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

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

June 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 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.

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

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

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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.

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

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A view from the inside.

A view from the inside.

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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.

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I suspect that this is the fireplace in the den.

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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).

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

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hfhfhf

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

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Nice, huh? :D

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The best

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

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A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

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To buy this fine old house, click here.

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

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Another Mystery in Richmond!

March 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 16 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.

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Check out the fine print.

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And you can buy “all the material necessary to build this charming bungalow” - from Sears!
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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!

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This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

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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?

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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.

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Waynesboro: WOW!

October 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

On October 17th, I gave a talk in Waynesboro on their kit homes. The day before, Anne (local history lover and kind soul) had driven me throughout the city, looking for kit homes.

And we found a bunch!

There are more than 40 photos below, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking!  :)

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Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it.

Found this postcard in the Waynesboro Museum and just loved it. Plus, it appears to be from about the 1920s, which is when all my little pretties were built in Charlottesville.

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First, the Carlins.

First, the Carlins. I found five of them, in one three-block area. Someone in Waynesboro really loved their Carlins. Until recently, when someone really put a hurting on them. .

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This one gets a special mention because its been disfigured.

This one gets a special mention because it's been disfigured.

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Dormer

Yeah, they really did that. Poor Carlin. Poor little Carlin.

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Lots of signs on the melancholy Carlin, but fortunately there were no signs that forbade flash photography.

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The Hazleton

I call The Hazleton the "House of Threes" because it has several groupings of three windows, in the dormer, on the side, and on the front (with two groupings of three windows flanking the front door). and it has six windows in that bay window on the side. Plus, Hazleton has three syllables!

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While driving around her Google Car Rachel found this Hazleton on Bath Street, and she was right! It really is a Sears Hazleton.

While driving around her "Google Car" Rachel discovered this Hazleton on Bath Street. It's in beautiful shape and still has its original windows, siding and even front railings. What a treasure!

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Its got the funky side window, too.

It's got the funky side window, too.

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Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

Also found a darling little Dover within one block of the railroad tracks.

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Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be!

Due to some thoughtless planting of oak trees and maples and such, I was unable to get a photo from the same angle as the original catalog picture, but I was able to see that there are three windows on the left side of this little Dover, just as it should be! Check out the interesting indent on the chimney!

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The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

The Sears Crescent, from the 1928 catalog.

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Waynesboro also likes their Crescents!

Waynesboro also likes their "Crescents"!

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Picture perfect!

Picture perfect!

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And theres even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

And there's even one in Crozet, and it appears to be a restaurant.

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The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

The Glenn Falls was one of the biggest houses Sears offered.

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Kind of a crummy photo, but it shows off the pretty Glenn Falls.

Is this a Glen Falls? Sure looks like it, but Rachel Shoemaker found the auditor's records for the house and the "footprint" is wrong. Perhaps it's a plan book house. More on that below.

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And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found this Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

And Linda Ramsey (another Sears House afficianado) found an Alhambra on Main Street in Waynesboro.

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What a beauty!!

What a beauty!! Do the owners realize they have a Sears house? Not likely!

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The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Conway, as seen in the 1921 catalog. Note the brick pillar at the far right.

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Waynesboro

The Conway in Waynesboro also has that brick pillar at the far right, just like the catalog image.

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The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

The Strathmore is one of my favorite Sears Homes.

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The windows have been replaced, and its in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but its the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

The windows have been replaced, and it's in brick, not stucco and faux half-timber, but it's the real deal. Look down the long right side and see how nicely it matches.

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The Solace is a cute little house but wasnt hugely popular.

The Solace is a cute little house for Sears but wasn't hugely popular.

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The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

The pergola over the porch rarely endures through the decades.

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Is this

Is this a Solace? I think it's very likely.

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The original pergola on the front porch is still visible.

The original pergola on the front porch is still visible, and it's also a spot-on match to the catalog.

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In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company).

In addition to Sears, we also found some kit homes from Gordon Van Tine (another early 20th Century kit home company). Shown above is the cover of the 1918 GVT catalog.

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The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

The Bristol, as seen in the 1935 GVT catalog.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty, and it's a perfect match to the catalog image above!

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This charming bungalow was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

This "charming bungalow" was very popular for GVT (1926 catalog).

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Rachel also found this GVT

Rachel also found this GVT #530 in Waynesboro. Another beautiful match!

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Last but not least is this GVT #540.

Last but not least is this GVT #540, another very popular house!

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Its had some remodeling done, but you can still see that theres a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

It's had some remodeling done, but you can still see that there's a GVT 540 hiding underneath all that vinyl!

