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Posts Tagged ‘virgin forests’

Frank’s Beautiful Strathmore In Waldwick, NJ

January 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 15 comments

Sometime in the 1930s, a man named Frank Workman not only built a Sears Strathmore, but he had the wisdom to document part of the process through photographs.

About 80 years later, a kind soul named Ms. Dickinson had the wisdom to save those photos and put them on eBay.

Last week, yet another kind soul named Dale Wolicki had the wisdom to send me a link to these photos, and I hastily put in a bid and subsequently won this treasure trove!

Thanks to Frank, and Ms. Dickinson, and Mr. Wolicki, at least 2,000 people will now enjoy these many photos of a Sears Strathmore being built at 21 Pennington Avenue in Waldwick, NJ.

Ms. Dickinson reports that Frank’s daughter (shown in photos below) lived in the house until recently. These houses were built with so much love, and the first families intended that these houses be passed down through the generations.

But unfortunately…

According to the wonderful note Ms. Dickinson included with these photos, Frank’s house was demolished about one month ago. How many Sears Homes are we going to tear down before someone decides that they’re worthy of preservation?

So very frustrating.

Frank Workman obviously took great pride in his beautiful Strathmore. How disturbing that someone in Waldwick, NJ saw fit to tear it down.

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Frank

Frank Workman must have been quite a character. He's standing on the side of his Strathmore in Waldwick, NJ. Perhaps Frank had Indian roots. Or maybe he just really liked this headdress.

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Frank

Frank really liked that headdress and he really liked his house.

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The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you dont find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception.

The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you don't find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception. It had an expandable attic, for extra square footage (1936).

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Good florplan

The Strathmore had 1-1/2 baths, which was a plus. The kitchen was a mere 12-feet by 7-feet.

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Ive always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

I've always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

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Side view of the Strathmore under construction.

Side view of the Strathmore under construction. Note, the planking is horizontal. On many houses of this vintage, the planking runs diagonally. However, this house ended up with cypress shakes, so maybe that's why the planks are run horizontal.

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This is a close-up of those packing crates.

Close-up of those packing crates (seen in the foreground of the photo above). I suspect that the quality of lumber used in these packing crates is far superior to the "premium" lumber currently being sold at the big box stores.

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What a grand photo!

What a grand photo, and it really demonstrates a different time in American architectural history. Years ago, I knew a man who built his own home in Elsah, Illinois and it was all the rage in Jersey County. He was a novice homebuilder who undertook to build his own home "from scratch." And yet in 1930s, people didn't think anything of buying a kit home and building it themselves.

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I love

And here's a close-up of that same photo. Look at that make-shift ladder! And that wooden scaffolding looks a bit primitive, too. Looks like Frank might have been doing his own brick work. My favorite item in this photo is the 55-gallon drum overturned on its side. For the life of me, I can't imagine what would have been in that drum. Paint and varnish were supplied in one and two-gallon metal buckets.

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Another i

Another view of the home's front, during construction.

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Franks daughters

According to Ms. Dickinson, Frank's daughter lived in this house until very recently. Judging by the clothes, it looks like this photo dates to the late 1930s, or shortly after the house was finished. It seems likely that these are Frank's two daughters, seated on the "cheek" of the front porch. Check out the original batten shutters behind the girls.

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Another view of the two daughters.

Another view of the two daughters. And judging by the steps, it does seem likely that Frank did his own brickwork. Kind of reminds me of the Lucy episode where she rebuilt the brick barbecue pit in the backyard.

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Another view of the completed house, date unknown.

Another view of the completed house, date unknown. However, it's interesting to note that those three windows next to the fireplace have already been replaced. Originally, these three had diamond muntins.

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Frank loved cars, too.

Frank loved cars, too. The home's left side is shown here. Can anyone identify the year of this car? My best guess is early 1930s, or even late 192os.

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View of

Good view of the home's left side, and kitchen door.

