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Tuesday, May 24, 2016


The Yates model Sears kit house
Heather Weidner has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. Her short stories appear in Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II. Learn more about her and her writing at her website/blog. 

Secret Lives and Private Eyes

Between 1908 and 1940, homeowners could shop and purchase houses through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. The parts, including hardware and varnishes, arrived by railroad and were ready for assembly on the owner’s lot.

All materials arrived precut and fitted with instructions. Some homeowners hired contractors, while others assembled their own homes. The boards, molding, and pipes usually had markings still visible in many of the homes today. It was a great marketing plan by Sears to sell the home to buyers who would also need furnishings, household items, and lawn gear offered by their stores.

By 1937, according to the Sears Archives, home sales had reached $3.5 million. There were over 447 home models to choose from, and in 1923, Sears added barns to its offerings. During its run, Sears sold over 70,000 of these ready-to-be-assembled homes.

Private investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald in Secret Lives and Private Eyes, lives in a Sears Catalog home. While there are several of these houses in Hopewell, Virginia in the Crescent Hills neighborhood, I took the liberty of moving one to Chesterfield County for my character’s residence.

Delanie lives in the Yates model, which according to original advertising, “was a mellow house, pleasantly flavored with English-cottage characteristics.” Its first floor has four rooms and a bath. It also has a second floor with three bedrooms and a bath. The bungalow is quirky and quaint and matches her style. This model was marketed as a complete home on the first floor level. Buyers could finish the second floor at their leisure. In 1938, the Yates model originally cost between $1,812 and $2,058.

When my husband and I first moved to Central Virginia, we toured nearby Hopewell. I fell in love with the catalog homes that have lasted well over seventy years. It was the perfect residence for my spunky sleuth.


Secret Lives and Private Eyes
Business has been slow for PI, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose life was purportedly cut short in a fiery car crash still be alive? And as if sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed strip club owner, hires Delanie to uncover information on the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out the connection between the two cases before another murder – probably her own – takes place.

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Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

I'd never heard of a Sears catalogue home. So interesting and great premise for a book!

Angela Adams said...

I remember the Sears Christmas book. It would arrive at the end of the September and that was how school children knew Christmas was coming (and to start making that toy list for Santa).

Heather Weidner said...

There are a few real Sears catalogue homes in Hopewell, Virginia. I was fascinated that folks ordered the kits and picked them up at the railroad station. And a lot have survived 60-75 years.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to take a trip to Hopewell and see these catalogue homes.