Friday, February 24, 2017

Sears Cinderella in Warren, Ohio

Catalog Image of Sears Cinderella
At the end of 2016, I shared a post about the "Missing Models", which were all the "named" models offered by Sears in the Modern Homes catalogs between 1918 and 1940 for which an example had not yet been located. In assembling that list of missing models, I managed to miss one - the Cinderella! But I didn't realize that I had missed it until I recently discovered what appears to be a Sears Cinderella in Warren, Ohio. It was only at that point that I noticed that the Cinderella hadn't made it on the list. I've since updated that post to add the Cinderella and note its discovery. The Cinderella is a rare Sears model but after we review some of the ways to spot one, perhaps you'll find one too. Let's take a look!

I spotted this Sears Cinderella in Warren, Ohio. Located in northeastern Ohio between Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this area of the state includes many cities and towns with Sears houses and Warren is no exception. I was using Google Streetview to drive around Warren when I spotted this house.

1294 Edgewood - Warren, OH - Sears Cinderella
Image courtesy of Google Maps
My first impression of this house was that it was a Sears Oakdale. The design of the front of the house is a perfect match for the early 1920s version of the Oakdale. The matching elements included the:
  • Porch column design
  • Triple vents on the porch gable
  • Rafter tails on the porch gable and the main gable of the house
  • The arrangement of the front windows and door in a pattern of 2 windows - front door - 2 windows. 
You can see how well that matches up with the Oakdale below. 

Catalog Image of Sears Oakdale (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
Only one problem - one of the ways we identify Oakdales is the side entrance door near the front of the house. It's an unusual design element which you can see on the right side of this Sears Oakdale in Mount Prospect, Illinois (this house has a reversed floor plan). The orange arrow points to the door location. 

312 S Emerson - Mount Prospect, IL - Sears Oakdale
Image courtesy of Sears Homes of Chicagoland
As you can see from the house in Warren, there's no side entrance to be seen! Plus, the house in Warren has windows where we don't expect to see them on the Oakdale. 


I scratched my head and thought about this for a little bit, wondering if there was an alternative floor plan for the Oakdale before a light bulb went off in my head! Sears had another model that looked just like the Oakdale called the Cinderella. Perhaps it had a different floor plan that would account for this difference?

First, I went looking in "Houses By Mail" for the Cinderella only to discover, it's not there! As I noted in my post about the "Missing Models", there's a handful of named models that didn't make it into "Houses By Mail" and the Cinderella is one of them. A search online turned up a couple of images of the Cinderella which showed that is has the same front porch design as the Oakdale. 

Catalog Image of Sears Cinderella
More importantly, the floorplan for the Cinderella highlighted some important differences from the Sears Oakdale. 

As you can see from the image from the catalog, the Cinderella has a small rectangular room with two windows on the left hand side of the front of the house which matches what we see on the house in Warren, Ohio. This is in contrast to the Oakdale which has the side door entrance in that location. While it's a little hard to make out in this image, that room is labeled a "Dressing Room", which is odd because that room isn't located adjacent to a bedroom.
Catalog image of Floor Plan of Sears Cinderella
I couldn't figure out how that room was intended to be used until a fellow researcher pointed me to an edition of the 1921 Modern Homes catalog that includes a two page spread for the Cinderella. On the second page, Sears explained that the room was to be used to store portable beds that could be set up at night in the living and dining rooms. Sears would even sell you these portable beds for $70 each!



In case you thought having fewer bedrooms was a hassle, Sears was there to reassure you it wasn't!


More time for rest and recreation? Sign me up! The copywriters that Sears used must have done comedy bits on the side. But what about all this lugging of beds in and out every day? Again, Sears was there to reassure:


Just to prove it was so, they included an illustration of a "young girl" muscling the bed into place!


That solves the mystery of the mysterious dressing room! The house in Warren, Ohio also has a bump out on the left hand side of the house and it's possible that it's original to the house. The small dormer on the roof was likely added later, perhaps to make the attic area into a more useable space.

Looking at the right hand side of the house, the portion of the house that we can see also matches the Cinderella.

