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Another Mystery in Richmond!

March 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 16 comments

My blog on the Sears Houses in Richmond has gotten several hundred views in the last few days. I am tickled pink to see it, but I wish I knew what led folks to a 15-month old blog!

But in the meantime, I’ve made another *fascinating* discovery, which might lead me to a neighborhood of Sears Homes in Richmond!

Today, David Spriggs and I were doing research at the Norfolk Public Library, and I found this article (June 16, 1921) in the Richmond Times Dispatch. At first glance, it looks like another 1920s ad, but look closely.

Article

The "beautiful bungalow" shown in the advertisement is a Sears Elsmore.

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Check out the fine print.

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And you can buy “all the material necessary to build this charming bungalow” - from Sears!
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If you look closely at the house in the ad, youll see its a Sears Elsmore.

If you look closely at the house in the ad, you'll see it's a Sears "Elsmore." In fact, it's the picture right out of the Sears Modern Homes catalog!

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This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

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Heres an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these beautiful bungalows built in Richmond?

Here's an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these "beautiful bungalows" built in Richmond?

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Perhaps someone familiar with Richmond can help me find this neighborhood! Was the builder successful in pitching these Sears kit homes to the people who bought his lots?

This could be fun!!  Please leave a comment below if you know where this area is!

To learn more about the Sears Homes I found in Richmond, click here.

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Sears Homes in Richmond! What a Bonanza!

January 11th, 2013 Sears Homes 17 comments

An update!  Today I *may* have inadvertently discovered an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes in Richmond!!! Click here to learn more!

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Last week, I traveled to Richmond on an errand for a friend. I had a little extra time on my hands so I decided to drive around in “just one” neighborhood and my oh my, I found several Sears Homes in just a few blocks!

I had only a good hour of search time, so hopefully I can return soon and do more looking.

However, Richmond, Virginia is a very large city and it’d be helpful to know where I might find the neighborhoods that were developed in the first years of the 20th Century.

And if you’re new to this site, you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home? These were 12,000-piece kits that you could order out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each “kit” came with a 75-page instruction book and detailed blueprints, specifically designed for the novice home-builder.

These were complete kits, and came with all the paint, wood putty, coat hooks, towel racks, lumber, roofing shingles, gutter hardware, and nails that you would need. Plumbing, heating and electrical systems were not included in the kit, but could be ordered separately.

During their 32 years in the kit house business (1908-1940), Sears sold 70,000 of these kits in all 48 states. Today, the only way to find them is literally one by one.

And if you’re a regular visitor to this site, you may be wondering, how did Richmond, Virginia end up with so many kit homes? That’s what I’d like to know!!  :)

And how many more are out there, just longing to be discovered!

There’s a new mystery in Richmond! (March 14, 2014)  Click here to learn more!

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And one final note, more than 90% of the folks living IN a Sears House didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them. So there in Richmond, lots of people are in for lots of pleasant surprises!!

Enjoy the photos below, and if you know of a Sears House in Richmond, send me a note!

Should I start with my favorite? Above is a picture of the Sears Sherburne, from the 1921 Building Materials catalog. It was a spacious, grand house and Ive not seen many of these.

Should I start with my favorite? Above is a picture of the Sears Sherburne, from the 1921 Building Materials catalog. It was a spacious, grand house and I've not seen many of these.

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And here it is, looking much like it did when built in the early 1920s.

And here it is, looking much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s. What a house! And it came from a kit!

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And despite this being a fairly rare model of Sears Kit House, I found a second one, within a few blocks of the first house! And its also a real beauty!

And despite this being a fairly rare model of Sears Kit House, I found a second one, within a few blocks of the first house! And it's also a real beauty! Notice the dramatic cornice returns extending well over the front porch area.

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The big surprise of this excursion was this house, the Sears Avalon.

The big surprise of this excursion was this house, the Sears Avalon. This was another unusually fine and somewhat hard-to-find kit house offered by Sears. Prior to Richmond, I'd only seen maybe five Avalons throughout the country. And yet, in Richmond, I found FIVE within one seven-block area. FIVE Avalons! What in the world??

