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Posts Tagged ‘why I love kit homes’

The Brentwood: A Home of Impressive Beauty (1952)

April 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Many times, I’ve written a note to someone to tell them that they’re living in an Aladdin Kit Home, and invariably, when they right back they’ll say, “I’m so excited to find out that I have a Sears House!”

In fact, I’d say that this happens 80% of the time.

Aladdin kit homes are not Sears kit homes. These are two different companies.

Sears gets all the press, but there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level and Sears was neither the biggest, nor the longest lived. Sears started selling homes in 1908 and was gone by 1940. Conversely, Aladdin issued their first catalog in 1906 and closed their doors in 1981. During their 32 years in the business, Sears sold about 70,000 homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes.

When I wrote my first article about kit homes in early 2000, many folks had never even heard of Sears Homes, so perhaps in time, people will come to appreciate (and know about) Aladdin. From an architectural standpoint, it’s a more interesting company, just because of the variety of housing styles offered through the decades.

And many thanks to Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for finding the beauty featured below! You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

To learn more about identify kit homes, click here.

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The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1952 catalog.

The Brentwood was featured on the cover of the 1951 catalog.

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Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company.

Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, and longer-lived, but today, it seems that fewer people are aware of this company (1951 catalog).

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Picture

Close-up of the picture from the page above. The text explains why it's simple to build with the Readi-cut system. I was hoping that those are Aladdin houses in the background, but I don't think they are.

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Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), one man can now do the work of six!

Thanks to the modern marvel of machinery (and electricity), and a central site for pre-cutting all the framing lumber, one man can now do the work of six!

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The Brentwood was a dandy house.

The Brentwood was a dandy house with four floor plans with some variation.

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FP1

Floorplan one is the only house with a fireplace.

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FP21

Floorplan two is down to two bedrooms, but has a bigger kitchen/DR.

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FP3

Floorplan 2 and 3 have the same layout, but 3 is a smaller footrpint.

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FP4

Floorplan 3 and 4 are the same footprint, but with three bedrooms carved into the small space.

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FP4

This appears to be Floorplan #1, as it has a fireplace and a planter under that bedroom window. Apparently, the houses in this subdivision have tremendous water pressure. The guy with the house is being pushed backwards.

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Then again, he also looks like Americas first metrosexual.

Then again, he also looks like America's first metrosexual.

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Thie

Located in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Ranch is a perfect match to the catalog image. My favorite feature is that over sized, dramatic fireplace (which appears to have several flues). Photo is copyright 2015 Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

What a house!

What a house!

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You can visit Dale’s website here, and you can learn more about Rebecca here.

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Let’s Go to Buckroe! (Hampton, Virginia)

March 16th, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Last week, my friend Cynthia (a fellow old-house lover!) drove me around Hampton, Virginia searching for kit homes from the early 20th Century. We had a wonderful morning and a lot of fun, but after 3-1/2 hours, I was worn out!

We visited several early 1900s neighborhoods, but found nothing remarkable, and then we went to the Buckroe area. (Having been raised in Hampton Roads, I remember a little ditty from a radio advertisement: “Let’s go to Buckroe!” Advertising must be a powerful medium because I haven’t heard that jingle in 40 years, but still remember it clearly. And yet I couldn’t find it on youtube or google. Strange.)

I’d been through the Buckroe section before, but apparently, I’d missed the sweet spots. With Cynthia’s help, I found a surfeit of Sears Homes I’d never seen before.

Check out the photos below for a real treat, and if you know anyone who loves old Hampton, please send them a link to this blog! :)

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In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and published by Susan Miller.

In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. I'm not sure what happened to Buckroe, but the area by the beach is now open field. I'm told that Buckroe Amusement Park was closed in 1985 and torn down in 1991. What a pity. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and is copyright Susan Miller.

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To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, visit Susan’s website here. Lots of wonderful pictures.

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While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look.

While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look. Note the three windows down the side? That caught my eye, as did the cut-out shuters.

