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A Sad Story That Needs a Good Ending: Carlinville’s “Standard Addition”

September 26th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In the early years of the 1900s,

About 1918, Standard Oil purchased 192 kit homes from Sears & Roebuck. Carlinville ended up with 156 of these homes (offered in eight models). The 12-block area where these homes were built (in an old wheat field) came to be known as Standard Addition. Sears proudly touted this sale to Standard Oil as "the largest order ever placed," and pictures of Carlinville appeared in the front pages of the Modern Homes catalog for many years. This letter (shown above) appeared on the back page of the catalog until 1929.

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House

Standard Addition's homes - some of which were not wholly finished - appeared in the 1919 and 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Of the 192 houses sold to Standard Oil, 156 ended up in Carlinville, 24 were sent to Wood River (where Standard Oil had a large refinery) and 12 ended up in Schoper, IL (site of a large coal mine). Pictured above is the Warrenton model (left) and the Whitehall (right).

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In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood first appeared in the Searsm Modern Homes catalog.

In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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house house house 1921

Close-up of the "birdseye view" from the 1921 catalog. From left to right is the Gladstone, Roseberry, Warrenton, and Whitehall. And look at that darling little building behind the Whitehall. Is it still there?

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House

These homes were occasionally featured in "The Stanolind Record," an employee newsletter put out by Standard Oil. This image appeared with the caption, "Carlinville is coming out of the mud," which simply meant that streets would soon be laid, replacing the muddy roads.

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All of which brings me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition is at great risk of being lost.

And all the photos above bring me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition - this unique, historic and one-of-a-kind community - is at great risk. This "Roseberry" on Johnson Street caught fire in early 2013 and has not been razed yet. Derelict houses (such as this) contribute heavily to blight, and once blight takes root in a neighborhood, reversal can take decades. At best, this house poses a threat to public health and safety. At worst, it's an anchor that's dragging this historic neighborhood further into the muck. Would you want to live next door to this? How many months before this house gets torn down?

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Last month

Last month, a suspected meth lab was discovered in the 1000-block of Johnson Street, in the heart of Standard Addition. Once a house is used for "cooking" meth, making it suitable again for habitation can be expensive.

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Full story here: http://www.sj-r.com/breaking/x1367241203/Two-suspected-meth-labs-found-in-Carlinville

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And theres also the problem on insensitive remodeling.

And there's also the problem of insensitive remodeling. And it is quite a problem.

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Another

As built, these homes were very small (less than 1,100 square feet) but there are ways to increase square footage without diminishing the historicity of these unique homes.

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In short, it’s time for the state legislature and/or city council to step in and figure out what legislation is needed to protect this one-of-a-kind historic collection of Sears Homes in Carlinville. I’ve remained “astonished* that there is no signage, no billboards, no announcements of any kind welcoming the flat-lander tourist to come visit “Standard Addition.”

At the very least, there should be billboards in St. Louis, Alton (by the casino), Edwardsville and other “hot spots” inviting people to come see this fun collection of kit homes. There should be a website, self-guided driving brochures, maps, etc, promoting the area.

But there is nothing,

In my 14 years of experience in this niche field of America’s architectural history, I’ve never come across another collection of Sears kit homes quite like Standard Addition.

One week ago today, I drove through Standard Addition, admiring the pretty houses and dismayed by the blighted ones, and I glimpsed, more now than ever, something must be done to preserve and protect this neighborhood.

Before it’s too late.

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To learn more about the eight models in Standard Addition, click here.

To learn more about the building of Standard Addition (and the female supervisor of the project), click here.

In 2003, CBS Sunday Morning News came to Standard Addition.

To read about Illinois’ own ghost town (Schoper, IL), click right here.

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What Do George Bailey and Sears Roebuck Have in Common?

July 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Many folks think it’s a movie about one man’s life making a difference in this world, but I saw it a different way. I saw it as a movie that explained why homeownership is so important.

In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day declared that Americans had a patriotic duty to be homeowners. It was well-understood that home ownership was a boon to individuals and their families, but the “patriotic” angle made the point that homeownership also benefited neighborhoods and communities, and by extension, it benefited cities and even the country, as a whole.

To put a contemporary spin on this, what better modern-day model do we have than Detroit? How much of Detroit is now rental (non-owner occupied)? Despite 30 minutes of searching, I wasn’t able to find an answer, but I’d guess it’s a lot. (Heck, how much of Detroit’s housing is just not occupied by anyone?)

