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Emails and Such

June 27th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

My husband died a terrible and tragic death 10 weeks ago today.

Well-intentioned people keep sending me emails asking for more information on Sears kit homes.

It’s certainly okay to leave a comment at this site, as a friend is now managing it, but please don’t contact me personally about Sears Homes for now.

Most of my Sears House materials will soon be donated to the ODU Library.

If you’d like to learn more about Sears Homes, please read through the 958 blogs at this site, or join our group on Facebook.

If you’d like to read more about how much I loved this man, just search “Wayne Ringer” at this site.

Thanks.

Kit Homes in Kinston - What a Bonanza!

January 25th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Was I surprised to find 19 Aladdin kit homes in Kinston? My oh my, yes! And those 19 were found during a very quick windshield survey. There are more lurking about, I’m sure.

Last week, my husband and I visited New Bern, and while there, we drove out to Kinston to look at the local architecture. Lo and behold, we found an Aladdin kit home on almost every street in the older neighborhoods. In one memorable area (near Harding and Pollock Streets) we found seven Aladdin homes together.

The older suburbs we visited had many wide-open spaces, suggesting that many of these early 20th Century kit homes have already been demolished.

If you’re new to this website, you may be wondering, what is a kit home? In the early 1900s, aspiring homeowners could order a “kit home” from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that the neophyte homebuilder could have the house ready for  occupancy in 90 days. In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, such as Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) and Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

Aladdin was bigger than Sears, in business longer, and sold more homes than Sears, but they’re not as well known as Sears. Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, which explains why Aladdin Homes were so popular in the Southeast.

Based on my research, the overwhelming majority of people living in these kit homes didn’t know what they had, until I contacted them (or they discovered their home on my blog).

What was the industry that promoted Kinston’s growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? Industries often turned to Aladdin to supply housing for the workers. It’s likely that someone turned to Aladdin for the houses we’re now finding in Kinston, but who was it?

Lastly, before we get into the photos, I’m hoping some progressive-minded soul in Kinston will contact me about coming back to town to do a thorough survey. Perhaps identifying these bungalows as historically significant kit homes can be a key to revitalizing parts of Kinston.

Let’s hope.

Contact Rose by leaving a comment below.

In addition to the 19 Aladdin homes, I found a lone Gordon Van Tine home: The Peach House Restaurant! And it’s a real beauty! You can read more about that by clicking here!

You can read here about the kit homes I found in New Bern, NC.

UPDATE! We found a Montgomery Ward kit home in Kinston, too!

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1914 Moosejaw

Aladdin sold more homes than Sears, but was not as well known.

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1916

What was the industry that promoted Kinston's growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? It seems very likely that *that* employer turned to Aladdin to supply worker homes in Kinston.

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houses

Aladdin had catalogs devoted to "solving the problem of industrial housing."

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Aladdin 1916

Aladdin was named for the magical genie who built "a house in a day" for his master. Apparently, Old Genie is perusing the latest catalog to find a snappy design.

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1919

The Shadow Lawn is one of my favorites. It was spacious and beautiful (1919).

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Shadow two

When I drove in Kinston, the first house I spotted was this Aladdin Shadowlawn on Lenoir Avenue. Looks like it walked right off the pages of the 1919 catalog (shown above).

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Shadow

During our brief time in Kinston, I initially missed this Shadowlawn (another beauty) on Atlantic Avenue. Shown above is a screenshot from Google Maps. It's another delightfully original house.

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1916

The "Colonial" was probably Aladdin's biggest (and fanciest) kit home.

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19 Colonial

And there's one in Kinston! Do the owners know that they're living in a kit home?

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1919 Classic Bungalow

The Pomona was a classic early 20th Century bungalow (1919).

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Pollock 805

This was my favorite Pomona in Kinston (which has three of them). This house still as so many of its original features, including the half-timber effect on the porch gable, original windows with diamond muntins and those rectangular eave brackets. And that appears to be an old wooden storm door.

