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Posts Tagged ‘sears roebuck’

J. M. Cunningham and The Sears Hillrose

January 5th, 2016 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last August, my husband I visited a beautiful Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. We were traipsing about the great Commonwealth, doing our own self-guided “Tour of the Confederacy”, and we traveled from our home in Norfolk to Richmond (where we toured the White House of the Confederacy) to Appomattox (site of Lee’s surrender) and then Lexington (Lee Chapel and VMI Museum) and then on to Brandy Station (Graffiti House) and last but not least…

The home of Confederate hero Captain J. M. Cunningham and it’s a Sears Hillrose!

Truthfully, I didn’t know about the home’s ties to Civil War history until after we arrived there, and talked with the homes’ owners, Brian and Melody. They shared a 75-year-old newspaper article containing the obituary for Captain J. M. Cunningham, and proudly explained that he’d lived in their Hillrose for many years.

Brian’s parents purchased it from the Martin family, who’d purchased it from the estate of Captain Cunningham.

In the early 1900s, John Miller Cunningham was known around Culpepper County as “the grand old man.” He was born in 1843 in Powhatan County, and graduated from Virginia Military Academy in 1861. The 18-year-old soldier was brought to Richmond by Commandant Thomas Jackson (later known as “Stonewall”), to help train the newly formed army. The 1,500-word obituary for Captain Cunningham tells of many heroic deeds on the battlefield, but the most remarkable story is this one, attributed to Federal General Winfield Hancock:

The greatest obstacle to our advance [at the "Bloody Angle" at the Battle of the Wilderness] was a young artillery officer, standing in the breach, rallying his men so courageously that [I] did not have the heart to order my sharpshooters to pick him off. This young officer was Cunningham.

The 22-year-old Captain mustered out of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House.

After the war, Captain Cunningham returned home and sometime between 1925-1930, he purchased the Hillrose in Brandy Station, where he kept Shetland Ponies on the farm. By all accounts, the diminutive horses were treated more like pampered pets than livestock. In a Richmond Times-Dispatch article dated November 18, 1934, Cunningham said his little ponies were “just a vest-pocket edition of a horse.”

When he died in July 1939, he was 96, and the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army.

That’s the story behind the Hillrose in Brandy Station.

Today, Brian and Melody appreciate and understand their unique role as owners and caretakers of this wonderful old kit home. As you’ll see from these photos, the house is lovingly cared for, and the 100-year-old oak and pine trim inside the house retains its original finish, and there are even a handful of original light fixtures scattered throughout. In the kitchen, the hard-rock maple floor is flawless, and down in the basement, Brian has salvaged and preserved other original fixtures from the house, with the hopes of restoring them.

Thanks so much to Brian and Melody for allowing me and Wayne to spend a couple hours oohing and ahhing over their grand old home. It was a memorable afternoon and the highlight of our fun trip.

To read more about the Hillrose, click here.

Want to learn more about how to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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1916 Hillrose

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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1918

The Hillrose was one of the largest kit homes offered by Sears, with more than 2,200 SFLA.

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Floorplan 1916

It featured five bedrooms, which could be six (if you counted the parlor).

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Brandy Statino

The Hillrose in Brandy Station was the very first Hillrose I'd ever seen.

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Front

One of its many unique features is this: The front door is not centered. The window arrangement is also unique. Very few foursquares have three windows on the 2nd floor and single windows on the first.

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Dormer

The dormer is another eye-catching feature. That's a mighty small window for such a big dormer.

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FFF

The Hillrose, as designed, has a small closet window on this side (first floor). The Hillrose in Brandy Station was modified to have a full door here. Another interesting feature are the two dormers. These are the only dormers (front and left side) on this house.

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Come inside

The front door is original. How delightful is that! And the beveled glass is original too!

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Photo is

And here's a photo of Captain John Miller Cunningham, the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army. He died in 1939 at the age of 96. Photo is courtesy Clark B. Hall.

