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The Eighth Magnolia - and - It’s In West Virginia (Part II)

August 25th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Yesterday, I blogged about the beautiful Sears Magnolia in West Virginia. And it is a beauty. (Read about it here.)

Today, I’d like to show off the interior of this wonderful old house.

First, a little history. The home’s owner believes - based on his research - that the house was built in late 1924 or early 1925. A reminiscence from a former neighbor puts the build date in the same time period. This jibes with the county tax record as well (which shows 1925), but tax records are notoriously unreliable on construction dates.

To be honest, when I first heard that this house was built in 1924, I was a little incredulous. The Sears Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Sears Modern Home catalog, and its last appearance was in the 1922 catalog.

Was it really possible that this Magnolia was purchased in 1924 or later?

In the basement of this glorious Eighth Magnolia, the owner showed me an old pedestal sink in the family bathroom (second floor). On its underside was a casting date of November 6, 1923. If this is the original sink (and based on what I saw, it probably is), then this kit house was shipped to West Virginia sometime after January 1924.

These “Modern Homes” catalogs that Sears distributed far and wide did not automatically self-destruct when the year ended. It’s altogether possible that the Magnolia’s original owner had been studying a 1918-1922 catalog for some time, and took a fancy to the Magnolia. He may not have realized that this model wasn’t offered after 1922.

Other than some post-war hyperinflation, the prices for building materials in the first three decades of 20th Century were relatively stable.

According to the neighbor’s reminiscence, the Magnolia cost $7,000 to purchase and another $7,000 to build.

It’s entirely plausible that the Magnolia sold for “about” $7,000 in 1924, especially with the upgrades that were offered with this house. (See price sheet further down this page.)

And if Sears Roebuck had a few old Magnolias hanging around the warehouse, I’m sure they would have been thrilled to unload them in 1924 or even beyond. And if they had most of one Magnolia ready to go, but it was missing a few parts, they could have easily milled those pieces to complete the kit.

In fact, if they did not do any milling or cutting until after an order was placed, it would also been fairly simple for Sears to fulfill an order from a two-year-old catalog.

In conclusion, is it possible this Magnolia wasn’t ordered until 1924 or 1925?

In a word, yes!

Enjoy the photos below! And if you know of a Sears Magnolia, send me a note!

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The Magnolia appeared on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. These specialty catalogs were pricey to create, publish and ship, shipped to customers on request, and were not discarded when the year passed.

The Magnolia appeared on the cover of the 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog. These specialty catalogs were expensive to create, publish and ship. Sears did not send out new catalogs each year to last years' customers. (There was a lot less waste in the world a scant 80 years ago.) These catalogs were shipped out upon request. And they were not automatically discarded when the year passed. In fact, 90+ years later, many of these catalogs are still kicking around (as is evidenced by activity at eBay).

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house

Lisa Tabor (owner of the Magnolia in Syracuse, NY) graciously shared this image with me. She has the original blueprints for her Magnolia, framed and hanging in the entry foyer. This picture shows that her blueprints were drawn on March 25, 1921 for the home's buyer, Mr. Edward Knapp. This is for a house that was first offered in the Spring of 1918. If the blueprints were individually drafted for every Magnolia, it would be very easy for Sears to offer the Magnolia in later years. Photo is is copyright 2013 Lisa Tabor and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house price

I've taken this price sheet (1921 catalog) and sliced the horizontal info into two segments so the print won't be so tiny. The hot water heating plant alone would add $921 to the price. Add in some plumbing ($622) and oil shades ($106) and that's another $738. In 1922, the Magnolia was offered for $5,849. That, plus the heat, plumbing and shades takes you to $7,498.

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house house house

Here's your chance to peak in the windows of the Magnolia! (Image is from the Ladies' Home Journal, 2/1911.)