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305 Washington

This Pomona on Washington Street is also a lovely home, but its windows have been replaced.

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810 Collge

The years have not been kind to this Pomona on College Street.

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Carolina 1923

In all my travels, I'd never seen an Aladdin "Carolina." It seems fitting that there are not one but two Carolinas in Kinston, North Carolina. This image is from the 1923 catalog.

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605 Rhem

This Carolina on Rhem Street is in picture-perfect condition.

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308 Capitol

This is an Aladdin "Carolina" and it does have its original windows, so that's a plus. It's had some insensitive remodeling. Anything salt-treated on an old house is just not a good plan.

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Willard 1919

I've not seen that many "Willards" in my travels, but there are two in Kinston (1919).

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Details

It's also a cute little house with lots of interesting details and features.

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Willard 413 Harding

And this Willard on Harding Street is perfect - right down to the lattice!

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Willard on Harding

From every angle, it's a beauty!

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Porch

And it's astounding that 100 years later, that lattice is still in such good shape.

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811 Pollock

On an opposing corner, I found this Willard which has had some remodeling, but still looks a lot like a Willard. It's a pity that the guy-wire got in the way of an otherwise perfect picture.

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1919

The Virginia was a popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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310 Capitola

This "Virginia" on Capitola Street is next door to the Carolina shown above!

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Capitola

Okay, so we lost the little girl (in the image on the right) and gained a trash can, but other than that, it's a lovely match. And a pretty house, too!

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Florence 1916

The Florence was a popular house for Aladdin and I've found an abundance of these in North Carolina's mill towns. There are two Florence models in Kinston.

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Florence

And they're across the street from each other. This is on Harding.

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406 Harding

And so is this one.

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1919 BLVD

The Aladdin Boulevard was not a hugely popular house (1919).

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BLVD

But it is distinctive with that low shed dormer and the window arrangement. The Boulevard has 12/1 windows on the front porch (1919).

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Street

This was the first "Boulevard" I've ever seen. On this model, someone took out those living windows when they put in that fireplace. There's also an addition on the rear of the house.

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House

In this picture, you can see those 12/1 windows on the Kinston "Boulevard."

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1924 Sunshine

The "Sunshine" was a popular house with a really cute name (1924).

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Sunshine

"You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine..." This was the only Sunshine we found in Kinston.

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Street

These four models were lined up like little soldiers in a row on Pollock Street in Kinston.

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Harassment Street

The Willard is to the far left, with the Sunshine next, the Boulevard beyond it, and the Pomona at the end of the run. Kitty-corner to this Willard was The Perfect Willard, and the two Florences are behind this WIllard. These are the seven Aladdins mentioned above.

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Bruns 1923

I've been looking for an Aladdin Brunswick for a long time, butt prior to coming to Kinston, I'd never laid eyes on the real deal (1923 catalog).

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509 Washington

And Kinston has two of them. This house is on West Washington.

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Brunsh

A distinctive feature of the Brunswick is this window arrangement on the side of the house. The centered window is a staircase-landing window. The small windows are closet windows.

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Brusnswisk

This is another house that I missed on my first drive through town, and found when I was double-checking addresses via Google Maps. It's in pitiable shape. It's just off Perry and Atlantic, and just around the corner from that stunning Aladdin Shadowlawn. I hope this home has a hope of restoration.

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GVT

And the Gordon Van Tine #705 was the only non-Aladdin home I found in Kinston.

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Moo

Now this is a beautiful house - and it's also a restaurant!

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Gustatory Delights

Had we only been more familiar with the delicious delights offered at The Gordon Van Tine #705 Restaurant, errr, the "Peach House" we would have stopped there for lunch!

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At the end of the day,

At the end of our trip to Kinston, Hubby was mighty glad to get back to our "home away from home," The Aerie Bed and Breakfast in New Bern. He was tired of looking at houses.

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You can visit The Peach House website here.

To read about what I found in nearby New Bern, click here.

