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Posts Tagged ‘west virginia kit homes’

“Barn Builders” Blunders Badly

April 11th, 2016 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last week, my buddy Milton saw an episode of “Barn Builders” (DIY TV, Season 2, Episode 9), which featured a short bit on a Sears Home. According to the episode guide that accompanied the program, “the guys restore an 1856 log cabin.”

The log cabin sat on a spacious old family farm. The “Barn Builders” did a fine job with that 1856 cabin, but it all went off the rails when they decided to do a snippet on another structure on the land, sitting a few hundred feet away. The house in question was a very primitive house, probably built in the late 1800s, and on the cusp of collapse.

As one of the crew members wandered over to the badly dilapidated structure, he said, “this looks like a Sears kit house.” Thus began a four-minute segment on Sears Kit Homes, replete with quick shots of Sears Modern Home catalogs from the early 1920s and house plans and other imagery.

Next, the Barn Builder walked into the old house and made several comments affirming his remarkable find of a kit house from Sears.

The entire four-minutes worth of shenanigans left me shaking my head in disbelief. The show probably has a wide-spread audience, which means that “Barn Builders” has now disseminated a whole slew of bad information about kit homes to a whole new audience.

It’s mighty frustrating and even more so when you think about the fact that this house wasn’t even built in the right CENTURY to be a Sears kit house.

Enjoy the pictures below and if you happen to know anyone involved in the production of “Barn Builders,” ask them to give me a call.

Did you enjoy this blog? Please share this link with your friends on Facebook!

Read about another unfortunate use of the airwaves and old houses, click here.

To read about a bona fide Sears House in West Virginia, click here.

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Fine

This tired wooden house sits on an old family farm in West Virginia, and was featured on a recent episode of "Barn Builders." Its condition is very poor.

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After a few minutes, this fellow leaves the project (an 1856 log cabin) and strolls over to the old farmhouse for a closer look. As hes walking, he identifies the old house as probably a Sears kit house. Thats when the real fun begins.

After working on the 1856 cabin for a time, one of the workers leaves the project and strolls over to the old farmhouse for a closer look. As he's walking toward the old house, he says that it's "probably a Sears kit house." That's when the real fun begins.

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The

There are many reasons as to why this is not a Sears kit house, but let's start with the "low-hanging fruit." First, it was probably built in the late 1800s. Sears started selling their "Modern Homes" in 1908. The house shown here is supported with what's known as "rubble stone" piers or "dry stacked stone" piers. While this type of foundation remained in use into the early 1900s, it was more common in the mid-to-late 1800s. And a rubble-stone foundation would not have been considered acceptable for a Sears kit home. And there's this: The house had no exterior sheathing. Those clapboards were nailed right to the studs. This is not a good way to build a house, and it's certainly not a kit house.

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The

It's rather amazing that this old house is still upright.

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If this house were in the south, wed say it was a mess.

There are no windows on the side of the house and there are two unusually long windows on the rear. This was a house designed and built by a novice. In short, it was the cheapest way to cover air in the 1800s.

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Inside the house, the man rambles on about the fact that the kits came with nails and paint and everything else.

Inside the house, the man rambles on about the fact that the kits came with nails and paint and everything else. If you look at the trim in the house, you'll notice that it's also extremely primitive. Again, it's pretty clear, no architects and no professional builders were consulted in the building of this house.

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These fellows should stick to building barns.

These fellows should stick to building barns.

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Read about another unfortunate use of the airwaves and old houses, click here.

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Dogs and Cats - Living Together in West Virginia

June 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last year, I visited the Eighth Magnolia in northern West Virginia. The owners were kind enough to give me a full tour, from the basement to attic. What a happy day that was, to see that old house, faithfully restored to its former splendor!

My hubby and I spent two hours at the house, photographing it from every possible angle, and soaking in the happy ambiance of a gorgeous Sears Magnolia in beautiful condition. This 90-year-old Sears kit house sits majestically on several acres in the bucolic hinterlands of West Virginia.

