Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Missing Models

1936 Sears Modern Homes Catalog
Image courtesy of Archive.org
Now that the national database of Sears houses has passed the 6,000 house mark, I decided to go through the list of models that have been found and see what's yet to be discovered. Depending on what source you use and how you count them, there are between 370 and 450 different models that Sears offered through the Modern Homes catalog. The database currently contains examples of over 300 different models. Which models are we still trying to find? Let's take a look!

Friday, December 23, 2016

6,000 Houses and Rolling

Back in August, I shared an update that the national database of Sears homes had reached the 5,000 home mark. Four months later, the list has reached and passed the 6,000 home mark! That's a pretty amazing pace of growth, especially when one considers that it was at less than 3,000 homes at the beginning of 2016.

15 Stone Ave - Ossining, NY - Sears Verona
Image courtesy of Trulia
This progress is the result of the tireless efforts of a group of dedicated Sears house researchers located all over the country. By combining our efforts, we've been able to accomplish what none of us could have done on our own. At the same time, we are all learning from each other and with each house added to the list, we're becoming better at finding even more houses.

While it will be a challenge to keep up that pace of growth in 2017, it's pretty exciting to think that we're on track to have identified at least 10% of the total numbers of homes that were likely sold during the 30+ years of the Sears Roebuck Modern Homes program (assuming 70,000 houses sold). Ten percent may not sound like much. But when the list started, it had just over 700 homes or 1% of the total homes sold. That's progress!

66 Cleveland - Croton-on-Hudson, NY - Sears Carroll
Authenticated with a Sears Mortgage
Image courtesy of Zillow
One aspect of the progress that I'm pleased to report is that almost 40% of the homes have been authenticated through official records like mortgages and deeds, official correspondence with Sears, ads and stories from newspapers and information from homeowners. That means that there are now thousands of homes where we can definitively state that they are Sears homes. That set of authenticated homes is providing researchers with an invaluable source of examples to use for comparison when evaluating new finds. I know we'll continue to grow those numbers are we go forward in 2017!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sears Mortgages of the Town of Cortlandt, New York

As I shared recently, one of my research projects this winter is revisiting the Sears mortgages of the communities of Westchester County, New York. The most recent set of mortgages that I've reviewed is for the Town of Cortlandt, which lies in the northwest portion of Westchester County. For the time period I reviewed, I found almost 80 Sears mortgages. Although I didn't find as many houses as I did in Yonkers, New York, I did find quite a few, a couple which I'll share below. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wardway Astoria in Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Croton-on-Hudson, a small village in northwestern Westchester County, New York was on our kit house radar before I started reviewing mortgage records for the area. Several houses from Sears had been identified either through real estate ads or from building permit records. I was hoping that a review of mortgage records would turn up more kit houses and I wasn't disappointed! To date, we've been able to identify over 30 kit houses in Croton-on-Hudson and I expect more will turn up as we continuing to locate houses.

One of the discoveries is a house that was sold for a number of years by Wardway, first as the "Waverly" and later as the "Astoria". Although this must have been a popular house for Montgomery Ward, it's the first example I've seen and I was able to authenticate it with a mortgage. Even better, the house was listed for sale in 2016 so we can take a closer look at both the inside and outside of the house. Let's check it out!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wardway Winthrop in Montrose, New York

Although we are still a week away from the Winter Solstice, winter weather has made itself felt here in Michigan. The chilly winds and freezing temperatures of December herald the start of "research season" when kit house hunters hunker down with a hot beverage and a fast Internet connection and while away the hours of cold winter evenings tracking down kit houses.

One of my kit house projects for this winter is revisiting the mortgage records of Westchester County, New York. My focus the past couple of weeks has been the mortgages in the Town of Cortlandt and adjacent City of Peekskill. As I've been locating and identifying houses, I've found a few interesting examples of kit house models that we rarely see. I plan on sharing some of those houses over the next week or two. Let's check out today's example from Montrose, New York, the Wardway Winthrop!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Still Looking for Sears Houses in these States

I recently wrote about the states with the highest number of identified Sears houses on our national database of Sears homes. To date, the database includes houses from 42 states including Alaska, the District of Columbia and the Province of Ontario, Canada. That leaves 8 states where we don't have examples of Sears homes in the database. Those states are:

  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
  • Washington
Why don't we have any houses from those states? 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Kit House Reading List - December 2016

If you haven't seen the latest posts from some of my favorite kit house bloggers, check them out!