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The Wabash: A Dog’s Eye View

August 8th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Teddy the Dog noticed a couple things about the Sears Wabash (in yesterday’s blog) that I had missed.

1) The 1920 version had “chains” on the front porch (something a dog is always cognizant of);

2) The Wabash didn’t offer indoor plumbing (something a dog well understands).

So Teddy asked me to clarify these two important points on this blog.

To read more about Teddy, click here.

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Teddy asked me to do this subsequent blog.

Being a Sheltie, she's a herding dog, and has an especially keen eye for detail.

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The Wabash was first offered in 1916 and was apparently a popular house. The price tag was under $600, which - even factoring in average costs in 1916 - was a sound value. Heres a Wabash in Alliance, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

The Wabash was first offered in 1916 and was apparently a popular house. The price tag was under $600, which - even factoring in average costs in 1916 - was a sound value. Here's a Wabash in Alliance, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2015 Robb Hyde and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The

Even the "Already Cut" version of this house was a mere $599 (1916).

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But when Teddy got to comparing the floorplan with the

But when Teddy got to comparing the floorplan with the "interior view" of the kitchen, she noticed something wasn't quite right. She was puzzled, as was I.

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Its not a match

We both stared at this image a few minutes, trying to orient ourselves. How can this room have three exterior openings? It's on the corner of the house.

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House

Teddy put herself in the Wabash to re-create the view shown above.

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Thats when Teddy realized we had to rotate the image 90 degrees.

The view is easier to grasp when the image is rotated 90 degrees. The "interior view" can only be seen by a Sheltie with x-ray vision and the ability to look through walls. As shown here, Teddy would need to stand on the edge of the fireplace mantel, and look through an interior wall.

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Tw

Teddy suggested I put the images side-by-side. The floorplan shows a window next to the door (upper right), but the image (left side) shows just a door. The exterior view of the Wabash shows only one window in that spot. Seems like a tricky bunch of photos, doesn't it? Maybe the architects were wondering if anyone would notice if they mixed it up a bit. Or maybe those architects just made a boo-boo.

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The view of the living room is simpler: Youre standing at the front door, looking down that 19 expanse.

The view of the living room is simpler: You're standing at the front door, looking down that 19' expanse. I do not understand why there's only a cased opening going into that bedroom (front left).

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If you look again at the floorplan,

If you look again at the floorplan, you'll see that the screened porch has a cement floor, and opens up off the kitchen. That explains how the kitchen has three exterior openings: One of them goes to the porch.

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The image from the 1920 catalog shows that theres a chain on the front porch.

The image from the 1920 catalog shows that there's a chain on the front porch. As my friend Dale would say, "That's really cheapin' it out." Teddy wants to go on record as saying that "chains" and "dogs" are a very bad mix and she thinks that those two words should never be in the same sentence.

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You may have noticed that the Wabash does not have a bathroom. In fact, if you look closely, theres only one spigot on the kitchen sink, suggesting that it was cold water only.

You may have noticed that the Wabash does not have a bathroom. In fact, if you look closely, there's only one spigot on the kitchen sink, suggesting that it was cold water only. The cost of the Wabash would include an additional $41, for this "neat, attractive, little building." Teddy has a better understanding than most of the need to go outside - slogging through the muck and the snow - just to go tinkle.

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Fefe

This is disturbing. But what's even more unnerving is the third paragraph.

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Its reminiscent of the image on the cover of the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

It's reminiscent of the image on the cover of the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog. What's this fellow doing? He's exiting his shiny new Sears Modern Home to go to the outside pump and fetch a couple pails of water. His trusty Sheltie is right by his side.

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In closing, Teddy just wanted to say that she feels strongly

In closing, Teddy just wanted to say that she likes the Wabash and sees many good places for a Sheltie to lounge and enjoy life. In our own home, Teddy has a strong presence in the bedrooms, the sunporch, the living room and the dining room. She also enjoys hanging out in the bathroom (only when it's occupied) and in front of the fireplace. Her personal favorite spot is the kitchen, where there are many opportunities for her to get underfoot, and catch errant bits of food that hit the floor during meal preparation. Despite its hazards, she also likes to lay lengthwise in the narrow long hallway of our brick ranch at 3:00 in the morning, so that anyone headed to the bathroom will trip over her. I'm not sure why she does that...

