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Posts Tagged ‘the houses that sears built’

Webster Groves: Part V

August 20th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

Last month,

In July, I visited Webster Groves (a St. Louis suburb) and had a good time driving around and looking for kit homes. Friend and fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker knew I was headed to the St. Louis area and did a little reconnoitering for me. It was Rachel that found this GVT #535 (also known as The Roberts) in Webster Groves, sitting - literally - right next to the railroad tracks!

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One of the questions Im most often asked is, How do you find kit homes? Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits, they typically landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

One of the questions I'm often asked is, "How do you find kit homes?" Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits and were shipped by rail (in a single boxcar), they usually landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

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The Gordon Van Tine landed right next to the train tracks! If you look at this century-old map, you can see just how close Model #535 (with red star) sat to the Missouri Pacific Railway (yellow line)!

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Probably less than 200 yards, this commuter station

Built in 1892 by the Missouri Pacific Railway, this story-and-a-half commuter station was on the corner of Oakwood and Glen Road. It would have been a short hop (as in, less than 200 yards) from the Gordon Van Tine #535 to this darling little train station.

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The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

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The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" was hugely popular for this Iowa-based kit home company.

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And

The inset porch, 2nd-floor bay and hipped roof all work together to make this an easy house to identify. That, with this home's location (right on the tracks) made it mighty easy to find in Webster Groves. Plus, it was probably one of Gordon Van Tine's most popular homes!

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House

What a beauty! And it's all dressed up for July 4th! Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Webster Groves. When I talked to her about this discovery, she told me, "I always start my searches next to the railroad tracks. I found this house within seconds!!"

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And heres another Roberts that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

And here's a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

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Dale Wolicki

Dale Wolicki found this "Roberts" in State College, Pennsylvania.

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Wheeling

Another beautiful "Roberts" in Wheeling, West Virginia, and it's all dressed up for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2012 Frank Harrar and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres one of my favorite Roberts, right here in Norfolk, VA.

And here's one of my favorite "Roberts," right here in Norfolk, VA. (Pictured above is *the* woman responsible for launching "The Smiley Face™" movement!)

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Last but never least, a Roberts in Charleston, WV.

Last but never least, a "Roberts" in Charleston, WV (sans two-story porches).

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And here's a Gordon Van Tine #535 in Carlinville, Illinois. Notice that this one does not have the upstairs polygon bay, but a flat window in its place. However, it does have the cantilevered supports for the flower boxes (under the first floor windows). How easy it would be to restore those flower boxes! :)

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To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

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Thanks again to Rachel for finding that Gordon Van Tine #535! You can visit Rachel’s website by clicking here.

Learn more about Gordon Van Tine by visiting Dale’s website here.

Rebecca Hunter has an abundance of information on kit homes here.

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Webster Groves, Missouri: Part IV

August 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

What do Webster Groves, Missouri and Grand Haven, Michigan have in common?

Both are home to an unusual Sears model with the pedestrian (but descriptive) name: “The Cape Cod.”

While I’d love to take credit for finding the “Cape Cod” in Missouri, it was Webster Groves resident Judith Chabot that found this house by searching grantee records.

Here’s how it works: When an existing house is conveyed to the new homeowner, the new homeowner is the grantee, but when the homeowner conveys the house back to the bank (as security for a mortgage), the homeowner is then the grantor. The mortgage company receiving the interest in the house is the grantee.

So if you’re looking for a Sears House at the courthouse, you’re going to be looking through the grantee records, but this only works on Sears Homes that were mortgaged through Sears. Still, it’s an interesting way to find a Sears House!

In searching grantee records in Illinois, I’ve found conveyances listed under “Sears,” and “Sears and Roebuck,” but more commonly, you’ll find that trustee names were used for Sears, such as Walker O. Lewis, Nicholas Wieland, and E. Harrison Powell. All of these men served as trustees for Sears. (Thanks to Dale Patrick Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for the trustee information.)

However, if you limited yourself to finding kit homes ONLY through mortgage documents (and grantee records), you’d miss about 75% of the kit homes in your community (based on some quick ciphering).

The beauty part of mortgage documents is that you might find kit homes that were customized and/or unrecognizable and/or otherwise nondescript houses, such as the “Cape Cod.”

To read the other blogs on Webster Groves, click here, here or here.

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Catalog

Sounds like Earl Suits was pretty pleased with his "Cape Cod" in Grand Haven (1938 catalog).