I was floating on air when we drove away from The Beautiful Magnolia. When I came to the first intersection, I saw a very interesting house on the corner and snapped my head around to get a better view.

“Oh my gosh,” I said slowly, but happily.

“What is it?” my husband asked, hoping that it was not another kit house. It was already an hour past his lunch time and he was not happy about that.

“It’s another kit house,” I said absent-mindedly, as I stopped the car hastily and retrieved my digital camera.

You could hear a soft little “plop” as his heart sank in his chest.

“Oh,” he said apprehensively.

“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “I’m just getting a few pictures.”

Famous last words.

Fortunately, I was able to get several good shots in a hurry (I was hungry too), and we were back on our way in less than five minutes.

So what kind of house is living next door to The Beautiful Magnolia?

It is a *perfect* example of a Gordon Van Tine #612, a classic bungalow, and one of their finer houses. Gordon Van Tine, based in Davenport Iowa, was a significant kit home company and probably sold more than 50,000 kit homes. They were also the company that supplied kit homes for Montgomery Ward.

To read my favorite blog about the Magnolia, click here.

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

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Gordon Van Tine

The Gordon Van Tine #612 as it appeared in the 1924 catalog.

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Spacious too

Look at the size of that living room! The dining room is also quite large.

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house 1924

It really is a beauty.

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Be still my heart

Be still my heart. Wow, wow, WOW! What a fine-looking home!

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And its on a pretty lot

And it sits on a beautiful lot in West Virginia. Notice the short window in the dining room? It's likely that they had a built-in buffet in that bay window, necessitating the smaller window.

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house on lot

A better view of the house from the side.

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See that detail on brick

See that detail on chimney?

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nice match isnt it

Nice match, isn't it?

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Beautiful house in Vinton, VA

And here's a beautiful brick #612 that Dale found when we were in Vinton, VA (near Roanoke).

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Heres a not-so-beautiful GVT 612 on Pocohontas Street in Hampton, VA

Here's a not-so-beautiful GVT # 612 on Pocohontas Street in Hampton, VA. It's just outside of the Old Wythe section of Hampton, which has many kit homes. Heaven only knows why that extra roof piece was added between the two gables. My oh my.

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Yeah, it really is one.

Due to the many trees on the side, I could not get a good picture down the right side, but a visual inspection satisfied me that this really is a Gordon Van Tine #612 (or its Montgomery Ward counterpart). If you look down this side (shown above) and compare it with the floorplan, you'll see it's the real deal.

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And its all just around the corner from our Maggie!

And that Gordon Van Tine is just around the corner from our Maggie!

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To read my favorite blog about the Magnolia, click here.

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

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A Tale of Two Maggies

August 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Sometime in the late 1910s, someone in Lincoln, Nebraska sat down with a specialty catalog from Sears & Roebuck and ordered a kit house called, “The Magnolia.” It was the grandest kit home that Sears offered, with almost 3,000 square feet, 2-1/2 baths, four spacious bedrooms, a porte cochere, a couple sunporches, kitchen nook, fireside inglenook, butler’s pantry, servant’s quarters annd much more.

As the decades rolled by, the house fell into disrepair. In 1985, it suffered a fire and was then razed.

Today, all that first-quality lumber (Oak, Cypress and #1 Southern Yellow Pine from the virgin forests of Louisiana) is sitting in a landfill somewhere in Lincoln.

And someone’s much-loved “Dream Home” is nothing but a sorrowful memory.

About the same time, someone in West Virginia sat down and ordered a Sears Magnolia, and as the decades rolled by, that house also fell into disrepair.

In 2003, it was purchased by someone who loved and respected old houses and they spent the next three years doing a thorough restoration of the 3,000-square foot manse. They did a beautiful job. Some folks who saw the restoration (and it was a true restoration) estimate that the cost of the work hit the seven-digit mark.

And someone’s much loved Magnolia is now a historical treasure in West Virginia.