Sears Homes of ChicagolandWe've Come a Long Way, Baby: Lara explains the importance of the national database of Sears homes while sharing some very rare examples of Sears models that can be found in the database.

Sears Houses in Ohio - A Sears House under serious restoration: Cindy and Frank make a road trip to the home of Studebaker, South Bend, Indiana and along the way, stop and see a Sears House being restored. But this house isn't just any old Sears house, it's one of the handful of known Sears Magnolias! Wendy and I visited this Magnolia a while back and it was in rough shape but it's clearly now in the hands of owners intent on restoring it back to its former glory!

Sears House Seeker - Gordon-Van Tine 140: Judith does an in-depth exploration of an early catalog house from Gordon-Van Tine, the #140, including homeowner photos of their house and original blueprints!

American Kit Homes - Sears Sherwood in Leetsdale, PA: The Sherwood was only offered for two years in the Sears Modern Homes catalog and only a few examples of this house have been found. Nigel recently located a possible Sherwood in Pennsylvania. Here's a chance to see another example of a rare Sears model.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lewis Homes in Washington DC

Logo of the city of Washington DC's
Historic Preservation Office
The week has brought a bit of excitement to my circle of kit house researchers. The reason? The city of Washington DC's Historic Preservation Office placed online a massive database of information related to over 100,000 structures located within the boundaries of the District. Among those structures are hundreds of catalog/kit houses from the major kit house companies including Aladdin, Gordon- Van Tine, Lewis, Sears and Sterling. That database has been a treasure trove of information for my group of kit house researchers, helping us to authenticate dozens of houses that had previously been identified and allowing us to discover catalog/kit houses that had not previously been identified. It's also giving us a deeper understanding of the activities of the different kit house companies in Washington DC, one of which I'll explore a little further in this post.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sears Elmhurst in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania

This year, I've had quite the good fortune to locate a number of examples of the Sears Elmhurst, a high end model offered by Sears from 1929 - 1932. It's been a few months since I last spotted one but tonight, I came across another one, this time in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Aliquippa is located about 25 miles outside of Pittsburgh, which had an active sales office for Sears Modern Homes. This Elmhurst is currently listed for sale. Let's take a look!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Where are the Sears Houses?

The national database of Sears houses recently cruised past 5,500 identified Sears houses. To mark that accomplishment, I thought it would be a good time to take a deeper dive into the database to see what those 5,500 plus homes can tell us about Sears kit houses. While there are some limitations to how much we can extrapolate from this information, it does give us an outline of where Sears homes were built. Let's look at the numbers!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Another Custom Wardway House in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Image from 1929 Wardway Homes Catalog
Almost a year ago, I shared the discovery of a custom house from Wardway (Montgomery Ward) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Fellow kit house researcher Cindy Catanzaro recognized the design from a catalog image which, along with a mortgage record, helped us to authenticate the house, Earlier this year, I shared another example of the same design that I found in Berkley, Michigan, that was also authenticated with a mortgage record. Now, I've found another example of this house design in Ann Arbor on the same road as the first Ann Arbor house, also with a mortgage record.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sears Rembrandt in Bloomfield Township, Michigan

Catalog image of Sears Rembrandt (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
Wendy and I recently did a presentation for the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society on kit homes in and around West Bloomfield Township, Michigan. A couple houses that were featured in the photo tour section of the presentation are located in the northwest portion of Bloomfield Township, which lies directly east of West Bloomfield Township (of course!) Somehow in the process of doing some last minute edits to the presentation, I accidently deleted the slide for the Sears Rembrandt that we found in Bloomfield Township. For those who attended the presentation, here's one that we missed sharing!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thank You West Bloomfield!

Last night, Wendy and I were delighted to do a presentation on "Kit Homes in Michigan" for the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society at the West Bloomfield Township Public Library. The Historical Society covers the communities of Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake, Sylvan Lake and West Bloomfield which provided us with the opportunity to highlight the many kit houses that are found in those communities as well as the northwest portion of Bloomfield Township. Thank you to the Historical Society and the Library for giving us the opportunity to talk about catalog and kit homes.

