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Meet Me in Louisa! (September 15th at 2:00 pm)

September 8th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

This Sunday (September 15th), I’ll be in Louisa, Virginia (near Charlottesville) giving a talk on the kit homes in Louisa County.

In the last 12 years, I’ve given more than 250 lectures in 26 states, and the #1 comment I hear from attendees is, “This was such fun, and I learned so much!”

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

*  The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.”

* The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

* Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.


I hope you’ll be able to come out and join us on September 15th at 2:00 pm, at 214 Fredericksburg Avenue in Louisa.

The auditorium only holds 200 people, so get there early!

And if you know anyone who loves old houses, please invite them to join you!

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Woo-hoo!

Okay, actually this is a simple mailer that Aladdin sent out to their customers the late 1910s to let people know that their Aladdin catalog was on its way. It was so cute I decided I could use it here.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears (in terms of mail-order kit home sales). Here in Southern Virginia, Ive found far more Aladdin Houses than Sears.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears (in terms of mail-order kit home sales). Here in Southern Virginia, I've found far more Aladdin Houses than Sears. While Aladdin was based in Bay City (Michigan), they had a very large mill in Wilmington, NC. The red dot shows where Louisa is located. Or that's what my husband claims. I have plenty of trouble with maps that have lots of detail. Maps like this leave me feeling like I need to lie down for a bit.

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One of my favorite finds in Louisa was this Aladdin Cape Cod (model name).

One of my favorite finds in Louisa was this Aladdin "Cape Cod" (model name).

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Ooh la la, what a pretty house!

Ooh la la, what a pretty house! And it's in Louisa!

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Also found an Aladdin Madison! (From the 1937 catalog)

Also found an Aladdin Madison! (From the 1937 catalog)

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Oh

The front entry has been squared up and enclosed, but other than that, it's a good match!

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My favorite find was the Aladdin Kentucky!

My favorite find was the Aladdin Kentucky! (From the 1915 catalog).

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This was a spacious and fine home.

This was a spacious and fine home.

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Now thats a gorgeous house!

Of all the houses I've found in my house-hunting career, this beauty is certainly one of my Top Ten Favorites. It looks much like it did when it first appeared in the 1912 Aladdin Homes catalog. Original windows, original cypress clapboards, original columns and porch. Good golly, what a house.

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Man oh man, what a match!

Man oh man, what a match!

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Ill also be talking about what I found in nearby communities, such as this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Orange!

I'll also be talking about what I found in nearby communities, such as this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Orange!

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Another

And what a fine-looking Shadowlawn it is.

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The Wexford, from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Wexford, from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Mineral is best known as the epicenter of the August 2011 earthquake. Its also the home to a perfect Sears Wexford.

Mineral is best known as the epicenter of the August 2011 earthquake. It's also the home to a perfect Sears Wexford. The house was "reversed" from the original image shown in the catalog, which was a common option.

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And look

And look what I found in Charlottesville!

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And look what I found in Charlottesville!

It's a picture-perfect Sears Rockford! Charlottesville has several kit homes that I discovered during a quickie drive-through. I'm sure there are many more just begging to be found.

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To get more information about the upcoming talk, please contact Elaine at info@louisacountyhistoricalsociety.org

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About Rose:

Rose Thornton has traveled throughout the country, seeking and finding Sears Homes. In that time, she’s written dozens of newspaper and magazine articles and several books.

Rose is the author of The Houses That Sears Built (2002,) Finding the Houses That Sears Built (2004) and she’s the co-author of California’s Kit Homes (2004) and Montgomery Wards Mail-Order Homes (2010). Rose’s newest book - The Sears Homes of Illinois - was published in 2011.

Rose has traveled to 26 states to give more than 200 lectures on Sears Homes, from Bungalow Heaven in Los Angeles to The Smithsonian in Washington, DC. She has addressed a wide variety of audiences from architectural preservationists in Boston, St. Louis and Chicago to kit home enthusiasts in small towns across America.

Rose has appeared on PBS (History Detectives), A&E (Biography), CBS (Sunday Morning News) and her book was featured in its own category on Jeopardy. She is considered the country’s #1 authority on kit homes. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street JournalNew York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Old House Journal, American Bungalow, Blue Ridge Country and about 100 other publications. Twice in the last three years, the story of her unique career was picked up by the AP and in May 2009, she was interviewed on BBC Radio.

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Harrisonburg’s Surprising Bunch of Sears Homes

March 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In Fall 2010, my hubby and I were driving home from Elkins, WV and took a detour through Harrisonburg. In less than 30 minutes, I found a plethora of kit homes in this beautiful little mountain town. To learn more about Sears Modern Homes, click here.

In brief, Sears Homes were sold as pre-cut kit homes from the Sears catalog. These 12,000-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!  When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one.

To admire the beautiful pictures, scroll on down!  :)

To read about another amazing collection (in Rocky Mount), click here!

Sears Willard, as seen in this 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard, as seen in this 1928 promotional ad

Sears Willard in Harrisonburg. Note, the dormer has been altered a bit but thats a very common repair as this is the site of frequent roof leaks.

Sears Willard in Harrisonburg. Note, the dormer has been altered a bit but that's a very common "repair" as this is the site of frequent roof leaks. One distinguishing feature of the Willard are those three windows on the right side (in this photo).

The Sears Westly was a popular little house. Notice how the roof in the rear is truncated. Theres a wee tiny window on the back wall.

