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Posts Tagged ‘wardway kit homes’

Customized Wardway Homes: Kinda, Sorta, Maybe

January 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

Here’s the kind of “research” that makes me 1/3rd sad, 1/4th disappointed and 29/50ths disheartened.

There’s a fellow in Wisconsin who recently discovered that he has a Wardway Home, and has written a blog about it.

Cool. Mega kudos to him for writing a blog about his Wardway Home.

But…

He tried (in vain) to identify it. Finding nothing close, he decided that it was a “customized Maywood.”

Ruh Roh.

He then adds, “The wall boards are stamped with ‘Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, Ia. to R. L. Sizer, Wisconsin.’”

I suspect that he meant to say that the studs (vertical wall members) are marked, because I’ve never ever heard of wallboards being stamped with shipping information. Ever.

Typically, shipping information is found on shipping labels (see image below), which are then affixed to millwork (moldings and trim).

Next comment:  “It was obvious that Mr. Sizer was cost-conscious from the first time we entered this house. Touring the basement, it was pointed out that the floor boards had been used for framing the foundation.”

Say what?

I’ve seen floor joists (2×8) used as temporary forms when pouring cement for basement walls, which leaves a trademark white/gray stain on the lumber, but I’ve never ever seen anyone use 3/4″ tongue-and-groove white-oak floorboards for “framing a foundation.”

A minor point, but using framing members as temporary forms was commonplace, and not a cost-cutting measure.

He also writes: “Kit houses or as Ward called them, ‘ready-cut houses,’ were not uncommon. According to the book, ‘Houses By Mail,’ over 100,000 were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940, the majority from Sears.”

Mixing apples and oranges makes a delightful fruit salad, but in historic architecture, it’s confusing.

Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes. Dale Patrick Wolicki (an architectural historian and co-author of Montgomery Ward’s Mail-Order Homes), estimates that about 25,000 Wardway homes were sold.

Lastly, the homeowner claims that while the Wardway designs shown in the catalog are not a good match, he did find one home that “does bear a resemblance,” the Wardway Maywood.

Hmmm… Given this his home is a one-story house, and the Maywood is two-story, that’s a real mystery.

Based on other comments within the blog, I’m confident he’s got a Wardway home, but I wish he’d done a little more research. Written historical records need to be inexorably, meticulously and assiduously accurate.

In my opinion, of course. ;)

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To learn more about identifying marks on lumber, click here.

Interested in learning more about wallboard in early 20th Century Sears Homes? Lookie here.

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Shipping labels are often found on the backside of millwork.

Shipping labels are often found on the backside of millwork. I've never seen one on wallboard.

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Wardway 1931

Here's a Wardway "Maywood" as seen in the 1931 catalog.

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Heres a customized Maywood in Battlecreek, MI.

Here's a "customized" Maywood in Battlecreek, MI.

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Dale Wolicki found the actual house featured in the Wardway brochure (shown above).

Dale Wolicki found the actual house ("customized Maywood") featured in the Wardway brochure (shown above). Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reprinted with written permission.

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Ward

Wardway offered "architectural services" for folks who wanted a unique design. The center image shows a customized Maywood in the Chicago area. Note that it looks like a Maywood with a garage added to the side.

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The author

The author says that this home (the Wardway Maywood) does "bear a resemblance" to his customized Wardway, "especially in the floor plan." Unless he's got a bedroom set up in the closet (which does have a nice shelf), I'm baffled on this one. Shown above is the first-floor plan for the Wardway Maywood.

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The

Here's the subject house, the "customized Wardway Maywood." The small inset is the 1931 Maywood.

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Frankly, I think it looks more like a customized Brentwood.

Frankly, I think it looks more like this kit home: The "Brentwood."

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Or the Carmen.

Or maybe the "Carmen."

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Or maybe its a Magnolia, customized.

Or maybe it's a Magnolia, customized.

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To learn more about identifying marks on lumber, click here.

Interested in learning more about wallboard in early 20th Century Sears Homes? Lookie here.

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Wardway #166: A Most Unusual Combination of Values

December 8th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last month, I traveled to Oklahoma to visit Rachel Shoemaker, and we had a lovely couple days together.

Rachel drove me out to Chelsea (down historic Route 66), where we saw a picture-perfect Sears Saratoga. Next stop was just around the corner, where Rachel showed me a Wardway #166, a model I’ve never seen before!

