Rosemary Thornton, a nationally recognized authority on the Sears and Roebuck mail-order, fabricated homes, will present her inventory of Sears Homes in Waynesboro at the October History Lecture at WTA’s Gateway, 329 W. Main Street, on Thursday.
The 7 pm lecture is a partnership between the Wayne Theatre Alliance and the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation and sponsored by Willow Oak Plaza and the Valley Real Estate and Trust and The Tree Street Inn.
Rosemary Thornton became interested in the Sears home while she lived in Illinois, the home of Sears and Roebuck. For more than 10 years, she traveled throughout the country, seeking and finding Sears Homes. She’s written countless newspaper and magazine articles on the subject, in addition to several book including The Houses That Sears Built (2002,) and Finding the Houses That Sears Built (2004). She has traveled to 24 states to give over 200 lectures on Sears Homes, from Bungalow Heaven in Los Angeles to The Smithsonian in Washington, DC. She has addressed a wide variety of audiences from architectural preservationists in Boston, St. Louis and Chicago to kit home enthusiasts in small towns like Waynesboro. She is often tapped as an authority for PBS (History Detectives), A&E (Biography), and CBS (Sunday Morning News). One of her books was featured in its own category on Jeopardy.
Thornton is considered the country’s #1 authority on kit homes in general. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Old House Journal, American Bungalow, Blue Ridge Country and about 100 other publications.
Thornton’s lecture will focus on the Sears Homes in Waynesboro. Between 1908-1940, Sears customers ordered about 75,000 houses out of the Sears Roebuck and Company mail-order catalogs. The houses were shipped by rail to city lots and farms all over the country. Each “kit home” weighted twenty-five tons and contained at least 30,000 pieces, including 750 pounds of nails and 27 gallons of paint and varnish. A 75-page instruction book showed home buyers, step by step, how to assemble those 30,000 pieces of house. At the height of their popularity, Sears sold 342 homes in one year. A Sears home ranged in price from the very modest Hudson, at $474, to the show-stopping Magnolia, a beautiful colonial revival coming in at $6,488.00 (not including cement, brick or plaster).
Only 10% (approximately) of the Sears homes in the country have been discovered. Because of this, many of a community’s best architectural treasures are being damaged by remodeling and worse, demolished.
Thornton has already identified a number of sears home in Waynesboro and will spend time before her lecture in Waynesboro on Oct 17, to do a drive through of the city and uncover other Sears Homes.
The lecture on Sears Homes is free and open to the public. Seating is limited.
Donations are gratefully accepted.