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Posts Tagged ‘sears houses’

The Brentwood: A Home of Impressive Beauty (1952)

April 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Many times, I’ve written a note to someone to tell them that they’re living in an Aladdin Kit Home, and invariably, when they right back they’ll say, “I’m so excited to find out that I have a Sears House!”

In fact, I’d say that this happens 80% of the time.

Aladdin kit homes are not Sears kit homes. These are two different companies.

Sears gets all the press, but there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level and Sears was neither the biggest, nor the longest lived. Sears started selling homes in 1908 and was gone by 1940. Conversely, Aladdin issued their first catalog in 1906 and closed their doors in 1981. During their 32 years in the business, Sears sold about 70,000 homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes.

When I wrote my first article about kit homes in early 2000, many folks had never even heard of Sears Homes, so perhaps in time, people will come to appreciate (and know about) Aladdin. From an architectural standpoint, it’s a more interesting company, just because of the variety of housing styles offered through the decades.

And many thanks to Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for finding the beauty featured below! You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

To learn more about identify kit homes, click here.

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The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1952 catalog.

The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1951 catalog.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company.

Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company (1951 catalog).

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Picture

Close-up of the picture from the page above. The text explains why it's simple to build with the Readi-cut system. I was hoping that those are Aladdin houses in the background, but I don't think they are.

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Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), one man can now do the work of six!

Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), and a central site for pre-cutting all the framing lumber, one man can now do the work of six!

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The Brentwood was a dandy house.

The Brentwood was a dandy house with four floor plans with some variation.

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FP1

Floorplan one is the only house with a fireplace.

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FP21

Floorplan two is down to two bedrooms, but has a bigger kitchen/DR.

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FP3

Floorplan 2 and 3 have the same layout, but 3 is a smaller footrpint.

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FP4

Floorplan 3 and 4 are the same footprint, but with three bedrooms carved into the small space.

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FP4

This appears to be Floorplan #1, as it has a fireplace and a planter under that bedroom window. Apparently, the houses in this subdivision have tremendous water pressure. The guy with the house is being pushed backwards.

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Then again, he also looks like Americas first metrosexual.

Then again, he also looks like America's first metrosexual.

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Thie

Located in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Ranch is a perfect match to the catalog image. My favorite feature is that over sized, dramatic fireplace (which appears to have several flues). Photo is copyright 2015 Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

What a house!

What a house!

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You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

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Beautiful Six-Room Cottage: Modern Home #126

April 27th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Modern Home #126 appeared in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog (which was the year Sears opened their Modern Homes Department). By 1914, it shared a page with its fraternal twin, The Sears Elsmore (then known as Modern Home #208). By 1916, Modern Home #126 was gone.

In March 2002, The Houses That Sears Built hit the world and in a desperate bid to promote the book (and the topic), I did a survey of nearby Webster Groves, Missouri. (I was living in Alton, Illinois at the time - just across the Mississippi River from Webster Groves).

After doing the survey, I contacted several folks in Webster Groves and talked them into allowing me to give a lecture at the Webster Groves’ Library. Those were good times. It was my first “big” talk and was promoted in a local paper. We had about 80 people show up at the talk and 40 of them purchased a book! As I said, good times!

It was during that survey of Webster Groves that I found Modern Home #126. Rachel Shoemaker sent me a link to this house which recently sold. Unlike so many Realtor photos I’ve seen, the pictures of Modern Home #126 are beautifully done and in focus! Thanks to Circa Properties of St. Louis for allowing me to borrow these photos!  :) You can visit their website by clicking here.

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Kirkwood, click here.

Did you know that Ferguson was the first city to hire me to do a survey of kit homes? I’ll always be grateful for the kindness of the people of Ferguson.

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Modern Home #126 appeared in the first Sears Modern Homes catalog (1908).

Modern Home #126 appeared in the first Sears Modern Homes catalog (1908).

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By 1914, Sears Modern Home #126 was relegated to sharing a page with the newly offered Modern Home #208 which would later be known as the Sears Elsmore.

