The Sears Lewiston/Wardway kit home at Bowling Green State University was destroyed last Friday – and in quite a rush.
This demolition went forward, in spite of an impressive groundswell of support, imploring BGSU president Mazey to delay the demolition for a few days. An online petition (asking Mazey to spare the house) quickly garnered 2,000+ signatures.
Others wrote and called the president’s office, begging them to have the house moved rather than destroyed. The cost to move the structure would have been about $18,000 (not a lot more than the cost of demolition).
All to no avail.
The college administration is probably hoping that all the upset over this old house will die down and be forgotten.
Please, don’t prove them right. Don’t let this singular act of wanton destruction and callous disregard for America’s history be forgotten.
Please think about the Popular Culture program at BGSU, which was housed in this old kit home. Many current and former students left comments at this blog and at the Facebook page, sharing happy memories of their time in this historically significant house.
Please think about Virgil Taylor, who spent countless hours poring over old mail-order catalogs, choosing just the house he wanted. Don’t forget Virgil’s dad (Jasper), who gave him the lot so that Virgil could build his fine Wardway Home.
Don’t forget about those two men, toiling side by side to unload the boxcar that arrived at the Bowling Green Train Station in November 1931. The house in that boxcar, a custom order from Montgomery Ward, contained 750 pounds of nails, 10 pounds of wood putty, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 840 square yards of plaster lath, and more. In all, Virgil’s kit home came in a boxcar with more than 12,000 pieces of building materials.
Don’t forget how Virgil and Jasper lugged all those building materials out of the boxcar and into a wagon, and then onto the building site.
Working with a 75-page instruction book, Virgil and his father (and probably other family and friends) worked long hours, assembling their 12,000-piece kit home.
They started work on the house in early November and by late February (1932), they were mostly done. I’m sure a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” went into that house.
And last week, it took one big bulldozer less than a couple hours to reduce Virgil’s home to 1,500 tons of debris, soon to be buried and forever preserved at the local landfill. (By the way, that estimate of 1,500 tons is the approximate weight of the original structure, exclusive of all additions.)
To read earlier blogs on this topic (and learn more about Virgil’s house, click on the links below.
The Sorry Ending
Above all, please don’t forget about the little house that Virgil built.
As of Friday, this was the condition of Virgil Taylor's beloved home. As my friend used to say, it takes someone special to build something special. Any jackass can tear down a barn. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
Virgil's house a few days before BGSU administrators had their way with it. Notice the clean, straight angles on the roof. The house is still square and true, and it's truly reprehensible that the college decided to demolish, rather than relocate the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
It was a fine-looking house. And now it's just a memory. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
Original hardware (from Montgomery Ward) was still in evidence throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
A page from the 1931 catalog shows the door for the Wardway Tudor Homes.
There was other Wardway hardware throughout the house. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
Despite some serious searching, I've not been able to find a corresponding fireplace design in either the Sears or Wardway catalogs. Virgil would have hired a local brick mason to do the fireplace mantel and exterior veneer, and perhaps the local mason had his own ideas about what pattern to use on the fireplace. The pattern used here is also seen on the home's brick exterior. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
See the brick pattern over the window? This was found on the lintels (over the window) and also in the front gable, and the fireplace. (Photo is copyright 2012 Michael Wiatrowski and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
Another view of the home's interior. Note the build-in china hutch. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
In Virgil's home, this would have been the dining room. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
An old light fixture in the hallway. (Photo is copyright 2012 Marsha Olivarez and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
Virgil's house arrived at the train station in a boxcar. These early 20th Century boxcars were massive and were loaded to the ceiling with building materials.
When Virgil bought his house, he also obtained a 15-year mortgage from Montgomery Ward. Sadly, he lost his house when Montgomery Ward foreclosed on him (and his wife) in 1936.
A page from the 1931 Wardway catalog, from which Virgil ordered some of his hardware and plumbing fixtures. At the center of the page is the traditional Wardway fireplace.
Virgil's house in 1932, soon after completion.
Virgil's house, shown next to the catalog image for the Sears Lewiston. I find it fascinating that Virgil took his photo from the same exact angle as the picture shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Lumber from Virgil's house. It reads, "29722 (probably a model number), V. H. Taylor, Bowling Green Ohio, 128 No Church Street. (Photo is copyright 2012 Ray I. Shuck and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)
To learn about the other kit homes in Bowling Green, click here.
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Did you see this photo essay? http://memories.bgsu.edu/exhibits/show/prezhomes/secondprezhouse
Be sure to click on each photo for a “large view” and then also click on “next page.”
The 2nd and 3rd pages have some nice interior photos of the home while it was being used as the BGSU presidential residence. So sad.
