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Eight Pretty Maggies in a Row

August 29th, 2013 Sears Homes 9 comments

As of last month, we’ve found eight Sears Magnolias. There are probably more, but where are they?

The last three Magnolias that were discovered (in North Carolina, New York and West Virginia) were found thanks to the readers of this blog.

So where’s Number Nine?  :)

If you know, please leave a comment below!

Below are pictures of the eight Magnolias.

Enjoy!

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was featured on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

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When first offered

When first offered in 1918, the Magnolia was also offered as a "plan" (blueprints only) for $10.

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The Magnolia in Benson, NC was discovered when a faithful reader of the blog sent me a note and reported that shed seen a Magnolia featured on the news. She even sent me a link to the news story, so I was able to conform it was a Magnolia before I traveld five hours south to Benson.

The Magnolia in Benson, NC was discovered when a faithful reader of the blog sent me a note and reported that she'd seen a Magnolia featured on the news. She even sent me a link to the news story, so I was able to conform it was a Magnolia before I traveled five hours south to Benson. This Magnolia has been in constant use as a funeral home since the early 1940s. The interior has been pretty well gutted and rebuilt, but at least it's still standing.

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Canton, Ohio

The Magnolia in Canton, Ohio was almost lost in the 1980s. The roof had collapsed into the second floor, but the house was purchased by someone who truly loved old houses, and they did a thorough restoration of the home. In 2002, I visited this house when filming a segment for PBS's "History Detectives." Photo is courtesy Janet LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Located in the hills of West Virginia, this beautiful Magnolia also passed through its own shadow of death in the early 2000s. In 2003, it was purchased and lovingly restored.

Located in the hills of West Virginia, this beautiful Magnolia also passed through its own "shadow of death" in the early 2000s. In 2003, it was purchased and lovingly restored.

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In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was in pitiful shape (when these photos were taken). In late 1985, the house suffered additional damage when it caught fire. It was razed sometime in 1985.

In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was in pitiful shape (when these photos were taken). In late 1985, the house suffered additional damage when it caught fire. It was razed sometime in 1985. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Syracuse

The Seventh Magnolia (in Syracuse, NY) was also discovered thanks to a faithful reader of this blog. It was built by Edward Knapp for his two sisters sometime between 1918-1921. In the 1990s, it was purchased and restored by someone who loved the house and appreciated its unique history. Photo is courtesy Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana is now going through its own trying time. If you look at the underside of the front porch ceiling, you'll see moisture damage. The aluminum trim around the eaves and soffit is also falling away. Hopefully, this wonderful old house will be spared the fate of the Maggy in Nebraska. These photos are more than a year old, so perhaps good things are now happening for this house. Photo is courtesy James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is also needing a little love.

The Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is also needing a little love. It's sold three times in the last six years and when I was there in September 2010, it was looking a little ragged around the edges. However, it sold very recently (less than six months ago) and hopefully the new owners will return it to its former glory.

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Last but not least is this Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania. It was built as a brick house, and the floorplan was altered a bit when the house was built. Construction began in 1922 and was not completed until 1927.

Last but not least is this Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania. The brick exterior is original to the house and the floorplan was altered a bit when the house was built. Construction began in 1922 and was not completed until 1927. Photo is courtesy Bob Keeling and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And in Blacksburg, SC

This "almost-a-Magnolia" was discovered in Blacksburg, SC. According to the homeowner (and tax records) the house was built in 1910, and based on millwork and other design elements, that seems like a good date. The classic "widow's walk" (flat top) on the hipped roof is not in place (as with a traditional Magnolia). And see those tall columns? They're solid concrete. No kit house would have concrete two-story columns due to the tremendous weight. These homes were designed with the expectation that a "man of average abilities" could build them in 90 days - or less! I suspect that this house in Blacksburg was purchased from a planbook or architectural magazine, and then Sears "borrowed" the design, shaved a few feet off the footprint and the Sears Magnolia was born.