By 1914, Sears Modern Home #126 was relegated to sharing a page with the newly offered "Modern Home #208" which would later be known as the Sears Elsmore. By 1916, #126 was no longer offered.

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The Sears Elsmore became a popular house for Sears.

The Sears Elsmore became an immensely popular house for Sears (1921 catalog).

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Testimonials

And yet, Modern Home #126 had been a popular model (judging by the testimonials).

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The two homes shared a floorplan that was very close.

The two homes shared a floorplan that was very close. Perhaps do-it-yourself kit home builders didn't appreciate those chamfered corners on #126. Plus, the closets in #126 are a bit odd.

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Those chamfered corners and oversized eaves do create a unique appearance!

Those chamfered corners and over-sized eaves do create a unique and dramatic appearance!

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And heres Modern Home #126 in Webster Groves, one of my first discoveries!

And here's Modern Home #126 in Webster Groves, one of my "first" discoveries! And major kudos to the Realtor for snapping this photo from the right angle (to match the catalog page).

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And what a sheer joy to see that this fine old home still has its original eyes (windows).

And what a sheer joy to see that this fine old home still has its original "eyes" (windows) and siding! Can you imagine how it'd ruin the look of this home to put in some pedestrian vinyl windows?

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What a fine-looking home it is. Do the owners know that its a Sears House? This one, Id say maybe, because it was featured in that talk I gave in Webster Groves, so many years ago.

What a fine-looking home it is. Do the owners know that it's a Sears House? This one, I'd say "maybe," because it was featured in that talk I gave in Webster Groves, so many years ago.

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The floorplan featured for this listing shows its a perfect match to the old catalog image.

The floorplan featured for this listing shows it's a pretty good match to the old catalog image. The minor changes shown above (bathroom modifications, closet enlargement and added staircase to 2nd floor) could have been done when the house was built or in later years. Houses do tend to get remodeled a bit through the years.

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Cat

Modern Home #126 from the 1908 catalog.

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The interior of the Webster Groves #126 is also stunning.

The interior of the Webster Groves #126 is also stunning.

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The upstairs seems quite spacious. Im inclined to think that this 2nd floor was done when the home was built. The hipped roof on the Webster Groves house seems a bit higher than the standard-issue #126.

The upstairs seems quite spacious. Those four small dormers add a lot of light to the room. I'm inclined to think that this 2nd floor was done when the home was built but it's almost impossible to know for sure. This house is now 100 years old or more.

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Heres another lovely #126 that Rebecca Hunter found in Quincy, Illinois.

Here's another lovely #126 that Rebecca Hunter found in Quincy, Illinois. It also has its original windows and siding (stucco). I find it most interesting that, without exception, every #126 I've seen has had columns or pillars added to that over-sized front porch overhang. Photo is copyright 2008 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lastly, heres Mr. Gilchrists Modern Home #126 at 2904 Meredith Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska!

Lastly, here's Mr. Gilchrist's Modern Home #126 at 2904 Meredith Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska! Photo is courtesy Douglas County Assessor's website (and they don't even KNOW how courteous they're being in sharing this image)!

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Interested in purchasing a quality home in St. Louis? Visit Circa Properties website here!

Check out Rebecca Hunter’s website by clicking here.

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Kirkwood, click here.

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Veritable Veneration for the Aladdin Venus

April 25th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, Elisabeth Witt of Wisconsin contacted me and said she thought there were a few kit homes in Shorewood, Wisconsin. I went to Realtor.com and entered Shorewood to do a quickie search, and one of the first hits was an Aladdin Venus! Click here to see the listing.

The Aladdin Venus was a popular house, but what makes this house in Shorewood so interesting is that it’s the only Venus I’ve seen that retains its original wooden awning.

And before we get to the pictures, I wonder if the Realtor knows it’s an Aladdin kit home? If so, there’s not a peep about it in the listing!