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In the 1932

In the 1932 catalog, it was known as The Stanford.

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The 1938 catalog has it listed

The 1938 catalog has it listed as "The Cape Cod."

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Throughout the years, it was offered in two floorplans.

Throughout the years, it was offered in two floorplans. The smaller floorplan is a miserly 660 square feet with an tiny kitchen and two walk-in-closet-sized bedrooms (1938).

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The second floorplan had a little more breathing room.

The second floorplan had a little more breathing room (and a dining room).

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It is a fine house, replete with an "expandable" attic on the 2nd floor (1938 catalog).

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Those old wooden shutters (shown in the catalog image) added a nice touch to the Sears "Cape Cod." Notice that the attic window has been enlarged, and the dormers were added.

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As you can see down the long side,

Due to the intensity of the summer sun, this is a crummy photo, but you can see this is "Floor Plan B" with the dining room and larger footprint.

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Id have to say that I probably would have driven right past this little house doing a traditional street survey.

I'd have to say that I probably would have driven right past this little house doing a traditional street survey. It's a fine home but it is rather plain and kind of disappears in a crowd.

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Here's another "impossible-to-recognize" Sears house. This doesn't match any of Sears 370 known designs, but it is a Sears House, customized by the home's original owner. Rebecca Hunter found this house (in Elmhurst, Illinois) through grantee records. It's bonafide, but it's also a puzzler!

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

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Webster Groves, Missouri: A Happy Memory

July 28th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

In Spring 2002, my new book on Sears Homes had just been published, and the Webster Grove Public Library (Missouri) was one of the first places that offered me a speaking gig.

A few days before the big event, someone called me and asked, “Have you been out to the Webster Groves Library today?”

I told them I had not, and asked why. The response was, “I’ll pick you up in a minute. Ride out there with me. You need to see this.”

When we pulled up in front of the building, there was a massive banner spanning the tall columns outside and it said, “The Houses That Sears Built - Rosemary Thornton - This Friday at 7:00 p.m.”

I’d never seen a sight like it. My name - on a great big banner - way up high where the whole world could see it.

That night, I sold 40 books, which was about 32 books more than I’d ever sold before. People stood in line to buy a book. People stood in line, waiting patiently for me to autograph their book. People said many nice things to me. It was one of those defining moments in my life, where I first had hope that maybe - just maybe - I could turn this passion for old kit homes into a real job.

Earlier this month, I returned to Webster Groves to poke around and see if I could find some kit homes I might have missed the first time (in 2002).

Not surprisingly, I found several, but my #1 favorite was this Aladdin Sonoma, just about one mile from the Webster Groves Library.

I’ve been hoping to find a real-life example of this sweet little house for a long, long time so it was quite a treat to find it in Webster Groves.

To read a more recent blog on Webster Groves, click here.

And “Webster Groves, Part III” can be found here.

Part IV is here.

And you can read Part V here.

Want to learn more about Aladdin kit homes? Click here.

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Because of its diminuitive size, this was known as an Aladdinette house.

Because of its diminutive size, this was known as an "Aladdinette" house (1919).

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An interesting feature of this house was that it had roll-away beds.

An interesting feature of this house was that it used a roll-away bed to save space.

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Oh, what a cute little house!

Oh, what a cute little house! This "Sonoma" is the mirror image of the house shown above, and the pergola and exterior door has been converted into an enclosed porch. It's hard to see from this angle, but the roofline for the original house is a perfect match to the catalog page.

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That extra-deep eave is missing from the chimney

That extra-deep eave is missing from the chimney but I'd surmise that it went missing after the first roof replacement job in the 1940s.

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Houw

That extra bit of depth on the eave by the chimney is distinctive, but would have been a hard item to countenance when it came to maintenance (1919). I've flipped the image (above) to match the house in Webster Groves. Notice the clipped gable.

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The view down the long side is also a good match.

The view down the long side is also a good match.

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And last but not least, this darling home still has its original windows.

And last but not least, this darling home still has its original 9/1 windows.

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What a fine house! And to think that I found it in Webster Groves!

What a fine house! And to think that I found it in Webster Groves!

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To learn more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

Want to learn more about Aladdin kit homes? Click here.

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This is a Sears House.

April 28th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

This really is a Sears House.

Can you guess which model it is?

I would never have guessed. Ever.

However, I was given a good clue.

So what do you think?