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The Magnolia was also known as Sears Modern Home #2089. I found this marking in the basement of the Magnolia in Benson, NC. When these framing members were shipped out of Cairo, Illinois, one of the mill workers grabbed a blue grease pencil and marked the top beam in the pile of lumber that was about to be loaded onto a train for Benson. Today, this faint mark can be used to authenticate that this is indeed a Sears kit home.

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marked lumber

Years ago, I talked to an elder gent who remembered helping Mom and Dad build a Sears kit home. The father, standing on the building site, would yell out, "I need a G 503!" and the kids would scramble over the massive piles of framing members to find a beam marked G 503. The floor joist shown above was found in the Magnolia in WV.

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Now, about that 9th Magnolia…

Where is it?  :)

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

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The Eighth Magnolia - and - It’s In West Virginia!

August 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 13 comments

For years and years, it was believed that only six Magnolias had been sold by Sears and Roebuck, but their locations were unknown.

As the years passed, the six Magnolias were discovered in Benson, North Carolina, South Bend, Indiana, Irwin, Pennsylvania, Canton, Ohio and a fifth in Piedmont, Alabama. A sixth Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska was lost in 1985 when it burned down.

And that was that.

Six Magnolias. All accounted for.

Five alive.  One dead (and cremated).

And then two years ago, one of my faithful readers reported that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY.

Turned out, they were right. The discovery made the local papers, and it was all pretty exciting.  Click here to read the article from May 2011.

All of which brings me to this newest discovery of an 8th Magnolia.

In June 2013, someone left me a comment saying, that many years ago, he’d lived in a small town in West Virginia, and there was a Sears Magnolia just across the street from his home.

According to his reminiscence, the Magnolia was ordered from the Sears & Roebuck catalog in 1924, and the price was $7,000. The homeowner then paid a local builder another $7,000 to build the house. Rachel Shoemaker and I stayed up most of one night trying to figure out if this house was the real deal. About 4:00 am, we came to the conclusion that it was.

I contacted the homeowner (who was gracious enough to write back!) and asked if we could visit his wonderful Magnolia when we visited Elkins, later in the summer.

He said yes.

“Thrilled” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about this elegant home in West Virginia.

For one, this Maggy has been painstakingly and thoroughly restored. In the world of architectural preservation, there’s a massive difference between “remodeling” and “restoring.”

This Magnolia has truly been restored.

I’m a tough cookie with an eye for detail and a penchant for perfection and a passion for historicity, and I’m happy to report that the work done on this old house was absolutely first-class. This West Virginia “Maggy” is truly a wonder to behold. As the pictures will show, the house is a gem and every room looks like something out of a fancy architectural magazine. It really is that beautiful.

Secondly, I was so pleased to see that the house is in good hands. The home’s current owners love this house with their whole heart, and they genuinely appreciate their home’s unique history. They’re “caretakers” in the truest sense of the word, and they really do “get it.”

An interesting aside, my husband toured the house with me, and he was also smitten (and he’s not even a big architecture guy). When we returned to our car, he said quietly, “That really is a beautiful place they’ve got there.”

Enough words. Just wait until you see these pictures. You’ll fall in love with this house, just like I did.

To read Part II of this blog, click here.

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The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922. It's shown here in the 1921 catalog

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The description shows it was fancy.

The description of the Magnolia gives some wonderful detail on the home's fine qualities (1921).

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price

A price list from the 1921 catalog shows detail on the optional extras for the Magnolia.

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What a fine-looking house!

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This magnificent Magnolia is now 88 years old, and still retains all its original stateliness, beauty and grandeur. Beginning in 2003, the house underwent a major, three-year-long restoration that saved this historically significant home.

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beautiful

The house sits on several acres on a beautifully landscaped lot in a small West Virginia town about two hours from my husband's ancestral home in Elkins, WV. The previous owners (who did the major three-year restoration) planted the two Magnolia trees at the front of the house. The house is even more beautiful "in person" than it is in these photos. It's stunning. Just stunning.

