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Posts Tagged ‘the houses that sears built’

If Your Book is Missing or Lost…

June 29th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

In the last 48 hours, I’ve received three emails from people asking about books that were ordered more than 30 days ago. When I started digging into it, I found that - in short - I screwed up.

For 15+ years, I’ve been shipping out books, but my world has shifted. My once-meticulous record keeping has become a little sloppy. More than 50% of my personal possessions are in storage units, piled high atop each other. I’m living in a small rental home, and nothing is where it should be.

And there’s this:  I still do a whole lot of sobbing. That really consumes a lot of time, and leaves me exhausted.

My humblest apologies if your book order was one of the 12+ that “fell between the cracks.”

Today, I spent more than two hours going through the orders, and trying to affirm which orders were lost and which orders were fulfilled.  I think I’ve found all the missing orders and they went out in the morning mail.

If you haven’t received a book, please contact me as soon as possible and I’ll try to make this right.

And thanks for your patience.

You can reach me at pennimanva@gmail.com or better yet, please leave a comment below. I’m living on love these days.

To order a book, click here.

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sta

This morning at 7:00 am, I started reviewing records and making sure the right books went to the right people. I hope I got it right. If not, please let me know.

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I had them all in one pile by the front door, but when I returned to the room, theyd apparently decided to play trains.

I had them all in one pile by the front door, but when I returned to the room, they'd apparently decided to play "trains." It does look like fun!

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Apparently, about the time I was supposed to be shipping books, I was hanging out on Route 460 in Zuni, watching trains go by. This Amtrak was moving at 70+mph and I was amazed that this cell-phone photo came out as good as it did!

Apparently, about the time I was supposed to be shipping books, I was hanging out on Route 460 in Zuni, Virginia, watching trains go by. This Amtrak was moving at 70+ mph and I was amazed that this cell-phone photo came out as good as it did! This route has at least a dozen freight trains per day.

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Ass

A random picture of two very cute donkeys.

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And theres this.

And there's this. The same brain and personality type that can bury themselves in a research project for six years (Penniman), has trouble letting go of the "whys" here. Fourteen months later, and I still don't know what happened and what went wrong. The only thing I do know is this: In a thousand million different scenarios, this was always going to end with Wayne committing suicide. Just realizing that one horrible truth has brought me some peace. On his last night on earth, he asked me to make him his favorite dinner, and I did. (And I still can't see a recipe for "Chicken Hassleback" without sobbing.) Two nights before his death, I asked him to play "slap and tickle" and he bluntly refused. Three nights before his death, I asked him, "Wayne Ringer, what do YOU think that I think of you?" He smiled an odd smile and said, "You think I'm utterly wonderful." The good thing about being a writer - you spend a lot of time using your words to tell your husband how much you adore him. I don't doubt that I did a lot of things wrong, but I also know that I did many things right. (Photo is copyright 2007, David Chance, and can not be duplicated or reprinted without permission.)

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Open Floor Plan and the Downfall of Society

May 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 14 comments

Last February, as Robert, Pat and I sat together in Robert’s Sears Home, he said, “The open floor plan will probably be considered one of the most heinous atrocities ever committed against American architecture.”

A man after my own heart.

When historians write about the unraveling of society, it will probably all be traced back to The Open Floor Plan.

Who decided it was a good idea to remove every wall and door from a house?

For months, I’ve been looking for a home for me and Teddy and The Horsies™.

We’ve found a few homes that are close, but nothing has been a real match yet.

For a variety of reasons, I’m hoping to find a house that’s not more than 50 years old and well built and in a safe area. And most importantly, I want a house that does NOT have an “Open Floor Plan.”

It’s not bad enough that the big ugly houses with open floor plans are taking over the planet, but even older homes are not safe.

Reading through listings for once-lovely 1950s and 60s brick ranches, I’ve found this awful comment: “Completely renovated with new and inviting open floor plan.”

Though I’m not a woman given to strong language, this phrase hits a nerve and induces me to say things that are quite unladylike.

