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Posts Tagged ‘why I love Sears’

So Many Kit Homes in Waynesboro!

May 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Earlier this year, I had occasion to stop and visit Waynesboro and I found a few fine-looking Sears Homes.  Several days later, fellow kit house aficionado and researcher Linda Ramsey drove to the area and found four more kit Homes! (To see pictures, scroll down.)

On Thursday, October 17th, I’ll be returning to Waynesboro to give a talk on Sears Homes. It’ll be at the WTA Gateway, 329 W. Main St at 7:00pm. For more info, click here.

And you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home?

From 1908-1940, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Each 12,ooo-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book that promised “a man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days! During their 32 years in the kit house business, Sears and Roebuck sold about 70,000 houses, offered in 370 models.

A few fun facts:

* Sears Kit Homes were not prefab homes, but were true kits. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

*  The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.”

* The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

* More than 3/4ths of the people living in these homes don’t realize that they’ve living in a historically significant home!

* And 80% of the people who think that they have a Sears Home are wrong!

* Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.

Hope to see you Thursday night!

Thanks so much to Linda Ramsey for driving out to Waynesboro and finding these Sears Homes (and photographing them!).

To learn more about the history of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming talk in Waynesboro, click here.

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Brist

First, my #1 favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And what's so cool about this is it's not just a kit house, but it it came from Gordon Van Tine. GVT homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs (just like Sears Homes), however GVT Homes were not as popular as Sears. And the house in Waynesboro is the "Bristol," a very unusual Gordon Van Tine home!

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First, my favorite kit house in Waynesboro. And whats so cool about this is its not just a kit house, but it it came from Montgomery Ward! Wardway Homes were also sold through mail-order catalogs, however Montgomery Ward homes were not that popular.

The floorplans could be flipped (or reversed), based on the owner's preferences. I've flipped the image above to match the house in Waynesboro. It's pretty unlikely that these homeowners know that they have a house that came from a mail-order catalog.

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Briston

And here's the Wardway Bristol in Waynesboro! And it's just a spot-on match to the catalog! Many thanks to Linda Ramsey for getting this photo and finding this Wardway home! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were simple, boxy little affairs, and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all.

The most common misconception about kit homes is that they were "simple, boxy little affairs," and this image from the 1935 GVT catalog should dispel that once and for all. This is the interior view of the GVT Bristol, showing the 20' by 12' living room. Check out the vaulted ceiling and the long, tapered fireplace.

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First, my favorite. This is the Sears Alhambra, a hugely popular house for Sears - and a beautiful one too. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog.

Next is "The Sears Alhambra," a close runner-up to the Wardway Bristol. Shown here from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog. It was offered in frame, stucco and brick. Stucco was the most common siding.

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Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro!

Be still my quivering heart. The Alhambra that Linda Ramsey found in Waynesboro! And it's in brick! And it's also perfect in every detail! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Oh yeah!

Oh yeah! What a perfect match!!! Oh my goodness!!

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Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore.

Another really sweet find is the Sears Strathmore. This house was also offered in stucoo, frame and brick, but was most often built as a frame house with clapboard siding.

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This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above!

This lovely Strathmore is just across the street from the Wardway Bristol shown above! Like the Bristol, the floorplan has been reversed. Look at that distinctive front door, and the asymmetrical front gable.

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The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

The Lewiston was a popular house for Sears (1930 catalog).

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Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

Oh yeah, baby! What a nice match!

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this is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (

This is my favorite part. Check out the front doors (Waynesboro house and catalog image).

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Sears Lynnhaven

The Lynnhaven was a very popular model for Sears. And it's also a lovely house.

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Its hiding behind a tree, but thats definitely a Lynnhaven back there.

It's hiding behind a tree, but that's definitely a Lynnhaven back there. Look at the details around the front door.

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Linda also found

Linda also found a Conway/Uriel. (This popular model was known by both names.)

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And what a fine Conway it is!

And what a fine Conway it is! And in wonderfully original condition! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

Last but not least, she also found a second Collingwood.

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house

Again, a very nice match to the original catalog image! Photo is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

And here's a picture of the other Collingwood I found in Waynesboro.

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One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

One of my favorite finds in Waynesboro was the Del Rey!

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Again, its in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

Again, it's in PERFECT condition! Wow. Just WOW!

How many more kit homes are there in Waynesboro? Probably many more than I’ve found thus far.

I’ll be arriving in Waynesboro on Wednesday morning, so if you know of a Sears House in the area, leave a comment below!