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Reception Hall

As mentioned, everything in this house is picture-perfect. Every room is gorgeous and well-appointed and beautifully decorated. The entry hall is flanked by french doors leading to the living room (right) and dining room (left). The oak floors were replaced several years prior. Pulling off a floor vent, I found four layers: The original diagonal planking (subfloor), original tongue and groove oak floors, a layer of 3/8" plywood and it was topped with tongue and groove white oak floors. That's more than 2" of solid flooring. This house could double as a bomb shelter.

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house house house house

The fan lite over the front door has lead muntins, not wooden, but they're probably original. The catalog image for the Magnolia shows wooden muntins (all four years), and yet the Magnolias in Canton, Ohio and Lincoln, Nebraska have the lead muntins. Was this an optional upgrade? Or a clue to when it was built? I'd love to know!

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Living Room

The living room fireplace doesn't match the fireplace mantel shown in the catalog, and yet it's a perfect match to the mantel shown in the pictures of the Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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house house house FP

Close-up on the fireplace. The marble (surrounding the opening) was added. The hearth is also marble and not original. When built, it had a brick hearth and brick flanking the opening.

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living room view

These french doors lead to a spacious sunporch. Note the many sconces.

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Detail of the "ingleneuk" (or "inglenook") as we Americans are wont to say). Cozy, practical AND historic!

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house living room

As mentioned earlier, every corner of this house looks like something out of glossy magazine. The french doors and hardware are either original or an accurate reproduction.

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beautiful LF

Another view of the Magnolia's living room.

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fake transom

A common feature found throughout the Magnolia is what I call, "the fake transom." I've never seen anything like this in any other Sears House. At first blush, you'd think this was a transom that had been filled in, but in fact, the house was built this way by design.

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house house house

A view from the living room into the foyer and dining room.

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Dining Room

There are a lot of windows in this dining room. In fact, I had a time getting the lighting right.

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Wayne Ringer admires

Hubby admires the beautiful windows in the dining room. God bless the folks who restored this house several years ago - they saved the original wooden windows!

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dining room

Close-up of the intricate moldings and millwork.

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chance to peak in the windows

A view from the dining room.

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house house house house

A view from the landing. When built, those spindles were stained with varnish to match the banister.

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house house house house house

In the floorplan, a pair of french doors lead out to a small balcony on the home's rear. It seems likely this house was built with the windows in place of the french doors.

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Laundry

The original door to the third floor (attic) was in the home's main hallway, but was moved around the corner to the small hallway that leads to the family bathroom. This was another very smart move, as it took out a landing and a tight 90-degree turn on that narrow attic staircase. Shown above is the doorway to the linen closet (next to the family bathroom). In the 1950s, a small shower stall was added to the bathroom, and that took out 90% of the depth in this linen closet, leaving only the small space you see above. This was turned into a laundry chute , which is also a thoughtful design. If you study the floorplan (shown further down), this all becomes clear.

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house house house house

The floorplan shows these built-in cabinets in the master bedroom dressing room. Inside these cabinets are a "special shelf" for hats. In 1924 (or 25), there was a small cast-iron pedestal sink in the corner.

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house on sink on dressing room

The walls on the dressing room have this faux subway tile. In fact, it's plaster that's been etched with lines and topped with a piece of trim. This was commonly used in bathrooms of the late 1910s and early 20s. I'm not sure why they used it in the dressing area.

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much discussed sink

If you look at the floorplan, you'll see that this corner of the dressing room shows a small sink. Seems like an odd spot for a sink! To the left of the picture, you'll see door trim, which is the right edge of the door that leads out to the second-floor balcony (on the front). Curious placement!

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In the other dressing room

If you had x-ray vision, you could look through this wall (shown above) and see the exact same sink on the other side of the wall. With all the plumbing (supply lines and drain) just inside the wall, adding another sink on the other side was pretty easy. This sink (shown above) is underneath one of the little windows that flanks the second-floor balcony on the home's front. It sits inside a spacious walk-in closet in the other front bedroom. This sink has been added, and the medicine chest shown here was originally on the OTHER side of the wall. It was moved here for reasons I can't begin to understand.