Thanks so much to Elisabeth for sending the photos!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus Ive seen with that wooden awning intact!

Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus I've seen with that wooden awning intact! And the rest of the house is in lovely condition, minus the windows on the side. Best of all, this house is for sale and if you click on the link above, you'll find an abundance of interior photos. Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for getting this photo!

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Detail of that wooden awning.

Detail of that wooden awning.

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The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house.

The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house, with a lot of fun details, like those paneled columns, the L-shaped front porch, and the star-pattern of windows on the home's left side (shown here). It also has oversized eaves and the roof slopes over those upstairs windows. When you look at the interior photos, that slope is dramatic on the 2nd floor. (1919 catalog)

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The Venus was offered in two floor plans.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. Venus #1 was smaller (18 by 24).

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One house

Venus #2 was 20' by 26' and a couple other minor differences.

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House

"It continually attracts attention from people walking by..."

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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What a pretty little Aladdin Venus!

What a pretty little Aladdin Venus! But the removal of four windows is a curiousity!

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Heres a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

Here's a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

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Another weary Venus, and this ones in Norfolk (38th Street).

Another weary Venus, and this one's in Norfolk (38th Street).

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Heres an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this ones exhausted. Its on 35th Street, in Park Place. At one time, Park Place was solid working class and many classic bungalows. Now its a blighted, high-crime area thats trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this one's exhausted. It's on 35th Street, in Park Place (Norfolk, VA). At one time, Park Place was solid working class neighborhood with many classic bungalows. Now it's a blighted, high-crime area that's trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

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Lets end on a happy note. :)  Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

Let's end on a happy note. :) Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

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To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Sometimes Buying a House is a Real Roller Coaster Ride…

April 14th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the last 37 years, I’ve bought and sold a lot of houses and every single time, it’s an extremely stressful experience. However this real estate agent in Ermelo (in the Netherlands) found a fun and unique way to market this brick house.

He built a small roller coaster track throughout the five-bedroom house. An in-house speaker system gives a room-by-room narration of the home’s many features.

It’ll be interesting to see if the homes’ buyer wants the roller coaster to remain!

I would!

To see the full youtube video of the tour, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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I don't even like roller coasters, but this looks like fun!

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House

The coaster enters through the garage and then into the basement.

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To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611: Unusually Well Planned

April 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

These last few months, I’ve been doing a proper survey of kit homes in Hampton, Virginia. I went out yesterday to check one last section one last time (which I’ve now visited twice), when this handsome bungalow jumped out of the bushes and called my name.

This Gordon Van Tine Model #611 is on a main drag (300-block of North Mallory) which leaves me scratching my head. How did I miss it?

That will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe, together with, where did I put my husband’s truck keys.

To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

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What a house!

Notice how the porch roof sits within the primary roof. Interesting feature.

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Oh yeah, baby! :D

Sadly, some vinyl siding salesman has pillaged the house, but other than that, it's a nice match. The railings have been replaced, but that's a relatively minor affair.

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Good match on this side, too!

Good match on this side, too!

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So

And did I mention it's on the main drag? :)

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To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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And The Winner is… (Part II)

December 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Earlier this week, I wrote about the “contest” offered by Sears Roebuck, where they invited 100 “up-to-date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design (Modern Home #189, “The Hillrose”), and second prize was awarded to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa for Modern Home #184.

Despite a lot of traveling, I’ve never seen an original Hillrose. However, in 2005, I gave a talk at a $1,000,000 reproduction of the Sears Hillrose in Prophetstown, Indiana.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is now open to the public, and in addition to the reproduced Sears kit home, there’s also a large working farm on the site.

When there in 2005, I had a thorough tour of the inside and snapped a few photos. As I told the director, I really loved what they’d done with the place. I snapped a few photos (old 35mm slides), which you’ll see below.

In 1916, the Sears Hillrose was offered for less than $2,000. More than 90 years later, the reproduction Hillrose cost more than $1 million.

To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

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The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose.

The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose (1914 catalog).

