A Sears “Winona” Kit House And A Gallon Of Blood

Sears Kit HouseThe “Winona,” a classic one-level bungalow with a front porch, was one of the most popular models of kit homes from the Sears catalog. It survived the changing tastes of more than two decades, as it was offered (with minor changes) from at least 1916 until the end in 1939. It came in two sizes— a smaller version had two bedrooms, a larger one three (or two bedrooms and a den, depending on the needs of the owners, as the third bedroom is accessed through the living room).

Such a larger version “Winona,” built in 1925, is currently on the market for sale (listing courtesy of XRealty/owner) in Arlington, one of DC’s close-in Virginia suburbs. It’s just a couple of miles from downtown DC offices (and less than five miles from the White House).

A few unfortunate exterior updates (vinyl siding en lieu of the original cedar, some strange neo-classical trim around the front windows and replacement of the original corner porch columns) were easily forgiven once we entered the house and found that much of the original trim, the yellow pine floors in the bedrooms and a few whimsical details, such as the original Sears bathroom cabinet, have been preserved.

A mid century-style fireplace surround in the living room was probably added (or modified) in the 1950s or 1960s. The installation might look nice in a Carderock Springs house but seems a bit out of place in a bungalow. (I do realize, however, that not everybody cares, and also, that this is easily corrected.)

During previous decades the house was adapted to more recent lifestyles: the basement is mostly finished and has a nice full bath (Note: a little investigation with flash lights unearthed the tell-tale blue grease pencil markings so characteristic for kit houses from that period. Blue grease pencil markis in Sears catalog houseWe’re always excited to find such tokens of authentication!), and the attic—originally built just for storage—now contains a sweet bedroom suite. This makes for a total of four potential bedrooms and three full baths. The renovated kitchen (granite/stainless/white-washed) seems to fit the house just perfectly.
Another authentic detail that was specific only to the mail order houses from Sears are the five-piece (as opposed to three-part) eaves brackets. Interestingly, they were preserved even after the siding and roofing materials were replaced.

Sometimes, old tales about the catalog houses are passed on by neighbors or former owners. Unfortunately, this seller, a DC attorney who has raised three kids in the house over the past decade, has no knowledge of the family who once ordered the house to be shipped to them by mail. The only trace of the past that we could find was in a 1944 wartime Washington Post article: Then-owner Frank Callebout was honorably mentioned as one of 13 people to donate a gallon of blood, presumably for the troops.

The house is currently offered for sale at $649,000 which is a nice value for a house in the 22207 zip code where median sold prices have increased 12.8% year-over-year.

And as always, if you are a kit house enthusiast and interested in buying this “Winona,”  just let me know!

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