Archive

Posts Tagged ‘the houses by mail’

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.

*

1936 wexvorf

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

*

two floorplans

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

*

the other

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

*

house house house

The Wexford, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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!

*

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.

*   *   *

Do You Have 60 Seconds To Save A Sears House? (Part II)

July 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

Update!! This house is now scheduled for demolition on August 7th. Click here to read the latest!

A Sears House from Montgomery Ward?

Yes, it’s true! But the sad news is, it’s slated for immediate demolition.

Friday afternoon, I wrote a blog about the Sears Lewiston* at Bowling Green State University. Currently this old kit house (circa 1932) is home to the university’s “Pop Culture Department.”

According to an article that appeared in the Toledo Blade, Bowling Green State University has decided that the house must go.  A specific date hasn’t been given, but the school wants the building gone before classes begin on August 20th.

An online petition has been created in the hopes of saving This Old House.  Please sign the petition by clicking here!

And in my professional opinion, this house should be saved.

Not just because it’s an historically significant kit house, ordered out of a mail-order catalog and shipped in 12,000 pieces to the Bowling Green Train Depot and assembled by an old family of Bowling Green, using only a 75-page instruction book and 14 pages of blue prints, and not just because it’s a piece of irreplaceable American and a piece of our heritage and culture… (And yet, those should be enough reasons to save this house…)

This little Neo-Tudor in Bowling Green should be saved for two additional (and uniquely compelling) reasons.

1)  The personal story about how this house came to be: This kit house was purchased from Montgomery Ward in late 1931 or very early 1932. The home’s buyer was Virgil Taylor, the son of Jasper and Mae Taylor. Jasper Taylor was the County Treasurer.

Virgil built this kit home on a lot that he’d been gifted by his parents. Imagine, hauling 12,000 pieces of house from the train depot in Bowling Green to the building lot. That, in and of itself, was a monumental task.

Virgil also obtained a mortgage from Montgomery Ward, so this means that the kit house had to “completed and ready for occupancy in four months.”

Virgil had to hustle.

In 1936, the Great Depression must have hit Virgil hard. He lost the house to foreclosure, and it went back to Montgomery Ward. For a short time, Montgomery Ward rented out the little house and then it was sold to the college in the late 1930s.

This is an amazing story because it’s an encapsulation of life during the the early 1930s. Dad wants to help son get a start in life. Dad gives son a free lot. Son buys a kit home, and working nights and weekends, he builds the house. As he builds it (probably working side-by-side with Dad), both men think about the security that “a home of his own” will give to young Virgil.

As he painstakingly drives in each of the many nails in this kit (about 750 pounds of nails), he thinks about growing old in this house, and maybe someday bringing a wife and child into his “home.” And then the Great Depression hits and Virgil loses everything, including his beloved home and the lot his parents gave him. And the happy memories of working with Dad. And the joy of building something with his own hands. And all the faith and hopeful expectation about his future, secure in a home of his own.

All of it gone, washed away by the economic tsunami of the 1930s.

Losing a house is hard. Losing a home that you built with your own two hands must be excruciating.

Now that’s a compelling story, but there’s yet another reason that this house has captured my fancy.

2) Virgil’s house is a Sears kit home (The Lewiston*) and yet it was ordered from Montgomery Ward.

Yeah, you read that right.

This is not unheard of, but it is pretty darn unusual. Apparently, Virgil fell in love with the Sears Lewiston and yet - for reasons we haven’t discovered yet - had an allegiance or connection to Montgomery Ward. Virgil apparently sent a photo of the house to Wards and asked them to build him this Sears House.

When I first heard that this was a Montgomery Ward house, I was a tiny bit incredulous. Dale Wolicki and I co-authored a book (”Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward”), and I can tell you, they never offered a kit home that looked anything like the Lewiston.

And then Raymond I. Schuck sent me some photos (shown below). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward. But it’s not a Ward’s house.

Our priority is saving this house, so please - before you gaze upon the awesome photos below - take a moment and sign this online petition. Please forward this link to every old house lover you know and ask them to do the same. Post the link on your Facebook page. Tweet this page. Spread the word.

This online petition is easy to use and loads fast. This won’t take more than 60 seconds of your time.

* The persistent asterisk is because I’m not sure how to label this house. It’s a Sears Lewiston, ordered from Montgomery Ward.

