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Posts Tagged ‘sears rockford’

An Aladdin Westwood - in Charlottesville, Virginia

August 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog, which is curious. It’s a beautiful house and quite massive, but apparently the Sovereign brothers decided it wasn’t a keeper. In September 2013, I gave a talk in nearby Louisa, Virginia and drove over to Charlottesville to see what was lurking in Hoo-ville.

What a sweet surprise to find an Aladdin Westwood at the end of a quiet residential street!

I was with a local historian and we knocked on the doors repeatedly but no one showed up. It’s been two years since I was there. Hope this house survives! These big Aladdin houses don’t do well in college towns. In nearby Williamsburg, Virginia, an Aladdin Colonial was torn down on the William and Mary campus (about 15 years ago).

To read about the other kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

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The Aladdin

The Aladdin Westwood was offered only in the 1922 catalog.

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One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans.

One of the best parts of playing with kit homes is studying the old floor plans. I just love looking at these old images, and thinking about day-to-day life in early 20th Century America. The house was about 3,000 square feet - which isn't typical for a kit home! And there's a half-bath on the first floor (1922).

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Sfe

Not only does the second floor have two full bathrooms (very unusualy for the 1920s), but the front bathroom has a shower! Now that's high living! (1922 catalog)

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Sounds fancy, too!

Sounds fancy, too! And it mentions that shower on the "front bathroom" (1922).

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fff

What a beautiful house!

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And check out that front door!

And check out that front door!

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In all

I was pretty tickled to find this sweet thing in Charlottesville. To date, it's the only Westwood I've ever seen.

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And check out the detail around that front door.

And check out the detail around that front door.

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And check out that front door!

Nice match, isn't it?

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I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

I tried desperately to get a long shot of the house and show that hipped roof, but landscaping prevented it.

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If you look down the side, you can see its a good match.

If you look down the side, you can see it's a good match, all the windows are in the right places. It's surprising to see that the columns are still in such good shape. They're almost 100 years old now.

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The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

The Aladdin Westwood looks like the Aladdin Villa in many ways.

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But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

But the footprint and floorplan are radically different.

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Its sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives.

It's sad to see that the house has been turned into a duplex, but I suppose we should rejoice that - living in a college town - it still survives. College towns are notorious "bungalow eaters."

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To read about the other kit homes I found in Charlottesville, click here.

Here are some images of the kit homes in Louisa, Virginia.

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Sears Catalog House, or Something Like it (Part II)

July 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

In my most recent blog, I talked about the fact that Hopewell’s “Collection of Sears Homes” (and I use that term loosely) was in the local news again.

At the end of that blog, I offered to help Hopewell sort through their historical chaff and find the wheat.

The fact is, at this point I’d be willing to donate my services (gratis), to help this small town (just outside of Richmond) get their Sears-home story straight. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this enticing offer may not be accepted.

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of letters and emails (yes, both) to some folks in Hopewell, making this same offer. I never heard a peep. Not a “Thanks, but no,” not a “we’re not interested,” or even a “Go to hell, Rosemary Thornton.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to hear something, rather than nothing.

In case anyone from Hopewell is reading this, I can tell you, I know a little something about Sears Homes. Here’s a short bio I use with the media:

Rose is the author of several books on early 20th Century kit homes. Rose and her work have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio. In print media, her story has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Christian Science Monitor and more.

Sounds darn good, doesn’t it?

So what can I do to help Hopewell correct their boo-boos?

I don’t know.

In the meantime, below is the “re-do” of a blog that was a personal favorite of mine. The idea was the brainstorm of Rachel Shoemaker, who loves both music and kit homes, and found a delightful way to blend the two topics.

You can read Rachel’s wonderful blog here.

Here’s the ditty that will  help you learn more about correctly identifying houses.

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Ses

Here's a screen-shot of the Sesame Street ditty that tell us, "One of these things is not like the other." Its intent is to teach youngsters how to spot differences in similar items. Learning how to distinguish subtle differences in physical objects can be tough. Ever more so if you live in the small towns around Richmond (apparently).

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houses

Let's try it with houses now.

