Friday, August 28, 2015

Identifying my first Sears house

When Wendy and I were getting started finding kit homes, we made several trips to Ann Arbor to look for and photograph Sears houses. Our guide was the list of kit homes that Grace Shackman and Rob Schweitzer has assembled back in March 1991. But as we drove the streets of Ann Arbor, it seemed like every other house was a kit house - at least to our then untrained eyes.  

As we worked our way across the city, we eventually reached a neighborhood on the far west side of Ann Arbor that didn't include any kit houses from the list. We almost skipped it. But the neighborhood consisted of only a couple of short streets and we decided to give it a look. As we turned into the neighborhood, we discovered that the streets weren't even paved. Dirt roads in Ann Arbor? Who knew! I wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not but as we drove the short couple of blocks, each street ending in a dead-end, we saw only a couple of houses that could have be "maybes". But we didn't see anything we recognized. 

As we reached the last dead-end of the last street in this small subdivision, we spotted this house at 3417 Ferry. 

Sears Brookwood

3417 Ferry - Ann Arbor, Michigan

The design of the house looked very similar to the Sears Barrington, which we had seen earlier in the trip among the list of kit houses in Ann Arbor. But as you can see from the catalog image of the Barrington below, this isn't a Barrington. A Barrington has three windows across the front on the first floor where this had two. Also, the windows on this side of the house didn't match the Barrington and the house looked like it was smaller in size than a Barrington too. 

Sears Barrington

Catalog image of a Sears Barrington
Catalog image courtesy of the Sears Archives

But then I remembered, the Barrington has a smaller cousin, the Brookwood! The Sears Brookwood has two windows across on the first floor, like this house. It also has a smaller footprint that the Barrington. Although you can't see it in our photos, the Brookwood will also have three windows together on the first floor of the side adjacent to the front entrance as shown in the floorplan below. Pretty good match, don't you think?

Sears Brookwood

Catalog Floorplan of Sears Brookwood

Catalog images of Sears Brookwood
Images courtesy of

Sears Brookwood

Sears Brookwood - 3417 Ferry - Ann Arbor, Michigan

I was so excited! I had successfully identified my first Sears house! But identification doesn't equal authentication. Although it looked just like a Sears Brookwood, without some other evidence proving its Sears origin, I would have to be satisfied knowing that it was likely a Brookwood and that some day, more information would come forward to allow us to authenticate the house as a Sears kit house. Here's one last view of the house without all that snow! 

Sears Brookwood

Sears Brookwood - 3417 Ferry - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Image courtesy of Bing Maps

Postscript - In November 2014, I found a Sears mortgage (actually 2!) for this house in the amount of $4,900 in the Washtenaw County mortgage abstracts held at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library. My best guess in those early days of kit house hunting was finally confirmed as correct! Also, we discovered through those mortgage abstracts that this little subdivision had been home to multiple kit homes from Sears, McClure and Wardway, some of which were still there. 


  1. Enjoying the blog, Andrew. Thanks for the tidbit about Thomas Riordan. Now I can look for more low hanging fruit in Alliance.

  2. Ahhhhh, the satisfaction of the double-scoop: visual ID and authentication via fruitful research! Good word, and great post. (P.S. Do we have the addresses from that article on our list? And, Michigan is looking good for the convention :)