Thursday, August 27, 2015

ID this house! Puritan v. Salem

A common challenge for kit house researchers is differentiating between similar models offered by kit home manufacturers. In some cases, these houses can look almost identical to each other, making it next to impossible to know for sure whether a house is from one company or another. Two of the look-a-like models are the Dutch Colonial Revival style Sears Puritan and Wardway Salem. The Puritan was a popular model for Sears. It first appeared in the 1922 Sears Modern Homes catalog and continued to appear through the 1931 catalog. The Salem was offered by Wardway for a few years starting in the late 1920s. 

Sears Puritan

Catalog image of Sears Puritan
courtesy of Sears Homes of Chicagoland

 These two houses share many common elements:

  • Paired windows on the second floor that are offset from the single windows on the first floor on the front of the house
  • Shutters on the first and second story windows on the front of the house
  • A decorative hooded entrance on the front of the house
  • A first floor entrance on the side of the house
  • Same exterior measurements - 24' by 24'
There are some minor differences between the 2 houses that can help differentiate a Puritan from a Salem. But the eighty plus years since these houses were built often erases those distinctions. That was the challenge we faced when we found this house in Berkley, Michigan. 

Possible kit house at 3638 Buckingham, Berkley, Michigan

As you can see, the house has lost some of its original features like the hooded entrance and the original windows. The two models had slightly different window designs but those details had been lost to history. 

At first glance, I though Puritan. Part of the reason that I was inclined to think this might be a Puritan is because there's a Sears Van Page next door, a Sears Maplewood two houses in the other direction and a Sears Claremont across the street. It would be logical to assume that this house too may be from Sears. But unlike the other 3 Sears houses on this block, I was unable to find a mortgage from Sears for this house. Because I didn't have a way to authenticate the house, I added it to my list as a "possible Puritan". 

One detail kept nagging at me - the fanlight detail over the second story windows. That detail where there originally had been a fanlight window was more like the Salem than the Puritan. You can see the difference between the two:

Fanlight detail

Close-up of fanlight detail on Buckingham house

Fanlight detail of Sears Puritan

Window with rounded top from authenticated Sears Puritan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

That detail on the Buckingham house was a match for the Salem. But perhaps the house originally had a rounded top window and that detail had been replaced when the original windows were replaced or when the original siding was replaced. Or perhaps this house wasn't even a kit house? Who knew?

It's been over 2 years since we first photographed the house. Then on a recent trip to the Oakland County Register of Deeds' Records Retention office, where records of mortgages and deeds from this time period are kept, I came across a mortgage record for this house:

Harriette J. and W. Harry Moran
South 40' of Lot 155 - Cottage Homes Subdivision - Berkley, Michigan
June 25, 1928
Thomas P. Riordan, Trustee

Riordan was a trustee for Montgomery Ward and his name appeared on all mortgages for new homes that were financed through Montgomery Ward. With that information, I could finally say that 3638 Buckingham is a Wardway Salem. Mystery solved!


  1. Ah! Fabulous work! Visual details confirmed + research that authenticates = the Mutch Method :)