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Oh my stars, its a Sears Claremont!  (1928)

Oh my stars, it's a Sears Claremont! (1928)

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Such a pretty little thing.

Such a pretty little thing. And other than the door, it's perfect!

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I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, theyre original too!

I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, they're original too! As are the Cypress shakes on the exterior.

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Cute, isnt it? And such a nice match.

Cute, isn't it? And such a nice match.

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fefe

Less than a block away on Seaboard, this Lewiston was just waiting to be discovered. That's the car window in the upper right of the frame. Oopsie.

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The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

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Its a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

It's a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

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fefe

Aladdin was a company which, like Sears, sold entire kit homes through mail-order.

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This is an Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable.

Just around the corner on Atlantic Avenue, I found this Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable. Due to the trees, you can't see the side, but that little bumpout is present on the far right of the home (just as it should be).

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assess

Here's a close-up of the Aladdin Madison from the 1931 catalog.

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Heres a photo from the Hampton Assessors website.

Here's a photo from the Hampton Assessor's website. In this photo, you can see that bump-out on the side, and also see how that front gable started life as an arched entry.

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Last but not least is the Fullerton. Id found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

Last but not least is the Fullerton. I'd found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

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What a nice match!

What a nice match, right down to the flared columns!

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To see an earlier blog I did on the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, click here.

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Customized Wardway Homes: Kinda, Sorta, Maybe

January 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 5 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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The Dorchester: A Joy To A Woman’s Heart

October 17th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

In the last two years, I’ve visited Richmond three times and have seen many parts of the city, but it would seem that I missed the 5100-block of Riverside Drive all three times!

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Last month, after my lecture, a woman came up to the podium and said, “There’s a Lewis Dorchester here in Richmond.”
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If I had a nickle for every time I’d heard that…

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I’d have ten cents.

(
Fellow old-house-lover Molly Dodd graciously offered to get a picture of the house for me, and lo and behold, it appears to be the real deal.

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A Lewis Dorchester in Richmond!

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This city - less than 100 miles from my home in Norfolk - has been an endless source of entertainment for me, as we’ve found kit homes from Sears, Gordon Van Tine (including an original “testimonial house”), Aladdin and Harris Brothers. And now, not only does it have a kit home from Lewis Manufacturing, but it has their biggest and best kit home - The Dorchester.

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Thanks to Dale Wolicki for providing original catalog images of the Lewis Dorchester, and thanks to Molly Dodd for taking pictures of the Richmond Dorchester.

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

Lewis Homes was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs in the early 1900s. Heres a cover of the 1925 Lews Homes catalog.

Lewis Homes was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs in the early 1900s. Here's a cover of the 1925 Lews Homes catalog, courtesy Dale Wolicki.

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The Dorchester was a spacious house with more than 2,600 square feet. For a kit home, thats most ununual.

The Dorchester was a spacious house with more than 2,600 square feet. For a kit home, that's most unusual. The Dorchester had a sunporch, library, 2.5 baths and four bedrooms.

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love it

"A joy to a woman's heart." How poetic!

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house

The first floorplan shows that this was a spacious and fancy home. The breakfast room was accessible from both the kitchen and dining room, which is a really nice feature!

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floor

The bedroom in the upper left was probably maid's quarters, as it was at the top of the rear staircase and had it's own tiny bathroom. Notice that there's a separate shower in the main bathroom. Very progressive for 1925.

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doges

Good golly, that's a big house.

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Dorechester molly tooddd

My oh my, Richmond has its own Dorechester! Photo is copyright 2014 Molly Todd and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of the front entry.

Comparison of the catalog image (left) and extant house (right) shows that it really is a perfect match, right down to the downspouts! Only problem is, our Richmond house is missing its "hospitality benches."

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Do you know of any other kit homes in Richmond? Perhaps there’s a Magnolia lurking behind a row of wax-leaf legustrums somewhere? If so, please leave a comment below!

