Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Early Sears Houses of Massapequa Park

Sears Priscilla
Massapequa Park, New York
As I outlined in a series of blog posts, through the work of several kit house researchers, we've been able to document the location of several dozen Sears kit houses located in Massapequa Park, New York. While we haven't been able to authenticate those houses with mortgages, newspaper articles from the early 1930s helped us identify and authenticate the ten houses that were built on Glengariff Road and Tyrconnell Avenue. But one Sears connection we weren't able to establish are the houses that are located on the north side of Massapequa Park. That is until now. Thanks to some sleuthing by a fellow kit house researcher, we can now demonstrate that the houses on the north side of Massapequa Park are also from Sears Roebuck. Let me show you how!

To date, there have been 25 houses that match known Sears models identified in the section of Massapequa Park north of the Long Island Railroad. Most of these houses can be found along Grand Boulevard and Pacific Street. Based on the models that were built and when those models were offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, we knew that these houses were likely built around 1925 - 1926. Because of the proximity of the houses to each other and the wide range of models that were built, I suspected that at least some of these were model homes built by a developer, perhaps to help promote the development. This isn't such a far-fetched idea. I've seen examples of this locally to me in Hazel Park and Berkley, Michigan where a developer purchased and built houses from Sears to use as model homes for his developments. But I never was able to make that connection here in Massapequa Park.

Recently, one of my fellow kit house researchers - Sarah M. - who blogs at Catalog Homes of Western New York, shared with our group of researchers that she had found a foreclosure notice for a mortgage between Sears trustee William C. Reed and a homeowner that Sarah had traced back to Grand Boulevard in Massapequa Park. Finally! Our first connection putting a Sears mortgage on Grand Boulevard in Massapequa Park. But what turned out to be more helpful was the reference in the foreclosure notice to the location of the house in the "Hollywood Gardens" plat in Massapequa Park. It had not occurred to me to look for the plat name for the lots where these houses are located. That's in part because those original plats are often not found in current property descriptions for houses in New York state. But this reference to "Hollywood Gardens" was fortuitous because it served as a reference point to learn more about the history of this area and why so many Sears houses came to be located there.

Heading over to one of my favorite resources for historical newspapers, FultonHistory.com, I did some searches on "Hollywood Gardens" to see what I could find. What I learned from the articles that I found was that "Hollywood Gardens" was the name of a development in the area of Long Island that became Massapequa Park. According to news reports, the development was about 300 acres in size and included 4,500 building lots(!) and covered the area where we've found Sears houses north of the Long Island Railroad in Massapequa Park. "Hollywood Gardens" was the brainchild of brothers J. Frank and Jasper D. Ogden of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to a news article from May 1925, the brothers were building "24 different types of homes to sell from $4,150 to $15,000". An article from March 1925 stated that "twenty houses" were "under construction for the early spring market". This is consistent with the range of houses that have been found in Massapequa Park with models ranging in size from the modest to some of the largest houses offered by Sears Roebuck.

The first clue that "Hollywood Gardens" did have a connection to Sears came with this ad for the development from May 1925.

"Hollywood Gardens" Advertisement in Brooklyn Standard Union
Image courtesy of FultonHistory.com
See that house in the ad? That's a Sears "Verona". The very first house that you'll see heading north on Grand Boulevard in Massapequa Park, New York? Yup, a Sears "Verona". Here it is at 57 Grand Boulevard.

Sears Verona - 57 Grand Boulevard - Massapequa Park, New York
Image courtesy of Nassau County Land Records Viewer
Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that the house in the ad has a reversed orientation from the actual house. It's very possible that the house in the ad isn't the actual house built in "Hollywood Gardens". We've seen examples before where the house used in the ad is actually a different house than the one built at the location being advertised.

Catalog image of Sears Verona (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
One advertisement showing a known Sears model was a good sign. But did one ad make a connection? Turns out that another ad for "Hollywood Gardens" filled in the rest of the gaps in this story. This ad from the January 1926 "Brooklyn Daily Eagle" explained in detail the relationship between the developers of "Hollywood Gardens" and Sears Roebuck. As you can read, the ad makes it clear that it was the developer building Sears houses in what later became Massapequa Park. According to the ad, the developer would sell the houses for 1% down and 1% a month. The "Ready Cut" houses from Sears were to be financed through Sears with the developers building the house for the prospective customer.

"Hollywood Gardens" Advertisement in Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Image courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library
Based on this ad, it's likely that all of the houses built in this area of Massapequa Park had mortgages from Sears. Research into the mortgages for those properties should be able to confirm that.

I did find more articles that talked about the connection between the Ogden brothers and Sears. An article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in May 1926 stated that "Sears, Roebuck and Company" was involved in financing the development in "Hollywood Gardens" and that over "70 houses costing from $10,000 to $12,000 each have been built". I don't know if "70" was a typo for "20" or another example of overhyped marketing that didn't match the reality of the actual number of homes that were built. But there's definitely not anywhere near 70 houses from the 1920s much less 70 houses from Sears Roebuck.

Another article from the Brooklyn Standard Union in May 1926 claimed that "twenty-four different types of homes" that would "sell from $4,150 to $15,000" were being built. It continued to state that "200 homes have been started" and "fifty of these will soon be ready to occupy". Again, this is likely marketing hype. Based on what we've found in "Hollywood Gardens", that initial wave of construction of Sears homes that numbers somewhere around 20 plus homes was the extent of development in this area for quite some time. The remainder of the homes that have been found in the area that was "Hollywood Gardens" likely date from the 1940s or more recently.

While ads from Sears Roebuck for the Modern Homes program often highlighted the homes built by individual homeowners, the construction of Sears homes by contractors and developers was a significant part of the Modern Homes business for Sears. In Massapequa Park, the homes built by developers likely account for many of the Sears homes that were constructed in the Village. Thanks to a little bit of research, we've finally been able to document that fact.

Do you know more about the history of any of the Sears homes that were built in Massapequa Park? Please share those in the comments below!

Updated on May 12, 2019 to reflect updated number of houses

7 comments:

  1. Very interesting and informative blog post about the houses in Hollywood Gardens. I’m glad Sarah found that foreclosure notice and that you were able to look more into it! Can’t wait to see what else you guys find out!

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    1. Thanks! We had fun looking and discovering the story behind those homes.

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  2. This was a great read! Are you familiar with the kit homes in other parts of Long Island? I live in Glen Head and was told all the homes on our block are Sears Kit Homes from 1926 but I haven't been able to find the exact model they might be.

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  3. This was a great read! Are you familiar with Sears Kit Houses anywhere else on Long Island? I live in Glen Head and was told the houses on our block are all Sears Kit Homes from 1926 but I haven't been able to find the exact model. They are very similar to the Van Page house.

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    1. Karen - We have quite a few Sears houses on Long Island on our list but none in Glen Head. If you want to point us to the street, we'll take a look!

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  4. Loved that home! I lived there most of my life! We knew it was a Sears kit home. I lived at 57 Grand Blvd. Massaoequa park

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