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Posts Tagged ‘the alhambra’

Alhambra Abuse

May 14th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

The Alhambra was a fine-looking Spanish-flavored bungalow, and a very popular model for Sears.

However…

In my travels, I’ve seen these little pretties subjected to all manner of abuse.

The most egregious abuse is typically inflicted by vinyl-siding peddlers, those plastic-pushing pernicious parasites who roam the country, seeking whom they may devour with their polyvinyl chloride products of pestilence.

Not that I have strong feelings about this, mind you.

Several years ago, a vinyl-siding salesman appeared at the door of my 1925 Colonial Revival home, asking me if I was getting tired of painting the old cypress clapboards. He said he had a product that would make my house “maintenance free,” and asked if I’d like an estimate.

“Mister,” I said in a low growl, “You just need to back away very slowly, for BOTH of our sakes. Now just be on your way, and don’t ever EVER come back.”

I never did see him again. And that’s a good thing.

When applied to older homes, vinyl siding is very damaging to old houses, and can trap moisture between interior and exterior walls, causing mold, mildew, bug infestation and eventually wood rot.

In “The Vinyl Lie” (an article that can be found here),  Architectural Conservator Gary Kleier writes,

During the installation of vinyl siding a layer of styrene insulation board is applied over the wood siding, and the vinyl siding is applied to that. This insulation board forms an effective barrier to the passage of water vapor, thereby trapping it within the wall. During the winter months this water vapor will condense to liquid water and began rotting the wood materials. Over a period of years the structural integrity of the exterior walls can be completely destroyed. Further, the presence of deteriorating wood has been shown to attract termites and other wood attacking insects.

Gary specializes in restoration architecture and architectural forensic service. You can visit his website here.

To read some VERY well-done articles on the damage of substitute siding on older homes, click here.

Or read the full text of Gary’s article here.

To see a WONDERFUL documentary on the damage that vinyl causes, click here.

Click here to see some pretty Alhambras!

If you’d like to spend several days reading articles on how much damage vinyl siding does to an older home, google the words, “benefits of removing vinyl” plus “historic home.”

If you’d like to see what happens to the curb appeal of houses with vinyl siding, scroll on down.

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The Alhambra

The Alhambra, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Its unique floorplan makes it easy to identify!

It's unique floorplan makes it easy to identify!

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Lets start by showing a VERY pretty Alhambra (in Gaffney, SC).

Let's start by showing a VERY pretty Alhambra (in Gaffney, SC). What a fine-looking house!

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Oh man.

Oh man. that's really, really bad. And this time, it wasn't the vinyl siding salesman that ruined the home's original beauty. No, this house was attacked by an older version of the VSS. This house was attacked by a real ASS! (Aluminum Siding Salesman). Location: Ohio.

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Eek.

Somewhere in Ohio, an Alhambra is missing its identify.

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Ouch. Again.

Ouch. Again. By enclosing the front porch, they made those distinctive front windows disappear. They're still visible inside the house. Can this house be restored to its original appearance? Yes, but it'd be a whole lot of work. Location: Wisconsin.

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Yikes.

Substitute sidings wreak havoc on historic homes. Location: Michigan.

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Somewhere in Washington, DC, an architect has lost his mind.

Somewhere in Washington, DC, an architect has lost his mind. Yes Virginia, this is a Sears Alhambra. Or was. Gosh, I'm sure this house is MUCH more valuable now!!! NOT.

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And lets close on a happy note. One of my Top Ten All-Time Favorite Alhambras. This beauty is in Lexington, VA.

And let's close on a happy note. One of my Top Ten All-Time Favorite Alhambras. This beauty is in Lexington, VA. Notice the fan light over the door! And it still has its original downspouts. Beautiful!

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To read more about Alhambras, click here.

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Sometimes, They’re Hiding Right By Your Biscuits…

April 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Having lived in Norfolk for seven years now, I have scoured every street in this city, searching for mail-order kit homes. I’ve ridden around with several friends, studied maps, queried long-time residents and harangued my husband and I was quite certain that I’d seen every early 20th Century neighborhood that Norfolk had to offer.

Wednesday night, my buddy Milton and I were on our way to CERT class, and we swung by Church’s Fried Chicken to buy some of their world-famous honey biscuits. For reasons I can’t explain, an integral part of the CERT class is a pot-luck supper. (We’re  expected to bring a piquant and palatable platter of something wonderful to these weekly classes.)

As we pulled out onto Virginia Beach Blvd, I noticed a lovely Dutch Colonial staring back at me.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “That Dutchie has an interior chimney,  just like the Martha Washington (Sears Home). Isn’t that something?”

And then I noticed that it had the curved porch roof, just like the Martha Washington.

And then I looked again and thought, “And it’s got those short windows centered on the second floor, just like the Martha Washington.”

Next, I looked at the small attic window and thought, “And it’s got that half-round window in the attic, just like the Martha Washington.”

As Milton drove down the road, I twisted my head around and saw that the Dutchie had the two distinctive bay windows on the side, just like the Martha Washington. Those two windows are an unusual architecture feature, and that was the clincher.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I told Milton. “I think that’s a Sears House.”

