Archive

Posts Tagged ‘sears precut homes’

“One of These Things is Not Like The Other…”

August 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

My friend Rachel reminded me of this fun little ditty from Sesame Street, and suggested that perhaps a few of the 7.5 million people who *think* they have a Sears kit home should watch this video to learn a little more about the skills of observation.

You might want to click this link (Sesame Street video) while you scroll down to see the photos, because the music is so darn toe-tapping happy.

Take a look at this photo.

Houses

You may notice that one of these things is not like the others.

*

Now let’s try it with houses.

*

which

One of these houses is not like the others.

*

Did you figure out which one is not “like the others”?

Actually, I’m just funnin’ with you. It’s not hard to figure this one out.

The three wooden-frame houses with the big two-story columns and the hipped roof and the gabled dormer and the oversized front porch deck and the six windows across the second-floor front and the big picture windows on the first floor front and the two exterior doors stacked over each other are the Sears Magnolia.

The brick house with the one-story columns and the gabled roof (no dormer) and the small front porch deck and the three windows across the second floor front and the four double-hung windows on the first floor front and the one exterior front door is a nice house (but not a Sears House) in Hopewell, Virginia.

When I first visited Hopewell in 2003, I was told that this was a “Modified Magnolia.” More recently, I was told that someone had “identified” this house as a Sears Lexington.

The kind owners gave me a thorough tour of the home’s interior. Having inspected this house from top to bottom (literally), I’m wholly confident that this is not a Sears House of any kind.

In Crescent Hills (a subdivision of Hopewell), you’ll find eight Sears Homes. Eight. Total.

And please note, this house (the brick house above) is not one of them.

I was crestfallen to hear that Old House Journal recently did a feature story on the Sears Homes in Hopewell. I haven’t had the heart to read it. I can only hope and pray that they focused on those eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, and not the make-believe Magnolia shown above.

To see more examples of the Sears Homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read more about the misidentified homes in Hopewell, click here (Part One), here (Part Two) and here (Part Three). (There are a lot of them!)

To read about the Aladdin Kit Homes in Hopewell, click here.

*   *   *

Do You Have 60 Seconds to Save a Sears House?

July 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 22 comments

Updated!  This house is now scheduled for demolition on August 7th. Click here for the latest!!

Bowling Green State University (Toledo area) has decided to demolish a Sears House to make way for an expansion.

Please - take a moment and sign this on-line petition and cast a vote in favor of saving this Sears House. This online petition is easy to use and loads fast. This won’t take more than 60 seconds of your time.

How many early 20th Century kit homes have been swallowed up by this very type of academic expansion?

Too many to count.

I’ve already got a plethora of PHOTOS of Sears Homes that were torn down to make way for some new plasticine palace or a college expansion or a new big-box store. Too often, these “new” buildings lack the structural integrity and/or visual aesthetics to endure more than three or four decades - at best.

The Sears Lewiston that’s now standing on the BGSU campus has been there for more than 80  years. Why destroy it now?

Sears Homes are a limited edition. From 1908-1940, Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in all 48 states. Of the 370 designs that were offered, the Sears Lewiston (the house under the wrecking ball now) was one of their finer homes.

There are alternatives to destroying this house.

If the house is in the way, then MOVE IT to another location. Sears Homes were made with first-growth lumber harvested from virgin forests. The quality of building materials in these houses is remarkable, and we’ll never see wood of this quality again. Why send all this to the landfill?

To sign a petition to save the Sears Lewiston, visit this website. http://signon.org/sign/save-the-popular-culture

This is one of those “Fun Causes” that costs you very little time and yet has the potential to yield great benefits.

Please take a moment and sign the petition that will save this house from demolition.

And please share this link with others.

Come Autumn, I really do not want to write another blog that’s titled, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Click here to read more about the Sears Lewiston.

*

This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of "The Blade," Toledo, Ohio.

To read the full article from The Blade, click here.

The Sears Lewiston, as it appeared in the 1930 catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as it appeared in the 1930 catalog.

*

Close-up of the floorplan.

Close-up of the floorplan.

*

This Lewiston in Dowell, Illinois is in beautiful condition.

This Lewiston in Dowell, Illinois is in pretty good condition, despite some period-inappropriate remodeling. Typically, you don't see fretwork on Neo-Tudors.

*

A perfect Lewiston in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

A perfect Lewiston in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

*

This Lewiston is in another college town - Champaign.

This Lewiston is in another college town - Champaign, IL.

*

An update! Someone from the school has contacted me and reports that there are markings on the lumber, suggesting that this Sears Lewiston was ordered from Montgomery Ward (and fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine). Read the comments below to get the whole scoop. Quite a story!  And quite a house! To learn more about kit homes from Montgomery Ward, click here.