Learn more about “hospitality benches” by clicking here.

To read more about the kit homes in Richmond, click here.

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Staunton, Virginia: More Amazing Finds

May 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

A couple days ago (May 1st),  I returned to Staunton to do a little more research on the kit homes in the city (in preparation for my talk on May 2nd), and this time, I was driven around by Frank Strassler, head of the Historic Staunton Foundation. It’s a lot easier to focus on kit homes when someone else is doing all the driving, and especially when that someone else knows where they’re going!

We found many kit homes that I’d not seen during a prior visit, and the most intriguing find was the four Harris Brothers kit homes we discovered. Frankly, I suspect there are more than four HB houses in Staunton, but I’m not that familiar with this company and, I have very few of their catalogs.

Harris Brothers (formerly the Chicago House Wrecking Company) was based in Chicago, Illinois. How did four Harris Brothers houses end up in Staunton? And three of them were in the same neighborhood (Sears Hill).

Hopefully, some of Staunton’s history loving residents will poke around a bit more, because I’m sure there are many more hidden architectural treasures just waiting to be found.

And, a little aside:   My favorite memory of the lecture on Thursday evening? I asked the crowd (128 attendees!), “Before there was a World War Two, does anyone know what we called World War One?”

To my utter delight and astonishment, a cacophony of voices replied, “The Great War.”

It was sheer bliss to realize that I was surrounded by so many history lovers. In all my travels, there’s typically a lone voice (or less), that correctly answers that question. The people of Staunton really do love their history, and better yet, they know their history, and that’s such a joy to behold.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

OOOH, an update! Read about my newest find in Staunton here!

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First, my favorite find in Staunton.

First, my favorite find in Staunton. Shown above is Modern Home #2028 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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Now thats a big house!

It looks like a massive house, but in fact, it's 22 feet wide and 29 feet deep.

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Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didnt consciously remember having seen this house, and yet...

Originally, I snapped this photo just because it seemed like a good idea. Sometimes, something will trigger a memory, and I didn't consciously remember having seen this house, and yet, when I got back to my hotel and started going through the old catalogs, I realized it was a perfect match to the Harris Brothers #2028!

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Pretty

And, as a nice bonus, I even managed to snap my one photo from the perfect angle! Though not easily seen in the photo above, the house in Staunton has the two bay windows, just as it should!

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house house house

The other three Harris Brothers homes were in one neighborhood: Sears Hill. Shown above is Modern Home #1017 from the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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house house

The HB 1017, as seen in 1923.

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house house

And here's the 1017 in Staunton! Look at the unique window arrangement on the home's front. And check out those unique columns, and the bracketing under the eaves. It was tough to get a good photo, but the little attic window is also a spot-on match to the catalog page. The house is 24 feet' wide and 36 feet deep. The dimensions of this house (shown above) seem to be a good match! The line drawings (from the original catalogs) are sometimes a little bit off in scale and proportion.

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If you look down the side, youll see its a good match there, too.

If you look down the side, you'll see it's a good match there, too. BTW, Staunton is very hilly, and I learned that it's tough to get good house photos in hilly neighborhoods! And, the angle skews the proportions. Short of carrying a 20-foot stepladder around on top of the Camry, I'm not sure how to solve this.

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house house

HB # 1025 was another "favorite" find for me, and yet another kit home that I'd never seen before. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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HB # 1025 was another favorite find for me, and yet another kit home that Id never seen before.

HBClose-up of HB #1025. From the 1923 Harris Brothers catalog (courtesy of Dale Wolicki).

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bottom

At the lower right of that catalog page (seen above), is an actual photo of a HB #1025. This photo shows off those beautiful six casement windows on the front.

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Be still my heart!!! Heres a real life example

What a fine house! Here's a real life example of HB #1025. And look at those pretty casement windows! Were it not for those original windows, I'm not sure I would have recognized this 90-year-old kit home.

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house house house

Another view of those wonderful old casements. By the way, apparently this house is for sale. Someone should contact the owner and let them know - this is a kit house!