The Sears Westly was a popular little house. Notice how the roof in the rear is truncated. There's a wee tiny window on the back wall.

Hidden behind the shrubs is a darling Carlin!

Hidden behind the shrubs is a darling Carlin!

Notice the roofline in this picture!

Notice the roofline in this picture!

Sears Lynnhaven from the 1938 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven from the 1938 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven in Harrisonburg!

There ought to be a law against parking cars in front of Sears Lynnhavens!

Sears Lynnhaven

Sears Lynnhaven just outside of Harrisonburg in Franklin. And what a beauty!

Sears Attleboro, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

Sears Attleboro, as seen in the 1936 catalog.

Sears Attleboro (also hidden by the landscaping)

Sears Attleboro (also hidden by the landscaping)

Sears Elsmore, from the 1919 catalog

Sears Elsmore, from the 1919 catalog

Still hidden by the vegetation, and also obscured by a lot of remodeling, but theres a Sears Elsmore hiding underneath all that vinyl.

Still hidden by the vegetation, and also obscured by a lot of remodeling, but there's a Sears Elsmore hiding underneath all that vinyl.

In addition to Sears, I also found houses from Aladdin, a company based in Bay City. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC and not surprisingly, Ive found more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia and North Carolina, than Sears Homes.

In addition to Sears, I also found houses from Aladdin, a company based in Bay City. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC and not surprisingly, I've found more Aladdin kit homes in Virginia and North Carolina, than Sears Homes.

Aladdin Plaza - in the flesh!

Aladdin Plaza - in the flesh! Note the large addition on the porch. Not what one might call a "sensitive" remodeling.

GVT

And I found a Gordon Van Tine home in Harrisonburg. This company was based in Davenport, Iowa and was also a large, national kit home company.

Is it a GV #605?  Hard to know for sure without getting inside, but it sure looks like it.

Is it a GV #605? Hard to know for sure without getting inside, but it might be. The house above looks wider than the #605.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Venerable, Vintage Villas of Vinton, Virginia

February 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In April 2008, my husband and I traveled to Roanoke for a vacation. While he rested at the hotel, I drove out to Vinton to hunt for Sears Homes. This was a quickie drive through, so I suspect I missed a few.

And it turns out, I was right.

About a year later, I drove through the same area with Dale Wolicki. He immediately spotted this kit home (see below) that I had missed. The Wardway Sheridan. It’s a real beauty, too.

The Wardway Sheridan, as shown in the Wardway catalog

Wardway Sheridan in Vinton, Virginia (just outside of Roanoke)

And here’s another unique house: The Harris Brother’s Ardmore. Once you’ve seen this house, it’s not hard to remember it - and find it elsewhere! Note the unique details around the front porch. Very distinctive home.

This is from the Harris Brothers catalog. Its the Ardmore, and its not hard to spot with that odd second floor sticking up out of the bungalows roofline!

This is the Harris Brothers Ardmore, and it's not hard to spot with that odd second floor sticking up out of the bungalow's roofline!

HB

This Ardmore is in Vinton, Virginia, a small town just outside of Roanoke.

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In Vinton, I also found an Aladdin Marsden.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Marsden in Vinton

Aladdin Marsden in Vinton

The Sears Sunbeam was one of their most popular kit homes.

The Sears Sunbeam was one of their most popular kit homes.

Dressed up in brick, this Sears Sunbeam is in very good condition.

Dressed up in brick, this Sears Sunbeam is in very good condition.

To read about the kit homes in Roanoke, click here.

To learn how to identify a kit home, click here.

To buy Rose’s book (and get it inscribed!), click here.

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Lost in Lynchburg!

January 29th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

My dear friend Rebecca is working on a new project and asked me to find this 1910s kit home in Lynchburg, Virginia. Most folks have heard of Sears Kit Homes, but in addition to Sears, there were six companies selling kit homes through mail order. Their names were Gordon Van Tine, Montgomery Ward, Aladdin, Harris Brothers, Lewis Manufacturing and Sterling Homes.

Sterling was based in Bay City, Michigan and yet, I’ve found a few of these houses in Virginia. According to Rebecca, there’s a Sterling Windemere in Lynchburg. She found a testimonial in an old Sterling Homes catalog and the location listed for this house was Lynchburg. I’ll be driving up to Lynchburg soon to find this house. If anyone knows the address or area, it sure would be helpful to have that!

Please leave a comment below with the address or write me at thorntonrose@hotmail.com.

Note, one of the distinctive features of this house is that paired staircase landing window (midway up the side wall). That’s a fairly unusual feature, as most landing windows were single. Also note the grouped columns (three on the corners), with the brick foundations. And note how the second-floor windows come right up to the eaves of the house. Lastly, there’s a hipped dormer with two small windows.

There are a gazillion foursquares in Lynchburg, but I’m hoping to find THIS foursquare! Thanks for your help!

Sterling Homes The Windemere from the 1917 catalog

Sterling Homes "The Windemere" from the 1917 catalog.

Windemere

To prove the superiority of Sterling pre-cut homes, this Windemere was built on this lot in just 11 days. Note, this did not include the fireplace chimney and windows. This view shows the other side of the Windemere which (unfortunately) is quite non-descript.

Sterling

Sterling

Heres a real live Sterling Windemere in Bay City. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for allowing me to use his photo.

Here's a real live Sterling Windemere in Bay City. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for allowing me to use his photo. Sometimes, seeing the house "in the flesh" gives a more clear impression of the details, than a vintage line drawing.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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