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house bought

Brian, the home's owner, found a shipping label on the back of some millwork. The home's purchaser and builder was Dr. George M. Sparks. According to the 1920 Census. Dr. Sparks was a 50-year-old man with a 30-year-old wife (Daisy) and three children, 12, 10 and 2. Busy fellow, that Dr. Sparks. Seems that George married Daisy in 1905. In other words, in 1905, the 35-year-old doctor married a 15-year-old girl. Yowza. He died in 1925, and by 1930, Daisy was renting a home (with her three children) in Washington, D.C.

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original trim

As mentioned, much of the trim in this century-old house retains its original finish.

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Hingest

And what would a Sears House be without those classic Sears hinges?

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Hillrose

The French Doors that separate the living room from the parlor also retain their original finish.

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buffet

A built-in buffet, as per the home's original plans.

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Vintage

And even a vintage electrical switch.

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Sink 1920

One way to "date" an old house is to look under plumbing fixtures. This old pedestal sink (now relegated to the Hillrose's basement) has a casting date of January 1920, telling us that the house was built after January 1920.

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Score

God bless these wonderful homeowners. They've saved every piece and part that they've removed from the house, with the high goal of restoring these old fixtures and re-installing them.

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picture

Hopefully these sconces will one day grace the dining room walls again.

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Hillrose stair

The Hillrose staircase is in an unusual spot: Behind a door. It's also quite steep for a house of this size and vintage.

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stars

Close-up of the floorplan shows that staircase. And note the placement of that closet behind the stairs.

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window

A little piece of that 2nd floor closet window remains on this Hillrose.

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kitchen

In a Sears kit home, the floors in the kitchen and bath are typically hard maple. The original intention was that linoleum or some other traditional moisture-resistant floor covering be used. I've been in countless Sears kit homes where the homeowner removed layers of old flooring to expose the original maple. Beautiful, aren't they?

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Rrrrr

And this is what that large bay window looks like inside.

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house windo

I love this intricate detail on the wood trim.

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another angle

Another view of that spacious bay window.

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fffeeeff

Didn't I promise you that it was a grand and glorious home?

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To read more about the Hillrose, click here.

Want to learn more about how to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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Hmmm…Whom Do We Know in Ohio?

January 2nd, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Preferably near Convoy, Ohio (or Dixon, Indiana) and specifically at 12716 S. State Line Road. This is the site of yet another Sears Hillrose, which Rachel Shoemaker found with a little detective work.

Turns out that State Line Road is so named because it marks the boundary between Indiana and Ohio.

Thanks to Rachel, we have a picture of the Hillrose on State Line Road, but it’s from the assessor’s website and it has its limitations. Nonetheless, a crummy picture is incomparably better than no picture, so I’m very grateful that Rachel was able to find this image.

The reason I’m so enchanted by this house is that it appears to have its original siding, windows and porch - three big pluses.

Now, if we just knew someone who lived close enough to get us a few good pictures of this Hillrose on State Line Road! (And, there’s another one in Antwerp, Ohio which isn’t that far away from Convoy!)

To read more about the Hillrose in prior blogs, click here or here or here.

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beaut 1916

The Hillrose as seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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1916

What a beauty! An interesting note: The front door on this house is not centered. That, with about a dozen other unusual features, makes this house easy to identify.

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Hillrose built in West Lafayette, IN

This Hillrose was built about 15 years ago (2000) in West Lafayette, Indiana. It's a modern recreation of an old classic, and has a few embellishments and upgrades.

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BS

Last August, the owners of this glorious Hillrose invited me to come see their home. It's in Brandy Station, Virginia (about three hours northwest of Norfolk, VA) and it's in wonderful condition.

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Gre

Carrie Milam found this old Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana. Sadly, the front porch is MIA. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dixon

And here's our sweet little Hillrose in Dixon, Ohio. Many thanks to Rachel for finding this photo at the city assessor's website. The Hillrose retains its original windows, siding and porch, which just makes me swoon. Perhaps best of all, that tiny closet window (2nd floor) is still in place! My kingdom for a few dozen photos of this treasure!

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Ruh Roh. Street view shows this house isnt feeling too well.

Ruh Roh. Street view shows this house isn't feeling too well. Google shows it as Convoy, Ohio.

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Im

I'm starting to wonder if this sweet thing is still among the living.

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Visit Rachel’s fascinating blog here.