To learn more about Rose’s upcoming visit, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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Have You Seen This Kit Schoolhouse?

January 22nd, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

The very first Sears “Modern Homes” catalog (1908) offered a kit schoolhouse. One year later (1909), the schoolhouse had already disappeared and was never offered again.

For reasons I can not fathom, they named this first (and only) schoolhouse, “Schoolhouse Number 5008.” (What happened to Schoolhouses #1 - #5007?)

I’ve  searched long and hard hoping to find a real-life example of Schoolhouse Number 5008 but heretofore, I’ve come up empty.

Were any of these $11,500, 11,000-square-feet schoolhouses ever built? I’d love to know.

Do you have one in your community?

To read more about Sears schoolhouse catalogs, click here.

The very first Sears Modern Homes catalog was issued in 1908, and within its pages, Schoolhouse Number 5008 was offered for $11,800.

The very first Sears Modern Homes catalog was issued in 1908, and within its pages, Schoolhouse Number 5008 was offered for $11,500. That's about one dollar per square foot.

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This floorplan is amazing. I love it.

This floorplan is amazing. Brings back memories of the school I attended in the 1960s.

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Check out the library. Its a mere seven feet. wide.

Check out the library. It's a mere seven feet wide and 18' long. In the late 1800s, many American children learned to read at home using only the Holy Bible and the Sears Roebuck catalog (as those were the only two books in the house). Perhaps in 1908, a library with a single bookcase up against one 18' wall was considered plenty. Today, this really seems like a very tiny room for a "library."

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Floorplan bath

My favorite part is the "Future toilets." I can just hear a kid saying, "I have to go to the bathroom," and some curmudgeonly old teacher screeching back, "In the future, Sonny!"

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The second  floor

The only administrative offices were the Superintendent's Office which was 24' by 12'.

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See seee seee here

Pretty distinctive structure.

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house house

In 2003, I gave a lecture in some Midwestern town and a woman said, "I've seen that schoolhouse! I have SEEN THAT Schoolhouse!" After I'd extracted an address from her, I wrote it down and the next day, I made the two-hour trek to see it. When I arrived at the school building she'd referenced, I found a one-story structure with a gabled roof and no dormers. Oh yeah, a "perfect" match. This building has so many unique features, but some people have trouble seeing them.

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Dormers

Details matter. These dormers are quite distinctive.

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And the entrance also has several unique features!

And the entrance also has several unique features!

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In 1909, Sears issued their first specialty catalog, devoted to school supplies.

In 1909, Sears issued their first specialty catalog, devoted to school supplies. Shown here is a school catalog from the early 1920s.

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Have you seen Schoolhouse #5008? Please leave a comment below. Or better yet, send me a photo!

To read more  about Sears and their Schoolhouse catalogs, click here.

To read another really fun blog, click here.

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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“This is a Most Attractive Little Home…”

November 18th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last month, I wrote about “The Experiment,” where Sears built two Sears Rodessas (small bungalows) side-by-side in Cairo, Illinois, to prove the superiority of the Ready-cut System. The two homes were built in the late 1910s, and now, almost 100 years later, those wonderful little houses are still standing.

Why did Sears choose the Rodessa for their experiment? I don’t know. It was a popular house for Sears, but it wasn’t that popular! If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was in the Top 50 Most Popular Designs.

However, it was, as the Sears ad promised, “a most attractive little home.” It was cute, simple and practical, which probably made it easy to build in a hurry.

In my travels, I’ve come across several Rodessas. In fact, there’s one not far from me in Urbana, Virginia. You can read about that house by clicking here.

To read more about the Rodessa, scroll down!

pretty

Indeed, the Rodessa is a "pretty little home." And look at the price!!

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Little is right.

Look at those small bedrooms. In 2012, a room that measures 9-feet square is a walk-in closet!

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Busy kitchen

And what does that "B" stand for in the kitchen? BOILER!

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The boiler

The "boiler" (whose placement is indicated with the "B" in the floorplan) was a water heater with a water line that ran through the back of the cook stove. Pretty complicated affair.

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text

"This is a most attractive little home."

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In 1924,

In 1924, Mr. Kidwell built this Rodessa in Washington DC and sent this snapshot in to Sears and Roebuck. He was "fully satisfied" with his Ready-cut home.

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Happy 1926

In 1926, Sears put out a brochure that was titled, "Happy Homes." The Rodessa was featured within its pages. According to the accompanying text, it was built in Independence, MO.