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Close-up of the porch columns.

Close-up of the porch columns. And this house still has its original gutters.

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house house house

HB #1007 was one of their more popular designs, however... It's also a house that has several "twins." Given that Staunton's #1007 is within three houses of the other two HB homes, I'm going to assume that the model in Staunton is indeed from Harris Brothers.

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Nice house, isnt it?

Nice house, isn't it? Love the rocking chairs!

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Stauntons own HB #1017.

Staunton's own HB #1017.

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While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door.

While we were out driving around, I also spotted a Sears Woodland. The Woodland is an eye-catcher because it has those two full-sized windows flanking the front door. And it has an unusual window arrangement down the right side (as shown here). This image is from the 1919 catalog.

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The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image.

The small attic dormer is missing but other than that, this is a great match. Due to landscaping, I was not able to get a good photo of that right side, but it does match the catalog image. Was the house built sans dormer, or was it removed during a roofing job? Hard to know, but I'd guess that it was built this way. And, this house is next door to the big Harris Brothers foursquare (#2028).

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Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton.

Another fun discovery on this most recent trip was the Sears Winona in Staunton (1938 catalog).

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This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton.

This house was offered in two floorplans (in 1938). The floorplan shown here is a match to the house in Staunton. It squeezes three bedrooms into 960 square feet.

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Close-up on the Winona.

A key feature in identifying this very simple house is the small space between those two windows in the gabled bay (dining room).

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What a nice match!

What a nice match!

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And the other side is a good match, too!

And the other side is a good match, too!

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Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr.

Despite two days of driving around, we never did spot the Stanhope (Aladdin) purchased by Mr. Linkenholer.

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As seen in the 1919 catalog, heres a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope.

As seen in the 1919 catalog, here's a picture of the Aladdin Stanhope. Where's Mr. Linkholer's Stanhope? I'd love to know!

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

To read more about the kit homes of Staunton, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Staunton, Virginia - Here I Come! (May 2nd)

April 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Thanks the Historic Staunton Foundation, I’ll be returning to Staunton on May 2nd to give a talk on the kit homes of Staunton!

As mentioned in a prior blog, Staunton has an interesting array of kit homes of all sizes, shapes and from several companies. And at 7 pm (Thursday evening), I’ll give a powerpoint presentation, featuring the kit homes I’ve discovered in the city.

It’ll be a lot of fun, comparing and contrasting original vintage images from the old catalogs with contemporary photos. And I’ll also talk about how to identify kit homes. A “windshield survey” is a good start, but even with a thorough street-by-street visual inspection, it’s still possible to overlook a few kit homes.

There are ways to identify a kit house from inside, including marked lumber, hidden blueprints, grease-pencil marks and shipping labels often found in unsuspecting places. We’ll talk about that on May 2nd.

Staunton has kit homes from Sears (the best known of the mail-order kit house companies), and Aladdin (the largest of the companies), Gordon Van Tine and Montgomery Ward.

And how did Staunton end up with so many kit homes? We’ll talk about that on May 2nd!

For a sneak preview of the beauties we’ve found in Staunton, scroll on down!

To learn more, visit the website for the Historic Staunton Foundation.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here. (BTW, that first blog has been viewed more than 2,500 times!)

Many thanks to Leslie Hayes and Linda Ramsey for not only providing the wonderful photos shown below, but in some cases, finding these Sears Homes!

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house house house

The Berwyn as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Berwyne

And here's a perfect Berwyn (in stucco) on Noon Street. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house

The Maytown was -- as the ad promised - a big seller.

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house house hosue

The Maytown in Staunton overlooks Gypsy Hill Park.

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first, a mystery

The Wilmont was not a popular house (shown here in the 1920 catalog).

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house house house

And yet, is this a Wilmont in Staunton? I've puzzled over this house for close to an hour, and I'm still undecided. That dormer window on the side is pretty distinctive. I'd love to see the inside of this house. That would help me figure it out once and for all!

