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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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The Stanhope, not in Iowa or New Jersey, but Norfolk!

January 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Stanhope is the name of a city in Iowa and New Jersey. And it’s also the name of a car that was sold from 1904-1906, by the Twyford Motor Car Company of Brookville, Pennsylvania.

But for this blog, we’re going to talk about the Stanhope that was sold by Aladdin of Bay City, Michigan.

The Stanhope was a fairly popular house. In 1920s America, it was an ideal home in both size and price.  And unlike so many of these diminutive bungalows, it had three bedrooms (most had two).

Yes, they were only 10 x 10, but for the family with four girls and three boys, it was probably a whole lot better than fold-out cots in the living and dining rooms (another popular option at the time).

Aladdin, like Sears, offered kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the building business. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes. The Sears Modern Homes department was in business from 1908-1940. Aladdin started selling houses in 1906, and didn’t close until 1981, a full 75 years!

Here in Norfolk, Virginia (where I live), we have many more Aladdins than Sears. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC which explains why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in the Southeast.

Thanks to Dale Wolicki for providing info on Aladdin!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To read more about Roanoake Rapids (which has a massive collection of Aladdin kit homes), click here.

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Aladdin (based in Bay City) sold kit homes through mail order.

Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) sold kit homes through mail order. This is my favorite graphic from their catalog (1919).

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The Stanhope was one of Aladdins most popular little houses.

The Stanhope was one of Aladdin's most popular little houses.

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But it was a very small house.

It had three bedrooms, but it was a very small house.

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The full

The catalog page featuring the Stanhope, as it appeared in 1919.

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After reading this delicious description, kinda makes ME want to run out and buy a Stanhope of my own!

"Are you not pleased with the Stanhope?"

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One of the

Aladdin was famous for their "Dollar a Knot" guarantee.

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The Stanhope

The Stanhope can be tough to identify because it looks like every little early 20th Century bungalow and is rather nondescript.

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And yet, you can find them if theyre in original condition. Heres a perfect Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids).

And yet, they can be identified if they're in original condition. Here's a perfect Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids).

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Nice match, isnt it?

Nice match, isn't it?

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And heres one in Norfolk, Virginia. This house is very close to ODU, and is on 51st Street.

And here's one in Norfolk, Virginia. This house is very close to ODU, and is on 51st Street. It's a perfect example of the Aladdin Stanhope and one of my favorite finds!

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

Have you visited Roanoke Rapids? It’s a town FULL of Aladdin kit homes. Click here to learn more.

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Sears Homes in Richmond! What a Bonanza!

January 11th, 2013 Sears Homes 19 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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Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“A Mansion of Colonial Style Architecture” - Sears Kit Home #303

December 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

There are scores of Sears kit homes that I have never laid eyes on, and Sears Modern Home #303 is one of them.

This particular model is of special interest because it is so grand and ostentatious. It has many unique features, so it’s easy to differentiate #303 from your garden variety Queen Anne manse.

And this was offered by Sears Roebuck as a “Kit Home.”

What a kit!

I don’t know that any of these were ever built. The sale of Sears Homes didn’t really take off until after The Great War ended (1919), and this house was only offered in one year (1910). It does not appear in “Houses by Mail.”

My dear friend and co-author Dale Wolicki posits that it was just a carryover from a pattern book house that Sears added to their catalog in 1910. That’s a pretty sound theory, and very likely.

Modern Home #303 was offered only in the very rare 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Modern Home #303 was offered only in the very rare 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It was the most expensive house offered in the catalog, and was intended to be built with solid brick walls. Sears estimated that the finished cost would be about $6,700.

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Would you pay almost $7,000 for this house?

Would you pay $6,700 for this house?

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One of the towers

One of the towers is a polygon (not circular).

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And the other is round.

And the other is round.

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house

And there's a toilet on the first floor! No sink, just a toilet!

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Close-up of all that busyness on the back of the house.

Close-up of all that busyness on the back of the house.

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Check out this floorplan!

Check out this floorplan! Notice the trunk room over the kitchen area? Back in the day, it wasn't fittin' to put a bedroom over the kitchen. Too much heat and too many odors.

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And its even better than a Barbie Dream Mansion!

And it's even better than a Barbie Dream Mansion!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Wardway Houses, click here.

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Sears Home in Terrell, Texas? A Mystery! UPDATED!!

May 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 14 comments

UPDATED!!  A kind soul in Terrell has supplied photos of the Autrey’s home!  Scroll on down to see the house that Josephus built!

Judging by my email, there aren’t a lot of Sears Homes in Texas.  And yet, while reading the old testimonials in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog, I discovered that Josephus Autrey built a really big Sears House in Terrell, Texas (just outside of Dallas).