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One of the houses above is different from the others.

If you guessed the brick house with the metal casement windows, you’re right!

For some time, Hopewell was promoting a brochure (showcasing a driving tour of alleged kit homes in Crescent Hills neighborhood) that identified this brick house as a Sears Dover.

But oh noes!! That’s not a Sears Dover!

The other three houses (the three that look just alike) are the Sears Dover.

More recently, Hopewell has modified this statement and now claims that this brick house is a Sears Maplewood.

Let’s see how that works.

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Blue

Oh noes - AGAIN! One of these homes just doesn't belong! Which one is it? If you guessed the brick house, you're right! The other three homes are the Sears Maplewood.

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There's also the fact that the Sears Maplewood and Dover were never ever offered with metal casement windows. There's also the fact that this house was probably built after WW2. But hey, why let something like "historical fact" get in the way of a good story!

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maple

Here's a Sears Maplewood (1930 catalog).

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If you really think that the brick house above looks like a Sears Dover, I highly recommend the Sesame Street "Not like the other" series. It's helped many a lost soul find their way through the thickets of misidentified kit homes.

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Meanwhile, in Hopewell, they have a cache of rare and unusual Aladdin Homes (like the one above) and what is being done to promote those houses? Nothing. Unbelievable.

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To learn more about how to distinguish differences in certain objects, click here.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for the use of her photograph above (the blue Maplewood). You can visit Rebecca’s website here.

Visit Rachel’s website here.

Read about the bonanza of kit homes we found in Richmond!

If you’re from Hopewell, and you’d like to take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

If you’re not from Hopewell and you THINK they should take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

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Sears Catalog House or Something Like It (Hopewell, VA)

July 25th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last week, Hopewell was in the local news again, touting their Sears Homes. I’m not going to post a link to the article that appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, because it was rife with errors.

I’m somewhat incredulous that a paper as prestigious as the Richmond Times Dispatch didn’t do some fact-checking before publishing this story.

The recording and publishing of history is such a sacred trust, and writers have a solemn charge to get the facts right, before sending this information into perpetuity.

And there’s this: I’ve been sought out and interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, BBC Radio, All Things Considered (PBS)  and more. I’ve been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, and MSNBC.

It’s disheartening to know that a newspaper so close to home ran this article without seeking me out for a quote, or even asking me to help with the fact checking (which I would have gladly done).

Hopewell and I have a history.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a small brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (click here), Hopewell is mighty mixed up about what is, and what is not a kit house.

Of those 44 purported “Sears Homes” in Crescent Hills, only eight are the real deal, and frankly, it may not be eight. Some of those eight could well be plan book homes.

On that “list of 44,” this house (see below) was featured.

To read more about Hopewell, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker who successfully identified this house!

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Nice House

The brochure promoting the Hopewell Sears Homes stated that this was a Sears "Newbury." Ooh, nice try and thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts for you.

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Ruh

The Hopewell brochure states that it looks JUST LIKE a Newbury, except for the "sloping roof, full width dormer, extra windows and round columns." Good grief, if that's our criteria I could say that my dog Teddy looks like just like a Sears Magnolia.

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House

Except for the absence of a hip roof, full width windows, round columns and cypress wood, these two dwelling places are stunningly similar. You'll note that the subject on the right also does not have ears or fur, but both of these items could have easily been removed during an earlier remodeling.

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Newbury

Sears Newbury, from the 1936 catalog.

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compare

Wow, look at this! The house on the left is in Illinois and it actually LOOKS like a Newbury!

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compare

Ruh Roh. These don't look anything alike!

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Monticello

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know that this house in Hopewell came from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

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Montie

In fact, "The Monticello" is on the cover of the catalog! What a beauty!

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Wow

And lookie here. It is a very fine match!

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Big and fancy

Did anyone from Hopewell ever go into this house and compare the interior layout? If so, I hope the homeowner gave their seeing-eye dog a tasty biscuit. The floor plan for the Monticello is radically different from the Sears Newbury (shown directly below). And the Monticello is 50% bigger. These details matter.