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Dumont

The Dumont is not a kit house, but a plan book house. With plan books, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials from a mail-order catalog. The homebuyer would obtain the building materials locally. Many thanks to Shari Davenport for sending me this image!

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Another fun find

Perfect! Just perfect!

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Two of them

And there are two of them!

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To read more about Waynesboro, click here.

To see what I found in Charlottesville, click here.

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Solar Power: So Much Fun!

September 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 7 comments

For as many years as I can remember, I have been completely enchanted by alternative energy sources. Capturing a tiny drop of the sun’s massive nuclear-reactive power (386 billion billion megaWatts) is a fascinating concept.

My own “solar project” started last year when my ham-radio buddy Mike Neal sent me an email to let me know that Harbor Freight was having a sale on solar panels.  With a $30 coupon (gifted to me from a fellow Ham), I got the $229 solar panels for $159. (The original price for the panels was $229, with a sale price of $189. The $30 coupon got me to $159.)

Because I’m highly allergic to big crowds and sprawling malls and loud noises and spinning children and fluorescent lights, I paid the extra six bucks to have the unit shipped directly to my house.

It took about 12 hours to install the kit, and it was a fun project. And watching those photovoltaic cells turn the sunlight into electricity is every bit as fun as I’d thought it would be.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d recommend that every homeowner in America have a set of these on their roof. It was a great learning experience. Forty-five watts isn’t much, but it’s enough to run a ham radio and charge up a few cell phones.

I’ve shared all the nitty-gritty details below.

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The little red shed in our back yard is now electrified, thanks to the sun and some photovoltaic cells on the roof. Each panel produces 15 watts, for a total of 45 watts.

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"THUNDERBOLT" seems like a curious name for a solar product.

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Were it not for plastic zip ties, installation would have taken much longer. One downside of solar power is, you have to keep the panels free of obstructions. The pine trees and the birds are conspiring against me here.

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Getting the leads into the shed took a little planning. Ultimately, I decided to drill a hole (3/4") through the 2x4 (and roof). It is easier to patch a tidy hole in a 2x4, rather than trying to patch a hole in tired old roofing shingle.

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house

Using weather-proofing tape (not sure that's its official name), I bound the three incoming wires together (from the panels) and poked them through the 3/4" hole into the shed. For the tiny gaps that remained, I used a compound putty substance (again, don't know the name but it looks a lot like Silly Putty). Back in the day, an old buddy told me it was called "Dum Dum" because you use it to patch a dumb mistake. However, I'd like to point out that it should be called "Smart Smart" in this particular application.

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house

The controller that came with the solar panels is both entertaining and fancy. Its job is to prevent an accidental overcharge or discharge ot the storage battery. The digital display is large and easy to read.

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Inside,

Inside, the wires drop down from above and into the controller (right side on the shelf above the battery). From there, the wires go into the 12-volt deep cycle Marine battery. Another set of wires carries the power from the battery back to the inverter (left side on the shelf). The inverter turns the 12-volt current into 120 volts (for household use). Like I said, it's all highly entertaining!

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Another nice bonus that came with this set are these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed.

Another nice bonus that came with this set are two of these 12-volt LED lights. They give off a surprising amount of light, and brighten up the dark corners of our red shed.

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The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for  $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

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house

The obstacle that kept me from starting this project was, lack of knowledge. Despite my reading and studying, I did not understand how all these components worked together. I asked Mike Neal, "What's the difference between a 200-watt inverter and a 750-watt inverter?" (After all, the 200-watt inverter was far less expensive). Mike explained, "Think of the battery as a bucket full of water. You can draw that water out with a swizzle stick or a milk-shake straw. The 200-watt inverter is a swizzle stick. The 750-watt inverter is a milk-shake straw."

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bat

My wonderful neighbor (another Mike) was also a helper in the project. I told him that I needed a deep-cycle marine battery and he got me a good deal on one at a local marine supply warehouse. This battery weighs about 50 pounds. I set it up on cinder blocks to make it easier to access, and I put the OSB down because I'd heard that batteries might discharge if placed directly atop masonry.

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The

The last part of the project required anchoring the panels to the roof. In that the panels sit so high above the roof, they'd become a sail next time a hurricane roars through. Our solution was to tether the pvc frame to the opposite side of the shed. For the tether, I used 10-gauge stranded copper grounding wire.

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Solar

Close-up of the tether on the PVC frame. It's not super taut, but it doesn't need to be. It's anchored into the steep side of the shed roof with an eye-bolt.

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Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such aas the many tall trees in our yard,

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such as the big old tall trees in our yard. And yet, I'm happy to report, the system works VERY well!