And honestly, it’s a model I would have missed if I’d been on my own! It was offered only a handful of years in the mid-1910s Wardway catalogs.

And perhaps best of all, the interior of this house is in stunningly original condition, replete with solid oak woodwork, original light fixtures, windows and doors.

Many thanks to Rachel for finding this gem, and also for taking the photos!

To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

To read more about Wardway, click here.

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This Wardway Home #166 was only offered for a handful of years.

This Wardway Home #166 was only offered for a handful of years (1915 catalog).

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House

I love the "liner notes" on this house, especially the last line.

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Floor plan

What's the difference between a "verandah" and a porch? A "chamber" and a bedroom? I'm not sure. I would guess that a verandah is an open area, like a patio, and yet the verandah on the #166 is covered, not open.

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This bungalows is unusually spacious on the 2nd floor.

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Modern Home #166 is a real beauty, but the model in Chelsea, Oklahoma is the only one I've ever seen.

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Wardway House

This is one of the first pictures I've taken with my new TV-phone. Unfortunately, we were looking right into the sun, but it does show what a nice match this is to the catalog image.

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The homes exterior was stunning, but the inside was even more enchanting.

The home's exterior was stunning, but the inside was even more enchanting. Inside, we found that all the oak trim was original (and beautiful), and unpainted. The fireplace is made with glazed block. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. This means you.

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Living room

If you're a lover of solid oak trim, this house will make you swoon. Throughout the house, the quarter-sawn oak trim is unpainted, original and has a stunning patina. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Light fixture

Even the light fixtures are original. BTW, I'm sure there is a specific name for this type of fixture (at the junction of two beams), but I don't know what it is. If you do, pleave leave a comment below? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining Room or parlor

And yes, those pocket doors are also solid oak. (View into the parlor.) Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Bow swar

Leaded-glass windows abound, and are in flawless condition. Let's pause and say a little prayer that the home's next owner doesn't rip these out in favor of some shiny new plastic crap windows. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Living

Standing in the living room, looking toward the dining room. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Check out those bookcase colonnades in the dining room. Oh me, oh my. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Will the new owner have the sense to preserve these old fixtures? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Hallway shot

Standing in the front hallway, looking toward the stairs. This staircase was captivating. It looks like a traditional staircase, and yet there's a door that swings closed on the third stair. And check out that newel post. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of that stunning staircase balustrade.

A better view of the stunning staircase balustrade. Those shallow blocks at the top of each spindle give it a real prairie-style look, and add to its majesty and elegance. I was captivated by this design. I may be in love with this house. Actually, I think I am. The design of these little bonus architectural elements is so simple, and yet also beautiful. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Staircase

Another view of that balustrade. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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usptars

There are some houses that "only a mother could love," but this house really is a shining jewel. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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upstairs

A peek into the upstairs bedroom (on the home's front). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Better view

Close-up on those windows (looking out at the street). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Original windows (and hardware) on the side of the house (2nd floor). Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Bathroom

And even the bathroom is in vintage condition! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of bathroom floor tile.

I suppose I could have picked up that bit of debris on the floor, but still, it's a great shot of that floor tile, isn't it? Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even the bathroom has beautiful windows!

Even the bathroom has beautiful windows and original cabinetry. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are also original. The floor is not. :) In the 1980s, I lived in a house in Portsmouth, Virginia with that same floor tile. That's an old floor! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Beautifl hardware

Close-up of the beautiful drawer pulls. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Exterior

I thought traveling to Oklahoma in November would keep me safe from the snow. I was wrong. Nonetheless, made for a nice picture of the home's exterior. Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a house!

Oh little brick bungalow, you really do have a "most unusual combination of values." I do love you so! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

To read more about Wardway, click here.

Waynesboro and Their Kit Homes, Part III

June 16th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Thanks to Staunton resident and old house lover Linda Ramsey, we’ve now made several fun discoveries of kit homes in Waynesboro, using only Linda’s photos, good work and persistence!  (To read Waynesboro Part I click here. For Part II, click here.)

And Linda’s most recent find is the very rare Gordon Van Tine “Bristol” - right there in Waynesboro, Virginia.

She sent several photos to me several weeks ago, and among those photos was a perfect Alhambra and also a Collingwood (Sears House). In my excitement, I overlooked the best one in the bunch - the GVT Bristol!