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My name is Teddy, and I approve this blog.

My name is Teddy, and I approve this blog.

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To read more about Teddy, click here.

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Orlando in Nebraska

April 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Last year, I was watching the movie “Nebraska” with my daughter Corey, when I asked her to hit pause for a moment. I jumped up, grabbed a camera and took a picture of the tv screen.

My daughter quietly asked, “Sears House?”

Montgomery Ward,” I replied.

We continued with our movie.

As mentioned in a prior blog, I can’t just watch movies or television like normal people. I’m forever looking at the architecture. Doesn’t matter if they’re Sears Homes or not, I like looking at houses. When I was single, I kept hoping to find a dating site that featured pictures of men’s homes, rather than their faces. Some things are so much more important than looks. And then I ended up marrying a guy who lived in a concrete filing cabinet for people.

And then we moved to a fine home after we got married.

Shown below is the house I spotted in the movie “Nebraska.”  As movies go, it was okay, but pretty slow.

However it did have a nice house. Looks like it might be a Montgomery Ward “Orlando.”

Maybe.

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

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Movie

This foursquare was featured in the movie "Nebraska" with Bruce Dern

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Dare I hope

Is it a Montgomery Ward Orlando? Might be.

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house

Montgomery Ward and Gordon Van Tine were one in the same. Montgomery Ward relied on GVT to handle all facets of sales, from catalog publication to order fulfillment. What's the difference between a Montgomery Ward house and a Gordon Van Tine house? Not much. Image above is from the 1918 catalog.

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house

I love reading this stuff.

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house

Classic foursquare, with one difference: No entry foyer. Instead, that extra space is used for a small den or first-floor bedroom. Notice also that it has "good-morning stairs" in the kitchen. Nice touch!

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house

This is the only Orlando I've ever seen, and it's in Beckley, West Virginia.

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House

My friend Ersela found this house in Beckley. For years, people had said it was a Sears House. They were close!

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To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

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Teddy: Watchdog Extraordinaire

December 30th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

One of my all-time favorite books is, “Kinship with All Life” (by J. Allen Boone).  It’s a short but delightful read, and the book’s premise is this; dogs are a whole lot smarter (and more intuitive) than we humans can understand.

Several years ago, when Teddy was less than two years old, she came to my bedside one night and demanded that I awaken and arise.

I opened my eyes and saw my favorite quadruped standing there with an intense gaze in her eyes.

With as much gravitas as a Sheltie can muster, she lifted her snout ever so slightly and said, “Woof!”

As any dog owner knows, a dog has different barks for different occasions. This “woof” was different from the others.

I looked into her eyes for a minute and said, “What?”

She looked at me as if to say, “Listen, you need to get up and take a look outside. It’s important.”

She stood still and continued to stare intensely at me.

I arose from my soft pink bed and looked outside, and that’s when I saw two miscreants studying my car, parked in front of the house. One was especially interested in the license plate. The other was leaning over and looking in the driver’s window.

The dog stood beside me and barked incessantly. I was trying to figure out if I should holler or call 911, but Teddy’s barking was enough. They immediately stood up and briskly walked away.

Once the drama ceased, I praised Teddy. And I wondered, “How did she know? And how did she know how to get my attention with that little staring maneuver? How could she hear those muted malefactors, preparing to do heaven-knows-what to my slightly used 2003 Camry?”

Teddy just turned seven years old last month, and I recognize with some sadness that her life is half over.

For the first 30  years of my life, I didn’t like dogs. I was a cat person, through and through. When I was 36 years old, I got my first dog. When my mother met “Daisy,” for the first time, she fell in love with her. My mother told me, “I’m glad that you have discovered what a joy it is to have the love of a dog. There’s nothing like it.”

