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Posts Tagged ‘sears kits’

Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, I wrote about “The Experiment,” where Sears built two Sears Rodessas (small bungalows) side-by-side in Cairo, Illinois, to prove the superiority of the Ready-cut System. The two homes were built in the late 1910s, and now, almost 100 years later, those wonderful little houses are still standing.

Why did Sears choose the Rodessa for their experiment? I don’t know. It was a popular house for Sears, but it wasn’t that popular! If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was in the Top 50 Most Popular Designs.

However, it was, as the Sears ad promised, “a most attractive little home.” It was cute, simple and practical, which probably made it easy to build in a hurry.

In my travels, I’ve come across several Rodessas. In fact, there’s one not far from me in Urbana, Virginia. You can read about that house by clicking here.

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

Indeed, the Rodessa is a "pretty little home." And look at the price!!

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Little is right.

Look at those small bedrooms. In 2012, a room that measures 9-feet square is a walk-in closet!

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Busy kitchen

And what does that "B" stand for in the kitchen? BOILER!

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The boiler

The "boiler" (whose placement is indicated with the "B" in the floorplan) was a water heater with a water line that ran through the back of the cook stove. Pretty complicated affair.

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

In 1924, Mr. Kidwell built this Rodessa in Washington DC and sent this snapshot in to Sears and Roebuck. He was "fully satisfied" with his Ready-cut home.

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Happy 1926

In 1926, Sears put out a brochure that was titled, "Happy Homes." The Rodessa was featured within its pages. According to the accompanying text, it was built in Independence, MO.

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Happy

Not sure why Sears included a picture of corn with the testimonial.

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HeWood

It's endured some significant remodelings, but at least it's still standing. This transmogrified Rodessa is in Wood River, Illinois (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO). That salt-treated porch railing just does not work on this old bungalow.

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House

This Rodessa may look a little blue, but it's actually a very happy house with lots of good self-esteem. It's in Northern Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). Its located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana.

Here's the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). It's located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana. The plaque over the door reads, "Sears Roebuck House, 1924." I was told that the folks in Urbana didn't realize that Sears had 369 other kit home designs. This is a fairly common misconception. This 88-year-old house is in beautiful condition.

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And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL).

And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL). They were built in the late 1910s as part of an experiment to prove that "The Ready-Cut Method" was far more efficient than traditional building practices of the time.

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Ready

The house that was built using traditional building practices took 583 hours and the poor saps aren't finished yet. The yard is still a mess with scraps of lumber scattered hither and yon. The workers have collapsed on the front porch in utter despair and humiliation.

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house

Ah, but the pre-cut Sears Kit Home is all buttoned up and beautiful! They even had time to finish up the landscaping! The kitchen windows are wide open. They had so much time to spare that they went inside and cooked dinner!

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation. The clipped gables were gone, as were the dramatically oversized eaves. The unique shape of the front porch was replaced with a simpler gabled roof. In a word, its flair and panache had been replaced with pedestrian and dull.

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Learn more about the two Rodessas at the Sears Mill by clicking here.

How did Sears Homes become so popular so fast? Read about that here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? It’s just one click away!

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Hazelton: House of Threes (Part II)

November 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, the Hazelton is an easy house to spot, because of the unique window arrangement. I think of it as “The House of Threes.”

The Hazelton has three windows in that shed dormer. There are three windows on the wide of the house (in front of the bay window). And there are three windows flanking the front door (right and left). And there are six windows in that dining room bay (divisible by three).

To read the prior blog, click here.

The great majority of Sears Homes can be found in the Midwest, but Rachel Shoemaker found a bevy of these early 20th Century kit homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And she managed to get inside a Hazelton in wonderfully original condition!

Enjoy the photos below! And many thanks to Rachel for these wonderful photos.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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House

Floorplan of the Sears Hazelton.

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Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This house - nearing the 100-year-old mark - is still in wonderfully original condition. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Commemmorative

Commemorative plaque puts the home's age at an impressive 98 years. I'd love to know more about how the owners got this house on the National Register. In my travels, being a "Sears kit house" is not enough for this unique distinctive (as defined by the Secretary of Interior). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside, the house is in mostly original condition!

Inside, the house is in mostly original condition! Notice all the wooden trim, unpainted and with a beautiful patina. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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nice

Close-up on the other side of those bookcase colonnades. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place.

Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved.