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Attic is

As per the original floor plan, there is a permanent staircase to the attic, behind a door off the second-floor hallway. This attic was finished off and (like the rest of the house) is in beautiful condition. This dormer window is on the front of the house, and you can see a piece of the porch balcony (on the roof) through the small window.

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kitchen

The original kitchen stopped at the end of that tall cabinet in the right of the picture. The entire 40-foot expanse of the back of the Magnolia was enlarged by about 10-feet, which dramatically increased the floor space of the kitchen. In addition. the interior staircase (which lead from the kitchen to the servant's quarters) was also removed which added about four feet of width to the Magnolia's kitchen.

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more kitchen

The kitchen, as seen from the Butler's pantry.

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den fireplace

The den in the Magnolia was a mere eight feet deep. Pretty miserable. The 40-foot wide addition across the back of the Magnolia opened up the den quite a bit, too. The original fireplace was replaced with a new masonry fireplace which was added on to the existing firebox. Notice the depth of the wall beside the fireplace.

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butler pantry original

Incredibly, the butler's pantry is mostly original.

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Butler Pantry 2

Base cabinets in the butler's pantry.

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FP2

Study this floorplan for a bit and you'll soon figure out all the changes that were made to the West Virginia Magnolia.

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two

The second floor is pretty darn busy. Check out the sink in the dressing room and you'll see how easy it'd be add another sink to the closet in the other front bedroom.

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finding marked lumber in the basement wasnt easy. most of it was covered. dark with coal dust.

Finding marked lumber in the basement proved a bit difficult. Most of the basement was finished, and there were only a few places were framing members were accessible, such as this space above the old coal bin. Secondly, the basement has a ceiling height of nine feet, so we were looking way over our heads! Looking at this piece, I thought I saw a number, but the wood was so dark it was tough to be sure. Do you see the number?

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Wiped it down

The homeowner had two great ideas. One, he fetched us a small step ladder so we could get a little closer to the lumber. He also suggested we take a rag and wipe off the coal dust. Voilà! Now we're trying to figure out if that's a "C" or a "G"! We know that the Magnolia was also offered as a "plan," so finding these marked beams was a nice affirmation that this was "the whole kit and caboodle".

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Attic markings

In the knee walls of the attic, I also spotted a mark!

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attic markings close

It appears to say "A 155."

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Maggy in the snow

The Magnolia's owner sent me a photo of his beautiful house, taken last year during a West Virginia snow storm. It's almost too perfect to be real. For my next birthday, I think I'd like a cake done up to look just like this.

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house house house

The Magnolia as it appeared in the 1922 catalog.

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Beautiful from every angle.

Many thanks to the homeowner for allowing me to spend two glorious hours at his beautiful home, examining it from top to bottom. If a mother was allowed to have favorites, this would be one of my favorite homes. :)

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Of the eight known Magnolias in the country, three of them were discovered via comments left at this blog. That’s 37% of the Maggies being discovered thanks wholly to the readers (”bird dogs”) reporting on their finds.

So the most important question of the day is, where’s the ninth Magnolia?

Do tell!

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

To read a fascinating story about a 94-year-old man that recalled building a Magnolia in Canton, click here.

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The Sears Magnolia in “The Notebook” (Sheesh!)

July 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Some rumors just never die.

There’s a persistent (and false) rumor making the rounds that beautiful Neo-Classical Revival home featured in “The Notebook,” is a Sears Magnolia.

Nope.

Not even close.

Not even close.

Let’s go right to the photos.