This is the Sears Lewiston that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

This is the Sears Lewiston (ordered from Wards) that is slated for demolition at Bowling Green State University (Toledo). Photo is reprinted courtesy of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

*

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

*

The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

The floorplan for the Sears Lewiston

*

And heres one of those interesting turns! This

Lumber inside this "Sears Lewiston" states that the house was ordered from Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, Iowa. Unlike Sears, Montgomery Ward did not have a "Modern Homes Department." All orders for Wardway Homes were turned over to Gordon Van Tine (yet another kit home company) for fulfillment. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

House

Another piece of lumber shows that the house was shipped to the train depot at Bowling Green, Ohio. The address (128 No. Church Street) was Virgil's home at the time. He lived with his parents prior to building this house. The number (29722) is probably a model number, but it could be an order number. Next to the number is Virgil's name! "V. H. Taylor." Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears Willard shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

Ah, but it gets even better. Bowling Green is home to several kit homes, including the Sears "Willard" shown in this promotional advertisement from 1928.

*

And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

And here is the Willard in Bowling Green! What a beauty! How many Sears Homes are in Bowling Green? Several. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

Tomorrow, I’ll write a blog showcasing a few of the kit homes that Dale found in Bowling Green.

To read one of the many reasons that I think this house should be saved, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

The Sears Fullerton: “Meets The Needs of So Many People”

May 9th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

The foursquare is one of my favorite housing styles (but then again, I love them all). For 18 years, my name was Rosemary Fuller, so I have a special affinity for the Sears Fullerton for familial reasons, too!

The Fullerton was one of Sears most popular housing styles and it’s easy to identify because it has many distinctive features. Most notable are the flared columns on the front porch with the paneled columns on top.  The Fullerton also has three windows on the home’s front, and the small “landing window” on the side. The attic dormer is also distinctive. The Sears Fullerton has a broad, low dormer window with an undersized sash.

This foursquare also has something I have never seen on any other Sears House: A fireplace chimney that’s centered on the roof! The Fullerton has a pyramidal hip roof, and the chimney is very near the apex of that pyramidal hip. As the chimney rises up through the attic, the bricks are laid in a “twist,” so that the chimney pops out through the roof’s center.

It’s one of the most unusual features I’ve ever seen in a kit house, and it’s unique to the Fullerton.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

If you’re here to read about Addie’s exhumation, this is the place to click.

Sears Fullerton as seen in the 1925 catalog.

Sears Fullerton as seen in the 1925 catalog.

*

So many reasons to love the Fullerton...

So many reasons to love the Fullerton...

*

Good floorplan, too!

The Fullerton had "good morning" stairs, which was a small staircase that opened into the kitchen. The idea was you could toddle downstairs and enter the kitchen without disturbing the folks in the living room.

*

The 1925 catalog featured some interior views!

The 1925 catalog featured some "interior" views. This shot of the staircase shows another unique feature: That closet door off the landing, and the small built-in table by the door.

*

And the living room!

The fireplace in the living room dominates the Fullerton.

*

And the kitchen

And the most modern kitchen!

*

Sears

Notice the flared brick columns with the paneled tops (1925).

*

Sears Fullerton in Aurora, IL

Sears Fullerton in Aurora, IL, replete with flared columns and paneled tops!

*

Sears Fullerton in Hampton

Sears Fullerton in Hampton. Notice that tiny window in that massive dormer.

*

Olstead

Classic Fullerton in Olmstead, IL.

*

Fullerton in DC

Another classic Fullerton, but this one has endured some plasticine siding and icky replacement windows. This house is in DC, which is not known for being kind to their Sears Homes. In 2008, the municipality tore down a *beautiful* Sears Fullerton, despite a massive grass roots effort to save the house. Photo is copyright 2012 Catarina Bannier and can not be used or reproduced without specific permission.

*

Fullerton in Roanoke

Sears Fullerton in Roanoke with a porte cochere.

*

Wood River

Sears Fullerton in Wood River, Illinois. In the 1930s, a tornado went through this area and destroyed many of the front porches.

*

Elgin

Elgin, IL has the largest known collection of kit homes in the country. This Fullerton is in Elgin. Dr. Hunter has done an amazing amount of research on Sears Homes, and she's the author of several books on the topic. She lives in Elgin, IL.

*

The Fullerton was the one of two foursquares that endured into the early 1930s, and appeared in the 1933 Book of Modern Homes catalog. e into the 1930s,

The Fullerton was the one of two foursquares that endured into the early 1930s, and appeared in the 1933 "Low Cost Homes" catalog.

*

To learn more about Dr. Hunter and her books, click here.

To visit Dr. Hunter’s website, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

*   *   *

The “Boom Towns” of Dupont

January 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Since I moved to Norfolk in September 2006, the 16 identical bungalows on Ethel Avenue have been whispering my name, and imploring me to come close, and learn more about their unique origins. Problem was, I could never quite make out what they were saying.

For years, I pored through my vintage catalogs from Sears, Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling Homes and even Pacific Ready Cut Homes, hoping to identify them as kit homes from a mail-order company.

I never could find a matching design.

Someone in town said the houses were built for the Jamestown Exposition (1907) and moved from that site to their resting place in Riverview (Norfolk). That didn’t ring true, because these little bungalows were more typical of the early 1910s.

