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Posts Tagged ‘the house in the mail’

Beautiful Six-Room Cottage: Modern Home #126

April 27th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Sears Elsmore became a popular house for Sears.

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

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Testimonials

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

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The two homes shared a floorplan that was very close.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Modern Home #126 from the 1908 catalog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out Rebecca Hunter’s website by clicking here.

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

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Where Is This Little House?

July 28th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

Come August 2014, this website will celebrate its fourth birthday, and one of my very first posts at this site was about this little mystery house in Ohio (shown below).

Unfortunately, I never did find this house, or learn anything about the couple in the photo.

I suspect the house is somewhere in Ohio (which is where this post card was sent from) and I’m sure the couple (and their child) have gone on to heaven. The house in this photo was last offered in the mid-1910s Sears catalogs.

The diminutive foursquare is Sears Modern Home #106, and I purchased the post card from eBay in 2002. It cost $3, and I suspect that there weren’t a lot of folks who recognized this little house as Sears House.

If you know where this house is, or if you know the people pictured herein, please drop me a line?

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

And if you live in Ohio, please post this link on your Facebook page!  Maybe we can find this house!

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House

In 2003, I purchased this post card from eBay. I'd love to know where this house is. I suspect it's somewhere in Ohio, because this postcard was originally found in Ohio.

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house house house

Close-up of the little fam in front of the little house. Check out the detail on the porch railing.

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Close up

Extreme close-up of the fam. Dad doesn't look well.

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Number

You can see a house number hiding behind that column.

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Modern Home 106, as seen in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Oh dear - where's the potty?

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The house in the photo has an extra dormer on the side, which probably made this small attic room more livable. At least, a *little* more livable!

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Close up

Who are they?

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Have you seen this house? If so, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about the big and fancy Sears models, click here!

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“Americanized English” - The Sears Wilmore

January 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

“We have worked out an attractive exterior along the lines commonly known as ‘Americanized English.’”

So reads the text that accompanies the description of the pretty little Neo-Tudor, known as a “Wilmore.”

And better yet, “The kitchen is sure to make friends among housewives…”

That’s a dark day in womanhood when a woman’s best friend is a kitchen.

Thanks to Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for sharing their photos of Wilmores found in the Midwest!

To read my favorite blog about Sears biggest house, click here.

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The Wilmore

One of the optional extras for The Wilmore was a permanent staircase to the expandable attic (1938).

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Not a very big house, but a smart floor plan!

Not a very big house, but a smart floor plan!

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It is a real cutie-pie of a house.

It is a real cutie-pie of a house. Note the bellcast roof on the right rear.

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Heres a pretty little Wilmore that Dale found in West Peoria, IL.

Here's a pretty little Wilmore that Dale found in West Peoria, IL. Someone painted over the nine-lite window on the front door. Ugh! And then someone put up sea-shell shutters! (I wonder if Suzie sold them the sea-shell shutters?) Photo is copyright 2014 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Rebecca Hunter found this Wilmore in Mendota, IL.

Rebecca Hunter found this Wilmore in Mendota, IL. I love the vintage lawnchairs. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permisison.

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Heres a Wilmore I found in the Staunton area,

Here's a Wilmore I found in the Staunton (Virginia) area, just across from the North River School. If someone can give me a better address than that, I'd be very grateful.

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And this is perhaps the most interesting Wilmore. Its a customized Wimore in Kirkwood, Missouri, and I visited the house in 2003, and authenticated it as The Real Deal. The house was turned sideways on the lot, and the front gable was extended to create a more spacious living room.

And this is perhaps the most interesting Wilmore. It's a customized Wilmore in Kirkwood, Missouri, and I visited the house in 2003, and authenticated it as The Real Deal. The floorplan is *flipped* (as compared to the catalog image) and turned 90 degrees on the lot. The front gable was extended to create a more spacious dining room. The front door was moved to the side of the gable, and a small window is on the smaller gable in place of a door. This angle really highlights that bellcast roof on the gable (left side of picture).

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

Dale’s website is 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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WLS Radio and Sears Roebuck

October 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

What is the connection between the famed Chicago radio station - WLS - and Sears Roebuck?

In 1924, WLS began life as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for “World’s Largest Store.”