The early Sears Modern Homes catalogs made this point in a variety of ways, but in short it said this: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of prosperity, stability and peace.

In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees what Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born. Without George’s positive influence and his ever-fledgling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and many residents would have remained renters, rather than homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties.

And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family, and in a broader context, there is less stability in the community as well.

Look at Bert (the cop) and Ernie (the cab driver).

In this alternate “George-less” world, Ernie does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, he lives is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is largely to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

I’m of the opinion that Sears was, to small communities in the Midwest, what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls.

Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?

How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville, thanks to these little kit homes? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout the Midwest.

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In the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

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In the end, George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many peoples lives, enabling them to become homeowners. He saw that his town would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.

George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many people's lives, enabling them to become homeowners. The angel ("Clarence") showed George that Bedford Falls would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brother's Building and Loan.

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The value of homeownenrship was also touted in

The value of homeownership was also touted in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1921).

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Father is throwing out rent receipts - because theyre worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

Father is throwing out rent receipts - because they're worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

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Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway.

Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway. Even the little girl is lost in bliss! Is there a Hathaway in Lima, Ohio? It'd be fun to know!

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A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Learn more about the biggest and best Sears Home by clicking here!

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The Sears Wexford in Mineral, Virginia

March 31st, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Originally known as “Tolersville,” this tiny town opted to change its name to “Mineral” in the early 1900s.

Seems that there was gold in them there hills of Louisa County (where Mineral is located), and at its peak, there were 15 gold mines within three miles of the town. Copper, mica and sulfur were also discovered and mined.

On August 23, 2011, Mineral became famous for another reason: An earthquake. At 1:51 pm, a 5.8 magnitude quake was centered in the tiny town, and rattled windows from DC to Norfolk (where I live) and beyond. In Mineral, the roof collapsed on the town hall, and three public schools suffered significant damage. (This earthquake also occurred at be precise moment that my late father’s ashes were scattered. That was more than a little spooky.)

Last week, I drove up to Charlottesville to take a licensing test for Ham Radio (the “Extra” exam). On my way, I drove through Louisa, Gordonsville and Mineral, looking for kit homes.

In Mineral, I only saw one home, The Sears Wexford, but it was a fine-looking house. Next door to the Wexford was a beautiful old church serenading me with heavenly music. I parked my car next to the church for a time and just reveled in the euphonious melodies.

It really was a lovely thing and an unexpected delight.

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1936 wexvorf

The Wexford was also known as The Bridgeport (1936 catalog).

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two floorplans

It was offered in two floorplans, and "B" had a dining room.

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the other

Floorplan A was a bit smaller, with a kitchen nook instead of a dining room.

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house house house

The Wexford, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

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Sears House in Mineral

Is this a Sears Wexford? Can't say for certain, but I'd guess that it probably is, and my guesses are usually right! :) On this Wexford, the porch is not off the living room, but off of a bedroom (it appears). Note the details around that front porch. It's a good match! I'd love to get inside at some point and check for marked lumber.

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Wexford Cairo

This Wexford is in Cairo, Illinois on Roebuck Road (about 1/2 mile from the site of the original Sears Mill). Years ago, this Wexford was on Sears and Roebuck Road, but when the interstate came through in the 1970s, it sliced the road into two pieces. One side was renamed Sears Road (where the old mill was located), and the other side was named Roebuck Road. On my Garmin, it still shows the two pieces of this old road as "Sears and Roebuck Road." Ah, Sears and Roebuck Road: Married by commerce, divorced by the interstate.

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I hope to be returning to this area in a month or two. If you know of a kit home in this part of the state, please leave a comment below!

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To read about the Sears Kit Homes in Gordonsville, click here.

Or you can read about the Aladdin kit homes in Louisa by clicking here.

Come back tomorrow to read about the kit homes I found in Charlottesville.

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Ann Arbor: An Impressive Ensemble of Kit Homes

March 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Many folks enjoy seeking and finding kit homes, but they’re not sure where to begin. Between Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling and Harris Brothers, there were at least a couple thousand designs.

If you want to find kit homes, how do you begin?

Well, this very blog might be an ideal starting point because as it turns out, Ann Arbor has a lovely smorgasbord of “typical” (and very popular) kit homes from Sears, Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Take a few moments and memorize these photos, and then see if you can find these houses in your town!

Be forewarned, it’s a lot of fun and highly addictive. Bet you can’t stop at just one!