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The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

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Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn. Upon reflection, Im not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when youre relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago.

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn to any known Sears kit barn designs. Upon reflection, I'm not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when you're relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago. That's my little red 2003 Camry to the right of the barn.

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Close-up of the barn.

Close-up of the barn.

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As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk in this barn.

As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk that night inside this barn. Back in the day, I toted around two slide projectors and would show the two slides on two screens, comparing extant houses with vintage catalog images. I was rather relieved when the world went to digital. Organizing all those slides for every talk was a massive undertaking. I finally gave away those slide projectors in 2011 when we moved into a new house.

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The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty.

The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty. It disappears in the shadows, but yes, that's a chamber pot under the bed. The wallpaper was gorgeous, and the rag doll was a nice touch too.

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Is that a Sears light fixture?

Is that a Sears light fixture? Not perfect, but close enough for government work. :)

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For someone whos spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, the kitchen was charming.

For someone who's spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, I'd say the kitchen was utterly enchanting. And who doesn't secretly dream of a turquoise and white cast-iron, wood-fired cookstove?

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Oh

What's not to love?

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And what proper Indiana homestead wouldnt have a Hoosier cabinet?

And what proper Indiana homestead wouldn't have a Hoosier cabinet?

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And properly stocked, too?

And properly stocked, too?

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Do you have an aunt living in one of these towns?

Even though I've never seen an original Hillrose, the 1916 catalog shows that there were Hillroses buit in these cities. Please call your cousin Bertha in Griffith, Indiana and ask her to find the Sears Hillrose there and then ask her to take a photo and send it to the lady in Norfolk. Or maybe your Aunt Beulah in Alvada, Ohio? Or Granny Kittle in Waterman, Illinois? Work with me here. I need a photo of a real life Hillrose. Really I do.

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To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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And The Winner Is…

December 29th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

It started out in 1913 as a contest.

Sears invited 100 “up to date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design, which came to be known as The Hillrose (Modern Home #189). In addition to having his creation featured in subsequent catalogs, he also won $50 - in gold.

Second prize ($35 in gold) went to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa. His house (Modern Home #184) didn’t last long enough to be granted a name (1918), and in fact, was gone by 1916.

Despite 14 years of wandering and researching, I’ve seen only one Sears Hillrose and that was in Prophetstown, Indiana (near West Lafayette) and it was less than 20 years old.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is part of a museum exhibit that offers an interpretive display of a working farm.

The first floor of the house is true to the catalog image and to the time period. The interior is filled with period furnishings, appliances and even ephemera. An old Sears catalog sits on an end table in the front room of the Hillrose. The second floor is thoroughly modern, not open to the public, and is used as administrative offices.

In 2005, I traveled to Prophetstown to see this recently built Hillrose “in the flesh” and to give a talk on Sears Homes.

Originally, it was planned that I’d give the talk in the front room of the Hillrose (with space for 30 attendees). Not good. These talks - even 10 years ago - often drew 100+ visitors.

The only option available at the last minute was the barn. And it was a real barn, with real critters and hay and implements.

That evening, at 7:00 pm, I addressed about 90 people, four goats, six cows and several chickens. In the barn.

This newly built Hillrose was a pricey little affair. The 1916 Sears catalog showed the house offered for $1,649. More than 90 years later, the Hillrose’s contemporary cost exceeded $1 million, due to the expense of re-creating an early 20th Century farm house.

And now Prophetstown has a real treasure and a tourism attraction that will endure for decades to come.

Click here to see inside the Hillsboro in Prophetstown.

To read more about this Hillsboro in Indiana, click here.

Want to learn more about to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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Contest

I wonder what an "out of date" farmer looks like? This image came from a promotional brochure, dated about 1914. Take a moment and read it in its entirety. It's fun!

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First prize

Modern Home #189 was the prize winner, and garnered $50 in gold for Mr. Selck of Evansville, Indiana (1914 catalog). Fine house (with more than 2,000 square feet) for a mere $1,473.

