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Staunton, Virginia: More Amazing Finds

May 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

A couple days ago (May 1st),  I returned to Staunton to do a little more research on the kit homes in the city (in preparation for my talk on May 2nd), and this time, I was driven around by Frank Strassler, head of the Historic Staunton Foundation. It’s a lot easier to focus on kit homes when someone else is doing all the driving, and especially when that someone else knows where they’re going!

We found many kit homes that I’d not seen during a prior visit, and the most intriguing find was the four Harris Brothers kit homes we discovered. Frankly, I suspect there are more than four HB houses in Staunton, but I’m not that familiar with this company and, I have very few of their catalogs.

Harris Brothers (formerly the Chicago House Wrecking Company) was based in Chicago, Illinois. How did four Harris Brothers houses end up in Staunton? And three of them were in the same neighborhood (Sears Hill).

Hopefully, some of Staunton’s history loving residents will poke around a bit more, because I’m sure there are many more hidden architectural treasures just waiting to be found.

And, a little aside:   My favorite memory of the lecture on Thursday evening? I asked the crowd (128 attendees!), “Before there was a World War Two, does anyone know what we called World War One?”

To my utter delight and astonishment, a cacophony of voices replied, “The Great War.”

It was sheer bliss to realize that I was surrounded by so many history lovers. In all my travels, there’s typically a lone voice (or less), that correctly answers that question. The people of Staunton really do love their history, and better yet, they know their history, and that’s such a joy to behold.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

OOOH, an update! Read about my newest find in Staunton here!

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First, my favorite find in Staunton.

First, my favorite find in Staunton. Shown above is Modern Home #2028 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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Now thats a big house!

It looks like a massive house, but in fact, it's 22 feet wide and 29 feet deep.

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Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didnt consciously remember having seen this house, and yet...

Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didn't consciously remember having seen this house, and yet, when I got back to my hotel and started going through the old catalogs, I realized it was a perfect match to the Harris Brothers #2028!

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Pretty

And, as a nice bonus, I even managed to snap my one photo from the perfect angle! Though not easily seen in the photo above, the house in Staunton has the two bay windows, just as it should!

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The other three Harris Brothers homes were in one neighborhood: Sears Hill. Shown above is Modern Home #1017 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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The HB 1017, as seen in 1923.

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And here's the 1017 in Staunton! Look at the unique window arrangement on the home's front. And check out those unique columns, and the bracketing under the eaves. It was tough to get a good photo, but the little attic window is also a spot-on match to the catalog page. The house is 24 feet' wide and 36 feet deep. The dimensions of this house (shown above) seem to be a good match! The line drawings (from the original catalogs) are sometimes a little bit off in scale and proportion.

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If you look down the side, youll see its a good match there, too.

If you look down the side, you'll see it's a good match there, too. BTW, Staunton is very hilly, and I learned that it's tough to get good house photos in hilly neighborhoods! And, the angle skews the proportions. Short of carrying a 20-foot stepladder around on top of the Camry, I'm not sure how to solve this.

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HB # 1025 was another "favorite" find for me, and yet another kit home that I'd never seen before. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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HB # 1025 was another favorite find for me, and yet another kit home that Id never seen before.

HBClose-up of HB #1025. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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At the lower right of that catalog page (seen above), is an actual photo of a HB #1025. This photo shows off those beautiful six casement windows on the front.

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Be still my heart!!! Heres a real life example

What a fine house! Here's a real life example of HB #1025. And look at those pretty casement windows! Were it not for those original windows, I'm not sure I would have recognized this 90-year-old kit home.

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Another view of those wonderful old casements. By the way, apparently this house is for sale. Someone should contact the owner and let them know - this is a kit house!

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Close-up of the porch columns.

Close-up of the porch columns. And this house still has its original gutters.

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HB #1007 was one of their more popular designs, however... It's also a house that has several "twins." Given that Staunton's #1007 is within three houses of the other two HB homes, I'm going to assume that the model in Staunton is indeed from Harris Brothers.