The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved. The tile floor and walls are new, but were tastefully done, in a style that's in accord with the time period. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And old

And old ad from the Sears Roebuck building materials catalog shows a typical mantel available for $15. (Notice, gas logs were available for an extra $9.33.)

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Here

The brick work was re-done but the mantel looks much like it did in the 1915 catalog (above). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror.

Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside

These three windows are fancifully adorned on the inside. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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An early building materials catalog shows an old door

An early building materials catalog shows an original oak "Craftsman" door.

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And a real live example!

And a real live example! Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining

In the dining room, those four windows (in the bump out) also retain their original wood finish. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More built-ins!

One of the best features of a Sears kit home were all the built-ins. Even small cubby holes were turned into storage space. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few Sears Homes that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

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To read about the other kit homes in Tulsa, click here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Click here!

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Those Crummy Little Kit Houses From Sears…

May 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

One of my #1 goals is to disabuse people of the notion that Sears Homes were extremely modest little houses.

Yes, Sears did have several designs that were very modest, but they also had a few designs that were quite grandiose. One of their most magnificent structures was the Modern Home #303. This model does not appear in Houses by Mail (a popular field guide to Sears Homes). In fact, Sears Modern Home #303 appeared only in the very rare 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

As my friend Dale points out, several of the designs that appeared in the pre-1915 Sears catalogs were lifted right off the pages of popular pattern books of the day, created by the popular architects, such as William A. Radford, Victor Vorhees, and Henry L. Wilson. (There is a plethora of information on this very topic here.)

So it’s very possible that Sears Modern Home #303 was a pattern-book house that was “borrowed” by Sears, appearing in their 1910 Modern Homes catalog.

And yet, I’ve never seen a good match to #303. And if we ever do find a match, it might take some work to figure out if this house is the real deal (Sears Modern Home #303) or if it came out of a pattern book!

Sears Modern Home #303 appeared only one year - in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Modern Home #303 appeared only one year - in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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As you can see from the catalog page, this was quite a house!

As you can see from the catalog page, this was quite a house! In the small print (just under the price), it's estimated that the house can be built for about $6,700 (which includes all construction costs).

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fine print

"A Mansion of Colonial style of architecture" and it has a Superba front door!

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First floor

This 2,500-square foot house has very spacious rooms on the first floor.

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All Sears Homes

This house has a front and rear staircase, five bedrooms and a trunk room.

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house house house

The exterior has many distinctive features.

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tower twoer

These small window sashes on the tower (third floor) are pretty distinctive.

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On the other side

And this tower has a railing on top!

Have you seen this house? Please send me a photo!

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read the next amazing blog, click here.

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The Frangible Fosgate or The Diminuitive Delevan?

May 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

The Fosgate and Delevan were two very similar houses offered by Sears in the early 1920s. At first glance, I thought they were the same house, but after looking at the floorplan, I saw that the Fosgate was a little bigger than the Delevan.

And the Fosgate was “Standard Bilt,” while the Delevan was “Honor Bilt.”

Honor Bilt” was Sears’ best. “Standard Bilt” was pretty flimsy, and not suited for extreme weather or longevity.

The Delevan was 22′ by 22′ (pretty tiny), and the Fosgate was 24′ by 24′ (a little less tiny).

As a point of comparison, the Delevan was the size of my den. And the bedrooms in this house were the size of many walk-in closets.

To learn more about the difference between Standard Bilt and Honor Bilt, click here.

Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

title title

"Nice and cozy" is one way of describing a house with 480 square feet (1920).

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house

Holy moly, look at the size of the bedrooms. And the bathroom! Not enough room in there to change your mind! (The Delevan, 1921 catalog).

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test in 1920 catalog and the above was 1920

Now this is a real puzzle. If you look at the houses on Gamble Street in Shelby, there are no Delevans. This insert appeared on the page with the Delevan (see above, just beside the home's floorplan). And yet, there on Gamble Street you'll see a Sears Fullerton. What exactly did Mr. Thornill build?

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this is from the 1925 catalog

The Fosgate appeared in the 1925 catalog. As you can see, it looks a whole lot like the Delevan. The lone obvious difference (from the outside) is that the Fosgate does not have a window in that front bedroom, where the Delevan DOES. The Fosgate is also two feet longer and wider, and it is "Standard Bilt" compared to the Honor Bilt Delevan.

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1921 Fosgate

The Delevan was a pricey little affair in 1921. The year before, it was a mere $696.

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Lacon Illinois Sears Fosgate or delevan

Located in Laconic Lacon, Illinois, is this a Fosgate or a Delevan? My first impression is that it's a Fosgate (because of the width).

