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The Sherman Triplets

September 24th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Several years ago, dear friend and co-author Dale Wolicki gave me and Rebecca Hunter a first-class tour of Bay City, Michigan. One of the homes he pointed out to us was “The Sherman,” a kit home built on one of the many tree-lined streets of this historic city in Northern Michigan.

The Sherman was a kit house offered by Lewis Manufacturing, a kit-home company that was based in Bay City. Like Sears, Lewis Manufacturing also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog in the early 1900s. These houses were shipped in 12,000-piece kits and arrived by box car. Each kit included detailed blueprints and a lengthy instruction manual that told you how all those pieces and parts went together.

It was estimated that “a man of average abilities” could have a house assembled in 3-4 months.

Not surprisingly, Bay City is home to a surfeit of kit homes from both Lewis Manufacturing and Aladdin Kit Homes (which was also based in Bay City).

Thanks to Dale Wolicki for being such a good friend and tour guide and also for sharing so many vintage catalogs with me, including a 1927 Homebuilder’s Catalog!

Lewis sold some big fancy homes, as well as the more modest Sherman. To read more about that, click here.

To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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Heres the Lewis Sherman that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan.

Here's the Lewis "Sherman" that Dale pointed out to us in Bay City, Michigan. I do wish I'd made a note of the street, but I remember that I was located in Bay City!

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The Sherman in Bay City is a nice match to this 1920 catalog image.

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Floorplan

It's a simple but practical floorplan. The living room is quite spacious given the size of the house.

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The Sherman has a twin in the 1927 Homebuilders Catalog (a plan book catalog).

The Sherman has a "twin" in the 1927 Homebuilder's Catalog (a plan book catalog). Plan book houses were a little different from kit homes. Kit homes were complete kits (blueprints and building materials) whereas plan book houses were just blueprints and a LIST of the building materials you'd need to buy.

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In fact, there are two houses in the 1927 Homebuilder's 's catalog that bear a stunning resemblance to the Lewis "Sherman." The Cadott is mighty close, with a few minor differences (1927 catalog).

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Whats really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side.

What's really fun is to compare these three floorplans side-by-side. Far left is the Cadott (Homebuilder's) and the Lewis Sherman (center image) and the Catalpa (Homebuilder's). The Cadott is 28' deep, the Sherman is 30' deep and the Catalpa is 29 feet deep. Through these very minor changes, the companies hoped to avoid the appearance of "stealing" one another's designs. Interestingly, the Sherman is the only one without a fireplace.

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Side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also interesting.

A side-by-side comparison of the houses themselves is also entertaining. The Cadott is on the far left, Lewis Sherman in the center and the Catalpa is on the far right. There are some minor differences on the exterior, such as window arrangement. Plus, the corbels on the front porch are different. And they all need landscaping!

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The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

The corbels on the Lewis Sherman are unique (thank goodness).

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All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis Sherman in Bay City!  :D

All of which leads me back to this simple truth: Dale is right! This is a Lewis "Sherman" in Bay City! :D

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To visit Dale’s website, click here.

Rebecca’s website is here.

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Be Still My Heart - A Carroll!

September 20th, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

Way too often folks will tell me, “We’ve got dozens of those little Sears kit homes in our city,” and when I ask, “How do you know that?” the response is always the same: “You can just tell by lookin’ at ‘em! They’re the square boxy little things.”

Oh man.

That’s one of those comments that’s grown fairly wearisome (and worrisome).

For more than 15 years, I’ve been mired in this niche topic and I can say with some authority, you can not identify Sears Homes thusly.

The Sears “Carroll” is a classic example of this. It’s hard to define the specific housing style of the Sears Carroll, but I’d say it’s a splash of Modern and a heaping helping of Minimal Traditional. In short, it’s not one of those “square boxy little things.”

Perhaps it’d be easier to just say - it’s a unique house and yet is most certainly is a Sears kit home.

Thanks so much to Mary Perkins for sharing the photos of her “Carroll” in Cincinnati.

Enjoy the photos.

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The Carroll, as shown in the 1932 Sears catalog.

The Carroll, as shown in the 1932 Sears catalog.

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Ive been traipsing around the country for a long time, but have never seen a Carroll in the flesh.

I've been traipsing around the country for a long time, but have never seen a Carroll in the flesh. The Perkins' home in Cincinnati is "flipped" and the mirror image of the floorplan shown above.