In just the last few hours, Rachel Shoemaker and Linda Ramsey have identified several more kit homes in Waynesboro.

As a native of Virginia (and resident of Norfolk), I’d love to return to Waynesboro sometime soon and do a thorough street-by-street survey of the city. Judging by Linda’s many finds, when I was in Waynesboro in May, I missed “the sweet spot.”

When you’re a flat-lander tourist driving yourself around an old town, it can be tough to 1) stay on the road, 2) not sideswipe any parked cars, 3) not impale pedestrians with your hood ornament, 4) stare intently at each and every house.

I’ve done hundreds of architectural surveys in hundreds of cities, and I’d love to get some folks in Waynesboro involved in the fun!

Lastly, I’d be willing to bet that the home’s current owners do not know what they have.

Do you live in a Sears Home in Waynesboro?

To read the prior blogs featuring the kit homes in Waynesboro, click here and here.

To contact Rose and ask about her availability, please leave a comment below.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey for finding this house and thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying the vintage catalog images.

If you’re in Waynesboro, please share this blog with anyone and everyone!!!

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The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine catalog. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker (who not only found this rare GVT model in her many catalogs, but also scanned the image and sent it along).

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Floorplan

So many of the floorplans for these kit homes were "similar" but the Bristol's unique shape afforded it a little extra flair on the room arrangement. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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I wonder if the home's current owners find that their home "commands enthusiastic admiration." It's quite unlikely that the home's owners know what they have a historically significant home. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker

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This was an unusually fine home. Look at the cathedral ceiling in the living room. I know of only one other kit house that had a raised ceiling like this, and that was a house offered by Pacific Ready Cut Homes in Los Angeles. This is a most unusual (and elegant) feature for a kit home. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine. Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the catalog image!

The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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Waynesboro

Be still my heart. I went through Waynesboro in May 2013, but I surely did miss this house. Fortunately, Sears House researcher Linda Ramsey did not miss it. And, I must say, it does appear to be a GVT Bristol. All the details are just right. Photograph is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And there's that unusually high roof. If it's not a GVT Bristol, it sure is doing a good imitation of one! Photograph is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read the prior blogs featuring the kit homes in Waynesboro, click here and here.

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The Chesterfield Home: Of English Ancestry

February 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

“The Chesterfield home has an English ancestry which has stood the test of public favor for many centuries…”

The Sears Chesterfield was indeed a nobby tudoresque design, but apparently it didn’t catch on. And it was offered only in the 1926 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I’ve never seen one “in the flesh.”

However, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Andrew Mutch, Wendy Mutch and Melodie Nichols, we now have pictures of a beautiful Chesterfield in Clawson, Michigan.

For those visiting this page for the first time, you might be wondering, what is a Sears Home? These were 12,000-piece kits that were ordered right out of the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog.  The homes were offered from 1908 - 1940, and during their 32-years in the kit home business, 370 models were offered.

Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house built and ready for occupancy in 90 days. That could have been a little ambitious. Typically, it took novice homebuilders six months or more to finish these homes.

To learn more about this fascinating topic, click here.

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Text from the catalog page (1925)

In a pinch, you could offer this page to someone as an eye test, and see if they notice that the font gets smaller and smaller near the bottom. On a side note, I have no idea what an "informal massing of the walls" means (near the center of the text). Then again, I have never seen a "formal massing" of walls. Is it like an informal gathering? Are the walls just hanging out together, having one big quiet party? If you were a quiet wall and you didn't participate in these informal gatherings, would you be a wall flower? Or would you just be a wall wall? One has to wonder. (From 1926 catalog.)

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Pricey little dog, given the fact that this was 1926.

Pricey little dog, given the fact that this was 1926.

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I dont see any informal massing here.

I don't see any informal massing of the walls here. However, I bet that breakfast room was a chilly place on a balmy Michigan winter morning.

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Where are the informal masses?

I wonder if the "informal masses" are hiding in the spacious closets?