I don’t want to smell the kitchen or worse, SEE the kitchen. I don’t want to see the dining room. I need lots of doors and walls between me and the world. My secret to good housekeeping is plenty of heavy doors and hiding places. If I wanted to live in an open commune, I’d move to Berkeley. I want private areas and secret rooms. My dream house would have an underground bomb shelter with vintage rations from the Eisenhower era.

How do you paint  your own house when the living room wall is 17-feet tall? How do you change a light fixture on a chain that’s seven feet taller than you on your tallest ladder? How do you kill spiders ensconced in a dark corner at the tippy top of a cathedral ceiling?

The Open Floor Plan: stultissimus notio!

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Need a palate cleanse? Read about Sears Homes here.

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Dumb

This makes no sense to me. In fact, I'd say it's one of the most foolish things a person could do to a house. I looked at this house, hoping it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It was.

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So open that its brains fall out

So open that its brains fall out? This is a lovely log cabin recently listed in a nearby city. This 1,500-square foot space is - for all purposes - one big room.

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Open

Twitch, twitch.

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Open More

Blech. And how do you clean those windows above the door?

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Open and depressing

What a waste of space and energy and materials.

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This one is the very worst. This hosue started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

This one is the very worst. This house started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

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But they managed to make it ugly on the exterior, too.

It started life as a lovely brick ranch (1950s) with good symmetry. Closing in that garage was not a good idea. Having seen many of these "flipped" houses, I can tell you that, for the most part, they're not well done.

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I hate open

The Aladdin Villa (a kit home) had lots of doors. I love doors. I hate open.

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Villa

Here's a real life Villa in Augusta, Georgia, and I'm sure it still has a lot of doors and walls.

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And then there were seven...

The Seven Horsies of the Apocalypse detest open floor plans. And yes, there are now SEVEN horsies. Number Seven (center stage) was a gift, so that's good because now I have enablers of my Stuffed Horsie Habit. Yay! :D

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Read more about the Aladdin Villa here.

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So Damn Tough…

May 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 6 comments

Thanks to the intercession and help of many skin-clad angels, the Penniman book is so close to the finish line. Heretofore, my friend Milton has done most of the proofreading, because reading this manuscript sends me into such a tailspin that I invariably end up sobbing or in a bad state - for hours.

Every page, every jot and every tittle is a painful memory now. Wayne sat right with me - for five years - as I ruminated over every paragraph. He and I talked for hours about the difference between shrapnel shells and high explosive shells. We discussed the minutiae of the layout of the village, the styling of the houses, the logistics of moving those houses, the manufacturing of Amatol (TNT) and every other detail that one can imagine.

We laughed and we talked and we argued and in one memorable moment, he came up with an inspired solution to a very thorny problem and I said, “You must be the most brilliant man walking this earth,” and I (again) told him how much I adored him, and then pulled him out of his chair and into the bedroom and said, “Your intellect is such a turn-on.”

Little did I know that that would be the last time that I was intimate with my husband.

After his death, I found out that my adoration of my spouse was not reciprocal. It has nearly broken me.

Too many people have said, “You need to move on and forget about Wayne.”

That’s not helpful. He was my husband. Our lives were inextricably linked for a decade. He was the man that I promised to love forever. And he left me with one hell of a mess.

This manuscript is also a vociferous memory of that former life and former home and former Rosemary. There are days when that life feels almost like a fuzzy dream, and that’s also unsettling.

It’s taking every single thing I have to get this book completed. I’m not sure that I can proofread it again, but I know that I must. Let’s hope I can plow through it one last time, and emerge from the other side without losing it.

All of which is to say, when this book - in its finalized and published form - sees the light of day, it will be a miracle of grace.

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On April 9, 2016, I wrote this blog expressing great joy that the book was nearly finished.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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The manuscript has been completed and proofed by a dear friend, but in truth, I need to read it myself one more time - cover to cover. And its so damn tough.