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Heres another view of the Avalon from the 1921 catalog.

Here's another view of the Avalon from the 1921 catalog. Notice the three square vents on the gabled porch roof (far left) and the small indent in the chimney. Also notice the small attic window over the porch. See how the porch columns are mostly masonry with a little bit of wooden column? These are all distinctive features.

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And the floor plans could be reversed, to take advantage of better lighting on the site.

And the floor plans could be "reversed," to take advantage of better lighting on the site.

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Wow. Just wow. One of the most perfect Sears Avalons, right here in Richmond. Wow.

Wow. Just wow. One of the most perfect Sears Avalons, right here in Richmond. Wow.

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Wow, isn’t that exciting to see such a perfect match to an old Sears catalog page? And whomever owns this house, really loves it. Wow!  :)

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Avalon #1 was on Semmes Avenue, near 30th Street.

Avalon #2 was on Semmes Avenue, near 30th Street. This house also has those three vents on the gabled end of the porch. In that this house has stucco, the porch columns were a little different, but that's a minor alteration and not significant in identifying this as an Avalon.

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Avalon #3. Im very happy that Richmond has so many Avalons that theyre to be numbered for identification.

Avalon #3. I'm very happy that Richmond has so many Avalons that they're to be numbered for identification. This was also retains its original railings.

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How cool!

How cool! Pretty amazing, isn't it!

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Avalon #4

Avalon #4. Turns out, most of these Avalons face due West, so I was photographing right into the morning sun. Some of these pictures aren't the best, but one has to do what one has to do! This house was on Riverside Drive. That's my hand at the upper left, trying to behave like a sun shield.

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Avalon #5. Despite its modifications and alterations, Im fairly confident that this is a Sears Avalon.

Avalon #5. Despite its modifications and alterations, I'm fairly confident that this is a Sears Avalon. The roof has been raised, giving it a higher pitch, and creating a small indented space in front of that attic window, but if you look at the details, you can see this looks like a Sears Avalon. Unfortunately due to sidewalk construction, I was not able to get a better photo.

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So that’s FIVE Avalons in this one small section of Richmond. FIVE. Prior to this, I’d only seen five Avalons in all my travels. Now I’ve seen 10. :)

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But theres still more. This is a Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

But there's still more. This is a Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Several unusual featurse around the front door give this house a distinctive appearance.

Several unusual features around the front door give this house its distinctive appearance.

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Is this a Sears Montrose on Roanoke Avenue?

Is this a Sears Montrose on Roanoke Avenue? It's pretty close. Look at the pent roof that continues around that sunporch. And look at the details around the front porch.

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The Sears Maywood was one of their finer homes.

The Sears Maywood was one of their finer homes.

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This appears to be a Sears Maywood, tucked away behind the trees.

This appears to be a Sears Maywood, tucked away behind the trees.

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The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears.

The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears.

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And youve got a lovely Westly in Richmond!

And you've got a lovely Westly in Richmond!

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This was an interesting find: An older Sears House (pre-1916).

This was an interesting find: An older Sears House (pre-1916). This was model #190.

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And such a nice example!

And such a nice example!

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The Sears Strathmore has always been one of my favorites!

The Sears Strathmore has always been one of my favorites!

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And heres another perfect example of it!

And here's another perfect example of it!

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In addition to Sears, there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level. One of them was Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago and a much smaller company than Sears, so imagine my surprise at finding a HB house in Richmond!

In addition to Sears, there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level. One of them was Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago and a much smaller company than Sears, so imagine my surprise at finding a HB house in Richmond! This is Harris Brothers Model J-161 (1920 catalog).

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Nice match, isnt it!

Nice match, isn't it!

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In addition to Harris Brothers, there was a company called Lewis Manufacturing.

One of the more popular houses offered by Harris Brothers was this house, Model N-1000.

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Is this

Is this the N-1000 (shown above)? It's certainly a possibility. Although not visible in this photo, this house has the rounded front porch, as seen on the floorplan in the catalog image above.

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Another national kit home company was Gordon Van Tine. They were probably almost as big as Sears.