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This house has no bad sides. It is beautiful from every angle.

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Just imagine bobbing about in the pool on an August afternoon, sipping on a cool soda and gazing upward at a majestic Magnolia. Bliss! On a more architectural note, the 40' wide addition across the back added quite a bit of square footage and also expanded the size of the small den and kitchen.

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house

The floorplan for the first floor (shown here) shows how the addition to the rear of the house increased the square footage, expanded the den and the kitchen and did not diminish the home's original beauty. Major kudos to the architect who came up with this plan! Brilliant!

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And from the back of the house, you can get a good view of that distinctive Magnolia dormer.

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A view of the front yard from the second-floor balcony. West Virginia is a state filled with beautiful views, and this house is located in an unusually beautiful spot in West Virginia.

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When I first contacted the homes owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

When I first contacted the home's owner, he told me that this Magnolia was in unusually original condition. After spending two hours examining this lovely home, I can affirm - he was right!

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Beautiful house. Just beautiful.

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And much praise is due to the folks who did the restoration on the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved.

And much praise is due to the folks who restored the Maggy. Every window in this old house was restored and preserved. These windows - with a little love and care - will last for generations.

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On

It's claimed that the Sears Magnolia was the only kit that was required two boxcars (as opposed to one) for shipment. I suspect the six two-story columns were part of the reason for the second boxcar. When shipped, these columns were in pieces (length-wise) which were to be assembled on site. The bases on these columns were recently replaced.

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The porch floor on the other Magnolias I've seen is poured concrete. On the West Virginia Magnolia, the terrace is tiled, with several floor drains. I've read that they get lots of snow in WV so maybe the floor drains help with that.

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And in the basement, we found

And in the basement, we found marked lumber!

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My next blog

Return to this blog tomorrow, and come inside for a tour of this beautiful home. You're in for a treat!

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To read Part II of this blog (and see interior photos) click here.
Is there a Sears Magnolia in your neighborhood?

Of the eight Sears Magnolias that have been discovered, three of them were found thanks to the loyal readers of this blog. If you know of a Magnolia, please leave a comment below!

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So Many Kit Homes in Staunton, Virginia!

February 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 32 comments

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

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Click here to learn more!

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

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

Thursday morning, I finally got my chance!

And I must say, it was worth the wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

1919 Maytown

The Sears Maytown as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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

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Sears Sears 1921

The Sears Westly, from the 1921 Modern Homes catalog.

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Westly Staunton

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

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

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Staunton

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

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house

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

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house

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

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house

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

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

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

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Sears Vallonia

Sears Vallonia as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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

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house house 1927

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

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Staunton, VA

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

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Wardway 1930

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

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And this appears to be a Kenwood!

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

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

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Lewis Montawk? Maybe.

Is this a Lewis Montawk? Probably. Maybe!

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Sears

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

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

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

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

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

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Best for last.

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

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Staunton

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

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

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

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This Mayfield is in wonderful condition.

This "Mayfield" is in wonderful condition.

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

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

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And

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

Wherefore art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

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Heres a

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

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

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

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

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

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Albert Brown’s Awesome Old House in Mechanicsburg, Ohio

June 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

In 1912, Albert Brown of Mechanicsburg, Ohio sent a lovely letter to Gordon Van Tine (a kit home company), praising House #126, which he’d recently purchased of them.  Albert was so enamored of the house that (he said in  his letter), it was his intention (in 1912) to buy and build two more houses and one barn from Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa).

In fact, Albert asked Gordon Van Tine for a placard for his house, identifying it as one of their own homes.

Gordon Van Tine published Albert’s letter in their 1913 mail-order catalog (and Albert’s letter is shown below).

We don’t know if Albert ever purchased or built those other two houses, or if Gordon Van Tine ever provided him with a placard for his house, but we do know that Albert bought his barn, and built it at the back of the lot, adjacent to House #126.

It’s pretty darn fun to rediscover this lost piece of history and “connect all the dots,” based just on a name and a short testimony found in a 1913 mail order catalog.

