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Do You Have 60 Seconds to Save a Sears House? (Part IV)

August 7th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

I’m saddened to report that the demolition of the Pop Culture House at Bowling Green State University is apparently going forward.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

This, despite a truly valiant effort on the part of BGSU staff and faculty and friends to save this house.

This, despite the presentation of a petition with more than 2,100 signatures to BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey.

The “powers that be” at BGSU apparently prefer that students learn about their history via pricey textbooks and pretty pictures, rather than “hands on.” Given a chance to preserve a piece of true Americana, the college has opted to destroy this “one-of-a-kind” kit house and send hundreds of thousands of pounds of debris to the landfill. (To read about what makes the Pop Culture house truly unique, click here.)

In “The Slate Roof Bible,” author Joseph Jenkins reports that 28% of the volume of debris at landfills is construction and demolition debris.

I’m of the opinion that BGSU should immediately suspend any and all classes related to environmental sciences. They’ve just sent a message - to their community and their students and their staff - declaring boldly that recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.

How many pounds of recycled materials does BGSU collect each year and turn over to a recycling center? How many years of recycling bottles and cans will it take to offset the 300,000+ pounds of house they’re sending to the landfills today?

If a person paid attention to behaviors (which are better indices than fancy words), the take-away message from BGSU is, “Recycling is a dandy plan, but only when it’s really convenient and super easy.”

To say that I’m sickened and disgusted by this whole affair would be a gross understatement.

Given the tremendous urgency with which this building has been rushed to demolition, you’d think that the Pop Culture House harbored smallpox, diphtheria, spanish flu, anthrax, polio and the bubonic plague.

It does not.

The biggest sin committed by the Pop Culture House is that it stood in the way of a proposed college expansion. The house had the misfortune of being built on a piece of land that would one day be owned by a college that lacks vision, and also lacks respect for this uniquely American piece of cultural and architectural history.

At the very least, the house should have been moved to another site.

Preliminary estimates placed the cost of moving the house at about $18,000. The cost to demolish the structure is probably not far from the cost to move it.

At the very, very least, the lumber in the house should be salvaged. The quality of building materials (lumber) used in this 1931-built home are the likes of which we will never again see in this country. To read more about that, click here.

Yesterday (August 6th) contractors were seen at the site, removing a few windows and some artifacts in preparation of the building’s demolition.

It’s a sad day for BGSU.

Very sad indeed.

To read more about this house that will soon be nothing but an empty lot, click on the links below.

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

How to Move a House.

To read an excellent blog that talks more about the ecological importance of preserving this house, click here.

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The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012).

The Pop Culture House (photographed August 2, 2012). This house was ordered from Montgomery Ward, but was based on a kit home design offered only by Sears Roebuck. The Sears House was the Lewiston.

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The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

The Sears Lewiston, as seen in the 1929 Sears catalog.

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As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows.

As of yesterday, workers had begun removing the windows in preparation for demolition. Why the rush? Who knows. What I do know is it is very sad and a great loss for the community. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another

The picture of the home's side shows the windows being removed. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening.

Soon all these building materials will be a massive pile of rubble at a landfill somewhere in Ohio. Sickening. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Those asbestos flakes must be pretty smart if they know that they have to stay behind the red tape.

That asbestos must be one smart mineral if it knows that it has to stay behind the red tape. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the homes buyer, builder and first owner.

A picture of the house in happier days. The house was ordered from Montgomery Wards in late 1931. The photo above is early 1932, soon after the home was completed. It was shipped by train and arrived in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces of house. Virgil Taylor was the home's buyer, builder and first owner.

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A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

A page from the 1931 Montgomery Ward catalog.

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Virgils Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware.

Virgil's Wardway home had the Rexford door hardware. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

The front door on his neo-tudor was also a classic Wardway design.

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A view of Virgils very own front door - from Wards.

A view of Virgil's very own front door - from Wards. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward.

Lumber from inside the house shows it was indeed from Montgomery Ward. This reads, "From Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, IA." Orders for Montgomery Ward's homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine in Davenport, Iowa. Photo is copyright 2012 Raymond I. Schuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family.  (Muncie, IN)

Moving a house is better than demolition. This Sears Lynnhaven was moved in the 1980s and is still standing in its new location, home to a very happy family. (Muncie, IN)

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To read about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio (safely out of the reach of BGSU), click here.

To contact BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey, send her an email:  mmazey@bgsu.edu

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The Impressive Array of Kit Homes in Bowling Green, Ohio

August 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

When my dear friend Dale heard the saga about the threatened demolition of the Pop Culture Building (a mail-order kit home) at BGSU, he offered to send me photos of the other kit homes he’d found in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Bowling Green has an impressive array of kit homes, and I’m confident that there are more than we’ve documented below. For instance, in Rebecca Hunter’s book (Putting Sears Homes on the Map), she found that a Sears Argyle was built in Bowling Green in the 1910s or 20s.