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house hosue house

W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Ohio won $35 in gold for this design (1914 catalog).

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First prize winner

Apparently, Sears asked for a letter from the first prize winner.

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Second

And the second-prize winner, too.

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house

Aladdin was actually the originator of the business of selling kit homes via mail-order catalogs, but what's a little promotional puffery between friends?.

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hillrose

A comparison of the two houses - side-by-side.

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house

I guess the woodshed was the thing that carried the day.

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house

A panoramic view of Modern Home #189, showing not only the house, but outbuildings and livestock.

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1916

A closer view of Modern Home #189 (The Hillrose).

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barn

A close-up of the Sears kit barn, as shown with The Hillrose (above).

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Round barn with

I love that dormer atop not just the round barn but the silo, too.

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cheapter

Chicken House #221 is shown next to the Hillrose.

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Long shot

Here's a long view of the 2nd prize winner. He has a chicken coop, but it's not the #221. He has a vehicle, but it's only one-horse power. He has an outbuilding, but it's a little milk house.

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house 1916

Second-prize winner got cheaped out on the chicken house.

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house house

Nice little milk house, though.

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Even though Ive never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog).

Even though I've never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog). Alvado, Ohio can't be that big. It can't be too tough to find a big old Sears foursquare in little old Alvado. Perhaps a kind-hearted Avacadoan will find this Hillrose in their town and snap a photo for moi. Or maybe someone in Griffith will embark on this mission of mercy. One can hope. I need a picture of a Hillrose.

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However, I dont know if any of these homes were ever built.

However, I don't know if any of these homes were ever built. Good news is, this house is so distinctive, it'll be easy to spot! In addition to being an L-shaped foursquare (yeah, really), it has an offset porch, small vestibule, pedimented porch roof, big gabled dormer, oversized eaves and a dainty-looking horse in the front yard.

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The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy.

The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy, and it's the only Hillrose I've seen.

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From catalog side

A view of the Hillrose from the same angle as the catalog.

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My favorite view of all

My favorite shot of the Hillrose, showing the barn in the background.

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Just a little archival storage tip: If youre going to

Just a little archival storage tip: If you're going to collect rare Sears House ephemera and sell it on eBay, don't cut it up into tiny bits and then laminate the whole caboodle with thick plastic. This photo here is to help explain why images 1, 4, 5 and 6 look like they were scanned through wax paper. Because - actually - they were. Special thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for purchasing this rare brochure and sharing it!

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To read Rachel’s wonderful blog, click here.

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And So This is Christmas…

December 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for providing me with the PERFECT Christmas Day photo!

And if you want to read about Sears Homes all year long, join our group of kit-home enthusiasts on Facebook!

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Rach

Rachel Shoemaker's favorite elf studies not one, but two catalogs whilst gazing upon a diminutive version of the Sears Mitchell - decorated for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy

Teddy will look back on this Christmas with many fond memories.

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To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Visit Rachel’s blog by clicking here.

Interested in learning about Gordon Van Tine? Click here!

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Peace Pipes and Fourplexes: The Calumet

October 24th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

The Calumet is a rare Sears kit house that was offered for a brief time in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Sears did offer a few apartment buildings (yes, as kits), and the Calumet was one of them. My favorite feature of the Sears Calumet is the wall-bed, and the Calumet had two wall beds per unit.

The bed frame was included in the kit (but not the mattress).

It’s also interesting to note that the word Calumet comes from the Latin word calamellus, meaning “little reed.”  According to my online dictionary, a calumet is a “ceremonial smoking pipe, traditionally smoked to seal a covenant or treaty, or to offer prayers in a religious ceremony.”

Next time you’re watching TV with your friends and an Indian starts smoking a peace pipe, you can exclaim, “Why, he’s smoking a calumet!”

They’ll be so impressed with your esoteric knowledge!

Want to learn more about Murphy Beds (Wall Beds)? Click here!

