Sears house draws author’s attention

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2007

FRANKLIN—When Annette Edwards and her husband bought the cute yellow house across Walnut Street from their own a few years back to move her mother from a trailer park near the beach, it seemed like a logical plan.

Her mom would be closer for trips to the doctor, or to shopping, or simply to visit. It didn’t quite work out that way.

But the story of the little yellow house on Walnut Street goes beyond a purchase for a family member who later changed her mind.

&uot;My mom didn’t want to move to Franklin,&uot; said Annette, who works in the human resources department at Paul D. Camp Community College.

So rather than bear the burden of paying two mortgages, the couple decided to put the cute little house on the market.

But two things happened that had nothing to do with the other. First, the house didn’t sell for the $125,000 asking price, partly because, Annette believes, the 60-year-old house needed some work. Or — and maybe this is the bigger reason: When it was built in 1946, the house was built without a heating system. Portable kerosene heaters kept the place livable, but hardly marketable many years later.

That, in itself, is not unusual in the city of Franklin for a house of that age.

So, with no buyers, the price of the house dropped to $99,000.

Still, no takers.

But Donna Pope, the realtor who has the listing, said the price of the house is such whereby a buyer can afford the house and installing &uot;a central heating and air system in the house shouldn’t be a problem,&uot; Pope said.

Now, the Edwardses are making improvements to try to sell it: refinishing oak floors, painting, making external repairs.

But that’s still not the reason the house on Walnut Street is making news. For that, we defer to a woman from eastern Tidewater who happened to be driving to North Carolina, and saw the house. Turns out Rose Thornton is something of an expert on houses. Particularly Sears Houses. Yes, that Sears.

She has published a book on the topic, &uot;The Houses that Sears Built.&uot;

Up until about the end World War II house kits could be ordered through the Sears catalog, would arrive via train box car in about 30,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction booklet.

The cute yellow house on Walnut Street is a Sears house, according to Thornton. She recognized the style of the house and contacted Pope, whose name and telephone number was on the &uot;for sale&uot; sign in the front yard. Thornton, who said she travels in meandering ways to look at communities, was immediately attracted by the design.

The house is called a &uot;Lynnhaven,&uot; in the Sears lexicon. According to the Sears archive Web site it sold for less than $2,400.

The woman who sold the house to the Edwards’ couple said that she and her father &uot;built the house.&uot; She died before the discovery was made, but it was a tip-off about the history of the house. Thornton’s confirmation sealed it. Another method to determine the house’s origin is to look at the butt ends of the framing members in the basement: They’re numbered to fit the plan that came with the house. Edwards, however, has never looked at that portion of the structure.

Instead, she’s been focusing on the more visible portions of the house.

&uot;To me, it always looked like a gingerbread house,&uot; said Edwards.

&uot;I also thought it was the second cutest house in town,&uot; she said. &uot;Mine is the cutest.&uot;