If you’re able, you might even visit one of these communities that has an abundance of kit homes (as identified by this blog).  Interested in finding such a city? Go to the search box at the top of the page (right side) and type in your state and see what pops up. There are 700 blogs at this site and several thousand photos representing 32 states. That’s a  lot of places!

And what about Ann Arbor? Well, thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, we have a gaggle of photos from that city highlighting the many kit homes. One recommendation: You might want to don a sweater before gazing upon these pictures. Just looking at all those snow-covered houses gives me the shivers!

Thanks to Andrew and Wendy for supplying all these wonderful pictures of kit homes in Ann Arbor.

Did you know that there’s a “Sears Home Group” on Facebook? Join us!

To learn more about Wardway, click here.

Interested in Sears kit homes? Click here.

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The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Barrington, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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And heres a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

And here's a beautiful example in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Notice the bracketing for the flower boxes (2nd floor window) is still in place. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but theyre different houses. Do you see the difference between the two?

The Brookwood is similar to the Barrington but they have a few minor differences. Do you see the difference between the two? The Brookwood is smaller, and has two living room windows (and the Barrington has three). For a time, I'd get these two confused, and then it dawned on me that "Brookwood" has two syllables and two windows! Barrington has three! This is from the 1933 catalog.

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And heres

And here's a fine-looking Brookwood in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

The Sears Dover was an immensely popular house and easy to identify, thanks to its many unique features (1928).

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Heres a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor.

Here's a picture-perfect Dover in Ann Arbor. You may notice it has two windows down the left side, where the catalog has three. This was a very common alteration. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another beautiful Dover.

Another beautiful Dover in Ann Arbor. However, this house looks really cold. The extra snow shovels on the porch are part of that "chilly look" I suppose. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

The Crescent was probably one of the top ten most popular designs that Sears offered (1928).

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house

Not only does it have the original windows, but it has the original wooden storm windows too, and even the half-round gutters are true to 1928. Are these original or just high-quality replacements? Tough to know, but they sure do look good. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rembrandt was one of their finer homes.

The Rembrandt, a classic Dutch Colonial, was one of their finer homes.

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Another perfect match. How cool is that?!

Another perfect match. Note that the windows on the 2nd floor are centered over those paired windows on the first floor. This single detail can help figure out - is it a Sears Rembrandt, or just another pretty Dutch Colonial? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

The Sears Puritan was a diminuitive version of the Rembrandt (1925).

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Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if its a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows.

Like the Rembrandt, you can study the position of the windows to figure out if it's a Puritan or something else. The 2nd floor windows on the Puritan are NOT aligned with the first floor windows. Study this single detail, and it will help you easily differentiate the Puritan from the look-alikes. As with all these houses, also pay attention the chimney placement. Remodelings come and go, but chimneys don't move. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

Another hugely popular house was the Sears Westly (1919).

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Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor.

Pretty, pretty Westly in Ann Arbor. Still has its original railings. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

The Rodessa was a cute little bungalow and very popular! (1925)

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And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition!

And this Rodessa is in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Hathaway was another popular house (1928).

The Hathaway was another popular house (1928), and distinctive enough that it's easy to identify. Just look at all those clipped gables!

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Ann

Anther very fine match. Sadly, this house has been hit with some permastone (front first floor), but other than that, it's a dandy! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another fine match

Another fine little Hathaway in Ann Arbor. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ann Arbor

I wonder if the Realtor knows it's a Sears kit house? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these houses don't realize what they have. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Conway, as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Conway (also known as "Uriel"), as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor!

Another snow-covered example in Ann Arbor! Notice the original bracketing under the oversized front gable, and that "phantom" brick pillar on the far right. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As seen in the 1928 catalog, The Ashland.

As seen in the 1928 catalog, "The Ashland."

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Ash

Where's a good chainsaw when you need one? Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing.

As mentioned, in addition to Sears, Ann Arbor also has kit homes from other companies, including Gordon Van Tine/Montgomery Ward, and Lewis Manufacturing. Shown above is one of GVT's biggest and bet kit homes, "The #711." Quite a house!

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And what a fine 711 it is!