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Chesterfield, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Chesterfield, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty! It's been altered a bit but the original lines are still there. And the third floor of this house must be quite spacious. This house is in Clawson, Michigan which (thanks to Andrew, Wendy and Melodie) has been found to be a real hotbed of kit homes! Photo is copyright 2012 Melodie Nichols and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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From the side

A side view of the Chesterfield. Look at that enormous chimney. Photo is copyright 2012 Melodie Nichols and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Oh my stars, now we KNOW its a Sears Home! It has an S on the chimney!!

Oh my stars, now we KNOW it's a Sears Home! It has an "S" on the chimney!! Ah, not really. This is one CRAZY myth that is still bouncing around on the internet. That "S" on the chimney is a stylistic feature that has nothing to do with whether or not it's a Sears House. In this case, that "S" is part of the brace that helps keep that oversized chimney stable. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Nice shooting, Melodie! She did a perfect job of photographing the house from the same angle as the original catalog picture.

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To read the next blog (also about kit homes in Michigan), click here.

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The Rembrandt: A Masterpiece!

February 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

At first glance, the Rembrandt looks like a massive Dutch Colonial, but in fact, it was 1,672 square feet. As early 1900s housing goes, this was certainly a spacious home, but not dramatically so.

However…

Building this two-story home from a 12,000-piece kit that arrived via boxcar would certainly have been a challenge! Each piece of lumber was numbered to facilitate construction and the blueprints were written with extra detail and accompanying explanations (to help novices), and the kit came with a 75-page instruction book, however…

This still would have been quite a project to tackle!

Based on my research, about 50% of the people who purchased Sears Kit Homes hired contractors to build their house, and the other half spent a lot of time poring over those detailed blueprints and built the house themselves!

What is a Sears Home? Click here to learn more.

To watch Buster Keaton build a Sears Home, click here.

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The Sears Rembrandt

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For a "big" house, it had a very small kitchen!

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Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction, but still, building the Rembrandt from a kit would have been quite a task!

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Catalog image of the Rembrandt

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house house annapolis

The real deal in Annapolis, MD. And notice it has Buckingham Slate on the roof. Buckingham Slate is the crème de la crème of slate and weighs 1,400 pounds per square. When building a house that will have a slate roof, the roof is specially constructed to accommodate this tremendous amount of weight. Here in the Southeast, I've seen several Sears Homes with this Buckingham Slate roof.

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Sears Rembrandt in West Chicago, Illinois. Where's a chain saw when you need it?

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This Sears Rembrandt is in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Comparison of the Rembrandt in Ann Arbor with the original catalog picture.

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Beautiful house but it sure looks chilly!! Photo is copyright 2012 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read more about the Sears Homes that Wendy and Andrew found in Michigan, click here and here.

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The Dresden: An Unusually Fine Bungalow

January 29th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Apparently, Ypsilanti and nearby Pittsfield Township are “hot spots” for finding kit homes!

Kit House Aficionados Andrew and Wendy Mutch have been supplying me with a plethora of first-class photos of kit homes from Sears, Wardway, Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin and more. I’m so very grateful to them.

They’ve obviously got a keen eye for detail and heretofore, every house they’ve identified has been identified correctly and that is quite a feat (and a rarity!).

And now they’ve moved beyond Sears Homes and into kit homes from Wardway, Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin.

Below you’ll find pictures of the Wardway Dresden. Is it a Wardway house or a Gordon Van Tine house? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know from exterior appearances alone. Orders for Wardway Homes were fulfilled by Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

The only way to know if it’s a Wardway Home is to inspect millwork and/or shipping labels and/or (sometimes) framing members. A Wardway House will be marked “Montgomery Ward,” and a GVT house will be marked, “G.V.T.” (No kidding.)

Thanks so much to Andrew and Wendy for supplying all the wonderful photos!

Want to learn more about Wardway? Click here.

Dale Wolicki is the master of Gordon Van Tine kit homes. You can visit his awesome website by clicking here.

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Wardway

Wardway Homes were actually manufactured by another kit home company, Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa). Unlike Sears, Montgomery Ward did NOT have an entire division devoted to selling kit homes.

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The Wardway Dresden was featured in the front pages of the 1927 Wardway catalog.

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It was categorized as "An unusually nice bungalow" (1927 catalog).

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Some details on this "unusually fine bungalow."

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Several Wardway/GVT houses had these offset front porches, which makes identification so much easier. When I created my own field guide (from hundreds of old catalog pages), I created a section dedicated to houses with these offset porches.

