The Sears Magnolia, offered from 1918-1922, seems to be a source of a much misinformation and confusion.
Yesterday, someone sent me a link to another purported “Magnolia” in Watseka, IL (719 South Fourth Street). And then a member in our “Sears Homes” Facebook group showcased a quote from author Daniel Reiff (Houses from Books) stating that even though the house in Watseka is not a Sears Magnolia, it may have been an inspiration for the Sears architects.
Built models might have also been an influence [for the Sears Magnolia]. Only one hundred miles from Chicago, in Watseka, IL is an impressive Colonial Revival built in 1903 with many features in common with the Magnolia (Houses from Books, p. 194).
I’d say there are a few other houses that have “many features in common with the Magnolia” – as in thousands.
The Magnolia would be best described as a Colonial Revival, which was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sears was not an innovator in anything, most of all, architectural design. They looked at what was popular and created their housing designs accordingly.
Judging from the photos in Houses from Books, much of Reiff’s research was centered in the Northeast, specifically the New York area. Mr. Reiff should have traveled down to the South, because we’re loaded with examples of what is commonly known as the Colonial Revival.
If I felt compelled to connect a specific house to the architect’s creation of the Sears Magnolia, I’d put my money on a 1910-built house in Blacksburg, SC (photos below).
The South Carolina “Magnolia” was built in 1910, and based on the home’s interior moldings, mantels, staircase and some other clues, I’d say that the 1910 build-date is pretty accurate. And although this is a wild guess, I suspect that it MAY BE a pattern book house.
This “SCFM” (“South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia.
When Sears “borrowed” patterns from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made sense.
One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets across the front of the Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.
Mr. Reiff also identified a Sears Magnolia in Dunkirk, NY.
A second example of a brick Magnolia can be found in Dunkirk NY, Despite the lack of side wings because of the narrow lot, the similarities to the Sears model are still striking, but the house is much narrower than its model. In fact, although the 93 West Fourth Street is the same depth as the Magnolia (36’1 vs. 36), it is a full ten feet narrower (29.10 vs. 40.0).
All of which are deal killers. Dimensions matter – a lot. However, Mr. Reiff pulls it out of the fire at the end with this:
The plan of the Dunkirk house is considerably different. Instead of the formal central hallway with staircase and rooms on either side, here the plan is far more compact; One enters the living room which runs across the front of the house in the middle of its long side; the stairs are at one end…Here we almost certainly have an instance of a local builder who studied the illustration in the Sears catalog and created his own version of it, without ordering the plans or, in all likelihood, any of the materials from Sears (p. 196).
Besides, if you were going to name a house “The Magnolia,” would your inspiration come from the frozen North?
I think not.
Now, where is that 9th Magnolia?
To see pictures of all eight Sears Magnolias, click here.
To read more about the “fake” Magnolia in SC, click here.
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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.
Better yet, if you’d like to buy a copy or Rose’s book, click here.
To read about the now-deceased Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.
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I would love to find that 9th one.
Colonial Revival “House” ? That’s not a house! It’s a hotel ! ! !
It’s pretty amazing how closely that SC house resembles the Magnolia.
I can’t see the Watseka house to compare, no google street view or bing maps but I can’t believe he brought up that Dunkirk, NY house as a comparison.
It does look like one of many typical Greek or Colonial Revival.
Any luck in finding the planbook the SFCM came out of?
My father-in-law and his wife live in Watseka, and have for ages and ages.
I’ve been familiar with Watseka since before my husband and I were married, which has been almost 38 years ago. The next time we go up to see them, which may be soon, I will make a point of going to get pictures of that alleged “inspiration” for the Magnolia for you.
But from what I’ve seen of the older photos from the Historical Society, I don’t see any resemblance there at all! There are no Google street views of this street, or many others for that matter, of Watseka, as it’s just another small midwestern farming town like so many others in the area, and what Bing maps overhead view shows are a lot of tree cover.
The house in Watseka belongs to my grandmother.
I will attach a link to a picture of her house that I took last week. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B57osEUI5IhyamVqcFB4Mnp5UVU/edit?usp=sharing