Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sears Stuyvesant

It's not every day that you discover a new model of Sears kit house. But that's what happened the other day while researching Sears kit houses in Hampton Manor, New York. Hampton Manor is located in upstate New York, near Rensselaer, which lies across the Hudson River from the state capitol in Albany. Hampton Manor isn't even an incorporated town and is only a few hundred acres in size. But within the borders of Hampton Manor, you'll find dozens of Sears houses including many familiar models, like the Barrington, the Hampton, the Vallonia and the Winona. But you'll only find one example of this house - the Sears Stuyvesant.


Sears Stuyvesant - 271 Spring - Hampton Manor, New York
Image courtesy of Google Maps

I stumbled across the Sears Stuyvesant while researching the history of the Veeder Realty Company's partnership with Sears Roebuck to sell homes at the Hampton Manor development. From some documents I've found online, the association between Veeder Realty and Sears Roebuck goes back a number of years prior to the introduction of the Sears Stuyvesant. This association likely accounts for the number of Sears houses found in Hampton Manor.

In 1939, Veeder and Sears Roebuck announced a new partnership to bring new homeowners to Veeder's "Hampton Heights" development. Veeder offered prospective homeowners the opportunity to select from any number of Sears "Honor-bilt" models. 


Image courtesy of FultonHistory.com

To help entice buyers to visit the development, Veeder and Sears built two model homes. One of the models was the Crafton, a popular model that was marketed as an affordable option for homeowners. The other model was a model that I haven't seen anywhere else - the Sears Stuyvesant.

The field guide for Sears kit house researchers is the book "Houses By Mail: A Guide to Houses from Sears, Roebuck and Company" by Katherine Cole Stevenson and H. Ward Jandl. Published in 1986, it was the first and to date, most comprehensive effort to identify and classify the hundreds of models of homes offered by Sears Roebuck during the time that Sears sold homes through its Modern Homes Division as seen in the mail order catalogs published by Sears. Almost all of the known models offered by Sears from 1908 - 1940 are included in "Houses By Mail" - the Stuyvesant is not among them. But as we review its history, I think there's a strong case to be made that the Stuyvesant is a Sears house.

The Stuyvesant made its first appearance in April 1939 in the pages of the Times Union newspaper of Albany, New York. In an article, the newspaper featured the construction of a second model house at "Hampton Heights" including a floor plan of the new home which is shown below.


Image courtesy of FultonHistory.com




Floor plan of first floor of Sears Stuyvesant
Image courtesy of FultonHistory.com


Floor plan of second floor of Sears Stuyvesant
Image courtesy of FultonHistory.com


Excerpt from article about Sears Stuyvesant
Image courtesy of FultonHistory.com

By May 1939, the new model house was ready for inspection as trumpeted in a full page ad in the Times-Union newspaper. That ad highlighted that the model home was furnished by the Sears stores in Schenectady and Troy including "Honorbilt" furniture and a Sears "Kitchen of Today". This June 1939 ad reveals the exterior view of the new model house as well as its Sears lineage.


Image courtesy of FultonHistory.com

The house actually reflected two different architectural styles. From the front, the house appears to have the classic lines of a Cape Cod-influenced house. Although not as obvious from the ad, when viewed from either side, the Sears Stuyvesant shows a Dutch Colonial influence in the rounded rooflines on the ends of the house. Those features are more obvious from these modern day views of the house. 


Sears Stuyvesant - 271 Spring - Hampton Manor, New York
Image courtesy of Google Maps


Sears Stuyvesant - 271 Spring - Hampton Manor, New York
Image courtesy of Google Maps

However, you want to classify the house architecturally, it's definitely a distinctive design. Although this house is almost 80 years old, it looks as nice as the day it was built by Veeder Realty for their "Hampton Heights" development. Whomever owns this house has made the effort to make this house a contender for the nicest home in Hampton Manor. 

As far as I've been able to find, this is the only house of this design in Hampton Manor. I'm not aware that this model was built anywhere else either. Did Sears design the Stuyvesant specifically for this developer because of their long-time association? Was the Stuyvesant a one-off design? Or was it designed with the intent to be offered more widely after its debut at "Hampton Heights"?

We do know that in 1939, Sears had started the process of moving away from selling individual homes to the Sears "Home Club" program where developers would coordinate with Sears to develop large numbers of homes with a select number of low-cost home models. Many of those "Home Club" models were never offered by Sears in the Modern Homes catalog. After 1940, Sears stopped issuing the Modern Homes catalog although Sears did continue to sell homes to individual homebuyers. Perhaps somewhere out there is another Stuyvesant built during the last years of the Sears kit house program. If you find one, let me know!

5 comments:

  1. The Stuyvesant is really cute. The Sears model houses were wildly popular--literally thousands of people would tour them. I would be surprised if no other Stuyvesant kit homes were built. I will start looking!

    Lara
    Sears Homes of Chicagoland
    sears-homes.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It definitely seems like a design that could have been popular. Hopefully, we'll find some more!

      Delete
  2. Yeah, it seems like the dutch colonial/gambrel side look was really big in the '20s and '30s, so I'm surprised we haven't seen this in the catalog. I have a house near where I live, that, though it is definitely not this house, is this sort of blend of a cape cod mixed with a dutch colonial. It looks nice, too :)
    Judith
    sears-house-seeker.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. As owner of this house I j open it is the only one of this design.

    ReplyDelete