A Magnolia in Alton, Illinois?! Sort Of!

About 1999 or so, my [then] husband and I went to an open house in Alton, Illinois where we saw a darling house.

Last month, while I was looking through a 1952 Aladdin Homes catalog, I [re]discovered that darling house! The house my husband and I had toured in 1999 was actually an Aladdin kit house, “The Magnolia.”

In other words, this house – from Aladdin Homes in Bay City Michigan – came from a mail-order catalog and was shipped to the Alton train station in a box car. The house arrived in about 10,000 pieces and came with a detailed instruction book and a promise that an average fellow could have the house assembled in 90 days.

For the next few days, I really struggled to remember where I’d seen that house, and to the best of my recollection, it was not far from our home in Upper Alton (on Pine Street). Memory can be fickle, but I’d bet money that we saw the house on a little cross street not far from Edwards Street.

In 2006, I left Alton and moved to Norfolk, VA (which makes it harder to find kit homes in Southwestern Illinois).

Last week, I was in Alton visiting family and put more than 80 miles on my rental car, criss-crossing the short streets in Upper Alton. I had Garmin set on “slime trail” so that it left a light-blue line on every street that I traversed. (Have I mentioned how much I love my Garmin?)

Despite driving throughout this area many times over a course of several days, I never did find the Aladdin Magnolia. Now I’m starting to wonder if I saw this house in Godfrey (next door to Alton).

This Magnolia would have been built in the early 1950s, and when we saw it in 1999, it looked much like the house shown in this image. In other words, it had not been “remodeled,” so it should be easy to find. I distinctly remember the oversized living room window and the cantilevers under that second-floor balcony. I also remember the scalloped trim on that front gable.

But where is it?

Please leave a comment below if you know this home’s location. And please feel free to share this link with others who might know the answer to my mystery!



The cover of the 1952 catalog.

In 1952, sales of Aladdin kit homes were probably booming. Sears was out of the kit-house business and WW2 was over, and our nation came into a time of previously unknown prosperity and growth. (1952 catalog cover)


Boxcar stacking

One of my favorite images from the 1952 catalog is this line-drawing showing a "phantom box car." The sides of the box car were invisible to showcase the intricate stacking of 10,000 pieces of kit house (1952 catalog).


Alton has a Magnolia

Alton has a Magnolia, just like this, but where is it?


Altons Magnolia

Detail of the first floor. It's a small house, but has a half-bath on the first floor.


Alton FP

The second floor has three small bedrooms and an oddly-shaped bath tub.



Close-up of the Magnolia in Alton. Or is it Godfrey?



Whoever invented the "slime trail" feature of Garmin is my hero. Back in the day, I used maps and highlighters to figure out which streets I'd traversed. This shows the early hours of my search. By the time I left town Sunday night, almost every street in Upper Alton had the blue slime trail.


Have you seen the Magnolia in Alton? If so, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about my other discoveries in River Bend, click here.

To see pictures of my favorite Alton kit house, click here.

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  1. Darnelle Corbett

    So this is an Aladdin Magnolia, not to be confused with a Sears Magnolia; different manufactures, different homes with the same name.

    Eh, the new kid isn’t confused…much (:

  2. Lori Fitzjarrald

    I hope you find this home again, Rosemary.

    I don’t have an Illinois trip planned in the near future, but if I did I’d help you look.

  3. ShariD

    Is there the possibility that since you saw it last, it has been taken down by any number of “forces” – those of course being fire, weather, replacement with a newer home, attacked by roving siding/remodeling salespeople, or remodeled beyond all recognition by its owners without any help from roving salespeople?

  4. Sears Homes

    If this darling little house were in Chicago, I’d say it’s possible that the Aladdin Magnolia was torn down or destroyed, but in this part of Illinois (near St. Louis), it’s not likely. There in the Riverbend Area, they don’t tear down much of anything!

    BTW, when I was in Chicago in 2010, Dr. Hunter drove me through a neighborhood where five Sears Homes had been razed in one five-year period.

    And years earlier (about 2005), she showed me another neighborhood where three Sears Homes in a row had been destroyed to make way for one McMansion.

  5. Catarina Bannier

    I’m nowhere near Illinois, so no help from this end, but I’m so amazed that you would even be able to i.d. this, let alone remember it 14 years later!!!

    Kit houses from the 50s are so much harder to recognize as they seem to look like any other post-war house, so where do you even start??! (At least this one has a few more distinct features, but still…)

  6. hi

    It might have been destroyed by a fire.