Read more about the $1,000,000 Hillrose (built about 15 years ago in West Lafayette, IN) here.

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Coming Up - A Comprehensive Blog on The Hillrose

December 30th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the last few days, I seem to have crossed the Rubicon with search engines, and am now consistently getting 1,500+ hits per day, and sometimes more than 2,000. That’s certainly happy news, as I’ve been faithfully blogging for five years and it is a major time sink.

Thus far, I have written 942 blogs here, each heavy laden with photos.

Ever since August, I’ve been wanting to do a blog on one of my favorite finds: A Sears Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia but I knew that this would be a time-intensive blog (requiring 4-5 hours to complete). With the holiday season, there is no time, so I thought it was time to do a truncated version of that time-intensive blog.

We’ll just call this a preview!

To read my earlier blog about another Hillrose, click here. (You should really read this blog first, as it gives some background on how the Hillrose came to be.)

Brandy Station is also the site of a famous Civil War campaign. Learn more about that here.

This Hillrose was owned for many years by J. M. Cunningham, a famous Confederate war hero.

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The Hillrose has long been one of my favorites - and apparently is several peoples favorites! It won a design prize (sponsored by Sears) in 1914.

The Hillrose has long been one of my favorites - and apparently is several people's favorites! It won a design prize (sponsored by Sears) in 1914.

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1916

According to this image from the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog, there are also Hillroses built at Griffith Indiana, Alvado Ohio, Stratford Iowa, Waterman Illinois and Houghton New York.

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Nice spacious floorplan, too.

Four bedrooms and good layout.

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fff

While it's true that I love them all, the Hillrose is a favorite.

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And heres the Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia.

And here's the Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. And best of all, for many years, it was owned by a famous Civil War hero, J. M. Cunningham, the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army at the time of his death in 1939. He was 96 years old when he passed. More on this hero in the next blog. And interestingly enough, I discovered this glorious house thanks to a comment left at my blog! The home's owner contacted me and said he had a Sears Hillrose. If I had a nickle for every time I heard that! ;) But in this case, he really did!

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Beautiful, isnt it?

Beautiful, isn't it? It's a historically significant home, located in a historically significant city, and formerly owned by a historically impressive Confederate war hero. Wow.

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From the aft side

A true beauty from every angle!

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What a house.

What a house, and it sits in such a beautiful, bucolic place. My oh my.

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In the next blog, well take a look at the inside of this fine old home.

In the next blog, we'll take a look at the inside of this fine old home.

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To read my earlier blog about another Hillrose, click here. (You should really read this blog first, as it gives some background on how the Hillrose came to be.)

Brandy Station is also the site of a famous Civil War campaign. Learn more about that here.

This Hillrose was owned for many years by J. M. Cunningham, a famous Confederate war hero.

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Solar Power: So Much Fun (Part II)

November 21st, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Three years ago (November 20, 2012) I did a blog on my first foray into the world of solar energy. Since then, I’ve added and upgraded my system a bit. I’ve taken a break from traveling and writing about kit homes, so I thought I’d do a blog today on my new “solar system.”

If you have any questions or insights, please leave a comment below!

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

Want to read my prior blog on solar energy? Here’s the link.

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Solar

Three years ago, I installed my first "solar system" on my little back yard shed.

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fff

I purchased this "Thunderbolt" solar panel kit from Harbor Freight. Thunderbolt strikes me as a silly name, but it's a good solid product. Each panel produces 15 watts.

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This Spring, we had a new roof put on the house and shed, and after we had that work done, I couldnt bear to put those solar panels back on the pretty new roof.

This Spring, we had a new roof put on the house and shed, and after we had that work done, I couldn't bear to put those solar panels back on the pretty new roof.

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Instead, I decided maybe it was time to upgrade a little bit.

Instead, I decided maybe it was time to upgrade a little bit. Pre-new roof, I had two sets of three panels atop the little shed roof. Each set of three produced 45 watts. The Thunderbolt solar panels were amorphous thin-film panels (older technology) while the newer panel (shown here on the side) is a crystalline panel which produces 100-watts with a single panel.

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fffee

And it looks snappy, too. The panel is manufactured by Renogy.