Several Wardway/GVT houses had these offset front porches, which makes identification so much easier. When I created my own field guide (from hundreds of old catalog pages), I created a section dedicated to houses with these offset porches. It was - in my mind - a very distinctive feature.

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The Dresden - in all its shining splendor!

The Dresden - in all its shining splendor!

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Thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, I have an unusually fine photo of this unusually fine bungalow.

Thanks to Andrew and Wendy Mutch, I have an unusually fine photo of this unusually fine bungalow. The house is located in Pittsfield Township (Michigan). Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. An aside: If only Andrew or Wendy kept a chain saw in the glove compartment (as I recommend), they could have easily remedied the pesky problem of this small tree blocking their view.

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Another fine photo of this fine bungalow.

Another fine photo of this fine bungalow. Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And it still has its original siding and railings! Be still my heart! Photo is copyright 2013 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To learn how to identify kit homes, click here.

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About That Sears House in Greeley, Colorado (Part II)

December 20th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about the Sears Avondale in Greeley, Colorado. When that blog was posted, I had nothing more than vintage photos of this house, built by Winfred H. Senier.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums of the Greeley Preservation Historic Office, I now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier’s fine old Avondale (shown below).

Take a look at the original vintage photo below from the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. If you look closely, you’ll see Winfred’s wife (May) sitting on the front porch and old Winfred on the porch wall.

To read the prior blog, click here.

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

Noothing like old photos

This photo first appeared in the 1912 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's a great photo and you can see that - when built in 1910 or 1911, Mr. Senier's house had stained glass windows. This was an upgrade, and it's likely that the home's interior had some fancy upgrades as well.

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obi

Sharon Dunn (reporter for the Greeley Tribune) forwarded me Winfred's obit, which showed that Mr. Senier raised Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. Above is a photo of Winfred and May, and two of their dogs (about 1910 or 1911).

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Is this a Shire horse?

Is this a Shire horse? Or is this just "Pumpkin" the friendly horse who helped build the house?

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Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. In 1919, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home, and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see tha

Now this is one thing I have never ever seen before. Years after the house was built, Mr. Senier supplied a subsequent photo of the Greeley home (with mature landscaping), and it was published in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. You can see that the vegetation has grown up a bit! And there's Winfred and May on the front porch (still).

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1910

The Sears Avondale was first offered in the 1909 Sears Modern Homes catalog. When was Mr. Senier's house built? Well, most likely it was between 1909 - 1911. I'd love to know for sure.

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Avondale was a heck of a house

The Avondale was one of Sears nicer homes. It was spacious and fancy. The house in Greeley is probably one of the first Avondales built in the country.

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Floorplan

Look at the dimensions of the living and dining rooms. It was a very spacious house.

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Showed up at the fair in 1911

In this colorized card, you can see the stained-glass windows on the house. There are four. Two flanking the fireplace and two on the home's front.

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Interior

Another postcard shows the interior of the Sears Avondale.

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Thanks to Betsy Kellam, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Seniers Avondale.

Thanks to Betsy Kellums, we now have contemporary photos of Mr. Senier's Avondale. Still looks a little lonely out there in Greeley. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Its still standing but needs a smidge of paint.

It's still standing but needs a smidge of paint. Given the fact that's it's 100 years old, it's in remarkably good condition. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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If you look at the roof lines and thee porch, you can see that the house is still square and straight and true. Mr. Senier and Sears did a fine job with this house. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Mr. Senier died 67 years ago, but the house that he built for his family lives on. What a remarkable testimony to the quality of Sears kit homes. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone.

Sadly, those beautiful stained-glass windows are gone. (Photograph is copyright 2012 Betsy Kellums and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Thanks to Sharon Dunn (Greeley Tribune) for sending me Mr. Senier’s obituary. If you have any interest in Colorado history, this obit is a fascinating read. Mr. Senier was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, two original Greeley pioneers. Winifred Senier (the Avondale builder) had only one child (a daughter), but apparently his one daughter had eight children, all of whom lived in Greeley.

W. H. Senier Dies Thursday (December 4, 1945).


Winfred Howell Senier, who for 35 years operated a stock farm east of Greeley, died early Tuesday morning at the Weld County hospital after an illness of a year and a half. He had been a patient at the hospital only a few days.