Where is it now?

Either Dale didn’t see it (which is possible, as we rarely have time to examine every house on every street), or the Argyle also got in the way of progress, and met a fate similar to what may befall the Sears Lewiston.

Fact is, colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Seems as though colleges are often positioned in the heart of early 20th Century development, and as they expand and grow, the working-class and middle-class bungalows from the 1910s, 20s and 30s get gobbled up and spit out as landfill rubble.

The Wardway/Sears Lewiston at BGSU is a rarity, and less than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built (from 1909-1932). Even more interesting, based on my research, the Wardway “Lewiston” at BGSU may be the only one of its kind. To learn more about that home’s unique history, click here.

At some point, we need to stop destroying these historically significant homes.

Demolishing old houses is not very environmentally friendly, either. According to “The Slate Roof Bible” (2003, by Joseph Jenkins), 28% of the debris found in landfills is from demolition or remodeling.)

I’m still hopeful that Bowling Green State University will reverse their decision and not send 300,000+ pounds of kit home (sans additions) to the landfill on August 7th.

At the very least, this house should be MOVED and not destroyed.

Special thanks to architectural historian (and co-author) Dale Wolicki for providing the photos of the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio.

To read more about the potentially sad fate of the kit home at BGSU, click here.

UPDATED: To read about the realistically smart idea of MOVING the BGSU house, click here.

To sign a petition to help save this house, click here.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Heres a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

Can this house at BSGU be moved? Heck yeah. Here's a Sears Lynnhaven (similar in size to the house at BGSU) rolling down the road to its new location.

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The Sears Willard was a popular house. Heres a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Willard was a popular house. Here's a picture from the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Picture-perfect Sears Willard in Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Arlington as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. Theres a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut.

Another beautiful Sears House (The Arlington) in Bowling Green. On a side note, Sears Homes were not pre-fab, but pre-cut. There's a big difference. In one of the early reports I saw on the Lewiston kit home at the BGSU campus, it said the house was pre-fab. Not true. These mail-order kit homes from the 1920s and 30s were pre-cut. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive house (1921).

Sears Rodessa was a cute, but distinctive bungalow (1921).

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The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street.

The Sears Rodessa in Bowling Green on High Street. You'll notice from the image above, this house is in mostly original condition. This is a rare treat to see these more modest homes unmolested by the asbestos/aluminum/vinyl siding salesmen. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Unless its sitting at the landfill, theres also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. Id be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if theyve seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

Unless it's sitting at the landfill, there's also a Sears Argyle somewhere in Bowling Green. I'd be grateful if someone in Bowling Green would let me know if they've seen this house - and better yet - get a photo!

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It was a busy little house, but well laid out (1921).

Notice how the porch floor extends a little bit beyond the primary wall? That is a very distinctive feature, and makes it easier to identify this house.

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And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

And our Sears Lewiston (1930 catalog).

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The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because its a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the Popular Culture program.

The house at the BGSU campus is so darn interesting, because it's a Sears design, but it was ordered from Montgomery Ward. The school could not possibly have picked a better building for the "Popular Culture" program. Photo is courtesy BGSU Pop Culture House. Yesterday (August 1st), the little house apparently borrowed someone's smart phone and using mirrors and lasers, took a picture of itself. This is one remarkable house. And then, the little house posted its own photo on its own Facebook page.

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In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

In addition to the kit homes from Sears and Wards, Bowling Green also has a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing (Bay City, MI). This was also a national kit home company (like Sears and Wards), that sold houses through their mail-order catalogs.

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Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando.

Another pristine example of a kit home in Bowling Green. This is the Lewis San Fernando. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow.

Also from Lewis Manufacturing, this is the Lavitello, a classic bungalow (1924 catalog).

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Another beauty.

Another beautiful bungalow in excellent condition. And it still has its original casement windows. Man, I love this house. Guess it's a good thing it's located safely away from the bungalow-eating state university? Elsewise, it might be feeling a little "disheveled" and living at the landfill. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward.

The Wardway Sheridan was a popular house for Montgomery Ward (1929 catalog).

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Another fine-looking Wardway Home.

Another fine-looking Wardway Home in Bowling Green. Soon, it may be the *only* Wardway home in town. :( Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green.

And the amazing Dale Wolicki even found a George Barber (pattern book) house in Bowling Green. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus.

Last but not least, a picture of the house on BGSU campus. The house on the left was taken soon after the house was completed in February/March 1932. House on the right is the Sears Lewiston from the 1929 catalog.

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To learn more about the house at BGSU click here.

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