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I mounted the solar panel to the wall using a 360-degree flat-screen TV mount. It was on sale at Amazon for $19 and was exactly what I needed. This model has a feature (probably undesirable to many) that after the arm is pivoted where you want it, it can be tightened into place so it never moves again.

I mounted the solar panel to the wall using a 360-degree flat-screen TV mount. It was on sale at Amazon for $19 and was exactly what I needed. This model has a feature (probably undesirable to many) that after the arm is pivoted into position, it can be tightened into place so it never moves again.

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And mounting it on the side means I didnt need to drill fresh holes in that expensive new roof.

And mounting it on the side means I didn't need to drill fresh holes in that expensive new roof.

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Ive now got three 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries.

Inside, there were some upgrades too. I've now got three 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries. The battery on the floor is the one I use for my trolling motor, when I go out on the lake.

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Prior to last week, I was using this MPPT solar charge controller

Prior to last week, I was using this MPPT solar charge controller. This little jewel cost $130 on Amazon and lasted only five months before it died. And it didn't die easy. It took out one of my digital meters when it went. Plus, it didn't just stop charging the battery; it was actually draining the batteries down to 4 volts. MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking.

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You can read more about MPPT by clicking here. It’s a webpage unto itself.

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This was

Shown above is the PWM (pulse width modulation) solar charge controller than came with the 100-watt Renogy panel. We'll see how it does. It's the dirt-poor cousin of the MPPT solar charge controller. If it lasts more than five months, it'll be my new hero.

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Upgrade

With those three batteries, I was able to upgrade the inverter a bit, too. Shown above is a 1600-watt inverter. The green display shows the current charge on the battery. The now-dead meter above showed the incoming voltage on the solar panels.

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And I added a few lights, too.

And I added a few lights, too. Inside, I have four LED 12-volt lights. I mounted this one outside. It's also available at Amazon for the low, low price of $11.97 (or was). This small fixture puts out a surprising amount of light.

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The old solar set-up was a lot of fun, and it lives on at Miltons house (my buddy and next-door neighbor). Three years later, its still performing like a champ.

The old solar set-up was a lot of fun, and it lives on at Milton's house (my buddy and next-door neighbor). Three years later, it's still performing like a champ.

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Want to become a licensed ham radio operator? Check this out!

If you’re here to read about Sears kit homes, click here.

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Beautiful Six-Room Cottage: Modern Home #126

April 27th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Modern Home #126 appeared in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog (which was the year Sears opened their Modern Homes Department). By 1914, it shared a page with its fraternal twin, The Sears Elsmore (then known as Modern Home #208). By 1916, Modern Home #126 was gone.

In March 2002, The Houses That Sears Built hit the world and in a desperate bid to promote the book (and the topic), I did a survey of nearby Webster Groves, Missouri. (I was living in Alton, Illinois at the time - just across the Mississippi River from Webster Groves).

After doing the survey, I contacted several folks in Webster Groves and talked them into allowing me to give a lecture at the Webster Groves’ Library. Those were good times. It was my first “big” talk and was promoted in a local paper. We had about 80 people show up at the talk and 40 of them purchased a book! As I said, good times!

It was during that survey of Webster Groves that I found Modern Home #126. Rachel Shoemaker sent me a link to this house which recently sold. Unlike so many Realtor photos I’ve seen, the pictures of Modern Home #126 are beautifully done and in focus! Thanks to Circa Properties of St. Louis for allowing me to borrow these photos!  :) You can visit their website by clicking here.

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Kirkwood, click here.

Did you know that Ferguson was the first city to hire me to do a survey of kit homes? I’ll always be grateful for the kindness of the people of Ferguson.

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Modern Home #126 appeared in the first Sears Modern Homes catalog (1908).

Modern Home #126 appeared in the first Sears Modern Homes catalog (1908).

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By 1914, Sears Modern Home #126 was relegated to sharing a page with the newly offered Modern Home #208 which would later be known as the Sears Elsmore.

By 1914, Sears Modern Home #126 was relegated to sharing a page with the newly offered "Modern Home #208" which would later be known as the Sears Elsmore. By 1916, #126 was no longer offered.