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Black River

The house featured in "The Notebook" is the Black River Plantation House in Georgetown County (South Carolina). It is a beauty, but it's not a Sears House. And yes, I'm 100% certain. :) The photo above is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

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Benson

Here's the real deal: A Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Comparison

Now let's compare them side-by-side. At first glance, both homes have four walls, a roof, two-story columns and some windows. But that's where it stops. The Black River Plantation (on the left) has that massive front-gable atop that porch. The window arrangement on the non-Magnolia house is also quite different. And Black River Plantation is much larger than the Sears Magnolia. And look at how tall the Black River Plantation is! Notice how much space exists between those second-floor windows and the roofline. Those are important details. If you still think these houses are identical, drop me a note and I'll send some biscuits for your seeing-eye dog. The photo on the left is from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (Black River Plantation House, front elevation).

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Heres a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

Here's a catalog picture of the Sears Magnolia (1920).

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Heres the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Here's the authenticated Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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Heres a color photo of the Black River Plantation.

Here's a color photo of the Black River Plantation. Again, notice how much space there is between the first and second floors, and the second and third floors. It is a stunningly beautiful house, isn't it? (Photo is copyright 2008 Brandon Coffey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Oh my!

Oh my! The Black River Plantation doesn't look like this, does it?

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Where did this nutty rumor get started? Apparently, here (see below). In 1994, the Black River Plantation was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Note the highlighted text below.

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In 1994,

The author wrote that it's possible that Waddell "utilized one of these sources" (kit homes or plan book home). Well, I can't rule out plan books, but I can rule out "kit house." The Black River Plantation is most assuredly not a kit house. Of that, I am sure. At least they admitted that it was definitely NOT a kit home from Montgomery Ward.

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And don’t get me started on the “Honor Built Homes marketed…during the late 19th Century…”

Whew boy!

In all fairness, not as much was known then (in 1994) as is known now about Sears kit homes. However, this pernicious rumor - that the house featured in The Notebook is a Sears Magnolia - seems to have taken on a life of its own.

On a happier note, look at some pictures of real Magnolias here.

And if you know of any REAL Magnolias, please leave a comment.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Sears Maggy in Canton, Ohio: Looking Better Than Ever!

June 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

In 2002, I was invited to participate in filming one of the first episodes of History Detectives (PBS). In 2002, I traveled to Ohio for the show, and on the first day of filming, we visited this Sears Magnolia in Canton. I took several photos while we were there, and more recently, I scanned the old 35mm slides and posted them here.

More recently, my dear friend Janet Hess LaMonica traveled to Canton (her hometown) and managed to get some wonderful new photos for me!

I’m happy to say, the Maggy in Canton is looking absolutely beautiful!

To learn more about the Magnolia, click here.

Is the house featured in “The Notebook” a Sears Magnolia? Absolooterly NOT. Read about that here.

To read an old interview with a 94-year-old man who helped build a Sears Magnolia 90+ years ago, click here.

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Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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The Magnolia was a fine house!

The Magnolia was a spacious house!

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Sears House

The Sears Magnolia up close and personal.

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Sears Magnolia

The beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio, looking pretty as a post-card! (Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sears House

Everything about this house is absolutely beautiful! (Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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nice

This Sears Magnolia was Sears grandest and most spacious kit homes. There are Sears Magnolias in Benson, NC, Irwin, PA, South Bend, IN, Piedmont, AL and Syracuse, NY. There was a Magnolia in Nebraska but it burned down years ago. (Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Comparison

What a pretty match!

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Of every link I’ve ever posted, this is my favorite Sears Magnolia story.

To learn more, click here.

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The South Bend Maggy - And the Kindness of Strangers!

May 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

Last week, I wrote about the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana, and posted some old, not-so-clear snapshots of the house. I also posted the photos at a couple internet sites, asking if someone might be so kind as to snap a few new photos for me.

Incredibly, wonderfully, two kind souls responded, providing beautiful, professional-quality photos of this very rare Sears House in South Bend.

So now, thanks to the kindness of not one, but two dear souls, I have updated (and beautiful) photos! That’s the GOOD news!