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Total cost of the entire project:

Solar Panels - $159 plus $6 shipping (and tax)

Interstate battery - $114

750-watt inverter - $39

Battery terminals - $8

Wiring - $5 (thanks Dollar General!)

Incidentals - about $20 (zip ties, pipe clamps, tape)

Total investment: $351

Entertainment value: Endless! :)

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To learn more about why Ham Radio is so relevant and important TODAY, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

If you wish to contact Rosemary, please leave a comment below.

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The Eighth Magnolia - and - It’s In West Virginia (Part II)

August 25th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Yesterday, I blogged about the beautiful Sears Magnolia in West Virginia. And it is a beauty. (Read about it here.)

Today, I’d like to show off the interior of this wonderful old house.

First, a little history. The home’s owner believes - based on his research - that the house was built in late 1924 or early 1925. A reminiscence from a former neighbor puts the build date in the same time period. This jibes with the county tax record as well (which shows 1925), but tax records are notoriously unreliable on construction dates.

To be honest, when I first heard that this house was built in 1924, I was a little incredulous. The Sears Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Sears Modern Home catalog, and its last appearance was in the 1922 catalog.

Was it really possible that this Magnolia was purchased in 1924 or later?

In the basement of this glorious Eighth Magnolia, the owner showed me an old pedestal sink in the family bathroom (second floor). On its underside was a casting date of November 6, 1923. If this is the original sink (and based on what I saw, it probably is), then this kit house was shipped to West Virginia sometime after January 1924.

These “Modern Homes” catalogs that Sears distributed far and wide did not automatically self-destruct when the year ended. It’s altogether possible that the Magnolia’s original owner had been studying a 1918-1922 catalog for some time, and took a fancy to the Magnolia. He may not have realized that this model wasn’t offered after 1922.

Other than some post-war hyperinflation, the prices for building materials in the first three decades of 20th Century were relatively stable.

According to the neighbor’s reminiscence, the Magnolia cost $7,000 to purchase and another $7,000 to build.

It’s entirely plausible that the Magnolia sold for “about” $7,000 in 1924, especially with the upgrades that were offered with this house. (See price sheet further down this page.)

And if Sears Roebuck had a few old Magnolias hanging around the warehouse, I’m sure they would have been thrilled to unload them in 1924 or even beyond. And if they had most of one Magnolia ready to go, but it was missing a few parts, they could have easily milled those pieces to complete the kit.

In fact, if they did not do any milling or cutting until after an order was placed, it would also been fairly simple for Sears to fulfill an order from a two-year-old catalog.

In conclusion, is it possible this Magnolia wasn’t ordered until 1924 or 1925?

In a word, yes!

Enjoy the photos below! And if you know of a Sears Magnolia, send me a note!

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The Magnolia appeared on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. These specialty catalogs were pricey to create, publish and ship, shipped to customers on request, and were not discarded when the year passed.

The Magnolia appeared on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. These specialty catalogs were expensive to create, publish and ship. Sears did not send out new catalogs each year to last years' customers. (There was a lot less waste in the world a scant 80 years ago.) These catalogs were shipped out upon request. And they were not automatically discarded when the year passed. In fact, 90+ years later, many of these catalogs are still kicking around (as is evidenced by activity at eBay).

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house

Lisa Tabor (owner of the Magnolia in Syracuse, NY) graciously shared this image with me. She has the original blueprints for her Magnolia, framed and hanging in the entry foyer. This picture shows that her blueprints were drawn on March 25, 1921 for the home's buyer, Mr. Edward Knapp. This is for a house that was first offered in the Spring of 1918. If the blueprints were individually drafted for every Magnolia, it would be very easy for Sears to offer the Magnolia in later years. Photo is is copyright 2013 Lisa Tabor and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house price

I've taken this price sheet (1921 catalog) and sliced the horizontal info into two segments so the print won't be so tiny. The hot water heating plant alone would add $921 to the price. Add in some plumbing ($622) and oil shades ($106) and that's another $738. In 1922, the Magnolia was offered for $5,849. That, plus the heat, plumbing and shades takes you to $7,498.

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house house house

Here's your chance to peak in the windows of the Magnolia! (Image is from the Ladies' Home Journal, 2/1911.)

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Reception Hall

As mentioned, everything in this house is picture-perfect. Every room is gorgeous and well-appointed and beautifully decorated. The entry hall is flanked by french doors leading to the living room (right) and dining room (left). The oak floors were replaced several years prior. Pulling off a floor vent, I found four layers: The original diagonal planking (subfloor), original tongue and groove oak floors, a layer of 3/8" plywood and it was topped with tongue and groove white oak floors. That's more than 2" of solid flooring. This house could double as a bomb shelter.