2071 Maddy Ln - Keego Harbor, MI - Sears Crescent
It was a wonderful audience that filled the library's meeting room. They laughed at some of our jokes and asked several good questions. We were fortunate to have a couple of kit house owners in the audience too. It's always great to hear first hand from the owners themselves about their homes. For those who weren't able to attend, I'll be highlighting some of the homes that we shared in the presentation. For those who did attend, welcome and take the time to explore further!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sears Lexington Testimonial House in Chatham, New Jersey

Cover of 1932 Sears Modern Homes Catalog
Image courtesy of Archive.org
One of the ways that we track down catalog and kit houses is by locating "testimonial" houses found in catalogs and promotional material put out by the kit house companies. As I explained in the post about a "testimonial" Sears Sherburne located in Fulton, New York, these customer testimonials sometimes include enough information to enable kit house researchers to locate these homes if they are still standing today.

Many of the known testimonial houses have already been located which made it a bit of a surprise that I wasn't able to find any references online to the testimonial house of Dr. Frederick and Mrs. Lum of Chatham, New Jersey. A photo of their house from Sears was included in the 1932 Sears Modern Homes catalog. So I decided to see if I could find it...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sears Willard in Waterford, Michigan

6372 Cleveland - Waterford, Michigan - Sears Willard
Image courtesy of Zillow.com
One of the ways that we discover kit houses is to scour real estate ads with an eye for potential candidates. I recently shared a few kit houses for sale that I located in online real estate listings. Today, I found a few more houses in the area that are for sale including a Sears Willard in Waterford, Michigan. Although I already had this Willard on my list of known houses in Waterford, the real estate listing gives us a chance to get inside and see a Sears house that still has some of the original features. Let's take a tour!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sears Vallonia in Ferndale, Michigan

Wendy and I with Nicole Curtis and Tessa.
Tessa is a cancer survivor who Nicole and her fans
have helped support through fundraisers. 
Wendy and I were in Ferndale, Michigan recently to tour the latest project by Nicole Curtis. You may know her from her show "Rehab Addict" where she primarily restores (versus renovates) old homes back to their original glory. As homeowners who consider ourselves as caretakers of our Sears catalog house, we've always been fans of her approach. She respects the historic character of the homes she works on and attempts to maintain that character versus the gut and modernize approach you often see in many home "improvement" shows. I knew from my list of Sears mortgages for Oakland County that there is a Sears Vallonia on the same block as Nicole's project house. After we finished our tour of the house, Wendy and I walked down the block to take a couple photos of the Vallonia.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Post Impressions Entry - "Hidden in Plain Sight"

"Hidden in Plain Sight" (on the right)
Post Impressions Entry
Wendy and I are always looking for opportunities to educate people about catalog and kit houses in their community. When we heard about the "Post Impressions" Street Art exhibition in Waterford where I work, we jumped at the chance to put together an entry that features the history of catalog and kit houses with a focus on the houses in Waterford. You can see our entry directly south of the Buffalo Wild Wings across from the pathway that leads down to the Riverwalk.
Link to location in Google Maps

Waterford is home to over 75 identified catalog and kit houses, many of them authenticated with mortgages. However, many people in the area aren't aware that Waterford is home to so many of these houses. That's why we shamelessly borrowed the title for our entry - "Hidden in Plain Sight" - from our fellow kit house researcher Lara Solonicke (with her blessing!) who uses this phrase to explain the fact that often times people know of these homes without being aware that they were ordered from a catalog. We hope that our entry will make people more aware of all of the homes in Waterford and about the topic of catalog and kit homes. If you are interested in learning more, we've put together a page specifically about the homes in Waterford.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sears Houses of Massapequa Park, New York - Tyrconnell Avenue

September 14, 1930 - "Brooklyn Daily Eagle"
Image courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library
When we last visited Massapequa Park, I shared a number of Sears houses found on Grand Boulevard and Pacific Street. The models on those streets include some of the most popular models from the 1920s. But Massapequa has more than just 1920s era Sears houses. On the south side of the village are two streets where you can find ten houses that represent three different models of Sears houses that were popular in the early 1930s. Eight of those houses are located on Tyrconnell Avenue.