Another national kit home company was Gordon Van Tine. They were probably almost as big as Sears. Here's a picture of the Gordon Van Tine Home #507.

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And heres a perfect representation of #507. Gosh, what a fine-looking house. Photo is copyright 2010, Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced.

And here's a perfect representation of #507. Gosh, what a fine-looking house. Photo is copyright 2010, Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced.

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How many more kit homes are hiding in Richmond? Probably a bunch. These houses above represent a brief visit to Richmond.

I’d love to return to Richmond and do a more thorough job of finding these houses, but where to look?

To learn more about Rose, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Sears Homes in Somerville, New Jersey

July 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

Prior to May 2012, I’d never heard of Somerville, New Jersey.

And then I wrote a blog on the Sears Milton, and on the catalog page that features the Sears Milton, there was a small snippet mentioning that the Milton had also been built in Somerville, New Jersey.

I contacted a few folks in Somerville, and Marge Sullivan was kind enough to respond. Better than just responding, Marge sent photos, too.

In fact, not only did Marge send photos of the Sears Milton, but she also sent photos of several other Sears Homes in Somerville.

For years, I’d suspected that New Jersey was awash in Sears kit homes.

Sears had three mills, and Port Newark (New Jersey) was home to Sears second largest mill. And there were also seven Sears Modern Homes Sales Centers in New Jersey. There were only 40 of these sales centers in the country.

Sears strategically placed sales centers in areas where sales were very strong. Not surprisingly, sales increased in areas that boasted of having a Sears Modern Homes Sales Center.

In New Jersey, their seven sales centers were in Camden, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Long Branch, Newark, Paterson and Plainfield.

To learn more about these unique retail stores, click here.

And perhaps most interesting is that there’s a Sears Altona missing in Somerville. According to the Sears Modern Homes catalog, it was built in Somerville, but folks there are having a tough time finding it.

It may have been demolished or it may have been remodeled beyond all recognition. But we do know that one was built in Somerville, and that  L. B. Thatcher was the original builder. If someone in Somerville has access to a city directory, that last name may help in locating the missing Altona.

Many thanks to Marge Sullivan and also to the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee for sharing these wonderful photos!

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

To read about the Sears Milton in Somerville, click here.

Somewhere in Somerville, theres a Sears Altona!

Somewhere in Somerville, there's a Sears Altona!

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And according to this, it was built by L.

And according to this, it was built by L.B. Thatcher sometime before 1916.

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And theres a Sears Milton in Somerville, too.

And there's a Sears Milton in Somerville, too.

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Thanks to Marge Sullivan and the

Thanks to Marge Sullivan and the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee, we know where the Sears Milton is in Somerville! Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Arlington, from the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Arlington, from the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a real beauty in Somerville, NJ.

And here's a real beauty in Somerville, NJ. This house is such a good match to the catalog page that it makes me swoon! For 90+ years, the asbestos, aluminum and vinyl siding salesmen have been kept at bay! This Arlington retains its original siding, columns and windows. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Carlin (also known as the Windsor) was for better class workers. Ive often wondered what Sears offered for the lower class workers.

The Sears Carlin (also known as the Windsor) was for "better class workers." I've often wondered what Sears offered for the "lower class workers."

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Another beautiful example of a Sears kit home in Somerville, NJ.

Another beautiful example of a Sears kit home in Somerville, NJ. It's so delightful to see these homes in largely original condition. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And what all-American town doesnt have an Americus?

And what all-American town doesn't have an Americus?

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Actually, there are many All American Towns that do not have an Americus within their borders, but Somerville is not one of them. This Americus is a stunner, and even has its original railings.

Actually, there are many "All American Towns" that do not have an Americus within their borders, but Somerville is not one of them. This Americus is a stunner, and even has its original railings. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Cornell (also known as the Davenport) was a non-descript little foursquare, and it was also quite popular.

The Cornell (also known as the Davenport) was a non-descript little foursquare, and it was also quite popular. Shown here in the 1928 catalog, it endured to the bitter end, and was also featured in the 1940 catalog.