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Nice house, isnt it?

Nice house, isn't it? Love the rocking chairs!

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Stauntons own HB #1017.

Staunton's own HB #1017.

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While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door.

While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door. And it has an unusual window arrangement down the right side (as shown here). This image is from the 1919 catalog.

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The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image.

The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image. Was the house built sans dormer, or was it removed during a roofing job? Hard to know, but I'd guess that it was built this way. And, this house is next door to the big Harris Brothers foursquare (#2028).

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Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton.

Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton (1938 catalog).

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This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton.

This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton. It squeezes three bedrooms into 960 square feet.

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Close-up on the Winona.

A key feature in identifying this very simple house is the small space between those two windows in the gabled bay (dining room).

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What a nice match!

What a nice match!

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And the other side is a good match, too!

And the other side is a good match, too!

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Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr.

Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr. Linkenholer.

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As seen in the 1919 catalog, heres a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope.

As seen in the 1919 catalog, here's a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope. Where's Mr. Linkholer's Stanhope? I'd love to know!

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

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Staunton, Virginia - Here I Come! (May 2nd)

April 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Thanks the Historic Staunton Foundation, I’ll be returning to Staunton on May 2nd to give a talk on the kit homes of Staunton!

As mentioned in a prior blog, Staunton has an interesting array of kit homes of all sizes, shapes and from several companies. And at 7 pm (Thursday evening), I’ll give a powerpoint presentation, featuring the kit homes I’ve discovered in the city.

It’ll be a lot of fun, comparing and contrasting original vintage images from the old catalogs with contemporary photos. And I’ll also talk about how to identify kit homes. A “windshield survey” is a good start, but even with a thorough street-by-street visual inspection, it’s still possible to overlook a few kit homes.

There are ways to identify a kit house from inside, including marked lumber, hidden blueprints, grease-pencil marks and shipping labels often found in unsuspecting places. We’ll talk about that on May 2nd.

Staunton has kit homes from Sears (the best known of the mail-order kit house companies), and Aladdin (the largest of the companies), Gordon Van Tine and Montgomery Ward.

And how did Staunton end up with so many kit homes? We’ll talk about that on May 2nd!

For a sneak preview of the beauties we’ve found in Staunton, scroll on down!

To learn more, visit the website for the Historic Staunton Foundation.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here. (BTW, that first blog has been viewed more than 2,500 times!)

Many thanks to Leslie Hayes and Linda Ramsey for not only providing the wonderful photos shown below, but in some cases, finding these Sears Homes!

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The Berwyn as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Berwyne

And here's a perfect Berwyn (in stucco) on Noon Street. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Maytown was -- as the ad promised - a big seller.

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The Maytown in Staunton overlooks Gypsy Hill Park.

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first, a mystery

The Wilmont was not a popular house (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

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And yet, is this a Wilmont in Staunton? I've puzzled over this house for close to an hour, and I'm still undecided. That dormer window on the side is pretty distinctive. I'd love to see the inside of this house. That would help me figure it out once and for all!

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The Wardway Cordova is another very distinctive house.

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And here's one in Staunton. Yes, it's a little rough around the edges, but it's still standing! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sussex 1929

The Sussex was offered by Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa). The image above is from the 1929 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

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Sussex GVT

And here it is, looking picture perfect! What a fine-looking Sussex it is, too! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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My faavorite match!

My oh my, that's a sweet match!

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Gordon Van Tine

The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" (shown above) was a hugely popular house.

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Roberts

And here's a perfect Roberts on North Augusta (Staunton). Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plymouth

The Aladdin Plymouth was a classic Dutch Colonial.

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house Plymouth

And here's a beautiful example of the Aladdin Plymouth.

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Mayfield planbook

In addition to kit homes, Staunton has a few "Plan Book" houses. Plan book homes were different from ktt homes, because with a plan book house, you purchased the blueprints and a detailed inventory that showed you precisely how much lumber you'd need to order for your house. With kit homes, the lumber was included. Plan book houses were quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was "The Mayfield," (offered in a plan book titled, "Harris, McHenry and Baker").