Mom was right.

PS. One of my most-popular blogs of all time (8,000 views) was this story about Teddy, but the link (from 2010) is now a “dead link.” Not sure how that happened, and this post was an attempt to repair the broken link - unsuccessfully! My apologies if you’ve heard this story before.

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Roxy (black fuzzy lumpkin) is Teddys best friend, and sometimes, they have a sleepover.

Roxy (black fuzzy cutie-pie) is Teddy's best friend, and sometimes, they have a sleepover. At first glance, you might think this is a human bed, but you'd be mistaken. It's a dog bed that humans are permitted to use.

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Teddy has also mastered the art of relaxation.

Teddy has also mastered the art of relaxation.

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Teddy also enjoys looking for kit homes in her spare time.

Teddy also enjoys looking for kit homes in her spare time.

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This is one of my favorite photos of Teddy. She loves taking me for walks.

This is one of my favorite photos of Teddy. She loves taking me for walks.

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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Christmas Comes But Once a Year…

December 23rd, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

The holidays are challenging for lots of people for lots of reasons. I have much to be grateful for but sometimes, I find the holidays a little difficult, too.

It doesn’t help that I’m a highly sensitive soul, who takes the world far too seriously and feels things way too deeply. Plus, I’m highly allergic to people, and shopping malls make me break out in hives, and blinking lights make me nervous. Short sticky people who move in erratic patterns whilst generating loud noises make me recoil in horror.

I love movies and in the movie“The Secret Life of Bees” I found a character with whom I could truly identify: “May” (played by Sophie Okonedo).

May is the consummate highly sensitive person, and in one very memorable part of the movie, she tells Lily Owens, “Sometimes not feeling is the only way you can survive.”

If someone invented an off-switch for feelings, I’d consider them worthy of the Nobel Personal Peace Prize.

In the meantime - to my fellow old house lovers and sensitive souls - I hope you have a good new year!  :D

And thank you very much for reading my blog! It brings me much joy to know that folks enjoy the stories I publish here. For that, I am both humbled and grateful.

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Teddy

Teddy The Dog hasn't told me how she feels about Christmas, but she has expressed a wish that she not be forced to sit in little red wagons again.

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And from the man who would be Santa.

One of the people in my life for whom I am grateful: Wayne Ringer, the lawyer who looks more like a logger (and a lot like Santa). Photo is copyright 2014 Morgan Ringer and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Despite my fondest Christmas wish, the house featured in A Christmas Story is not a kit house. It is, however, a real house in Cleveland, Ohio.

Despite my fondest Christmas wish, the house featured in "A Christmas Story" is not a kit house. It is, however, a real house in Cleveland, Ohio. And the movie is one of my all-time favorite movies.

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To read about old houses, click here.

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More on Jim Walter Homes…

December 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 5 comments

In the last couple years, I’ve had probably about 20 requests for more information on Jim Walter Homes. As mentioned in a prior blog, the company started doing business in 1946 and ceased in 2009, having sold about 320,000 homes.

That’s a lot of houses.

Last week, Carmen Miller contacted me and asked if there was a way to authenticate a Jim Walter Home. (Carmen was interested because she had recently purchased an alleged Jim Walter Home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.)

I thought and thought about her question, and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

As it turns out, I do some of my best thinking when I’m semi-conscious. Bolting upright about 4:30 this morning, I had my answer: Grantee Records.

Jim Walter Homes (like Sears) offered a really sweet deal on mortgages on their kit homes; easy payments, unusually low downpayments and lower-than-market interest rates. Using Grantee Records (where mortgages are recorded), I could look up “Jim Walter Homes.”

I immediately awakened in-house counsel from his slumbers, who put a damper on my brilliance, and pointed out that I would need trustee names. I replied, “Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to try ‘Jim Walter Homes’ and see what happens.”

I was surprised at how much I found: Four houses within the computerized records in Portsmouth, Virginia!