*

Second update: Several people have written to say that the house at BGSU is a Sears Colchester. The Colchester and the Lewiston were identical homes, but the Colchester was offered in brick and the Lewiston was a frame house. That’s it. The Colchester’s footprint was 11″ wider and 11″ deeper, because it had brick veneer. Other than this minor difference, these two houses were the same house, with a different name. If you look at the floorplan below, you’ll see it’s a perfect match to the floorplan for the Lewiston.

The Colchester was offered in the 1930 catalog, but it was identical to the Lewiston.

The Colchester was offered in the 1930 catalog, but it was identical to the Lewiston.

*

The room layout in the Colchester was identical to the Lewiston. Due to the brick siding, the Colchester was 11 wider and deeper.

The room layout in the Colchester was identical to the Lewiston. Due to the brick siding, the Colchester was 11" wider and deeper.

*

Comparison of the Colchester (1930) and the Lewiston (1928).

Comparison of the Colchester (1930) and the Lewiston (1928).

*

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

Please visit this link to sign the petition.

A Crowning Jewel of a Bungalow: The Corona

July 5th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

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.

h

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.

*   *    *

Oklahoma’s First Sears Kit Home: The Saratoga

July 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 11 comments

Updated! There’s now a blog filled with the Sears Homes of Tulsa! Click here to see two dozen photos!

Built in 1912, it’s claimed that this Sears Saratoga was the very first Sears kit home in the state of Oklahoma. And this was a mere five years after Oklahoma became our 46th state. According to a nomination form for National Register of Historic places, this Saratoga is “architecturally significant” because it was “the first Sears and Roebuck precut home to be constructed in Oklahoma, (2) it was one of the first to be built west of the Mississippi River, and (3) it is one of the best examples of the Sears Modern Home Number 146 in the United States.”

It’s entirely plausible that this house in Chelsea, Oklahoma was the first Sears kit home in Oklahoma. However, Sears didn’t start offering their pre-cut homes until somewhere in 1914 or 1915. Rebecca Hunter and I are still debating the precise date. :)  Prior to 1914/1915, Sears kit homes were not “precut.” In other words, sufficient lumber arrived to build your new house, but each and every piece had to be carefully cut to fit.

Sears started offering kit homes in 1908, with a 44-page catalog that offered 22 designs. (The nominating form also states that Sears started selling pre-cut houses in 1909. That’s okay. This form was filed in 1981, and there was a lot of errant info floating around.)

The Saratoga in Chelsea, Oklahoma was built by Joe Hogue, a cattleman. (Is that like a really old cowboy?)  Seems that when Mr. Hogue visited Chicago in 1912, he saw a display of Sears building materials at Sears headquarters, and included in that display were a few “Sears Modern Homes.” He liked the Saratoga (then known as Sears Modern House #108; houses weren’t given names until 1918). The house was shipped to /Chelsea via The St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad.

What’s most remarkable to me is that (as of 1981), the house has remained in the same family since 1912.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing all the photos, and sending me a copy of the nominating form. All extant photos are copyright Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without permission.

Sara

According to The National Register of Historic Places nominating form, this was the first Sears kit home in Oklahoma. It is a beautiful example of a Sears Saratoga.

Said to be the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, this Saratoga is in wonderful condition.

Said to be the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, this Saratoga is in wonderful condition.

The Saratoga, as seen in the 1921 Sears catalog.

The Saratoga, as seen in the 1921 Sears catalog.

Sara

And from the 1916 catalog.

Close-up shows the original planters by the front entry

Close-up shows the original planters by the front entry

And theyre still in place!

And they're still in place!

s

Close-up of the Saratoga's side.

sid

And the house in Chelsea. Nice match!

Close-up of the Saratogas attic window

Close-up of the Saratoga's attic window

Another nice match!

Another nice match!

Rear of the Saratoga.

Rear of the Saratoga.

And the train tracks were nice and close, too!

And the train tracks were nice and close, too!

A close-up of the floor plan shows it was a spacious home.

A close-up of the floor plan shows it was a spacious home. This is from the 1916 catalog, and the 1921 catalog shows an identical house, but with a different price! In 1921, the price had jumped to $3,491.

One feature on the Saratoga that you are NOT going to see on any other Sears house is the placement of this chimney. Its at the peak of the pyramidal hip roof. For the novice homebuilder, this a complicated place for a chimney.

One feature on the Saratoga that you are NOT going to see on any other Sears house is the placement of this chimney. It's at the peak of the roof's intersection. For the novice homebuilder, this a complicated place for a chimney.

This is my favorite unique item on the house. The gas meter is next to the sidewalk. In all my travels, I have never seen such a thing.

This is my favorite "unique item" on the house. The gas meter is next to the sidewalk. In all my travels, I have never seen such a thing.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

Endless Entertainment - From an Old Vintage Catalog

June 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog has proven to be a source of endless entertainment for me. But then again, I’m pretty easily entertained. I’ve started scanning catalogs and ephemera so that it may be preserved and shared with a larger audience. And this website’s traffic is growing every day. In May, this site had more than 22,000 visitors.