The photos below come from the two Magnolias: The black and white photos are of the house in Nebraska, gone for 28 years now.

Thanks so much to the wonderful folks at the Nebraska State Historical Society for having the presence of mind to document this wonderful old house before it was razed, and so generously sharing these wonderful photos with me, three decades later.

It’s so tragic that this historically significant house is now a pile of rubble in a landfill, but at least we can get a good look at our “Maggy,” and remember, this was a house that someone carefully selected from the pages of a Sears Roebuck catalog and then painstakingly erected, more than nine decades ago.

“The Tale of Two Maggies,” is the story of two Sears kit homes purchased about the same time (late 1910s/early 1920s); same model house with a radically different outcome.

If you enjoy the blog, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the Magnolia that lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.

To read about the Magnolia in West Virginia, click here.

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comparison

In 1985, this Magnolia in Lincoln Nebraska was razed after a fire. Prior to this, it had suffered from many years of neglect. And yet, I'm surely grateful that the Nebraska Historical Society had the foresight to photograph the house and then save those photos for posterity. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house

By contrast, this Magnolia (in West Virginia) did *not* suffer from years of neglect. And yet - being a 90-year-old house - it came to its own crossroads in 2003, and was faithfully restored to its former grandeur.

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Two Maggies

The Tale of Two Maggies; quite a contrast in the "caretaking" of old homes.

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One house was painstakingly restored.

Before the fire and subsequent razing, the Magnolia in Lincoln was in dire need of some basic maintenance. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And one was saved

The Magnolia in West Virginia is the picture of perfection, and thanks to the restoration, will probably live on for another 100 years or more.

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Photo of Lincoln

Going through these photos, I found it remarkable how similar these homes are. They almost look like "before and after" photos of the same house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Steve Burke

Both houses began at the same starting point: Identical building materials and similar climate conditions, but the Magnolia in WV looks fantastic today - thanks to the restoration work.

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haunting

Of all the pictures I reviewed in preparing this blog, these side-by-side contrasts were the most haunting.

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beautiful old house

Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society, we have several interior photos of the Nebraskan Magnolia. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Reception Hall

The breathtakingly beautiful reception hall in the West Virginia Magnolia.

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haunting too

The side-by-side pictures show a striking contrast.

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house house hosue li

The simple elegance of the Magnolia still shines through in these living room photos. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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living room house

Note, the fireplace mantel is the same (as shown above in the Lincoln Magnolia) but the frieze is a little different.

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living room haunting as well

These pictures really showcase what a loss this was, don't they?

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two maggies

Two unnamed ladies in front of the Maggie's fireplace. Notice the brick hearth and brick trim around the firebox. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house maggie girls

The marble hearth and surround were added during the restoration work. It's not original to the house, but it sure is a lovely addition and very nicely done.

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girls in maggie

The notes that accompanied these Nebraska photos state that the mantel and trim (and floor) in living room were solid oak. Based on the info in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, I'd say those notes are right.

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nebraska up

A view of the upstairs hallway. See the little bit of balcony through the French doors? A lot of fine details on this house survived the many decades. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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magnolia up

And the same hallway in the West Virginia Magnolia.

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Magnolia house house house

Side-by-side views of the two Magnolias.

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den fireplace

The mantel in the den was quite simple for such a grand house. This den fireplace (which backed up to the living room fireplace) appears to be a coal-burner, very common in this era and more efficient than a wood-burning fireplace. The 12" square floor tiles are not original to the house. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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den maggy

The original den in the Magnolia was a mere eight feet deep. The den (and the kitchen) in the WV Magnolia were both enlarged with a 40-foot wide addition across the back of the house.

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Magnolia kitchen

The kitchen in the Nebraska Magnolia was mighty close to original. According to a rough sketch of the floor plan, provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society, the Butler's Pantry was removed to create additional space in the kitchen. In the background, you can see three casement windows, and if you look closely, you'll see two benches, the remnants of a built-in dining nook. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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kitchen new

The kitchen in the West Virginia Magnolia is quite different!