Sears Houses of Massapequa Park, New York - Glengariff Road


Catalog image of Sears Stratford
Image courtesy of Antique Home 
The last street in southern Massapequa Park where we've found Sears kit houses is Glengariff Road, one street south of Tyrconnell Avenue. These houses were part of the same order of 10 Sears houses that was placed in late 1930 as part of the development of Section "H" of Massapequa Park. There are just two Sears houses on Glengariff - a Sears Strathmore and next door, a Sears Stratford. As we've found on Tyrconnell Avenue, the Strathmore appears to be a substitution for the Sears Hillsboro, which had been listed among the models to be built in this area.

Sears Worchester in East Lansing, Michigan

Catalog image of Sears Worchester (1929)
Image courtesy of Antique Home
I recently shared an example of the Sears Newark in White Plains, New York. As I noted, sightings of the Newark and its brick faced fraternal twin, the Worchester, have been few and far between. I recently came across a Sears mortgage that led me to this Sears Worchester in East Lansing, Michigan. During a recent trip to the Lansing area, we were able to get some good photos of the house. These photos should help you see several of the elements that will aid in identifying this model.

The Sears Worchester at 845 Touraine in East Lansing is located right off of Saginaw Street, one of the main east-west roads through the city. Many people in town have driven past this house and likely never realized that they were driving past a Sears catalog house. Let's take a look!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sears Newark in White Plains, New York

Catalog image of Sears Newark (1930)
Image courtesy of Sears Homes of Chicagoland
As I've been reviewing mortgages in the Town of Greenburgh, New York, I've run across some of the less common examples of Sears houses, like the Sears Elmhurst that I shared recently. Another house that I located through a mortgage record is this Sears Newark located in White Plains, New York. There are a number of Sears houses located in the surrounding neighborhood but this Newark is one that stood out because there's been so few examples identified to date. This Newark is one of two that I've been able to identify and authenticate from the mortgage records in Greenburgh.

Kit Houses for Sale - September 2016

Do you want to own your own kit house? If you're in the market for a "new" old house, there are several kit houses currently on the market in southeastern Michigan.

Catalog image of Sears Starlight
Image courtesy of Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Sears Dover - Waterford, Michigan: This Sears Dover and its next door neighbor, also a Dover have been authenticated with Sears mortgages for $4,800 each in August 1928. There are at least 15 Sears kit houses in the Maceday Gardens subdivision.

Sears Starlight - Birmingham, Michigan: A completely renovated Starlight in Birmingham. This house has been authenticated with a mortgage from Sears for $3,000 in 1923.

Sears Claremont - Ortonville, Michigan: Although not noted in the listing, this Sears Claremont is an authenticated Sears house. It was purchased with a mortgage from Sears in February 1929. 

Sears Windsor - Eastpointe, Michigan: Eastpointe is home to several Sears houses in addition to this Windsor. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Massapequa Park Mystery Solved?

The "fact" that first brought us to look for Sears houses in Massapequa Park was the statement in an article from January 1990 that:
Image Credit
"One of the largest single sales, according to Sears records, was 100 homes to a developer in East Massapequa, N.Y., which was incorporated as Massapequa Park in 1931."
As I noted in the introduction to the Sears Houses of Massapequa Park, the prospect that there were at least 100 Sears homes to be found has drawn many a kit house researcher to the virtual streets of Massapequa Park. But having viewed in Google Streetview just about every street in the Village of Massapequa Park and the adjacent areas of East Massapequa, I'm pretty confident in saying there's not 100 Sears houses to be found. Streets with some of the largest models offered by Sears? Yes! Streets with multiple Sears houses? Yes! Sears houses from the 1920s and 1930s? Yes! But 100 Sears houses? No!

But I do think I've figured out how the "100 homes" from Sears story got started....