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Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

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Frank

Oh Frank, I'm sorry to say that your beautiful Strathmore - built with such love and care - is now sitting in a landfill somewhere. When will we decide to stop tearing down old kit homes?

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And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, its still standing.

And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, it's still standing. Then again, I haven't been down that street in four years, so who knows.

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To learn more about what makes Sears Homes so valuable (and worthy of restoration and preservation), click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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How NOT to Photograph a Sears Kit House

May 13th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Several times each week, folks send me emails asking, “Is my house a Sears House?” Usually,  they send photos along with their inquiries. But sometimes, the photos don’t help with the identification process.

My poor old laptop is already heavy laden with pictures of kit homes (about 50,000 photos and counting), so I’ve deleted the great majority of not-so-good pictures I’ve received.

However, I did save a few of my favorites.  :)

This was a favorite.

This was a favorite. I laughed out loud when I saw the photo. The writer asked me, "I think I live in a Sears House. Can you tell me what this is?" I wanted to write back and say, "Yes, it's a Silver Maple."

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Another reader photo.

This is the architectural equivalent of asking someone to identify a picture of a criminal where the bad guy is wearing a ski mask. Just doesn't work too well.

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This is actually a photo that I took. Its an Aladdin Pasadena. Can you tell?

Is there a house back there? Yes there is. And it's an Aladdin Pasadena!

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

To read about the first class lumber that went into kit homes, click here.

To read about the impressive collection of kit homes in Raleigh (The Tree City), click here.

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Move it! Don’t Lose it! (Fourth Update on the Pop Culture House at BGSU)

August 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

You might be surprised to learn how often kit homes are moved from their original site to a new location.

Judging by the frequency with which these homes are picked up and moved, re-locating a kit home must be,

1) A do-able (albeit complicated) process

2) Financially feasible

3) Historically sensible

4) Environmentally brilliant.

The Sears Lewiston (which is actually a custom-built Wardway design) at BGSU is threatened with demolition. It currently houses the Pop Culture program at the college. Lovingly known as “The Popc House,” this structurally sound building may soon be reduced to a 300,000+ pound pile of rubble on August 7th, unless the college (Bowling Green State University) reverses its decision.

The Lewiston’s major crime is being in the way of a proposed college expansion. If you want to read more about the house and its history, please click here (Part I), here (Part II) and here (Part III).

Not only can kit homes be moved, but they should be moved.

The quality of lumber seen in these homes is something not easily described. In fact, I devoted an entire blog to this topic. In short, the lumber for these early 20th Century kit homes was milled from first-growth trees in virgin forests. We’ll never seen lumber of this quality again. Period.

Some preliminary research suggests that the Popc House at BGSU can be moved off campus and to another site for less than $20,000. What are the proposed costs to demolish this house? Probably not terribly far away from that $20,000 mark.

It’s time for the college to make a commitment to its own history, to its alumni, to the community, and last but not least, to the environment, and SAVE the Popc House.

The landfills of America already have enough old houses.

Don’t add one more.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos.

This Sears Lynnhaven in Muncie, Indiana was moved in the 1980s. This is one of my favorite photos. The Lynnhaven and the BGSU house are probably similar in size and girth.

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Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

Sometime in the 1940s, this Sears Roseberry was moved across town. This is a fairly substantial house and the move took place in a far simpler time. This house is in Alton, IL.

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This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

This Shadowlawn (Aladdin Kit Home) was moved in the 1980s when a proposed road improvement project threatened it with demolition. The Shadowlawn was a very spacious home. It now sits in Chesapeake, Virginia at Portsmouth Boulevard and Joliff Road.

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Shadow

The Shadowlawn measures 28' wide and 30' feet deep, not including the substantial porch.

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A Sears kit home (The Gordon) was relocated in Florida (forgot which city) in 2002. The story made the headlines in the local paper.

In 2002, a Sears kit home ("The Gordon") was threatened with demolition. After an uproar from the local citizens, the house was relocated to a new site. The story made the headlines in the regional papers.

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Though not kit homes, more than 50 of these bungalows were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And - this is even better - they were moved in the late 1910s.

