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Posts Tagged ‘sears prefab homes’

Sometimes, They’re Hiding Right By Your Biscuits…

April 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Having lived in Norfolk for seven years now, I have scoured every street in this city, searching for mail-order kit homes. I’ve ridden around with several friends, studied maps, queried long-time residents and harangued my husband and I was quite certain that I’d seen every early 20th Century neighborhood that Norfolk had to offer.

Wednesday night, my buddy Milton and I were on our way to CERT class, and we swung by Church’s Fried Chicken to buy some of their world-famous honey biscuits. For reasons I can’t explain, an integral part of the CERT class is a pot-luck supper. (We’re  expected to bring a piquant and palatable platter of something wonderful to these weekly classes.)

As we pulled out onto Virginia Beach Blvd, I noticed a lovely Dutch Colonial staring back at me.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “That Dutchie has an interior chimney,  just like the Martha Washington (Sears Home). Isn’t that something?”

And then I noticed that it had the curved porch roof, just like the Martha Washington.

And then I looked again and thought, “And it’s got those short windows centered on the second floor, just like the Martha Washington.”

Next, I looked at the small attic window and thought, “And it’s got that half-round window in the attic, just like the Martha Washington.”

As Milton drove down the road, I twisted my head around and saw that the Dutchie had the two distinctive bay windows on the side, just like the Martha Washington. Those two windows are an unusual architecture feature, and that was the clincher.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I told Milton. “I think that’s a Sears House.”

Now anyone who’s hung around me for more than 73 minutes knows that I’m a pretty big fan of Sears Homes, and my friends understand that a significant risk of riding around with Rose is that there will be many detours when we pass by early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Milton gladly obliged and gave me an opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this Dapper Dutchie.

That night at the CERT meeting, I kept thinking about the fact that one of the most spacious and fanciest Sears Homes ever offered was sitting right here in Norfolk, and after seven years of living in this city, I just now found it.

The next day, Milton picked me up around 11:00 am and we returned to the Sears Martha Washington so that I could take a multitude of photos. Sadly, as we drove through the adjoining neighborhoods, we saw that the nearby college (Norfolk State) had apparently swallowed up great gobs of surrounding bungalows.

Between that and some very aggressive redevelopment, it appears that hundreds of early 20th Century homes are now just a dusty memory at the local landfill.

Do the owners of this Martha Washington know what they have? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

What a find! What a treasure! And it’s right here in Norfolk!

So is there a Magnolia hiding somewhere nearby?  :)

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn how to identify marked lumber, click here.

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The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house.

The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house. According to this page from the 1921 catalog, it had seven modern rooms. I wonder how many "old-fashioned" rooms it had?

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According to this

Here's a Martha Washington that was featured in the back pages of the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This house was built in Washington, DC, and shows the house shortly after it was finished.

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This line drawning from the 1921 catalog shows the

This line drawing from the 1921 catalog shows those two bay windows on the side.

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This was described as a snowy white kitchen de Lux.

This was described as a "snowy white kitchen de Lux." For its time, this really was a very modern kitchen. Notice the "good morning stairs" too the right, and the handy little stool under the sink. According to a 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the "average woman spends 3/4ths of her day in the kitchen." So maybe that's why she got a hard metal stool to sit on at the sink?

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Oh may

"Judge for yourself how attractive, bright and sanitary we have made this home for the housewife." And a "swinging seat"! I guess that's a desperate attempt to make kitchen work seem more recreational, and less like drudge work.

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CheckAn “exploded view” shows the home’s interior. That baby-grand piano looks mighty small!

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Second

Check out that bathtub on the rear of the house. And that's a sleeping porch in the upper right. Again, that furniture looks mighty small.

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As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

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Be still my quiveringg heart!

Be still my quivering heart! And it's right on Virginia Beach Boulevard!

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A view from the side.

A view from the side, showing off those bay windows.

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The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light),

The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light), and the badly crimped aluminum trim on that porch roof doesn't look too good, and the wrought-iron is a disappointment, but (and this is a big but), at least it's still standing.