Sears Elmhurst in Hastings-on-Hudson

For the past month, I've been working to finish up my research on Sears mortgages in Yonkers, New York. Now that I've almost completed that, I've turned my attention to the Town of Greenburgh, New York, which lies directly north of Yonkers. Greenburgh is home to six incorporated villages and in one of those villages, Hastings-on-Hudson, a record for a Sears mortgage led me to another Sears Elmhurst! This is the third Elmhurst that I've located in Westchester County and unlike the other two, this appears to be based on a customized design.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Sears Mortgages of Yonkers, New York - The Early Years

The Official Seal of the City of Yonkers
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
After completing my first round of searches for Sears mortgages in Yonkers, NY for the years starting with 1926, I turned my attention to the previous set of mortgage records which covered from 1918 - 1925. While there are not as many Sears mortgages in this time period, I've still been able to track down a number of houses from these records. As with the later mortgages, this is still a work in progress but I thought it would be helpful to share the numbers on the houses that have been found so far along with a few examples. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sears Mortgages of Yonkers, New York - Update

The Official Seal of the City of Yonkers
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Earlier this year, I shared the initial results of my research into Sears mortgages for houses in Yonkers, New York for the time period between 1926 - 1932. Since that time, I've continued to do more research on the mortgages I had not previously connected to a house and a handful of additional ones that I've found since January 2016. As I was working on those mortgages again recently, I thought it would be a good time to share a progress report with updated numbers and a few more examples of houses that I've been able to authenticate using the mortgages.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

5000 Sears Houses

48 Ridge Rd - Yonkers, NY - Sears Rembrandt
Image courtesy of the City of Yonkers, NY 
Exactly 4 months ago, I reported that the national database of Sears houses had passed the 4,000 house mark. I'm pleased to report that today, the list has grown to over 5,000 houses. Many of the houses that have been added over the past 4 months have been authenticated via mortgage and deed records, like this Sears Rembrandt in Yonkers, NY. Almost 40% of the houses on the list are now considered authenticated using methods ranging from property records to blueprints to personal correspondence with Sears. Help us grow the list by sharing any Sears houses that you know of in the comments below.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sears Winthrop in Commerce Township, Michigan

When I reviewed the Sears mortgages in Oakland County, Michigan, I discovered exactly one house in Commerce Township, Michigan. This wasn't entirely surprisingly as Commerce Township was primarily a farming community during the period that Sears was selling houses with mortgages. But there was a railroad line that ran through southern Commerce Township and there was areas that had been platted around some of the many lakes in Commerce. It was in one of these platted lakeside subdivisions where we found this Sears Winthrop.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Welcome Atlas Obscura Readers!

If you landed here from the Atlas Obscura article about kit houses, check out these links to learn more about what we do and about the history of kit houses.
After you visit the blog, join the Sears Modern Homes Facebook page to see many more examples of kit houses from Sears and other kit house companies. Interested in reading more? Check out the kit house blogs linked under "More about Catalog and Kit Homes" on the right hand side of the page. Thank you for visiting!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sears Vallonia in South Whitley, Indiana


406 North State St - South Whitley, Indiana - Sears Vallonia
Over the Memorial Day weekend, Wendy and I spent a couple of days kit house hunting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with two of the top experts in kit houses, Rebecca Hunter and Dale Wolicki (more on that soon!) After we all parted ways, Wendy and I made our way through the back roads of North Central Indiana on our way to Lake Michigan. Our route included a drive through South Whitley, Indiana where I had seen a real estate listing for a possible Sears house. South Whitley is your quintessential one stoplight, Midwestern farming community with a small "Main Street" downtown surrounded by neighborhoods of older homes and miles of farmland. You can often find at least one or two examples of kit houses in towns like this and South Whitley has at least one house we believe is from Sears Roebuck.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Curious Case of the Sears Claremont in Waterford, Michigan

61 Cristy - Waterford, Michigan
After first discovering the real estate listing for the Sears Hamilton in Waterford, Michigan, I drove over to Cristy Street to check it out. Just a few houses down on the same block, another house caught my eye. At first glance, it looked like a Sears Claremont. But something didn't look right. I realized that while the overall layout of the house matched the Claremont, the front entry did not. It was close. But the angles on the roofline of the front entry were off. While we know that changes can happen to the exterior of homes that will cause them to not match the catalog image, I just didn't feel confident that I could say that behind that slightly skewed entry was a Sears Claremont.