So, are there two more Gordon Van Tine houses there in Mechanicsburg, thanks to Albert? I’d love to know!

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for digging into this story and finding this amazing house (and getting an address!), and thanks to Cindy Goebel Catanzaro for taking so many wonderful photos!

To learn more about Gordon Van Tine kit homes, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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House #126 as it appeared in the 1913 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

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house 2

Close-up of the house that Albert selected (1913).

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testimony

Albert Brown's testimony appeared under #126 in the 1913 catalog.

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house 3

And here is Albert's house as it appears today. It's a real beauty, and a lovely match to the 1913 catalog image. If you look at the lower right of this photo, you can see the barn that Albert purchased in later years. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hosue 4

Notice the oval window in the front gable, and the small vestibule.

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house

This house in Mechanicsburg is in wonderfully original condition. I wonder if the current owners know about Albert, and his story? I wonder if they realize that they have a kit home? (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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hosue detail

Close-up of that ornamental window. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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house six

And a view from the side of the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And my favorite photo of all!  Cindy managed to get inside this house and found a vintage photo hanging on the wall. Is this Albert and friends? Oh, how Id love to know!!

And my favorite photo of all! Cindy managed to get inside this house and found a vintage photo of #126 hanging on the wall. Is this Albert and friends? Oh, how I'd love to know!!

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Close up of the folks. Who are these people?

Close up of the folks. Who are these people? They obviously love their dogs!

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barn too

Albert was so dazzled by the House #126 that he purchased this barn in later years.

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Nice barn!

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house hosue barn

And here is Albert's GVT barn, sitting on the back edge of the lot. (Photo is copyright 2012 Cindy Goebel Catanzaro and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Again, many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Mechanicsburg (with a little help from Ancestry.com) and thanks to Cindy Goebel Catanzara for running out to Mechanicsburg to get these wonderful photos!

Want to learn more about Gordon Van Tine? Click here.

Read more about these amazing kit homes by clicking here.

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

May 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

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

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

My oh my, that was a sweet ride!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’ll work,” I told him.

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

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

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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

147 house

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

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147

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

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147

Look at the columns - clad in clapboard!

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SMH 147

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

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147

The details around the window are perfect!

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Want to see more pretty pictures? Click here.

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Classic Arts and Crafts Design: The Sears Ashmore

January 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

The Sears Ashmore was not one of Sears most popular designs, but it surely was one of their prettiest, and it was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow.

And it had a pergola, too!

According to the testimonies that appeared in the catalog, there are Sears Ashmores in Abilene, TX and Fargo, ND.

Ashmore

This bungalow was a classic Arts & Crafts design (from the 1921 catalog).

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And theres one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I cant pay you, but Ill send you a signed copy of my book!!  :)

And there's one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I can't pay you, but I'll send you a signed copy of my book!! :)

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And theres one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

And there's one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

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The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features.

The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features. And it was a departure from the simple foursquares that were the bread and butter of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. The living room and dining room both have coffered ceilings, and there's a fireplace nook at one end of the massive living room, with a window seat at the other end.

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Heres an image from the 1916 catalog.

Here's an image from the 1916 catalog. Pre-1918 (before Sears Homes had names) this was the C250 model. "The Ashmore" sounds much more elegant.

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According to the page above, there’s also a Sears Ashmore in Fargo, ND! I’d like a photo of that, too.

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The cover of the 1921 Sears Buildign Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

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Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior views of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs.

Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior "views" of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs. The dining room (shown above) is outfitted with classic Arts & Crafts pieces. The oak wainscoting (topped with plate-rail) is shown, but not the coffered (beamed) ceiling.

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Another

One end of the 23-foot-long living room had a window seat (shown above).

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And the other end had a fireplace nook.

And the other end had a fireplace nook.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Heres a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Here's a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table. According to the floor plan, that's an ironing board in the wall to the right of the nook.

