Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sears Mortgages of Yonkers, New York - Overview

The Official Seal of the City of Yonkers
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
After locating the two Sears Elmhursts of Westchester County, I decided to spend some time researching the mortgage records in Yonkers, New York. Yonkers is the largest city in Westchester County, the fourth largest city in the state of New York and lies immediately north of The Bronx, the northernmost borough of New York City. I've now completed my first round of review of mortgages from 1926 - 1932, which is the latest date I could find mortgages issued by Sears. To date, I've been able to identify over 30 houses that were financed through Sears. In this post, I'll review the process I used to research the mortgages for Yonkers, share a few examples of houses that I found and breakdown the totals by models.

This overview represents a snapshot of a work in progress. The next set of mortgages that I'll be reviewing are for the years 1918 - 1925. Because I've already done a little bit of searching in those years, I know there are more Sears mortgages waiting to be discovered. But I decided it was easier to present my findings in groupings that correspond with how the mortgage records are arranged.

Sears Alhambra - 80 St Johns Ave - Yonkers, NY
Image courtesy of the City of Yonkers, NY
Searching the mortgages in Yonkers has required quite a bit of work. It definitely has not been as easy as searching for the mortgages in Washington DC. Unlike Washington DC, Westchester County only has mortgages organized alphabetically by mortgagor (the borrower). In the ideal world, we would want the opposite with the mortgages organized alphabetically by mortgagee (the lender) which would put all of the mortgages we are seeking together in a nice neat list! But I've learned that it's rarely that easy.

Sears Stratford - 80 St Johns Ave - Yonkers, NY
Image courtesy of the City of Yonkers, NY
With mortgages organized by mortgagor, we have to search through every page looking for the names of Sears trustees. In Yonkers, the names we're seeking are "Walker O. Lewis", "William C. Reed" and "Edwards D. Ford". For the years between 1926 - 1932, "William C. Reed" appeared on all of the mortgages issued between 1926 and 1928 and Edwards D. Ford appeared on all of the mortgages between 1929 and 1932. In order to search the entire alphabet, I reviewed over 162 PDF files that ranged in size from a couple pages to almost 100 pages in length totalling almost 3000 pages! To give you a sense of how rare a Sears financed houses is, I found around 80 mortgages that represented around 50 homes (there were quite a few junior/senior mortgage combinations) among those thousands of pages of mortgages.

Just to make things a bit more challenging, Westchester County allows you to view their indexes at no charge but you have to pay to view the actual mortgages that include the property description. I haven't done that yet so most of my searches were based on names that I was able to feed into Ancestry and similar databases to see who lived where, when. But even in those cases where I had a property description from another source, the current system of property identification bears very little correlation to the historical system of identifying parcels. Unlike in Michigan, there's no centralized depository of subdivision plat maps. Yonkers provides historical tax maps that sometimes contain original lot numbers. But often times it's hard to match addresses from resources like Ancestry to current day addresses. In some cases, I have even found houses that have a different house number in the city's online database than what appears on the house itself. You can see an example of that below!

Sears Garfield - 288 Tompkins (not 7!) - Yonkers, NY
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Without the property descriptions, I've been left with quite a few mortgages where I've been unable to match the mortgagor to an address or I haven't been able to confirm that the Sears house that I've found matches the mortgage that I think belongs with the house. I'm going to continue to work on that list and I know that I'll be adding to this list. The following is a list of all of the identified Sears houses with mortgages in Yonkers for the time period of 1926 - 1932 by model and the number of each model identified.

Alhambra - 1 
Barrington - 1 
Berwyn - 1 
Brookwood - 1 
Cornell - 3
Garfield - 3
Fullerton - 2
Kilbourne - 1
Lewiston - 1
Lynnhaven - 1 
Mitchell - 1 
Rembrandt - 1
Rodessa - 2
Manchester - 2
Norwood - 1 
Somers - 1 
Stanford - 1
Stratford - 1
Vallonia - 1
Wayne - 1
Willard - 1 
Winthrop - 1
Winona - 1 
Wellington - 3 
Westly - 1 

39 Storey Lane - Yonkers, NY - Sears Rodessa
Image courtesy of the City of Yonkers, NY
As you can see, even this relatively small list of 30 plus homes contains quite a variety of models. In the future, I'll feature some of the homes from this list. I'll also share updates as I continue to match mortgages to houses. If you know of any Sears houses in Yonkers, New York (or anywhere else!) drop me a line. I would be happy to add them to my list!

Update: Read the latest numbers about the Sears mortgage houses in Yonkers. 
Update 2: Interested in the earlier set of mortgages? Read the post about those.


  1. Nice work, Andrew! You have the patience of a saint!


  2. Very nice! Sounds like a new vacation destination -- I wonder if they have any good B&Bs? ;)