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Upstairs, there are three good-sized bedrooms, and double closets in two bedrooms.

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The Carroll was offered in 1932 and 1933.

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Now that's one fine-looking house, and it's a Sears House! Mary (the home's happy owner) says that her husband found authenticating marks on the lumber in the attic. This Carroll was built in 1932. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another view of Mary's "Carroll" - before it's most recent paint job. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The homes rear is also a good match to the Carrolls floorplan.

The home's rear is also a good match to the Carroll's floorplan, and there's a small addition to the kitchen. If you go back and look at the floorplan (above), you'll see that the 2nd-floor bathroom extends a little bit beyond the first floor's footprint. By the way, that does NOT appear to be a Sears & Roebuck hot tub. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Perkins added this dreamy solarium to the house.

The Perkins' added this dreamy solarium to the rear of the house. Mary said that there was no delineation between the living room and the original sunroom (as is shown in the floorplan above). Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The Perkins bought the house in 1987, and it was shortly thereafter that a neighbor told them it was a Sears kit house.

The Perkins bought the house in 1987, and it was shortly thereafter that a neighbor told them it was a Sears kit house. The wood trim in the dining room and living room retains its original varnished finish. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A lovely view of the Carroll's original batten door (unpainted, thank goodness) and what appears to be an original light fixture. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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In the Carrolls living room, the Perkins did some repair work to the existing brick fireplace and added this beautiful Walnut mantel.

In the Carroll's living room, the Perkins did some repair work to the existing brick fireplace and added this beautiful Walnut mantel. Photo is copyright 2015 Mary Perkins and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a fine-looking house - from front to back and top to bottom!

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Thanks again to Mary Perkins for sharing these photos.

To read more about Sears Homes in Ohio, click here.

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Cradock: One of America’s First Planned Communities (Portsmouth, VA)

September 13th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

In 1918, while the War to End All Wars was raging in Europe, Cradock (a neighborhood in Portsmouth, VA) was born.

The US Government funded the creation of Cradock, and the implementation of the Garden City Concept (originally developed in the United Kingdom in 1898) was carried out by the United States Housing Corporation.

The USHC modeled their designs and standards for neighborhood planning on the Garden City model, which were self-contained, purposefully designed neighborhoods with a balance of residential housing, churches, schools, physicians, businesses, and other commerce.

In Cradock, a trolley down the main street (Prospect Parkway) carried workers to the nearby Norfolk Naval Shipyard (also in Portsmouth, despite the misleading name).

According to a National Registry application for this historic community, early advertisements for Cradock described it as “The Garden Spot of Tidewater.”

Named after British admiral Christopher Cradock, it was  hoped that the independent community would blend the positive features of city living with the quiet enjoyment of country life.

At the height of the war, the NNSY employed more than 11,000 people. By 1923, that number had returned to pre-war levels (about 2500). In 1920, the US government decided that Cradock was costing taxpayers too much money, and The US Housing Corporation abandoned the city. In local periodicals, Cradock became known as “The Orphan City.” In 1922, Norfolk Couny annexed the community.

In subsequent years, more homes were built in Cradock and that’s what piqued my interest. Cradock is home to several kit homes from Sears, Aladdin, and other early 20th Century kit homes.

What is a kit home? In the early 1900s, you could order almost anything out of a mail-order catalog. From 1908-1940, you could order a kit home from Sears and Roebuck! The 12,000-piece kits were shipped by rail and came with a 75-page catalog that told you how all those pieces and parts went together!

Today, the only way to find these homes is literally one by one. And Cradock has several!

Through years of research, I’ve learned that more than 75% of all Sears Homeowners had no idea about the historic origins of their home until they talked to me and/or discovered their home on this website. Do these homeowners in Cradock know what they have?

Thanks so much to Lara for driving me around on her day off! :)

Enjoy the photos and please share the link on your Facebook page.

To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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Cradock

Cradock was based on "The Garden City" model, which became hugely popular in the early 1900s. Neighborhoods were self-contained with residential housing, businesses, banks, doctors, schools and post offices - all within one walkable area.

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A green-space and communal area was part of Cradocks original design.

A green-space and communal area was part of Cradock's original design. I'd love to know if the bandstand was original to the area, or was a modern-day addition.