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house house

The Wardway Cordova is another very distinctive house.

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house house

And here's one in Staunton. Yes, it's a little rough around the edges, but it's still standing! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Sussex 1929

The Sussex was offered by Gordon Van Tine (based in Davenport, Iowa). The image above is from the 1929 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

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Sussex GVT

And here it is, looking picture perfect! What a fine-looking Sussex it is, too! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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My faavorite match!

My oh my, that's a sweet match!

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Gordon Van Tine

The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" (shown above) was a hugely popular house.

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Roberts

And here's a perfect Roberts on North Augusta (Staunton). Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plymouth

The Aladdin Plymouth was a classic Dutch Colonial.

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house Plymouth

And here's a beautiful example of the Aladdin Plymouth.

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Mayfield planbook

In addition to kit homes, Staunton has a few "Plan Book" houses. Plan book homes were different from ktt homes, because with a plan book house, you purchased the blueprints and a detailed inventory that showed you precisely how much lumber you'd need to order for your house. With kit homes, the lumber was included. Plan book houses were quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. This model was "The Mayfield," (offered in a plan book titled, "Harris, McHenry and Baker").

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planbook Leslie

It's hiding behind that tree, but you can still see this is a Mayfield. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Plan book

Both of Staunton's Mayfields are painted the same color.

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Gennessee

The Genessee was another plan book house found in the Harris, McHenry and Baker planbook.

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Straith

And here's a picture perfect Genessee on Straith Street in Staunton. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house hosue

The Dover is one of my favorite Sears Homes. Cute, practical and easy to identify!

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Dover in Weyers Cave

Sadly, I did not visit nearby communities in Staunton during my visit there in mid-February, but I found this house while I was driving via Google Maps. Only a tiny part of Weyer's Cave is mapped (with street views on Google), and this Dover is on the main drag. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house house

The Gladstone was one of Sears "Top Ten" most popular homes (1916 catalog).

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house house house house

It's been added onto, and yet I'm wholly confident that this is a Gladstone in Weyer's Cave. It's within 1/4 mile of the Dover shown above. Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house hosue house

In all my travels, I've never seen a Sears Rosita (from the 1919 catalog).

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ramsey Deerfield

Linda Ramsey discovered this Sears Rosita in Deerfield, Virginia (near Staunton), and it's in original condition - a very rare find! Rositas were "Strong and Graceful" (sort of), but they were very simple and modest homes, which makes them difficult to identify and very prone to extensive and insensitive remodeling. To find this 94-year-old house in such pristine condition - and looking just like the old catalog page - is a real treat! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house hosue

The Sears Crescent was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

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Vertona Rammsey

Linda Ramsey also discovered this picture-perfect Crescent in Verona (also near Staunton). And what a perfect match it is! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wherefor art thou, little Stanhope in Staunton?

And according to Aladdin literature, there's an Aladdin Stanhope in Staunton, but where?

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Heres a

Here's a perfect Aladdin Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids). Where is the Stanhope in Staunton? If you've seen it, please leave a comment below!

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Please do join us on May 2nd for  my talk on Sears Homes. Having given more than 250 talks in 27 states, the top three comments I hear are:

“Oh my gosh, I had no idea that a talk on history could be so much fun!”

“I didn’t want it to end. I could have listened to you all night!”

“Your passion for this topic really shines through!”

And - as a nice bonus - it’s very educational evening, and I promise, it’ll forever change the way you see the houses in your city!

:)

Click here to learn more about how to get tickets.

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Be there or be square!

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To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

To read the first blog I wrote about Staunton’s kit homes, click here.

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And Then I Found a House I’d Never Seen Before (in Staunton)!!

March 2nd, 2013 Sears Homes 15 comments

Several days ago, I wrote a blog about the abundance of kit homes I found in Staunton, VA.