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This Cornell in Somerville is feeling very festive! Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Berwyn was another hugely popular house for Sears. Its also easy to find with that double-arched entry and long-tall vent in the front gable.

The Berwyn was another hugely popular house for Sears. It's also easy to find with that double-arched entry and tall vent in the front gable. (1929)

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Is this little house in Somerville a Berwyn? My first impression is yes, it is. Its missing the long tall vent in the front gable, but replacing that with a double-sash window would be easy to do. The rest of the house is a spot-on match.

Is this little house in Somerville a Berwyn? My first impression is yes, it is. It's missing the long tall vent in the front gable, but replacing that with a double-sash window would be easy to do. The rest of the house is a spot-on match. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Lewiston, as

Look, it has an "S" on the chimney, and that's how you can tell it is a Sears Home! WRONG. That silly legend has persisted for many years, but it is NOT true. The "S" is just a stylistic element and has nothing to do with identifying a Sears House. (1930 catalog)

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Is this a Sears Lewiston in Somerville? On this house, it might be good to see a little more info. That metal casement window on the edge

Is this a Sears Lewiston in Somerville? Very possibly, and yet... On this house, it might be good to get a little more info. Is that a metal casement window on the left side? If so, that's a little worrisome. This style of house was hugely popular after WW2, and in my research, the quasi-Lewistons I've found with that metal casement window are always post-WW2. On the other hand, it's also very possible that this window was added in later years. The original wooden casement window that would have been in this spot was notoriously drafty. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Martha Washington is one of my favorite Sears Homes. (1921 catalog)

The Martha Washington is one of my favorite Sears Homes. (1921 catalog)

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Sears

The Martha Washington in Somerville is another beauty in original condition. Notice the darling benches (hopefully under repair in this photo), also appear in the original catalog picture above. Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears

Sears Modern Home #138. Pretty rare house.

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Of all the Sears Homes in Somerville, this is my favorite, Sears Modern Home #138.

Of all the Sears Homes in Somerville, this is my favorite, Sears Modern Home #138. And - as with the other Sears Homes in Somerville - this one is in beautiful condition! Photo is copyright 2010, Marge Sullivan and Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And my friend Rachel recently discovered a Sears Cedars in Somerville. Itd be great to get a photo of that one, too!

And my friend Rachel recently discovered a Sears Cedars in Somerville. It'd be great to get a photo of that one, too!

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Do you know where the Sears Altona is in Somerville? If so, please leave a comment below!

To read the next blog, click here.

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A Sears House Designed by “Uncle Sam”!

May 28th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The banner at the top of the catalog page identifies The Wabash as “Uncle Sam’s Idea.”

According to the accompanying text, this house was “planned and designed by United States Government architects.”

The house appeared in the Spring 1920 catalog, about two years after “The War to End All Wars” had finally ended (November 1917).

According to the original catalog page, The Wabash was built in Illinois (Hamlet, Ohio, Atlanta, Williamsfield, Farmer City, Cerro Gordo) and Indiana (Hoover and Indianapolis).

If any readers are near those towns, I’d love to get a photo!!  :)

To read about a Sears House at the other end of the price spectrum, click here.

To learn more, click here.

1920 catalog

The Wabash, as seen in the 1920 catalog. And only two columns!

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house up close

Take a look at the columns, Instead of the typical grouping of three columns at the corners, this house has only TWO. I guess that's how they made the house so darn affordable.

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text

Interesting text from the catalog page (1920).

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catalog

They must have thought a lot of the house because it was "featured" in the 1920 catalog, and had a two-page spread with interior shots.

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floorplan

This floorplan is a puzzle. No bathroom and yet there's an open space "cement floor" that appears to be a mud room of sorts. Seems like a waste of space in such a small house.

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dust trap

This "dust trap" is really intriguing. I suspect it was a place to dispose of ashes and such.

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house house

And what a fine kitchen it was! Did it really have subway-tile wainscoting? You can see the "dust trap" beside the wood box (beside the sink).

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house text

A little more info on the "handy fuel box" and "dust trap."

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house house

Spacious living room/dining room area.

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Sure would be nice to have a photo of the Wabash. It was built in these cities.