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Before

The porch, in its pre-aluminum siding salesmen and pre-wrought-iron and pre-PVC state.

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compare

A comparison of the Martha Washington in DC with the house in Norfolk!

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And heres a Martha Washington in Cincinnatti, Ohio.

And here's a Martha Washington in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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To learn more about the Martha Washington, click here.

To learn more about biscuits, click here.

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The Sears Bandon: Neat, Practical And Modern

January 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total $5305.32

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

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

Enjoy the photos!

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

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

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It had a very busy floor plan. Note

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

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Close

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

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And it was a fine-looking house!

And it was a fine-looking house!

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And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

And here is the real-life beauty in Pulaski!

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Nice, isnt it?  :)

Nice, isn't it? :)

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house

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

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Pretty, pretty house!

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

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The  Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

The Sears Bandon is perfect in every way!

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Its perfect! Down to the details!!

It's perfect! Down to the details!!

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And its in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

And it's in a beautiful, bucolic setting!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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

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The Martha Washington: A Vision of Hospitality

May 11th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

There’s something about a Dutch Colonial that just makes me swoon, and the Martha Washington is a fine example of the Dutch Colonial design.

And it was spacious, too. Sans optional sunporch, the Martha Washington was about 1,800 square feet, with four good-sized bedrooms upstairs. Unlike so many early 20th Century homes, the Martha Washington also had an abundance of closet space.

As the text in the catalog page said, “The view to the visitor or passerby presents a vision of hospitality.”

An interesting bit of trivia: The Martha Washington has the same floor plan as the Sears Alhambra, with two small differences. The Martha Washington doesn’t have the box window on the front (as does the Alhambra) and the Alhambra is smaller. The Martha Washington is 28′ by 32′ and the Alhambra is 28′ by 28′.

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

To see more pictures of pretty kit homes, click here.

Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Honor Bilt "Martha Washington," as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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This testimonial appeared in the 1924 Sears catalog.

Mr. Brewood was darn happy with his Sears House in DC! (1924 Sears catalog).

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A side view of the Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

As seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Houseie

This Martha Washington in Lombard, IL has its original windows and STORM windows!

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How appropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia!  (Bedford, to be precise.)

How apropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia! (Bedford, to be precise.)

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Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition.  And it looks happy, too!  Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reprorduced without written permission.

Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition. The red door and green roof are nice complements. And the house *looks* happy, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Cincinnatti

Every Martha should have a flag flying in front of it! This beauty is in Cincinnati Ohio.

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Martha meets Maggy!  The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington was BUILT with these super-sized columns.

Martha meets Maggy! The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington (in Chicago area) was BUILT with these super-sized columns. And look - another flag!

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Floorplan

The Martha Washington (shown here) and the Alhambra (shown below) had the same floor plan, with two minor differences: The Alhambra had a box window on the front and the Martha Washington was four feet wider than the Alhambra.

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floorplan

Alhambra's floor plan.

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The kitchen!

And the kitchen was "the last word in convenience and sanitary comfort"!!

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houseie

The Martha Washington.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

See more pictures of fine-looking old houses by clicking here.

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The Sears Homes in Washington, DC

March 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

As of last month, more than 260,000 people have visited this website. As a result, more and more folks are sending me beautiful pictures of the Sears Homes in their neighborhood, and one of those people is Catarina Bannier, a Realtor in the DC area. (Visit her website here.)

Every house featured below was found and photographed by Catarina.

If you have a bundle of beautiful Sears Homes in your city, please send me your photos. Just leave a comment below (with your email, which will not be publicly visible), and I’ll contact you!

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

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First, my favorite house: The Sears Preston.

First, my favorite house in this bundle: The Sears Preston. The Preston was featured on the cover of "Houses by Mail," and yet it's a rare bird in the world of Sears Homes.

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And here it is in Washington, DC.

And here it is in Washington, DC, complete with its original shutters. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Westly was a perennial favorite for Sears.