On April 9, 1924, Sears own radio station signed on with 500 watts, with offices on the 11th floor of the Sears 14-story “skyscraper” at Homan and Arthington Street in downtown Chicago.

In 1925, the front pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog promised that, “WLS was conceived in your interests, is operated in your behalf and is dedicated to your service.”

It was a short-lived experiment for Sears. Four years after its creation, WLS was sold to the Prairie Farmer Magazine. The studios were moved to the Prairie Farmer Building  (also in downtown Chicago).  In 1960, WLS was sold to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

Click here to learn more about the history of WLS.

Hey, is that a Sears House? Click here to learn more about identifying kit homes.

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In 1925, Sears published its first employee newsletter, known simply as "WLS" (World's Largest Store). Inside the newsletter was a detailed account of The Kelly Family buying and building their own kit home.

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To read more about the Kelly’s kit home, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

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Holy Moly, Another Magnolia?

May 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

A dear soul on Facebook sent me a note this morning asking if I’d taken a look at the house at 1500 James Street in Syracuse, New York. Unable to sleep at 2:00 in the morning, I went looking via Google maps, expecting to be disappointed yet again. At least twice a week, I get a note from someone who is utterly convinced that they’ve seen a Sears Magnolia and every time, they’re wrong.

However this time, they might be right.

Now, I have to use every bit of self-control I have, not to get in a car and drive nine hours to Syracuse and see this house. The picture available via Google maps is unusually poor, and I’m not able to see much detail, and am unwilling to make a pronouncement at this point, but that house at 1500 James sure does look like a Sears Magnolia!

If anyone within the sound of my voice would be interested in getting about 4000 pictures of this house and sending it to me, I would be so very grateful. In fact, I’d send you a copy of any and all of my books you’d like to add to your library. :)  Signed, too. Free books. Just snap a few photos, send them to me and make an authors day!  :)

Updated to add: Having figured out how to use “bird’s eye view” on Bing, I’m becoming ever more confident that this house in Syracuse is indeed a Magnolia.

My kingdom for a high resolution digital picture!!!!

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. The two-story columns are an eye-catching feature. Also notice the distinctive roof lines and unique details around the front porch. At its core, the Sears Magnolia is a classic foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

Maggy in Benson

The Maggy in Benson, NC is a spot-on match.

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.  (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling) Done in brick, this Sears Magnolia also is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.

Magnolia in South Carolina

The Magnolia in Alabama is also not a spot-on match to the original catalog image. Most obvious is that attic dormer, which is much simpler than the Magnolia dormer. Yet this house in Piedmont Alabama is a Sears Magnolia.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Built-in Breakfast Nook: Practical, Useful, and Just Darn Cute

January 14th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Built-in breakfast nooks became wildly popular in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have. (As Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson is purported to have responded, “I think one simplify would have been enough.”)

Bungalows were a fine idea whose time had come, but there was one problem: space! Creative builders and architects improvised by creating intimate spaces in small areas, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was far easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than frittering away the hours dealing with meal preparation at the formal dining room table.

Below are pictures from catalogs and magazines of the time, showing the breakfast nook of the early 1920s. At the bottom is a picture from a 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, showing a “convertible” breakfast nook! Table by day, stiff-as-a-tabletop bed by night.

Hopefully, some history loving old-house homeowners will be able to use these vintage photos to restore the breakfast nooks in their own homes.

The first is from the February 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal. It appeared in an article titled, “If a Woman Must Work From Home.”

To read more about breakfast nooks (and see more photos), click here.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

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This simple breakfast table was offered with the Sears kit home, The Verona.

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This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!

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This page features the breakfast table offered in the Sears Magnolia. These seats have backs!

Breakfast

This "breakfast alcove" came with the Sears home, The Honor.

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The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

And its in color!  From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And it's in color! From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

The image below appeared in the June 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics and provided the ultimate space saver. By day, it was a cute little trestle table with matching benches. By night, it was an extra sleeping space for your overnight guests.

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Easy to make and simple to use, this "convertible" breakfast table provided extra sleeping space for visitors.

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As seen in the 1919 Popular Mechanics, this breakfast nook could be folded out into a bed. Overnight Guests - it's what's for dinner!

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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