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To read the blog written one year ago today, click here.

The Atlanta in Wyoming. Wyoming, Ohio that is.

November 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

In Summer 2003, Dale Wolicki and I met up in Ohio and spent several days riding around seeking and finding a plethora of Sears Homes. It was a whole lot of fun. One of the happiest memories of that trip was when we found a Sears Westly, not too far from Norwood, Ohio (home of the Sears Mill). I was standing outside gawking at the house (in a not-so-nice part of town) when a ruffian appeared on the front porch and brusquely demanded, “What do YOU TWO want?”

Dale grabbed me by the upper-arm and pulled me back toward the car and said sweetly, “C’mon dear, time for us to go,” and then hollered at the unpleasant fellow on the front porch, “Sorry to bother you, sir. Her grandmother was raised in this house.”

I could hardly contain my laughter until we were safely ensconced back in Dale’s Mercury Mountaineer.

“My grandmother was raised in that house?” I asked him between paroxysms of laughter.

“Listen, you think that big lug gives a hoot about Sears Homes? I figured we’d better get out of there and fast, and that was the first thing that came to my mind.”

Since then, I’ve used that very line many times when someone threatening appears at a front door. It always works like a charm.

And it was while we were in the Norwood/Cincinnati area that we found Sears Modern Home #131, also known as the Atlanta. In fact, we found three of them in a city known as Wyoming, Ohio. It appears that a few modifications were made to these three Atlantas, but I remain convinced that these are Atlantas. And it’s also interesting to note that these were the ONLY Atlantas that I have ever seen, and yet there’s a note on the catalog page that these were also sold in Derby, Connecticut, Strouchburg, Pennsylvania, Boston, Massachusetts and Great Falls, Montana. Wow, I’d love to see those Atlantas, too!

Take a look at the pictures below, and compare the details.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Atlanta, found in Wyoming, Ohio

Sears Atlanta, found in Wyoming, Ohio. The porches have been enclosed, and apparently were built with flat (instead of gabled) roofs.

Look at the details!

Look at the details!

More details

Compare these details to the image below. These "fireplace windows" (fixed sashes) would have been an easy addition. In fact, it's a surprise that they're not in the original floorplan. Without these windows, it'd be a window-less living room, which is quite odd.

And the details really are a nice match!

And the details around the trim really are a nice match!

There were three of these in a row.

There were three of these in a row. This one was almost indistinguishable from the one above, except it had a gutter along the small shed roof over the front entryway.

The third of the Atlanta triplets there in Ohio.

The third of the Atlanta triplets there in Ohio.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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“Give The Kiddies a Chance!” (Get Them Out of the Slums)

September 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

My dad used to joke about our little Puritan (Sears house). He said the postman brought it.

When my mother died in 1918 (in the flu epidemic), she left behind five children, ages 10, 8, 6, 4 and an 18-month old toddler. At the time, we were living in a poor area - kind of a slum - and to get us out of that, Dad decided to get us into a home of our own in a different neighborhood. In 1924, we moved into our new home.

I know that if it had not been for Sears and their kit homes, my dad could never have afforded to have a home of his own. It was so good for us to have that little home. Everything in it was shiny and bright and clean.

Reminiscence of Ruth Sward,

Sears Modern Home “The Puritan”


In the early 1900s, many American cities were filthy.

We were burning coal for transportation (trains), and for home heating and cooking, and also for industry (to power large machinery and heat large buildings).  The ubiquitous coal dust and soot wreaked havoc on the health of young children, particularly their lungs. Stories abound of women’s flower beds and veggie gardens being destroyed by the soot that rained down from the skies above. In large cities, garments hung out on the line were quickly ruined by the omnipresent, greasy soot.

Pictured below are two workers on the side of a tall building. It looks like they’re painting a building, but they’re not.

They are scrubbing off the coal soot. Now, if that’s what the side of a massive building looks like, imagine what a child’s lungs might look like.


caption

This image appeared in a 1920s Social Studies textbook, and was captioned, "The amount of soot and dust in the air of some cities is shown by the striking contrast between the parts of this building that have been cleaned and those which have not been cleaned."