The sad news is, our Maggy in South Bend is in some pain. I’d love to know if this house is for sale, or what’s happened. It appears to be in a state of decline. We’ve already lost one Magnolia in Nebraska that was torn down years ago, and we almost lost the Maggy in Canton, Ohio in the 1970s, when it fell into such a state of disrepair that the roof collapsed into the second floor. It was the vision of two people, and a heroic restoration and a devotion to historic preservation that saved that house.

Let’s hope and pray that our Maggy in South Bend is preserved and restored. After all, it’s one of only six remaining (known) Magnolias in the country!

And thank you to James Layne and Garrett Baumann who took time out of their busy day to run over to the house and take several *beautiful* photos.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

The Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia - as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Close-up on the floor plan for the first floor.

Close-up on the floor plan for the first floor.

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And here it is - the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana. Oh, what a house - and what a wonderful photo!!  Many thanks to James Layne who sent me a plethora of wonderful, high resolutation photos!

And here it is - the Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana. Oh, what a house - and what a wonderful photo!! Many thanks to James Layne who sent me a plethora of wonderful, high resolution photos! (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Close-up of the porch

Close-up of the porch

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Thanks to the high resolution, clear photos that James sent, I was able to zoom in on some details - such as the front porch!

Thanks to the high resolution, clear photos that James sent, I was able to zoom in on details - such as the front porch! (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Front

In fact, Mr. Layne's photos were such a high resolution that I was able to zoom way, way in and get nice, detailed images of the entryway (shown above). (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And this photo, taken by Garrett Baumann, really shows the majesty of the Magnolia, and its setting on a spacious lot.

And this photo, taken by Garrett Baumann, really shows the majesty of the Magnolia, and its setting on a spacious lot. (Photo is copyright 2012 Garrett Baumann and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The original wooden railing is long gone, and has been replaced with wrought iron, which also appears to be fading a bit.

The original wooden railing on the top of the porch roof is long gone, and has been replaced with wrought iron, which also appears to be fading a bit. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Our poor Maggy is in some pain. The original half-round galvanized gutters are looking a little tired.

Our poor Maggy is in some pain. The original half-round galvanized gutters are looking a little tired. And you can see that someone started to paint the eaves - but then stopped. The good news is, it'll be easy to remove that aluminum siding, and those plastic "accoutrements" atop the windows. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The porch ceiling needs a little attention, too.

The porch ceiling needs a little attention, too. In fact, it needs a lot of attention. Sears Homes were made with #1 Southern Yellow Pine (for framing members) harvested out of first-growth virgin forests. We'll never see wood like that again in this country. The exteriors were 100% cypress, which was known as "The Wood Eternal." Sears Homes were made with superior quality wood, but left unattended and unmaintained, they will eventually deteriorate and decay. Hopefully, this Magnolia will be preserved. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Magnolia has these very distinctive windows, with the small lites above the main sashes. Its details such as this that really distinguish the Sears Magnolia from look-alikes.

The Magnolia has these very distinctive windows, with the small lites above the main sashes. It's details such as this that really distinguish the Sears Magnolia from look-alikes. Every day, several people land at my website after googling the terms "house with the blue shutters" (from the movie, "The Notebook" because someone somewhere started a rumor that the house featured in that movie is a Sears Magnolia. That house looks nothing like the Sears Magnolia. The key to proper identification really is in the details. (Photo is copyright 2012 Garrett Baumann and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Just look at those beautiful Ionic columns!!

Just look at those beautiful Ionic columns!! (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Magnolia - in all its splendor.

The Magnolia - in all it's splendor. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Another splendiferous

Another splendiferous shot of a splendid house: The Magnolia. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Thereve been times when people send me house photos that look like this. (And yes, there is a house back here.)

I really appreciate a good photo, because there've been many times when people send me "house photos" that look like this. (And yes, there is a house back there, hidden behind all that greenery!)