He was 73 years old. Mr. Senier was a breeder of Shire horses, Tamworth hogs, and Airedale and Shepherd dogs. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Senier, Greeley pioneers, his mother being Eva Camp, daughter of a Union Colony member.

Mr. Senier was born in Covington, Ga., and came to Greeley with his parents when he was six years old.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. May Porter Senier, and one son, Archie Camp Senier, eight grand-children and one great grandchild, Richard Glen Senier.

His grand-children are Pfc. Winfred E. Senier of Fort Lewis, Wash.; Pfc. Robert John Senier of Lamar; ARM 1/c Woodrow E. Senier of Bakersfield, Calif.; WT 1/c William A. Senior [sic] awaiting discharge from the army following overseas duty; Gloria May, June Alice, Buddy and Doral Senier, all of Greeley.

One sister, Mrs. Jeanette Noxon of Greeley, also survives.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker for their indefatiguable efforts in researching this house in Greeley, and thanks to Betsy Kellums for the wonderful photos!

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To read more about the house in Greeley, click here.

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How to Properly Identify a Sears Magnolia

November 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Nary a week passes that someone doesn’t send me a note, happily reporting that they’ve spotted a Sears Magnolia in their neighborhood.

And 99.99% of the time, they’re wrong.

Priced at about $6,000, the Sears Magnolia (sold from 1918-1922) was Sears biggest and fanciest kit home. And despite lots of searching, only seven Sears Magnolias have been found.

Like most of the 370 designs of houses offered by Sears, the Magnolia was purposefully patterned after a popular housing style: The Southern Colonial. Here in Hampton Roads, there’s a Southern Colonial Revival in many of our early 20th Century neighborhoods.

However, the Sears Magnolia - the real deal - has several distinctive features that distinguish from “look-alikes.”

The photos shown below give some visual clues on how to identify the Sears Magnolia (the real deal).

The Sears Magnolia was their biggest, fanciest and most expensive home. It was offered from 1918-1922. The picture here is from the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was their biggest, fanciest and most expensive home. It was offered from 1918-1922. The picture here is from the 1921 catalog. If you look closely at the badge that shows the price, you'll see that the Magnolia was also known as #2089.

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After World War One (The Great War),

After World War One (The Great War), lumber prices went sky high. Sears catalogs had about a six-week lead time (from creation to publishing). Due to the volatility of building material costs, Sears couldn't keep up on the price info. As an alternate, they just stuck price sheets into the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. See the Magnolia above? This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the Spring 1921 Sears catalog.

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The Magnolia had more than 2,900 square feet (as built). The first floor was pretty busy.

The Magnolia had more than 2,900 square feet (as built). The first floor was pretty busy.

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Heres a close-up of the kitchen

Here's a close-up of the kitchen area and butler's pantry. Notice that there''s a downstairs "lavatory." Pretty upscale for 1921.

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My favorite Magnolia. This one is in Benson, NC.

A picture-perfect Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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And this one is in Canton, Ohio.

And this one is in Canton, Ohio.

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The lumber in Sears Homes was numbered, as is shown in this graphic from the rear cover of the 1921 catalog.

The lumber in Sears Homes was numbered, as is shown in this graphic from the rear cover of the 1921 catalog. The mark is on one end of the lumber, and also on the face of it (typically about 6-8" from the end). "B" was for 2x4s, "C" was 2x6s, "D" was 2x8s.

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Heres a real life example of the marks.

Here's a real life example of the mark on the lumber.

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The Magnolia was also known as Modern Home #2089. If you look closely, you'll see the number 2089 scribbled on this 2x8. This is the basement of the Benson Magnolia. When the house was being prepared for shipment out of the mill in Cairo, Illinois, the model number was written on a few of the framing members. To the right is the name of the family that originally placed the order for this house.

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The Magnolia was offered with both Corinthian (as shown here) and Ionic columns. I havent figured out if this was an option, or if it was dependent on what year the house was ordered.

The Magnolia was offered with both Corinthian (as shown here) and Ionic columns. I haven't figured out if this was an option, or if it was dependent on what year the house was ordered. In the Sears Magnolia, these columns are wooden and hollow. I've found that most "Southern Colonials" (with these two-story columns) have concrete columns. If you think you've found a Magnolia, go rap on the columns and if they're made of something more solid than wood, it is NOT a Magnolia.

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The entry hall of a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.