Though not "kit homes," more than 50 of these houses (shown here) were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia, a journey of more than 40 miles, and they were moved by BARGE. And they were moved in the late 1910s. Let's see: If you can move 50 houses 40 miles 90 years ago, I suspect you could move one house a couple miles today.

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OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, three of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

OF the 50+ houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia, several of these homes were large two-story houses (such as the house shown here). Again, it was moved in the late 1910s.

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Of the houses moved from Penniman to Norfolk (Virginia), one of them was this

The Penniman/Norfolk houses are shown here, being floated into Norfolk.

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The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving.

The Popc House in Bowling Green State University is worth saving. This historically significant home should not be sent to a premature grave.

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To learn more about the kit homes in Bowling Green, Ohio click here.

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

If you’d like to send an email to BGSU president (Dr. Mazey), here’s her address: mmazey@bgsu.edu

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Virgin Forests and First-Growth Lumber: A Thing of The Past

February 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Stumbling about with my flashlight in the dimly-lit basement of countless Sears Honor-Bilt homes throughout the country, I’m always dazzled by the quality of the floor joists and other framing members. Sears lumber was first growth lumber.  (”First growth lumber” is the name given to wood which grew slowly in natural forests. The slower wood grows, the denser the grain. The denser the grain, the stronger the wood. The stronger the wood, the more resistant it is to decay and rot and the longer it will endure.)

The yellow pine framing members that support these old Sears homes, now nearing the century mark, are harder and denser than most of today’s [so-called] hardwoods. Some of these houses have had only minimal maintenance, yet all these years later, they’re still as square and true and solid as the day they were built.

Sears earned a well-deserved reputation for providing the best quality lumber for both framing and millwork and they were proud of their reputation. In the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog, this notice appeared under the heading, “Important.”

We do not handle hemlock, spruce or inferior types of lumber. The lumber we furnish is fine, dry yellow pine, the strongest lumber for framing. Cypress for outside finish, [cypress] the wood that lasts for centuries; oak, birch or yellow pine, as specified for interior finish.

Through the years, Sears offered exterior sidings in red cedar, redwood or cypress.  Most frequently, exterior sidings were cypress, and exterior trim pieces (corner boards, door and window trim, eaves, etc.) were also cypress.

Interior floors on average-priced Sears homes were typically oak on the first floor; maple in the kitchen and bath; yellow pine on the second floor. In less expensive homes, yellow pine was standard fare throughout the house for trim moldings, floors and doors. However, you could always upgrade to oak floors for another $148.

Today, it’s so interesting to contrast and compare modern lumber (think McMansion) with the solid old lumber found in America’s early 20th Century homes. Lumber from the old homes is so dense and hard, that many homeowners report they can not drive a spike into the floor joists without predrilling a hole, lest it bend the spike!

We will never see wood like this again in our country. The few “first-growth forests” that remain are protected sanctuaries (as they should be). Large suppliers of lumber boast that - thanks to genetic engineering - they can have a tree ready for harvest after a 25-year growth cycle. The problem is, when trees grow quickly, they’re not very dense.

Try this experiment at home. Try driving a nail through a piece of 2×8 from your local big-box hardware store. Then drive the nail through a floor joist in your house - if you can. Such a simple demonstration really will “hammer the point home” (so to speak).

At the very least, when an early 1900s home is torn down, the lumber should be salvaged, and not carted off to the landfill.

Now let’s go back to looking at pretty pictures of pretty Sears Homes. Enjoy the photos below.

Learn more about Sears Homes by click here.

Or buy Rose’s book by clicking here.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of thir most magnificent homes.

The Sears Ivanhoe was one of their most magnificent homes.

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

And here it is, in Elmhurst, Illinois

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The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

The Bandon was not a popular house for Sears.

In all my travels, Ive only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

In all my travels, I've only seen one Sears Bandon, and it was in Pulaski, Illinois - near the large Sears mill in Cairo, IL.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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