And then we learned that DuPont had a munitions plant in Penniman, Virginia (about 30 minutes from Norfolk), and that the houses might have come from Penniman. And then I started doing research on Hopewell, Virginia and learned that Hopewell has also been the site of a DuPont munitions factory. So Mark Hardin (Hopewell resident and fellow researcher) and I drove around Hopewell, trying to find our “Ethels” (as they came to be known).

There have been many interesting discoveries along the way. To read a full history of our* project, click here.

In short, DuPont had at least twelve designs of houses that were built for their workers in factory towns such as Dupont, Washington, Louviers, Colorado, Ramsay, Montana, Old Hickory, Tennessee, and Hopewell and Penniman Virginia.

In the 1910s and 1920s, it was widely believed that providing housing for employees created a more stable work force. In the case of DuPont, their plants manufactured things that went BOOM, such as dynamite and gun powder and gun cotton. DuPont built their factories outside of population centers, due to the constant threat of explosion. (In November 1915, 31 men died in a horrific explosion at the DuPont plant in New Jersey when a horse’s shoe created a metal spark, igniting several thousand pounds of black powder.)

After The Great War was over (November 11, 1918), some of these factories - such as the one in Penniman - were no longer needed. An unknown number of houses at Penniman were put onto a barge and floated down the York River and Chesapeake Bay to the Elizabeth River and then to the Lafayette River to Norfolk, Virginia. According to an article in the Richmond News Leader (1938), more than 50 houses came to Norfolk.

And then on January 9, 2012, Robert Hitchings (Head, Sargeant Memorial Room, Norfolk Public Library) sent me a photo of these houses coming to Norfolk via barge (see below).

And if anyone knows where I might find more of these “Dupont Designs” in Norfolk, please leave a comment below!

To read the first blog on this topic, click here.

*David Spriggs and Mark Hardin have done most of the research on this subject. On this project, I’ve been the blog writer and photo taker! :)

Photo from 1921 shows the houses being transported by barge down the Lafayette River.

Photo from 1921 Virginian Pilot shows the houses being transported by barge down the Lafayette River. These are the houses that now sit on Major and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. There are two Dupont Designs shown here. The house on the left is the Dupont "Haskell," and the house on the right is the "Cumberland."

H

On the left is a vintage picture of a Dupont Design (The Haskell) that was built in Old Hickory, TN. On the right is a house in Norfolk (on Major Avenue). We now know that most of the houses on Major and Glenroie Avenue came from Penniman (site of a Dupont Munitions Factory) and were floated by barge to this location. According to an article in the "Richmond News Leader" (June 1938) there are 51 of these "Dupont Homes" in Norfolk, in varying designs.

Of all the Dupont houses on Major, this one retains most of its original features.

This Dupont "Haskell" still retains most of its original features. You can see the unique window arrangement on the Haskell design in this photo, with the left side of the brown house and the left side of the white house next door (which is also a Haskell).

Some of these DuPont Haskells have undergone significant remodeling, but

Some of these DuPont "Haskells" have undergone significant remodeling since being moved here in 1921. They were probably built about 1912 - 1914 at Penniman.

Some

Some are turned 90 degrees on the lot.

And some have gabled roofs, but theyre all Dupont houses.

And some have a gabled roof on the front porch, but they're all Dupont houses.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant in Tennessee) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

This little Dutch Colonial

This little Dutch Colonial was one of the "Dupont Designs" found in Old Hickory, TN. Note the narrow windows by the front door. This house was named "The Georgia."

Dutchie

There are nine of these "Georgia" (Dupont' designs) on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. These Norfolk houses are a perfect match to the houses in Old Hickory, TN.

OOO

Another "Georgia" on Major Avenue.

test

There are many "Georgias" in Norfolk!

Cumberland

The Cumberland was one of 12 designs created by Dupont and found in both Norfolk and Old Hickory. There are two of these on Major Avenue (Norfolk). It's one of the houses shown on the barge in the photo above.

And heres the real life example.

And here's one of two Cumberlands on Major Avenue. It is a perfect match to the Dupont Cumberland found in Old Hickory, TN.

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Riverview. Note the unusual attic window.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Norfolk. Note the tall thin attic window which is a perfect match to the Old Hickory house above. There are other architectural features which lead us to believe that this is also a "Dupont Design." This house was floated by barge to its location here in Norfolk. This is a big house to move!

Close-up of the attic window.

Close-up of the attic window found on all the two-story Dupont designs.

I spent many hours of my life, poring through old mail order catalogs, trying to identify these bungalows as kit homes.

And it all started with these houses on Ethel Avenue (which are also DuPont designs).

And there are dozens of Ethels in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant.

And there are dozens of "Ethels" in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant. This Ethel is in Dupont, Washington (and shares the neighborhood with 100 identical twins).