The mail-order catalogs issued by both Aladdin and Sears promoted the idea of happy, healthy children, playing with their siblings outside in the fresh, clean air. The Sears ad (below) says, “Know the joy of living close to nature where your children have a chance to play in safety…”

In this context, “safety” was not about dirty old men luring children into their dark sedans with promises of candy and kittens. It was about getting your children into a salutary environment - with tall trees and fresh breezes and clean air - so that the children might live to adulthood.

One old advertisement read, “Give the kiddies a chance…get them out of the city.”

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From the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Happy children playing in expansive yards on well-tended suburban lots were an important part of the kit home literature. Below is a picture of two young children, playing under the watchful eye of their mother, in the shadow of a darling little Sears Barrington. The graphic appeared in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

1928 caption

We know this is pure fantasy, because Big Brother is pulling Little Sister in the red wagon. Speaking as the youngest girl in a family with three older brothers, I can authoritatively state that if I'd been placed in a red wagon pulled by an older brother, I would have been bound head to toe in extra-heavy duty duct tape, and we would be heading for a cliff.

Sears caption

Just look at Dolly's face. She knows what's going down.

Like Sears, Aladdin kit homes were also offered through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin actually started selling homes in 1906, two years before Sears, and lasted until 1981. Sears closed up their Modern Homes department in 1940.

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Aladdin (like Sears) also leaned on the “healthy, happy children” aspect to sell their homes. The image below is from the inside cover of the 1919 Aladdin catalog. By the way, these children are playing in front of an Aladdin Pasadena. What a pretty picket fence! These rosy-cheeked children are enjoying the pleasures of strolling along well-maintained city sidewalks.

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Again, pure fantasy. Little Sis has a *parasol* and is sitting in a CHAIR within the wagon. No brother on earth could resist taking Lil Sis around a corner at a high rate of speed and dumping her and the parasol.

caption Aladdin

Not only does she have a chair within the wagon, but her vehicle has a coach light on its front.

Like Ruth’s story above, Sears through open a door and offered families a way out of the filth in the slums and into a pretty little house, where the “kiddies” would have a chance.

Sears Modern Homes opened the door to a brighter future, and a sweet little two-bedroom, 1100-square-foot Dutch Colonial on a small lot with a picket fence. They offered people their very own piece of the American Dream, at an affordable price. Best of all, they offered men and women a promise that their little children could grow up in safety. And for the low, low price of $34 a month.

From the 1925 catalog, heres the Sears Puritan, the Sears kit home that Ruth Swards father built for her family. According to Ruth, the attic was converted into living space and became a third bedroom.

From the 1925 catalog, here's the Sears Puritan, the Sears kit home that Ruth Sward's father built for her family. According to Ruth, the attic was converted into living space and became a third bedroom.

A sweet little Puritan in Mounds, IL.

A sweet little Puritan in Mounds, IL.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Chelsea

February 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

The Sears Chelsea was not one of their most popular models, and it’s a little different from the other Sears foursquares. The dormer windows in the Sears Chelsea were boxier and bolder than other Sears Homes such as the Fullerton, the Gladstone, Woodland and more.

The catalog page says “In Demand For Years.” I’m not so sure about that…

The characteristic feature of the Chelsea is that staircase window, hanging off the side of the house. Very distinctive!

Sears Chelsea from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Chelsea from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Chelsea in Mattoon, Illinois

Sears Chelsea in Mattoon, Illinois

And from the front...

And from the front...

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hampton Roads’ Abundance of Sears Homes

January 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few years ago, several cities in Hampton Roads hired consultants (schooled and trained in archeology) to find the Sears Homes in Hampton Roads. After obtaining a copy of the written report and reading it, I laughed out loud. The researchers missed most of the kit homes in our area. Yeah, archeology. Even though the words “architecture” and “archeology” both begin with the letters “arc,” there is a difference in the two arts.

Below are just a few of the kit homes I’ve found in the area. Heretofore, I’ve found 52 in Portsmouth, 75 in Norfolk and about 15 in Chesapeake.

To read another article about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in downtown Portsmouth

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Sears Westly

Sears Westly

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Portsmouth on King Street. Photo was taken in 2004.

Sears Westly in Suffolk, Virginia

Sears Westly in downtown Suffolk

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Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

Sears Crescent in Larchmont section of Norfolk

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Aladdin is very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable.

Aladdin Kit Homes (a competitor of Sears) was very popular in Hampton Roads, probably because they had a massive mill in Greensboro, NC and shipping charges would have been affordable. Sears sold about 70,000 homes during their 32 years in the kit home business (1908-1940). However, Aladdin started in 1906 and went to 1981, selling about 75,000 houses.

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

One of my all-time favorite Aladdin Plazas is in Norfolk, Virginia, about three miles from my home in Colonial Place.

One of my all-time favorite Aladdin Plazas is in Norfolk, Virginia, about three miles from my home in Colonial Place.

This Aladdin Colonial is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed it was a Sears kit home. This is not uncommon. It *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

This Aladdin Colonial pictured below is in Suffolk. For years and years, people believed the house pictured below was a "Sears kit home." This is not uncommon. This house (below) *is* a kit home, but it came from Aladdin, not Sears.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial.

Aladdin - another kit home company - offered the Aladdin Colonial. This one is in Suffolk.

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This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

Here's a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

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Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Marsden in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Heres an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

Aladdin was very popular in the Hampton Roads area. Here's an Aladdin Venus. Note the casement windows.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

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Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog. Note, this Shadowlawn has a porte cochere.

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Prentis Park (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth)

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

A darling Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA, just across from Lowes Hardware Store on Portsmouth Blvd West. This house was moved from another location, about a mile due east on Portsmouth Blvd and it appears to be in harm's way yet again - with all the retails shops that have sprouted up around it.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

Another Shadowlawn peeks from the pine trees on this quiet street in Suffolk.

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The Beckley (from Sears)

The Beckley (from Sears)

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sextants Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

This is The Beckley, which is in use as the Sexton's Office at a large cemetery in Newport News.

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Ive also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

I've also found several homes from Gordon Van Tine in Hampton Roads.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeakes Deep Creek area.

This pretty little #594 sits on a large parcel of land in Chesapeake's Deep Creek area.

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And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

And this is a Sears Americus, which was a very popular house for Sears.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, its been turned into a duplex.

This Sears Americus is in Park Place on 27th Street (Norfolk). Sadly, it's been turned into a duplex.

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Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

Sears Whitehall just off Colley Avenue and 28th Street in Norfolk

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Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin kit home: The Virginia

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolks Colonial Place

Aladdin Kit Home - The Virginia - in Norfolk's Colonial Place

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Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Aladdin Kit Home: The Pasadena

Here it is, right in Norfolks Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

Here it is, right in Norfolk's Lafayette/Winona neighborhood

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As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and heres the Aladdin Edison

As mentioned, Norfolk is full of Aladdins and here's the Aladdin Edison

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

An Aladdin Edison in Norfolk, within a few yards of the ODU campus.

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Aladdin Detroit

Aladdin Detroit

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

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Have You Seen This House (Or These People)?

August 5th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Identifying Sears Homes would be a lot easier if they retained their original appearance. Unfortunately, most of these homes are 80 and 90 years old, and have endured countless generations of substitute siding salesmen, bad weather, the occasional fire, economical rehabs, expensive rehabs and other unfortunate events.

Below is a picture of a Sears Home (#106) that I purchased on Ebay. I paid $3 for this photo, which was a swinging deal for me. However, I’m sure that only three people in America would have known that this was a picture of a newly built Sears Home. (That’d be me, Rebecca Hunter and Dale Wolicki.) It’s since become a cherished photograph and I’m sure this little family was tickled pink to have their little kit home finished.

If you know where this house is, or if you know the people pictured herein, please drop me a line? The photograph was sent to me from an ebay seller in Ohio, so it’s possible that this is where the photo came from.

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Happy family in front of their Sears Modern Home #105

Happy family in front of their Sears Modern Home #106

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From the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog, heres model #105

From the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog, here's model #106