The manuscript has been completed and proofed by a dear friend, but in truth, I need to read it myself one more time - cover to cover. And it's so damn tough.

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The research materials are now at my rental home, where they sit in the living room, just in case I need the notes for some reason.

The research materials are now boxed and stored at my rental home, where they sit in the living room, just in case I need the notes for some reason. My faithful companion guards them.

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When Wayne came home, I insisted he pose here too.

This photo was taken on April 9, 2016 and was the last photo I have of Wayne Ringer. He killed himself seven days later. When he came home that day on April 9th, I asked him to "look erudite" and this was the pose he struck. I adored him, and he knew it, but those feelings weren't reciprocal.

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These were the books that I used most often.

The manuscript - and everything associated with it - are a memory of my life pre-April 2016. That's part of what makes this so agonizing. These were the notebooks that I referenced most often, a collection of newspaper articles from the "Virginia Gazette" and the "Daily Press."

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A street scene of the now-lost village of Penniman.

A street scene of the now-lost village of Penniman. The streets are mud and the houses are fresh and new. The village was built in 1918 and abandoned in early 1920. Photos are courtesy of the Whisnant family.

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On April 9, 2016, I did this blog expressing great joy that the book was nearly finished.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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“Finding The Houses That Sears Built” - Available While Quantities Last!

May 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of the many casualties of The Very Bad Thing™ were my book sales, but for many months following Wayne’s death, I didn’t care about anything.

Last week, someone pointed out that the price of Finding The Houses That Sears Built - now out of print - had hit crazy new heights. I logged into a popular website for books and was astonished to see that this modest tome - used - was fetching more than $145. The cost of a new copy was $495, for a book with an original cover price of $19.95.

I went out into the garage and dug around in some boxes (of which there are many), and found that I had about 15 copies of this title. (Note: This sounds simple but it was quite complex. I’m currently “camped out” in a rental and surrounded by boxes!)

So for now, while supplies last, this book will be offered for sale for $44.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. All orders are shipped out via priority mail.

To order a copy, click here.

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Finding The Houses That Sears Built

When I logged onto this website, I was shocked to see that "Finding The Houses That Sears Built" had a "low price" of $145. That's pretty incredible. And the cost for a NEW book was $495.

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FINDING

Prices ranged from $145 to more than $300. That's just incredible.

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Teddy

Teddy the Dog wants you to know that there are only a few copies available.

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ffff

On a different note, I may need an intervention. I keep buying stuffed horses.

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Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be one Horsie™

Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be the original classic "Horsie."™

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Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

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Thanks for reading my blog. And thanks for leaving a comment. Every day, I read and re-read every kind word left at this site, and every kind word helps put another salutary stitch in my shattered and broken heart.

Teddy and I thank you for your kindness and your prayers.

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They’re Gone, Chief…

May 6th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

Yesterday, I shipped out six copies (autographed) of “The Houses That Sears Built,” leaving one lone soldier in the box. Last night, an order came from Keyport, New Jersey for the last remaining book.

How I wish that I could retrieve those 6+ boxes of books from Harrison Moving Storage in Portsmouth. Unfortunately, their retrieval fees are just too much to justify the expense. As I said yesterday, I never expected to be living in this rental for almost eight months. I thought I’d be gone from  here in weeks.

But here I sit.

For now, I’ve ordered a limited reprint (only 200 copies) from Corley Printing in St. Louis.

If you order a copy of “The Houses That Sears Built,” there will be about a two-week delay. And once those 200 are gone, that might be it for a time.

To pre-order your copy, click here.

To learn more about how my books landed in storage, click here.

Read more about Sears Homes here.

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Horsie I, II, III, IV and V play in the empty box of the last books in my possession.

Horsie I, II, III, IV and V play in the empty box of the last books in my possession.

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Several people are worried that Teddy has been shoved off center stage with the addition of the Horsie Group™ but she's still the Top Dog in more ways than one. When it comes to posing, Teddy just doesn't fit into small boxes as well as the Horsie Group™.