And what a fine 711 it is! By the way, this was a huge house, measuring 48' wide and 30' deep, giving a total of 2,880 square feet. I have to double check, but I believe this was the largest kit home that was offered by Gordon Van Tine, and size-wise, it's the same as the Sears Magnolia (also 2,880 square feet). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all of the orders for Montgomery Ward (Wardway), and their catalogs were nearly identical. Wardway had a few designs not seen in the GVT catalog, and GVT had a few not found in the Wardway catalog. Shown above is the Wardway Laurel, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

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Wlak

That offset front porch is a distinctive feature of the Wardway Laurel. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Laurel as seen from the other side.

The Laurel as seen from the other side. That small side porch is original to the house, and surprisingly - in still open (as when built). Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

The Devonshire was one of those kit homes that was offered in the Wardway catalog, but not in the Gordon Van Tine catalog. It was on the cover of the 1931 (which was the last) Wardway catalog.

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I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog.

I just love that the Devonshire in Ann Arbor is painted the same colors as the house on the cover of the 1931 catalog. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

The Cranford was another house offered only in the Wardway catalog (1927).

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I surely do love a house dressed up in pink.

I surely do love a house dressed up in pink. I really do. This Cranford is (like so many of the houses in Ann Arbor) in largely original condition. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

The Kenwood, as seen in the 1929 Wardway catalog. As with the Cranford and the Devonshire, the Kenwood was exclusively a Wardway home (milled, manufactured and shipped by Gordon Van Tine).

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Is this a Wardway Kenwood? />

Is this a Wardway Kenwood? Most likely it is, but the inset door is not a spot-on match. However, this house has had a substitute siding installed, and the door may have been squared off to accommodate the replacement siding. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Perhaps Wardways most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

Perhaps Wardway's most popular house, the Priscilla was pretty and practical (1929).

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Crescent

And here's a fine example of the pretty, pretty Priscilla! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so its not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

Last but not least is Lewis Manufacturing. They were based in Bay City, so it's not surprising to find a kit home from Lewis there in Ann Arbor. The Marlboro was a very popular house for them, and for good reason. It was a real beauty, and a big house!

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Ann Arbors very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesnt it?

Ann Arbor's very own Marlboro. Sounds a bit poetic, doesn't it? The offset front door and the tiny closet window beside it are classic defining features of the Marlboro. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

That little closet window is still in place, but it's been partially closed up. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward, and she can be a great help when were out hunting for kit homes.

Teddy loves learning about kit homes. She spends much of her spare time reading "The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward," and thanks to her tireless studying, she can be a great help when we're out hunting for kit homes. She's not called "Teddy the Wonder Dog" for nothing!

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To order your own copy of the “The Mail Order Homes of Montgomery Ward” click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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The Crescent: “For Folks Who Like a Touch of Individuality”

January 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

The Crescent was a very popular kit house for Sears, and I’d venture to guess that it was one of their top ten most popular designs.

It was offered in two floorplans (Mama-sized and Papa-sized) and with an optional extra-high roof (Grandpapa sized).

Because of this, Crescents can be found in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the pitch of the porch roof was changed to be more proportionate to the primary roof. Today, this results in all manner of confusion about whether or not a Crescent is the real deal.

Below are several examples of Sears Crescents from all over the country.

House 1

Sears Crescent, as seen in the 1929 Modern Homes catalog.

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House 2

"Interior Views" of the Crescent (1929).

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kitchen 1929

Close-up of the Crescent's kitchen (1929).

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LR 1929

Nice looking living room, too!

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Bed

The bedrooms weren't' this big but why let details get in the way of a nice story?

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The Crescent was offered with two floorplans.

The Crescent was offered with two floorplans, C33258A (shown here).

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And this

And this C3259A (the larger floorplan). Note it has THREE columns on the front porch.

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Adding a dormer to the optional finished second floor would have created a lot more space.

Adding a couple dormers (on the front) to the optional "finished" second floor would have created a lot more space. The finished second floor was only offered with the smaller Crescent. But that does not mean that someone couldn't finish off the 2nd floor on their own!

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Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn (Illinois) has a Crescent with three dormer windows.

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Ypsilanti Andrew Mutch

This dormered Crescent is in Ypsilanti. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ypsilanti Andrew Mutch

In Ypsilanti, they like their Crescents with dormers! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Godfrey

A sad little Crescent waits for death in Godfrey, IL. Again, note the unique angle of the porch roof. This has also been authenticated as a Sears Home.

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Raleigh

A picture-perfect Crescent in Raleigh. The dormers were original to the house.

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West Point

Some Crescents have very steep porch roofs and some have very shallow. This Crescent in West Point has been authenticated by Rose as the real deal.