The Sears Westly was a perennial favorite for Sears (1919 catalog).

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This Westly is in shockingly beautiful condition.

This Westly is in wonderfully original condition. Even the original siding (shakes and clapboard) have survived several decades worth of pesky vinyl siding salesmen. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Fullerton is a beautiful and classic foursquare (1925 catalog).

The Sears Fullerton is a beautiful and classic foursquare (1925 catalog).

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Fullerton

Even though the vinyl siding salesmen have "had their way" with this grand old house, you can still see the classic lines of the Fullerton. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In addition to Sears, there were other companies that sold kit homes in the early 1900s, including Lewis Homes. They were based in Bay City, Michigan. Catarina has found several Lewis Homes in the DC area.

In addition to Sears, there were other companies that sold kit homes in the early 1900s, including "Lewis Homes." They were based in Bay City, Michigan. Catarina has found several Lewis Homes in the DC area.

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The Ardmore is an easy-to-recognize kit home because of its many unique architectural features.

The Ardmore is an easy-to-recognize kit home because of its many unique architectural features. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Barrington was probably one of their Top 20 most popular homes (1928 catalog).

The Sears Barrington was probably one of their "Top 20" most popular homes (1928 catalog).

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Barrington

This Barrington in DC looks much like it did when built in the late 1920s. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And one of my favorites, the Sears Alhambra.

And one of my favorites, the Sears Alhambra.

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Ive seen hundreds of Alhambras throughout the country but I have never seen one painted orange! Doesnt look too bad!

I've seen hundreds of Alhambras throughout the country but I have never seen one painted orange! Doesn't look too bad! It's a nice orange - kind of a "Popsicle Orange." And the house is in beautiful condition. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And another Lewis Home, the Cheltenham (1922 catalog).

And another Lewis Home, the Cheltenham (1922 catalog).

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This Lewis Cheltenham in DC is in beautiful condition.

I have recurring dreams about a big beautiful 1920s Dutch Colonial that someone has left to me in their will. I'm a sap for a beautiful Dutch Colonial and the Cheltenham is one of the prettiest ones I've ever seen. Photo is copyright 2011 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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On the rear cover of the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog, they listed a few of the Sears Modern Homes Sales Offices in the country. They placed these Sears Modern Homes Stores in communities were sales of kit homes were already quite strong, and once these stores were in place, sales (not surprisingly) became even stronger.

In the 1930s, Sears listed the location of their "Sears Modern Homes Sales Offices." They placed these "Sears Modern Homes Stores" in communities were sales of kit homes were already quite strong, and once these stores were in place, sales (not surprisingly) became even stronger. In DC, the Sears Modern Homes Sales Office was on Bladensburg Road.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, visit here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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When Bad Things Happen to Good Bathrooms

November 28th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

One day I dropped by my brother’s house for a visit, and he told me that he needed some help with “a little problem” in the bathroom.

His house was a gorgeous 1930s Dutch Colonial, well-maintained and well-loved, and the crowning jewel of the old house was the vintage bathroom, complete with subway tile, black and white tile floor, beautiful wainscoting, original fixtures, etc.

As I gasped in horror at the “little problem,” he explained that he’d hired a plumber to put in a new manifold (tub and shower faucet assembly) and the plumber had charged him $500 to do this little “fix.”

I asked him where he found this “plumber” and he said, “Well, he’s not really a plumber actually; it’s just something he does on the side.”

No kidding.

I understand the guy threw in the duct tape for free.

Wow. Just wow.

Wow. Just wow.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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And The Plat Thickens…

October 8th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

Updated! To read the latest, click here!

Here in Norfolk, we have a real mystery on our hands. There are 16 little bungalows (which we’ve lovingly named, “The Ethel”) that were originally built at another location (don’t know where), and then moved to Norfolk by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922.*

There’s an elderly Norfolk resident who remembers seeing a photo of one of the houses being moved into Riverview (Norfolk neighborhood). He says the photo showed the small house being pulled up the road by a team of mules. How we’d love to find *that* photo!