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And heres the worlds most beautiful Ashmore. Not too found of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. Its in Waverly, Illinois and its featured in my book, The Sears Homes of Illinois.  The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesnt do it for me.

And here's the world's most beautiful Ashmore. Not too fond of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. It's in Waverly, Illinois and it's featured in my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesn't do it for me. But thank goodness, it's in original condition and the vinyl siding salesmen have not decimated it.

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Doesnt that warm the cockles of your heart?

Doesn't that warm the cockles of your heart? Compare it to the house above, and you'll see it's a perfect match. My oh my, that's a sweet-looking house!

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Awesome

If this doesn't make your heart leap with joy, you should stop what you're doing right now and make sure that you still have a heart beat. Look at these porches. This sweet thing in Waverly still has its original porch railings.

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This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia.

And here's one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia. Isn't it dreamy?

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To become fascinated by yet another old story that Rose is involved in, click here.

To read about how and why the bungalow became so popular so fast, read here.

If you’ve visited this site more than ten times in the last year, state law requires that you leave a detailed and thoughtful comment below.

Okay, not really, but I wish you would.

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94-year-old Builder Explains How He Began Construction on the Sears Magnolia in Ohio

November 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In September 2002, I was invited to appear on a brand new show called PBS History Detectives. It was my first appearance on national television and it was a very exciting time. One of the houses featured in that show was the Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. I’d be appearing on their second episode (first season), to do a story on the alleged Sears Homes in Firestone Park. The filming started at the Sears Magnolia in Canton. Filming the 15-minute segment took eight days.

Sometime around 1990, Canton writer T. E. Prather wrote a short piece about the building of the Sears Magnolia there in Canton, Ohio. The title was “Magnolia: Neo Classic Revival Revived!”

What’s remarkable about this article is that it quotes the 94-year-old builder who helped build the Magnolia in 1923.

Clarence Swallow was the builder of nearly 300 homes in this area, and in 1923, he was a 27-year-old carpenter. He was hired by Canton Attorney Leroy Contie, Sr., to supervise the total construction of Contie’s Magnolia.

The catalog price of this pre-cut house was $5,140. With the price of the Ridgewood lot, plastering, electrical work, plumbing, plus other extras, te total cost of the home was approximately $18,000.

Swallow explains how the crates of numbered, top-quality, pre-cut lumber and supplies were brought to the building site by horse-drawn wagons. Swallow and his two-man crew sorted through the giant jig-saw puzzle of packages and began construction in the summer of 1923. The framing went up on the pre-formed concrete foundation through the summer and autumn. By the first snowfall, the Magnolia was under roof. Then Ennon Plumbing, Eclipse Electric, and several plasterers worked through the winter as Swallow and crew completed the interior trim work.

The six fluted yellow poplar Corinthian porch columns were precisely set in place to support the two-story front portico. The side lights [flanking] the front entrance and an elliptical fanlight under a second floor balcony were the center focus of the main entry.

The original elegance of this early 1920s Magnolia has yielded a small bit to being unoccupied over the past couple years. Yet it has been featured in the Smithsonian (November 1985) and was the featured home of Ohio Historical Society’s publication , Timeline in early 1989.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

Sears Magnolia from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Close-up of the columns. In some models, the Magnolia had Corinthian columns, and in others, they were Ionic.

Close-up of the columns. In some models, the Magnolia had Corinthian columns, and in others, they were Ionic.

And in this Magnolia, theres a Magnolia room!

And in this Magnolia, there's a Magnolia room!

This Magnolia is in Benson, NC and the photo dates back to the late 1940s. This house has been in use as a funeral home for many decades.

This Magnolia is in Benson, NC and the photo dates back to the late 1940s. This house has been in use as a funeral home for many decades. I'm sorry I do not have the name of the original photographer, for I'd prefer to give proper photo credit here.

But you have to love the name of this funeral home (in the 40s).

But you have to love the name of this funeral home (in the 40s).

These unique windows are an important identifying feature for the Sears Magnolia. Theyre pretty unique!