Read the captions below to see what *I* see when I look at this 1921 catalog’s cover.

Pretty darn interesting!

The cover

The cover of the 1921 catalog is so interesting for so many reasons.

*

people

We have the people showing up to look at the new house under construction.

*

killer

Like the opening scenes of a low-budget horror flick, they have no idea that a massive elephant has surreptitiously blended into the landscaping behind them, and waits to pounce. Red arrow above is centered atop the forehead of the threatening beast.

*

wow

"We just came from looking at those crappy little houses behind us," the man might be saying. "Over yonder is one of those little Sears kit homes." Pictured through this window is the Sears Ashmore, a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

*

rl

"That's right," says the woman who wears a hat with a flared brim and oversized bow." The kitchen in that crummy Elsmore right behind me was abysmal."

*

Verona

The second man speaks up and says, "And that Verona was so blase! Who'd want to buy a cookie-cutter kit home when you can have something nice that you've designed yourself!"

*

people

"Yes," the man with the blueprints says, "We looked at those three little boxes behind us, but we want to talk to you about this nice house that you're building here!"

*

tools

But oh no! These people shouldn't be turning to this fellow for help and guidance! He doesn't even know how to build a carpenter's tool box! How could he possibly build an entire home!

*

boar

The house isn't even roughed in yet, and the door isn't set, and yet he's putting in the lath board! Plus, there are several puddles with a strange yellow substance throughout the house. Icky!

*

dude

And some of that yellow stuff is on the carpenter, too!

*

house

And perhaps most interesting, the house featured on the cover is clearly not a Sears kit home. Sears never ever offered a house with these arched windows. So the homebuyers have turned their back on the three Sears Homes (behind them), and are talking to this fellow about a custom-built house. Pretty darn interesting. And this image shows a better view of that angry elephant in the background.

*

And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured.

And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured. Top is the Sears Sherburne, and along the bottom are the Sears Roanoke (two left) and the Sears Matoka (two on the right).

To read another article on Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

When Bad Things Happen to Good Houses

August 19th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Part of the fun of traveling to 23 states and giving 200 talks on Sears Homes is seeing all kinds of wacky and wild stuff. One Sunday morning in 2003, as my host was driving me back to the airport (to return home to the Midwest), I saw this Sears Madelia (see second photo below). It was in Zanesville, OH (or a nearby town) and we were actually several blocks beyond this building when I told my host, “Please turn around. I think I saw something.”

He reminded me that we didn’t have much time and I told him I understood and this wouldn’t take but a second. And there - in all its painful glory - was this badly butchered Sears house. It’s actually a Sears Madelia and it was not that popular a model for Sears. (Sears sold 370 designs of kit homes from 1908 - 1940.)

The first picture (first image) is a picture of the Madelia from the 1919 Sears Catalog. The next picture is a happy, healthy Madelia in Wood River, Illinois on 9th Street. There are 24 Sears Homes in a row, a remnant from the days of Standard Oil’s purchase of $1 million worth of Sears Homes for their refinery workers. The third picture I’ve titled, A Madelia trapped in a tavern’s body.

A happy little Sears Madelia in Wood River, IL

And here’s the Madelia trapped in a tavern’s body.

A Madelia trapped in a taverns body

This next house is a Sears Crescent in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s a happy little Crescent with good self-esteem.

A happy Sears Crescent

A happy Sears Crescent

And this next picture was taken by Rebecca Hunter, a kit-home expert in Elgin, Illinois.

An unhappy Sears Crescent in Illinois

An unhappy Sears Crescent in Illinois

Heres a Sears Westly, as it appeared in the 1919 Sears catalog

Here's a Sears Westly, as it appeared in the 1919 Sears catalog

Unhappy Sears House in the Midwest. Too much plastic in one place.

Unhappy Sears House in the Midwest. Too much plastic in one place.

Keeping Children in Their Place

August 5th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Several years ago when I was a freelance writer, I was asked to do a feature story on the Foursquare housing style, which is so prevalent in the Midwest (and was also a popular style for Sears Homes. My editor said I needed to get into a few houses and take plenty of interior shots, too. I found a kind soul in Illinois that allowed me to come right in to her home and take several pictures.

In the dining room/living room area, I saw that she had built-in bookcase colonnades between the two rooms. This is a nice feature that is frequently found in these foursquare homes. As I turned the corner into her dining room, I saw that the bookcases on the dining room side had glass doors. I was busy snapping photos and looking through the SLR viewfinder (this was in the old 35-mm film days) when I saw a small child looking back at me on the other side of those glass doors. I let out an audible gasp and lowered the camera.

And this is what I saw:
Keeping Children In Their Place

I sent the image to my editor who wrote back and said, “Thanks for sharing that. I’ve asked my husband to start working on one immediately that’s big enough for several teenagers.”

Despite my encouragement, my editor decided not to publish this particular photo with the other images.

And I thought it was some of my best work. :)