Kit House Reading List - May 2016

Sears Willard in Fort Mitchell, Kentcuky
Photo courtesy of Cindy Cantanzaro
If you haven't seen the latest posts from some of my favorite kit house bloggers, check them out!

Kit Houses of Fenton, Michigan

Historic Railroad Depot in Fenton
On Saturday, May 14, 2016, Wendy and I did a presentation on "Michigan Kit Homes" at the Jack R. Winegarden Library in Fenton. As part of that presentation, we featured four possible kit houses that we located in Fenton. As we stated in the presentation, we haven't yet authenticated any of the houses. But the four houses all look to be good examples of the models offered by several kit house manufacturers. Let's take a quick tour of the four houses that we found. All four houses are located in the same area of town - north of the railroad tracks and east of North Leroy Street.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sears Hamilton in Waterford, Michigan


101 Cristy - Waterford, Michigan - Sears Hamilton
Recently, Wendy and I were driving home from doing a couple of presentations on kit houses when our drive home took us through Waterford, Michigan. I took a short detour to share with her a kit house I knew she would recognize immediately. Like our house, this kit house on Cristy Street in Waterford is a Sears Hamilton! Like our house, it still has many of the distinctive features of the Hamilton model. This Sears Hamilton in Waterford, Michigan was built around 1928 and is located in the "Crescent Lake Highlands" subdivision.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Custom Wardway House in Berkley, Michigan

Image from 1929 Wardway Homes Catalog
Back in November 2015, I shared the story about how I was able to authenticate a custom designed Wardway house in Ann Arbor, Michigan with the help of fellow kit house researcher Cindy Catanzaro. Once we put together the pieces of the puzzle that verified that the house was a custom design, I assumed that was the end of the story. But it turns out that there's another chapter to this house, or at least the design of the house. While the house in Ann Arbor matches the design shown in the 1929 Wardway catalog, it's not the only house that I've found that is based on this design. In Berkley, Michigan, I've found another house that also has a Wardway mortgage and also appears to match this design.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sears Dover in Waterford, Michigan

Catalog image of Sears Dover (1935)
Image courtesy of AntiqueHome
First introduced in 1928 Modern Homes catalog, the Sears Dover was a popular model for Sears. It was the largest and most expensive of several "English cottage" designs that first appeared in the 1928 catalog. The Dover's continued popularity with house buyers was demonstrated by the fact that it continued to be offered by Sears through the final Modern Homes catalog in 1940. I've found 10 examples of the Sears Dover in Oakland County searching mortgage records for houses financed through Sears Roebuck. This Sears Dover in Waterford Township is one of four examples that can be found in the Township which is home to over 50 authenticated Sears houses.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sears Elmhurst in Silver Spring, Maryland

As I previously shared in my post about the Sears mortgages of Montgomery County, one of the Sears houses that I located through mortgage records was a Sears Elmhurst. Similar to the Elmhursts I've authenticated in the New York City area, this house had a substantial mortgage of $11,000. The mortgage between Edwards D. Ford and Allen H. Gardner was recorded in September 1930 which means the house was likely constructed in either late 1930 or early 1931.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Kit House Reading List - April 2016

Photo Copyright
FreeStockImages.org
Some of my favorite kit house researchers have been busy sharing great new posts about kit houses. Go and give them a read!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Update on Sears Mortgages of Takoma Park, Maryland

208 Hodges - Takoma Park, MD - Sears Hathaway
Image courtesy of Bing Maps
In March, I shared an initial review of the Sears mortgages in Takoma Park, Maryland. Since that update, I've identified a couple more houses bringing the current total for Sears houses with mortgages financed by Sears Roebuck in Takoma Park to 60! Examples of the models found in Takoma Park include this rare variation of the Sears Hathaway with unclipped gables. I've updated the original post to reflect the updated numbers including the number of each kind of model house found in Takoma Park. Read the updated post!

Monday, April 11, 2016

4,000!

