Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Missing Models

1936 Sears Modern Homes Catalog
Image courtesy of
Now that the national database of Sears houses has passed the 6,000 house mark, I decided to go through the list of models that have been found and see what's yet to be discovered. Depending on what source you use and how you count them, there are between 370 and 450 different models that Sears offered through the Modern Homes catalog. The database currently contains examples of over 300 different models. Which models are we still trying to find? Let's take a look!

Friday, December 23, 2016

6,000 Houses and Rolling

Back in August, I shared an update that the national database of Sears homes had reached the 5,000 home mark. Four months later, the list has reached and passed the 6,000 home mark! That's a pretty amazing pace of growth, especially when one considers that it was at less than 3,000 homes at the beginning of 2016.

15 Stone Ave - Ossining, NY - Sears Verona
Image courtesy of Trulia
This progress is the result of the tireless efforts of a group of dedicated Sears house researchers located all over the country. By combining our efforts, we've been able to accomplish what none of us could have done on our own. At the same time, we are all learning from each other and with each house added to the list, we're becoming better at finding even more houses.

While it will be a challenge to keep up that pace of growth in 2017, it's pretty exciting to think that we're on track to have identified at least 10% of the total numbers of homes that were likely sold during the 30+ years of the Sears Roebuck Modern Homes program (assuming 70,000 houses sold). Ten percent may not sound like much. But when the list started, it had just over 700 homes or 1% of the total homes sold. That's progress!

66 Cleveland - Croton-on-Hudson, NY - Sears Carroll
Authenticated with a Sears Mortgage
Image courtesy of Zillow
One aspect of the progress that I'm pleased to report is that almost 40% of the homes have been authenticated through official records like mortgages and deeds, official correspondence with Sears, ads and stories from newspapers and information from homeowners. That means that there are now thousands of homes where we can definitively state are Sears homes. That set of authenticated homes is providing researchers with an invaluable source of examples to use for comparison when evaluating new finds. I know we'll continue to grow those numbers as we go forward in 2017!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sears Mortgages of the Town of Cortlandt, New York

As I shared recently, one of my research projects this winter is revisiting the Sears mortgages of the communities of Westchester County, New York. The most recent set of mortgages that I've reviewed is for the Town of Cortlandt, which lies in the northwest portion of Westchester County. For the time period I reviewed, I found almost 80 Sears mortgages. Although I didn't find as many houses as I did in Yonkers, New York, I did find quite a few, a couple which I'll share below. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wardway Astoria in Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Croton-on-Hudson, a small village in northwestern Westchester County, New York was on our kit house radar before I started reviewing mortgage records for the area. Several houses from Sears had been identified either through real estate ads or from building permit records. I was hoping that a review of mortgage records would turn up more kit houses and I wasn't disappointed! To date, we've been able to identify over 30 kit houses in Croton-on-Hudson and I expect more will turn up as we continuing to locate houses.

One of the discoveries is a house that was sold for a number of years by Wardway, first as the "Waverly" and later as the "Astoria". Although this must have been a popular house for Montgomery Ward, it's the first example I've seen and I was able to authenticate it with a mortgage. Even better, the house was listed for sale in 2016 so we can take a closer look at both the inside and outside of the house. Let's check it out!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wardway Winthrop in Montrose, New York

Although we are still a week away from the Winter Solstice, winter weather has made itself felt here in Michigan. The chilly winds and freezing temperatures of December herald the start of "research season" when kit house hunters hunker down with a hot beverage and a fast Internet connection and while away the hours of cold winter evenings tracking down kit houses.

One of my kit house projects for this winter is revisiting the mortgage records of Westchester County, New York. My focus the past couple of weeks has been the mortgages in the Town of Cortlandt and adjacent City of Peekskill. As I've been locating and identifying houses, I've found a few interesting examples of kit house models that we rarely see. I plan on sharing some of those houses over the next week or two. Let's check out today's example from Montrose, New York, the Wardway Winthrop!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Still Looking for Sears Houses in these States

I recently wrote about the states with the highest number of identified Sears houses on our national database of Sears homes. To date, the database includes houses from 46 states including Alaska, the District of Columbia and the Provinces of Alberta and Ontario, Canada. That leaves 4 states where we don't have examples of Sears homes in the database. Those states are:

  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
  • Washington
Why don't we have any houses from those states? 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Kit House Reading List - December 2016

If you haven't seen the latest posts from some of my favorite kit house bloggers, check them out!

Sears Homes of ChicagolandWe've Come a Long Way, Baby: Lara explains the importance of the national database of Sears homes while sharing some very rare examples of Sears models that can be found in the database.

Sears Houses in Ohio - A Sears House under serious restoration: Cindy and Frank make a road trip to the home of Studebaker, South Bend, Indiana and along the way, stop and see a Sears House being restored. But this house isn't just any old Sears house, it's one of the handful of known Sears Magnolias! Wendy and I visited this Magnolia a while back and it was in rough shape but it's clearly now in the hands of owners intent on restoring it back to its former glory!

Sears House Seeker - Gordon-Van Tine 140: Judith does an in-depth exploration of an early catalog house from Gordon-Van Tine, the #140, including homeowner photos of their house and original blueprints!

American Kit Homes - Sears Sherwood in Leetsdale, PA: The Sherwood was only offered for two years in the Sears Modern Homes catalog and only a few examples of this house have been found. Nigel recently located a possible Sherwood in Pennsylvania. Here's a chance to see another example of a rare Sears model.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lewis Homes in Washington DC

Logo of the city of Washington DC's
Historic Preservation Office
The week has brought a bit of excitement to my circle of kit house researchers. The reason? The city of Washington DC's Historic Preservation Office placed online a massive database of information related to over 100,000 structures located within the boundaries of the District. Among those structures are hundreds of catalog/kit houses from the major kit house companies including Aladdin, Gordon-Van Tine, Lewis, Sears Roebuck and Sterling. That database has been a treasure trove of information for my group of kit house researchers, helping us to authenticate dozens of houses that had previously been identified and allowing us to discover catalog/kit houses that had not previously been identified. It's also giving us a deeper understanding of the activities of the different kit house companies in Washington DC, one of which I'll explore a little further in this post.