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Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, Ive found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. The Aladdin Capitol was one of their fancier homes (1937 catalog).

Sears offered about 370 designs of kit homes through their early 20th Century mail-order catalogs, but here in southeastern Virginia, I've found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. Aladdin was based in Michigan, but had a huge mill in Wilmington, NC. The Aladdin Capitol (shown above) was one of their fancier homes (1931 catalog).

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Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin Capitol is in wonderful condition.

Located on Dahlgren Avenue, this Aladdin "Capitol" is in wonderful condition.

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And its a perfect match to the old catalog image.

And it's a perfect match to the old catalog image.

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Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes dont realize what they have.

Do the homeowners know they have a kit home? Probably not. Based on my research, more than 75% of the people living in these homes don't realize what they have.

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The Aladdin Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears.

The Sears Mitchell was a hugely popular home for Sears (1928).

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Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess it - probably - but its hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell.

Is this a Sears Mitchell? My guess is - possibly - but it's hard to know for sure because Aladdin also sold a model that looked just like the Sears Mitchell. In addition, there were a couple "plan book" houses that resembled the Sears Mitchell. It'd be fun to get inside this house and figure out if it is a Sears Mitchell.

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The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

The Sears Walton was also a very popular model, and is probably one of the top ten most popular models offered by Sears (1928).

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Picture perfect in every way.

Picture perfect in every way. Notice it has the three-window bay (partially hidden by a pine tree) and the box window on the home's front. The home's attic is a bit higher than the Walton, which was a common "customization" intended to create additional living space.

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The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans.

The Aladdin Madison was a perennial favorite for Aladdin customers. The house was offered in several floorplans and for several years.

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Close-up of the three-bedroom floorplan.

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Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, Floorplan C with the three bedrooms.

Just around the corner from the Sears Walton was this Aladdin Madison, "Floorplan C" with the three bedrooms. That front porch addition is unfortunate.

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On the main drag through Cradock is the Alhambra.

On the main drag through Cradock (where the trolly line once ran) is the Alhambra.

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This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didnt promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home.

This always has been, and always will be, one of my favorite houses in all of Hampton Roads. In 2003, I gave a talk at a bookstore and the owner didn't promote the talk. Four people showed up and two of them were the owners of this Alhambra. I followed them home (per their invitation) and was given a full tour of this beautiful home. This Alhambra had been built by the owner's own father, and the family had always cherished and appreciated this home.

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The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

The Montrose is another big and beautiful kit home, and this one is on Gillis Road.

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This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that its almost 90 years old.

This Dutch Colonial is in beautiful shape considering that it's almost 90 years old. That assymetrical gabled entry with small window is a distinctive feature of the Montrose. On this house, the front window and entry were "swapped" and if you study the home's floorplan, this is a simple switch to make. More than 30% of Sears Homes were modified when built.

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The Sears Conway (also known as The Uriel) was another popular model.

The Sears Conway (also known as "The Uriel") was another popular model. Like so many of these kit homes, it also had an expandable attic.

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The substitute siding on this house doesn't do it any favors, and many of the home's unique features went bye-bye when that siding went up, but it's still identifiable as a Sears Conway.

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THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling Avondale (1920 catalog).

THere were six companies selling kit homes on a national level, and Sterling Homes (based in Bay City, Michigan) was one of them. Shown here is the Sterling "Avondale" (1920 catalog).

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Is this a Sterling Avondale? It sure looks like it!

Is this a Sterling "Avondale"? It sure looks like it! The privacy fence on the left hides the details, but the windows down the left side are a perfect match.

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Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

Last but not least is the Aladdin Concord (1937).

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Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod.

Check out some of the details on this fine Cape Cod: Squared columns, pilasters, gabled porch, sidelights by the front door and cut-out shutters.

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Now thats a nice match!

Now that's a nice match!

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You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs.

You may notice that the front porch gable is a little off, but it appears that the house in Cradock has had some repairs to its porch gable. Notice that it's now made of plywood. It would not have been built with a plywood front in the 1930s.

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Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, its come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some homeowner pride in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmonds archives.)

Cradock was a very progressive idea in its time, and it endured well into the 1950s, but in more recent years, it's come upon some hard times. Perhaps highlighting the significant collection of Sears Homes within Cradock can help restore some "homeowner pride" in this historically significant community. (Image above is from the University of Richmond's archives.)

