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Posts Tagged ‘sears prefab kit’

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.

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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.

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Close-up of the floorplan.

Close-up of the floorplan.

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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.

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A perfect Lewiston in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

A perfect Lewiston in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

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This Lewiston is in another college town - Champaign.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

Please visit this link to sign the petition.

Oh No! It’s Not a Sears Kit House!

May 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last weekend in Raleigh, I gave a talk on Sears Homes. More than 200 people attended the talk and about 50 folks came prepared with photos of their own “Sears Home.”

About 75% of the time, I am not able to identify the house in their photo as a Sears Home. However, I’m usually able to identify the houses as a kit home from another company (such as Aladdin or Gordon Van Tine or Wardway).

Also - as is typical - some people were puzzled as to why their house wasn’t a match to any of the 370 designs that Sears offered. These folks had grown up hearing that “Grandfather bought the house from the Sears catalog and patiently waited for it to arrive at the train station,” and then went to work building his “Sears House.”

So what’s going on?

Well…

You have to begin with a simple question.  What is a Sears house?

A Sears house is a kit home, wherein both blueprints and materials were purchased from the Sears Modern Homes catalog during their years of operation; 1908 - 1940.

Sears began selling building supplies in 1895, but they did not sell kit homes until 1908. Building supply catalogs from Sears offered almost everything you needed to build a house, but the first Sears Modern Homes catalog, offering the package deal, did not appear until 1908.

Sears did sell house designs - blueprints - in the early 1900s.

In fact, both Sears and Montgomery Wards promoted and sold an identical 4 x 6-inch booklet titled Practical Homebuilder with 115 different blueprints priced from $2.50 - $8.00, for houses that would cost $500 - $3500 to construct.  But these were not Sears Modern Homes or even a precursor to Sears Modern Homes.  Practical Homebuilder was created by Frederick Drake & Company and imprinted with the Sears or Wards name on the cover page and sold through their general merchandise catalogs.

I suspect that - in many cases - “Grandfather” purchased his blue prints from the Practical Homebuilder booklet (imprinted with the Sears Roebuck name and logo), and then ordered all his lumber from the Sears Building Materials Catalog, and then waited for his “Sears House” to arrive.

Again, to be a true “Sears House,” both blueprints and (at least some of the) building materials should have been purchased from the Sears Modern Homes catalog between 1908-1940. If any one of those three elements are missing: Blueprints, building materials or timing (1908-1940), it’s not a true Sears kit home.

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Rare

The 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog is very rare and one of the hardest to find today.

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This image appeared on the back page of the very rare 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

This image appeared on the back page of the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I've put a blue star on the houses that are either extensively customized Sears designs, or are not identifiable as a Sears Model at all. Of the 15 images shown here, nine of these houses do not appear to be "Sears Homes."

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This house presents a beautiful example.

This house presents a beautiful example of a house that is *not* a true Sears kit home. It is not one of the 370 models that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business. In fact, it looks a lot more like the Aladdin "Virginia" than any thing Sears ever offered. And yet, the building materials came from Sears, and it's possible even the blueprints were ordered out of the Sears catalog.

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People

Mr. Turk was pretty pleased was pretty pleased with the transaction.

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more

I'm not sure what to think of that front door.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

To learn about kit homes from Montgomery Ward, click here.

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Makes Its Owners Proud: The Argyle

April 13th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Probably one of their top-ten best selling models, the Sears Argyle was a quality home in countless ways, but in a very compact package. It was a mere 1,008-square-feet of house, and yet it had a myriad of fine features such as wainscoting topped with plate-rail in the dining room, beamed ceilings in the living room, with bookcase colonnades between the dining and living rooms.

Cabinetry in the colonnades and built-in-bookcases by the fireplace featured leaded-glass doors.

In 1919, it was offered for $1,479 and was an exceptional value (even in 1919 dollars).

In 1916, the Argyle was offered for

In 1916, the Argyle was offered fora mere $881.

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By 1920, the price had jumped a bit to $1,479.

By 1920, the price had jumped a bit to $1,479.

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Living room

Notice the wainscoting in the dining room, topped with plate rail. Pretty fancy!

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The living room is equally fancy.

The living room is equally fancy. Notice the leaded glass in the built-in cabinetry.

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And from the 1916 catalog.

The Argyle bedroom, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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And the bathroom...

And the bathroom (as seen in the 1921 catalog).

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full page

The Argyle, as featured in the 1921 catalog.

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Argyle

Were there any "unhappy" Argyle owners? I hope not! (1921 catalog)

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It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921).