Several people are worried that Teddy has been shoved off center stage with the addition of the Horsie Group™ but she's still the Top Dog. However, when it comes to posing cute animals in a little box, Teddy is more challenging.

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To learn more about how my books landed in storage, click here.

Read more about Sears Homes here.

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The Last Seven Books…

May 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

Nothing has been “orderly” about the last 12 months, and as a result, book orders have been delayed and a few orders fell between the cracks. Worst of all, several boxes of books got packed into storage which now (according to Harrison Moving) can’t be retrieved without a minimum $160 fee.

Every single thing in my life took a hit from The Bad Thing™.

However…

I have seven books left. That’s it for now. After these seven are gone, I’ll probably do one more reprinting and then that’s the end of the run.

Horise I, Horsie II and Horsie III are guarding the last seven books.

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Horsie

The last seven copies of "The Houses That Sears Built."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Penniman is another fascinating story. More on that here.

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“Barn Builders” Blunders Badly

April 11th, 2016 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last week, my buddy Milton saw an episode of “Barn Builders” (DIY TV, Season 2, Episode 9), which featured a short bit on a Sears Home. According to the episode guide that accompanied the program, “the guys restore an 1856 log cabin.”

The log cabin sat on a spacious old family farm. The “Barn Builders” did a fine job with that 1856 cabin, but it all went off the rails when they decided to do a snippet on another structure on the land, sitting a few hundred feet away. The house in question was a very primitive house, probably built in the late 1800s, and on the cusp of collapse.

As one of the crew members wandered over to the badly dilapidated structure, he said, “this looks like a Sears kit house.” Thus began a four-minute segment on Sears Kit Homes, replete with quick shots of Sears Modern Home catalogs from the early 1920s and house plans and other imagery.

Next, the Barn Builder walked into the old house and made several comments affirming his remarkable find of a kit house from Sears.

The entire four-minutes worth of shenanigans left me shaking my head in disbelief. The show probably has a wide-spread audience, which means that “Barn Builders” has now disseminated a whole slew of bad information about kit homes to a whole new audience.

It’s mighty frustrating and even more so when you think about the fact that this house wasn’t even built in the right CENTURY to be a Sears kit house.

Enjoy the pictures below and if you happen to know anyone involved in the production of “Barn Builders,” ask them to give me a call.

Did you enjoy this blog? Please share this link with your friends on Facebook!

Read about another unfortunate use of the airwaves and old houses, click here.

To read about a bona fide Sears House in West Virginia, click here.

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Fine

This tired wooden house sits on an old family farm in West Virginia, and was featured on a recent episode of "Barn Builders." Its condition is very poor.

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After a few minutes, this fellow leaves the project (an 1856 log cabin) and strolls over to the old farmhouse for a closer look. As hes walking, he identifies the old house as probably a Sears kit house. Thats when the real fun begins.

After working on the 1856 cabin for a time, one of the workers leaves the project and strolls over to the old farmhouse for a closer look. As he's walking toward the old house, he says that it's "probably a Sears kit house." That's when the real fun begins.

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The

There are many reasons as to why this is not a Sears kit house, but let's start with the "low-hanging fruit." First, it was probably built in the late 1800s. Sears started selling their "Modern Homes" in 1908. The house shown here is supported with what's known as "rubble stone" piers or "dry stacked stone" piers. While this type of foundation remained in use into the early 1900s, it was more common in the mid-to-late 1800s. And a rubble-stone foundation would not have been considered acceptable for a Sears kit home. And there's this: The house had no exterior sheathing. Those clapboards were nailed right to the studs. This is not a good way to build a house, and it's certainly not a kit house.

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The

It's rather amazing that this old house is still upright.

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If this house were in the south, wed say it was a mess.

There are no windows on the side of the house and there are two unusually long windows on the rear. This was a house designed and built by a novice. In short, it was the cheapest way to cover air in the 1800s.

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Inside the house, the man rambles on about the fact that the kits came with nails and paint and everything else.