It’s in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and this photo was taken by Elisabeth Witt, who’s been running around getting photos for me. And they’re well-framed, first-class, high-resolution photos, which makes a big difference - usually.

But with this particular house, even an old pro would be stumped.

Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for the contemporary photos shown below.

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Model

Yes, it really is a Sears House. Which model would you guess?

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Does this help?

Does this help?

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Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

Maybe seeing it from this angle will help.

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Do you give up? You should.

Do you give up? You should. It's a Sears Hamilton.

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When Google mapped this neighborhood

When Google mapped this neighborhood in September 2014, the house above looked like this.

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Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

Which looks a lot like this (1928 catalog).

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Heres a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois.

Here's a Hamilton that Dale Wolicki found in Kankakee, Illinois. Photo is copyright 2009 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This photo (undated) is from the city assessors website.

This photo (undated) is from the Shorewood assessor's website.

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And if you zoom in on the details, youll see that this darling little house had its original windows, siding and even wooden storm windows.

And if you zoom in on the details, you'll see that this darling little house had its original windows, rafter tails, and even wooden storm windows. It was a fine-looking Hamilton.

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And then it got McMansioned.

And then it got McMansioned.

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And then it got McMansioned.

That trailer probably contains the dismembered bits of our little Hamilton.

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At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasnt 100% sure about the address.

At first I thought Elisabeth had photographed the wrong house. After all, I wasn't 100% sure about the address. But in this photo, you can see that our Hamilton sits next door to a blue craftsman-style bungalow.

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And then I noticed this.

And then I noticed this. It's definitely the house formerly known as "Hamilton."

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Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

Rest in peace, little Hamilton.

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Believe it or not, it could have been worse.

Believe it or not my little Wisconsin Hammie, it could have been worse. At least you were spared the T-111 siding (Elgin IL). Perhaps this blog should be titled, "When Bad Things Happen to Good Bungalows."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read a happy, happy blog, click here.

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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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My Only Blog With an “R” Rating!

April 6th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Before you start reading this, please usher the children into another room and/or tell them to cover their ears and hum.

Sears only offered two models of kit homes that had a sink in the closet. One was their fanciest house (”The Magnolia”) and the other was one of their simplest designs (”The Cinderella”). Why put a sink in the corner of a dressing room or a closet? Running the necessary plumbing, drain lines and vent would have added some expense, so what’s the point?

There were a few obvious reasons: It gave the lady of the house a place to wash her “unmentionables” and it also gave the man a place to shave when the couple’s seven kids were hogging the bathroom.

But there might have been another lesser-known reason.

Are those kids gone? ;)

In the early 1900s, male prophylactics were “re-usable.” It wasn’t until the 1920s that latex was invented, and these particular items became single-use.

By the way, this particular insight as to the purpose of that master-bedroom sink is not my own, but was sent to me by a faithful reader of the blog. Best of all, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I’d love to give proper credit to the reader who shared this info with me, but I can’t remember who it was! Argh!

To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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house 1921

The Cinderella was a very modest house and apparently, they didn't sell too many of these. It was priced at $1,500 and yet only had a single bedroom. The dressing room was located off the living room.

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Cindy 1921

Close-up of the floorplan shows a sink in the dressing room.

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Cindy

Roll-away beds were heavily promoted for use in the Cinderella. Here, you can see the lady of the house has used the dressing room sink for washing out her delicate undergarments.

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DuMont

The DuMont was a pattern-book house offered in the 1920s. It also featured a sink in a closet.

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Dumont

Close-up of the sink in the DuMont off the master-bedroom.

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Sears Maggy 1921

Sears biggest and best house (The Magnolia) also had a sink in the closet.

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South bend

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana has the original built-in cabinets, and an original closet sink, together with original faucets. Quite a find, and a testament to the quality of the materials.

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South Bend

Close-up of the sink in the South Bend Magnolia. It also has its original medicine chest and light fixture. This picture is almost two years old. I hope the new owner does an honest restoration of the old house. In all my travels, I've never seen a three-sided sink like this.

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West Virginia

The Magnolia in West Virginia also has its original cabinets in the closet, but the sink has been replaced. Interesting that the sink is placed right next to that window.

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To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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Orlando in Nebraska

April 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Last year, I was watching the movie “Nebraska” with my daughter Corey, when I asked her to hit pause for a moment. I jumped up, grabbed a camera and took a picture of the tv screen.

My daughter quietly asked, “Sears House?”