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Atlanta Crescent

This Crescent look-a-like is in Atlanta. I suspect it is NOT a Crescent.

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Crescent Wheaton

A Sears Crescent in Wheaton, IL.

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Eastern Shore MD

Hubby and I found this Crescent on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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Elmhurst IL

Is this a Sears Crescent? It's in Elmhurst IL.

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Crescent Elgin

This poor Crescent in Elgin, IL has had a hurting put on it. Rebecca Hunter has authenticated this house as a Sears Crescent.

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Elgin

It's been remodeled, but you can still see it's a Crescent. (Elgin, Illinois)

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Elgins also

This Crescent is also in Elgin, IL.

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Elgins also

Elgin Illinois has the largest known collection of Sears Homes in the country. They have a lot of Sears Crescents, too!

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Crystal Lake

Not surprisingly, the Chicago suburbs are full of Sears Homes. This one is in Crystal Lake.

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Champaign

Another beautiful Crescent. This one is in Champaign, IL.

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house Charlotte

I stalked this house for 30 solid minutes, but the young woman on the porch never did hang up the phone, so in desperation, I snapped a photo of the house, phone caller and all. This beauty is in Charlotte, NC.

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Chharlotte

A perfect Crescent in Charlotte, NC.

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Bloomginton

This Crescent also has the less-steep pitch on the porch roof, but it's most likely a Sears Crescent. Notice the medallion inside the front porch (on the wall).

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Bloomington

This photo was taken in 2003 (and it was scanned from an old slide) and it's in Bloomington, IL.

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Wood Riiver

Is this a Crescent? The pitch of the porch roof is much less than that of the traditional porch roof in other Crescents, but I'd be inclined to say it probably is a Crescent. This house is in Wood River, Illinois.

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Alton

This Crescent has a dramatically raised second floor. To compensate for the extra steep pitch of the roof, the porch roof was also raised a bit. This beauty is in Alton, Illinois.

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Ypsilanti

Yet another dormered Crescent is in Ypsilanti. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And one of my favorites: A beautiul and well-loved Crescent in Webster Groves, MO (near St. Louis).

A beautiful and well-loved Crescent in Webster Groves, MO (near St. Louis). Again, look at the variation on the pitch of that porch roof, and yet this is an authenticated Sears Home.

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house Wilmette, IL Rebecca

Now this house has some dormers! It's in Illinois, and was discovered by Rebecca Hunter. Photo is copyright 2013 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Crescent was a perennial favorite aand was offered from 1919 to 1933.

The Crescent was a perennial favorite and was offered from 1919 to 1933. It's shown here in the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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

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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado (Part II)

December 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about the Sears Avondale in Greeley, Colorado. When that blog was posted, I had nothing more than vintage photos of this house, built by Winfred H. Senier.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums of the Greeley Preservation Historic Office, I now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier’s fine old Avondale (shown below).

Take a look at the original vintage photo below from the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. If you look closely, you’ll see Winfred’s wife (May) sitting on the front porch and old Winfred on the porch wall.

To read the prior blog, click here.

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

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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Sharon Dunn (reporter for the Greeley Tribune) forwarded me Winfred's obit, which showed that Mr. Senier raised Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. Above is a photo of Winfred and May, and two of their dogs (about 1910 or 1911).

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Is this a Shire horse?

Is this a Shire horse? Or is this just "Pumpkin" the friendly horse who helped build the house?

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Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. In 1919, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home, and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see tha

Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. Years after the house was built, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home (with mature landscaping), and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see that the vegetation has grown up a bit! And there's Winfred and May on the front porch (still).

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1910

The Sears Avondale was first offered in the 1909 Sears Modern Homes catalog. When was Mr. Senier's house built? Well, most likely it was between 1909 - 1911. I'd love to know for sure.

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Avondale was a heck of a house

The Avondale was one of Sears nicer homes. It was spacious and fancy. The house in Greeley is probably one of the first Avondales built in the country.

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Floorplan

Look at the dimensions of the living and dining rooms. It was a very spacious house.

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Showed up at the fair in 1911

In this colorized card, you can see the stained-glass windows on the house. There are four. Two flanking the fireplace and two on the home's front.

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Interior

Another postcard shows the interior of the Sears Avondale.

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Thanks to Betsy Kellam, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Seniers Avondale.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier's Avondale. Still looks a little lonely out there in Greeley. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Its still standing but needs a smidge of paint.

