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So Many Kit Homes in Staunton, Virginia!

February 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 33 comments

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Rose is returning to Staunton May 2nd to give a talk on Sears Homes!

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Click here to learn more!

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In 2005, I stopped for a short visit in Staunton, Virginia and during that short visit, I spotted a beautiful Sears House overlooking Gypsy Hill Park. To my chagrin, I did not have my camera with me.

That was eight years ago. I’ve waited all these many years to get back to Staunton and take a photo of that wonderful old Sears House overlooking the park.

Thursday morning, I finally got my chance!

And I must say, it was worth the wait.

In addition to the house overlooking the park, I also drove around town a bit to see what else I could find. And I found quite a few interesting kit homes. Neither my husband nor myself know anything about Staunton, so we stumbled around a bit, trying to find the right neighborhoods (1920s/1930s housing within 1-2 miles of railroad tracks).

I’d love to return to Staunton when I can find a Staunton native who’d be willing to help a flatlander tourist do a proper architectural survey of all the best early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Because - I am confident that this historic mountain town has many more kit homes. Below I’ve featured just a few that we found driving through two small neighborhoods!

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what is  Sears kit home? Well…

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!). The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together  with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a  “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

In fact, Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!  When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one. In fact, based on my 12 years of experience, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

This is a piece of American history that is at great risk of being lost, which is why I travel all over the country, take photos and maintain this blog.

And on a side note, I had a terrible time getting good photos. Almost without exception, these houses were facing west, so my early morning photos were snapped looking right into the rising sun, creating a really poor photo. Alas!

To learn more about the kit homes in Staunton, please scroll on down!

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

1919 Maytown

The Sears Maytown as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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house house house

This is the Sears House that overlooks Gypsy Hill Park. It's a beautiful Maytown. Do the owners know that they have a Sears Home? More than 90% of the Sears Homeowners I've encountered do NOT realize they're living in a kit home from Sears.

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Sears Sears 1921

The Sears Westly, from the 1921 Modern Homes catalog.

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Westly Staunton

This Westly in Staunton has seen a few changes, but it's still easily identifiable as a Westly.

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house house

The Sears Lynnhaven was a popular house for Sears (1938).

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Staunton

And the Lynnhaven is all over Staunton. I found FIVE Lynnhavens in Staunton which was quite a surprise. This Lynnhaven is on N. Augusta Street, and a few hundred feet away - just across the street - is another Lynnhaven that's being used a business. The front door has been closed up, which doesn't look too attractive.

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house

The house above was at the corner of Belmont and Augusta. The Lynnhaven (a very popular house for Sears in general and Staunton in particular) was also known as "The Belmont."

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house

This Lynnhaven has a slightly altered dormer (more wide than most). Is it still a Lynnhaven? I'm just not sure on this one. It's hard to be 100% certain without seeing the home's interior. The Lynnhaven has a handful of unique features, and this house possesses most of those "unique features."

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house

Another Lynnhaven? Did one builder buy a kit Lynnhaven from Sears in 1930 and build several of these houses from one set of blueprints? Very possible, as this was often done with Sears Homes.

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house house

And yet another Lynnhaven in Staunton. Are these all the real deal? Again, no way to know without an interior inspection, but my first impression is YES.

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house

Is this a real Lynnhaven? The front gable looks a little wider than the other houses.

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Sears Vallonia

Sears Vallonia as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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house

This house has been through a lot of remodeling but despite that, my impression is that this is a Sears Vallonia. On the side of the house is a bay window with two windows, spaced a couple feet apart. That's another unique feature, seen in the Sears Vallonia. The dormer is too tall, but this is a very common modification to the Sears Vallonia. Based on my 12 years experience, I'd say it *is* a Vallonia. And I'm usually right. ;)

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house house 1927

In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes, such as Gordon Van Tine and Montgomery Ward. Montgomery Ward did not have a "Modern Homes Department" (as Sears did). Montgomery Ward turned all orders over to Gordon Van Tine for fulfillment. So a Wardway House is a Gordon Van Tine house. The Mount Vernon (shown above) was a popular house for Wards (1927).

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Staunton, VA

And here's a perfect example of the Mount Vernon in Staunton, Virginia.

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Wardway 1930

The Wardway Kenwood was another popular Wardway Home (1930).

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house house

And this appears to be a Kenwood!

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In addition to Sears, there was also a kit home company known as Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of their most popular homes, The Montawk.

In addition to Sears, there was also a kit home company known as Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of their most popular homes, The Montawk (1920 catalog).

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Lewis Montawk? Maybe.

Is this a Lewis Montawk? Probably. Maybe!

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Sears

As mentioned above, Montgomery Ward didn't sell their own homes. Orders placed with Montgomery Ward were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine. Gordon Van Tine also created and published the Wardway Homes catalog. In 1931, Wardway Homes closed, but GVT continued on until the early 1940s. (Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing this scan!)

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Montgomery Ward didnt sell their own homes. Orders placed with Montgomery Ward were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine.

"The Roberts" (shown here and on the cover of the 1916 catalog) was one of their most popular models. It was spacious, grand and priced at under $1,300.

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Its another really poor photo, but this shows a beautiful Roberts on Augusta Avenue in Staunton, VA.

It's another really poor photo, but this shows a beautiful "Roberts" on Augusta Avenue in Staunton, VA. The house is in stunningly beautiful (and original) condition.

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Best for last.

I saved the best for last. Aladdin was a bigger kit home company that Sears, but not as well known. Aladdin is more prevalent in Virginia, because there was a large mill in North Carolina. Shown above is the Aladdin Plymouth - a "perfect home."

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Staunton

And here's a perfect example of the perfect home - the Plymouth! (In Staunton, Virginia)

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And this is not a kit home but a plan-book house. These were also quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was The Mayfield.

And this is not a "kit home" but a plan-book house. These were quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was "The Mayfield," (offered in a plan book titled, "Harris, McHenry and Baker").

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This Mayfield is in wonderful condition.

This "Mayfield" is in wonderful condition.

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Whilst driving through Staunton (via Google Maps), I found another kit home, The Cordova (Wardway/GVT).

Whilst "driving" through Staunton (via Google Maps), I found another kit home, The Cordova (Wardway/GVT) on Williams Street. It's had some rough remodeling, but its original features are still present. What a nice match!

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And

And on Straith Street, I saw a "Genessee" found in the "Harris, McHenry and Baker Planbook" (1920s). Look down the right side, and you'll see what a nice match it is!

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Thanks to Sarah (commenter), for telling me about this kit house on Route 11 in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Thanks to Sarah Puckett (who left a comment last night below), for telling me about this kit house on Route 11 in Weyer's Cave, Virginia. It's a perfect Sears "Dover" and a very nice find! Please keep those cards and letters coming!! :) BTW, I'd love to have a better photo of this "Dover"! Anyone willing to get me a picture?

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Today, February 25, I found yet another perfect little Sears House (The Berwyn) on Noon Avenue!

Today (2/25), I found yet another perfect little Sears House ("The Berwyn"). It's on Noon Avenue! The image above is from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And look what fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker found in the Aladdin records! Its an Aladdin Stanhope

And look what fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker found in the Aladdin records! It's an Aladdin Stanhope, sold to William Alfred Linkenhoker of Staunton, VA. Does this mean there's a Stanhope in Staunton? Probably so. Now the question is, how do we find Mr. Linkenhoker's home in the mid-1920s? Rachel checked out the 1920 and 1930 census. In 1920, William Alfred Linkenhoker was a renter and by 1930, he was living in Summers, WV. (Photo is copyright 2013 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

Wherefore art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

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Heres a

Here's a perfect Aladdin Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids). Where is the Stanhope in Staunton? Please leave a comment below!

I’d love to return to Staunton soon and do a proper survey and maybe even give a talk on this topic. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to contact me and/or learn more about these kit homes.

To learn more about Rose and her obsession with kit homes, click here.

To read about the kit homes in nearby Harrisonburg, VA, click here.

To see an incredible video about the importance of the Sears catalog in early America, click here (PBS Experience, 1991).

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Do You Have 60 Seconds to Save a Sears House? (Part IV)

August 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

I’m saddened to report that the demolition of the Pop Culture House at Bowling Green State University is apparently going forward.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

This, despite a truly valiant effort on the part of BGSU staff and faculty and friends to save this house.

This, despite the presentation of a petition with more than 2,100 signatures to BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey.

The “powers that be” at BGSU apparently prefer that students learn about their history via pricey textbooks and pretty pictures, rather than “hands on.” Given a chance to preserve a piece of true Americana, the college has opted to destroy this “one-of-a-kind” kit house and send hundreds of thousands of pounds of debris to the landfill. (To read about what makes the Pop Culture house truly unique, click here.)

In “The Slate Roof Bible,” author Joseph Jenkins reports that 28% of the volume of debris at landfills is construction and demolition debris.

I’m of the opinion that BGSU should immediately suspend any and all classes related to environmental sciences. They’ve just sent a message - to their community and their students and their staff - declaring boldly that recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.

How many pounds of recycled materials does BGSU collect each year and turn over to a recycling center? How many years of recycling bottles and cans will it take to offset the 300,000+ pounds of house they’re sending to the landfills today?

If a person paid attention to behaviors (which are better indices than fancy words), the take-away message from BGSU is, “Recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.”

To say that I’m sickened and disgusted by this whole affair would be a gross understatement.

Given the tremendous urgency with which this building has been rushed to demolition, you’d think that the Pop Culture House harbored smallpox, diphtheria, spanish flu, anthrax, polio and the bubonic plague.

It does not.

The biggest sin committed by the Pop Culture House is that it stood in the way of a proposed college expansion. The house had the misfortune of being built on a piece of land that would one day be owned by a college that lacks vision, and also lacks respect for this uniquely American piece of cultural and architectural history.

At the very least, the house should have been moved to another site.

Preliminary estimates placed the cost of moving the house at about $18,000. The cost to demolish the structure is probably not far from the cost to move it.

At the very, very least, the lumber in the house should be salvaged. The quality of building materials (lumber) used in this 1931-built home are the likes of which we will never again see in this country. To read more about that, click here.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

It’s a sad day for BGSU.

Very sad indeed.

To read more about this house that will soon be nothing but an empty lot, click on the links below.

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

How to Move a House.

To read an excellent blog that talks more about the ecological importance of preserving this house, click here.

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The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012).

The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward, but was based on a kit home design offered only by Sears Roebuck. The Sears House was the Lewiston.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

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As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows.

As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows. What I do know is it is very sad and a great loss for the community. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another

The picture of the home's side shows the windows being removed. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening.

Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Those asbestos flakes must be pretty smart if they know that they have to stay behind the red tape.

That asbestos must be one smart mineral if it knows that it has to stay behind the red tape. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the homes buyer, builder and first owner.

A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the home's buyer, builder and first owner.

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A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

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Virgils Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware.

Virgil's Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

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A view of Virgils very own front door - from Wards.

A view of Virgil's very own front door - from Wards. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward.

Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward. This reads, "From Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, IA." Orders for Montgomery Ward's homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine in Davenport, Iowa. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family.  (Muncie, IN)

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family. (Muncie, IN)

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To read about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio (safely out of the reach of BGSU), click here.

To contact BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey, send her an email:  mmazey@bgsu.edu

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Durham and Its Kit Homes! (Updated!)

May 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

On Saturday (May 19th), I’ll be at the Rialto Theater giving a talk on the Kit Homes of Raleigh.

On Thursday (May 17th), Katherine Jordan drove me through Durham (next door to Raleigh) to look for kit homes. And we found a few!

As is typical in this part of the country, we found more Aladdin Kit Homes than anything else. Aladdin (like Sears) sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, and Aladdin (unlike Sears) had a major mill located in Wilmington, NC., so it’s not surprising that there are so many Aladdins in Durham and surrounding areas.

Want to learn more? Join our group on Facebook!

To see what we found in Raleigh, click here.

To listen to Rose’s interview on WUNC, click here.

To see the photos of kit homes in Durham, scroll on down!

First, my favorite Sears House in Durham - The Sears Alhambra!

First, my favorite Sears House in Durham - The Sears Alhambra!

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Hidden in the Pines is one of the prettiest Alhambras I have ever seen.

Hidden in the Pines is one of the prettiest Alhambras I have ever seen.

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First, one of my favorites! The Aladdin Pomona.

And from Aladdin, one of my favorites! The Aladdin Pomona.

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Due to the remodeling (substitute siding), its hard to see but this is definitely an Aladdin Pomona!

Due to the remodeling (substitute siding), it's hard to see but this is definitely an Aladdin Pomona!

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And even though its got replacement siding, it did retain its original windows!

And even though it's got replacement siding, it did retain its original windows, with their distinctive diamond muntins.

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This is a Sears Lynnhaven (from the 1938 catalog).

This is a Sears Lynnhaven (from the 1938 catalog).

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And the Lynnhaven in Durham had something Ive never seen before: A gabled dormer!

And the Lynnhaven in Durham had something I've never seen before: A gabled dormer!

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And I also saw a house from Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company).

And I also saw a house from Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company).

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The Durham

This "Colonial Cottage" was a good match to its original catalog image.

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Aladdin

The Aladdin Plaza was a classic early 20th Century bungalow.

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Aladdin Plaza

This Aladdin Plaza in Durham is in perfect condition.

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And literally next door to the Plaza was a perfect little Aladdin Pasadena.

And literally next door to the Plaza was a perfect little Aladdin Pasadena. Notice the classic "Arts and Crafts" porch roof.

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Its somewhat obscured by landscaping, but theres no doubt that this is an Aladdin Pasadena.

It's somewhat obscured by landscaping, but there's no doubt that this is an Aladdin Pasadena.

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Close of the door.

Close up of the door.

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NOT

Through the years, several people contacted me to tell me about this "Sears House" in Durham. THIS IS NOT A SEARS HOUSE! In fact, it is NOT a kit home at all!! It's from a plan book titled, "Standard Home Plans for 1926," and Rachel Shoemaker is the one who figured this out. Again - this is *not* a Sears House, but it came from a plan book!

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To learn more about plan book houses, click here.

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And we spotted a couple Lustons on the same street!

And we spotted a couple Lustons on the same street!

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To learn more about Lustron Homes, click here.

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And this is NOT a kit home, but it is a DAZZLING architectural treasure. Its Art Moderne and one of my all time favorite housing styles - and its right there in Durham!

And this is NOT a kit home, but it is a DAZZLING architectural treasure. It's known as "Art Moderne" and one of my all time favorite housing styles - and it's right there in Durham!

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The details.

The details of Rose's appearances in Raleigh.

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming lecture, click here.

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Of Houses and Hubbies

June 13th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

I love Elkins, WV. It’s a beautiful place and a lovely city. And I love the people of Elkins, too. Especially this guy (pictured below), sitting on the rock.

His name is Wayne Ringer and he’s from Elkins, West Virginia.

He graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1977, and Washington and Lee (School of Law) in 1980. Last summer, we drove from Norfolk to Elkins to attend his cousin’s 30th Wedding Anniversary party (part of the Skidmore clan). It was a happy, happy time. Surprisingly, I found quite a few Sears Homes. (Story continues below photo of cutie-pie husband)

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins, poised atop a rock in the Cheat River

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The houses were shipped via rail and contained 30,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction manual and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in about 90 days. Today, there are about 70,000 Sears kit homes in America. Incredibly, about 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have! The purpose of this website is to help people learn more about this fascinating piece of America’s history.

Here are a few of the houses I found within the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears most popular kit homes.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears' most popular kit homes.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One things for sure: Its a beautiful old kit house!

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One thing's for sure: It's a beautiful old kit house. It's in South Elkins.

Sears Hazleton high atop the hillside in Elkins

Sears Hazleton from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. Looking at the house from the right side, you can see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, one small).

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. If you looked at this house from the right side, you'd see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, two small) on that left side. It's located in Wees Historic District.

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell

Sears Cornell. Although this looks like just another foursquare, this Cornell has a goofy floorplan, with a tiny bathroom (and tiny window) on its left side. When you look on the home's left side, you'll see that the oddly-placed bathroom window is right where it should be. THe Cornell was a very popular house for Sears, and I'm confident that this house is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Is this a Sears Marion? Id say it is. Its a good match on all sides and has a raised roof in the back, which was probably added in later years.

Is this a Sears Marion? I'd say it is. It's a good match on all sides and all the windows are in their right place. One eye-catching feature is the swoop of the bellcast roof on the front of the house. The raised roof in the back was obviously added in later years.

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale in Elkins, WV

Is this a Sears Glendale? It looks like it. However, it is not a spot-on match.

And there’s even a Lustron Prefabricated post-WW2 home in Elkins. Lustron Homes were made of 20-gage 2×2 metal tiles, covered with a porcelain enamel finish (just like the top of a high-dollar washing machines!). These houses were all metal - inside and out - and hanging a picture required sticking magnets to the walls! Nails and other fasteners would damage the porcelain enamel finish. Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and less than 3000 Lustron Homes were sold in this country. They were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

To learn more about Lustrons, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

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Choo-choos in Crewe, and Sears Homes Too!

May 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the late 1800s, the repair shops for Norfolk and Western’s steam locomotives were based in Crewe, Virginia. In the mid 20th Century, railroads abandoned steam (and their repair shops) and turned to diesel-electric locomotives.  One of the legacies left behind from Crewe’s former glory as a railroad town is a delightful train museum and a few kit homes, from Sears (Chicago) and Aladdin (Bay City, MI).

In late Spring 2011, I traveled through Crewe on my way home from Lynchburg, and found these delightful kit homes.

Enjoy the photos, and as always - please share the link with your real friends and your virtual friends, too!  :)

To read another amazing blog about Crewe, click here.

edison

Aladdin was actually another kit home company that (like Sears) sold their houses through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin started selling their kit homes in 1906, two years before Sears (1908). In Virginia, I've found many more Aladdins than Sears homes, probably because Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC.

Edison

Aladdin Edison on Route 460 in Crewe.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza in brick.

The Lynnhaven is one of my favorite Sears Homes, because it’s both stylish and practical, and it was one of Sears best selling models.  This house was offered from the late 1920s to the end, when Sears offered their last catalog in 1940.

Railroad towns and kit homes go together naturally, just like carrots and peas. These kit homes would arrive in a boxcar, in 12,000 pieces. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a man of average abilities could have the house assembled and ready for occupancy in a mere 90 days. In fact, most people needed a little more time than that.

Sears offered about 370 designs of their kit homes, and during their 32 years in the kit home business, Sears sold about 70,000 houses.

Aladdin was a larger company, selling more than 75,000 homes, and they were in business from 1906-1981.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven from the 1936 Sears catalog.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven in Crewe.

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog. It was also known as the Bridgeport, but this little home's best chums call it "Wexxie."

Wexxie

This little house is not a spot on match to "Wexxie" but it's distinctive enough that I'd be willing to bet 50 cents it is indeed the real deal.

My favorite find in Crewe was the Sears Lucerne. This is the only Lucerne that I have seen in my many travels, and the one in Crewe is just a spot-on match to the original catalog image! And look at the price!  This darling little house could be yours for $867.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

Comparison of the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

More train coolness at Crewe

More train coolness at Crewe

The little train museum in Crewe is a delight, and well worth your time. It’s staffed by devoted volunteers and it’s a lovely way to spend some time. As a hard-core train buff, I loved the hands-on displays and being able to soak in the happy ambiance of the old Norfolk and Western steam engine (pictured above).

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy one of Rose’s splendiferous books, click here.

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Sears Modern Homes - With Indoor Plumbing - Usually!

October 24th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

From 1908-1940, Sears sold houses by mail order. These 12,000-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book that told the wanna-be homeowner how to put it all together. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have it 100% complete in 90 days. Sears offered 370 designs, including foursquares, cape cods, neo-tudors, trailing edge Victorians, Colonials and more.

The specialty catalogs - devoted to “Modern Homes” - averaged about 100 pages with the peak being 1924, when the catalog hit 140 pages, with 100 designs. These “Sears Modern Homes” catalogs can now be found on eBay for a variety of prices.

And these really were modern homes. Think about this. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her “Little House” books describing life on the plains in the 1870s and 1880s. She talked about living in a soddie - a house made with dirt blocks - and waking up to find frost on her comforter.

At the turn of the 20th Century, American architecture evolved very quickly. We went from living in tiny cabins and soddies (sans lights, central heat and indoor plumbing) to these sweet little bungalows with three bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a kitchen - wired for electricity!

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Osborne, catalog image from 1924

Sears Osborne, catalog image from 1924

In fact, sometimes these mail-order homes were more modern than the communities in which they were sold.

And that’s why the plumbing and electrical fixtures were NOT part of the kit home, but were purchased separately. If electrical service and municipal water systems were not available in your community, you wouldn’t need to spend money on the plumbing and electrical supplies!

In the back pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs, this little jewel was offered:

And it has two seats - for more family fun in the outhouse!!

And it has two seats - for more family fun in the outhouse!!

The Sears Modern Homes department closed their doors in 1940. During a corporate house-cleaning after WW2, all sales records, blueprints, ephemera and other items were destroyed. The only way to find these 75,000 kit homes today is literally, one by one.

To learn more, buy Rose’s book, The Houses That Sears Built.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.


The Sears Homes in Elkins, West Virginia

August 22nd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

My cutie-pie husband is from Elkins, West Virginia (see picture below).  Wayne graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1977, and Washington and Lee (School of Law) in 1980.  This weekend (August 20th), we drove from Norfolk to Elkins to attend his cousin’s 30th Wedding Anniversary party (part of the Skidmore clan). It was a happy, happy time.  Surprisingly, I found quite a few Sears Homes.  (Story continues below photo of cutie-pie husband)

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins

Darling Hubby Wayne from Elkins, poised atop a rock in the Cheat River

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The houses were shipped via rail and contained 30,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction manual and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in about 90 days. Today, there are about 70,000 Sears kit homes in America. Incredibly, about 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have! The purpose of this website is to help people learn more about this fascinating piece of America’s history.

Here are a few of the houses I found within the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears most popular kit homes.

The Sears Lynnhaven was one of Sears' most popular kit homes.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Lynnhaven in Elkins, hidden behind a few trees.

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One things for sure: Its a beautiful old kit house!

Sears Home or Wardway Home? Hard to know for sure. This house was offered (in identical floorplans) by both Sears and Mongtomery Wards. One thing's for sure: It's a beautiful old kit house. It's in South Elkins.

Sears Hazleton high atop the hillside in Elkins

Sears Hazleton from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. Looking at the house from the right side, you can see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, one small).

Unfortunately, I had to photograph this house from the opposite side shown in the catalog image, but this bungalow (high atop a hill in Elkins, WV) is unmistakeably a Sears Hazleton. If you looked at this house from the right side, you'd see that unusual bay window with six windows (four large, two small) on that left side. It's located in Wees Historic District.

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Cornell

Sears Cornell. Although this looks like just another foursquare, this Cornell has a goofy floorplan, with a tiny bathroom (and tiny window) on its left side. When you look on the home's left side, you'll see that the oddly-placed bathroom window is right where it should be. THe Cornell was a very popular house for Sears, and I'm confident that this house is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Marion/Lakecrest from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Is this a Sears Marion? Id say it is. Its a good match on all sides and has a raised roof in the back, which was probably added in later years.

Is this a Sears Marion? I'd say it is. It's a good match on all sides and all the windows are in their right place. One eye-catching feature is the swoop of the bellcast roof on the front of the house. The raised roof in the back was obviously added in later years.

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Glendale in Elkins, WV

Is this a Sears Glendale? It looks like it. However, it is not a spot-on match.

And there’s even a Lustron Prefabricated post-WW2 home in Elkins.  Lustron Homes were made of 20-gage 2×2 metal tiles, covered with a porcelain enamel finish (just like the top of a high-dollar washing machines!).  These houses were all metal - inside and out - and hanging a picture required sticking magnets to the walls! Nails and other fasteners would damage the porcelain enamel finish. Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and less than 3000 Lustron Homes were sold in this country. They were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

To learn more about Lustrons, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

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