Now anyone who’s hung around me for more than 73 minutes knows that I’m a pretty big fan of Sears Homes, and my friends understand that a significant risk of riding around with Rose is that there will be many detours when we pass by early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Milton gladly obliged and gave me an opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this Dapper Dutchie.

That night at the CERT meeting, I kept thinking about the fact that one of the most spacious and fanciest Sears Homes ever offered was sitting right here in Norfolk, and after seven years of living in this city, I just now found it.

The next day, Milton picked me up around 11:00 am and we returned to the Sears Martha Washington so that I could take a multitude of photos. Sadly, as we drove through the adjoining neighborhoods, we saw that the nearby college (Norfolk State) had apparently swallowed up great gobs of surrounding bungalows.

Between that and some very aggressive redevelopment, it appears that hundreds of early 20th Century homes are now just a dusty memory at the local landfill.

Do the owners of this Martha Washington know what they have? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

What a find! What a treasure! And it’s right here in Norfolk!

So is there a Magnolia hiding somewhere nearby?  :)

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn how to identify marked lumber, click here.

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The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house.

The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house. According to this page from the 1921 catalog, it had seven modern rooms. I wonder how many "old-fashioned" rooms it had?

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According to this

Here's a Martha Washington that was featured in the back pages of the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This house was built in Washington, DC, and shows the house shortly after it was finished.

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This line drawning from the 1921 catalog shows the

This line drawing from the 1921 catalog shows those two bay windows on the side.

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This was described as a snowy white kitchen de Lux.

This was described as a "snowy white kitchen de Lux." For its time, this really was a very modern kitchen. Notice the "good morning stairs" too the right, and the handy little stool under the sink. According to a 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the "average woman spends 3/4ths of her day in the kitchen." So maybe that's why she got a hard metal stool to sit on at the sink?

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Oh may

"Judge for yourself how attractive, bright and sanitary we have made this home for the housewife." And a "swinging seat"! I guess that's a desperate attempt to make kitchen work seem more recreational, and less like drudge work.

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CheckAn “exploded view” shows the home’s interior. That baby-grand piano looks mighty small!

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Second

Check out that bathtub on the rear of the house. And that's a sleeping porch in the upper right. Again, that furniture looks mighty small.

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As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

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Be still my quiveringg heart!

Be still my quivering heart! And it's right on Virginia Beach Boulevard!

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A view from the side.

A view from the side, showing off those bay windows.

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The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light),

The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light), and the badly crimped aluminum trim on that porch roof doesn't look too good, and the wrought-iron is a disappointment, but (and this is a big but), at least it's still standing.

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Before

The porch, in its pre-aluminum siding salesmen and pre-wrought-iron and pre-PVC state.

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compare

A comparison of the Martha Washington in DC with the house in Norfolk!

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And heres a Martha Washington in Cincinnatti, Ohio.

And here's a Martha Washington in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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To learn more about the Martha Washington, click here.

To learn more about biscuits, click here.

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The Martha Washington: A Vision of Hospitality

May 11th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

There’s something about a Dutch Colonial that just makes me swoon, and the Martha Washington is a fine example of the Dutch Colonial design.

And it was spacious, too. Sans optional sunporch, the Martha Washington was about 1,800 square feet, with four good-sized bedrooms upstairs. Unlike so many early 20th Century homes, the Martha Washington also had an abundance of closet space.

As the text in the catalog page said, “The view to the visitor or passerby presents a vision of hospitality.”

An interesting bit of trivia: The Martha Washington has the same floor plan as the Sears Alhambra, with two small differences. The Martha Washington doesn’t have the box window on the front (as does the Alhambra) and the Alhambra is smaller. The Martha Washington is 28′ by 32′ and the Alhambra is 28′ by 28′.

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

To see more pictures of pretty kit homes, click here.

Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Honor Bilt "Martha Washington," as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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This testimonial appeared in the 1924 Sears catalog.

Mr. Brewood was darn happy with his Sears House in DC! (1924 Sears catalog).

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A side view of the Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

As seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Houseie

This Martha Washington in Lombard, IL has its original windows and STORM windows!

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How appropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia!  (Bedford, to be precise.)

How apropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia! (Bedford, to be precise.)

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Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition.  And it looks happy, too!  Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reprorduced without written permission.

Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition. The red door and green roof are nice complements. And the house *looks* happy, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Cincinnatti

Every Martha should have a flag flying in front of it! This beauty is in Cincinnati Ohio.

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Martha meets Maggy!  The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington was BUILT with these super-sized columns.

Martha meets Maggy! The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington (in Chicago area) was BUILT with these super-sized columns. And look - another flag!

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Floorplan

The Martha Washington (shown here) and the Alhambra (shown below) had the same floor plan, with two minor differences: The Alhambra had a box window on the front and the Martha Washington was four feet wider than the Alhambra.

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floorplan

Alhambra's floor plan.

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The kitchen!

And the kitchen was "the last word in convenience and sanitary comfort"!!

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houseie

The Martha Washington.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

See more pictures of fine-looking old houses by clicking here.