Thank you again to both James Layne and Garrett Baumann for running out to an old house on West North Shore Drive and performing a “random act of kindness” for a total stranger. I am profoundly grateful. And I’m confident that the 1,000+ daily readers of my blog are grateful, too!

We love our Magnolias!  :)

To read the first blog on the South Bend Magnolia, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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There’s a Reason They Were Called Sears MODERN Homes

September 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In 1908, a little ad appeared on page 594 of the Sears general merchandise catalog. It read, “Let us be your architect, without cost to you.” Interested buyers were invited to write in and request the free catalog, “Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans.” The first houses ranged in price from $500 to $5000.

The mail-order homes were shipped by boxcar and came in 12,000 piece kits. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days. That was probably a little optimistic, but if you requested a Sears mortgage on your Sears kit home, there was a requirement that thee house be occupied within four months of purchase!

By the early 1910s, the specialty catalogs featuring these kit homes had a new title: “Sears Modern Homes.” And they really were modern homes.

In 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine reported that “watertight roof, walls and floor are an essential feature of a modern city house.”

Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books? She described life on the plains in soddies and tiny cabins in the 1870s ad 1880s.

The Midwesterners who built Sears kit homes in the early 1900s could have been raised in housing that would be considered extremely primitive by today’s standards.

Below is a picture of a soddie. These were very primitive and dark and dank; undoubtedly a fairly miserable way to spend the day, nine months out of the year. One look at these soddies (below) and you’ll fast understand why a pretty little Sears bungalow would be classified as a “Modern Home.”

To learn more about these Modern Homes, click here.

prim

Soddies were made of sod that had been cut into squares and stacked up. They were easy to heat, and they kept *most* of the rain off your head. Kinda.

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Close-up of Soddie Life.

Living aint easy in one of these

Living ain't easy in one of these.

Cover

Cover of the first Sears kit home catalog. Notice the art deco lamps!

Cover

In the 1908 catalog, Modern Home #106 was offered for $1145, which was an outstanding value. In today's dollars, that'd probably be about $15,000. There's no bathroom, but it's still a lot better than a soddie!

Boo

Incredibly, I found this photo on eBay years ago. It's a Modern Home #106 with the fam seated in front of it! You can see why this house would be such a vast improvement over a soddie. It's really a stark contrast to a house made of dirt.

house

The family seated in front of their "Modern Home." I'm sure they were very proud of their beautiful little house.

To learn  more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Sears Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania!

August 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

Two weeks ago, I drove six hours out of my way (enroute to Elkins, WV) to visit a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, Pennsylvania.

Irwin, it turns out, is not a thriving metropolis but a small town just off the beaten path. However, it does have an Americus, an Alhambra (on the main drag) and a Lewiston. And best of all, it has a Sears Magnolia dressed up in brick.

The Magnolia was the creme de la creme of the Sears kit homes. It was bigger and grander and fancier than any of the other 370 models that Sears offered. You can learn a whole lot more about the Magnolia by clicking here and here.

In short, The Magnolia was Sears’ finest home. And it was also one of the rarest.

For years, we’d heard that there were six Magnolias built in the country. There was one in Nebraska (which burned down many years ago), and one in North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Ohio. (Click on the links to read more about those particular houses).

And then in February, I was told about a purported Sears Magnolia in Blacksburg, South Carolina. I put 897 miles on my car that weekend, driving down to Blacksburg to see that house in the flesh. It was close - real close - but it was not a Sears Magnolia. You can read more about that here.

In May, I learned about the seventh Magnolia in Syracuse, New York! So how many Sears Magnolias are there? Perhaps billions and billions and billions.

How delightful is that!?!

And what about our Magnolia in Irwin? Unfortunately, I was not able to get inside despite a lot of serious door-knocking. However, it appears that our wonderful Maggy has been turned into an apartment building.