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house house house house

The fan lite over the front door has lead muntins, not wooden, but they're probably original. The catalog image for the Magnolia shows wooden muntins (all four years), and yet the Magnolias in Canton, Ohio and Lincoln, Nebraska have the lead muntins. Was this an optional upgrade? Or a clue to when it was built? I'd love to know!

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Living Room

The living room fireplace doesn't match the fireplace mantel shown in the catalog, and yet it's a perfect match to the mantel shown in the pictures of the Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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house house house FP

Close-up on the fireplace. The marble (surrounding the opening) was added. The hearth is also marble and not original. When built, it had a brick hearth and brick flanking the opening.

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living room view

These french doors lead to a spacious sunporch. Note the many sconces.

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house house house

Detail of the "ingleneuk" (or "inglenook") as we Americans are wont to say). Cozy, practical AND historic!

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house living room

As mentioned earlier, every corner of this house looks like something out of glossy magazine. The french doors and hardware are either original or an accurate reproduction.

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beautiful LF

Another view of the Magnolia's living room.

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fake transom

A common feature found throughout the Magnolia is what I call, "the fake transom." I've never seen anything like this in any other Sears House. At first blush, you'd think this was a transom that had been filled in, but in fact, the house was built this way by design.

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house house house

A view from the living room into the foyer and dining room.

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Dining Room

There are a lot of windows in this dining room. In fact, I had a time getting the lighting right.

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Wayne Ringer admires

Hubby admires the beautiful windows in the dining room. God bless the folks who restored this house several years ago - they saved the original wooden windows!

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dining room

Close-up of the intricate moldings and millwork.

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chance to peak in the windows

A view from the dining room.

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house house house house

A view from the landing. When built, those spindles were stained with varnish to match the banister.

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house house house house house

In the floorplan, a pair of french doors lead out to a small balcony on the home's rear. It seems likely this house was built with the windows in place of the french doors.

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Laundry

The original door to the third floor (attic) was in the home's main hallway, but was moved around the corner to the small hallway that leads to the family bathroom. This was another very smart move, as it took out a landing and a tight 90-degree turn on that narrow attic staircase. Shown above is the doorway to the linen closet (next to the family bathroom). In the 1950s, a small shower stall was added to the bathroom, and that took out 90% of the depth in this linen closet, leaving only the small space you see above. This was turned into a laundry chute , which is also a thoughtful design. If you study the floorplan (shown further down), this all becomes clear.

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house house house house

The floorplan shows these built-in cabinets in the master bedroom dressing room. Inside these cabinets are a "special shelf" for hats. In 1924 (or 25), there was a small cast-iron pedestal sink in the corner.

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house on sink on dressing room

The walls on the dressing room have this faux subway tile. In fact, it's plaster that's been etched with lines and topped with a piece of trim. This was commonly used in bathrooms of the late 1910s and early 20s. I'm not sure why they used it in the dressing area.

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much discussed sink

If you look at the floorplan, you'll see that this corner of the dressing room shows a small sink. Seems like an odd spot for a sink! To the left of the picture, you'll see door trim, which is the right edge of the door that leads out to the second-floor balcony (on the front). Curious placement!

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In the other dressing room

If you had x-ray vision, you could look through this wall (shown above) and see the exact same sink on the other side of the wall. With all the plumbing (supply lines and drain) just inside the wall, adding another sink on the other side was pretty easy. This sink (shown above) is underneath one of the little windows that flanks the second-floor balcony on the home's front. It sits inside a spacious walk-in closet in the other front bedroom. This sink has been added, and the medicine chest shown here was originally on the OTHER side of the wall. It was moved here for reasons I can't begin to understand.

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Attic is

As per the original floor plan, there is a permanent staircase to the attic, behind a door off the second-floor hallway. This attic was finished off and (like the rest of the house) is in beautiful condition. This dormer window is on the front of the house, and you can see a piece of the porch balcony (on the roof) through the small window.

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kitchen

The original kitchen stopped at the end of that tall cabinet in the right of the picture. The entire 40-foot expanse of the back of the Magnolia was enlarged by about 10-feet, which dramatically increased the floor space of the kitchen. In addition. the interior staircase (which lead from the kitchen to the servant's quarters) was also removed which added about four feet of width to the Magnolia's kitchen.

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more kitchen

The kitchen, as seen from the Butler's pantry.

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den fireplace

The den in the Magnolia was a mere eight feet deep. Pretty miserable. The 40-foot wide addition across the back of the Magnolia opened up the den quite a bit, too. The original fireplace was replaced with a new masonry fireplace which was added on to the existing firebox. Notice the depth of the wall beside the fireplace.

