The End of an Era…

Sears appears to be going out of business, and in a few months, my little book business will follow suit.

In 1999, I started working on a book about Sears kit homes. In early 2002, it was self-published, and I used 50% of my net worth to produce 1,000 copies. In 2004, I did a comprehensive revision.

That fun little niche book changed my life in so many ways, and all of them good. Suddenly, I was “The Author” and was treated with much respect and admiration by many lovely people.

By 2004, I’d appeared on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, and my little book even made it to Jeopardy in the Summer of 2004. In print, the story of my unusual career had been featured in countless newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, and the Dallas Morning News (and about 100 others).

Before my lectures, I’d often get invited to join a group of history lovers at a local restaurant, and even though I never could eat a bite before my talk, I enjoyed getting to know folks. At one such dinner, a woman said to me, “We’re in the midst of a celebrity!” Excitedly, I glanced around the table and whispered, “Really? Where are they?”

She laughed and said, “No, I’m talking about YOU!”

In California, a faithful reader took me aside and said, “I’m so excited to meet you. In my world, you’re a rock star!”

At a hotel in Iowa, the clerk that was checking me in extended her hand across the tall granite counter that separated us and said, “Mrs. Thornton, I’d like to shake your hand. I read about you in yesterday’s paper, and I’ve always wanted to shake the hand of a real author.” (I remember thinking, “I hope you meet a real author one day!”)

There are no words to say how much those kind words touched my heart and lifted my spirits. And now it’s time to take a step of progress to The Next Super-Dooper Thing™.

In the last 20 years, I’ve written nine books, hundreds of newspaper articles and thousands of product blurbs. (Writing product blurbs on architectural products was the most difficult writing job I ever had, but it paid the bills.)

In the last 20 years, everything has changed, and now it’s time for a new chapter. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I know it’s time for a seismic shift. I’ll still write blogs on old houses, and I’ll still turn my head when I drive past a pretty Sears House, and I’ll still sign a few books for interested enthusiasts, but the halcyon days of Sears, and Sears kit homes are in my rear-view mirror.

In a few short weeks, I will hit the road in my little red Prius C. If you’d like to meet me, and you’re somewhere between Suffolk, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri, please leave a comment below.

You can hear Rose on a one-hour podcast (99% Invisible) here.



Last week, I donated three boxes of Sears House ephemera and materials to the ODU Library (Norfolk, Virginia).  This is the view from my windshield, as the archivist wheeled the cart from my car and into the library.


In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.

In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.


When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.

When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.


There they go!

More than 3,000 35mm slides and a whole lot of history – going into ODU.


Please leave a comment below!



  1. Robbie Blue

    Thank you for all you have done and enjoy your new life!

  2. Sandy Pilarski


    I wish you well on your new journey to your new life.

    You have given me much to think about over the past nearly twenty years; I appreciate you.

    It appears you are on the way to finding your peace. I am happy for you.

  3. Jennifer Boyer

    Reinvention of our lives is amazing!! Good luck with your new path, wherever it leads!

  4. Susan Schnittger

    What they said! Best of luck with it, and all the best things you can find.

    I can’t help but be tickled that your move will make you that much closer to me.

    It increases the possibility that one day we will meet. Have you sold all your books ?

  5. Paula Clawson

    We own and live in a Sears kit home at 15589 E National Rd., Marshall, IL.

    We love Sears homes.

  6. Dale Wolicki

    Your eBay arch nemesis is not pleased.

  7. C Knox


    If you drive through Champaign area, and we are here, you can stay here.

    We would love to buy one of the last books! Thank-you for your passion for these American homes and parcels of history.


  8. Sears Homes

    @Paula Clawson
    You sure do! It’s a Sears Kilborne! How pretty! In 2004, I identified that house and sent the homeowner a note – way back in the day.

  9. John

    Hi, I have recently purchased a 1923 sears Foursquare kit house south of Pittsburg! Oh boy! Helluva project house. I am in the early stages. It has the walk up attic and no insulation in the attic as I removed both bats attached to the roof trusses and loose fill fiber glass around the edges and eves.

    The insulation was full of bat, bee, bird, mice, and fly doodoo! 100 bags removed and taken away by solid waste disposal company. Now time to make it right. Replacing all the knob and tube that’s left and there is a fair bit. Then on to attic work that may include a reroof.

    I am thinking I can insulate from the roof deck. The rafter bays are not all continuous to the eves as there are 3 dormers and two chimneys! Lucky me. Im thinking of tearing the chimneys down to the attic floor. One they are not in use, and in need of repointing and they are blocking air flow in several of the rafter bays.

    The dormers are framed in such a way as to not allow walk up acces to the windows in the attic and airflow from the dormer eves through their rafter bays.

    So internal reframing work in the attic is required to allow for roof venting from dormer eves! Lucky me again. I am interested in an insulation solution that is on top of the roof deck and not via venting from the eves if that is reasonable which it may not be advised.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated. If I put insulation on the roof deck it will need to be compatible with a duraslate like product as I want I go back to the original slate look roof type. It’s currently inexpensive shingles that do have some life left so I’m not in a hurry but would like to insulate properly as now there is none in the attic.

    And it’s Pittsburgh which gets very cold in the winter and very hot during August! The house has no AC except a few window units for the really bad few days in the summer. The house has an oil boiler for radiant water heat!

    The plumbing was added after the house was built as there was no indoor plumbing when it was built! Some drains go to the storm water and the toilets go to a homemade septic tank!

    Again lucky me! So far the plumbing is holding up! You guys want to use some of my projects for your show? I’m doing it all myself including the roof, insulation, reframing, electrical knob and tube replacement! And Attic finishing. Even the attic has the old pine floors covered in carpet! Underneath looks awesome! I may except help for these projects but it’s got to be local masters that will do what is reasonable for the situation. Thanks, John

  10. John

    I can provide pics and am looking for links to identity which sears model I may own.

    It looks similar to the Chelsea or Fullerton but not exactly. Thanks, John

  11. Cheryl Ecker Bloecker

    Hi, I am in search of someone to help me identify whether or not a house I bought from relatives is a Sears home.

    All those relatives (a few still alive today) claim it is a Sears home delivered by rail and my great uncles put it together.

    I have looked through a couple of books on the Sears kits and have been close, but none have the staircase to the second floor at the front entrance.

    Is there any person or group that I can submit a photo to if the original home to help me on my quest? Thank you.