It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921). Notice how the porch floor extends a little bit beyond the primary wall? That is a very distinctive feature, and makes it easier to identify the Sears Argyle.

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The Argyle, as seen in the 1920 catalog.

The Argyle, as seen in the 1920 catalog.

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A *perfect* Sears Argyle in New Baden, IL.

A *perfect* Sears Argyle in New Baden, IL.

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Another near-perfect Argyle in Nampa, Idaho.

Another near-perfect Argyle in Nampa, Idaho.

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A nice, but neglected Argyle in Townsend, Virginia (Eastern Shore).

A nice, but neglected Argyle in Townsend, Virginia (Eastern Shore).

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Not surprisingly, little Cairo Illinois has an abundance of Sears kit homes, including a couple Argyles. There was a mill at Cairo, dedicated to turning trees into kit homes.

Not surprisingly, little Cairo Illinois has an abundance of Sears kit homes, including a couple Argyles. There was a mill at Cairo, dedicated to turning trees into kit homes. As is typical of most Argyles, the two closet windows are missing down this side. These often get covered up, or done away it. The advent of lights in every nook and cranny made closet windows unnecessary.

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Awesome Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

Awesome Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

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Pretty little Argyle in a not-so-pretty part of Norfolk, VA.

Pretty little Argyle in a not-so-pretty part of Norfolk, VA.

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One of the most screwed-up Argyles in the world. This house is located in an unnamed city in Illinois.

One of the most screwed-up Argyles in the world. This house is located in an unnamed city in Illinois.

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Argyle in Ocean View (Norfolk, VA).

Argyle in Ocean View (Norfolk, VA).

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Roanoke Rapids (North Carolina) is stuffed full of Aladdin Kit Homes. In fact, they have more than 50 Aladdin Homes in one small section of town. However, they also have a few Sears Homes, such as this Argyle.

Roanoke Rapids (North Carolina) is stuffed full of Aladdin Kit Homes. In fact, they have more than 50 Aladdin Homes in one small section of town. However, they also have a few Sears Homes, such as this Argyle.

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Icky Argyle in Wood River, Illinois.

Icky Argyle in Wood River, Illinois.

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And one more Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

And one more Argyle in Raleigh, NC.

To learn more about Sears kit homes, click here.

To learn about how to identify them, click here.

To learn about the family member that I had exhumed, click here.

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The Niota: 1200 Square Feet For $942

April 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Not a bad deal to buy 1,200 square feet of kit house for less than $1,000, even in 1916!

The Sears Niota - despite its being a good value and a cute house - was not a popular model for Sears.  And yet, according to a small promotional ad that appeared in the 1916 catalog, the Niota had been built in Elmhurst, IN, Westerville, Ohio, Indianapolis, IN, Napleton, MN and Springfield, MO.

And in Wood River, Illinois, too.

The house was offered in StoneKote, which was Sears own stucco-type covering. As with most of the kit homes, buyers could opt for stucco, block, brick, stone or wood. Today, way too many of these homes are now covered with substitute sidings (such as aluminum or vinyl), which makes identification even more difficult.

To read more about the many Sears Homes in Wood River (and Amoco), click here.

Niota

One might hope that those columns are a unique feature to help in identifying the Sears Niota, and yet sometimes, they get removed (1916 catalog).

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Niota catalog 1916

The kitchen was so small you'd have to step out to the porch to change your mind. Lots of rooms on this first floor, and they're all pretty modest.

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niota fp

At least the bedrooms have closets. That's a plus.

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niota

Close-up of the Sears Niota.

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niota wood river

And here it is, in Wood River, Illinois. Notice that those unique columns have been chopped off at the roofline and also covered in that hideous house-hiding PVC material, known as "vinyl siding." The original columns - poking through the porch ceiling as they did - were probably prone to roof leaks and all manner of maintenance problems.

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Niota more

Niotas were built in several places in the Midwest. It'd be fun to see pictures of these Niotas.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about my Aunt Addie, click here.

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The Sears Avondale - and There’s One Hiding in Greeley, Colorado!

January 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 31 comments

Updated! To read the latest and see contemporary photos of the house, click here

There’s a Sears Avondale somewhere in Greeley, Colorado and that’s remarkable for two reasons.

One, Sears Homes aren’t that common in the “Far West” (as that area was known in the early 1900s), and two, of the 370 models offered by Sears Roebuck, the Avondale was one of their finest homes. The Avondale in Greeley was built by W. H. Senier, a member of one of the pioneer families of Greeley.