It's still standing but needs a smidge of paint. Given the fact that's it's 100 years old, it's in remarkably good condition. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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If you look at the roof lines and thee porch, you can see that the house is still square and straight and true. Mr. Senier and Sears did a fine job with this house. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mr. Senier died 67 years ago, but the house that he built for his family lives on. What a remarkable testimony to the quality of Sears kit homes. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone.

Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Thanks to Sharon Dunn (Greeley Tribune) for sending me Mr. Senier’s obituary. If you have any interest in Colorado history, this obit is a fascinating read. Mr. Senier was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, two original Greeley pioneers. Winifred Senier (the Avondale builder) had only one child (a daughter), but apparently his one daughter had eight children, all of whom lived in Greeley.

W. H. Senier Dies Thursday (December 4, 1945).


Winfred Howell Senier, who for 35 years operated a stock farm east of Greeley, died early Tuesday morning at the Weld County hospital after an illness of a year and a half. He had been a patient at the hospital only a few days.

He was 73 years old. Mr. Senier was a breeder of Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, Greeley pioneers, his mother being Eva Camp, daughter of a Union Colony member.

Mr. Senier was born in Covington, Ga., and came to Greeley with his parents when he was six years old.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. May Porter Senier, and one son, Archie Camp Senier, eight grand-children and one great grandchild, Richard Glen Senier.

His grand-children are Pfc. Winfred E. Senier of Fort Lewis, Wash.; Pfc. Robert John Senier of Lamar; ARM 1/c Woodrow E. Senier of Bakersfield, Calif.; WT 1/c William A. Senior [sic] awaiting discharge from the army following overseas duty; Gloria May, June Alice, Buddy and Doral Senier, all of Greeley.

One sister, Mrs. Jeanette Noxon of Greeley, also survives.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker for their indefatiguable efforts in researching this house in Greeley, and thanks to Betsy Kellums for the wonderful photos!

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To read more about the house in Greeley, click here.

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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado

December 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

Updated! To see the newest blog with contemporary photos of this house, click here!!

More than a year ago, I posted a blog about a Sears Avondale/Hawthorne in Greeley, Colorado.

Since then, several folks have left comments, and thanks to their efforts, the house has been found.  :)

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, Sears offered 370 models but the Avondale/Hawthorne was one of the fancier homes.

To read the original blog, click here.

Text continues below the pictures.

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Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying this photo. It originally appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I erroneously identified a house in McHenry Illinois as the house in Greeley.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying this photo. It originally appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. In an earlier blog, I erroneously identified the house in McHenry Illinois as the house in Greeley. This is the correct photo (as you can see in the caption). Best of all, it shows Mr. Senier's wife, horse and two dogs. Digging through old census records, Rachel also discovered that the husband's name is Winfred and the wife's name is May. Rachel was not able to discern the name of the horse and dogs. Let's call them "Teddy" and "Freddy" (dogs) and "Pumpkin" (horsie). Actually, I'm not sure if that's Winfred sitting on the rail. Whomever it is seems to be wearing a bowler hat.

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Is the house in Greeley an Avondale or a Hawthorne? Rachel Shoemaker pointed out that its a Hawthorne, and she is right.

Mr. Senier and family built the Avondale in Greeley. Not a bad house for $2,176.

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The Hawthorne, as seen in 1916.

The Hawthorne, as seen in 1916. This was very similar to the Avondale, but the Hawthorne had a second floor and the side walls were higher (creating more space upstairs).

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The comments that followed the original blog have been hugely helpful, so I’m reprinting them here.

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Rachel

Rachel is an indefatigable researcher.

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And Rachel is right. I had the houses in Greeley, CO and Illinois mixed up.

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And then the intrepid researchers found info on that Greeley House.

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And then around the 5th, Mark (who also left a comment on December 5th) sent me this email:

I found a page that mentions the Senior name on a map from 1915. There is a plot of land on the map that is just outside of Greeley in the area around the Greeley / Weld county airport. I think the map calls it Camp Senier.

Maybe this is the area the house is in if it still exist. If it’s not there then maybe its somewhere between the camp and the rail line to the west.

Using Google Maps, Mark ultimately found Milford Howell Senier’s “Avondale” at about 120 East 4th Street Road in Greeley.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Mark for finding this old Avondale. What an impressive bunch of research!!!

Now I need some photos of this wonderful house in Greeley!  :)

If you’re in the area and can get a photo, please leave me a comment below!

