March 2020

She seems an unlikely expert. She is not an architect. She has no construction experience. Her freelance writing includes newspapers, magazines, and websites. And yet, she had a passion. As she said, “Turns out, being a zealot can be attractive to potential readers.”
The person I’m referring to is Rosemary Thornton, author of “The Houses That Sears Built.” First published in 2000, this book chronicles the history of Sears kit homes, sold by the company between 1908 and 1940. Although the book is no longer in print, used copies are selling for more than $100 on Amazon!
At the invitation of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and the Raleigh City Museum, the author came to North Carolina’s state capital to make a presentation on kit homes in May 2012. My introduction to Sears kit homes was my first husband’s grandfather’s home in Fayetteville. Available from the 20th-century mail-order giant, these attractive homes offered folks the opportunity to acquire an affordable, build-it-yourself home. Numerous examples of Sears kit homes can be found across the state. Click here to see examples Ms. Thornton discovered in North Carolina’s capital city.
A different kind of kit home emerged in the aftermath of World War II. The country faced a housing shortage as soldiers returned home, and entrepreneur Carl Strandland, vice president of the Chicago Vitreous Enamel Products Company, sought to alleviate this deficit. Mr. Strandland’s vision of “metal, pre-fabricated neighborhoods” took advantage of the factories that produced steel used to build WWII fighter planes.
His designs emphasized efficiency of space with easy to clean surfaces, smaller more functional and flexible rooms, a sanitary environment, and the inherently low maintenance of both the interior and exterior elements of the structure. The prefabricated steel house was in itself the technological innovation desired in new construction housing…The architecture and appearance of the Lustron home was designed to simulate a modified ranch style on the exterior. -- Excerpted from “The Steel House: A Sensationally Good Idea” by Stefan-leih [Kuns] Geary, December 2004 (Click here to read full article).
Similar to the Sears kit homes, Strandland’s small, pre-fabricated Lustron homes were shipped to the site ready to be assembled. The largest assembly of Lustrons in one geographic location was in Quantico, Va., where 60 were installed at the U.S. Marine Corps military base; two remain today. As of 1949, only 39 Lustron homes were sold in North Carolina. Based on the latest research, 20 Lustron homes have been identified across the state. With the help of Preservation North Carolina, the only Lustron home left in Raleigh has been recently relocated to downtown Raleigh. It’s currently for sale and awaiting historic landmark designation.
Isn’t history fascinating? Continue reading below to learn more about opportunities for us to explore the state together this fall!

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Fall Tours Announced

Dates are set for travel adventures across North Carolina this fall. Join visit NC concierge from September 15th to 16th for a trip to Charlotte that will include a behind-the-scenes visit of the Carolina Panthers’ Stadium, Wing Haven (two private gardens, one of which belonged to famous garden writer Sarah Lawrence), and the Mint Museum. On our return to Raleigh, we’ll visit the North Carolina Zoo.

From October 6th to 8th, the Crystal Coast is our destination. An immersive experience into the life and culture of this thriving community awaits us - along with beautiful historical homes in Beaufort and a military fort that was once a project of the young engineer, Robert E. Lee. North Carolina’s epicenter of marine research, the Crystal Coast is home to the Duke Marine Lab, UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences, NC State University’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, North Carolina Sea Grant, NC Coastal Federation, the North Carolina Division of Maritime Fisheries, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

So don’t wait! Mark your calendars for interesting, fun-filled adventures across the state!

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"Mary Esther is always available to answer any questions you may have and with great patience. She also is very willing to help solve any problem you may have. She is an excellent planner, director and tour guide. Her trips have been super!"

"Just a short note to tell you how much we enjoyed our curated trip to the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit yesterday. It was truly first class ... It was our first trip with you and certainly will not be our last."

"We were very well educated as to what we would be doing and what we needed to do to make it all happen. Everything flowed as expected."

"We loved the carriage tour through the historic district. The homes and buildings were beautiful. We loved everything we did and thought each stop was delightful. Exceeded expectations."

"What I appreciate is that you provide guests an opportunity to learn and experience a part of NC while you take care of all the logistics and details!"

Contact us to book your tour today! 
visit NC concierge is a premier hospitality company dedicated to providing the discriminating traveler unique experiences savoring North Carolina’s history, geography, and culture at a leisurely travel pace while enjoying the state’s finest sites, cuisine, and lodgings. Itineraries are subject to change at the discretion of the company. Group size: minimum 10; maximum 30. Registration for each tour closes 30 days prior to tour start date. For more information, visit us at
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