Josephus: What a great name! And I love the photo of his newly-built home that Josephus sent in to Sears. It’s the only photo that I have ever seen where the happy homeowner lined the whole family up in front of the house! Very endearing!

In late 1910 or early 1911, Josephus built his Sears Modern Home #118. According to the testimonials, it had some alterations. For one, it appears to have a bigger footprint and two dormers were added to the attic (on the side of the house). The porte cochere was added, and the porch was enlarged.

“Don” (see comments below) did some research and found that poor Josephus died in 1914, leaving behind a wife and five children, who apparently moved out of the house soon thereafter. Poor Josephus never really got to enjoy his beautiful Sears House.

Readers have told me that this is now known as The Felder Home. That seems rather curious, as Josephus must have toiled for many months to build this house from a kit. It must have taken many months to assemble a house of this size and complexity.

I’d love to learn more about this house and Josephus.

Josephus probably ordered his kit home out of this catalog.

Josephus probably ordered his kit home out of this catalog (1910-1911).

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The Sears Modern Home #118.

The Sears Modern Home #118.

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Josephus own words.

Josephus' own words.

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Number 118 was also built in these cities.

Number 118 was also built in these cities.

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Located in Alton, Illinois, this #118 is in decent shape.

Located in Alton, Illinois, this #118 is in decent shape.

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This #118 is in Westfield, Illinois (near Mattoon).

This #118 is in Westfield, Illinois (near Mattoon).

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And heres the house that Josephus built.

And here's the house that Josephus built.

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Close-up of the Autrey fam.

Close-up of the Autrey fam.

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UPDATED! Thanks to Jim Klenke, we now have a contemporary photo of the Autrey’s Sears House.

The House That Josephus Built - sometime in the early 1910s!

The House That Josephus Built - sometime in the early 1910s! Many thanks to Jim Klenke who provided the above photo! It's so fun to see the house in real life! (Photo is copyright 2012 Jim Klenke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. )

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The roofline has changed a bit (perhaps a roof or attic fire?), but theres no doubt that this is the house that Josephus built in the early 1910s. Poor Josephus died in 1914, so he did not have many years in this house.

The roofline has changed a bit (perhaps a roof or attic fire?), but there's no doubt that this is the house that Josephus built in the early 1910s. Poor Josephus died in 1914, so he did not have many years in this house. BTW, look closely and you'll see a fireplace mantel on the front porch. I don't think that's original to the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Jim Klenke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Aladdin Shadowlawn in Concord, NC - And Now I Know WHERE!

December 27th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, I published a blog about a beautiful Aladdin Shadowlawn I found in Concord, NC.  At the time, I couldn’t find the address. My addresses are stored in notebooks, and they’re not in any particular order. Retrieving an address from a trip made long ago can be pretty challenging.

However, once the hoopla of Christmas had settled a bit in the Thornton Home, I went looking for that address in Concord. And I found it! This Aladdin Shadowlawn is on Grove Street.

BTW, when I was in Concord, I was on my way to another North Carolina city, so I didn’t do a “proper” and extensive survey of Concord, but I do remember finding some other Aladdin kit homes there, including, an Aladdin Pomona, and an Aladdin Sheffield, and this Aladdin Shadowlawn (see below).

It’s not surprising that this part of North Carolina is so loaded with kit homes, because Aladdin had a major mill in Wilmington, NC. In fact, Roanoke Rapids has one of the largest collections (and most impressive collections) of Aladdins in the country! It’s worth the trip, I promise!

Aladdin was one of six national mail-order companies that sold entire kit homes through their catalogs. The houses typically arrived by train in 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Today, there are about 75,000 Aladdin kit homes in the country (compared with about 70,000 Sears Homes in the country).

While Sears is a more well-known name in the kit home business, Aladdin actually was around a lot longer. Sears started in 1908; Aladdin started in 1906!

In 1940, Sears called it quits, and closed their Modern Homes department. Aladdin continued to sell kit homes until 1981.

More than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them! Aladdin Kit Homes were sold from 1906-1981. (Sears, by comparison, was out of business by 1940.)

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To learn about the Aladdin Homes in Rocky Mount, click here.

To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and theres a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was a big, beautiful kit home, and there's a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, NC. Image is from the 1919 catalog.

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

And here it is, a perfect Shadowlawn in Concord, but what is the address?

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

Somewhere in Concord, I think I saw a Plaza, too.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

And an Aladdin Pomona.

In Roanoke Rapids, NC, youll find this *perfect* Aladdin Pomona and the best part - it really is ON the railroad tracks!

