tThe Sears Modern Homes kit and catalog homes were well on their way to changing the way Americans approached housing when the Osborn model from the Honor Bilt line was introduced in 1916.
The Spanish Mission-style design, priced at $2,753, had plastered porches, bulkheads trimmed with brick “for color,” and wooden columns. Two open porches and a back sleeping porch were marketed to nature lovers.
Advertisements advertised the house as “from the golden west.” The generous windows, the 3 meter high ceiling height and the ground floor living were a hit with the public. It captured the imagination of potential homeowners and remained in production until 1929.
It also fascinated Alicia Dallago, who first saw the Osborn model for sale in 1998 at 8828 Memorial Drive in McCandless.
“I walked out on that porch and fell in love,” she says. “I said ‘I want’ this one House.'”
Dallago was looking to downsize at the time. She made a conditional offer on the Osborn and was only an hour away from the whole deal when she got a firm offer on her other home.
“That in itself was a message to me that it was going to be my home,” she says.
Despite her continued love for the house, Dallago moves again – this time to be near her son.
Her two-bedroom, one-bathroom home is listed for $247,000 (MLS#1520628, Michelle Bushée of Piatt Sotheby’s International Realty, 412/585-2451, piattsir.com) It is open by appointment.
Many North Hills residents are already familiar with the house thanks to Dallago’s longstanding business, Alicia Photography, which operated out of the location for 22 years. Today, Dallago is working on remote recovery of old photos.
“I was the only female photographer in the area when I opened my studio,” she recalls. “It was the perfect environment to live and work in.”
Sitting on half an acre, the bungalow retains its original footprint. The exterior has the stucco finish, original brick details and a beautiful wooden veranda floor finished in navy lacquer.
“I sailed for many years,” says Dallago, who was born in Argentina. “I would varnish every three or four years. Great, you don’t have to sand between coats.”
Once inside, the 24-by-12-square-foot living room offers plenty of flexibility, with left and right-hand seating. The original fireplace has been converted to gas and has the original sill and mantle. A pair of pocket doors with brass cup handles is classically beautiful and convenient.
“If I were doing portraits of a dog, I would close the doors and say, ‘Let him go. He has to go everywhere and get to know the place,’” says Dallago. “Same with the kids. It was very convenient. ”
The dining room of 13 by 15 square meters leads to the conservatory. The layout fills the room with light from interior and exterior multi-pane windows. The wood trim, baseboards and floors are original to the house, making the space really sparkle.
A former owner has tackled a renovation in the kitchen of 9 by 14 square meters. While the footprint remains the same, modern conveniences such as a dishwasher, stainless steel appliances and new countertops were added. New oak cabinets with cathedral door fronts nicely complement the room’s original wood trim and floors.
A back hall leads down to the laundry room. Another door leads to the rear garden, where Dallago has installed a multi-level patio and pergola that takes advantage of the natural landscape she has nurtured for years.
“I installed a waterfall and planted wildflowers. It creates atmosphere in the garden,” says Dallago. “You see all the trees and at night when the lightning bugs are out. It’s so beautiful.”
The setting was also the perfect place for portraits.
“The wildflowers grow and every five or six years you cut them, weed and fertilize them. Then they grow back even stronger’, says Dallago.
Back inside, two bedrooms measuring 12 by 10 square feet have more stories. One bedroom has a wooden storage cupboard dating back to the time the house was built.
“One of the previous owners was a watchmaker and he had his shop in that room,” Dallago says. “Travellers used to use old Route 19 to get to Butler and stay in that room.”
The single bathroom has a bath/shower combination. The property also has steam heating and central air conditioning.
An attic room has been transformed into a bonus room. The 38-by-8-square-foot space runs the width of the house and is painted gray with gray vinyl floors. It is lit with fluorescent light boxes that look like windows.
“I finished that space to store my photos and used it as a sewing room. I’ve insulated the walls and it’s heated and air-conditioned,” Dallago says. “I adjusted the light temperature to mimic daylight.”
The house has many fond memories of Dallago. She is determined to preserve the home’s history and is determined to pass it on as such to its next owner, including the conservatory that turns a Pittsburgh winter into a wonderland.
“That conservatory was my backyard in the winter. I would be there if it snowed,” she says. “I would open the curtains and watch the snow fall. It was just beautiful.”
Hot Property is a look at unique and historic homes on the market. Each week, Hot Property goes behind the For Sale sign to share the story of a special home in Pittsburgh. And four times a year, Hot Property provides an in-depth look at the region’s real estate market in Pittsburgh Magazine HOME, tracking home prices and sales and pointing out where the popular properties can be found. Rosa can be reached at [email protected]
Everything about Sears Kit Houses
The year was 1895.
Sears, Roebuck & Co. was arguably one of the largest retailers in the world, and the Sears catalog sold everything from the Graphophone Talking Machine to clothing, furniture, and personal items like prescription glasses. The catalog’s pages even include a self-test for “presbyopia, myopia, and astigmatism.”
In 1897, the Sears catalog added a Builders Hardware and Material section that sold and supplied everything needed to build a building, including sheds, sheds, and even outbuildings.
In 1906 building materials were unprofitable and Sears considered closing the department for good. Then came Frank W. Kushel, former manager of the porcelain department. He took over the Builders Hardware section and got a revelation: he could ship building supplies straight from the factory and save on storage costs.
By 1908, Sears released his first “Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans.” With an initial offering of 22 home designs, the catalog’s homes were priced from $650 to $2,500, according to Sears Archive.
Modern home-building innovations such as asphalt shingles, drywall and pre-cut lumber allowed customers to perform the ultimate DIY when the 25-ton houses arrived by box train. The buildings soon became known as kit houses thanks to a 75-page manual that guided the builders through the piece-by-piece assembly process.
By 1910, design styles had expanded, offering gas and light fixtures. In 1920, Sears averaged nearly 125 homes per month. Honor Bilt’s range of homes were four-season homes, complete with interior trim, siding, and custom options. Architecture styles include mission, colonial, tudor, ranch, and cottage, just to name a few. By the time Sears ended the program, more than 100,000 Honor Bilt homes had been built in America.
For more information, visit searsarchives.com