5316 Gallatin - Hyattsville, MD - Sears Hathaway
Image courtesy of MRIS
Back in February, I shared how the national database of Sears houses had passed the 3,000 house mark. Just 2 months later, I'm pleased to report that thanks to the over 100 Sears houses in Prince George's County, Maryland that I added today, the list has cleared the 4,000 house mark! Among the 4,000 entries are over 1,500 authenticated Sears houses, most -  like the Sears Hathaway to the right - have been confirmed through mortgage and deed records. Although these 4,000 houses only represent approximately 5% of the estimated 70,000 homes sold by Sears through their Modern Homes Division, it's still the most comprehensive known list of likely and authenticated Sears homes. As I said before, it's only going to get bigger and better over time! If you know of any Sears houses in your town, let us know with a comment.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sears Mortgages of Prince George's County, Maryland

Seal of Prince George's County, Maryland
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Back in February, I shared the results of the mortgage research I did in Montgomery County, Maryland, where over 100 Sears houses were authenticated using mortgage records. Like Montgomery County, Prince George's County is a suburb of Washington DC, sharing a border with most of the northeast and southeast portions of the District. Through researching mortgage records for the County, I've been able to authenticate over Sears 100 homes in Prince George's County. The total number of homes authenticated to date exceeds the number authenticated in Montgomery County. Together with the homes authenticated in Washington DC and Montgomery County, I've been able to authenticate almost 450 Sears homes in Washington DC and the surrounding Maryland suburbs.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Lewis Stuyvesant in Yonkers, New York

Catalog image of Lewis Stuyvesant
Image courtesy of Archive.org
My discovery of mortgages for Lewis houses in Yonkers, New York led me to several examples of Lewis kit houses. One of the houses is a Lewis Stuyvesant. The Stuyvesant was a large Dutch Colonial Revival model that was offered by Lewis in the early 1920s. The earliest catalog I've found that includes the Stuyvesant is from 1920. I have also seen it in the 1922 and 1924 catalogs that are available at Archive.org and it's listed in the index for the 1925 catalog, which is the last year that Lewis featured most of the larger models in their catalogs. Starting in 1926, the catalogs from Lewis featured their "Liberty" line of homes that were primarily smaller, unadorned models that were sold on the basis of their affordability. It appears that there was no room in the Lewis product line for these grand houses that competed with the larger models offered by Sears and other kit house competitors.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Lewis Sherman in Yonkers, New York

Catalog Image of Lewis Sherman (1924)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
I recently went back to work on researching Sears mortgages in Yonkers, New York for the time period between 1918 - 1925. As I was reviewing the Westchester County mortgage records for Yonkers, I came across a handful of mortgages from other kit house companies including Lewis Homes and McClure. I've previously found mortgages for McClure but this is the first time I've found mortgages for Lewis Homes. Even better, those mortgages led me to some examples of Lewis homes that I was able to identify. I'll be sharing the houses that I've found starting with the Lewis Sherman.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sears Alhambras of Westchester County, New York

Catalog image of Sears Alhambra (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
The Sears Alhambra is one of the more interesting kit house models that Sears offered. First offered in the 1918 catalog, the Alhambra was Sears attempt to capture the flavor of the Mission Revival style architecture that enjoyed some popularity around the turn of the century. While the basic form of the Alhambra was the traditional foursquare house, the addition of Mission-style parapets to the dormers and porch paired with a stucco finish gave the house a much different flavor than most of the more traditional architectural styles offered by Sears.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Update on Sears Mortgages of Washington DC

A few months ago, I shared the results of the research I had done of Sears mortgages for houses in Washington DC. Recently, I've been able to add more houses to the list thanks to the discovery of another name for a trustee whose name appeared on Sears mortgages. These mortgages cover the time period from summer 1932 through late fall 1933. Sears stopped financing homes either in late 1933 or early 1934 so I believe that these are likely the last group of Sears mortgages yet to be discovered for Washington DC.

