdered Addie so that he could marry Maddie Hoyt (no relation).

Addie

Addie Hoyt Fargo in 1896. She would have been a mere 24 years old in this photo.

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Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Addie's death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway. The lower portion shows that the death certificate was certified on June 19, 1901.

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On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there.  Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, hed up and move to Waukesha.

On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there. Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, he'd up and move to Waukesha.

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the

Addie's obituary as it appeared in the local paper, soon after her death.

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This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

I bet Addie was "very much shocked" too. This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was allegedly shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was allegedly shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.

And heres Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for.

And here's Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for. Contrary to local lore, she was not related to the Hoyts of Lake Mills in anyway. Maddie Louise Harbeck Hoyt Fargo was born seven years before her mother (Marie Harbeck) married Henry Hoyt. In 1880, Maddie (then seven years old) was living with her grandparents in Lake Mills. Her grandmother was Elizabeth Fargo Harbeck.

To read more about Addie and Annie Hoyt, click here.

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The Maytown Twins in Marlentin, WV

August 16th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Several months ago, a friend called and told me that there was a Sears House in Marlentin, and that it housed the local insurance company. While visiting my husband’s family in Elkins, we made a side trip to Marlentin (which as about a 90-minute trip - one way!) to check out the purported Sears House.

As is often the case, the alleged Sears House was not a kit house from Sears, or Aladdin, or Gordon Van Tine or Lewis Manufacturing, or any other company with which I am familiar. However, while we were driving the streets of Marlentin, I found these Maytown Twins, about three blocks apart!

The Sears Maytown as seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Sears Maytown as seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears

Close-up of the Sears Maytown

Sears

Sears Maytown in Marlentin, WV.

Sears

Sears Maytown #2 in Marlentin, WV. And it's for rent, too!

Sears

This Maytown has been turned into a duplex, but it's still a fine-looking house!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s books, click here.

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Cape Charles, Virginia: One of My Favorite Places on Earth!

June 13th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In 2004, I was invited to Cape Charles to give a talk on Sears Homes. Even though I was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia (about an hour away), I’d never seen this waterfront community on the Eastern Shore. During my time there, I stayed at the Cape Charles House Bed and Breakfast and the owners (Carol and Bruce) were so good and kind to me.

In fact, everyone in Cape Charles treated me like royalty. A girl can grow accustomed to that in a hurry!

The entire Eastern Shore is a gem, but Cape Charles is an especially well-polished jewel of a city.

And about those Sears Homes…

It was surprising to find so many kit homes in this little fishing village. And yet, we found several. And there was also an Aladdin kit home, too.  Scroll on down for the virtual tour of kit homes in Eastern Shore. And if you know of any others in the area, drop me a note.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s books, click here.

C

As shown in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this was an interesting house with that crazy oversized eave. In all the #126s I've seen, some additional support has been added to that porch roof. It's inevitable that it'll sag in time.

F

Floorplan for the 126 shows those chamfered corners on all four sides, as well as in the porch indent.

Here it is, in Cape Charles

Here it is, in Cape Charles. Note the detail of the bracketing under the eaves. The front porch has been closed in, but this is definitely a #126.

Detail of eaves on #126

Detail of eaves on #126

Sheffield

Sheffield as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Heres an Aladdin Sheffield in Cape Charles, Virginia (on the Eastern Shore)

Here's an Aladdin Sheffield in Cape Charles, Virginia (on the Eastern Shore)

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This was one of Sears biggest and nicest homes.

This was one of Sears' biggest and nicest homes.

Right down the street from the Sheffield (see above) is the Sears Glenn Falls. Although its partly obscured by the trees, you can see the familiar lines of the Glenn Falls.

Right down the street from the Sheffield (see above) is the Sears Glenn Falls. Although it's partly obscured by the trees, you can see the familiar lines of the Glenn Falls.

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The Pheonix is one of Sears most unusual kit homes. Interesting design and lots of fun details.

The Pheonix is one of Sears' most unusual kit homes. Interesting design and lots of fun details.

Sears Pheonix - in the flesh - in Cape Charles, Virginia

Sears Phoenix - in the flesh - in Cape Charles, Virginia

Side view of the Pheonix

Side view of the Pheonix

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Sears Somerset

Sears Somerset

The porch has been altered, but Id be willing to be money that this is indeed a Sears Somerset.

The porch has been altered, but I'd be willing to be money that this is indeed a Sears Somerset.

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Sears Walton

Sears Walton

This Walton is one of two, side by side, in Cape Charles, Virginia

This "Walton" is one of two, side by side, in Cape Charles, Virginia

Is your house a Sears House? Click here to learn more.

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Is That Really a Sears Kit Home? Nine Easy Ways to Tell.

May 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic.  Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

Haa

Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 7)

April 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The driving-tour brochure offered by the tourism office in Hopewell, VA is called, “The Sears Roebuck Houses by Mail Neighborhood.”

Not everyone would agree that eight Sears Homes within a six-block area represents a “neighborhood.” But then again, sometimes people get a little confused about what constitutes a Sears Home. As the author of several books on this topic, I feel confident in saying that a true Sears House must have both building materials and blueprints from Sears.

From 1908-1940, Sears offered a specialty catalog promoting and selling their “Sears Modern Homes.” Today these old catalogs fetch $50 - $200 at online auction sites.

catalog

In the 1920s, the "Modern Homes" catalogs had 100-140 pages, and offered 80-100 designs. This is the 1922 catalog, and the Sears Lexington is on its cover.