These unique windows are an important identifying feature for the Sears Magnolia. They're pretty unique! Notice the 9/1 windows on the side, and the smaller lites above the larger windows. People send me a lot of photos of purported Magnolias. If they'd stop and examine the windows, that'd answer their questions right then and there!

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1922 catalog.

Entry Hall of the grand house

Entry Hall of the grand house

The Living Room

The Living Room

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolias kitchen

Note the breakfast nook in the Magnolia's kitchen

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about early 20th Century breakfast nooks, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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A Fine-Looking Sears Avondale In Chelsea, Oklahoma!

July 7th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Chelsea, Oklahoma is a wee tiny town about an hour from Tulsa, and for decades, a big fancy Sears Saratoga got all the attention as the only Sears House in town. Recently, I’ve been working with Rachel Shoemaker to identify more Sears Homes in the area, and while “driving” the streets of Chelsea (via Google Maps), I found this beautiful Sears Avondale tucked away on Vine Street (about a block away from the Saratoga).

Rachel hopped in her car and ran right out to Chelsea to get good photos (shown below), and as we continue to work together on this project, I’m sure we’ll find many more Sears Homes in the area. Click here to see the Sears Homes we found in Tulsa!

The Saratoga was a big fancy Sears House, but the Avondale was a close second! This house was a classic bungalow with a decided prairie-style influence. Look at the oversized eaves and low hip roof.

What’s even more interesting is that the Saratoga got all the press as being the FIRST Sears Home in Oklahoma, but was it? The Avondale was also offered in 1912 (when construction started on The Saratoga). What if the Avondale was actually the first Sears Home in Oklahoma!

Enjoy the pictures below. And if you know of any Sears Homes in Oklahoma, please leave a comment below.

To read about the Sears Saratoga, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

(All photos of extant homes are used courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced with permission.)

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale (1919 catalog). The Avondale was a beautiful house and had many upgrades available, such as stained glass windows in the front rooms.

The Avondale was built a

The Avondale was built the Illinois State Fair (late 1910s) and furnished with items from the Sears Roebuck catalog. This post card shows the Avondale at the State Fair. Note the stained class windows on the front and flanking the fireplace. Nice house, and popular too.

Another post card shows the interior the of the Avondale. Pretty darn fancy.

Another post card shows the interior the of the Avondale. Pretty darn fancy.

Catalog page also shows interior views.

Catalog page also shows interior views.

Floorplan shows how spacious this house was.

Floorplan shows how spacious this house was. The dininr room was 23 feet by 14 feet, with a bay window. The front bedroom was 13 by 16. For a house of this vintage, these were very large rooms, or in the idiom of the day, "quite commodious."

Sears Avondale in Chelsea, OK. Was this the first Sears House in Oklahoma? Itll be fun to find out!

Sears Avondale in Chelsea, OK. Was this the first Sears House in Oklahoma? It'll be fun to find out!

Close-up of the unusual window arrangement down the side.

Close-up of the unusual window arrangement down the side.

Close-up of that disinctive bay window, and the grouping of three porch columns on the (now enclosed) front porch.

Close-up of that disinctive bay window, and the grouping of three porch columns on the (now enclosed) front porch.

To read more about kit homes in Tulsa, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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A Crowning Jewel of a Bungalow: The Corona

July 5th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

One of the most interesting stories I ever heard came from a man who grew up next door to a Sears Corona in Gillespie, Illinois (about 70 miles northeast of St. Louis).

It was 2003, and I’d just finished a talk on Sears Homes in Bloomington, Illinois. A nice fellow approached the podium and told me that he’d grown up in Gillespie, Illinois, next door to the Sears Corona. He now lived in Chillicothe, Illinois (about 60 miles away), and he thought I should come out to Chillicothe and see his house, for it was really special.

“Oh brother,” I thought to myself. “Another nut job.”

But he continued.