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What

The Newbury is a modest, simple house (1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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If you dont love this house, theres something wrong with you!

According to the text in the ad, if you don't love the Monticello, there's something seriously wrong with you!

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It’d really be swell if Hopewell would invite me back to do a thorough and proper survey. I would be more than happy to get the facts right and help them create a new brochure.

In fact, I really wish they’d give it a go. It’s time to make this right.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

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

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Charlottesville Kit Homes: The Good, The Grand, and The Ugly

April 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

On March 23, 2013, I traveled from Norfolk to Charlottesville to take my ham radio test (and I passed!). Along the way, I stopped at Mineral, Gordonsville and Louisa to look for kit homes.

The best part of finding and documenting these old kit homes is that more than 3/4ths of the people living in these historically significant kit homes did not realize what they had until they discovered that information here at my website (and/or received a note from me). This is a piece of America’s architectural past that’s at risk of being lost to the ages.

Click here to learn more about  how to determine if you have a kit home.

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First, the good.

First, the good. The Sears Glen Falls was a beautiful Dutch Colonial and spacious, too (1928).

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glen falls

At 2,900 square feet, the Glen Falls was just a little smaller than the biggest Sears House of them all - The Magnolia. The Glen Falls was also the second most expensive house that Sears offered (The Magnolia being the most expensive). Notice the butler's pantry (between the dining room and the kitchen). These were unusual features for an early 1920s kit home.

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Is this a Sears Glen Falls?

Is this a Sears Glen Falls? With the paired french doors, it sure looks like s a good match, but I'd need to know the home's exterior footprint to authenticate it.

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First, the good.

And on to the grand! This is a Sears Rockford, one of Sears finer homes. This majestic foursquare was offered only in brick. It's shown here in the 1928 catalog. I've only seen three other Rockfords and all three of them were in Virginia.

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house house

Notice the detail on the columns, and the eave brackets. Also notice the window arrangement.

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And here's a picture-perfect Rockford in Charlottesville. What a grand find! Do the owners know it's a Sears Rockford? I'd love to know.

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Oh my, what a lovely match!

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Rockford

The astute observer might notice that the dormer on the Charlottesville Rockford is just not a perfect match to the original catalog image. I've seen three Rockfords (all in Virginia) and each of these Rockford had a much smaller dormer than is depicted in the catalog's line drawing. Shown above is the Rockford in Cape Charles, Virginia.

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Thanks to K. Edward Lay, Ive learned that theres a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

Thanks to K. Edward Lay, I've learned that there's a Sears Ashmore in Charlottesville. This was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow (as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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Also thanks to Ed Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville!  And its the Aristocrat of bungalows!

Also thanks to K. Edward Lay, I now have a photo of the Ashmore in Charlottesville! And it's the "Aristocrat of bungalows!" Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

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Another view!

Another view of the "Aristocratic Bungalow" in Charlottesville, VA. Photo is credit is K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country, CD-Rom, 2001.

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Before we get to the ugly, lets talk about the mysterious.

Before we get to the "ugly," let's talk about the mysterious. This is a Sears Barrington, a hugely popular house for Sears (1928 catalog). Notice the cornice dormer, the front-gabled foyer and the darling little windows within that gable.

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Well lookie here! Is this a Sears Barrington?

And here's where it gets mysterious. Is this a Sears Barrington in Charlottesville? It sure looks like it could be. Oooh, but wait, look at the half-round door! And the darling little window is squared, not angled (as is shown in the image above). And there's no light over the door. Hmmm. So, maybe it's not a Sears Barrington? Tough to know for sure. It's another house that bears more investigation.

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Here in Virginia, Ive found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses.

Here in Virginia, I've found that the majority of our kit homes came from Aladdin Kit Homes (Bay City, MI). Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes in the early 20th Century, while Aladdin sold more than 75,000 houses. Shown here is an Aladdin Newcastle, which looks a lot like a Sears Barrington, except, the Newcastle does have that rounded entry door, and there's no light over the door. However, the darling little windows are still not quite right.

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So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington?