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The Sears Elsmore became a popular house for Sears.

The Sears Elsmore became an immensely popular house for Sears (1921 catalog).

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Testimonials

And yet, Modern Home #126 had been a popular model (judging by the testimonials).

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The two homes shared a floorplan that was very close.

The two homes shared a floorplan that was very close. Perhaps do-it-yourself kit home builders didn't appreciate those chamfered corners on #126. Plus, the closets in #126 are a bit odd.

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Those chamfered corners and oversized eaves do create a unique appearance!

Those chamfered corners and over-sized eaves do create a unique and dramatic appearance!

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And heres Modern Home #126 in Webster Groves, one of my first discoveries!

And here's Modern Home #126 in Webster Groves, one of my "first" discoveries! And major kudos to the Realtor for snapping this photo from the right angle (to match the catalog page).

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And what a sheer joy to see that this fine old home still has its original eyes (windows).

And what a sheer joy to see that this fine old home still has its original "eyes" (windows) and siding! Can you imagine how it'd ruin the look of this home to put in some pedestrian vinyl windows?

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What a fine-looking home it is. Do the owners know that its a Sears House? This one, Id say maybe, because it was featured in that talk I gave in Webster Groves, so many years ago.

What a fine-looking home it is. Do the owners know that it's a Sears House? This one, I'd say "maybe," because it was featured in that talk I gave in Webster Groves, so many years ago.

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The floorplan featured for this listing shows its a perfect match to the old catalog image.

The floorplan featured for this listing shows it's a pretty good match to the old catalog image. The minor changes shown above (bathroom modifications, closet enlargement and added staircase to 2nd floor) could have been done when the house was built or in later years. Houses do tend to get remodeled a bit through the years.

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Cat

Modern Home #126 from the 1908 catalog.

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The interior of the Webster Groves #126 is also stunning.

The interior of the Webster Groves #126 is also stunning.

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The upstairs seems quite spacious. Im inclined to think that this 2nd floor was done when the home was built. The hipped roof on the Webster Groves house seems a bit higher than the standard-issue #126.

The upstairs seems quite spacious. Those four small dormers add a lot of light to the room. I'm inclined to think that this 2nd floor was done when the home was built but it's almost impossible to know for sure. This house is now 100 years old or more.

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Heres another lovely #126 that Rebecca Hunter found in Quincy, Illinois.

Here's another lovely #126 that Rebecca Hunter found in Quincy, Illinois. It also has its original windows and siding (stucco). I find it most interesting that, without exception, every #126 I've seen has had columns or pillars added to that over-sized front porch overhang. Photo is copyright 2008 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lastly, heres Mr. Gilchrists Modern Home #126 at 2904 Meredith Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska!

Lastly, here's Mr. Gilchrist's Modern Home #126 at 2904 Meredith Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska! Photo is courtesy Douglas County Assessor's website (and they don't even KNOW how courteous they're being in sharing this image)!

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Interested in purchasing a quality home in St. Louis? Visit Circa Properties website here!

Check out Rebecca Hunter’s website by clicking here.

To read about the Sears Homes in nearby Kirkwood, click here.

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My Only Blog With an “R” Rating!

April 6th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Before you start reading this, please usher the children into another room and/or tell them to cover their ears and hum.

Sears only offered two models of kit homes that had a sink in the closet. One was their fanciest house (”The Magnolia”) and the other was one of their simplest designs (”The Cinderella”). Why put a sink in the corner of a dressing room or a closet? Running the necessary plumbing, drain lines and vent would have added some expense, so what’s the point?

There were a few obvious reasons: It gave the lady of the house a place to wash her “unmentionables” and it also gave the man a place to shave when the couple’s seven kids were hogging the bathroom.

But there might have been another lesser-known reason.

Are those kids gone? ;)

In the early 1900s, male prophylactics were “re-usable.” It wasn’t until the 1920s that latex was invented, and these particular items became single-use.

By the way, this particular insight as to the purpose of that master-bedroom sink is not my own, but was sent to me by a faithful reader of the blog. Best of all, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I’d love to give proper credit to the reader who shared this info with me, but I can’t remember who it was! Argh!

