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1925 Sears catalog home in Gulfport offers slice of Americana

GULFPORT

The first time the home at 2920 53rd St. S was advertised for sale it was lauded as a modern house with windows that allowed for passage of fresh air on a paved street two blocks from a bathing beach and the streetcar line. The builder and seller of the 1925 house was Alvah Roebuck, of Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Once again the 2,000-square-foot house is for sale. The current owners bought it from the niece of the original owner.

It still has those same windows that invite balmy breezes. The original heart of pine floors remain as do three green tile medallions on the front porch, a trademark of Roebuck's homes. But it now has a swimming pool, an updated kitchen and 86 years of history.

Oh, and the price has changed. Roebuck wanted between $8,000 and $20,000. Now it's on the market for $374,900. Nostalgia sells.

"I've gotten calls from around the country," said David Lockhart, the Keller Williams Gulf Coast listing agent. "Somebody from Nebraska is flying in within the next 30 days to take a look at it."

Sears sold more than 70,000 mail-order homes between 1908 and 1940. Everything from the floors and the roof to the rainspouts to the paint were shipped by rail to the soon-to-be homeowner. More than 400 styles were offered including English Tudor, prairie, mission, colonial and even a copy of Mount Vernon.

Some were elaborate with nine rooms and a sun deck, but most were on the modest side. The Gulfport home has three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths. That half bath on the first floor would have been a luxury for a catalog house in the 1920s.

Owner Deidre Buck drove by and fell in love with the home at age 21 without even knowing its history. But she and her husband, Sam, kept it in the forefront of their minds as they maintained the house for 40 years, making sure any updates were in keeping with the 1920s architecture and style.

"This is a limited custom edition," she said. And though all the materials were shipped in on railways and put together with a 75-page book of directions somewhat akin to what comes with an elaborate Lego castle, it was built to last.

"This house has been through a couple of bad hurricanes, and we've never had any damage," she said.

The house is one of about 20 Roebuck built after buying land between 52nd and 53rd streets in Gulfport in 1925. He developed Roebuck Park and even lived in a Spanish-style house he built for his family. Most homes were not the catalog homes but Gulfport historian Lynne Brown has an old Sears catalog with a picture of a home just like the Bucks' house.

"A lot of the catalog homes have had a lot of changes made to them, but theirs still looks the same. It's amazing," Brown said. There are also a few pieces of framing lumber in the attic that are numbered, a telltale sign of a kit house. Several Internet sites offer curious homeowners tips for determining whether their home was from a Sears kit.

Numbered wood may not be all that's in the attic. Deidre Buck has seen the same recurring ghosts for years. There are also unexplained noises, dead bolts that lock on their own and pictures that are turned facedown on the mantel. Her sister and grown children have seen the ghosts, too.

"I think there's really something to some of it, but I think there's some hocus-pocus to some of it too," Sam Buck said. HGTV filmed a segment on the Bucks' home that will air in October.

"We've never come across it as a problem," Deidre Buck said. "We're going to miss this house. But as we age … it would be better to have a house on a single floor."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@sptimes.com.

1925 Sears catalog home in Gulfport offers slice of Americana 05/17/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 1:26pm]

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