The entry hall of a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. The details matter. Notice over the door, there's an arched fan light. Many "look-alikes" have a square transom over the door. Learn how to pay attention to these many details.

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Noticee these very disctinctive windows on the Magnolia. Does the house youre looking at have these very samee windows? If not, its probably not a Sears Magnolia.

Notice these very distinctive windows on the Magnolia. Does the house you're looking at have these very same windows? If not, it's probably not a Sears Magnolia.

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If it dooesnt look like this, its not a Magnolia!  :0

If it doesn't look like this, it's not a Magnolia! :)

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Here's another example of a Magnolia (located in West Virginia).

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And another

And another beautiful Magnolia in Syracuase, NY. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really awesome story on Sears Homes, click here.

My favorite blog (an interview with a man who built a Magnolia) is here.

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A Little Bit of Hollywood in Owaneco (Illinois)

November 25th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

In February 2010, I traversed 2,500+ miles, driving throughout the Illinois hinterlands, seeking and finding Sears Homes.

I’m firmly convinced that we all entertain angels unawares (although sometimes, I suspect that it’s the angels that find me pretty entertaining). Before I start out on these jaunts, I always say a little prayer, asking for a bit of divine guidance.

Perhaps that’s how I came to land in Owaneco (a really tiny town). Turning onto the main drag (the only drag), I discovered this wonderful old Sears Hollywood. Yes, the house is a little tired but - the good news is - it’s in wonderfully original condition.

It’s been more than two years since I first posted these photos. Since then, the owners contacted me and said that they’re working hard to do a faithful restoration.

That’s always music to my ears!

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It was a gloomy day when I photographed this Sears Hollywood in Owaneco, but this is still one of my favorite photos from that trip.

It was a gloomy day when I photographed this Sears Hollywood in Owaneco, but this is still one of my favorite photos from that trip. This house is still solid and square and true.

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The original catalog image from 1919.

The original catalog image from 1919.

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This was a very spacious house.

This was a very spacious house. The living room alone was 406 square feet of living area. The house itself was almost 1,400 square feet. And it even had a sleeping porch on the back!

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The Hollywood was offered in two different styles.

The Hollywood was offered in two different styles. The house in Owaneco is the style shown in the lower right of the catalog page. I've reversed the image (as is shown directly underneath the home's actual photo). Sears plans could be "reversed" to take advantage of optimal lighting on the lot.

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According to the catalog, there are also Hollywoods in these cities!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another fascinating blog, click here.

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Those Crummy Little Kit Houses From Sears…

May 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

One of my #1 goals is to disabuse people of the notion that Sears Homes were extremely modest little houses.

Yes, Sears did have several designs that were very modest, but they also had a few designs that were quite grandiose. One of their most magnificent structures was the Modern Home #303. This model does not appear in Houses by Mail (a popular field guide to Sears Homes). In fact, Sears Modern Home #303 appeared only in the very rare 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

As my friend Dale points out, several of the designs that appeared in the pre-1915 Sears catalogs were lifted right off the pages of popular pattern books of the day, created by the popular architects, such as William A. Radford, Victor Vorhees, and Henry L. Wilson. (There is a plethora of information on this very topic here.)

So it’s very possible that Sears Modern Home #303 was a pattern-book house that was “borrowed” by Sears, appearing in their 1910 Modern Homes catalog.

And yet, I’ve never seen a good match to #303. And if we ever do find a match, it might take some work to figure out if this house is the real deal (Sears Modern Home #303) or if it came out of a pattern book!

Sears Modern Home #303 appeared only one year - in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Modern Home #303 appeared only one year - in the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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As you can see from the catalog page, this was quite a house!

As you can see from the catalog page, this was quite a house! In the small print (just under the price), it's estimated that the house can be built for about $6,700 (which includes all construction costs).

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fine print

"A Mansion of Colonial style of architecture" and it has a Superba front door!

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First floor

This 2,500-square foot house has very spacious rooms on the first floor.

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All Sears Homes

This house has a front and rear staircase, five bedrooms and a trunk room.

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house house house

The exterior has many distinctive features.

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tower twoer

These small window sashes on the tower (third floor) are pretty distinctive.

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On the other side

And this tower has a railing on top!

Have you seen this house? Please send me a photo!

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

To read the next amazing blog, click here.

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