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To learn more about Cradock, click here.

Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify these kit homes here.

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San Jose in Boonton, New Jersey - and it’s on Kenmore Road!

September 9th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Some time ago, Vera Peterson saw my blog on the San Jose in Blue Island, Illinois and contacted me. She said that she owned a San Jose in New Jersey, and offered to send pictures. Such lovely bonuses make the hassles of blog-writing all worthwhile!

And perhaps most interesting:  When Vera and Chris Peterson bought this house more than 10 years ago, it was in mighty rough shape and was at risk of being demolished.

Through the years, they invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears (and money) restoring this piece of architectural history. As part of their restoration, they updated the kitchen and bath (which had been remodeled into something hideous in the 1960s) and and they also turned their back yard into a showplace.

The fact that this house is on Kenmore Road is just a an added plus! And, for a limited time only, this house is for sale.

Thanks so much to Vera and Chris Peterson for sharing these photos of their wonderful Sears kit, “The San Jose.”

To read more about the history of Sears and Kenmore, click here.

Want to buy one of the prettiest little Spanish Revival homes in all of New Jersey? Click here.

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The San Jose 1928

The San Jose - "a splendid floor plan"! (1928 catalog)

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Buce floorplan

I love the irregular shape of the exterior living room wall.

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Who doesn't love a Spanish Revival? And this one is extra cute!

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What a fine-looking house! Thanks so much to Vera for contacting me! By the way, did you notice that the vent window in the attic is turned 45 degrees from the window in the catalog picture? I wonder if that was by accident or on purpose? Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Or maybe I should, "Photo es copyright 2015 Chris Peterson y no puede ser utilizada o reproducida sin el permiso escrito."

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Now that's a fine addition to any house - a massive screened porch. Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And beautifully decorated! Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Love the tapered fireplace. Notice the original light fixtures and original wood trim. Photo is copyright 2015 Chris Peterson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And here's the San Jose that Rebecca Hunter found in Illinois. As someone else commented, the snow around this house is a little off-putting! Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read more about the history of Sears and Kenmore, click here.

Want to buy one of the prettiest little Spanish Revival homes in all of New Jersey? Click here.

Still reading? I was wondering how in the world someone came to name this small town “Boonton” and learned that it was originally named after a Colonial-era governor, Thomas Boone and was known then as “Boone Towne.”

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“Colonial House with a Bungalow Effect” - And Maid’s Quarters!

September 7th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

It’s two, two, TWO houses in one! The catalog page featuring the Sears Arlington promoted it as a “Colonial House with a Bungalow Effect.”

Maybe we should just call it, “The Colongalow”! [Kah-lon-ga-low]

And what’s not to love about the melding of two housing styles?

Everyone who loves old houses has a soft spot for the Bungalow and the Colonial, and the Arlington features elements of both (or so the ad promises).

And our Colongalow has a maid’s room, which isn’t something you’d expect to find a kit home. There were a handful of Sears Homes that offered maid’s quarters, but the Arlington is one of the most modest (within that grouping).

Thanks again to Becky Gottschall for finding and photographing the Arlington in Pottstown shown below.

To learn more about The Bungalow Craze, click here.

You can read more on Pottstown here.

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Im not sure where the Colonial element comes in.

I'm not sure where the "Colonial" element comes in. Classic Colonial Revival architecture features symmetry inside and out, with a centered front door, central hallway and staircase, and symmetrical windows on the home's front. If someone can point out the Colonial influence on this classic Arts & Crafts bungalow, I'd love to see it! (1919 catalog)

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As you can see from the floorplan, it doesnt boast of a center hallway with a center staircase.

As you can see from the floorplan, it doesn't boast of a center hallway with a center staircase. And yet if you look at the room on the back left, you can see it boasts of a "maid's room."

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However, it is a spacious home with fair-sized bedrooms.

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That maids room is pretty tiny.

That maid's room is pretty tiny, but at least it has a closet.

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In the Baxters home, Hazels room was also right off the kitchen.

In the Baxter's home, Hazel's room was also right off the kitchen and yet look at the size! But Hazel wasn't your average maid, so maybe that's why she got such a suite deal. (Image is from "TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes," Mark Bennett, copyright 1996, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.)

