By Sarah Richardson
Downtown Lewisburg’s focus this week was on the relocation of the “Sears House” from its spot next to the Greenbrier County Courthouse to its new location on the adjacent lot. The house, which is vacant, was moved by neighboring landowner Margaret Preston Kulkarni to prevent the building’s demolition. The house was jacked up from its old foundation on Tuesday, moved halfway to the new foundation on Wednesday, and completed its journey on Thursday.
The roughly 100 foot move was no easy feat, and required reinforcing the bottom of the house with steel beams, and tactical precision to not damage the structure. Plans for renovations and expansions to the courthouse necessitated the removal or demolition of the building. Kulkarni reached an agreement with the Greenbrier County Commission and Historical Society to relocate the building so long as she covered the bill.
She is excited to begin the restoration process to transform the building back into a home.
A history of the Sears House
By William “Skip” Deegans
The Lewisburg “Sears House” was built in 1924 or 1925 according to information obtained from deeds, tax records, and Sanborn maps. Rose Thornton, author of Finding The Houses That Sears Built and other publications about kit homes, identified the house during a recent survey of kit homes in Lewisburg. The house is an early version of The Westly. In the 1928 Sears Modern Homes Catalog, The Westly was priced at $2,392. This two-story bungalow of seven rooms was one of the best selling homes sold by Sears.
Most kit homes are found in railroad towns because the “already cut and fitted” materials were delivered in boxcars. The boxcars were parked on a side rail, and the owner-builder had a short period to unload the materials. While Lewisburg is not considered a railroad town and it has several kit homes from the early 1900s, it had a railroad from 1906 until 1931. The Lewisburg and Ronceverte Railway built a line from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad main line in Ronceverte to downtown Lewisburg and offered passenger and freight service. It is plausible that the kit homes were delivered in Lewisburg or in Ronceverte, only a few miles away.
The Sears House was probably built by or for H. C. and Blanche Jackson. It sits on Court Street between the Greenbrier County Courthouse and the stately Governor Price home. In an effort to acquire more property adjacent to the courthouse, the Greenbrier County Court (now Greenbrier County Commission) bought the Sears house in 1941. It also bought the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Lodge 2463 (also known as the Colored Peoples Lodge) behind the Sears House, and replaced it with a new jail. After purchasing it, the County Commission rented the Sears House as a residence and then as an office for the West Virginia University Extension Service until a few years ago.
Despite its varied uses, the house is distinguished by the fact that the original floor plan has not been altered and nearly all of the original materials are intact. The house has been vacant for a few years and maintenance has been neglected. As a result, it is beginning to deteriorate. Contractors who have looked at the house have deemed it well built and worthy of restoration. The County Commissioners have vacillated through the years about razing, restoring or moving the house. The Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission considers it to be a contributing landmark in the historic district and would like to see the house restored and preserved.