A fine fellow named Frank left a comment at that blog about a possible kit home at 1102 North Augusta Avenue (in Staunton). Thanks to Google Maps and their sharp images, I “drove” to the address (via my laptop). As it turned out, the house he’d mentioned on North Augusta was not a kit home, but then I saw something next door that really piqued my interest!

Next door at 1106 North Augusta was a beautiful home, and I recognized it as a catalog house, but I couldn’t remember WHERE I’d seen it. Was it from a kit or a planbook? I knew I’d seen that house in one of my books, but where?

I closed my eyes and tried to pull up the image mentally, but to no avail. Next, I dug out the catalogs and pored over thousands of images, desperate to find this house.

Still nothing.

Through the days, I’d lie down, take a deep breath, close my eyes and “see the house” (in Staunton) and then try to match it up with the houses in memory. It was not a strong memory.  I could “see” the black and white image in my thought and tried to scroll up on the mental page to see what catalog I was looking at.

No success.

Honestly, it got somewhat frustrating.

Several days ago, I posted the image on Facebook, in our “Sears Homes” group.

And then this morning when I logged onto Facebook, I found a message from one of the most active members, Cindy Catanzaro. She’d found the house in a Gordon Van Tine catalog. I was over-the-moon happy, and my brain was happy, too. No more endless searching for a faint image. No more walking into walls while my tormented mind was on overdrive, desperate to match up the Staunton house with the thousands of images rattling around in my head.

And the best part is, the house in Staunton is a spot-on match to the Gordon Van Tine “Sussex.” It is a beauty!

Now how fun is that?

And how did I miss it? I have a home-made field guide to the kit homes offered by Gordon Van Tine. It’s got about 500 house designs in it, organized by style, but the Sussex was not in my field guide. Complicating matters even more was this: Gordon Van Tine fulfilled all the orders for the Montgomery Ward kit homes (Wardway Homes), but there were a handful of designs that were exclusive to Gordon Van Tine. The Sussex was one of them.

So the Sussex fell through the cracks of my copious collection of kit home catalogs!

Thanks again to Frank for the tidbit that led to me finding this house, and thanks to Cindy Catanzaro for solving the mystery, and thanks to the owners of this house in Staunton (Alan and Sharon) for allowing me to use their photo!

And, I recently discovered that this fine old house is a famous Bed and Breakfast! Click here to learn more!

And, as a side note, this house is currently for sale and if I lived in Staunton, I’d be all over that!  ;)

To learn more about this wonderful home, visit the B&B website, here.

If you know of any other kit homes in Staunton (or surrounding areas), please leave a comment below!

Want to learn more about kit homes? Click here to join our merry band on Facebook!

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Sears was the most well-known of the kit home companies, but Gordon Van Tine was a serious contender. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and had mills in Washington State and Mississippi too.

Sears was the most well-known of the kit home companies, but Gordon Van Tine was a serious contender. They were based in Davenport, Iowa and had mills in Washington State and Mississippi too. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the business. Gordon Van Tine probably sold about 50,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the numbers on GVT!)

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As see in the 1929 catalog, heres a copy

In the 1926 catalog, it was Model #628. In the 1929 catalog, it was named "The Sussex."

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Its a bit grainy, but you can see the floorplan here.

It's a bit grainy, but you can see the floorplan here.

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And heres the Sussex, in all its beauty and grandeur.

And here's the Sussex, in all its beauty and grandeur.

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Thanks to Leslie Hayes, I now have a bigger and better photo of the Sussex!

Thanks to Leslie Hayes, I now have a bigger and better photo of the Sussex! What a perfect match this house is to the catalog page! Photo is copyright 2013 Leslie M. Hayes and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sussex in Staunton from another angle. It's a good looking house from all sides! Photo is copyright 2012 Alan Kincheloe and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Ooh la la, what a match!!!

Ooh la la, what a match!!!

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To read more about the kit homes of Staunton, click here or here.

To learn more about what makes these kit homes so valuable (and such an important piece of America’s cultural history), click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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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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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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