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Happy

Not sure why Sears included a picture of corn with the testimonial.

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HeWood

It's endured some significant remodelings, but at least it's still standing. This transmogrified Rodessa is in Wood River, Illinois (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO). That salt-treated porch railing just does not work on this old bungalow.

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House

This Rodessa may look a little blue, but it's actually a very happy house with lots of good self-esteem. It's in Northern Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). Its located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana.

Here's the Rodessa in my home state (Virginia). It's located in a tiny fishing village known as Urbana. The plaque over the door reads, "Sears Roebuck House, 1924." I was told that the folks in Urbana didn't realize that Sears had 369 other kit home designs. This is a fairly common misconception. This 88-year-old house is in beautiful condition.

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And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL).

And here are the two Rodessas that were built side-by-side at the site of the old Sears Mill (in Cairo, IL). They were built in the late 1910s as part of an experiment to prove that "The Ready-Cut Method" was far more efficient than traditional building practices of the time.

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Ready

The house that was built using traditional building practices took 583 hours and the poor saps aren't finished yet. The yard is still a mess with scraps of lumber scattered hither and yon. The workers have collapsed on the front porch in utter despair and humiliation.

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house

Ah, but the pre-cut Sears Kit Home is all buttoned up and beautiful! They even had time to finish up the landscaping! The kitchen windows are wide open. They had so much time to spare that they went inside and cooked dinner!

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By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation.

By 1933, the Rodessa had undergone a radical transformation. The clipped gables were gone, as were the dramatically oversized eaves. The unique shape of the front porch was replaced with a simpler gabled roof. In a word, its flair and panache had been replaced with pedestrian and dull.

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Learn more about the two Rodessas at the Sears Mill by clicking here.

How did Sears Homes become so popular so fast? Read about that here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? It’s just one click away!

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Hazelton: House of Threes (Part II)

November 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, the Hazelton is an easy house to spot, because of the unique window arrangement. I think of it as “The House of Threes.”

The Hazelton has three windows in that shed dormer. There are three windows on the wide of the house (in front of the bay window). And there are three windows flanking the front door (right and left). And there are six windows in that dining room bay (divisible by three).

To read the prior blog, click here.

The great majority of Sears Homes can be found in the Midwest, but Rachel Shoemaker found a bevy of these early 20th Century kit homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And she managed to get inside a Hazelton in wonderfully original condition!

Enjoy the photos below! And many thanks to Rachel for these wonderful photos.

To read Part I of this blog, click here.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Hazelton as seen in the 1916 Modern Homes catalog.

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House

Floorplan of the Sears Hazelton.

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Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A Sears Hazelton in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This house - nearing the 100-year-old mark - is still in wonderfully original condition. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Commemmorative

Commemorative plaque puts the home's age at an impressive 98 years. I'd love to know more about how the owners got this house on the National Register. In my travels, being a "Sears kit house" is not enough for this unique distinctive (as defined by the Secretary of Interior). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside, the house is in mostly original condition!

Inside, the house is in mostly original condition! Notice all the wooden trim, unpainted and with a beautiful patina. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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nice

Close-up on the other side of those bookcase colonnades. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place.

Throughout the house, its originality shines through. A few of the original light fixtures are still in place. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved.

The bathroom has been renovated, but the original tub was saved. The tile floor and walls are new, but were tastefully done, in a style that's in accord with the time period. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And old

And old ad from the Sears Roebuck building materials catalog shows a typical mantel available for $15. (Notice, gas logs were available for an extra $9.33.)

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Here

The brick work was re-done but the mantel looks much like it did in the 1915 catalog (above). Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror.

Close-up of mantel detail and beveled mirror. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside

These three windows are fancifully adorned on the inside. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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An early building materials catalog shows an old door

An early building materials catalog shows an original oak "Craftsman" door.

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And a real live example!

And a real live example! Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dining

In the dining room, those four windows (in the bump out) also retain their original wood finish. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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More built-ins!

One of the best features of a Sears kit home were all the built-ins. Even small cubby holes were turned into storage space. Photograph is copyright 2012 Rachel Jean Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

The Sears Hazleton was first offered 100 years ago, and the Hazelton in Tulsa was built in 1914, about 98 years ago. These houses were built with first-glass building materials and a full century later, there are still a few Sears Homes that are in incredibly beautiful condition.

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To read about the other kit homes in Tulsa, click here.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Click here!

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