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In addition to the spacious bedroom, she also had a walk-thru closet and her own attached bath. Plus, Mr. Bee bought her a great big color television for that nice en suite. Hazel had a good arrangement in the Baxter's home, and both "Sport" and "Missy" loved her dearly. But I digress. There are only a handful of Sears Homes that featured "Maid's Quarters" and our "Colongalow" was one of them. (Image is from "TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes," Mark Bennett, copyright 1996, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.)

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Becky Gotschall found this Arlington in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania.

Becky Gotschall found this Arlington in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania. The porch was enclosed, but it was tastefully done. And it's the only brick Arlington I've seen. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The large gabled dormer still retains its original siding. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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That appears to be a kitchen window that's been enclosed toward the home's rear. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Rachel Shoemaker found this Arlington in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Rachel Shoemaker found this Arlington in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2015 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Is this an Arlington on Deep Creek Blvd in Chesapeake? Im inclined to think that it probably is, even with the differences in the front porch.

Is this an Arlington at 212 George Washington Highway North in Chesapeake, Virginia? After studying it for a bit, I'd say probably not. It appears to have a broken porch roof, and that is NOT something a buyer would ever have customized! (The angle on the Arlington's front porch is the same as the primary roof.) Photo is copyright Teddy The Dog 2010 and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Admittedly, she did not take the photo, but she did find the house.

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One of the worlds most perfect Arlingtons in Gordonsville, VA.

One of the world's most perfect Arlingtons in Gordonsville, VA.

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The floorplan showing The Baxters Home came from this book, which is a mighty fun read. It features all our favorite TV homes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Personally, I love looking at floorplans and this book answers a few questions about the Petries home, and the Taylors home and the Baxters home.

The floorplan showing The Baxter's Home came from this book, which is a mighty fun read. It features all our favorite TV homes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Personally, I love looking at floorplans and this book answers a few questions about the Petrie's home, and the Taylor's home and the Baxter's home and more.

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To learn more about The Bungalow Craze, click here.

You can read more on Pottstown here.

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Pottstown - Where Have You Been All My Life?

September 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Becky Gotschall initally contacted me through Facebook, and said that she’d found “a few kit homes” in her neck of the woods.

Inspired by her enthusiasm, I started “driving the streets” of Pottstown, Pennsylvania (via Google Maps™) and discovered this masculine-looking foursquare.

The house tickled a memory but I couldn’t quite remember where I’d seen it before. Next, I sent an email to Rachel and asked her to take a “quick peek” through her 23,939 catalogs and see if she could find this foursquare.

And amazingly, she did.

Rachel found it in her 1917 Sterling Homes catalog, and even emailed me the original scan.

As with the last blog, this house was also “discovered” through a collaborative effort involving myself, Rachel and Becky, who not only got this whole thing started, but went out and got some beautiful pictures of the grand old house.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Becky for discovering a Sterling “Imperial” which is one house I’ve never seen before!

To read about our other discoveries in Pottstown, click here.

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

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Sterling Something

The Sterling "Imperial" was one fine-looking foursquare (1917).

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1917

The pantry has a little access door for the ice box (1917). This was known as "the jealous husband's door," because it obviated the need for that dapper ice man to enter the home, and provided access through a small door on the porch. The Imperial was a traditional foursquare, with four rooms within its squarish shape. There's also a spacious polygon bay in the living room.

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Check out the "Maid's Room" on the second floor. As with the Vernon, it's directly over the kitchen, because that's the worst room on the second floor.

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Close-up of that "interior view" shown above.

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My, but that's a handsome home. That three-window dormer must be pretty massive inside that attic. What makes it striking is that horizontal wood belt course just above the first floor, with clapboards below and shakes above.

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Looks like it walked off the pages of the Sterling catalog! The columns and railing are original and in good condition. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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Looks majestic from all angles! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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HOUSE HOUSE

From this angle, you can see that cute little house in the back. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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Hey wait a second. Did that cute little tree come with the kit?

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The same tree shows up in the current image! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gotschall and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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If you’d like to visit another very fun kit home website, click here.

Want to read more about “The Jealous Husband’s Icebox Door”?

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The Vernon is a Home with Marked Personality!