If you enjoy the following information, you should thank the architecture-loving angel that whispered in my ear at 4:30 am. And thank Carmen, too!  :D

To read more about Jim Walter Homes, click here.

Thanks to Bill Inge for providing some super-fast research on a couple names!

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house house

The map book (showing a physical address for this site) is housed in Norfolk County (see red arrow) which is in Chesapeake, about 45 minutes away from downtown Portsmouth. Using the legal description and some help from my friend Milton, we figured out where this house is located. The trustees names are given as W. S. Sullivan and R. E. Kane, but the deed was found by searching for "Jim Walter Homes." At the top, this document references a "deed of satisfaction," showing that the mortgage has been paid in full. Notice the letterhead.

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Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above.

Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above. It was built in 1974, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this model in my 1972 catalog. It's endured some remodeling. Who knows what it looked like 40 years ago.

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Honestly, Im not sure what this document is, but I suspect its a cover letter for legal documents. Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouths land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

This appears to be nothing more than a cover letter for legal documents (which I did not find). Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouth's land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

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This one, I was able to identify.

I was able to identify this house on Highland Avenue. Construction started in 1988.

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Its The Oxford.

It's "The Oxford."

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Highland

Fancy name; simple house.

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match

According to city records, the house on Highland Avenue is 24 by 38 (912 square feet).

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Last

This also shows a trustee name of Robert E. Kane (for JW Homes). On another note, I can not make out the owner's last name. Is it Lyttle?

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And heres the little JW house that the Lyttles bought.

And here's the little JW house that the Lyttle's built on Holladay Street.

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As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And theres one I still cant locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that its located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, Legal description attached, but there was no attachment.

As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And there's one I still can't locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that it's located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, "Legal description attached," but there was no attachment.

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I’m on the hunt for a few more (earlier) catalogs. If you find one, please drop me a note!

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Peace Pipes and Fourplexes: The Calumet

October 24th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

The Calumet is a rare Sears kit house that was offered for a brief time in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Sears did offer a few apartment buildings (yes, as kits), and the Calumet was one of them. My favorite feature of the Sears Calumet is the wall-bed, and the Calumet had two wall beds per unit.

The bed frame was included in the kit (but not the mattress).

It’s also interesting to note that the word Calumet comes from the Latin word calamellus, meaning “little reed.”  According to my online dictionary, a calumet is a “ceremonial smoking pipe, traditionally smoked to seal a covenant or treaty, or to offer prayers in a religious ceremony.”

Next time you’re watching TV with your friends and an Indian starts smoking a peace pipe, you can exclaim, “Why, he’s smoking a calumet!”

They’ll be so impressed with your esoteric knowledge!

Want to learn more about Murphy Beds (Wall Beds)? Click here!

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The Calumet, as seen in the 1918 catalog.

I just love the math: 20 rooms in 12! How do they do it? :)

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The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

The Calumet, as seen on Wikipedia.

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Bs

The Calumets had four porches, each with their own coal bin, whichwas nothing more than a small bin. Not nearly as luxurious as it sounds. Plus, it has "handy closets." I wonder which model had the "unhandy closets"?

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That would have been a heck of a kit house!

That would have been a heck of a kit house!

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Bloomintong

Notice that the wall beds have their own windows - in a closet!

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bed

The Calumet - as seen in the 1918 catalog.

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The only Calumet Ive ever seen - and its in Bloomington, IL.

The only Calumet I've ever seen - and it's in Bloomington, IL. You can see those two "closet-bed windows" on the right side. Sadly, the second-story porches are long gone. That first step outside of those 2nd floor doors is a doozy!

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Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

Do you think that the wallbed in the Calumet *ever* looked as good as it did in this accompanying image? I kinda doubt it!

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In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

In another catalog promotion, Sears promises that folding up that wall bed is so easy even a child can do it.

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In the silent short film (1:00 a.m.), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed).

In the silent short film (title, "1:00 a.m."), Charlie Chaplin does battle with a recalcitrant wall bed (also known as a murphy bed). The full video (about 10 minutes) is at youtube. See link below.