In Roanoke Rapids, NC, you'll find this *perfect* Aladdin Pomona and the best part - it really is ON the railroad tracks! As I recall, there is a Pomona in Concord.

Aladdin

Aladdin offered some pretty fancy houses, too, such as this Aladdin Villa.

If you love kit homes, you have to visit Roanoke Rapids. It was a town built by Aladdin, and it was a wide variety of Aladdin ki

If you love kit homes, you have to visit Roanoke Rapids. It was a town built by Aladdin, and it was a wide variety of Aladdin kit homes, including this Aladdin Villa (Aladdin's biggest kit home).

Aladdin

Aladdin was a kit home company based in Bay City that sold more than 75,000 kit homes during their 75 years in the kit home business.

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Aladdin was a large, impressive company and here in the Southeast, most of the kit homes that I've found are from Aladdin,

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and their mill was in Wilmington, which would explain why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in North Carolina.

Aladdin also sold entire cities of their kit homes, and one sterling example is Roanoke Rapids, NC. In that small town, we've found more than 60 Aladdin Kit Homes, including some of Aladdin's biggest and fanciest homes.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

Aladdin Homes were made with quality materials - first growth lumber out of virgin forests - the likes of which we will never again see in this country.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

My favorite graphic from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

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To learn more about the massive collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

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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.


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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.

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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 Sears Ivanhoe

June 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Magnolia was Sears biggest and best kit home, but the Ivanhoe was a close second. In my travels, I’ve only seen a handful.

One of them was in Lewisburg, WV and the other was in Elmhurst, Illinois (see pictures of these homes below). I found a third in Northern Illinois but neglected to note the city. Carol Parish (Monmouth, IL) sent in a picture of an especially beautiful (and original) Ivanhoe in her city.

According to the testimonials found in the old Sears Modern Homes’ catalogs (and referenced in Rebecca Hunter’s book), there’s a Sears Ivanhoe in West Point, Virginia, but it faces the waterfront and despite letters written to the owners, I’ve not been able to get a photograph.

Recently I was scanning some old paperwork and stumbled across the Sears Ivanhoe (LaGrange, IL) featured in a Sears roofing brochure. I’d love to get a current photo of this BRICK Ivanhoe!  :)

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This Ivanhoe is located in LaGrange, IL. I wonder if it's still standing!

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Close-up of the letter written someone whose signature is illegible in a city whose name is misspelled. It's LaGrange, not LaGrauge.

Below are the Ivanhoes in Lewiston, West Virginia, Elmhurst, Illinois, and an unknown city in northern Illinois.

First, the original catalog image.

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Ivanhoe from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog

Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe floorplan, second floor.

Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe floorplan, first floor.

Ivanhoe in Elmhurst, IL

Ivanhoe in Elmhurst, IL

And heres

And this beautiful Ivanhoe is in Monmouth, IL. Thanks to Carol Parish for snapping the photo and sending it along!!

Ivanhoe in Lewiston

Ivanhoe in Lewisburg, WV

This Ivanhoe is somewhere in Northern Illiois, but not sure where. The photo was taken in 2002.

This Ivanhoe is in Northern Illinois - somewhere (2002).

If you know of the location of an Ivanhoe, please leave a comment below. And if you own an Ivanhoe and would like to send me a picture, please do!  Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

If you’ d like to read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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All Things Alhambra, Part III

June 25th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The Sears Alhambra was one of Sears’ most popular houses. In fact, I’d say it was one of their top ten best sellers. And, it was a pretty house with a distinctive Spanish flair and with a splash of mission style. If you take away the fancy accoutrements, you’ll see it’s little more than a classic American foursquare.

The first photo is from the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog. It’s a letter from a happy, happy Alhambra homeowner. (Say that four times fast.)

Click here to read All Things Alhambra, part 2.

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This appeared on page 2 of the Sears Building Materials catalog (1921)

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Close-up of the letter written by A. C. Goodall.

Alhambra

The beautiful Alhambra - as seen in the 1921 Building Materials catalog.

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Like its Virginia cousin, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

Like its Virginia cousin, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

Another vote for the beige pant job!  This perfect Alhambra is in Raleigh.

Another vote for the beige pant job! This perfect Alhambra is in Raleigh.

Stripped of its Alhambra-defining elements, this house in St. Louis looks rather pedestrian.

Stripped of its Alhambra-defining elements, this house in St. Louis looks rather pedestrian.

This Alhambra has also had some of its unique architectural elements stripped away, but you can still see its an Alhambra!

This Alhambra has also had some of its unique architectural elements stripped away, but you can still see it's an Alhambra!

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney. My favorite color: Lavender!

To see more pictures of Sears Alhambras, visit All Things Alhambra, part 2.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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