Friday, October 16, 2015

Sears Twins - The Hampton and the Crafton

As I noted in the introductory article in this series, it wasn't unusual for Sears to change the names of models, even though the houses remained almost unchanged. One of the more popular models that went through a name change was the Sears Hampton. First offered in the 1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the Hampton was an unassuming house with only a hint of Arts and Crafts style detailing. The Hampton didn't look like a large house from the outside but actually contained a living room, dining room, kitchen, bath and three bedrooms on the same floor. The Hampton appeared to be aimed at the budget-conscious home buyer who needed more than two bedrooms but couldn't afford the larger models offered by Sears that had 3 bedrooms.


Catalog image of Sears Hampton (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
The unassuming design of the Hampton can make it a challenge to identify. The key elements to look for when trying to identify or authenticate the Hampton include:
  • Hipped porch roof with short columns set on top of tall brick or block pillars. Also, the porch roof is narrower than the width of the front of the house. 
  • Rectangular attic window on front gable. 
  • Front door centered with single window on either side of the door. 
  • Three paired windows along one side and three single windows on the other.
  • Extension of main roof on one side only where the rear entry is located. From the rear, you'll be able to see that the rear entry is less than half the width of the house.
You can best see that rear extension in the floor plan for the Hampton. 


Floor Plan - Sears Hampton (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

Over the years, many of these homes have been subject to modifications. The most common one you'll see is that the porch will have been enclosed either with screen or by converting it into a living space. If you're lucky, you'll still be able to see the porch columns as you can in this example from Berkley, Michigan. This Sears Hampton was built in 1927 and authenticated with a mortgage from Sears. It has a taller than average roof that is likely original to the house and would have been a custom change to the house requested by the homeowner. 


2445 Royal - Berkley, Michigan - Sears Hampton

Here's another example of the Hampton showing the other side of the house. In this case, you can still see the original porch columns even though the porch has been enclosed. This house was also authenticated with a Sears mortgage. 


467 Bergen - Ypsilanti Township, Michigan - Sears Hampton
Image courtesy of Bing Maps

In the text of the 1931 catalog listing for the Hampton, Sears stated - "Priced very low and when built it will make a comfortable home or can be sold at a handsome profit." From what I've seen, the Hampton was popular with builders, especially those building homes in working class neighborhoods. One builder in Pontiac, Michigan built at least 10 Hamptons in one neighborhood alone! 

No matter how popular the Hampton was as a model, in 1932, Sears decided to give it a refresh with a new name - the Crafton! Unlike many of the other house models that dated back to the early 1920s, the newly renamed Hampton wasn't purged from the Sears catalog in 1932. Instead, the Hampton floor plan was updated with a few small changes. 


Catalog image of Sears Crafton (1932)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

As you can see, Sears made a few small changes to the exterior of the Crafton. The front of the house looks exactly the same except for the absence of the detail trim on the front gable. The kitchen window has been reduced from a paired window to a single window. But take note - while the chimney location has moved in the catalog illustration, in the floor plans, it's still located towards the rear of the house. These kinds of drawing errors appear occasionally where the house image does not match the details of the floor plans. It's important to study both to avoid questions when identifying houses. 

A little less obvious is that the Crafton has lost the rear entryway and the extension of the main roof that went with that. If you spot a house that has a Hampton front but no rear entryway extending from the back of the house, it may be a Crafton! Because of this change in the layout, some of my fellow kit house researchers don't consider the Crafton as a twin to the Hampton. But I view them as the same model that was tweaked over time as Sears did to other models that didn't go through name changes. 

Inside the house, Sears got a little more adventurous in making changes. Unlike the Hampton, Sears didn't limit the Crafton to a single floor plan. In 1932, Sears offered three floor plans for the Crafton - A, B and D - yes, you read that correctly. I have no idea what happened to floor plan C. 



Image courtesy of Archive.org

The three bedroom floor plan was still available with the bathroom shifted from the back of the house to between two of the bedrooms. 


Plan 3318-D - Sears Crafton (1932)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

Sears also offered two other plans with smaller dimensions than the three bedroom plan, which was 26 feet wide. The smallest of the three plans also had a different window arrangement on one side as compared to the other two. 


Plan 3318-A - Sears Crafton (1932)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

By 1936, the "B" plan was renamed to "C" but without introducing a new "B" plan. Sears could be odd that way. Sears also added an "X" plan that featured an increased height roof to allow more useable space in the attic, similar to what we saw with the Berkley, Michigan Hampton example above. 


Plan 3318-X - Sears Crafton (1936)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

The Crafton made it all the way to the final Sears Modern Homes catalog in 1940. Looking largely unchanged from the 1932 version of the Crafton and not much different from the 1924 Hampton, the Crafton still came in four floor plans - A, C, D and X. 


Catalog image of Sears Crafton (1940)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

To date, I haven't found any Craftons. I'm sure that they are out there but their plain style, the tendency of homeowners to modify them from their original design and the lack of Sears mortgages for these homes will make finding one a challenge!

It's interesting to see that Sears stuck with this house design over so many years, especially in the 1930s when architectural styles like the English Cottage/Tudor and Cape Cod were ascendent. But it's clear from the models that lasted until 1940 that the older style houses, like the Crafton, the Winona and the Vallonia, still had an appeal to certain segments of Sears house purchasers, at least enough to warrant their continuation in the catalog long after the architectural styles they represented were no longer considered popular with the average home buyer. 

2 comments:

  1. This is very informative, and really helpful! Especially considering that this is a common house -- I'm sure I've been thrown off by these changes. Thanks :)
    Judith
    Sears-House-Seeker.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete