Archive

Posts Tagged ‘sears mill in cairo’

The Sears Bandon: Neat, Practical And Modern

January 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Sears Bandon is a rare bird indeed. The only one I’ve ever found was in Pulaski, Illinois, not far from the Sears Lumber Mill in Cairo, Illinois. That mill was the site of a 40-acre mill where Sears created and produced up to 250 pre-cut kit homes per month. It was a tremendous operation with more than 100 employees at its peak, and 20 acres of outbuildings.

It was also the site of “The Experiment.” Click here to see the only remnant of the Sears Mill in Cairo.

In 2001, whilst doing research on  Sears Homes at the Cairo Public Library, I stumbled across a little item in their vertical file about a Sears Bandon built in nearby Pulaski. Later that day, I hopped into the car and drove out to Pulaski and found my Bandon on the main drag through town. It was perfect in every way.

In March 2010, when I traveled to Illinois to do research for my newest book (”The Sears Homes of Illinois“), I went back to Pulaski to get newer/better photos. While standing on this main drag in this tiny town, I had three people stop and ask me if I needed help.

Speaking as a former long-time resident of Illinois, I don’t miss those long, cold Illinois winters, but I surely do miss the kind, generous, hard-working folks of small-town Midwestern America. They’re truly the crème de la crème of our country.

Below is the information I found in the vertical files at the Cairo Public Library;

The house (identified specifically as the Sears Bandon) was built in 1921. According to this document, the lumber for this kit home was shipped from the Sears mill in Cairo. It gave the following costs:

Cost of The Bandon $2794.00
Plaster (extra)  $133.00
Material to finish attic rooms  $241.00
Complete hot water heating system  $403.66
Wire and light fixtures  $133.66
Labor for carpenter (including masonry work)  $1600.00

Total $5305.32

This document also stated that, in 1924, a Sears Cyclone Barn (shipped from Cairo, IL) was built on the property. The kit barn cost $943.00.

Is there a Sears Home in your neck of the woods? Please send photos to Magnolia2047@gmail.com.

Enjoy the photos!

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasnt it more popular? Ive only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois.

The Sears Bandon was a beauty, but why wasn't it more popular? I've only seen one - ever - and that was just outside of Cairo, Illinois (image is from 1921 catalog).

*

It had a very busy floor plan. Note

It had a very busy floor plan, and it's the only house I've ever seen with a "dining porch." This room - which jutted out from the rest of the house - had ventilation on three sides, and seven windows.

*

Close

Close-up of the floorplan shows how busy this house is! Look at the kitchen! The ice box was in the staircase landing. And the kitchen was oh-so tiny!

*

And it was a fine-looking house!

And it was a fine-looking house!

*

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

*

Nice, isnt it?  :)

Nice, isn't it? :)

*

house

The 1921 catalog image included this thumbnail from straight--on.

*

Pretty, pretty house!

Pretty, pretty house! While southern Illinois does have some of the nicest people, it also some of the worst, mean, loud and scary-looking dogs! These dogs never did stop barking!

*

The  Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

The Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

*

Its perfect! Down to the details!!

It's perfect! Down to the details!!

*

And its in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

And it's in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

*

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

From this angle, you can get a better view of the Dining Porch.

*

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

As a nice bonus, the old barn (built 1924) is still standing, and in beautiful condition.

*

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

The Cyclone Barn was a very popular item for Sears (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

*

Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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

*   *   *

Quite Possibly, The Most Beautiful Elsmore in the World

December 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 9 comments

The Elsmore was a hugely popular house for Sears, and it was probably one of their top five best selling models.

Since all sales records were destroyed during a post-WW2 corporate housecleaning at Sears, it’s hard to know for sure, but I do know that I’ve seen a whole lot of Elsmores in my travels.

Earlier this year, I posted another blog on the Elsmore (click here to see that), but I was inspired to post a second blog, due to this home’s incredible popularity and also because Cindy Catanzaro found and photographed one of the prettiest (and most well-cared-for) Elsmores that I’ve ever seen.

To read more on the Elsmore, click here.

Refinement and Comfort here.  How elegant sounding!

"Refinement and Comfort here." Sounds lovely!!

*

Heres an Elsmore that was built in Cairo, IL not far from the spot where Sears had their 40-acre mill.

Here's an Elsmore that was built in Cairo, IL not far from the spot where Sears had their 40-acre lumber mill. This Elsmore, built at 1501 Commerce Avenue, was torn down pre-2001. I visited Cairo then and went looking for this house, but 1501 Commerce was an empty lot at that point. How many Sears Homes in Cairo have been razed? It's a vexing question.

*

Another vintage Elsmore.

Another vintage Elsmore. This one was in Glenshaw, PA (1919 catalog).

*

This is one of my favorite Elsmores. Its in Park Ridge, Illiois. Picture perfect in every way. Photo is copyright 2010, Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

This is one of my favorite Elsmores. It's in Park Ridge, Illinois. Picture perfect in every way. Photo is copyright 2010, Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Visit Dale’s website by clicking here.

And the crème de la crème

And the crème de la crème. Cindy Catazaro found this house in Oakwood Ohio and it has been lovingly and faithfully restored. The house has obviously had some "renovations," but they've been done in a thoughtful, sensitive manner. I'm so impressed to know that there are people in the world who love their Sears House *this* much! Photo is copyright 2012, Cindy Catazaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

An mini-Elsmore? It might be a trick of the eye, but it appears this Elsmore in Walnutport, PA is a little narrower than the catalog version.

An skinny mini-Elsmore? It might be a trick of the eye, but it appears this Elsmore in Walnutport, PA is a little narrower than the catalog version. The window arrangement is also a little different. I'd love to know the history behind this house. Photo is copyright 2012 Angela Laury and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

The Elsmore, as it appeared in the later 1910s and 20s was actually a remodel of this

The Elsmore, as it appeared in the later 1910s and 20s was actually a remodel of Modern Home #126, which was first offered in the 1908 (first) Sears Modern Homes catalog.

*

If you compare the two floorplans, youll see how similar they really are.

If you compare the two floorplans, you'll see how similar they are. This is the floorplan for the Sears Modern Home #126 (1908). Notice the size of the rooms and placement of windows.

*

Floor

And here's the floorplan for the Elsmore (1916). The chamfered corners are gone and the front porch is different, but the rest of the house is the same, down to window placement and room size. The front porch roof on Modern Home #126 (with cantilevers) *always* sagged due to its fantastic weight. Not a good design. The changes to the Elsmore porch fixed that problem.

*

Thanks to Cindy Catazaro and Dale Wolicki for providing such beautiful photos!

To read more about the Elsmore, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Did you enjoy this blog? Please take a moment and leave a nice comment below. I’m living on nothing but love.

:)

*   *   *

Holy Moly, Another Magnolia?

May 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

A dear soul on Facebook sent me a note this morning asking if I’d taken a look at the house at 1500 James Street in Syracuse, New York. Unable to sleep at 2:00 in the morning, I went looking via Google maps, expecting to be disappointed yet again. At least twice a week, I get a note from someone who is utterly convinced that they’ve seen a Sears Magnolia and every time, they’re wrong.

However this time, they might be right.

Now, I have to use every bit of self-control I have, not to get in a car and drive nine hours to Syracuse and see this house. The picture available via Google maps is unusually poor, and I’m not able to see much detail, and am unwilling to make a pronouncement at this point, but that house at 1500 James sure does look like a Sears Magnolia!

If anyone within the sound of my voice would be interested in getting about 4000 pictures of this house and sending it to me, I would be so very grateful. In fact, I’d send you a copy of any and all of my books you’d like to add to your library. :)  Signed, too. Free books. Just snap a few photos, send them to me and make an authors day!  :)

Updated to add: Having figured out how to use “bird’s eye view” on Bing, I’m becoming ever more confident that this house in Syracuse is indeed a Magnolia.

My kingdom for a high resolution digital picture!!!!

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. The two-story columns are an eye-catching feature. Also notice the distinctive roof lines and unique details around the front porch. At its core, the Sears Magnolia is a classic foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

Maggy in Benson

The Maggy in Benson, NC is a spot-on match.

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.  (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling) Done in brick, this Sears Magnolia also is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.

Magnolia in South Carolina

The Magnolia in Alabama is also not a spot-on match to the original catalog image. Most obvious is that attic dormer, which is much simpler than the Magnolia dormer. Yet this house in Piedmont Alabama is a Sears Magnolia.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

* * *

Cairo, Illinois: Can This City Be Saved?

May 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Despite a last-minute plea from desperate Missourians, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plan to flood 132,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland will go forward. Flooding the farms will spare the tiny town of Cairo, Illinois, population - 2,800.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that as of yesterday (Saturday, April 30th), floodwaters in Cairo crested at 59.2 feet, and have now reached 59.8 feet (as of 3:40 pm, EST). If the levees in Cairo give way, the town will be flooded. Opening up levees on the farmland in Missouri will spare Cairo, and ruin the farmland for years.

The Chicago Tribune is also reporting that crops have already been planted on some of the farms that will be inundated with this “man-made tsunami,” destroying the crops and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to the local farmers. In addition, about 100 homes would be lost.

Cairo is an interesting little town, and was full of history, but much of their historically significant architecture is gone, and the remnant is in poor condition. A few grand old manses remain, but they’re the exception. Most of the businesses and all of the industry left long ago. Cairo’s downtown is a ghost town, and a virtual trip back in time to the 1960s. To learn more about Cairo’s history, click here.

We’ve got to protect our farms. With the rising costs of food, it’s time to start showing a little respect to the few family farms we have left in this country, many of which are in Missouri.

This time, it might be best to let Cairo be the sacrificial lamb, rather than lose our farmland.

Pictures of Cairo are below.

Entrance to Cairo
Entrance to Cairo. The old flood gates are no longer in working, but the old rivers still work really, really well.

*

Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

down

Downtown Cairo. The barricade is presumably there to protect citizens from collapsing buildings. You'll notice the building on the far right has mostly fallen in on itself. This photo was taken about 11 am in the morning. This is the morning rush hour in downtown Cairo.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

Hospital in Cairo

Is there a doctor in the house?

School

School's out for summer. And for the rest of time.

More views

Capt'n Wades appears to be the only viable business in the whole of downtown. However, this photo was taken in 2003, and when I was there in 2010, this building was collapsing.

Another view

Another store in downtown Cairo, complete with a 1960s Maytag sign.

views

Another view of downtown Cairo. All these stores back up to the Ohio River, and they're all now empty, waiting for nothing fancier than time to take them down. Visiting downtown Cairo really is like taking a step back to another time. Cairo was abandoned - in a hurry in the mid 1960s - when race riots decimated the city. The city went from a population of 13,000+ to 2,800 (current) in a very short time. The business owners and captains of industry are the ones who fled the city, taking their businesses with them.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three houses in a row.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three burned out houses in a row.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

* * *

Cairo, Illinois: When Bad Things Happen to Little Cities…

February 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 11 comments

In its heyday, Cairo was a bustling river town and was home to captains of industry, shipping magnates, wealthy business people and other “people of note.” It’s even mentioned in James A Michener’s epic miniseries, “Centennial.” IT earned a spot in Michener’s book because in the late 1800s, Cairo was the gateway to the west.

The first time I saw downtown Cairo, I stopped my car in the middle of the deserted street and stared in disbelief. The entire business district, which comprised several blocks of brick streets in beautiful condition, was empty - silent, still and devoid of all movement. Had it not been for a piece of trash blowing down the middle of the street, the scene before me would have been wholly motionless.

The stillness, the quiet, the absence of any sign of life was fascinating, yet also left me wondering if the next sound I heard would be the theme from The Twilight Zone with a voice-over by Rod Serling.

In the mid-1960s, racial unrest and riots were a sad part of the American landscape, but in Cairo, things went especially badly. African-Americans, weary of Jim Crow laws and disparate treatment, threatened to boycott businesses that employed only whites. White business owners responded by closing their stores. Large numbers of families left the area and never returned. Industry left. Businesses closed. Wealthy people took their capital and moved away.

Today, downtown Cairo is a ghost town - an incredible time capsule - frozen in the 1960s. The city that once boasted of 14,000 citizens now has about 3000 people living within its borders.

Outside of downtown, things aren’t much better. The burnt out hull of old buildings remain, the architectural victims of bored miscreants.  There’s no money in the state or local budget to raze the remnants of these destroyed homes. Folks often say California is on the cusp of bankruptcy. Illinois can’t be far behind, and Cairo is the poster-child for an American city that went from princely to pauper.

In the early 1900s, Cairo was the site of a 40-acre Sears Mill, where Sears kit homes were milled and shipped out to all 48 states. It was a vibrant business, in an important southern town. Cairo’s location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers made it a natural for shipping and distribution. At the turn of the last century, Cairo (pronounced “Care-Roe”) could boast of having four major rail lines, enabling it to become a centralized shipping point for lumber harvested from the South and sent to the North.

In Spring 2010, I returned to Cairo and visited the town again. More burned out buildings, more desolation, more depressing sites.  What’s happening to our once-great land that we now have cities that are in collapse, and states that are in bankruptcy?

I’ve nothing pithy to add to this sad story. Pictures tell the story far better than I could.

Entrance to Cairo
Entrance to Cairo. The old flood dates are no longer in working, but the old rivers still work really, really well.

*

Part of the charm of the downtown is it really is a step back in time. Notice the vintage cat in the foreground.

Spearmint “Pepsin Gum” surely got their money’s worth out of this old advertisement.

Hospital in Cairo

Is there a doctor in the house?

School

School's out for summer. And for the rest of time.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three houses in a row.

Throughout the city, there are many such houses, burned out and left to fall down. Note, this shot shows three burned out houses in a row.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Most are in marginal condition.

What remain in Cairo, Illinois are many Sears Homes. Many of these Sears Homes are no longer "pretty little homes."

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

Sears House - The Rodessa - in Cairo.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes.

Sears

A glorious billboard at the city's entrance offers such promise.

To learn more about Cairo, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

*       *       *

The Prettiest Little Sears Mitchell That You Ever Did See…

August 12th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

In Fall 2005, I traveled with a dear friend to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Along the way, we passed five little Sears Homes in a row. It was late in the day and the sun was setting, and I thought I’d never forget where those little houses were. I meant to make a note of it as soon as we arrived at our destination - and I completely forgot.

In 2008 and 2009,  I went back to West Virginia several times to give talks in Beckley, Lewisburg and Charleston. Each time, Ersela, Sandy and I (a kit home triumvirate) drove countless hours trying to find those five Sears Homes in a row. I finally gave up.

And then on my last day in Lewisburg, Skip Deegan asked me to take a ride with him through Rainelle, WV. Finally, after years of wondering, I rediscovered not five, but 10 Sears Homes on one street in greater downtown Rainelle. What a bonus! Below is one of my favorite finds of that trip. A perfect little Sears Mitchell, right on the main drag through town.

Notice the beautiful mountains in the background!

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

Sears Mitchell from an early 1930s catalog

Sears Mitchell from an early 1930s catalog

Sears Mitchell in Rainelle, WV

Sears Mitchell in Rainelle, WV

Sears Modern Homes and The Mill in Cairo, Illinois

August 2nd, 2010 Sears Homes 3 comments

In May 1911, Sears opened up a mill in Cairo, Illinois. Cairo’s location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers made it a natural for shipping and distribution. At the turn of the last century, Cairo (pronounced “Care-Roe”) could boast of having four major rail lines, enabling it to become a centralized shipping point for lumber harvested from the South and sent to the North.

The Sears Roebuck Mill, also known as the Illinois Lumber Company, got its start when Sears Roebuck paid $12,500 for a 40-acre tract in North Cairo.

On May 21, 1911, The Chicago Tribune reported that Sears intended to build a $250,000 plant. A few weeks later, The Cairo Evening Citizen had doubled that figure and reported “Half a million to be cost of new Sears Roebuck Plant” (July 29, 1911).

In November 1911, Sears ran a two-page advertisement in American Carpenter and Builder Magazine headlined “Great News for Builders.” The advertisement (see below) said,

Shipments have begun from our second and newest great lumber plant in Illinois. We can deliver you bright, fresh, clean lumber at manufacturer’s prices almost as quickly as you can haul makeshift sizes and weatherworn stock from a high priced neighboring lumber yard. Our mill work is sheltered from rain, sun, soot and wind. Our new Illinois plant is located on two of the largest and fastest railroads in the North with direct connections to over 20 different railroads. (Weatherworn stock was a reference to the fact that, unlike Sears, many mills did not keep their lumber under roof.)

In March 1912, F. E. Van Alstine, Superintendent of the Sears mill was quoted in The Cairo Evening Citizen as saying that Sears had chosen Cairo because of “their low freight rates, superior shipping facilities and other natural and commercial advantages, (which) made the city more desirable than St. Louis, East St. Louis, Paducah (Kentucky) or Memphis” (Tennessee).

But later that month, the rains came and the floodwaters rose, nearly destroying the brand new mill in Northern Cairo. On April 5th, The Cairo Evening Citizen reported that the “main building of the new Sears Roebuck factory was hurled off its foundation and is leaning toward the east. Just what damage was done to these buildings could not be ascertained, as there was no way to reach them except by skiff.”

In mid-April, the paper said that all seven lumber sheds had been torn from their foundations and much of the lumber inside the sheds had simply floated away.

By August, The Cairo Evening Citizen happily reported that despite the hard times and high waters, Sears Roebuck had decided to remain in Cairo. It also reported that about half the lumber sheds had been rebuilt and some of that floating lumber had been recovered. The same article reported that the folks at Sears corporate headquarters in Chicago were so pleased with Van Alstine’s post-flood restoration work that they presented him with a brand new automobile.

The mill produced everything for the Ready-Cut (precut) Sears homes except for millwork. The Sears mill located in Norwood, Ohio, supplied millwork; windows, doors and interior trim and moldings.

By the early 1930s, sales of Ready-Cut homes had plummeted and the mill began looking for other ways to generate income. They began building crating material for tractors and other large equipment, including Frigidaire refrigerators and appliances sold by Sears. In the late 30s, the mill produced prefabricated buildings for the camps which housed workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Wheeler relates that a typical CCC camp (which included several different buildings) required 400,000 feet of lumber and about 35 of these camps were milled and shipped by the Cairo plant.

In 1940, Sears closed the plant and sold it to the employees. Shortly after the employees purchased the plant, they obtained a contract to build massive crates for shipping B-17 and B-29 bombers overseas for the war effort.

After World War II ended, the former Sears Mill - now called Illinois Lumber Company - drafted and published their own book of house plans and tried to sell Ready-Cut homes again, but without success. The Cairo Evening Citizen relates that the plant was liquidated and closed in November 1955. The article adds this interesting aside: “Like several other Cairo lumber industries, it slowly died because the wood articles it manufactured were supplanted by iron and steel.”

All that remains today at the site of the Cairo mill are two Sears kit homes - two Rodessas - which were built as part of an experiment in 1921, to prove the superiority of Ready-Cut homes over traditional stick built homes.

Not surprisingly, Cairo has a significant collection of Sears Homes, such as this “Hollywood” (see below).

From the 1919 catalog, a Sears Hollywood

From the 1919 catalog, a Sears Hollywood

Sears Hollywood in Cairo, Illinois

Sears Hollywood in Cairo, Illinois

Below is an advertisement from the 1911 American Carpenter and Builder Magazine.

To see pictures of Cairo today, click here.

*   *   *