April 21, 2015

Reader Story: Catalog Homes of New Orleans

There are kit home researchers working all over the country. We know that Sears, for instance, sold homes in 43 states based on catalog testimonials.

Keli Rylance of Tulane University has been researching the operations of the major kit home manufacturers in the South and the kit houses built in New Orleans. She also writes a blog called Architecture Research. I asked her to write a guest post on some of her findings. So now let's leave Chicago and head down to the Crescent City...

Thank you Keli for writing this guest post.

Two years ago, I was researching bungalows for an exhibition we were planning at Tulane University’s Southeastern Architectural Archive, where I have worked for seven years. I kept coming across mention of New Orleans architects who were working for various lumber concerns to design or promote pre-cut residential structures. There was a considerable amount of home building before and after World War I, and local architects provided services to property owners, trade associations, developers and catalog home companies.

I learned that during the early twentieth century, a number of northern catalog home companies acquired lumber mills in the South.  In 1909, Sears-Roebuck purchased the Rosemary Pine Lumber Mill at South Mansfield, Louisiana. Four years later, Sears acquired a second mill at Gandy, Louisiana. Harris Brothers operated a “milling in transit plant” outside of Jackson, Mississippi from 1914-1920, and they also maintained a branch office at Camp Shelby, near Hattiesburg, through 1921. The Aladdin Company operated a plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi from 1919-1921, and Gordon-Van Tine established its Hattiesburg mill in 1920. 

April 14, 2015

The Original Sears Ivanhoe?

The Sears Ivanhoe was first sold in 1911. It was a high-priced house "designed by one of Chicago's leading architects", according to the catalog.

Sears Ivanhoe.
That statement had me wondering: who was the architect? The Ivanhoe is clearly a Prairie School house. We already know that John Van Bergen designed a couple Sears models. But who designed the Ivanhoe? Based on the wording in the catalog, it's likely a familiar name.

I was recently in River Forest and I saw a house that strongly resembled the Sears Ivanhoebut it wasn't one.

April 7, 2015

Dueling Kit Houses in Maywood

The Chicago House Wrecking Company began selling house plans and building materials in 1907. They later changed their name to Harris Brothers, and the company sold many houses in the Chicago area and nationwide.

One of the most popular models sold by the Chicago House Wrecking Company was No. 84. It was first sold in 1909 and heavily advertised in national magazines and in newspapers from Washington DC to San Francisco.

Chicago House Wrecking Company ad from 1911 that featured the No. 84.


The No. 84 is identified by the bay windows on the first and second floors and the shed dormer over the porch. 

There are two identical No. 84 models side-by-side in Maywood.

March 31, 2015

A Little Piece of Georgia in Wheaton

Sears often would name the Modern Homes after areas in which the company sold a lot of houses. For instance, there are models called the Pittsburgh, the Cleveland, the Albany, the Detroit, and the Trentonjust to name a few.

Americus is a small city in Georgia that evidently was the location of many Sears kit homes because Sears named a house after it. The Sears Americus is a Craftsman take on the Italian style.

The Sears Americus from 1923.

The Americus is one of the most distinctive designs that Sears ever sold, which makes it easy to identify "out in the wild". The house, with low-pitched hipped roofs and an asymmetrical facade, is loaded with Craftsman details.

You can find this little piece of Georgia in Wheaton.
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