Several months ago, we learned that 3,000 miles away (in Dupont, Washington), there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory in Fall 1909. Thanks to Mark Mckillop, we have photos of the Dupont Ethels (shown below).

Dozens. That’s a lot of “Ethels.”

And then old-house lover and researcher Mark Hardin found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.)

That neighborhood also has a large collection of Ethels.

And more recently, an Ethel has been found (and photographed) in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Was Muskogee a Dupont town? If not, was there an industrial complex that sprang up in the early 1900s, that needed housing for their workers?

I’d love to know.

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington, Butte, Montana, and Muskogee, Oklahoma and who knows where else.

To read more about what we’ve learned thus far, read Part Five of this ongoing story.

Despite what we’ve learned, many unanswered questions remain. What’s the source of this “Ethel” design? Did they come from Aladdin? I don’t think so, because I’ve searched my collection of early 1900s Aladdin catalogs, and there’s nothing even close.

Are they pattern book houses? If not, where did DuPont get this design? Why are these houses popping up in several of Dupont’s neighborhoods? And where did the houses in Norfolk come from?

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!


Eth

This Ethel is located in Muskogee, Oklahoma in the 900-block of Boston Avenue. It is a very close match to our other Ethels. The most significant difference is the placement of the front door. (Photo is courtesy of Angeline Stacy and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )



house

Another view of our Ethel in Muskogee. You'll note the windows are all boarded up. Not a good sign. Angeline reports that this neighborhood was "a little scary." (Photo is courtesy of Angeline Stacy and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )



Close-up of that disinctive dormer window

Close-up of that disinctive dormer window. (Photo is courtesy of Angeline Stacy and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )


And thanks to Mark Mckillop, we have many photos of the houses in Dupont, Washington.


Our Ethel Bungalow in Dupont, Washington. All photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Our "Ethel Bungalow" in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Dupont Ethel is in largely original condition. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

I wish Mark had taken his chain saw with him. Landscaping is always a problem when photographing old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Ethel in Dupont has seen a little modification. Vinyl siding is not a friend of old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This is such a distinctive little house. Have you seen it in your neighborhood? (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Next are the photos of our Ethels, which art in Norfolk. As you’ll see from the photos below, they really are a good match to the houses in Dupont, Washington and Muskogee, OK.

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell, Virginia and Carney Point, New Jersey and Old Hickory, TN. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

If you’d like to read earlier posts, start with Part I.

And then go to Part II.

Part III.

Part IV.

Part V.

Part VI.

Part VII.

Part VIII.

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Of Pipes and Men…

October 7th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

Tomorrow morning, my husband of five years is going to get in his 12-mpg Ford F-150 truck and drive to Richmond (about 90 miles away) to attend a smoker’s convention. He’s very excited about this.

From what I understand, large numbers of tobacco-laden men will gather at this event, stand around and sit around and smoke pipes and talk about smoking pipes. Occasionally, someone might say, “I need to buy a new pipe,” and the others will agree, and then they’ll sit around and talk about their most recently purchased pipes or their favorite pipes.

My husband has a large collection of pipes. I do not understand the appeal and I do not understand pipes, but if I liked pipes, this one would be my favorite.

Now if I could just find him a little hat with horns and a human skull on top…

A man and his pipe

The pipe bears a stunning resemblance to its smoker.

To learn more aboout Sears Homes, 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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An Abundance of Kit Homes in Tulsa (Updated!)

July 6th, 2011 Sears Homes 18 comments

Sears Homes in Tulsa?

That was my first thought when Rachel Shoemaker of Tulsa contacted me. She said that she thought there were several homes in her town.

Now if she’d been writing from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan or Ohio, I wouldn’t have been so surprised.

But Tulsa?

In the last 10 years, I’ve received probably 5,000 emails and I’ve never heard much from the folks in Oklahoma. In fact, Rebecca Hunter’s wonderful book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map” lists states with known Sears Homes. Rebecca went through thousands of pages of old catalogs, noting all the testimonials from folks, and then compiled that info into one easy-to-use book. There are two states that have no kit homes listed: Oklahoma and Oregon.