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house Nebraska

All in all, it's pretty impressive that this house stood so square and true for so long sans maintenance.

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Porch Maggie

And yet it sure is gorgeous when a little tender loving care is applied.

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About 90 years ago,

About 90 years ago, two hopeful wanna-be homeowners pored over the pages of a Sears Modern Homes catalog, counting their dollars and studying their budget and decided upon the Sears Magnolia. It pains my heart to think that the Magnolia in Nebraska - someone's cherished and much-loved home - is now gone.

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To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read more about the Magnolia, click here.

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The Wardway Warrenton in West Virginia

May 27th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

In 2009, I visited the tiny town of Rainelle, West Virginia and discovered several Sears Homes on Main Street. That was a lovely surprise.

And another nice surprise was finding a Wardway Warrenton in town, too.

Sears sold about 70,000 houses during their 32 years in the kit-home business (1908-1940). Wardway sold about 25,000 kit homes in roughly the same time period (1909-1932). Gordon Van Tine (who manufactured the houses for Montgomery Ward) sold about 50,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats on Wardway and Gordon Van Tine.)

Because of the rarity of these Wardway Homes, it’s always a nice surprise to find one, especially so far from the Midwest (where Montgomery Wards was based).

Many thanks to Skip Deegans for traipsing out to Rainelle and getting these photos for me!

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

Wardway also sold kit homes, but was lesser known that Sears.

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Like Sears, Wardway kit homes were also

Like Sears, Wardway kit homes also had pre-cut lumber that was marked to facilitate construction. These many years later, those marks can help identify a house as a kit home.

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The Wardway Warrenton

The Wardway Warrenton was a "splendid home," and the accompanying text said it was "dignified and handsome." In fact, it was a six-bedroom home which was unusually large for a house of this time period. Recommended colors were cream paint (walls) with white trim. Yawn.

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house

The house was just shy of 2,200 square feet.

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Wardway

The Wardway Warrenton as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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house house hosue

Is this a Wardway Warrenton? Looks like it to me! Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Another view of the Wardway Warrenton in Rainelle, WV. Photo is copyright 2013 Skip Deegans and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

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Charleston, West Virginia: A Plethora of Sears Homes

August 23rd, 2010 Sears Homes 5 comments

How did Charleston, West Virginia end up with a large collection of kit homes from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward and Aladdin Homes?  Were these homes purchased for industry workers? Were they built by a local  builder or developer? Or did word about these well-built kit homes just spread by word of mouth? I’d love to know.

In 2008, Ersela Jordan, Billy Joe Peyton and Henry from the Historical Society and I toured Charleston and found many kit homes, from several companies.

These early 20th Century kit homes were true kits, and were shipped via rail, arriving at the local train depot in 12,000 pieces.

Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book that told the hopeful homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Today, finding these homes is especially challenging. Unfortunately, when Sears closed their Modern Homes department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed.

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

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

The Sears Dover as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Sears Dover as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Sears Dover - with a slate roof - in Charleston, West Virginia. This is one of the prettiest Sears Homes Ive ever seen!

The Sears Dover - with a slate roof - in Charleston, West Virginia. This is one of the prettiest Sears Homes I've ever seen!

Sears Chateau - from the 1932 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Chateau - from the 1932 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Very unusual house and unlike the more "traditional" Sears catalog homes.

Sears Chateau:  In my many travels, this is the only Sears Chateau that Ive seen. Note that the front door was moved from the left side (catalog image) to the middle. The homes living room spanned the full width of the house, so this was a simple change to make. Note the detail on the brick work above the windows.

Sears Chateau: In my many travels, this is the only Sears Chateau that I've seen. Note that the front door was moved from the left side (catalog image) to the middle. The home's living room spanned the full width of the house, so this was a simple change to make. Note the detail on the brick work below the windows. This Chateau is next door to the Sears Dover (pic above).

Sears Lexington, from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Lexington, from the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Lexington in Charleston, WV. A real beauty!

