Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Curious Case of the Sears Claremont in Waterford, Michigan

61 Cristy - Waterford, Michigan
After first discovering the real estate listing for the Sears Hamilton in Waterford, Michigan, I drove over to Cristy Street to check it out. Just a few houses down on the same block, another house caught my eye. At first glance, it looked like a Sears Claremont. But something didn't look right. I realized that while the overall layout of the house matched the Claremont, the front entry did not. It was close. But the angles on the roofline of the front entry were off. While we know that changes can happen to the exterior of homes that will cause them to not match the catalog image, I just didn't feel confident that I could say that behind that slightly skewed entry was a Sears Claremont.

As you can see from the catalog image for the Claremont, the top of the entry should be centered over the front door. On the Cristy Street house, it doesn't appear that the front door has moved. Instead, if this is a Claremont, it appears that the roofline of the vestibule has been noticeably shifted from what one would see on a house that matched the catalog image. Did someone read the blueprints incorrectly when the house was first built?

Catalog image of Sears Claremont (1932)
Image courtesy of
Fast forward a few months - I was researching deeds and mortgages at Oakland County when I came across a mortgage from Walker O. Lewis, Sears Roebuck Trustee to Samuel E. Smith for $3,450 in June 1929 for Lot 138 in the "Crescent Lake Highlands" subdivision in Waterford. Guess which address that is? 61 Cristy, Waterford, Michigan! Turns out that despite the off-kilter roofline, this is a Sears Claremont.

Wendy and I recently took photos of the house and another clue popped out when I was editing the photos. Smack dab on the front of the house is another sign that this is a Sears house - the front door! This Sears Claremont still has its original front door from Sears. You can see the distinctive decorative iron door hinge straps in this close-up.

This image from the 1930 Sears Building Materials Catalog shows the door of the Cristy Street Claremont in the upper-left corner (reversed orientation). Sears kit house customers could select from different types of doors and customize elements like the decorative iron door hinge straps and window lights when they were ordering their house from Sears Roebuck.

Images from Sears Building Materials Catalog (1930)
Image courtesy of Judith Chabot and
Here's an example of the same style door on a Sears Bellewood in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Sears door on a Sears Bellewood in Hyattsville, Maryland
Image courtesy of Zillow
As you can see from the catalog images of the Claremont and these other views of the house, everything else about the exterior of the house is a good match for the Sears Claremont. Thankfully, there was a Sears mortgage to help confirm what I wanted to believe, that this was a Sears Claremont, but which my research experience has taught me to question. Without that mortgage record, this may have always remained a question mark.

61 Cristy - Waterford, Michigan - Sears Claremont
Catalog image of Sears Claremont (1929)
Image courtesy of The Arts & Crafts Society
61 Cristy - Waterford, Michigan - Sears Claremont
That makes two authenticated Sears kit houses on Cristy Street in Waterford, Michigan. Do you know of other kit houses in the area? Let us know!


  1. It's great that they ended up getting everything else to fit together correctly, since things are "off". Is it maybe just that the door is not centered? If it were positioned about 6 or 8 inches to the left, maybe the gable wouldn't look wrong.

  2. I still think it would look off. The Sears catalog image has some symmetry to it. This one seems almost deliberately asymmetrical.

  3. It looks like one of those little pretend buildings at a putt-putt golf couse. Or something from a cartoon.

  4. It also looks like the house in the catalog has a steeper pitched roof on the main part of the house. Also, in the catalog, there is no attic gable window.

    1. It was fairly common for people to finish the second story of their homes either at the time they were built or later. It may be the camera angle that makes the roof look less pitched than in the catalog.

  5. I wonder if the roof was severely damaged at some point and reconstructed. Maybe the contractor was unable to accurately reproduce the original roofline. Would be interesting to see what permits have been pulled for it over the years.

  6. My son and daughter in law ready to purchase a home in Ypsilanti. It is a Sears home. Do you have any idea where I can get a gift. Pictures of prints etc as a house warming gift.

    1. Hi! Do you know what model house it is? If so, I could scan the model from one of our catalogs and you could have that printed and framed. Also, Dover sells several different reproductions of Sears catalogs which you can get on Amazon. Depending on the model of the house, it may appear in on of those books.