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Destroyed. For No Good Reason.

August 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 12 comments

It’s gone.

The historically significant Pop Culture Building at Bowling Green State University has been torn down.

The behavior of the administration in this sorry affair (and their lack of response to a groundswell of support to save the house) has been abysmal and inexcusable.

It’s my hope and prayer than anyone who loves old houses and American history will not provide another dollar of financial support to this “institute of higher learning.”

If you’re already on the BGSU donations list, call the Alumni Center and ask to be permanently removed from the “Donation Call List.” It’d be wise to explain (briefly) why you wish to be removed. The phone number is 888-839-2586.

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BGSU should adopt a new school motto: “Destroying our history: One piece at a time.”

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Photo is copyright

Based on research done by Rachel Shoemaker, we've learned that it took Virgil Taylor about four months to turn his 12,000 pieces of kit house into a home (in 1931/32). This solid, sturdy, well-built and well-maintained home couldn't offer much resistance to the heavy equipment. With this single act, BGSU has destroyed a significant piece of their history. Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Despite an outpouring of support from faculty and staff at BGSU and folks throughout the community and throughout the country, the "powers that be" at BGSU destroyed this iconic piece of American history. Photo is copyright 2012 Allan Shillingburg and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A petition with 2,100+ signatures was presented to college president Mary Ellen Mazey, urging her to consider alternatives to the destruction of this unique Montgomery Ward kit home. This is the result. Photo is copyright 2012 Allan Shillingburg and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Im too disgusted to be eloquent.

I'm too disgusted to be eloquent.

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Do You Know the Way To San Jose?

April 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Of the 370 models that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business, I’d guesstimate that the same 60 models were built about 90% of the time. Of those 370 models, there are about 80 models of Sears Homes that neither Rebecca Hunter nor I have never seen. We can’t help but wonder if some of these “super rare” models were ever built - anywhere!

One of the rarest of the Sears kit homes is the Sears San Jose. It’s billed as a “Spanish Bungalow,” and it does look like it’d be right at home in California.

Rebecca Hunter found a beautiful example of a San Jose in Blue Island, Illinois (near Chicago). It’s in pristine condition and looks much like it did when ordered out of the Sears Roebuck catalog in 1928.

To read about Rebecca’s new book, click here.

To read about Rose’s latest book, lookie here.

San Jose, from the 1928 catalog.

San Jose, from the 1928 catalog.

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Nice floorplan

Little bit different floorplan from the traditional Sears House.

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The San Joses had the double-arched tower with a cute little gated window at the top, and a garden entry coming off the side of the house. It was a cutie!

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Rebecca Hunter found this San Jose in Blue Island, Illinois.

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Rebeccas photo

Side-by-side comparison of the catalog image and the house in Illinois. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about Rebecca’s newest book, click here

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Beautiful beautifl

Close-up of the tower and little window. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter and my not be used or reproduced without permission.

To learn more about Rebecca Hunter, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Sears Newcastle: A Fine Little Colonial

April 18th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Post-1930s Sears Homes aren’t too common, and the Sears Newcastle wasn’t offered until the 1930s.

And yet, it seems to have been one of their more popular post-1930 models. It was a classic center-hallway Colonial, and yet it was shockingly small, with just a smidge more than 1,200 square feet of living area and three small bedrooms upstairs.

Sears Newcastle, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

Sears Newcastle, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

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Look at the floorplan!

Look at the floorplan! The home's "foot print" was a mere 20' by 31' or about 620 square feet per floor. The dining room is 10' by 12' which seems quite small.

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The

The second floor has three small bedrooms. I've highlighted the windows on the side, as this can help identify the Sears Newcastle. Most Colonials have a pair of windows (spaced a few feet apart), but the Newcastle has a single window (or pair of windows) on this side.

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One of the distinctive features of the Sears Newcastle is the small niche atop the front door.

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Sears Newcastle as seen in the 1940 catalog.

Sears Newcastle as seen in the 1940 catalog.

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Sears Newcastle in Annapolis, MD.

Sears Newcastle in Annapolis, MD. Notice the lone window on the second floor (right).

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This Newcastle is in Geneva, Illinois.

This Newcastle is in Geneva, Illinois.

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Crummy picture (from an old slide) but this is a Newcastle in Sterling, Illinois.

Crummy picture (from an old slide) but this is a Newcastle in Sterling, Illinois.

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To learn more about Sears kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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