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The Sears Alhambra: A Spanish-Flavored Foursquare

January 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

The Sears Alhambra was a classic foursquare with a splash of mission style added for good measure.

Here in Hampton Roads, I’ve found 10 Alhambras, which really is a testimony to the popularity of this Sears kit home. In Ohio, there are probably hundreds. (Ohio seems to have a whole lot of Sears Homes in general and Alhambras in particular.)

Click here to see even more photos of America’s Alhambras.

Click here to see the blog titled, “Alhambra Abuse.”  (Warning: It’s not pretty.)

yep

This appeared on page 2 of the Sears Building Materials catalog (1921)

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Close-up of the letter written by A. C. Goodall.

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Alhambra

The beautiful Alhambra - as seen in the 1921 Building Materials catalog.

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Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town)

Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (my home town). This house is in the 1500-block of County Street, and it's surrounded by blocks and blocks of empty lots, razed during a redevelopment period in Portsmouth's history. I can't help but wonder - how many Sears kit homes now sit in the Suffolk landfill from this neighborhood?

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Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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One of the most beautiful Alhambras even seen in captivity! This is in Peotone, IL and the photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

One of the most beautiful Alhambras even seen in captivity! This is in Peotone, IL and the photo is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A real beauty in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

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Another beautiful Alhambra in Nebraska. This photo is copyright 2010 Nathan Sonnenchein, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Another beautiful Alhambra in Nebraska. This photo is copyright 2010 Nathan Sonnenchein, and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Like its Virginia cousin, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

Like its cousin in Portsmouth, this Alhambra is also painted a light yellow. This pretty house is in Lexington, Virginia.

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Another vote for the beige pant job!  This perfect Alhambra is in Raleigh.

Beige seems to be a favorite color for the Alhambra. This is in Raleigh.

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We have four of these houses in Ghent (Norfolk). Im confident that theyre Alhambras - and the floorplan is a spot-on match - but the spanish extras are not there.

We have four of these houses in West Ghent (Norfolk). I'm confident that they're Alhambras - and the floorplan is a spot-on match - but the spanish extras are not there.

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Another view of the house in West Ghent. You can see its got the two bay windows on the side - just like a real Alhambra!

Another view of the house in West Ghent. You can see it's got the two bay windows on the side - just like a real Alhambra!

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And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

There are four of these "plain-Jane Alhambras" in Norfolk. Three are in West Ghent (shown above) and this one is in Ocean View (Norfolk). Note, it's a little different from the three in West Ghent, as it has the porch (covered and open) that matches the traditional Alhambra.

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This Alhambra has also had some of its unique architectural elements stripped away, but you can still see its an Alhambra!

This Alhambra has also has also lost some of its unique architectural elements, but you can still see it's an Alhambra! This is in Lynchburg, VA.

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Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney, SC. My favorite color: Lavender!

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Sears Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock area)

Alhambra in Portsmouth, Virginia (Cradock). I discovered this Alhambra when an elderly gent attended my lecture in Port Norfolk (Portsmouth). We had four people show up for that lecture, so I was mighty glad when he and his wife appeared, and increased the audience size by 50%! After the talk, he invited me to see this Alhambra, and he had the original blue prints!

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Alhambra Interiors - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

Alhambra Interiors - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Close-up of the Alhambra Living Room

Close-up of the Alhambra Living Room.

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And the dining room.

And check out that chandelier in the dining room.

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A matching Alhambra garage was offered in the late 1910s!

A matching "Alhambra" garage was offered in the late 1910s!

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To see more pictures of Sears Alhambras, visit All Things Alhambra, part 2.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Martha Washington: Honor Bilt

October 27th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Before I had my own websites, I didn’t realize that you can track the ways that people are led to your website. For instance, today several people came to this site with the search terms “Martha Washington Sears House.”  These things come in waves. Last week, the hot term was “Sears Vallonia.”

I’m hoping those people will come back and read this blog, because before this, I didn’t have much posted on the Sears Honor Bilt home, “The Martha Washington.” This blog is fun follow-up to my eight books, but the fact is, writing and posting pictures is a little time intensive!

Plus, I have more than 30,000 photos. It might take me a little time to get all those photos posted here! And the fact is, I’m adding to those photos all the time!

Let’s talk about the Martha Washington. It’s a beautiful and grand home, a classic Dutch Colonial and is one of my favorite Sears Homes. A little trivia: The Martha Washington has the same floor plan as the Sears Alhamba. The lone difference is the Martha Washington does not have that box window on the front.

Enjoy the photos!

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To look at more pretty pictures of Sears Homes, click here.

The Martha Washington from the 1921 catalog

The Martha Washington from the 1921 catalog

This floor plan matches the floor plan for the Sears Alhambra

This floor plan matches the floor plan for the Sears Alhambra

Close-up of the Martha Washington

Close-up of the Martha Washington

Sears Martha Washington in Bedford, Virginia

Sears Martha Washington in Bedford, Virginia

Sears Martha Washington in Lombard, IL

Sears Martha Washington in Lombard, IL. Notice the original wooden storm windows!