Friday, August 28, 2015

Sears Sherburne in Berkley, Michigan

Wendy and I first started looking for Sears houses in our area in late 2012. Not long after we started our search, Judy Davids published a series of articles about kit homes located in and around Royal Oak, Michigan. One of those articles titled "Local Mail Order Homes (Some Assembly Required)" included photos of a number of local kit homes in the communities of Berkley, Ferndale and Royal Oak.

Berkley, Ferndale and Royal Oak are located along the interurban and railroads lines that ran northwest from Detroit. We weren't surprised by the fact that there were kit homes located in those communities. But we were astounded by the size of some of these houses. We had seen the catalog images of some of these grand homes in the reproduction of a 1926 Sears Modern Homes catalog that we owned. But we didn't realize that some of these models were located so close to us! 

As the weather turned warmer in the spring of 2013, we finally made a road trip to Berkley. By that time, a little driving around in Google Streetview had provided us with a list of streets where we knew that some of the homes featured in Judy's article were located. First on our list was Beverly Boulevard. As we headed down Beverly, we were greeted by this house, a Sears Sherburne.

Sears Sherburne

Sears Sherburne - 2273 Beverly Boulevard - Berkley, Michigan

The Sears Sherburne is one of those iconic examples of a Sears kit house. While Sears offered homes in a wide variety of styles, the Sherburne is a supersized example of the bungalow house with Arts and Crafts style inspired detailing that many people associate with the idea of a kit house. 

Sears Sherburne

Sears Sherburne - 2273 Beverly Boulevard - Berkley, Michigan

The Sherburne is a large house and it was among the earliest models offered by Sears. The Sherburne could be found in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes Catalog as the Number 187. In the early years of the Sears Modern Homes, houses were identified by a number, not a name. In later years, the Number 187 would be renamed the Sherburne.

Sears Number 187
Catalog image of Sears Number 187 (1913)
Image courtesy of Sears Archives

Among the details that can help identify the Sherburne are the large cornice returns on the front porch, the extended dining room with shed dormer roof on the first floor and the small bump out on the other side of the house midway between the first and second floors. In some cases, the house may still have some of the Arts and Crafts style detailing seen in the catalog images. This house doesn't have the chimney that you can see in the catalog images, a change from the catalog plans that we have seen in other Sears houses. 

Sears Number 187

Catalog image of Sears Number 187 (1916)
Image courtesy of Daily Bungalow

While other early models were discontinued, Sears continued to offer the Sherburne into the early 1920s. Even though the house plan was offered for at least 10 years, to date, only a relatively small number of Sherburnes have been identified. These include a Sherburne in Rudyard, Michigan that was authenticated through a testimonial in one of the Sears catalogs. 

Sears Sherburne
Catalog image of Sears Sherburne (1923)
Image courtesy or

The public records for the Sherburne indicated that it was built in 1927. We know that 1927 would not be consistent with the time frame when this model was offered by Sears. We've found through further research of other houses in Berkley that the build dates in the public records for Berkley are often unreliable. The Sherburne is located on lot 138 of the Storm and Fowler's Tennyson Homes Subdivision. The subdivision was platted in 1916 which makes it likely that the house was built no earlier than that date. 

On a subsequent trip to Berkley, we drove by the house when the owner was sitting out on that beautiful front porch. Wendy hopped out of the car and chatted with her about her house. She knew it was a Sears house and told us that the house was actually built in 1920. That's consistent with the date when other Sears houses in this part of Berkley were built. She also said that she has paperwork from Sears related to the house. While we haven't had a chance to see the paperwork yet, it's great that she has something that can help authenticate this house as a Sears Sherburne. 

Sears Sherburne

Sears Sherburne - 2273 Beverly Boulevard - Berkley, Michigan

As excited as we were to find this house, it was just the first of many Sears houses that we would see in Berkley, Michigan. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, wow, I just love this house. it looks better in person, in clean, bright red and white, than the kind of dark, forest-lodge look of the catalog image.
    I can just see Wendy literally hopping out of the car and happily chatting it up with the homeowner :)
    Very enjoyable read, sir!