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planbook Leslie

It's hiding behind that tree, but you can still see this is a Mayfield. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plan book

Both of Staunton's Mayfields are painted the same color.

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Gennessee

The Genessee was another plan book house found in the Harris, McHenry and Baker planbook.

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Straith

And here's a picture perfect Genessee on Straith Street in Staunton. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Dover is one of my favorite Sears Homes. Cute, practical and easy to identify!

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Dover in Weyers Cave

Sadly, I did not visit nearby communities in Staunton during my visit there in mid-February, but I found this house while I was driving via Google Maps. Only a tiny part of Weyer's Cave is mapped (with street views on Google), and this Dover is on the main drag. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Gladstone was one of Sears "Top Ten" most popular homes (1916 catalog).

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It's been added onto, and yet I'm wholly confident that this is a Gladstone in Weyer's Cave. It's within 1/4 mile of the Dover shown above. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In all my travels, I've never seen a Sears Rosita (from the 1919 catalog).

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ramsey Deerfield

Linda Ramsey discovered this Sears Rosita in Deerfield, Virginia (near Staunton), and it's in original condition - a very rare find! Rositas were "Strong and Graceful" (sort of), but they were very simple and modest homes, which makes them difficult to identify and very prone to extensive and insensitive remodeling. To find this 94-year-old house in such pristine condition - and looking just like the old catalog page - is a real treat! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Crescent was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

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Vertona Rammsey

Linda Ramsey also discovered this picture-perfect Crescent in Verona (also near Staunton). And what a perfect match it is! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

And according to Aladdin literature, there's an Aladdin Stanhope in Staunton, but where?

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Heres a

Here's a perfect Aladdin Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids). Where is the Stanhope in Staunton? If you've seen it, please leave a comment below!

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Please do join us on May 2nd for  my talk on Sears Homes. Having given more than 250 talks in 27 states, the top three comments I hear are:

“Oh my gosh, I had no idea that a talk on history could be so much fun!”

“I didn’t want it to end. I could have listened to you all night!”

“Your passion for this topic really shines through!”

And - as a nice bonus - it’s very educational evening, and I promise, it’ll forever change the way you see the houses in your city!

:)

Click here to learn more about how to get tickets.

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Be there or be square!

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To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

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Updated Photos of the GVT Sussex

March 4th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in Saturday’s blog, I was finally able to identify this kit home in Staunton, thanks to Cindy Catanzaro. After days of plowing through old dusty catalogs and books, I’d not been able to match this house, but Cindy found it quietly lurking in a 1929 Gordon Van Tine catalog!

In Saturday’s blog, I discussed this more fully, but the purpose of this blog was to show the new photos that Leslie Hayes got for me! This new photo really shows off the wonderful details of this house.

Do you know of any other kit homes in Staunton? If so, please leave a comment below!

To read more about kit homes in Staunton, click here.

To learn more about this wonderful old house in Staunton, click here.

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As mentioned, Gordon Van Tine (like Sears) also sold kit homes through mail order. While Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes, GVT sold about 50,000. Many thanks to Dale Wolicki for supplying the numbers of GVT sales!

As mentioned, Gordon Van Tine (like Sears) also sold kit homes through mail order. While Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes, GVT sold about 50,000. Many thanks to co-author and dear friend Dale Wolicki for supplying the numbers of GVT sales!

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The Sussex, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

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The house!

What a fine-looking house that is!!

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And heres my little pretty! The Sussex is also currently for sale! How exciting is that!

And here's my little pretty! The Sussex is also currently for sale! How exciting is that! Even the attic window is a spot-on match to the catalog page! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This comparison really shows

This comparison really shows what a perfect match this house is to the 1929 catalog image.

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Thanks to Leslie for providing these wonderful photos!

To learn more about the kit homes I found in Staunton, click here.

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And Then I Found a House I’d Never Seen Before (in Staunton)!!