To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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house 1921

The Cinderella was a very modest house and apparently, they didn't sell too many of these. It was priced at $1,500 and yet only had a single bedroom. The dressing room was located off the living room.

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Cindy 1921

Close-up of the floorplan shows a sink in the dressing room.

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Cindy

Roll-away beds were heavily promoted for use in the Cinderella. Here, you can see the lady of the house has used the dressing room sink for washing out her delicate undergarments.

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DuMont

The DuMont was a pattern-book house offered in the 1920s. It also featured a sink in a closet.

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Dumont

Close-up of the sink in the DuMont off the master-bedroom.

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Sears Maggy 1921

Sears biggest and best house (The Magnolia) also had a sink in the closet.

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South bend

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana has the original built-in cabinets, and an original closet sink, together with original faucets. Quite a find, and a testament to the quality of the materials.

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South Bend

Close-up of the sink in the South Bend Magnolia. It also has its original medicine chest and light fixture. This picture is almost two years old. I hope the new owner does an honest restoration of the old house. In all my travels, I've never seen a three-sided sink like this.

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West Virginia

The Magnolia in West Virginia also has its original cabinets in the closet, but the sink has been replaced. Interesting that the sink is placed right next to that window.

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To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611: Unusually Well Planned

April 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

These last few months, I’ve been doing a proper survey of kit homes in Hampton, Virginia. I went out yesterday to check one last section one last time (which I’ve now visited twice), when this handsome bungalow jumped out of the bushes and called my name.

This Gordon Van Tine Model #611 is on a main drag (300-block of North Mallory) which leaves me scratching my head. How did I miss it?

That will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe, together with, where did I put my husband’s truck keys.

To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

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What a house!

Notice how the porch roof sits within the primary roof. Interesting feature.

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Oh yeah, baby! :D

Sadly, some vinyl siding salesman has pillaged the house, but other than that, it's a nice match. The railings have been replaced, but that's a relatively minor affair.

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Good match on this side, too!

Good match on this side, too!

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So

And did I mention it's on the main drag? :)

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To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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And The Winner is… (Part II)

December 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Earlier this week, I wrote about the “contest” offered by Sears Roebuck, where they invited 100 “up-to-date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design (Modern Home #189, “The Hillrose”), and second prize was awarded to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa for Modern Home #184.

Despite a lot of traveling, I’ve never seen an original Hillrose. However, in 2005, I gave a talk at a $1,000,000 reproduction of the Sears Hillrose in Prophetstown, Indiana.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is now open to the public, and in addition to the reproduced Sears kit home, there’s also a large working farm on the site.

When there in 2005, I had a thorough tour of the inside and snapped a few photos. As I told the director, I really loved what they’d done with the place. I snapped a few photos (old 35mm slides), which you’ll see below.

In 1916, the Sears Hillrose was offered for less than $2,000. More than 90 years later, the reproduction Hillrose cost more than $1 million.

To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

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The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose.

The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose (1914 catalog).

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The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

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Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn. Upon reflection, Im not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when youre relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago.

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn to any known Sears kit barn designs. Upon reflection, I'm not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when you're relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago. That's my little red 2003 Camry to the right of the barn.

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Close-up of the barn.

Close-up of the barn.

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As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk in this barn.

As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk that night inside this barn. Back in the day, I toted around two slide projectors and would show the two slides on two screens, comparing extant houses with vintage catalog images. I was rather relieved when the world went to digital. Organizing all those slides for every talk was a massive undertaking. I finally gave away those slide projectors in 2011 when we moved into a new house.

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The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty.

The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty. It disappears in the shadows, but yes, that's a chamber pot under the bed. The wallpaper was gorgeous, and the rag doll was a nice touch too.

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Is that a Sears light fixture?

Is that a Sears light fixture? Not perfect, but close enough for government work. :)

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For someone whos spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, the kitchen was charming.

For someone who's spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, I'd say the kitchen was utterly enchanting. And who doesn't secretly dream of a turquoise and white cast-iron, wood-fired cookstove?

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Oh

What's not to love?

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And what proper Indiana homestead wouldnt have a Hoosier cabinet?