First, the original catalog image from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Magnolia

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

house

Unfortunately, there were many obstacles to a good picture, such as a utility pole and stop sign. This Magnolia looks quite different from the traditional Magnolia, plus the third-floor dormer has a full-size door with coach lights flanking it! The Magnolia typically has a gabled dormer, whereas the Irwin house has a hipped dormer. That's one of about a dozen minor differences between this house (above) and the Sears catalog page (below).

Another view of the Magnolia in Irwin

Another view of the Magnolia in Irwin

From the rear

From the rear, it surely looks like this old house has been turned into several apartments. I hope someone from Irwin will tell me that I'm wrong!

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

This is another view from another time. This photo was sent to me several years ago by Bob Keeling, who then owned the house. As I recall, he was in the process of selling the house at that time. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)

Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, New York

And here's a picture of the Sears Magnolia in Syracuse! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. Notice the many differences between this porch (shown in this catalog page) and the house in Irwin!

Close-up of the house itself (1921 catalog)

Close-up of the house itself (1921 catalog)

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Sears Magnolia in South Bend

Sears Magnolia in South Bend. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Magnolia in South Carolina

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

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To learn about Wardway Homes (sold by Montgomery Ward), click here!

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Holy Moly, There IS a 7th Magnolia (and It’s In Syracuse) - UPDATED

May 5th, 2011 Sears Homes 16 comments

We have confirmation on our seventh Magnolia.  Absolute, incontrovertible proof.

Earlier this month, I contacted the owner, and learned that she has documentation, showing that this house did indeed come from Sears and Roebuck. Between that, and the visual confirmation, we have a WINNER!  :)

Let’s back up a bit. What is a MagnoliaThe Magnolia was the creme de la creme of the Sears kit homes. It was bigger and grander and fancier than any of the other 370 models that Sears offered. You can learn a whole lot more about the Magnolia by clicking here and here.

In short, The Magnolia was Sears’ finest home. And it was also one of the rarest.

For years, we’d heard that there were six Magnolias built in the country. There was one in Nebraska (which burned down many years ago), and one in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Ohio. (Click on the links to read more about those particular houses).

And then in February, I got wind of a purported Sears Magnolia in Blacksburg, South Carolina. I put 897 miles on my car that weekend, driving down to Blacksburg to see that house in the flesh. It was close - real close - but it was not a Sears Magnolia. You can read more about that here.

So when I got another note Wednesday morning (May 4, 2011)  that there was a Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, I was skeptical. Actually, I was many miles past skeptical. It was 2:00 a.m., and I couldn’t sleep so I went to Google and “drove” via Google Maps. And then I saw it.

“Holy cow,” I muttered under my breath in the quiet stillness of my pre-dawn bedroom. “I think that’s a Magnolia!”

By 8:30 a.m., an old-house lover and architectural angel (Mariel Proulx) responded to a desperate note I’d posted online, and jumped in her car and drove to Syracuse to photograph a 90-year-old house for a perfect stranger. She snapped a dozen photos for me.

After seeing the photos, I was 99% convinced this was the real deal. And then last night, two more architectural angels (Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley) offered to drive to Syracuse and get more photos for me!

When I heard from the homeowner, that cinched the deal! How delightful is that!?!

Enjoy the photos. And please leave a comment below. And thanks so much to both Ted Johnson and Heather Lukaszewski for contacting me and letting me know that there was a good reason to take a closer look at that quiet tree-lined street in Syracuse, New York. And thanks to Mariel Proulx for dropping everything and driving to the next city (in the rain) to get me a dozen good quality photos of my Sears Magnolia! :) And thanks to Scott and Jerry for driving out there today to get even more photos!

First, the original catalog image from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Magnolia

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

Magnolia

The glorious Magnolia in all its splendor. (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Close up

Close up of the bracketing under the eaves. Note those awesome Corinthian columns! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

View of the side

Isn't it spectacular! What a house! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, New York

Good gracious, that's a good looking house! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Be

Incredibly, this 90-year-old house looks much like it did when built! In all my travels, this is surely the MOST perfect Magnolia of them all! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

House

And our Maggy is SO photogenic! Beautiful from every single angle! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. Note how the pilasters (flat half-columns flanking the front door) are tapered, and broader at the bottom than they are at the top.

