Wednesday, January 17, 2018

ID this House! Sears Ellsworth

Recently while searching for kit houses in Lake Station, Indiana, I was pleasantly surprised to find two houses that match the Sears Ellsworth model. While these aren't the first examples of the Ellsworth that I've located, it was unusual to find two in short order. There are less than 10 examples of the Ellsworth on the National Database of Sears Homes. Yet the Ellsworth was offered by Sears in the Modern Homes catalog for almost 10 years. That long run in the catalog makes me think that there are a lot more examples of the Ellsworth still waiting to be found. Fortunately, once you know what to look for, the Ellsworth is a fairly easy house to spot "in the wild". Let's learn to ID this house!

The Sears Ellsworth first appeared in the 1932 edition of the "Modern Homes" catalog. With the exception of some small tweaks in the floor plan, the Ellsworth remained largely unchanged when it appeared in the final "Modern Homes" catalog in 1940. 

Catalog image of Sears Ellsworth (1940)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
One of the interesting aspects of the Ellsworth is that Sears also offered two alternative versions of the house that had the same floor plan but different exterior designs under the "Sunbury" name. Both versions of the Sunbury had an enclosed porch. The "A" version of the Sunbury looks very similar to the Ellsworth with a smaller front gable while the "B" version has a taller front gable along with a pyramidal main roof. While this review will focus on the Ellsworth plan, some of the spotting elements for the Ellsworth also correspond to the Sunbury.
Catalog image of Sears Sunbury "A" (1940)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

Catalog image of Sears Sunbury "B" (1940)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
The Ellsworth was a relative modest house with a floor plan that offered a fairly compact footprint with a combined living and dining room, a kitchen with breakfast nook and two bedrooms and a bathroom. At a time when modest houses were gaining favor, it's likely that the Ellsworth would have held appeal to a lot of buyers as this comment from Sears would suggest. 
Excerpt from feature about Sears Ellsworth
Courtesy of FultonHistory.com
How many Sears kit house buyers ultimately selected the Ellsworth? We don't know. But it's likely a lot more than the handful of examples identified to date. Let's learn about this house so we can find more examples!

The most prominent feature of the Ellsworth is that large front gable with the porch offset to one side. You can see how that looks on this possible Sears Ellsworth in Indianapolis, Indiana. Note that this house has a reversed floor plan which was an option for most Sears houses. The floor plan in the catalog shows two square columns at the front corner of the porch. However, I've seen a couple houses that have three columns at the corner. That decorative window in the gable, if still present, appeared in a couple different styles including the full circle that we see with this house in Indianapolis and a half moon style you'll see in some other examples. 

6031 Haverford Ave - Indianapolis, Indiana - Sears Ellsworth
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Pro Tip: Take note of the fact that the front gable does not extend the width of the front of the house. Instead, the gable ends just short of the side of the house. 

Another distinctive feature of the Ellsworth is the arrangement of the windows around the living room fireplace chimney. As you can see from the floor plan, the chimney sits adjacent to where the house widens for the breakfast nook and kitchen. I've added arrows pointing to the window locations on either side of the chimney. Keep in mind that not every house will have a chimney. But you should still see this window arrangement even when there's no chimney. 

Floor plan of the Sears Ellsworth (1932)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
Here's a view of that arrangement from an Ellsworth in Cincinnati, Ohio. This view also helps you see how the side of the house, which contains the breakfast nook and kitchen, has its own smaller gable. 

402 Ebenezer Rd - Cincinnati, OH - Sears Ellsworth
Image courtesy of Hamilton County (Ohio) Auditor
The other side of the house doesn't have any distinctive features. But the windows on that side should match the locations in the floor plan and the front entrance should be located on the side of the porch. You can see those elements in this image of an authenticated Sears Ellsworth in Peekskill, New York. Take note of the cross gable design of the roof and how that differs from the Sunbury variants I shared earlier.

812 Oakwood - Peekskill, New York - Sears Ellsworth
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Here's one more view of that side, this time from an Ellsworth in Lake Station, Indiana. 

2567 Miami St - Lake Station, Indiana - Sears Ellsworth
Image courtesy of Google Maps
As you can see, the Sears Ellsworth has some distinctive elements that should make it easy to spot while doing a street survey. Once you've spotted a possible Ellsworth, check the details to see how well they match up. By matching up those key elements, you too may be able to find an Ellsworth in your community. If you think you've found an example of the Sears Ellsworth (or any other kit house), share it with us in the comments!

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