Scroll on down to see an actual photo (from 1916) of this Sears Avondale in Greeley.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Noothing like old photos

This photo first appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's a great photo and you can see that - when built in 1910 or 1911, Mr. Senier's house had stained glass windows. This was an upgrade, and it's likely that the home's interior had some fancy upgrades as well.

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A clearer photo of the Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

A clearer photo of the Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

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This whouse

This "bungalow" was the Sears Avondale, replete with stained-glass windows.

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Nice inside, too.

Nice inside, too.

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And heres a real-life example in Effingham, IL.

And here's a real-life example in Effingham, IL.

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And one in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And one in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The best of both worlds: Large antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois

And a very fine Avondale in Litchfield, Illinois.

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And a two-story Avondale in Elmhurst, Illinois. This was built as an Avondale (one-story) and enlarged in later years.  Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for showing me this house. I couldnt have found it on a bet.

And a two-story Avondale in Elmhurst, Illinois. This was built as an Avondale (one-story) and enlarged in later years. Thanks to Dr. Rebecca Hunter for finding this house and showing it to me. I would have never have found it on my own.

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Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale

Catalog picture of the Sears Avondale from 1919.

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And the Avon

The Avondale was a popular house for years. It's shown here in the 1910 catalog.


If you’ve any idea where our Greeley Avondale might be lurking, please leave a comment!

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

To read about the results of Addie’s autopsy, click here. (Addie’s sister - Anna Hoyt Whitmore - lived in Denver for 50 years.)

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That Had to Hurt

January 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

Yikes.

You know that had to hurt.

Talk about a splitting headache.

Talk about a splitting headache. This poor Sears kit house (The Woodland) is on East 233 and Wickham in the Bronx (New York). It must have been in pretty dismal condition prior to whatever *really* bad thing recently happened to it. This catastrophic damage appeared soon after a bad wind storm came through the area. It might have been a tree that befell this fine old house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Nicole Zernone and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.)

ow

Whatever it was, it surely put a hurtin' on this Sears Woodland. (Photo is copyright 2012 Nicole Zernone and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.)

Go to the light, little house. Go to the light.

Go to the light, little house. Go to the light. (Photo is copyright 2012 Nicole Zernone and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.)

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

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

And a reasonably happy and healthy Sears Woodland in Clifton Forge, Virginia.

And a reasonably happy and healthy Sears Woodland in Clifton Forge, Virginia.

Not sure why, but Clifton Forge has an amazing collection of Sears Homes. Click here to see more.

Another happy Sears Woodland in Bluefield, WV.

Another happy Sears Woodland in Bluefield, WV.

And one in Bloomington, IL.

And one in Bloomington, IL.

And in the tiny town of Siegel, IL.

And in the tiny town of Siegel, IL. This has a bay window, but that was an option.

One of the distinctive features of the Sears Woodland (and 24 other popular Sears models) was this unique column detail.

One of the distinctive features of the Sears Woodland (and 24 other popular Sears models) is this unique column detail. Another eye-catching feature of the Woodland are the two windows flanking the front door.

Owe.

This is an old photo from 2002. This is a really "insensitive" siding job. Why oh why do people put siding over COLUMNS? If you are physically unable to turn off "Dancing with the Stars" long enough to paint your porch columns, perhaps you should reconsider this whole "homeownership" thing. I love this old photo because of the sign in the front yard. It says, "Gazebo Award: Home of the Month." I think that "gazebo" must be Latin for "creative overuse of poly-vinyl chloride in residential applications." I could be wrong about that, though .

Was this really necessary?

Was this really necessary?

Another Woodland thats feeling some pain. This one is in Tulsa.

Another Woodland that's feeling some pain, however it's being remodeled. This one is in Tulsa. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.)

The Sears Woodland was a very popular house. It was offered in the late 1910s, and endured into the 1930s. Its shown here in the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Woodland was a very popular house. It was offered in the late 1910s, and endured into the 1930s. It's shown here in the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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To read about the Sears Magnolia (Sears fanciest house!) that’s in Syracuse, NY, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To turn on to another obsession that’s even more addicting than Sears Homes, click here.

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The Prettiest Kit Homes You Ever Saw in Tahlequah, Oklahoma (Second Update)

December 31st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Dear friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker has found an abundance of kit homes in Oklahoma, and now she’s found FOUR kit homes in Tahlequah, Oklahoma!

