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Architectural History and “Facebook” are Just Not Compatible

January 7th, 2019 Sears Homes No comments

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

That’s a quote from Jonathan Swift, who died in 1745. (For the youngsters, that was a couple years before the internet was invented.)

There’s a photo of a purported “Sears Roebuck” house that has now had millions of views (thanks to Facebook), and people are eating it up with a spoon.

As a historian, it is painful to see misinformation spread like wildfire.

First and foremost, if it’s a “Sears kit house,” it should look like a Sears kit house. If it can’t be matched to one of the 370 designs that Sears offered in their 38 years in this business, then you’ll have to find other ways to authenticate (original blueprints, marked lumber, shipping labels, etc.). Absent that, it’s just not a Sears House.

And if it was built pre-1908, it can not be a “Sears & Roebuck” house.

Every now and then, I’ll try to jump into these frays on Facebook and I’ll state, “It’s a lovely house but it’s not a Sears House” and invariably, I’ll hear the same comments from the percipient literati of that site:

1) You don’t know everything. Maybe it’s a new model.

2) And what makes you think you’re an expert?

3) The Realtor couldn’t post that if it wasn’t true.

4) My grandmother said it is, and you say it’s not. You’re just wrong. Accept it.

5) U R a moran.

And worse. Much, much worse.

Take a gander at these photos. They’re worth a lot of words!

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FF

The listing states that this house was built in 1926. Okay, that's believable - IF they used building materials salvaged from a house built in 1885. This house predates the 20th Century. Of that, I am sure. Thin porch posts, frippery and fretwork and gable ornaments are all classic indicators of a late 19th Century house.

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FF

Yes, it's a great house but it is NOT a Sears House.

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Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.

Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.

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Nice

Nice porch on this not-a-sears-kit-home house!

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If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Heres the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image.

If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Here's the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image. Those two pictures are a good match!

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Come see Rose in person on Monday night!

Want a laugh? Check out these pictures from Zillow.

Penniman Houses in Norfolk! Enjoy the pictures!

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Eight Little Models in Carlinville’s Standard Addition

January 24th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Carlinville, Illinois has 152 Sears Homes in a 12-block area. The neighborhood with all these Sears Homes is known as Standard Addition. To read more about the history of this enclave of kit homes, click here. Part of a $1 million order placed by Standard Oil of Indiana, Standard Addition features eight designs of Sears Homes. (An aside: Carlinville does not have the largest collection of Sears Homes, as is often reported. That honor goes to Elgin, Illinois - with 210 Sears Homes.)

Interestingly, the houses in Standard Addtion are all two-story homes and they’re all modest homes, averaging about 1000 square feet (and less). The eight models are:

1)  The Warrenton

2) The Roseberry

3) The Whitehall

4) The Lebanon

5) The Langston

6) The Windsor

7) The Madelia

8 ) The Gladstone

Below, I’ve posted pictures of the original catalog page, followed by extant houses in Carlinville.

Sears Warrenton

Sears Warrenton as seen in the 1919 Sears catalog.

Sears Warrenton

Sears Warrenton in Standard Addition. I like the pink bottom, and I like the fact that this house retains its original sidings, but the lattice work around the porch is a little distracting.

Sears Roseberry

Sears Roseberry from the 1920 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Roseberry in Standard Addition

Sears Roseberry in Standard Addition

Sears Whitehall

Sears Whitehall

Sears Whitehall

This Sears Whitehall is in originally wonderful condition!

Sears Lebanon

Sears Lebanon

Lebanon

The windows on the porch of the Sears Lebanon were probably added soon after the house was built, or in the 1930s. Very nicely done.

Gladstone/Langston

Gladstone/Langston. As you'll see below, there's very little difference between the Sears Gladstone and the Langston.

Langston

The salt-treated porch railings, foundation lattice work, and satellite dish are probably not original.

Carlin

The heading reads, "For Better Class Workers." I'm happy to report that Sears did not offer a house for "Lesser Class Workers."

Carlin

Desperate to remain in contact with the outside world after losing its front windows, this clever little Carlin erected a Ham Radio antenna.

Madelia

Madelia

Madelia

The railings and lattice work on this Sears Madelia are not original, but they are nicely done. A most attractive little house!

Gladstone

Gladstone

Gladstone

The spacious porch on this Gladstone was closed in, but the remodeling was done in a sensitive manner. You can still see the unique porch columns with their flared blocks at the top. This Sears House. The fireplace is a rarity among Standard Addition's homes. It was probably added later.