Besides, Oklahoma didn’t become a state until 1907. They were still fighting off Injuns and would not have had time to read a 75-page instruction book on how to build a kit that contained 12,000 pieces of house. (I’ve watched 106 episodes of Gunsmoke. I know about this stuff.)

Rachel sent me a couple photos and I was impressed. And then Sunday night (July 3), I stayed up way too late driving the streets of Tulsa via Google Maps, and I found two more kit homes.

If you know the address of a kit home in Oklahoma, please leave a comment below!

Below is a compilation of what Rachel has found  (with a little help from me). All photos of extant homes are copyright 2011 Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without written permission.  Photo of Wardway Modern Home #105 is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki.

And as an added note, if you enjoy these pictures, please leave a comment below for Rachel, as she has invested countless hours of her own time and money researching and photographing these houses.

This is an impressive array of kit homes, and this collection should be preserved and protected, and further research should be done. Don’t let this amazing chapter of Tulsa’s history fall back into the shadows of lost memories and forgotten treasures.

Westly

One of the distinctive features (inside) is that corner fireplace in the dining room! This is from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

And in Oklahoma! Its had a lot of improvements but this Westly is still standing.  Photo is copyright Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without written permission.

Unfortunately, it's had a lot of "improvements" but this Westly in Tulsa is still standing.

Ar

The Arlington was a beautiful and spacious bungalow. This image is from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Arlington

Tulsa's Arlington is not a spot-on match, but it's pretty darn close. The front porch was truncated to allow for placement on a narrow lot. This was a very common "customization."

One distinguising feature of the Arlington is this crazy array of windows on the staircase side. There are a whole lot of windows going on here.

One distinguising feature of the Arlington is this crazy array of windows on the staircase side. There are a whole lot of windows going on here.

Floor plan of the first floor shows detail

Room arrangement of the first floor shows what a grandiose house this was. Note the spacious rooms and the maid's quarters!

Detail of the Arlingtons roof, which is also quite distinctive

Detail of the Arlington's roof, which is also quite distinctive

And the house in Tulsa is a perfect match.

And the house in Tulsa is a very good match. About 30-50% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and this Arlington has a few minor changes (such as the truncated porch) but those are fairly inconsequential. I'd say that this house is almost certainly a Sears Arlington.

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.

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And from the 1916 catalog. Note the big price difference between 1921 and 1916. "The War to End All Wars" created a housing shortage and hyperinflation in the cost of building materials.

The Avondale was built a

The Avondale was built at 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.

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! This picture shows the mirror image of the house above. Landscaping prevented taking a shot from the same side (as shown above).

Woodland

Woodland as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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This view of the Woodland shows those two windows flanking the front door, and it's also a good shot of that itty bitty window inside the dormer on the third floor. The closet window (small window between the two second floor windows) is gone, probably hidden underneath the 1940s shingle-type siding. It's very common to see these little closet windows covered over when the substitute sidings go up.

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Sad little Woodland, all dressed down and waiting to die.

Close-up of porch column detail

Close-up of porch column detail

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Those unique porch columns, together with the windows flanking the front door suggest this is a Sears Woodland.

Aladdin was another kit home company, but they were actually bigger than Sears. Sears stopped selling kit homes in 1940, but Aladdin continued on until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 homes and Aladdin sold more than 75,000.

Aladdin was another kit home company, but they were actually bigger than Sears. Sears stopped selling kit homes in 1940, but Aladdin continued on until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 homes and Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) sold more than 75,000. The Aladdin Sunshine (shown above) was a fairly popular house for Aladdin.

A near perfect Aladdin Sunshine in Tulsa.

A nice little Aladdin Sunshine in Tulsa.

One of the biggest and best Aladdin kit homes was the Shadowlawn.

One of the biggest and best Aladdin kit homes was the Shadowlawn.