Those tapered columns are also evident here.

Those tapered columns are also evident here. The details around the entry way are very nice. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )

Close-up of the house itself (1921 catalog)

Close-up of the house itself (1921 catalog)

And the house in Syracuse

The second floor windows are not a perfect match to the catalog page, but that's a relatively unimportant detail. More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and moving windows to and fro was one of the more common alterations. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )

Long view down the side

Long view down the side. From this angle, you can see that the dormer is also a perfect match to the catalog image, even down to the short pilasters on the dormer's corners! (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )

Wow.

Wow. Just WOW! (Photo is courtesy of Scott Bailey and Jerry Ashley and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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

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

Magnolia in South Carolina

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

To learn more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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North Carolina’s Prettiest House: The Sears Magnolia

January 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Thanks to a FOSH (Friend of Sears Homes), I found the 5th known Sears Magnolia in the country. In March 2010, “Joy” sent me a link last week to a news story on a Sears Home in Benson, NC (just outside of Raleigh).  When I clicked on the link, I had no idea the show would be featuring a Sears Magnolia - the Creme de la creme of Sears Homes!

As soon as possible, I left my house in Norfolk, Virginia to make the drive to Benson. Soon, I was parked in front of the Sears Magnolia, staring at her with majestic glee.

The happy owners of the Magnolia allowed me to tour the inside of the house, where I found proof that it was indeed a Sears Magnolia (as if there were any doubt). Click on this link to read more about that.

This was the second Magnolia that I’ve been inside. The first was in Canton, Ohio. In 2002, PBS’s History Detectives did a segment on Sears Homes, and invited me to be part of the program.  After hours of filming, I took a nap inside the house, and that was one of the happiest naps of my life!

There are also Sears Magnolias in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Alabama.

Below is the Sears Magnolia in North Carolina.

To read more about the Sears Homes in Raleigh, click here.

maggy_benson_nc

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Original catalog image from 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Right after WW1 (The Great War) ended, prices went sky high. Sears couldnt keep up with the volatility in the cost of building materials, so they started inserting price sheets into their catalog. This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the late 1920s.

Right after WW1 ended, (also known as "The Great War"), prices went sky high. Sears couldn't keep up with the volatility in the cost of building materials, so they started inserting price sheets into their catalog. This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Post-war hyperinflation is not uncommon.

The “Notebook” House (Nicholas Sparks) vs. The Sears Magnolia

September 28th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

There’s a rumor circulating on the web that the house featured in the movie, “The Notebook,” is a Sears Magnolia. This is not correct. I repeat, this is NOT correct. For those who are interested in a comparison, look at the house featured in the movie (click here) and compare it to the original catalog picture shown below.

These houses (the real Sears Magnolia and the not-a-sears-house shown in that link above) are radically different - IN THE DETAILS - and that’s where you must look. Just because they’re both a two-story white house with a hip roof and big columns, that’s not enough.

A good place to start comparing houses is the roofline. The porch roof over the real Magnolia is a very low hip roof. The porch roof over The Notebook House is a massive gabled roof with a half-round window within its gable. Also, the proportions are wrong. The Sears Magnolia is 2,940 square feet. The Notebook house is probably double that.

These details really do matter.

There are so many delightful things about being so deeply immersed in this avocation of Sears Homes, but trying to teach people how to pay attention to architectural details before deciding that a similar looking house is a Sears House is pretty unfun. There are about 70,000 Sears homes in the country. Judging from my mail, about 3.4 million people THINK they have a Sears House!

The real Sears Magnolia (catalog), and a picture of the Magnolia in Benson, North Carolina (below).

To learn more about how to identify a Sears Home, click here.

maggy_benson_nc

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