Sears

Vintage photo of Standard Addition, shortly after the houses were built.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Beyond Standard Addition (Carlinville’s OTHER Kit Homes)

January 20th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

I get lots of interesting notes from lots of interesting people. Unfortunately I find that amongst those many emails and letters, there are a lot of common misconceptions about Sears Homes.  One of the more persistent myths is that Carlinville has the largest collection of Sears Homes in the country. This is not true. Elgin (in Illinois) has the largest known collection (with more than 210 Sears Homes), and that word “known” is an especially important one.

Is it possible that some community has more than 210 Sears Homes? Absolutely!!  I am personally acquainted with three serious researchers who have devoted themselves to this work:  Dale Wolicki (Bay City, Michigan), Dr. Rebecca Hunter (Elgin, Illinois), and myself (Norfolk, Virginia). We’ve traveled tens of thousands of miles visiting towns throughout the country. We’ve literally traveled from sea to shining sea looking for these kit homes. Personally, I’ve been from Chicago to Baton Rouge and Boston to Los Angeles on research trips.

My point is, in all our travels, we have not discovered any city that can beat Elgin’s 210 Sears Homes. But we haven’t been to every city in America. In fact, I’d guess that the three of us together have seen fewer than 10% of all the kit homes in America.

With that as a backdrop, let’s go back to Carlinville, Illinois. Interestingly, there are a handful of Sears Homes outside of Standard Addition (the 12-block area with 152 Sears Homes). And there’s a Gordon Van Tine house in Carlinville! (Click here to learn more about Gordon Van Tine.)

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine Roberts in Carlinville. GVT was another kit home company that (like Sears) sold entire houses from a mail-order catalog. GVT was based in Davenport, Iowa.

Here's a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" in Carlinville. GVT was another kit home company that (like Sears) sold entire houses from a mail-order catalog. GVT was based in Davenport, Iowa.

Gordon Van Tine home in Carlinville, not far from the Standard Addition neighborhood.

Pictured above is a Gordon Van Tine home in Carlinville, not far from the Standard Addition neighborhood. This was a popular home for GVT and was known as "The Roberts."

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Sears Beaumont in Carlinville, Illinois

Sears Beaumont in Carlinville, Illinois, and it's a beauty! I didn't know about this Sears house until early 2003, when someone attended a lecture I gave in Carlinville and told me that there was a Sears Beaumont "near the college"!

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Sears Sunbeam, as shown in the 1919 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Sunbeam, as shown in the 1919 Modern Homes catalog

Sears Sunbeam in Carlinville.

Sears Sunbeam in Carlinville.

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Sears Lebanon from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Lebanon from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

This little Sears Lebanon is outside of Standard Addition, but the Lebanon was one of eight models found in Standard Addition. The other houses were the Roseberry, the Warrenton, the Roanoke, the Langston, the Gladstone, the Whitehall and the Madelia.

This little Sears Lebanon is outside of Standard Addition, but the Lebanon was one of eight models found in Standard Addition. The other houses were the Roseberry, the Warrenton, the Roanoke, the Langston, the Gladstone, the Whitehall and the Madelia. This house is one of two Lebanons outside of Standard Addition.

To learn more about Standard Addition, click here.

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An Entire Neighborhood of Sears Homes Near Philadelphia!

October 15th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

UPDATED!  Thanks to a reader, I’ve found that this blog has some errors. I’ve since re-written it and corrected it. Please read the updated version (with better pictures) HERE.

Less than 30 miles from our nation’s first capital (Philadelphia) there’s an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes. Yes, an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes in Chester, PA. Recently, I was looking through a 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog when I found this promotion in its front pages. (See photos below.)

This is quite remarkable, for there are not that many known “Sears House Communities” and finding these homes today could be a real tourism bonanza. In short, this is a real find, but where is it? And does it still exist?

The houses were built by a company known as “Sun Ship Company.”

It’s possible that this entire neighborhood was demolished and no longer exists, but if it does, I sure would like to find it. If you know the area or even a few addresses, please contact me by leaving a comment below. And if you’d like to read more about how to identify Sears Homes, please click here.

UPDATED!  Thanks to a reader, I’ve found that this blog has some errors. I’ve since re-written it and corrected it. Please read the updated version (with better pictures) HERE.

Sears Homes in Chester, PA

Sears Homes in Chester, PA

Featured in the above photos are several sytles of Sear Homes, including the Sears Gladstone

Featured in the above photos are several sytles of Sear Homes, including the Sears Gladstone

The Sears Whitehall was another house featured in Chester, PA.

The Sears Whitehall was another house featured in Chester, PA.

If you look at the vintage photo (above), youll see a little Carlin tucked in among the foursquares.

If you look at the vintage photo (above), you'll see a little Carlin tucked in among the foursquares.

Again, if you know where these homes are, please leave a comment below, or you can write me directly at thorntonrose@hotmail.com. Please put “Chester PA” in the subject line.