What is a kit home? Kit houses typically arrived by train in 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.  Each kit included everything you would need to finish your dream home, including 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 10 pounds of wood putty, 72 coat hooks, roofing shingles, door knobs, lumber, windows, flooring…well you get the idea. It really was a complete kit.

Homes sold by Sears and Roebuck are the most well-known, but in addition to Sears, there were five other national companies selling kit homes through a mail-order catalog (Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling and Harris Brothers).

Tahlequah also has  kit homes from Aladdin , and Gordon Van Tine, in addition to Sears.

It’s not surprising that Tahlequah has Aladdins, as Aladdin had huge mills in Mississippi and Louisiana. Aladdin (in Bay City, MI) was in business from 1906-1981.  There are more than 75,000 Aladdin kit homes in the country (compared with about 70,000 Sears Homes). Sears started offering homes by mail order  in 1908 (two years after Aladdin), and in 1940, they closed  their Modern Homes Department once and for all.

Tahlequah also has the  fanciest home offered by Gordon Van TineGVT sold about 50,000 kit homes from 1910 - 1945. They were based in Davenport, Iowa, but sold kit homes throughout the country.

Tahlequah, Oklahoma was the original capital of the Cherokee Nation in 1838. According to Wikipedia, Tahlequah became a settlement in 1832. The Cherokees also beat the United States to the punch (so to speak) in adopting prohibition well before the temperance movement was even a gleam in Lyman Beecher’s eye. According to Oklahoma Genealogy, in 1841, Cherokee councils enacted a law prohibiting the sale “ardent spirits” within the Cherokee Nation.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

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

To learn more about Addie Hoyt Fargo, click here.

Aladdiin

The quality of lumber found in these early 20th Century kit homes was first rate. Framing members were #1 southern yellow pine from Louisiana and Mississippi. It was first-growth lumber that grew slowly and naturally in virgin forests.

Aladdin Cape Cod, as seen in the 1923 catalog. This catalog page shows one floor plan (L-shaped), but in later years, it was offered in three floorplans, one of which was rectangular. .

Aladdin Cape Cod, as seen in the 1923 catalog. This catalog page shows one floor plan (L-shaped), but in later years, it was offered in three floorplans, one of which was rectangular.

Close-up of the Aladdin Cape Cod

Close-up of the Aladdin "Cape Cod"

And here it is, in the flesh! An Aladdin Cape Cod in stunningly original condition!  Even retains its original casement windows!

And here it is, in the flesh! An Aladdin "Cape Cod" in stunningly original condition! Even retains its original casement windows! (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

An Aladdin Wenonah, as seen in the 1917 catalog.

An Aladdin Wenonah, as seen in the 1913 catalog.

Aladdin Wenonah in Tahlequah.

Aladdin Wenonah in Tahlequah. The porch has been altered, but that's not a big deal. Porches are often changed through the years, and this house is probably close to 100 years old. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

is this

Sears Modern Home #126 looked a lot like an early 20th Century train station.

Is this

Notice the inset porch and chamfered corners.

Is this

Is this Sears Modern Home #126? Sure looks a lot like it to me. (Photo is copyright 2011 Doug Moore, and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK, and it's a beauty! Like the house above, this also has the two-story porch on the left side. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Rober

The GVT Roberts has had several additions through the years, but still looks much like the catalog page shown above. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Im not sure why this house has a periscope.

I'm not sure why this house has a periscope. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language.

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

To contact Rachel Shoemaker, send her an email at ffshoe@olp.net

Rachel has done extensive research on the kit homes in Oklahoma, and has traveled countless miles, researching and documenting these historically significant homes. We’re both puzzled as to how and why so many kit homes landed here, but it’s time that someone hired Rachel to do a proper survey of this impressive collection of Oklahoma’s architectural treasure trove of kit homes. Heretofore, all the work she’s done has been at her own expense.

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The Atlanta in Wyoming. Wyoming, Ohio that is.

November 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Atlanta, found in Wyoming, Ohio

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

Look at the details!

Look at the details!

More details

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

And the details really are a nice match!

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

There were three of these in a row.

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

The third of the Atlanta triplets there in Ohio.

The third of the Atlanta triplets there in Ohio.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Kit Homes of Lake Mills (Wisconsin)

July 17th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Before my father’s death on June 10, 2011, I’d never heard of Lake Mills. Heck, before my father’s death, I never knew I had an Aunt Addie (who lived and died in Lake Mills)!  And I most certainly never knew that she’d been shot (allegedly) by her famous, wealthy, older husband Enoch.

While making plans for a trip to Lake Mills, I learned that it’s a little more than two hours north of Chicago. My first thought was “Sears Homes!”

