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Project at Historical Museum aims to restore Sears house

By Staff | Sep 8, 2011

John Grey, left, stands next to Alex Werner in front of the structure known as the Morning Glories House at the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village on Tuesday.

Usually when somebody paints a structure, they intend to make it look almost new again. But at the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, nearly the opposite is the desired result.

On Tuesday, a crew from John Grey Painting began a refurbishment project at the Morning Glories House. The work includes repainting the historic home’s interior which, when completed, hopes to mirror the original appearance of the building soon after it arrived on the island some 85 years ago.

According to Alex Werner, president of the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, the organization’s board of directors approved an “interior facelift” of Morning Glories, a Sears & Roebuck Co. prefabricated home purchased in 1925 by Martin Mayer. After soliciting bids for the work, the organization selected John Grey Painting to complete the restoration work.

“(John Grey Painting) was chosen not only because they offered us $1,300 for an in-kind donation of services, but because of the work that they do with the island’s other non-profit groups,” said Werner, who noted an additional $3,000 was acquired from the LAT Foundation.

“We like to participate in community activities whenever we can,” added Grey. “In this way, we feel like we’re a part of the island rather than just another contractor offering a service.”

Crew members from John Grey Painting spent Tuesday morning prepping the Morning Glories House for refurbishment.

Morning Glories, which was originally located on San Carlos Bay (on Bird Lane just west of Bailey Road), cost $2,211 when it was purchased from a Sears & Roebuck catalog by Mayer. The building was delivered in 30,000 pieces on a flatbed truck aboard a barge to the island. It was unique because it was one of the first homes on Sanibel to have both indoor plumbing and electricity provided by generator.

Included in the package for “The Springwood” model, as it was described in the catalog, were 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and a leather-bound, 75-page instruction booklet.

Grey performed a little bit of research prior to starting the refurbishment work, which is expected to be completed by the end of the week. According to his statistics, Sears sold more than 175 different models of homes from the early 1900s through the 1940s. In total, more than 100,000 of the houses were sold during this era.

“We’re painting everything, floor to ceiling,” said Grey, who noted the flat paint on walls and high gloss enamel on trim, doorways, windows and cabinets match the original specifications from the Sears & Roebuck instruction manuals which accompanied the unbuilt homes.

“We’re gonna start with two workers, but I’ll add more if it’s necessary to complete the job on time,” noted Grey, whose crew will paint the structure’s seven interior rooms.

A sign in front of the Morning Glories House explains some of the history of the structure.

Werner, who stated that Morning Glories was last painted approximately 12 years ago, was confident that the finished product would exceed even his expectations.

“This is the perfect combination between a city, a foundation and a business, working together to get a job done,” he added.

A cabinet in the pantry area reveals the original hardwood surface of the building.