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Cindys photo

Located in Ohio, this little house appears to be the Fosgate, because it's missing that bedroom window on the side. The front porch has certainly been embellished. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without permission.)

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Cindys photo

Same house, different angle. You can see the kitchen window at the rear. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Catanzaro and can not be used or reproduced without permission.)

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Cincinnatti Donna Bakke

Is this the Fosgate or the Delevan? Judging by the width, I'd *guess* it's the Delevan, but it's mighty hard to know for sure. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakker and can not be used or reproduced without permission.)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Addie Hoyt Fargo, click here.

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“Different People Like Different Things…”

May 25th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Or so my husband tells me - frequently.

But I’d have to say that Sears Modern Home #190 was not one of their better designs - in terms of attractiveness.

Perhaps others thought so, as well, because I’ve only seen one of these kit homes and it was in a tiny town in Illinois. Sears Modern Home #190 was gone well before 1918 (when Sears Homes were given names). I’ve only seen it in the 1912 catalog. It’s not in the 1910 and it’s not in the 1916, so apparently, it didn’t last too long.

Ick

From the 1912 catalog.

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icky two

An unusual floor plan, for sure. Plus, it has a coat closet?? That's unusual. The polygon bay (first and second floor) is the most prominent feature on this little house and makes it easy to identify. On a house of this vintage, you may find a centered bay on the first floor, but it's unusual to see it extend to the second floor.

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ickey three

Kind of has a face only a mother could love.

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icky four

Is this Sears Modern Home #190? The porch roof is different (shed vs. hip), but porches get rebuilt , plus there was a tornado that went through this area in the 1930s and did a lot of damage to a lot of porches. My first impression (and second and third) is that this *is* the #190.

Sears Modern Home #190.

This actually looks *more* like Modern Home #190 because (unlike the house above), this home has in Richmond has the massive cornice returns.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

Did you know that Buster Keaton did a short on Sears Homes?

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The Concord: A Modern Residence at a Low Cost, Part II

May 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Yesterday, I did a blog about the Sears Concord, and my tired eyes misread some of the fine print in an old Sears Modern Homes catalog.

House

In yesterday's blog, I showed this house, but misread the opposite page (which featured all the testimonials), and placed the wrong text with the photo. Nice house, and look at that porch!

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This is the correct text, which shows that the house was built in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.

This is the correct text, which shows that the house was built in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.

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So Sears Modern Hmoe #114 (The Concord) was built in Monongahela, PA.

So Sears Modern Home #114 (The Concord) was built in Monongahela, PA (1916 catalog).

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And then I remembered that the photo that Dale sent me, showed a Concord on Lincoln Street in Monongahela. I think its safe to say - its the same house as was featured in the testimonial section of the Sears Catalog in 1916.

And then I remembered that the photo that Dale sent me, showed a Concord on Lincoln Street in Monongahela. I think it's safe to say - it's the same house as was featured in the testimonial section of the Sears Catalog in 1916. (Photo is copyright 2010 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Side by side comparison shows WHY its so difficult to identify these houses a century later. The whole front porch was removed, dramatically altering the look of the house!

Side by side comparison shows WHY it's so difficult to identify these houses a century later. The whole front porch was removed, dramatically altering the look of the house!

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And while we’re on the topic of identifying old Sears Homes, look at this house (below).

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Dale

The corresponding index identifies this as a Sears Model #114 (The Concord) and yet it doesn't really *look* like a Concord. The roof has been raised a significant amount, creating a larger second floor and also creating an entire third floor. Plus, there's no "cornice dormer" (as with the traditional Concord). In short, this house bears little resemblance to a #114.

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And yet

And yet, it's obviously described as a "C114" in the 1916 catalog. So it *is* a Sears Concord. Of special note is the fact that there's no mention of it being a customized design.

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And unfortunately, in these pre-1920 homes, youre not going to find any marked lumber, making identification ever more difficult.

And unfortunately, in these pre-1920 homes, you're not going to find any marked lumber, making identification ever more difficult. Shown here is the floor joists in a Sears Osborn in Sidney, Illinois. The "C" denoted a 2x6, while a "D" was a 2x8. You get the idea. :)

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To read part I of this blog, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Click here to see WONDERFUL old photos of a Sears Concord that’s been faithfully and painstakingly restored.

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The Princeville: A Dandy Home!