August 29th, 2015 Sears Homes 10 comments

At first, I thought about titling this blog, “With a little help from my friends,” because - like so much of this research - I wouldn’t have much to write about if it wasn’t for fellow kit-house lovers who are always on the look-out for fresh discoveries.

Becky Gottschall has been finding all manner of wonderful houses in and around Pottstown, Pennsylvania. In my own opinion, the crème de la crème of these discoveries is the Sterling “Vernon” - right in the heart of Pottstown.

The other helper is Rachel Shoemaker, who provided the original catalog images shown below.

Many thanks to both Becky and Rachel for their help!

To read about a less-fortunate house in Pennsylvania, click here.

Did you know there’s a Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania?

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Sterling Homes, based in Bay City, Michigan, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, just like Sears.

Sterling Homes, based in Bay City, Michigan, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog, just like Sears. The "Vernon" was featured on the cover of the 1928 catalog.

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Nice looking houses, too (rear cover, 1928).

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The Vernon was Sterlings Magnolia: Their biggest and best house.

Personality! So saith the advertising copy in this 1917 catalog. The "Vernon" was Sterling's Magnolia: Their biggest and best house, and it had shutters "savoring of New England." Love the writing!

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And it was a fine and spacious home.

And it was a fine and spacious home. The kitchen stuck out in the rear for several reasons. Primarily, it provided ventilation on three sides of the room and helped separate this room from the rest of the house. The kitchen was not only hot (due to behemoth stoves and ranges), but it was also considered a hazard to happy living, due to bad smells (ice box, soot and grease), cooking odors, and the heat. Oh my, the heat!

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The maid

In older homes (pre-1920), you'll often find that the space over the kitchen was a "storage room" or "trunk room," because this space was considered unsuitable for living space. In later years, it was often the maid's room. Guess she was made of stouter stuff than to worry over bad smells, coal soot and high heat. The master bedroom (like the living room directly below) has a fireplace. Pretty sweet!

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Even if you opted for all the extras, the Vernon would only cost a smidge more than $4,000. Pretty sweet deal - even in 1917.

Even if you opted for all the extras, the Vernon would only cost a smidge more than $4,000. Pretty sweet deal - even in 1917. It really was a grand home (1917 catalog).

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All of which explains why it was featured on the cover of Sterlings catalogs (1928 catalog shown above).

All of which explains why it was featured on the cover of Sterling's catalogs (1928 catalog shown above).

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And the one in Pottsdown, Pennsylvania is unusually stunning!

And the one in Pottstown, Pennsylvania is unusually stunning! Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Thus saith the law. And the lions. Even if one is tilted just a bit. They are stoned, after all.

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Its a gorgeous house.

It's a gorgeous house, and in excellent condition. You can see the wonderful detail on the rafter tails in this photo. Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another beautiful view from another beautiful angle.

Another beautiful view from another angle. I'm not sure, but that appears to be a slate roof (at least on the side of those dormers). Photo is copyright 2015 Becky Gottschall and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Wow

What a house. Do you have one in your neighborhood? (1928 catalog).

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Many thanks again to Becky Gotschall for providing an abundance of clear, beautiful photos.

Many thanks again to Becky Gotschall for providing an abundance of clear, beautiful photos.

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To read about a less-fortunate house in Pennsylvania, click here.

Did you know there’s a Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania?

To read about another Sterling Vernon in New York, click here.

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Where Are You, My Little Gingersnap?

August 25th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Sometime in the late 1990s, my then-husband and I visited this Aladdin Magnolia at a Sunday open house. We were living in Alton, IL at the time, and often we’d visit open houses in the area - purely for sport.

Of course, in the 1990s, I didn’t know much about kit homes, and it was in 2013 when I first noticed this “Aladdin Magnolia” in the 1953 Aladdin catalog (shown below) and realized that I’d visited this very house many years prior.

Since 2013, I’ve been to the St. Louis area four times, and each time, I have scoured the streets - sometimes block by block - hoping to find this little darling. When I was finished, my old Garmin was awash in blue stripey marks, showing where I’d traveled.

And yet - no Aladdin Magnolia.

If you happen to stumble upon my little gingersnap, please tell this house that I’ve been looking for her for a long time. I’ve even shown the photo to Teddy, but she tells me that she needs a ride to St. Louis if she’s going to offer any substantive help.

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The Aladdin Magnolia, as seen in the 1953 catalog.

The Aladdin Magnolia, as seen in the 1953 catalog.

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In the 1990s, I saw the Aladdin Magnolia whilst touring an open house, somewhere in the River Bend area, but I havent been able to find it since.

In the 1990s, I saw the Aladdin Magnolia whilst touring an open house, somewhere in the River Bend area, and 15 years later, I found it in this catalog (1953). Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it since then.

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Somewhere in the River Bend/St. Louis area, someones telling somebody that this house came in on a train!

Somewhere in the River Bend/St. Louis area, someone's telling somebody that this house came in on a train - and this time, they're right!

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I asked Teddy for her help, but she got distracted by the many attractive models offered in the 1953 catalog.

I asked Teddy for her help, but she got distracted by the many attractive models offered in the 1953 catalog. She was utterly captivated by the Aladdin Madison. It *is* quite attractive!

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I must say that she does take this sort of thing quite seriously.

I must say that she does take this sort of thing quite seriously.

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If you’ve seen the Aladdin Magnolia in River Bend (or in other areas!) please leave a comment below.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

You can read about my favorite Alton house here.

While in St. Louis, I did find several kit homes in Webster Groves.

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Webster Groves: Part V

August 20th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

Last month,

In July, I visited Webster Groves (a St. Louis suburb) and had a good time driving around and looking for kit homes. Friend and fellow researcher Rachel Shoemaker knew I was headed to the St. Louis area and did a little reconnoitering for me. It was Rachel that found this GVT #535 (also known as The Roberts) in Webster Groves, sitting - literally - right next to the railroad tracks!

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One of the questions Im most often asked is, How do you find kit homes? Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits, they typically landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

One of the questions I'm often asked is, "How do you find kit homes?" Railroad tracks are a good place to start! Because these houses came in 12,000-piece kits and were shipped by rail (in a single boxcar), they usually landed within 1-2 miles or rail lines.

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house

The Gordon Van Tine landed right next to the train tracks! If you look at this century-old map, you can see just how close Model #535 (with red star) sat to the Missouri Pacific Railway (yellow line)!

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Probably less than 200 yards, this commuter station

Built in 1892 by the Missouri Pacific Railway, this story-and-a-half commuter station was on the corner of Oakwood and Glen Road. It would have been a short hop (as in, less than 200 yards) from the Gordon Van Tine #535 to this darling little train station.

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The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

The Gordon Van Tine #535 was featured on the cover of the 1916 catalog.

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house

The Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" was hugely popular for this Iowa-based kit home company.

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And

The inset porch, 2nd-floor bay and hipped roof all work together to make this an easy house to identify. That, with this home's location (right on the tracks) made it mighty easy to find in Webster Groves. Plus, it was probably one of Gordon Van Tine's most popular homes!

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House

What a beauty! And it's all dressed up for July 4th! Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Webster Groves. When I talked to her about this discovery, she told me, "I always start my searches next to the railroad tracks. I found this house within seconds!!"

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And heres another Roberts that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

And here's a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" that I found in Front Royal, Virginia.

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Dale Wolicki

Dale Wolicki found this "Roberts" in State College, Pennsylvania.

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Wheeling

Another beautiful "Roberts" in Wheeling, West Virginia, and it's all dressed up for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2012 Frank Harrar and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres one of my favorite Roberts, right here in Norfolk, VA.

And here's one of my favorite "Roberts," right here in Norfolk, VA. (Pictured above is *the* woman responsible for launching "The Smiley Face™" movement!)

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Last but never least, a Roberts in Charleston, WV.

Last but never least, a "Roberts" in Charleston, WV (sans two-story porches).

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Fe

And here's a Gordon Van Tine #535 in Carlinville, Illinois. Notice that this one does not have the upstairs polygon bay, but a flat window in its place. However, it does have the cantilevered supports for the flower boxes (under the first floor windows). How easy it would be to restore those flower boxes! :)

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To read Webster Groves, Part I, click here.

Part II is here.

And Part III can be found here.

Lastly, here’s Part IV.

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Thanks again to Rachel for finding that Gordon Van Tine #535! You can visit Rachel’s website by clicking here.

Learn more about Gordon Van Tine by visiting Dale’s website here.

Rebecca Hunter has an abundance of information on kit homes here.