Thanks for sharing that link, Erin! I had not seen those photos before. Kind of bittersweet. Such a lovely home, and now it’s nothing but landfill debris.
I hope Virgil’s ghost haunts the president of BGSU!
I have this exact fireplace in my 1922 Dutch Colonial.
Have not fully identified which builder, but it closely resembles The Washington model from Standard Homes, although with a full front porch across the entire front.
I have a Mitchell, 1936 Sears kit home. I am in Columbia, Kentucky.
I’m from the area and I was wondering if there was any info on kit homes in the Toledo area. Thanks.
I have heard that my grandfather designed some Sears Homes.
How do I find out which ones he worked on? His name was William Cooper, lived in Bronxville, NY.
Good morning, I believe we in Glendora, California have an example of a Magnolia – Sears Kit Home there has been some exterior modifications to exterior on one side and the rear we believe it was constructed in 1920 records are sketchy.
The City of Glendora has deemed it to be of NO HISTORICAL VALUE just so they can allow any developer to destroy the house and build anything modern.
Thank you so much for creating this site and for allowing others to learn from you.
I think that the house that we just bought may actually be three or four kit houses put together. I cannot be sure – it has been modified over the years.
May I submit photos and the models I think they may be from…to see what you think? Thank you!
I also own a Sears built home in PA. There is the original metal plate mounted by the back door.
Through the years there have been updates (such as new siding) but no structural changes .
If you might be interested contact me at my email address . I can send pictures.
Oh, what a shame! Why do people insist on destroying and disposing instead of fixing, refurbishing and restoring?
So very sad.
The president of BGSU is a fine example of our throwaway society. Shameful!
Mrs. Thornton, I fell in love with Sears homes when I bought my first book. It’s a shame such a nice one was torn down.
I have a question if anyone could answer you could. My husband is from Ohio and recently we were visiting there and were staying close to Akron. I called the Chamber of Commerce to ask where the cluster of Sears homes that were built there some years ago were located.
I so wanted to see them before heading back to Indiana. The lady was nice but had never even heard of them and had no idea where they were. Could you help me out? We visit Ohio once a year.
Thank you for your time and I am very sorry about the loss of your husband. Janet
Could you please tell me approximately where the cluster of Sears homes that were built in Akron, Ohio some years ago are located?
The Chamber of Commerce didn’t know what I was talking about. I’d love to go there.
Hi Rose, I have a house built in 1917, and I found some printing on the framing members.
I’d like to talk.
I have a client who purchased a Jim Walters Home years ago. How can I find out if has a metal or wood frame? It needs to be renovated to sell. And for it to qualify for an FHA 203K Renovation Loan, my lender says “no metal frames.”
I don’t know if this blog is still active but I am seeking information about Westly houses. A friend and I plan to recreate in miniature (scale 1″ = 1′) a facsimile of a Westly house.
We plan to use carpentry-in-miniature techniques to accomplish this. This includes studded walls, timbered roofs, custom made doors and windows, etc.
Unfortunately, we are flying somewhat blind on this for lack of authentic plans. Instead, we are using scaling floor plans shown in various issues of Sears Modern Home Catalogs to generate floor plans and referring to photographs reproduced on the web and Catalog information to guesstimate window and door sizes and details.
If anyone could supplement our information we would be most appreciative.
The progressive minds are here in Kinston to talk to you about Aladdin Kit houses. Come visit sometime. Sorry to hear about your husband passing. Hope you are well.
Pride of Kinston
327 Queen St. Ste. 102
Kinston, NC 28501
I came across your website looking for kit homes, and am about to order your Sears kit homes book. Long story short, our older neighborhood is starting to become under the microscope of developmental destruction (as the city of Lexington, KY wants to do more infill/redevelopment), and the only way we can save it is to do a historic overlay.
One of the questions asked by the historic preservationists was to try and show we have kit homes in our neighborhood. You seem to be go to person on this.
I was wondering what it might cost for you to google carouse our neighborhood (its about 400 homes) and see if anything stands out to you as a kit home.
If we can find examples of this, then this almost immediately triggers our neighborhood as important. Anything you can do to help, in the mean time, we will attempt to find some of the kit homes ourselves.
I own a home on Lake Superior outside Ashland, WI. It was built in the early 1920s.
I was told it is a Sears Catalog home. How can I find out if it is a Sears Home?
It certainly looks like it could be.
I live in Norwich, CT and the old homes here are beautiful and worth visiting. I’ve been told there are several Sears kit homes here in town. I am an enthusiast like you and stumbled on your blog while nursing my own wounds in things that bring me comfort. I hope you visit sometime. There are some very unique; beautiful homes here.