Inside the house, the man rambles on about the fact that the kits came with nails and paint and everything else. If you look at the trim in the house, you'll notice that it's also extremely primitive. Again, it's pretty clear, no architects and no professional builders were consulted in the building of this house.

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These fellows should stick to building barns.

These fellows should stick to building barns.

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Read about another unfortunate use of the airwaves and old houses, click here.

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Thanks to Jim, We Found Sears Modern Home #158

April 11th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Twice in the last several months, I’ve done a blog on a Sears House that I’d never seen, but had hoped to see, and both times, readers have found those houses! The first one was the Sears Monterey, which Jennifer successfully found and identified in Pennsylvania. And now, Jim has found and identified a Sears Modern Home #158 in West Virginia!

I wrote Jim a letter and asked, “How did you do that?” He replied, “The listing said it was a Sears and it’s pretty unique design with the first-floor porch tucked under the bedrooms, so it wasn’t difficult to identify.”

Part of what piqued my interest in this house is that it merited an honorable mention in a book titled, “Flesh and Bone” by Jefferson Bass (2007).

Thanks to Jim for contacting me on this #158!

Many thanks to the unnamed and unknown Realtor who took the photos. If I knew who you were, I’d give you some link love.

To read about Jennifer’s find in Pennsylvania, click here.

The blog to which Jim responded can be found here.

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Sears Modern Home #158, as seen in the 1910 catalog.

Sears Modern Home #158, as seen in the 1910 catalog.

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Interesting floor plan

It always tickles me to find a Sears kit home with servant's quarters.

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Jhs

The bedroom on the front left is 12x20, which is massive for a Sears House.

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ff

Cement, brick and plaster were not included in the kit, due to weight and freight.

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Ffff

As Jim said, it's a pretty distinctive house!

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There it is, in all its beauty, in West Virginia.

There it is, in all its beauty, in West Virginia.

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Closer

If anyone ever decides to leave me a Sears House in their will, I hope it's in West Virginia. What a fabulous place to live! I'd also settle for Western Virginia. Or Southern Virginia. Or North Carolina. Or South Carolina. Maybe Maryland. And California. And even Hawaii. Heck, I'd take one anywhere.

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Cool

Put side-by-side, you can see that the house in West Virginia is a really nice match, down to the detail on the underside of the porch roof. And what a delight to see that those full-length porch railings are still in place.

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Nice back yard, too. Plenty of room back there for some horsies.

Nice back yard, too. Plenty of room back there for some horsies.

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The outside is lovely, but its the interior that made me swoon.

The outside is lovely, but it's the interior that made me swoon.

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My heart is all aflutter just looking at these images.

My heart is all aflutter just looking at these images.

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ss

Now that's a view to wake up to!

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Beautiful, isnt it?

Beautiful, isn't it?

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Nice front porch, too.

Does the swing convey? How about the adorable baby Adirondack chair?

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ff

The fireplace surround probably isn't original. Looks very 1950s to me. I could be wrong...

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However, Im fairly certain that all this original wood planking is original to the house. And its too beautiful for words. Heres hoping the new owner doesnt paint it or tear it out.

However, I'm fairly certain that all this original wood planking is original to the house. And it's too beautiful for words. Here's hoping the new owner doesn't paint it or tear it out.

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Thanks again to Jim for contacting me about this treasure!

Thanks again to Jim for contacting me about this treasure!

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To read about Jennifer’s find in Pennsylvania, click here.

The blog to which Jim responded can be found here.

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Another One Bites The Dust! Part II

December 22nd, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

How many homes must a nation tear down, before they can say it’s enough?

Old kit homes, that is.

Earlier this week, I wrote about a kit home in Haymarket, Virginia that is now on Death Row. Through the years, I’ve written about many kit homes that have been torn down. It does get depressing.

Today, there’s a new one: The Sears Crescent in Godfrey, IL.

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It started when a dear reader left this comment.

It started when a dear reader left this comment.

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You heard it here first.

You heard it here first.

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Sadly.

Sadly, it died sometime in late 2014 or early 2015.