Montgomery Ward,” I replied.

We continued with our movie.

As mentioned in a prior blog, I can’t just watch movies or television like normal people. I’m forever looking at the architecture. Doesn’t matter if they’re Sears Homes or not, I like looking at houses. When I was single, I kept hoping to find a dating site that featured pictures of men’s homes, rather than their faces. Some things are so much more important than looks. And then I ended up marrying a guy who lived in a concrete filing cabinet for people.

And then we moved to a fine home after we got married.

Shown below is the house I spotted in the movie “Nebraska.”  As movies go, it was okay, but pretty slow.

However it did have a nice house. Looks like it might be a Montgomery Ward “Orlando.”

Maybe.

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

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Movie

This foursquare was featured in the movie "Nebraska" with Bruce Dern

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Dare I hope

Is it a Montgomery Ward Orlando? Might be.

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Montgomery Ward and Gordon Van Tine were one in the same. Montgomery Ward relied on GVT to handle all facets of sales, from catalog publication to order fulfillment. What's the difference between a Montgomery Ward house and a Gordon Van Tine house? Not much. Image above is from the 1918 catalog.

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I love reading this stuff.

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Classic foursquare, with one difference: No entry foyer. Instead, that extra space is used for a small den or first-floor bedroom. Notice also that it has "good-morning stairs" in the kitchen. Nice touch!

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This is the only Orlando I've ever seen, and it's in Beckley, West Virginia.

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House

My friend Ersela found this house in Beckley. For years, people had said it was a Sears House. They were close!

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To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611: Unusually Well Planned

April 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

These last few months, I’ve been doing a proper survey of kit homes in Hampton, Virginia. I went out yesterday to check one last section one last time (which I’ve now visited twice), when this handsome bungalow jumped out of the bushes and called my name.

This Gordon Van Tine Model #611 is on a main drag (300-block of North Mallory) which leaves me scratching my head. How did I miss it?

That will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe, together with, where did I put my husband’s truck keys.

To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

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What a house!

Notice how the porch roof sits within the primary roof. Interesting feature.

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Oh yeah, baby! :D

Sadly, some vinyl siding salesman has pillaged the house, but other than that, it's a nice match. The railings have been replaced, but that's a relatively minor affair.

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Good match on this side, too!

Good match on this side, too!

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So

And did I mention it's on the main drag? :)

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To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Lost in New Orleans!

January 7th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

What are the odds that this rare and wonderful old Sears House is  still alive and well in New Orleans?

I don’t know enough about NOLA to even venture a guess.

Last night, I went to a favorite site (Realtor.com) and looked up “houses for sale” (single family and 50+ years old) and that brought up only a handful of listings. Apparently, there’s been a huge amount of redevelopment in New Orleans.

A reporter from this area has asked me to find some Sears Homes in New Orleans. I’d love to start with this one.

Any ideas?

If you’re here for the first time, you may be wondering, what is a Sears House? In the early 1900s, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail order catalogs. The 12,000-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book that promised the homeowner, “You can not make a mistake.” Typically, it took the average neophyte builder 3-6 months to complete assembly of his home.

Want to see the fanciest kit home that Sears offered? Click here.

Do  you know where this house is? Please leave a comment below.

And please share this link with your New Orleanian friends on social media!

Oooh, part II is here!

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This house was built in New Orleans. Is it still alive?

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House

Modern Home 264P165 is a model I've never seen in real life, and yet, we know there were at least three built (and perhaps many more). This image was in the 1914 catalog, and yet it does not appear in 1912 or 1916, so it was short-lived. Where's the house in New Orleans?

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feffe

Fortunately, the floor plan is odd enough that it should be fairly easy to identify.

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fefe

"Particularly planned for southern states..."

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And this explains why!

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To read about a beautiful Sears House in Texas (which is a beautiful story), click here.

Do  you know where this house is? Please leave a comment below.

And please share this link with your New Orleanian friends on social media!

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And So This is Christmas…

December 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for providing me with the PERFECT Christmas Day photo!

And if you want to read about Sears Homes all year long, join our group of kit-home enthusiasts on Facebook!

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Rach

Rachel Shoemaker's favorite elf studies not one, but two catalogs whilst gazing upon a diminutive version of the Sears Mitchell - decorated for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy

Teddy will look back on this Christmas with many fond memories.

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To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Visit Rachel’s blog by clicking here.

Interested in learning about Gordon Van Tine? Click here!

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