So is it an Aladdin Newcastle or a Sears Barrington? I don't know. I'd love to get inside the house and look at the framing members. You can learn a lot by looking at framing members.

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For instance, if it has a mark like this, its a Sears kit home.

For instance, if it has a mark like this, it's a Sears kit home. This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, told the novice homebuilder how all those 12,000 pieces and parts went together.

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If it has a mark like this, its an Aladdin.

If it has a mark like this, it's an Aladdin.

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And now, the ugly.

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Westly

The Sears Westly was surely one of their most popular designs, and was proably one of their top ten best-selling models. It's a very cute house and has a good floor plan. However, sometimes bad things happen to good Westlys. Image is from 1916 Sears catalog.

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Before we hit the ugly, heres a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is.

Before we hit the ugly, here's a happy, happy Westly in Oakhill, West Virginia. What a fine little Westly it is. And it's in original condition, too. Not bad for a 90-year-old home.

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Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear.

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Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, Im 98.765% certain that it is. Ive seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

Oh my, is this really a Westly? I fear that it is. In fact, I'm 98.765% certain that it is. I've seen at least 200 Westlys and this has the right proportions (minus the not-so-sensitive remodeling).

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Poor little Westly.

Poor little Westly. There's so much that's wrong with this house. It's kind of an anachronism of bad remodeling practices through the decades. From the T-111 siding on the exterior to the 1980s picture windows to the fake stone facade to the mismatched lanterns on the home's front, this poor house has suffered pretty much every architectural indignity imaginable.

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Whew. That was rough. Back to the good.

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And theres this.

In addition to the kit homes, Charlottesville also has a few "Plan Book" houses. These were different from kit homes. With plan books, you'd browse the pages of the catalog and pick out a house and send off for the blueprints. A complete inventory of all building materials that you'd need came with the deal. The lumber and hardware could then be purchased locally.

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Shown above is a plan book house, The Somerset.

Shown above is a plan book house, "The Somerset."

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And Charlottesville has two of them!

And Charlottesville has two of them!

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Do you know of a kit home in Charlottesville? Please leave a comment below and Rose will respond as soon as possible.

To learn more about how to identify a house based on the lumber markings, click here.

To read about the delightful collection of kit homes in Staunton, click here.

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The Rockford: A Foursquare Dressed in Brick!

June 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

Amongst the 370 designs that Sears offered, more than a dozen of the houses were foursquares. One of the lesser-known foursquares is the Sears Rockford. I’ve seen three (and photographed two), and all three were in Virginia and all three were brick.

In fact, the original catalog page shows the house in brick (see below).

Most of the Sears foursquares were pretty simplistic-looking affairs, but that’s not true for the Rockford. The distinctive bracketing under the eaves is unique to the Rockford. The other models (Gladstone, Fullerton, Hamilton, Chelsea, Cornell, etc), didn’t have eave brackets.

Another unique feature are the three very small windows in the dining room. And also notice that there are two small windows flanking the chimney, and three large windows in the living room (front wall).

As with any house identification, the most important aspect is - the details. Study the details and make sure the house is a good match!

To learn more about the Sears Homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read about Virginia’s own ghost town (Penniman), click here.

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The Rockford - as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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floor plan

The Rockford wasn't a very big house. It had about 725 square feet per floor, for a total area of 1,450 square feet on both floors.

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A tiny hallway upstairs maximized space.

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Note the three small windows in the dining room (rear of house).

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cape charles

The tiny Eastern Shore town of Cape Charles (Virginia) has a Sears Rockford.

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hopewell

And there's one in Hopewell, Virginia, too.

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Is there an abundance of kit homes in Hopewell? Well, kind of. Hopewell had a large number of Aladdin kit homes, but many were torn down. There are not very many Sears Homes in Hopewell. To learn more, click here.

Norfolk, however, does have a bunch. In fact, Norfolk has more than 75 kit homes. WOW!

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Sears

These eave brackets on the Rockford are a bit distinctive.

Want to learn more about the Sears Homes in Hopewell?  Click here or here.

If you’d like to see an abundance of kit homes in a small town, check out Roanoke Rapids!

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