And what proper Indiana homestead wouldn't have a Hoosier cabinet?

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And properly stocked, too?

And properly stocked, too?

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Do you have an aunt living in one of these towns?

Even though I've never seen an original Hillrose, the 1916 catalog shows that there were Hillroses buit in these cities. Please call your cousin Bertha in Griffith, Indiana and ask her to find the Sears Hillrose there and then ask her to take a photo and send it to the lady in Norfolk. Or maybe your Aunt Beulah in Alvada, Ohio? Or Granny Kittle in Waterman, Illinois? Work with me here. I need a photo of a real life Hillrose. Really I do.

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To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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And The Winner Is…

December 29th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

It started out in 1913 as a contest.

Sears invited 100 “up to date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design, which came to be known as The Hillrose (Modern Home #189). In addition to having his creation featured in subsequent catalogs, he also won $50 - in gold.

Second prize ($35 in gold) went to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa. His house (Modern Home #184) didn’t last long enough to be granted a name (1918), and in fact, was gone by 1916.

Despite 14 years of wandering and researching, I’ve seen only one Sears Hillrose and that was in Prophetstown, Indiana (near West Lafayette) and it was less than 20 years old.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is part of a museum exhibit that offers an interpretive display of a working farm.

The first floor of the house is true to the catalog image and to the time period. The interior is filled with period furnishings, appliances and even ephemera. An old Sears catalog sits on an end table in the front room of the Hillrose. The second floor is thoroughly modern, not open to the public, and is used as administrative offices.

In 2005, I traveled to Prophetstown to see this recently built Hillrose “in the flesh” and to give a talk on Sears Homes.

Originally, it was planned that I’d give the talk in the front room of the Hillrose (with space for 30 attendees). Not good. These talks - even 10 years ago - often drew 100+ visitors.

The only option available at the last minute was the barn. And it was a real barn, with real critters and hay and implements.

That evening, at 7:00 pm, I addressed about 90 people, four goats, six cows and several chickens. In the barn.

This newly built Hillrose was a pricey little affair. The 1916 Sears catalog showed the house offered for $1,649. More than 90 years later, the Hillrose’s contemporary cost exceeded $1 million, due to the expense of re-creating an early 20th Century farm house.

And now Prophetstown has a real treasure and a tourism attraction that will endure for decades to come.

There’s a real-life Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia!

Read Part II here.

Click here to see inside the Hillsboro in Prophetstown.

To read more about this Hillsboro in Indiana, click here.

Want to learn more about to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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Contest

I wonder what an "out of date" farmer looks like? This image came from a promotional brochure, dated about 1914. Take a moment and read it in its entirety. It's fun!

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First prize

Modern Home #189 was the prize winner, and garnered $50 in gold for Mr. Selck of Evansville, Indiana (1914 catalog). Fine house (with more than 2,000 square feet) for a mere $1,473.

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house hosue house

W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Ohio won $35 in gold for this design (1914 catalog).

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First prize winner

Apparently, Sears asked for a letter from the first prize winner.

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Second

And the second-prize winner, too.

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house

Aladdin was actually the originator of the business of selling kit homes via mail-order catalogs, but what's a little promotional puffery between friends?.

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hillrose

A comparison of the two houses - side-by-side.

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house

I guess the woodshed was the thing that carried the day.

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house

A panoramic view of Modern Home #189, showing not only the house, but outbuildings and livestock.

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1916

A closer view of Modern Home #189 (The Hillrose).

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barn

A close-up of the Sears kit barn, as shown with The Hillrose (above).

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Round barn with

I love that dormer atop not just the round barn but the silo, too.

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cheapter

Chicken House #221 is shown next to the Hillrose.

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Long shot

Here's a long view of the 2nd prize winner. He has a chicken coop, but it's not the #221. He has a vehicle, but it's only one-horse power. He has an outbuilding, but it's a little milk house.

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house 1916

Second-prize winner got cheaped out on the chicken house.

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house house

Nice little milk house, though.

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Even though Ive never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog).