From this latest group of mortgages, I've been able to identify seven homes representing seven different models, four of which are new to the list of models found in Washington DC. This brings the number of identified Sears houses with mortgages in Washington DC to 230. These 230 houses represent 77 different models.
1717 34st St NW - Washington DC - Sears Worchester Photo courtesy of Catarina Bannier
The four new models are:
In addition to the models listed, there may be additional models or a possible Sears custom house in the houses that haven't been identified yet. Hopefully, additional research will reveal more information about these houses. I've also updated the original post to reflect these new discoveries. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sears Mortgages of Takoma Park, Maryland

Seal of the City of Takoma Park
In a recent post, I shared some numbers on Sears mortgages in Montgomery County, Maryland. The community with the most houses with mortgages financed by Sears Roebuck was Takoma Park, Maryland with 45. What I didn't know at the time is that for many years, a portion of Takoma Park was located in Prince George's County. It wasn't until 1997 that the border between the two counties was adjusted to place all of Takoma Park within Montgomery County. That meant that there were likely more houses with mortgages from Sears located in the portion of Takoma Park previously located in Prince George's County. Having completed a preliminary review of the Sears mortgages for Prince George's County, I now have been able to identify another 15 houses with mortgages from Sears in Takoma Park. The discovery of the name of another Sears trustee led to the discovery of some additional homes in Montgomery County too. In total, to date, I've been able to identity 60 Sears houses with mortgages in Takoma Park, Maryland. Let's check out the numbers and photos of some of the houses that have been authenticated.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sears Gateshead in Washington DC

Catalog image of Sears Gateshead (1935)
Image courtesy of Antique Home

About a month ago, I shared a house in the Poet's Corner area of Hartsdale, New York that I was pretty sure was a Sears Gateshead. Pretty sure...but I didn't have any way to authenticate it as a Sears houses (unlike the other Sears houses in the area that had mortgages). Today, I'm able to share a Sears Gateshead with you with 100% confidence that it's the real deal. Why? Because this one comes with a mortgage from Sears! I discovered this Gateshead after discovering a new name of a person who served as a trustee for Sears and whose name appeared on mortgages in 1932 and 1933 from Washington DC. His name appeared on the mortgage for this house for $4,300 in October 1933. That's a little background on the house, let's see some photos!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sears Birmingham in Baltimore, Maryland

Catalog image of Sears Birmingham (1932)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
When I did my 2015 "year in review", I promised to do more short posts that just highlighted houses I've discovered. Here's my first of the year to keep that promise! I came across this Sears Birmingham through researching Sears mortgages in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. This is the first Birmingham that I've seen and the first to be added to our nationwide list of Sears houses. The Birmingham's first and last appearance was in the 1932 Modern Homes catalog. When I looked this up, I was surprised by this fact. You'll find elements of this design in houses built in cities across the country. But apparently this wasn't a popular plan and Sears ditched it after 1 year. "Houses by Mail" claims that the Birmingham also appeared in the 1931 and 1933 catalogs but I've found no evidence of that. Lemeul C. and Mayre W. Dunbar financed their house through Sears Roebuck for $7,000 in February 1932. Let's look at some pictures of the house!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sears Mortgages of Montgomery County, Maryland

Seal of Montgomery County, Maryland
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
A couple months ago, I shared the results of research I had done into mortgages financed by Sears Roebuck for kit houses located in Washington DC. At current count, Catarina Bannier and I have located and/or authenticated over 220 Sears house within the borders of Washington DC. One of the houses that had a mortgage in Washington DC was a Sears Elmhurst. I had a feeling that there had to be at least one more Elmhurst in the Washington DC suburbs where we knew a number of Sears houses had been built. I asked Catarina where such a high-end Sears kit might have been built and she suggested Montgomery County, Maryland, which surrounds DC to the west, north and a portion of the northeast side. She was right! Not only did the Sears mortgages of Montgomery County lead me to another Sears Elmhurst, they've helped Catarina and I locate and authenticate over 100 Sears houses.

Sears Torrington in Annapolis, Maryland

Flag of Annapolis, Maryland
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
The past few weeks, I've been working on authenticating Sears houses in the Maryland counties that border Washington DC. I've found over 100 houses so far and I'll be sharing information about the first round of homes soon! While researching those mortgages, I also searched a few other Maryland cities to see what other Sears houses I could locate using mortgage records. I've traced back several mortgages to several Sears houses that are considered rarities in the world of Sears homes. Among those discoveries is a Sears Torrington in Annapolis, Maryland, a house that - to date - I'm not aware has been located by Sears kit house researchers. What makes this discovery even more interesting is that this Torrington - or more accurately, the family that purchased this Torrington - has a deeper connection to Sears houses than I first thought.