Sears Lexington in Charleston, WV. A real beauty!

Sears Alhambra - one of their most popular designs.

Sears Alhambra - one of their most popular designs.

Sears Alhambra dressed in brick, in downtown Charleston

Sears Alhambra dressed in brick, in downtown Charleston

Sears Vallonia, another one of Sears most popular designs

Sears Vallonia, another one of Sears most popular designs

Sears Vallonia in Charleston.

Sears Vallonia in Charleston. Dormer windows have been replaced, but note original porch railings and columns. One of the unusual features on the Sears Vallonia is the small space between the two windows on the dining room bay.

Aladdin kit home: The Maplewood

Aladdin kit home: The Maplewood

A perfect Aladdin Maplewood in Charleston. We found several of these kit homes in one section of town.

A perfect Aladdin Maplewood in Charleston. We found several of these kit homes in one section of town. this Maplewood is in remarkably original condition, and even retains its original batten shutters. Note the detail around the front porch roof.

Gordon Van Tine catalog page.

Gordon Van Tine catalog page. GVT was a large kit home company based in Davenport, Iowa.

Gordon Van Tine Roberts in Charleston

Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" in Charleston

To read more about Sears kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

Sears Homes of Lewisburg, West Virginia

August 16th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

In 2006, a woman in Beckley, West Virginia sent me an email. “Ersela” thought she’d found about 40 kit homes in Beckley, and wanted to ask if I was available to come to her town and give a lecture. For the next several months, we talked back and forth and in 2008, I went to Beckley and gave a talk on Sears Kit Homes. Over the course of a couple years, I also visited Charleston and Lewisburg, and the surrounding areas.

I’m still amazed and impressed by how many kit homes I’ve found in these communities. How did so many kit homes end up in West Virginia? I’ve no idea. This is a picture-heavy post so I’ll keep the words to a minimum. Enjoy the photos, and please leave a comment. And if you know why West Virginia has so many kit homes, please comment on that, too! And - if I have misidentified a city, please let me know.

To see pictures of Sears Homes in Charleston, West Virginia click here.

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

To read about my favorite Sears Home in Rainelle, click here.

Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

Sears Altona from the Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Altona from the Sears Modern Home's catalog

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte.

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte.

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024. This house is in Lewisburg. Note how the shed dormer still retains its three little windows.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too. Here, you can see the Aladdin Genie going back into his bottle (presumably on the back porch) after building a house for his master in a day (I'm guessing here).

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdin's most popular homes.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

An Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. Sometimes, its hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it.  :)

Here's a nice Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. To the uninformed, this may look like a grove of trees, but there is an Aladdin House there. Sometimes, it's hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it. :)

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Heres the GVT Durant, a fairly popular little bungalow.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Here's the GVT "Durant," a fairly popular little bungalow.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.

The Prettiest Little Sears Mitchell That You Ever Did See…

August 12th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

In Fall 2005, I traveled with a dear friend to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Along the way, we passed five little Sears Homes in a row. It was late in the day and the sun was setting, and I thought I’d never forget where those little houses were. I meant to make a note of it as soon as we arrived at our destination - and I completely forgot.

In 2008 and 2009,  I went back to West Virginia several times to give talks in Beckley, Lewisburg and Charleston. Each time, Ersela, Sandy and I (a kit home triumvirate) drove countless hours trying to find those five Sears Homes in a row. I finally gave up.

And then on my last day in Lewisburg, Skip Deegan asked me to take a ride with him through Rainelle, WV. Finally, after years of wondering, I rediscovered not five, but 10 Sears Homes on one street in greater downtown Rainelle. What a bonus! Below is one of my favorite finds of that trip. A perfect little Sears Mitchell, right on the main drag through town.

Notice the beautiful mountains in the background!

To read more about the Sears Homes in West Virginia, click here.

Sears Mitchell from an early 1930s catalog

Sears Mitchell from an early 1930s catalog

Sears Mitchell in Rainelle, WV

Sears Mitchell in Rainelle, WV