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Is it an Aladdin Shadowlawn? Tough to say without an interior inspection, but it sure is a nice match, and even has the porte cochere (carport). It's a real beauty.

The Shadowlawns living room, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Shadowlawn's living room, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business. Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa) probably sold about 50,000 kit homes. The "Roberts" (shown above) was a very popular house for GVT. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the numbers on Aladdin and GVT.

Gordon Van Tine

Although the front porch has been altered a bit and the side porches have been closed in, it's still likely that this is a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts."

Perhaps my favorite find in Tulsa was this GVT 712 (as seen in the 1921 catalog).

Perhaps my favorite find in Tulsa was this GVT 712 (as seen in the 1921 catalog).

And here it is, in the flesh. A real live GVT #712 in Tulsa. This is not a very common house, and Ive only seen one other (in Shipman, IL).

And here it is, in the flesh. A real live GVT #712 in Tulsa. This is not a very common house, and I've only seen one other (in Shipman, IL).

The Hudson was offered in the

The Hudson was offered in the late 1920s and early 30s.

Here is Tulsas Hudson.

Rachel has spent some quality time sitting in front of this house and studying the details. She feels strongly that this is a GVT Hudson. I have a few niggling doubts, but it certainly bears further investigation. An interior inspection would settle the question once and for all. Either way, this house proves what makes identification challenging.

Its

It's the details around the front porch that trouble me. The Hudson does not have a transom, while this house does. The Hudson does not have exterior lights flanking the door, and the ornamentation around the door is more grandiose on the Tulsa house (compared to the GVT).

Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes, but they can be tough to find, especially in land as far south as Tulsa! Based on some educated guessing, fewer than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built. In Tulsa, we found Modern Home #105. It’s a modest little house, but it’s also a distinctive house with several eye-catching features. And perhaps best of all, “Farmers all over the country are giving this comfortable home the preference.”

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Notice the paired box windows on the right side of this floorplan. This is a very distinctive feature of #105. This catalog image shows a vestibule, but that feature disappeared in future catalogs.

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Montgomery Ward kit house #105 in Tulsa. Note the pair of box windows and the steeply pitched roof.

Here's a #105 from the same side. This house (shown for comparison) is in North Belle Vernon, PA. Photo is courtesy of Dale Wolicki and can not be reproduced without written permission.

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According to "Many More Historic Homes in Tulsa" (by John Brooks Walton - 2003), there was a Sears Corona in Tulsa which was torn down years ago. Walton states that this house was located at 618 S. Delaware in Tulsa. It's a real shame that this house was torn down, as this was one of Sears finest homes, and it was also one of their more spacious homes. As the heading states on this 1919 catalog page, it was a classic early 20th Century American bungalow. If the countless hours of work invested in this one single blog can accomplish ONE thing, perhaps it can be this: Maybe we can halt the destruction of any more irreplaceable, uniquely American and historically significant kit homes in Tulsa.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, click here.

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Who Are These People?

June 7th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Years ago I was poking around on eBay, looking for Sears House ephemera and I discovered this post card under the heading of “Old house photo.” Instantly, I recognized this as Sears Modern Home #106. I bid on the post card and won the item. My cost: $3.

I was a happy camper.

Since then, I’ve wondered where this photo was taken. It could have been taken anywhere in the 48 states. Judging by the house, the photo was most likely taken sometime between 1912-1916 (the years that #106 was offered).

If you’ve any idea where this photo was taken or who these people are, please drop me a note. I’d love to know.

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Modern Home #106 in picture perfect condition. If only all Sears Homes looked like this, it'd be easy to identify them! Unfortunately, most 80-90 year old houses go through many changes and remodelings.

Closer look at the house

Closer look at the house and the people.

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Modern Home #106 from the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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The full page featuring #106.

Floorplan, first floor.

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The second floor is pretty simple.

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Have you seen these people? Or this house? Photo is circa mid-1910s. When I showed this picture to my husband, he said, "That guy looks kinda cadaverous, doesn't he?"

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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