May 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Another not-so-popular house, and yet, it sure is easy to identify! This house has many very unusual features that really make it “jump off the curb” at you.

The arrangement of the dormers on the second floor is pretty eye-catching (three windows in the front dormer, four on the side), as is the corner box window on the first floor. That’ll certainly get your attention! The dining room has a squared-bay with a window seat.

The 1200-square-foot house offered three small bedrooms on the second floor (and one bath), with a spacious living room (21′ by 13′), nice size dining room (12′6″ by 14′6″), and a decent kitchen with its own walk-in pantry.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To hear Rose’s interview on WUNC (with Frank Stasio) here.

The Princeville, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Princeville, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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The living room and dining room were unusually spacious.

The living room and dining room were unusually spacious. That corner box window was a staircase landing with a built-in seat. Very nice!

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Upstairs were three very small bedrooms and one bath.

Upstairs were three very small bedrooms and one bath.

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When I was writing The Sears Homes of Illinois, Rebecca Hunter gave up three days of her life to drive all over northern Illinois so that I could take photos! Rebecca drove me right to this house in West Chicago. Two years later, Im struggling to remember if this is my photo or Rebeccas photo! Lets say its Rebeccas.  :)  Photograph is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

When I was writing "The Sears Homes of Illinois," Rebecca Hunter gave up three days of her life to drive all over northern Illinois so that I could take photos! Rebecca drove me right to this house in West Chicago. Two years later, I'm struggling to remember if this is my photo or Rebecca's photo! Let's say it's Rebecca's. :) Photograph is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

To learn more about Rebecca’s newest book, click here!

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This is my favorite Princeville in all the world. Its in Clifton Forge, Virginia (near the West Virginia border), which is one of the prettiest cities in the entire country.  This Princeville is in incredibly beautiful condition. Very nice!!!

This is my favorite Princeville in all the world. It's in Clifton Forge, Virginia (near the West Virginia border), which is one of the prettiest cities in the entire country. This Princeville is in incredibly beautiful condition. Very nice!!!

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(Clifton Forge has an abundance of Sears Homes. Click here to see more!)

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Christiansburg, Virginia is near Roanoke and it also has several Sears kit homes, including this Princeville. The porch was closed in, and that altered its look quite a bit.

Christiansburg, Virginia is near Roanoke and it also has several Sears kit homes, including this Princeville. The porch has been closed in, and that altered its look quite a bit.

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Rebecca found this Sears House through old mortgage records. Incredibly, this is a Sears Princeville. YIKES!!!

Rebecca found this Sears House through old mortgage records. Incredibly, this "modernistic" house in St. Charles is a Sears Princeville. YIKES!!!

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Hard to believe that the house in St. Charles (shown above) started out life as a Sears Princeville.

Hard to believe that the house in St. Charles (shown above) started out life as a Sears Princeville.

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There are many more Sears Princevilles out there!

There are many more Sears Princevilles out there!

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To see a sneak peek of Rebecca’s newest book, click here.

Click here to see more pictures of pretty, pretty Sears Homes!

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Sears Modern Home #147 - And It’s Only $885

May 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In February 2003, I traveled to Flora, Illinois to give a talk on Sears Homes. It was one of my first “paid gigs,” and I was very excited about actually getting paid to do the thing I loved the most - talk about Sears Homes!

In celebration of this happy time, I treated myself to a fine automobile for the trip. The night before my talk, I went to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and rented a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.

My oh my, that was a sweet ride!

During the ride around Flora, I found several interesting houses, including the Sears Modern Home #147. The folks in Flora knew it was a kit house, but they didn’t know which model it was.

This was the first time I’d seen a #147, and it was - without any doubt - the nicest #147 that I ever did see. It was in remarkably original condition.

After I finished in Flora, I rode over to Olney (nearby town) to look for more kit  homes. While driving around in Olney, my shiny new Cadillac had mechanical problems and I had to take it to a nearby shop for emergency repairs. When I returned the car to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Wood River (near my home in Alton), the clerk was very apologetic. He offered to discount the price of the three-day rental. I told him, “That’s a good start.”

He then said, “How can I turn this into a good experience for you, Mrs. Thornton?”

I said, “How about a deeper discount? I just spent four hours standing outside a car dealership in Olney, Illinois, waiting for them to fix your car.”

He then offered to discount the price of the rental to nothing.

“That’ll work,” I told him.

Almost ten years later, when I look at these old photos, I remember that fine “Glacier White” Cadillac with its buttery soft “Cashmere Gray” leather seats. Despite our little mishap in Olney, that was one fine automobile.