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To see the Charlie Chaplin short, click here.

To read another fascinating blog, click here.

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Nice House: Basement Sometimes Floods

September 26th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

When Hubby and I were in Brattleboro last month, we saw this old building *in* the river. I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and would love to know a little more about it.

My first impression is that it was a mill with a water wheel, but I wonder - was it BUILT in all this water, or did the waterways change a bit after the construction?

On a recent trip to Brattleboro, we saw a cool house!

On a recent trip to Brattleboro, we saw a cool house!

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house

Admittedly, I was just a flatlander tourist seeing the sites, but this structure caught my eye. Yes, that's Vermont rock at the far left, and the building was set within the river (or so it appears).

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Basement

If I were the Realtor writing up the listing for the structure, I'd include this disclaimer: "Sometimes, the basement floods." It would be fun to go fishing off the balcony.

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house

Was it built as a mill? I suspect it might have been.

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To learn more about the kit homes I found in New England, click here.

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Hopeless in Hopewell (Part 72)

September 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

“Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit house business,” I tell folks at my lectures, “but judging from my emails, you’d think that number was 70 million kit homes.”

Some people really, really, really want their house to be a kit house, but not every 1920s house is a kit house.

And if I were queen of the world (a title I aspire to), I’d make that Hopewell’s town motto.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003, I caused a stir when I proclaimed that 36 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills weren’t really Sears Homes. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well.

And the fact is, I might have made a mistake.

Rachel Shoemaker and I have reviewed some of the photos, and we now believe that 38 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes may not be Sears Homes.

Still, that leaves six Sears Homes in Crescent Hills (Hopewell).

After the “stir” in 2003, I didn’t hear back from Hopewell. But then, several years ago, I offered to help Hopewell do a proper survey of their kit homes - for FREE!

The town never responded to my emails or letters.

Eight years later, when I returned to Hopewell in Spring 2011 (wearing a wig and a fake nose), I focused on the amazing collection of Aladdin kit homes in that city. While Hopewell has only a few Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they have dozens and dozens of Aladdin kit homes near the downtown area. More on that here and here.

However, I couldn’t resist driving through Crescent Hills and photographing a few of the fake Sears Homes.

For instance, the city’s brochure states that the house at 201 Prince George Avenue is the Sears Van Jean.

Let’s make this simple.

It’s not.

It has a gambrel roof and a chimney and some windows, but that’s about it.

The photos below make that pretty clear.

Learn about the Aladdin homes in Hopewell here.

Read my favorite blog on Hopewell here.

Hopewell, if you’re listening, you can contact me by leaving a comment below!

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The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Note

Notice the double windows centered on the 2nd floor, and the double windows on the first floor. Notice also the placement of the home's chimneys. These things do matter.

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Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

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This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but its not a Van Jean.

This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but it's not a Van Jean. The 2nd floor windows are wrong, and the front porch is also not a match - for many reasons. The Van Jean has those oversized cornice returns. This house has none. I'd expect that the footprint for this house is also wrong. In short, it's *not* a Sears kit house.

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Close-up, comparing the porch.

The edges of Van Jean's porch roof are aligned with the primary roof. The Hopewell porch roof extends well beyond the roofline. The Sears House porch has a closed triangle, with a cross member at the bottom and then a fascia board below that. The Hopewell porch roof terminates at the cross member.

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Hopewells brochure explains the differences (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean.

Hopewell's brochure explains the "differences" (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean. Oopsie. They neglected a few details. And a few facts. And one big reality: This ain't no Van Jean.

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Will there ever be a day when someone in Hopewell exclaims, “Enough of this! Let’s call that gal in Norfolk and get this right - once and for all!!”?

I wonder.

In the meantime, Hopewell certainly does offer a lovely opportunity of how not to promote historic architecture.

To learn more about the real kit homes in Hopewell (and they’re not from Sears), click here.

To read about Sandston, click here.

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