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Google

A Google view of the site shows a fresh wound on the earth, where our Sears Crescent stood for more than 80 years. The "street view" (captured 12.21.2015) was taken by Google on July 2015.

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House

Here's an old 35mm slide of the house from about 2004 (or earlier).

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Heres an old 35mm slide of the house from about 2004 (or earlier).

In February 2010, I photographed the house for inclusion in my book, "The Sears Homes of Illinois." It's so disturbing to see the Midwest tearing down these homes.

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The Sears Crescent was a popular house for Sears, and probably arrived at the Alton train station in about 12,000 pieces. Some family labored for months to assemble their fine kit home (1929 catalog).

The Sears Crescent was a popular house for Sears, and probably arrived at the Alton train station in about 12,000 pieces. Some family labored for months to assemble their fine Sears Crescent (1929 catalog). Each house came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that "a man of average abilities" could have the house assembled in about 90 days.

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When are we going to decide, enough is enough?

When are we going to decide, enough is enough?

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To learn more about what makes Sears Homes historically significant, click here.

There are several other kit homes in the Alton/Godfrey area. One of my favorites is here.

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Something For My “Wish List”

December 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Updated! Jennifer found one!

Of the 370 models of kit homes offered by Sears & Roebuck, there are about 150 models that I’ve never seen. One of the most intriguing is the “Monterey.” It was very similar to the highly popular Sears Alhambra, but with a few minor differences, both inside and out.

The Monterey was offered only in the 1924 catalog, which is a fairly rare catalog. The Alhambra was offered for about a decade and proved to be highly popular and yet its “kissing cousin” seems to have never caught on. And of the two houses, I’d think the Monterey would be more popular.

One very commen complaint about the Alhambra is that roof leaks behind those dormers are very common (see image below), and “crickets” have to be added to deflect rain water away from the dormers. If you look at the photos below, you’ll see that the Monterey was designed with those crickets already in place. And the Monterey has a gabled roof over the staircase wing, rather than a flat roof (like the Alhambra).

I’m a big fan of the Alhambra but the Monterey’s dramatic parapet is snazzier and more appealing. And to think that I’ve never seen one in real life! The humanity!

Is there a Sears Monterey in your neighborhood?

If so, please let me know.

To read more about The Alhambra, click here.

Do you have a Sears Home? Learn more here.

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The Sears Monterey was offered only in the 1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Monterey was offered only in the 1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog, which might be one reason why there aren't many of these (if any) in the world.

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In this image, you can see the cricket behind that dormer.

In this image, you can see the "cricket" behind that dormer, which deflects rain water and helps prevent leaks behind that dormer. Plus, that staircase wing has a gabled roof, instead of the flat roof present on the Alhambra.

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Its very close to the Sears Alhambra, and in the 1924 catalog, theyre on opposing sides of the same page.

The Monterey is very similar to the Sears Alhambra, and in the 1924 catalog, they're on opposing sides of the same two-page spread. The "interior photos" are apparently a fit for either the Monterey or Alhambra.

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A side-by-side comparison of the two floor plans show some minor differences of the two houses.

A side-by-side comparison of the two floor plans show some minor differences of the two houses. The Monterey is on the right. The most striking difference is that someone moved the baby grand piano.

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There are several differences on the second floor, too.

In this image, the Monterey is on the left side (oops), and the Alhambra is on the right. One curiosity is that bathroom. In the Monterey, the sink was placed in what seems to be a very awkward spot. Closets have also been shifted around a bit.

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fff

That living room is just dazzling, and I love the chaise on the sunporch. That floor lamp with the fringe is pretty sweet too, and who doesn't love pink curtains? The 1924 catalog had several color images (such as shown on this blog) and yet it's a fairly rare catalog.

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tes

I wonder how often people followed the color suggestions for these homes.

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Sears

Now that is a fine-looking house! I'd love to find one - somewhere.

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To read more about The Alhambra, click here.

Do you have a Sears Home? Learn more here.

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