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Endless Entertainment - From an Old Vintage Catalog

June 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog has proven to be a source of endless entertainment for me. But then again, I’m pretty easily entertained. I’ve started scanning catalogs and ephemera so that it may be preserved and shared with a larger audience. And this website’s traffic is growing every day. In May, this site had more than 22,000 visitors.

Read the captions below to see what *I* see when I look at this 1921 catalog’s cover.

Pretty darn interesting!

The cover

The cover of the 1921 catalog is so interesting for so many reasons.

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people

We have the people showing up to look at the new house under construction.

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killer

Like the opening scenes of a low-budget horror flick, they have no idea that a massive elephant has surreptitiously blended into the landscaping behind them, and waits to pounce. Red arrow above is centered atop the forehead of the threatening beast.

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wow

"We just came from looking at those crappy little houses behind us," the man might be saying. "Over yonder is one of those little Sears kit homes." Pictured through this window is the Sears Ashmore, a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.

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rl

"That's right," says the woman who wears a hat with a flared brim and oversized bow." The kitchen in that crummy Elsmore right behind me was abysmal."

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Verona

The second man speaks up and says, "And that Verona was so blase! Who'd want to buy a cookie-cutter kit home when you can have something nice that you've designed yourself!"

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people

"Yes," the man with the blueprints says, "We looked at those three little boxes behind us, but we want to talk to you about this nice house that you're building here!"

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tools

But oh no! These people shouldn't be turning to this fellow for help and guidance! He doesn't even know how to build a carpenter's tool box! How could he possibly build an entire home!

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boar

The house isn't even roughed in yet, and the door isn't set, and yet he's putting in the lath board! Plus, there are several puddles with a strange yellow substance throughout the house. Icky!

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dude

And some of that yellow stuff is on the carpenter, too!

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house

And perhaps most interesting, the house featured on the cover is clearly not a Sears kit home. Sears never ever offered a house with these arched windows. So the homebuyers have turned their back on the three Sears Homes (behind them), and are talking to this fellow about a custom-built house. Pretty darn interesting. And this image shows a better view of that angry elephant in the background.

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And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured.

And yet, the back page of the catalog features an advertisement for Seroco Paint (first syllable of Sears, Roebuck and Company), and in that graphic, there are several Sears Homes featured. Top is the Sears Sherburne, and along the bottom are the Sears Roanoke (two left) and the Sears Matoka (two on the right).

To read another article on Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Why Is the Porch Ceiling Blue?

February 4th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Years ago, I was reading an early 20th Century book on house painting and there, amidst the many ads for “high quality, high lead” paints and “natural horse hair bristle brushes” was a little snippet on painting porch ceilings. “Sky Blue” was the preferred color for porch ceilings, the article said, because it was a known fact that mud daubers and wasps would not build a nest against a blue ceiling.

One hundred years ago, front porches were a big part of American culture and they became - in a way - auxiliary living rooms. Elderly folks have told me that when they were little kids and it was raining outside, their mom would send them out to the front porch to play - for the day!

The porch was a place for social gatherings, too. City sidewalks bustled with pedestrians moving to and fro, and front porches provided a window on the world and a place to chat with neighbors and catch up on the local happenings.

Front porches were comfortable, too. Before World War Two, air conditioning was something you found at a few movie theaters. In these pre-A/C days, front porches (and their fresh breezes) provided a little relief from the summer’s heat.

And all of that could be ruined by a few stings from an angry wasp.

One hundred years ago, homes were built intelligently and thoughtfully, and everything builders did had a good practical reason behind it, including using the color blue on porch ceilings.

To read about another brilliant idea from early 20th Century builders, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Thus far, no mud daubers or wasps have built a nest against my sky-blue porch ceiling on my newly painted home here in Norfolk.

Thus far, no mud daubers or wasps have built a nest against my sky-blue porch ceiling on my newly painted home here in Norfolk.

Old Sears Roebuck and Co. paint catalog. Note the name, Seroco. Its an abbreviation for Sears Roebuck Company. Clever, huh?

Old Sears Roebuck and Co. paint catalog. Note the name, "Seroco." It's an abbreviation for Sears Roebuck Company. Clever, huh?

To read more about Rose’s pretty pink house, click here.

To read more about Sears pretty non-pink houses, click here.

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All Things Vallonia, Part Deux

October 25th, 2010 Sears Homes 10 comments

The Sears Vallonia was easily one of Sears most popular designs.  It had a practical, thoughtful floor plan and it was an attractive design and offered a finished or unfinished second floor. Lots of expandable space for the not-so-expandable budget.

I’ll update this post with more information in the coming days, but for now, here are some photos.

Sears Vallonia from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Vallonia from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV. Even porch railings are original!

Sears Vallonia - compared  with the catalog image

Sears Vallonia - compared with the catalog image

Sears Vallonia in Charleston, WV

Sears Vallonia in Charleston, WV

Sears Vallonia in Cairo, Illinois.

Sears Vallonia in Cairo, Illinois. Yes, that is a Vallonia back there.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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All Things Vallonia

October 25th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

The Sears Vallonia was the classic Craftsman-style bungalow, with its lone gabled dormer sitting atop a side-gabled bungalow. It’s a cutie for sure and one of the most enduring designs that Sears offered. It was first offered in the mid-1910s and also appeared in the final Sears Modern Homes catalog in 1940.

Through the years, it changed a bit. Here’s a picture from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog. Note how the dormer is small and has only two diminutive windows.

There’s a wonderful Sears Vallonia in Springfield, Illinois - right next to the Amtrak train tracks! If anyone knows the address, please leave a comment below!

Click here to read All Things Vallonia, Part II.

Sears Vallonia from the 1916 catalog.

Sears Vallonia from the 1921 catalog.

In 1922, the Sears Vallonia changed its appearance a bit. The dormer now has three casement windows. The Vallonia maintained this look with few changes for the next 18 years.

Sears Vallonia as shown in the 1922 catalog

Sears Vallonia as shown in the 1920s

What year

The Vallonia also showed up in an early 1920s SEROCO paint catalog - and in color! Seroco was Sears own brand: SEars RObuck Company. Cute, huh?

Sears

Close-up of the Sears Vallonia

A perfect - and I mean PERFECT - Sears Vallonia in Columbia, Illinois.

A perfect - and I mean PERFECT - Sears Vallonia in Columbia, Illinois.

Sears Vallonia in Greenville, IL

Another perfect Sears Vallonia in Greenville, IL

Sears Vallonia in Aurora, Illinois

Sears Vallonia in Aurora, Illinois

And heres a perfect Vallonia in Grafton, Illinois.

And another fine-looking Vallonia in Grafton, Illinois.

Vintage photo (circa 1920s) of newly completed Sears Vallonia in Illinois

Vintage photo (circa 1920s) of newly completed Sears Vallonia in Illinois

Click here to read Part II of “All Things Vallonia.”

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Click here to read about the Sears Martha Washington.

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