And indeedy do, I’ve already learned of three kit homes there in Lake Mills.

The first is from Sears, the second is from Gordon Van Tine and the third is from Montgomery Ward. In fact, Gordon Van Tine was the supplier of Wardway Homes (which explains why Montgomery Ward and GVT catalogs were identical).

Mail-order kit homes were just that - kits ordered from a mail-order catalog. These houses arrived as 12,000-piece kits (yes, 12,000 pieces) and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the wanna-be homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Sears (one of six kit home companies doing business on a national level) promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!

Each kit included everything you would need to finish your dream home, including 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 10 pounds of wood putty, 72 coat hooks, roofing shingles, door knobs, lumber, windows, flooring…well you get the idea. It really was a complete kit.

The houses were delivered by train and most kit homes could fit in one well-packed boxcar. Today, these early 20th Century catalog homes are typically found within 1-2 miles of railroad tracks, just because the logistics of hauling all those pieces of house was so problematic!

And one last fact - about 90% of the people living in these homes had no idea about the unique origins of their home until I knocked on their door (or blogged on my website) and told them! My raison d’être is to help folks learn more about this historically significant (and nearly forgotten) piece of America’s architectural heritage.

And thanks to Dawn Stewart and Sandy Spann of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, for supplying these photographs of the three kit homes in Lake Mills, Wisconsin! And thanks to Rebecca Hunter for telling me about the Newbury!

Enjoy the photos below! And leave a comment! :)

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

Sears

Sears Newbury, as it appeared in the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears

Notice the swoop in the roof as it extends over the wide front porch. On the rear, there's a small cornice return, and it's on a different plane that the front roof.

Sears

The Newbury in Lake Mills is hard to see due to the mature vegetation, but that bellcast (swooping) roof is easy to spot. And you can see the small cornice return on the rear. Sears kit homes came with 12,000 pieces and the Newbury was "Ready Cut" meaning that all framing members were pre-cut and ready to nail into place. However, masonry was not part of the kit and was obtained locally. The catalog page shows a stone chimney but this Newbury has a brick chimney. That's an inconsequential difference. (This photograph is courtesy of Sandra Spann and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. Copyright 2011, Sandra Spann.)

To read more about this Newbury in Lake Mills, click here!

1921

As seen in the 1921 catalog, this is a very unusual house, and the house in Lake Mills is a beautiful match with only one difference - that original railing across the dormer is missing.

house

And here's a photo of Gordon Van Tine Home #705 in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. It's a beautiful house in wonderful condition and a spot-on match to the original catalog picture! Look at the windows on the side, and how they're just the same in both the Lake Mills house and the vintage catalog picture. My oh my, that does indeed warm the cockles of my heart. Photograph is courtesy Dawn Stewart (copyright 2011) and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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These mail-order kit homes (such as the GVT 705) could be ordered "reversed," and what's shown above is the mirrored image of the catalog page (note page number on upper right). This really is a beautiful match to the house above! These catalog images are from the 1921 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

Just in case you wanted to see them side by side.

Just in case you wanted to see them side by side.

Check out this floorplan!

Check out this floorplan!

The next one is Montgomery Ward #123 (shown below). This house is really distinctive, mainly because of that second floor bay window!

Lake Mills

Montgomery Ward sold about 25,000 kit homes during their 20+ years in the kit home business. Not surprisingly, the majority of these homes are probably within a 300-mile radius of Chicago (where Montgomery Ward was located).

House

Look at the window! The house in Lake Mills (on Water Street) is a very good match to this catalog image (1914). Note the placement of the window directly beside the front door. And also note those supersized cornice returns on either side of that second-floor bay window. The front porch has a hip roof, with three round columns. All these features are also in evidence on the house in Lake Mills (see next photo).

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Easy as 1-2-3 to identify! This is Montgomery Ward Home #123, in Lake Mills, WI. Photograph is courtesy Dawn Stewart (copyright 2011) and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

Now this next one…I’m not so sure about. Read the caption below for more info.

Do you think you have a kit home in Lake Mills (or nearby)? Leave a comment below!

Lake

This one, I'm not so sure about. I found it whilst driving via Google Maps and made a note of it, but when I went back to get a better look, I couldn't find it!

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To learn about Addie Hoyt, click here.

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All Things Alhambra, Part III

June 25th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

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

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

Click here to read All Things Alhambra, part 2.

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

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

Alhambra

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

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney. My favorite color: Lavender!

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

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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