And in the intervening 10 years, I’ve rented at least 20 cars from Enterprise. :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see more pretty pictures of Sears Homes, click here.

147 house

The Sears Modern Home #147 as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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147

Pretty simple house, but a good value at $885.

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147

Look at the columns - clad in clapboard!

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SMH 147

And here's the world's most perfect $147 in Flora, Illinois (near Olney).

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147

The details around the window are perfect!

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Want to see more pretty pictures? Click here.

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“You Will Like the Josephine The Longer You Live In It…”

May 4th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

So promised the catalog advertisement for the “Honor Bilt” house, The Josephine.

This diminutive 840-square-foot house provides a nice example of the difference between “Honor Bilt, Already Cut” houses and the “Lighter Bilt, Not Cut or Fitted” houses.

The Honor-Bilt Josephine was offered for $1,470 while its cheaper cousin (Lighter Bilt) was $1,052. In today’s economic clime, that may not seem like a big difference but imagine a Realtor showing you two houses that appear to be the same, and both with 840 square feet. One is selling for $105,000 and the other is selling for $147,000. Which one would you choose?

And yet, the Honor Bilt really was the far better value.  These homes utilized traditional construction standards, such as double headers over the doors and windows, double floors (primary floors over subfloors), exterior sheathing under clapboard or cedar shingles and wall studs on 16-inch centers.

Lighter Bilt” was another kettle of fish. These homes were really not intended for cold-weather climates. Wall studs were on 24-inch centers, and there were single headers over doors and windows, no subfloor and no underlying exterior sheathing. Those things make a big difference.

And then there was the whole pre-cut vs. non-cut lumber. You’d have to be taking some heavy doses of laudanum to think that non-precut lumber was a good plan.

To appreciate the value of precut lumber, think back to the early 1900s. Electricity was in its infancy, and in many cities, electricity was turned off each night at 11 p.m. for six hours of repairs and maintenance! In 1910, only 10% of homes had electricity. By 1930, that number had jumped to 70%. (Source:  Electrifying America:  Social Meanings of  a New Technology, David E. Nye.)  As late as December 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine was still describing electric lights as a luxury that a builder should incorporate into a modern city home.

To cut a piece of lumber with a handsaw required time, strength and a degree of expertise (for a good square cut). Electric saws and the heavy duty wiring to handle the amperage draw were a thing of the future. In fact, the electric handsaw (a portable circular saw) wasn’t widely available until 1925. A fascinating news item in the February 1925 American Carpenter and Builder heralded the “new invention” with this commentary:  “The portable circular saw does the sawing for 15 carpenters.”

In 1921, Sears conducted an “experiment’ building two Rodessas (small frame homes) side by side at the site of the Sears mill in Cairo, Illinois. One house was erected using Sears’ precut lumber. The second house was built using traditional construction techniques; no precut lumber. The precut house was fully assembled in 352 carpenter hours and the non-precut home was completed in 583 carpenter hours.

In short, the fellow building his own Sears kit home would probably be doing his sawing with an old-fashioned, man-powered saw. The 1927 Wardway Homes catalog estimated that the average two-bedroom stick-built home required about 4,000 cuts with a saw.

That’s a whole lot of sawing that could be spared by purchasing an “Already Cut” Sears Home.

To learn more about Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt houses, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book on Sears kit homes, click here.

The Josephine, as shown in the 1921 catalog.

The Josephine, as shown in the 1921 catalog.

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Look in the difference in price between Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt.

Look in the difference in price between Honor Bilt and Lighter Bilt.

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This 840-square foot house was just the right size for many families in the early 1920s.

This 840-square foot house was just the right size for many families in the early 1920s. And the living room has space for a piano and a bench!

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Heres a Josephine in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Here's a Josephine in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Cincinnatti, Ohio.

This little cutie - discovered and photographed by Donna Bakke - is in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Effingham, Illinois

Yellow seems like an appropriate color for the happy little Josephine.

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Also in Mt. Healthy, OH

Donna found this Josephine in Mt. Healthy, OH. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Cincinnatti, OH

Another one in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mt. Healthy

This is my favorite - and it's in stunningly original condition. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mt. Healthy

Look at the details around the front porch! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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My favorite one in Mt. Healthy

Close-up on the porch details.

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Awesome

And the house in Mt. Healthy is a perfect match! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see more pretty pictures of old houses, click here.

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