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The Sears Homes of Suffolk (Virginia)

January 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

One of my favorite memories from childhood was riding with my father to Suffolk to visit the peanut vendors and inspect their product. My father was an assistant manager at Skippy Peanut Butter in Portsmouth, and also their purchasing agent.

Suffolk has always been one of my favorite places in Virginia.  And it’s also the largest city in Virginia, and the Peanut Capital of the World. Here in Hampton Roads, it’s our fastest-growing city, thanks to the low-crime rates and above-average schools.

Perhaps best of all, it has a significant collection of kit homes.

Sears kit homes were sold from 1908-1940. Sears and Roebuck was based in Chicago, but Sears Homes were sold in all 48 states. These 12,000-piece kits were shipped by boxcar, and came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house built and ready for occupancy in 90 days.

Here in Southeastern Virginia, we also have many kit homes from Aladdin. They were based in Bay City, Michigan, but Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906, and continued until 1981.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I would create a simple pamphlet showing these kit homes and their addresses (and a map) and offer them to visitors as a self-guided driving tour. I’d also put a little plaque on the homes, identifying them as kit homes. This is a very nice collection of kit homes in Suffolk, and something should be done to promote them.

All of the houses shown below are located in Suffolk.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To see a Sears Home in Urbana with a little plaque, click here.

Sears Osborn, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Osborn, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Sears

There are a lot of trees and bushes in Suffolk, which made it difficult to get good photographs. Here's a Sears Osborn in an older section of Suffolk. Note the details around the brickwork.

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Sears

The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears. This is from the 1916 catalog. The floorplan shows a fireplace in the corner of the dining room, which is an unusual feature in a Sears House!

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Close-up of the Sears Westly

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SHEHE

This Westly is happy, and feels very good about life. It's a good match to the original catalog image, and even though it's been "updated," the work was thoughtfully done.

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Putting wrought iron on an old house is not a good idea.

Putting wrought iron on an old house is not a good idea. Plus, they removed the porch deck. And the columns. And the eaves. And the unique trim. And the personality.

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The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes.

The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and fanciest homes.

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Crummy photo due to poor lighting, but you can it is a Glenn Falls.

Crummy photo due to poor lighting, but you can it is a Glenn Falls, in brick!

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Sears Elsmore was another very popular house for Sears.

Sears Elsmore was another very popular house for Sears.

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Its been through some changes, but its still an Elsmore.

It's been through some changes, but it's still an Elsmore. Note the nine/one windows, and also the original eave brackets. You can also see bits of those unique columns on the front porch.

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As mentioned, in addition to Sears, there as also a mail-order company called Aladdin. This is an Aladdin Colonial, which was Aladdins biggest and fanciest house.

As mentioned, in addition to Sears, there as also a mail-order company called Aladdin. This is an Aladdin Colonial, which was Aladdin's biggest and fanciest house.

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This is a real beauty, and its right there in Suffolk!

This is a real beauty, and it's right there in Suffolk!

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The Aladdin Lamberton, from the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Lamberton, from the 1919 catalog.

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Its been converted into a duplex, but its still a Lamberton.

It's been converted into a duplex, and remuddled a bit. Is this a Lamberton? I'd say - with 90% certainty - that it is. Because of the many changes, it's hard to be sure. Look at the front porch roof. That's still a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

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And theres also a Harris Brothers house in Suffolk. Harris Brothers was a small kit home company based in Chicago.

And there's also a Harris Brothers house in Suffolk. Harris Brothers was a small kit home company based in Chicago.

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Suffolk

Again - the trees. Sigh. However, you can see (even with a tree in the way) that this is a perfect match to the Harris Brother house (shown above).

Last is this house from Gordon Van Tine. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and there are several GVT houses here in Hampton Roads.

Last is this house from Gordon Van Tine. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and there are several GVT houses here in Hampton Roads.

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Its been through some changes, but its a GVT #501.

It's been through some changes, but it's still easy to see that it's a GVT #501.

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When youre trying to identify Sears Homes, you should look for this mark on the lumber.

When you're trying to identify Sears Homes, you should look for this mark on the lumber. This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, helped the novice homebuilder put together these homes.

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Aladdin used a different marking system on their lumber, such as this.

Aladdin used a different marking system on their lumber, such as this.

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If you’d like to learn more about the kit homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

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