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In the Beginning, It Was Dearly Loved…

August 9th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

Sometime in the early 1910s, William Eathen Davison of Elkland, Missouri sat down with a Sears Modern Homes catalog and studied the kit homes offered within its pages. Ultimately, Mr. Davison settled on “Modern Home #113,” a spacious home with 2,200 square feet, four good-sized bedrooms, an indoor bathroom, two bay windows and a gambrel roof.

The best part was the price: $1,270 or about $29,000 in today’s money. Building an entire house from a kit was a novel idea, and Sears had just started their “Modern Homes” department a few  years earlier, in 1908.

But perhaps Mr. Davison realized that this was a sound value, and by building his own home, he’d save more than 30%, compared to traditional construction techniques. His kit would have arrived about six weeks after he placed the order. One can only imagine the excitement and anticipation that such an event would occasion!

Finally, there came a day when he received word that his boxcar had arrived at the Lebanon Train Depot. He probably gathered up a few friends (and their wagons) and hustled down to the depot to pick up his house. If Mr. Davison was typical, he would spend the next six months building his kit home. There were 12,000 pieces, detailed blue prints (designed for the novice homebuilder) and a 75-page instruction book. Mr. Davison had quite a project on his hands.

Born in 1888, Mr. Davison was probably in his mid-to-late 20s when he built this house, and leaned on friends and family to get the house closed-in and buttoned up before the bitter-cold Missouri winds came sweeping through the open farmland.

I can only imagine the joy and deep abiding sense of satisfaction Mr. Davison felt when the house was completed and ready for occupancy.

After the house was finished, he wrote Sears a letter and said, “It’s a lovely residence and is admired by all the country around…I am highly pleased.”

Through the years, I’ve interviewed several people who built their own homes, and one consistent theme I’ve heard is this:  The Mr. Davisons of the world would often tell their children, “This is our home now. My home, and your home, and long after we’re gone, this house will still be here. It’s a good house, and I built it myself. When I’m gone, this house will be yours. Tell your children that their grandfather built this home for you, and for them.”

But something happened to Mr. Davison’s dream house along the way. We know that Mr. Davison had the house finished by 1914 (when his testimony appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog), but we don’t know how long he lived there. Mr. Davison died in Los Angeles in 1941 (age 63).

Recently on Facebook, Sandy Fowler Maness posted a picture of a Sears Modern Home #113, and I found Mr. Davison’s testimonial in the 1914 catalog. I’m saddened to report that it’s a troubling picture, for Mr. Davison’s home is now in collapse.

Scroll on down for the pictures, but be forewarned, the house is in pitiable condition.

If Mr. Davison could see his house now, the house that was built with such care and forethought, I wonder what he’d say.

To read more about the “homes built with love,” click here.

Many thanks to Dixie Dill for granting permission to use her photo, and thanks to historian and writer Marilyn Smith for finding this house!

Thanks also to Sandy Fowler Maness for sharing this information.

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House

Modern Home #113 was mighty popular for a house that was so short-lived. It was offered from 1912-1915.

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Virgils house arrived from the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with buillinger materials.

Mr. Davison's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar containing about 12,000 pieces. Loaded with much care and forethought, these massive boxcars were packed to the ceiling with building materials. Most likely, the building materials were shipped from a massive Sears mill in Cairo, Illinois.

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House

After the house was finished, Sears asked homeowners to send a snapshot of their new home, together with a short testimonial. Here's Mr. Davison's testimonial. It tells quite a story (1914 catalog).

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Others

S. B. Walters of Uniontown also built a #113.

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House

At 2,200 square feet, it was quite spacious for its time.

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FP2

The indoor plumbing was also progressive for the early 1910s. In Sears first catalog (1908), about half of the houses were offered with indoor bathrooms.

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Jpse

We can only hope that the houses in Dwight, IL, Springfield, MA, Dunbar, and Harrisburg, PA are in good condition.

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House house

It was a fine-looking house with two porches. And lots of windows.

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Serfe

Sadly, today, Mr. Davison's 100-year-old house in Elkland is on the cusp of collapse. In 1914, Mr. Davison described it as being "in an open prairie" and it still sits out in the country, about one mile west of the Elkland Post Office. Photo is copyright 2015 Dixie Dill and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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House

It does sadden me to think about how Mr. Davison's dream home started with such promise.

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To read more about the “homes built with love,” click here.

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