1294 Edgewood - Warren, OH - Sears Cinderella
Another difference I found between the Cinderella and the Oakdale which isn't immediately obvious is the size of the houses. The main area of the Cinderella measures 24 feet by 32 feet. In contrast, the Oakdale is larger at 24 feet by 36 feet. Here's the floor plan of the Oakdale showing its larger size and different floor plan inside the house.

Catalog image of Floor Plan of Sears Oakdale (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
Although we can't always get the building dimensions for possible Sears houses, in this case, Warren, Ohio is the county seat for Trumbull County, Ohio, and the Trumbull County Auditor has this information online. The building sketch shows the main dimensions of the house and those match the Cinderella! You can see the sketch doesn't show the bedroom bump out and the porch location is a bit off but this sometimes happens with these sketches. 

1294 Edgewood - Warren, Ohio - Building Sketch
Image courtesy of Trumbull County, Ohio Auditor
Although we don't currently have anything that allows us to authenticate this house as a Sears house, I feel confident with the information that we have to say that this is a Sears Cinderella and that we can remove the Cinderella from the list of "Missing Models".

In researching the Cinderella, I discovered some reasons that could account for why we didn't have any examples of the Cinderella on our list. The primary reason is that it was only offered for a couple of years in the 1920 and 1921 Modern Homes catalogs. That fact alone will limit the number of possible houses we can expect to find. Because it was offered before Sears was really pushing people to finance houses with mortgages from Sears, the likelihood of finding this house through mortgage records is pretty low. Instead, this is an example we'll most likely find doing what I did - looking around neighborhoods for Sears homes. 

It's pretty easy to see why the Cinderella was only offered for two years. While the design of the front of the house is attractive with many lovely Arts and Crafts-influenced elements, the interior floor plan is, to put it politely, a mess! While Sears had good intentions with the dressing room, it probably struck many potential homeowners as odd. It didn't help that it was nowhere near the bathroom or bedroom (which is why it had a corner sink, another oddity). Did you catch that about the bedroom - it only has one! Even in an era when people didn't live in McMansion-sized houses, most houses of this size had at least 2 bedrooms. The efficiency of rolling beds out each night to make use of existing rooms probably didn't appeal to a lot of buyers. Even the location of the bathroom was unusual for a Sears house. Typically, the bathroom was placed in a location where a guest could reach it without first passing a bedroom, which is not the case with the Cinderella. 

Catalog image of Floor Plan of Sears Cinderella
While prospective homeowners weren't necessarily experts on what made for good home design, many people must have looked past this plan to choose a different model. When a plan didn't sell, Sears would drop it from the catalog. In the case of the Cinderella, after a couple of years, it disappeared from view. 

1294 Edgewood - Warren, Ohio - Sears Cinderella
Image courtesy of Trumbull County, Ohio Auditor
Unlike most other house plans that didn't sell, Sears didn't give up on the look of the Cinderella. Instead, they went back to the drawing board - literally - and changed the design of the house by extending the house a few feet, redesigning the interior floor plan to fix the unwieldy aspects of the Cinderella floor plan and added a second bedroom. From those changes, the Sears Oakdale was born! 

First appearing in the 1923 Modern Homes catalog, the Oakdale appeared for many years in the catalog. With a few tweaks to its appearance over the years, the Oakdale continued to be a popular model for Sears. As of today, we have over 80 examples of it on our national database of Sears homes. In contrast, the Cinderella is a rare house. But if you find a house that looks just like the early Sears Oakdale but doesn't match up exactly, check out the Cinderella. You may have found a match for this rare Sears model. Know of an example of the Cinderella, the Oakdale or any other local Sears houses? Let us know in the comments!

3 comments:

  1. Hello Andrew! I think the Cinderella layout is about as strange as they come, which is probably why it wasn't a big seller. I think the "dressing room" in thought was to hide a roll away bed and maybe some other things used for guests. It's hard to imagine a home with less than two bedrooms. How much more could it have cost? Just my thinking and I am pretty conservative.

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  2. Gee I wonder why it didn't sell with an unusable room in a small house to begin with. :)

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  3. Well, I can see that this might have been handy for folks building vacation homes at the lake or the shore, or something like that? I love the explanations in the '21 catalog :)
    Great job figuring out the Cinderella vs Oakdale difference. I'll bet we've missed a few of these along the way.
    Judith
    Sears-House-Seeker.blogspot.com

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