All of his life, he’d appreciated the fine craftsmanship and beauty of the Sears Corona in his hometown, and he vowed that when he grew up, he’d live in a house just as beautiful and well-built.

He’d recently finished his own home in Chillicothe, and his beautiful new home had been built as a modern-day replica of the old Sears Corona.

Now it was getting interesting.

The next morning, I delayed my trip home to Godfrey, Illinois and detoured to Chillicothe. It was well worth the trip, and it was a beautiful home.

In my many travels, I’ve only seen three Coronas, and two of them were within 20 minutes of each other. The third was the reproduction Corona in Chillicothe.

By the way, “Corona” is Latin for the word “crown.”

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Sears Corona as seen in the 1919 catalog

Sears Corona as seen in the 1919 catalog

The reproduction Corona in Chillicothe

The reproduction Corona in Chillicothe. It's a beautiful house, and he did a first-class job! This photo was taken in 2003, shortly after the house was completed. I'd love to get an updated photo.

And from the 1921 catalog

In this catalog picture (1921), you can see that the gabled dormer is centered on the roof. This is a pretty distinctive feature of the Corona.

The original Corona in Gillespie that provided the inspiration for the house in Chillicothe

The original Corona in Gillespie that provided the inspiration for the house in Chillicothe. This Corona in Gillespie, IL is one of the most perfect examples of a Sears house that I've ever seen. The fact that the original pergola is intact is remarkable.

This Corona is a little different with that supersized dormer. Its in Benld (pronounced Benn-eld), Illinois. The town was named for Ben L. Dorsey (some famous guy in Illinois). There was already a town named Dorsey, so the townfolk decided on Benld, which is an abbreviation of Ben L. Dorsey.

This Corona is a little different with that super-sized dormer. It's in Benld (pronounced Benn-eld), Illinois. The town was named for Ben L. Dorsey (some famous guy in Illinois). There was already a town named "Dorsey," so the townsfolk decided on "Benld," which is an abbreviation of Ben L. Dorsey. One of the unique features of the Corona is the cross-gabled porch roof. That always catches my eye. Perhaps the most unique feature is that dormer, centered squarely on the roof.

Another angle of the Corona in Benld.

Another angle of the Corona in Benld.

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And you can see how much the Benld house looks like the original catalog image.

Floorplan

The Corona is a spacious house, measuring 49.6 by 26'.

And theres more space upstairs.

And there's more space upstairs.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Honor Bilt Homes: Why Couldn’t They Spell “Bilt” Correctly?

June 18th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Sears offered three grades in all their lines: Good, better and best. In the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the housing lines were known as Honor-Bilt, Econo Built (later known as “Standard Built) and Lighter Built.  (To learn more about these “lesser grades” [Econo, Standard and Lighter], click here.)

Honor-Bilt homes (their best grade and most popular line) utilized traditional construction standards, such as double headers over the doors and windows, double floors (primary floors over subfloors), exterior sheathing under clapboard or cedar shingles and wall studs on 16-inch centers.

Below are a few of my favorite pages, delineating the fine features that define the Honor Bilt house.

Honor Bilt

Honor Bilt houses had pre-cut lumber and trim, as shown above. Notice the fellow above, working on a Sears Glenn Falls (1938 catalog).

Honor

Honor Bilt kit homes came with 27 gallons of paint, and 10 pounds of wood putty. And the paint was mixed by a Master paint mixer, or so this ad promises.

A list of the many benefits of an Honor Bilt home.

A list of the many benefits of an Honor Bilt home (1938 catalog).

Part 2 of that amazing list!

Part 2 of that amazing list!

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Several pages in the 1938 catalog were devoted to extolling the virtues of the Honor Bilt Modern Home.

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When Sears went from balloon construction to platform construction, it was a big deal and was persistently touted in all their literature, such as this 1938 catalog.

House

A comparison of Honor Bilt and Standard Built from the 1921 catalog.

Honor

From the 1921 catalog, this 13-item list shows the specific benefits of the Honor Bilt home.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.