Theyre 3,000 miles away, but their identical to our Ethels in Norfolk.

They're 3,000 miles away, but these houses in Dupont, Washington are identical to our "Ethels" in Norfolk on Riverview.

While we call them Ethels, they were actually given a name - The DuPont.

While we call them "Ethels," they were actually given a name - "The DuPont Model."

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window on these "Ethels" in Riverview (Norfolk) is a pretty distinctive feature. And it's a spot-on match to the Ethels (er, Duponts) in Dupont, Washington.

Dup

In the early 1900s, making things go boom was a very popular idea.

The picture above was from a DuPont pamphlet, but there was an employee newsletter called, “The Projectile,” which featured a story on the building of these houses. Finding that would also be an incredible bonus!

We’re still hoping to find more “Ethels” (and Haskells and Cumberlands and Georgias) in Norfolk and other parts of Hampton Roads. If you know the location of any more of these “DuPont Designs,” please leave a comment below!

If you’d like to read earlier posts, start with Part I.

And then go to Part II.

Part III.

Part IV.

Part V.

Part VI.

Part VII.

Part VIII.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

* * *

Classic Arts and Crafts Design: The Sears Ashmore

January 6th, 2012 Sears Homes 11 comments

The Sears Ashmore was not one of Sears most popular designs, but it surely was one of their prettiest, and it was a classic Arts and Crafts bungalow.

And it had a pergola, too!

According to the testimonies that appeared in the catalog, there are Sears Ashmores in Abilene, TX and Fargo, ND.

Ashmore

This bungalow was a classic Arts & Crafts design (from the 1921 catalog).

*

And theres one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I cant pay you, but Ill send you a signed copy of my book!!  :)

And there's one in Abilene, Texas. Can someone run down there and get me a photo? I can't pay you, but I'll send you a signed copy of my book!! :)

*

And theres one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

And there's one in Fargo, too. Can someone run up there and get me a photo?

*

The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features.

The Ashmore was a spacious house with lots of nice features. And it was a departure from the simple foursquares that were the bread and butter of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. The living room and dining room both have coffered ceilings, and there's a fireplace nook at one end of the massive living room, with a window seat at the other end.

*

Heres an image from the 1916 catalog.

Here's an image from the 1916 catalog. Pre-1918 (before Sears Homes had names) this was the C250 model. "The Ashmore" sounds much more elegant.

*

According to the page above, there’s also a Sears Ashmore in Fargo, ND! I’d like a photo of that, too.

*

The cover of the 1921 Sears Buildign Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

The cover of the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog shows an Ashmore in the background.

*

Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior views of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs.

Sears must have been very proud of their Ashmore, too. For more than a dozen years, interior "views" of the Ashmore were featured in two-page spreads. Only the more impressive houses were given two full pages in the old catalogs. The dining room (shown above) is outfitted with classic Arts & Crafts pieces. The oak wainscoting (topped with plate-rail) is shown, but not the coffered (beamed) ceiling.

*

Another

One end of the 23-foot-long living room had a window seat (shown above).

*

And the other end had a fireplace nook.

And the other end had a fireplace nook.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Heres a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table.

Arts & Crafts bungalows were all about nooks. Here's a breakfast nook, complete with classic trestle table. According to the floor plan, that's an ironing board in the wall to the right of the nook.

*

And heres the worlds most beautiful Ashmore. Not too found of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. Its in Waverly, Illinois and its featured in my book, The Sears Homes of Illinois.  The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesnt do it for me.

And here's the world's most beautiful Ashmore. Not too fond of the color, but it is in wonderfully original condition. It's in Waverly, Illinois and it's featured in my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." The A&C movement was characterized by earthy colors of browns, tans, dark green and other muted colors. Electric blue with yellow trim doesn't do it for me. But thank goodness, it's in original condition and the vinyl siding salesmen have not decimated it.

*

Doesnt that warm the cockles of your heart?

Doesn't that warm the cockles of your heart? Compare it to the house above, and you'll see it's a perfect match. My oh my, that's a sweet-looking house!

*

Awesome

If this doesn't make your heart leap with joy, you should stop what you're doing right now and make sure that you still have a heart beat. Look at these porches. This sweet thing in Waverly still has its original porch railings.

*

This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

This beautiful Ashmore is in Cincinnati. Apparently, blue is a really popular color for the Ashmore! Photo is copyright 2011 Donna Bakke and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

*

And heres one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia.

And here's one in Ocean View (Norfolk), Virginia. Isn't it dreamy?

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To become fascinated by yet another old story that Rose is involved in, click here.

To read about how and why the bungalow became so popular so fast, read here.

If you’ve visited this site more than ten times in the last year, state law requires that you leave a detailed and thoughtful comment below.

Okay, not really, but I wish you would.

*   *   *