Prospective homeowners would choose from several designs and pick a house that fit their budget and their needs. Next, they’d send in a $1 good faith deposit to Sears Roebuck, and Sears would send them blueprints, and a complete list of everything they’d need to build their home. If the homeowner liked what he saw, he’d send in the balance of his money and Sears sent him (typically by rail), 12,000 pieces of house, together with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.

Hopewell’s Crescent Hills’ neighborhood has eight of these Sears Homes. Click here to see photos of those eight Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, this brochure also shows many houses - identified as Sears Homes - that clearly are not Sears Homes.

The first house listed on this brochure is at 211 Oakwood Avenue, and it’s identified as a Sears Lexington and that is an error.

Some people have an eye for detail, and some people don’t, but the Sears Lexington and the house at 211 Oakwood are radically different in every conceivable way.

Lex

This house (211 Oakwood) is listed in the city's well-promoted brochure as a Sears Lexington. Hmmm. Let's see. What does it have in common with the Sears Lexington? They both have windows and doors. That's about it. The home's "footprint" is something that must be considered. In this case, the two homes are not even close. The Lexington is 34' wide. The house above is several feet wider. That's one of about 3,197 reasons that this house (above) does not match the Sears Lexington (below).

Sears Lexington

Sears Lexington from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog.

If you’ve read my books, you’d know that interior floorplan is a key in determining if your subject house is (or is not) a Sears House.  Room measurements are important, too! If your purported Lexington has a bedroom that’s 10′3 by 14′5, your subject house should have a bedroom that is 10′3 by 14′5!  After you’ve seen (and measured) a few Sears Homes, you’ll find that this is an accurate way of authenticating Sears Homes.

In 2003, I was invited to inspect the interior of the house at 211 Oakwood and the floorplan is completely different from the Lexington. The floorplan, room arrangement, room size, ceiling height - every single architectural element is different.  The only common ground is that both houses have bedrooms and bathrooms and a living room, dining room and a kitchen.

That’s it.

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. Youre NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. You're NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

This is my 7th blog on this topic - of the not-even-close non-Sears-Homes in Hopewell, but of all the houses I’ve discussed here, this “Lexington” at 211 Oakwood is far and away the most glaring example. In other articles, I’ve delineated, point by point, why the subject house is not a match to the Sears House. But if I started that with this house at 211 Oakwood, it’d fill way too much bandwidth and the entire internet system might go down.

In short, I’m confident that the house on 211 Oakwood is neither a Lexington, nor is it a Sears Home of any kind.

Cmon, really?

C'mon, really?

And on a more serious note, it saddens me to see history misrepresented. It saddens me greatly.

By the way, this is what a Sears Lexington looks like “in the flesh.” You’ll notice, it looks a lot like the catalog picture.

Sears

Sears Lexington in Northern Illinois.

Lex

You might notice that the house (in Northern Illinois) looks a whole lot like this catalog picture.

To read about the other houses in Hopewell, click here.

To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read about happy, happy Sears homes, click here.

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Virgin Forests and First-Growth Lumber: A Thing of The Past

February 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Stumbling about with my flashlight in the dimly-lit basement of countless Sears Honor-Bilt homes throughout the country, I’m always dazzled by the quality of the floor joists and other framing members. Sears lumber was first growth lumber.  (”First growth lumber” is the name given to wood which grew slowly in natural forests. The slower wood grows, the denser the grain. The denser the grain, the stronger the wood. The stronger the wood, the more resistant it is to decay and rot and the longer it will endure.)

The yellow pine framing members that support these old Sears homes, now nearing the century mark, are harder and denser than most of today’s [so-called] hardwoods. Some of these houses have had only minimal maintenance, yet all these years later, they’re still as square and true and solid as the day they were built.

Sears earned a well-deserved reputation for providing the best quality lumber for both framing and millwork and they were proud of their reputation. In the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this notice appeared under the heading, “Important.”

We do not handle hemlock, spruce or inferior types of lumber. The lumber we furnish is fine, dry yellow pine, the strongest lumber for framing. Cypress for outside finish, [cypress] the wood that lasts for centuries; oak, birch or yellow pine, as specified for interior finish.

Through the years, Sears offered exterior sidings in red cedar, redwood or cypress.  Most frequently, exterior sidings were cypress, and exterior trim pieces (corner boards, door and window trim, eaves, etc.) were also cypress.

Interior floors on average-priced Sears homes were typically oak on the first floor; maple in the kitchen and bath; yellow pine on the second floor. In less expensive homes, yellow pine was standard fare throughout the house for trim moldings, floors and doors. However, you could always upgrade to oak floors for another $148.

Today, it’s so interesting to contrast and compare modern lumber (think McMansion) with the solid old lumber found in America’s early 20th Century homes. Lumber from the old homes is so dense and hard, that many homeowners report they can not drive a spike into the floor joists without predrilling a hole, lest it bend the spike!

We will never see wood like this again in our country. The few “first-growth forests” that remain are protected sanctuaries (as they should be). Large suppliers of lumber boast that - thanks to genetic engineering - they can have a tree ready for harvest after a 25-year growth cycle. The problem is, when trees grow quickly, they’re not very dense.

Try this experiment at home. Try driving a nail through a piece of 2×8 from your local big-box hardware store. Then drive the nail through a floor joist in your house - if you can. Such a simple demonstration really will “hammer the point home” (so to speak).

At the very least, when an early 1900s home is torn down, the lumber should be salvaged, and not carted off to the landfill.

Now let’s go back to looking at pretty pictures of pretty Sears Homes. Enjoy the photos below.

Learn more about Sears Homes by click here.

Or buy Rose’s book by clicking here.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of thir most magnificent homes.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of their most magnificent homes.

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

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The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

In all my travels, Ive only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

In all my travels, I've only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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