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butler pantry original

Incredibly, the butler's pantry is mostly original.

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Butler Pantry 2

Base cabinets in the butler's pantry.

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FP2

Study this floorplan for a bit and you'll soon figure out all the changes that were made to the West Virginia Magnolia.

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two

The second floor is pretty darn busy. Check out the sink in the dressing room and you'll see how easy it'd be add another sink to the closet in the other front bedroom.

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finding marked lumber in the basement wasnt easy. most of it was covered. dark with coal dust.

Finding marked lumber in the basement proved a bit difficult. Most of the basement was finished, and there were only a few places were framing members were accessible, such as this space above the old coal bin. Secondly, the basement has a ceiling height of nine feet, so we were looking way over our heads! Looking at this piece, I thought I saw a number, but the wood was so dark it was tough to be sure. Do you see the number?

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Wiped it down

The homeowner had two great ideas. One, he fetched us a small step ladder so we could get a little closer to the lumber. He also suggested we take a rag and wipe off the coal dust. Voilà! Now we're trying to figure out if that's a "C" or a "G"! We know that the Magnolia was also offered as a "plan," so finding these marked beams was a nice affirmation that this was "the whole kit and caboodle".

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Attic markings

In the knee walls of the attic, I also spotted a mark!

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attic markings close

It appears to say "A 155."

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Maggy in the snow

The Magnolia's owner sent me a photo of his beautiful house, taken last year during a West Virginia snow storm. It's almost too perfect to be real. For my next birthday, I think I'd like a cake done up to look just like this.

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house house house

The Magnolia as it appeared in the 1922 catalog.

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Beautiful from every angle.

Many thanks to the homeowner for allowing me to spend two glorious hours at his beautiful home, examining it from top to bottom. If a mother was allowed to have favorites, this would be one of my favorite homes. :)

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Of the eight known Magnolias in the country, three of them were discovered via comments left at this blog. That’s 37% of the Maggies being discovered thanks wholly to the readers (”bird dogs”) reporting on their finds.

So the most important question of the day is, where’s the ninth Magnolia?

Do tell!

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

To read a fascinating story about a 94-year-old man that recalled building a Magnolia in Canton, click here.

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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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The Sears Magnolia in “The Notebook” (Sheesh!)

July 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Some rumors just never die.

There’s a persistent (and false) rumor making the rounds that beautiful Neo-Classical Revival home featured in “The Notebook,” is a Sears Magnolia.

Nope.

Not even close.

Not even close.

Let’s go right to the photos.

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Black River

The house featured in "The Notebook" is the Black River Plantation House in Georgetown County (South Carolina). It is a beauty, but it's not a Sears House. And yes, I'm 100% certain. :) The photo above is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

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Benson

Here's the real deal: A Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Comparison

Now let's compare them side-by-side. At first glance, both homes have four walls, a roof, two-story columns and some windows. But that's where it stops. The Black River Plantation (on the left) has that massive front-gable atop that porch. The window arrangement on the non-Magnolia house is also quite different. And Black River Plantation is much larger than the Sears Magnolia. And look at how tall the Black River Plantation is! Notice how much space exists between those second-floor windows and the roofline. Those are important details. If you still think these houses are identical, drop me a note and I'll send some biscuits for your seeing-eye dog. The photo on the left is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

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Heres a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

Here's a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

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Heres the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Here's the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Heres a color photo of the Black River Plantation.

Here's a color photo of the Black River Plantation. Again, notice how much space there is between the first and second floors, and the second and third floors. It is a stunningly beautiful house, isn't it? (Photo is copyright 2008 Brandon Coffey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Oh my!

Oh my! The Black River Plantation doesn't look like this, does it?

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Where did this nutty rumor get started? Apparently, here (see below). In 1994, the Black River Plantation was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Note the highlighted text below.

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In 1994,

The author wrote that it's possible that Waddell "utilized one of these sources" (kit homes or plan book home). Well, I can't rule out plan books, but I can rule out "kit house." The Black River Plantation is most assuredly not a kit house. Of that, I am sure. At least they admitted that it was definitely NOT a kit home from Montgomery Ward.

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And don’t get me started on the “Honor Built Homes marketed…during the late 19th Century…”

Whew boy!

In all fairness, not as much was known then (in 1994) as is known now about Sears kit homes. However, this pernicious rumor - that the house featured in The Notebook is a Sears Magnolia - seems to have taken on a life of its own.

On a happier note, look at some pictures of real Magnolias here.

And if you know of any REAL Magnolias, please leave a comment.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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