Even though I've never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog). Alvado, Ohio can't be that big. It can't be too tough to find a big old Sears foursquare in little old Alvado. Perhaps a kind-hearted Avacadoan will find this Hillrose in their town and snap a photo for moi. Or maybe someone in Griffith will embark on this mission of mercy. One can hope. I need a picture of a Hillrose.

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However, I dont know if any of these homes were ever built.

However, I don't know if any of these homes were ever built. Good news is, this house is so distinctive, it'll be easy to spot! In addition to being an L-shaped foursquare (yeah, really), it has an offset porch, small vestibule, pedimented porch roof, big gabled dormer, oversized eaves and a dainty-looking horse in the front yard.

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The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy.

The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy, and it's the only Hillrose I've seen.

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From catalog side

A view of the Hillrose from the same angle as the catalog.

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My favorite view of all

My favorite shot of the Hillrose, showing the barn in the background.

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Just a little archival storage tip: If youre going to

Just a little archival storage tip: If you're going to collect rare Sears House ephemera and sell it on eBay, don't cut it up into tiny bits and then laminate the whole caboodle with thick plastic. This photo here is to help explain why images 1, 4, 5 and 6 look like they were scanned through wax paper. Because - actually - they were. Special thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for purchasing this rare brochure and sharing it!

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To read Rachel’s wonderful blog, click here.

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Oh MY! Look What We Found in Herndon!

December 17th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

You really should join us in the Sears Homes group on Facebook.

The old house aficionados in that group are a wild and wooly bunch who really know how to have a good time! ;)

After a recent blog on the “GVT Tower House” in Herndon and some very interesting banter amongst the night owls, Rachel Shoemaker and I started poking around the small town of Herndon (via Bing Maps) to see what else we could find.

Unfortunately, a surfeit of trees prevented us from seeing much, but I discovered a Sears Winona (seriously altered by a lot of remodeling) and Rachel found the crème de la crème of kit homes, The Gordon Van Tine, “Brentwood.”

Oh, it gets better.

The Gordon Van Tine Brentwood with matching “Ajax” garage.

Ooh la la!

And in Herndon! Who knew?

That’s two rare Gordon Van Tine mail-order kit homes in one small Northern, Virginian town.

Who in the world is Rosemary Thornton?

Maybe there’s a Sears Magnolia hiding in there somewhere!

To read about the other Gordon Van Tine home, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding the GVT Brentwood, and for supplying the GVT catalog images shown below!

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Amongst the trees and bushes of Herndon, we discovered a Sears Winona (1916 catalog).

Amongst the trees and bushes of Herndon, we discovered a Sears Winona (1916 catalog).

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Its a crummy

It's a fairly crummy image snagged off Bing Maps, but it's almost certainly a Sears Winona. From the five-piece eave brackets to the original porch railing and porch roof, it's a fine match.

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And heres the find of the MONTH!

And here's the find of the MONTH! The Gordon Van Tine "Brentwood" (Model 711).

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And you thought kit homes were just crummy little boxes?

And you thought "kit homes" were just crummy little boxes?

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house

Admittedly, it is somewhat unusual for mail-order houses to have a "Maid's Room."

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The typical mail-order kit home had 12,000 pieces and was shipped by train to its destination. The pieces and parts were carefully sorted and stacked, and would usually fit in a single boxcar. I suspect the GVT Brentwood took two boxcars!i

The typical mail-order kit home had 12,000 pieces and was shipped by train to its destination. The pieces and parts were carefully sorted and stacked, and would usually fit in a single boxcar. I suspect the GVT Brentwood took two boxcars!i

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And there it is, in the flesh, a perfect Gordon Van Tine #711.

And there it is, in the flesh, a perfect Gordon Van Tine #711. Rachel Shoemaker flew her little Bing Airplane over top of the house and confirmed (by viewing the back side) that it is indeed a GVT 711.

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And tucked away behind the house is a Gordon Van Tine garage.

And tucked away behind the house is a Gordon Van Tine garage.

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Ever wonder what those boxcars looked like? A lot like this.

Ever wonder what those boxcars looked like? A lot like this.

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Who in the world is Rosemary Thornton?

Maybe there’s a Sears Magnolia hiding in there somewhere!

To read about the other Gordon Van Tine home, click here.

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