Friday, February 19, 2016

Sears Gateshead in Washington DC

Catalog image of Sears Gateshead (1935)
Image courtesy of Antique Home

About a month ago, I shared a house in the Poet's Corner area of Hartsdale, New York that I was pretty sure was a Sears Gateshead. Pretty sure...but I didn't have any way to authenticate it as a Sears houses (unlike the other Sears houses in the area that had mortgages). Today, I'm able to share a Sears Gateshead with you with 100% confidence that it's the real deal. Why? Because this one comes with a mortgage from Sears! I discovered this Gateshead after discovering a new name of a person who served as a trustee for Sears and whose name appeared on mortgages in 1932 and 1933 from Washington DC. His name appeared on the mortgage for this house for $4,300 in October 1933. That's a little background on the house, let's see some photos!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sears Birmingham in Baltimore, Maryland

Catalog image of Sears Birmingham (1932)
Image courtesy of
When I did my 2015 "year in review", I promised to do more short posts that just highlighted houses I've discovered. Here's my first of the year to keep that promise! I came across this Sears Birmingham through researching Sears mortgages in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. This is the first Birmingham that I've seen and the first to be added to our nationwide list of Sears houses. The Birmingham's first and last appearance was in the 1932 Modern Homes catalog. When I looked this up, I was surprised by this fact. You'll find elements of this design in houses built in cities across the country. But apparently this wasn't a popular plan and Sears ditched it after 1 year. "Houses by Mail" claims that the Birmingham also appeared in the 1931 and 1933 catalogs but I've found no evidence of that. Lemeul C. and Mayre W. Dunbar financed their house through Sears Roebuck for $7,000 in February 1932. Let's look at some pictures of the house!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sears Mortgages of Montgomery County, Maryland

Seal of Montgomery County, Maryland
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
A couple months ago, I shared the results of research I had done into mortgages financed by Sears Roebuck for kit houses located in Washington DC. At current count, Catarina Bannier and I have located and/or authenticated over 220 Sears house within the borders of Washington DC. One of the houses that had a mortgage in Washington DC was a Sears Elmhurst. I had a feeling that there had to be at least one more Elmhurst in the Washington DC suburbs where we knew a number of Sears houses had been built. I asked Catarina where such a high-end Sears kit might have been built and she suggested Montgomery County, Maryland, which surrounds DC to the west, north and a portion of the northeast side. She was right! Not only did the Sears mortgages of Montgomery County lead me to another Sears Elmhurst, they've helped Catarina and I locate and authenticate over 100 Sears houses.

Sears Torrington in Annapolis, Maryland

Flag of Annapolis, Maryland
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
The past few weeks, I've been working on authenticating Sears houses in the Maryland counties that border Washington DC. I've found over 100 houses so far and I'll be sharing information about the first round of homes soon! While researching those mortgages, I also searched a few other Maryland cities to see what other Sears houses I could locate using mortgage records. I've traced back several mortgages to several Sears houses that are considered rarities in the world of Sears homes. Among those discoveries is a Sears Torrington in Annapolis, Maryland, a house that - to date - I'm not aware has been located by Sears kit house researchers. What makes this discovery even more interesting is that this Torrington - or more accurately, the family that purchased this Torrington - has a deeper connection to Sears houses than I first thought.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lewis Homes of Syracuse, New York

Cover of Lewis catalog (1922)
Image courtesy of
I belong to a group of kit house researchers that work together to locate and document kit houses across the country. Several of us blog about our discoveries including Judith Chabot at "Sears House Seeker". In addition to tracking down kit homes from Sears, Judith has a knack for finding houses from other kit house companies. In her latest post, Judith shares a number of homes from the Lewis Manufacturing Company of Bay City, Michigan. Lewis was one of three major kit house companies based in Bay City. Over the years, Lewis sold tens of thousands of homes under the "Lewis Homes" name. Judith's research reveals that some of the largest homes offered by Lewis were built in Syracuse, New York. Judith worked with primary source material to locate and authenticate these houses. Check out Judith's work and all those great Lewis houses!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sears Cambridge in Eastchester, New York

Catalog image of Sears Cambridge (1930)
Image courtesy of Judith Chabot
One of my recent kit house discoveries was a Sears Cambridge in Eastchester, New York. This Cambridge is the next-door neighbor to the Sears Elmhurst that I previously shared. Of the four houses that I found on this block, the Cambridge model is the one that I've seen the fewest examples of in the wild. In fact, there are currently only three examples listed in the national list of Sears houses. Two of the houses, including this one, have been authenticated with Sears mortgages. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Great Sears Paper Trail

In a recent blog post, I touched on the efforts to create a nationwide database of Sears catalog and kit houses. This list was created, in part, to fill the void that exists from the lack of any documented sales records for Sears Roebuck's Modern Homes Department. While the sales records for Aladdin homes were rescued and archived at the Clarke Historical Library, Sears infamously purged their sales records after the Modern Homes Department was closed. The official Sears Archives confirms this by noting on a Question and Answer page:
"Since the early records of the original customers who purchased Modern Homes were not kept, we do not have any information on particular houses."
No sales records, no way to find houses other than searching for them house by house, right?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

3000 Sears Houses and Growing!

Sears Martha Washington - Quincy, MA
Atlas Obscura Readers - After you read this post, check out this overview about our kit house hunting activities.

This week, we reached a milestone of sorts! The "we" in this case is a group of kit house researchers who are also contributors to a growing list of identified and authenticated Sears catalog and kit houses. The milestone was the addition of the 3000th house to this ever growing list. This list started in January 2013. Over the past 3 years, it has grown steadily as houses have been discovered, identified, in some cases authenticated and added to the list.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sears Elmhurst in Eastchester, New York

Over the past couple of months, I've had the good fortune to authenticate five Sears Elmhursts through mortgage records. Two of these Elmhursts are located in Westchester County, New York. I previously shared one of those Elmhursts located in Pelham, New York. The second of the Elmhursts is located in the Town of Eastchester, New York. Eastchester lies just east of the City of Yonkers, where I've authenticated over 30 Sears houses, so I expected to find Sears houses. But I wasn't necessarily expecting to find an Elmhurst. Even more interesting was what I found when I came across the mortgage record for this Sears Elmhurst.