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The Calumet, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

I just love the math: 20 rooms in 12! How do they do it? :)

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The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

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Bs

The Calumets had four porches, each with their own coal bin, whichwas nothing more than a small bin. Not nearly as luxurious as it sounds. Plus, it has "handy closets." I wonder which model had the "unhandy closets"?

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That would have been a heck of a kit house!

That would have been a heck of a kit house!

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Bloomintong

Notice that the wall beds have their own windows - in a closet!

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bed

The Calumet - as seen in the 1918 catalog.

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The only Calumet Ive ever seen - and its in Bloomington, IL.

The only Calumet I've ever seen - and it's in Bloomington, IL. You can see those two "closet-bed windows" on the right side. Sadly, the second-story porches are long gone. That first step outside of those 2nd floor doors is a doozy!

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Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

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In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

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In the silent short film (1:00 a.m.), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed).

In the silent short film (title, "1:00 a.m."), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed). The full video (about 10 minutes) is at youtube. See link below.

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To see the Charlie Chaplin short, click here.

To read another fascinating blog, click here.

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Hopeless in Hopewell (Part 72)

September 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

“Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit house business,” I tell folks at my lectures, “but judging from my emails, you’d think that number was 70 million kit homes.”

Some people really, really, really want their house to be a kit house, but not every 1920s house is a kit house.

And if I were queen of the world (a title I aspire to), I’d make that Hopewell’s town motto.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003, I caused a stir when I proclaimed that 36 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills weren’t really Sears Homes. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well.

And the fact is, I might have made a mistake.

Rachel Shoemaker and I have reviewed some of the photos, and we now believe that 38 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes may not be Sears Homes.

Still, that leaves six Sears Homes in Crescent Hills (Hopewell).

After the “stir” in 2003, I didn’t hear back from Hopewell. But then, several years ago, I offered to help Hopewell do a proper survey of their kit homes - for FREE!

The town never responded to my emails or letters.

Eight years later, when I returned to Hopewell in Spring 2011 (wearing a wig and a fake nose), I focused on the amazing collection of Aladdin kit homes in that city. While Hopewell has only a few Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they have dozens and dozens of Aladdin kit homes near the downtown area. More on that here and here.

However, I couldn’t resist driving through Crescent Hills and photographing a few of the fake Sears Homes.

For instance, the city’s brochure states that the house at 201 Prince George Avenue is the Sears Van Jean.

Let’s make this simple.

It’s not.

It has a gambrel roof and a chimney and some windows, but that’s about it.

The photos below make that pretty clear.

Learn about the Aladdin homes in Hopewell here.

Read my favorite blog on Hopewell here.

Hopewell, if you’re listening, you can contact me by leaving a comment below!

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The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Note

Notice the double windows centered on the 2nd floor, and the double windows on the first floor. Notice also the placement of the home's chimneys. These things do matter.

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Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

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This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but its not a Van Jean.

This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but it's not a Van Jean. The 2nd floor windows are wrong, and the front porch is also not a match - for many reasons. The Van Jean has those oversized cornice returns. This house has none. I'd expect that the footprint for this house is also wrong. In short, it's *not* a Sears kit house.

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Close-up, comparing the porch.

The edges of Van Jean's porch roof are aligned with the primary roof. The Hopewell porch roof extends well beyond the roofline. The Sears House porch has a closed triangle, with a cross member at the bottom and then a fascia board below that. The Hopewell porch roof terminates at the cross member.

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Hopewells brochure explains the differences (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean.

Hopewell's brochure explains the "differences" (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean. Oopsie. They neglected a few details. And a few facts. And one big reality: This ain't no Van Jean.

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Will there ever be a day when someone in Hopewell exclaims, “Enough of this! Let’s call that gal in Norfolk and get this right - once and for all!!”?

I wonder.

In the meantime, Hopewell certainly does offer a lovely opportunity of how not to promote historic architecture.

To learn more about the real kit homes in Hopewell (and they’re not from Sears), click here.

To read about Sandston, click here.

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