March 2nd, 2013 Sears Homes 15 comments

Several days ago, I wrote a blog about the abundance of kit homes I found in Staunton, VA.

A fine fellow named Frank left a comment at that blog about a possible kit home at 1102 North Augusta Avenue (in Staunton). Thanks to Google Maps and their sharp images, I “drove” to the address (via my laptop). As it turned out, the house he’d mentioned on North Augusta was not a kit home, but then I saw something next door that really piqued my interest!

Next door at 1106 North Augusta was a beautiful home, and I recognized it as a catalog house, but I couldn’t remember WHERE I’d seen it. Was it from a kit or a planbook? I knew I’d seen that house in one of my books, but where?

I closed my eyes and tried to pull up the image mentally, but to no avail. Next, I dug out the catalogs and pored over thousands of images, desperate to find this house.

Still nothing.

Through the days, I’d lie down, take a deep breath, close my eyes and “see the house” (in Staunton) and then try to match it up with the houses in memory. It was not a strong memory.  I could “see” the black and white image in my thought and tried to scroll up on the mental page to see what catalog I was looking at.

No success.

Honestly, it got somewhat frustrating.

Several days ago, I posted the image on Facebook, in our “Sears Homes” group.

And then this morning when I logged onto Facebook, I found a message from one of the most active members, Cindy Catanzaro. She’d found the house in a Gordon Van Tine catalog. I was over-the-moon happy, and my brain was happy, too. No more endless searching for a faint image. No more walking into walls while my tormented mind was on overdrive, desperate to match up the Staunton house with the thousands of images rattling around in my head.

And the best part is, the house in Staunton is a spot-on match to the Gordon Van Tine “Sussex.” It is a beauty!

Now how fun is that?

And how did I miss it? I have a home-made field guide to the kit homes offered by Gordon Van Tine. It’s got about 500 house designs in it, organized by style, but the Sussex was not in my field guide. Complicating matters even more was this: Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all the orders for the Montgomery Ward kit homes (Wardway Homes), but there were a handful of designs that were exclusive to Gordon Van Tine. The Sussex was one of them.

So the Sussex fell through the cracks of my copious collection of kit home catalogs!

Thanks again to Frank for the tidbit that led to me finding this house, and thanks to Cindy Catanzaro for solving the mystery, and thanks to the owners of this house in Staunton (Alan and Sharon) for allowing me to use their photo!

And, I recently discovered that this fine old house is a famous Bed and Breakfast! Click here to learn more!

And, as a side note, this house is currently for sale and if I lived in Staunton, I’d be all over that!  ;)

To learn more about this wonderful home, visit the B&B website, here.

If you know of any other kit homes in Staunton (or surrounding areas), please leave a comment below!

Want to learn more about kit homes? Click here to join our merry band on Facebook!

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Sears was the most well-known of the kit home companies, but Gordon Van Tine was a serious contender. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and had mills in Washington State and Mississippi too.

Sears was the most well-known of the kit home companies, but Gordon Van Tine was a serious contender. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and had mills in Washington State and Mississippi too. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the business. Gordon Van Tine probably sold about 50,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the numbers on GVT!)

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As see in the 1929 catalog, heres a copy

In the 1926 catalog, it was Model #628. In the 1929 catalog, it was named "The Sussex."

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Its a bit grainy, but you can see the floorplan here.

It's a bit grainy, but you can see the floorplan here.

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And heres the Sussex, in all its beauty and grandeur.

And here's the Sussex, in all its beauty and grandeur.

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Thanks to Leslie Hayes, I now have a bigger and better photo of the Sussex!

Thanks to Leslie Hayes, I now have a bigger and better photo of the Sussex! What a perfect match this house is to the catalog page! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sussex in Staunton from another angle. It's a good looking house from all sides! Photo is copyright 2012 Alan Kincheloe and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ooh la la, what a match!!!

Ooh la la, what a match!!!

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

To learn more about what makes these kit homes so valuable (and such an important piece of America’s cultural history), click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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