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.

In New York state, one of the main divisions of local governments are "Towns". There are over 900 towns in New York ranging in population from a few dozen residents to over 700,000! Likewise, in size, towns range from less than a square mile to over 400 square miles. Cortlandt is the largest town in Westchester County in size, at just under 40 square miles. It's also one of the larger towns in population in the County at just over 40,000 residents. During the years that Sears was offering mortgages, the town was home to several incorporated villages including Croton-on-Hudson and Peekskill. In 1940, Peekskill incorporated as a city which separated it from Town of Cortlandt. However, I've included the mortgages for the houses located in Peekskill in this list as that area was still part of the Town when they were issued.

41 Farrington - Croton-on-Hudson, NY - Sears Americus
Image courtesy of Zillow
The earliest mortgage with Sears was issued in 1919 and the latest was in late 1933. During that 14 year period, I found a total of 82 mortgages issued by 4 different trustees for Sears. Where there were junior and senior mortgages for the same property, I counted those as one mortgage. The breakdown by Sears Trustee is:

- Walker O. Lewis: 2
- William C. Reed: 29
- Edwards D. Ford: 48
- F. C. Schaub: 3

The breakdown of mortgages by year is:
1919: 1
1922: 2
1925: 4
1926: 5
1927: 9
1928: 11
1929: 15
1930: 18
1931: 13
1932: 1
1933: 3

Compared to the numbers we saw in Yonkers, we see fewer mortgages in the early 1920s. But the numbers picked up through 1931 before declining precipitously as the effects of the Great Depression took hold on the American economy.

74 Lexington - Croton-on-Hudson, NY - Sears Barrington
Image courtesy of Zillow
To date, I've been able to identify 50 houses, 47 of which are models offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. Most of the Sears houses that I've been able to identify to date have been located in the villages of Buchanan (6), Croton-on-Hudson (30) and the once village, now city of Peekskill (7). I plan on doing separate posts for those three communities to further document the homes that I've been able to authenticate.

The breakdown by models is:

Americus - 4
Ardara - 1
Barrington - 2
Carroll - 1
Cedars - 1
Conway - 2
Cornell - 2
Crescent - 1
Custom - 3
Dover - 1
Ellsworth - 1
Fullerton - 1
Garfield - 1
Gladstone - 1
Hampton - 2
Hathaway - 1
Homewood - 3
Jeanette - 1
Lewiston - 1
Lorain - 2
Oak Park - 1
Oakdale - 1
Olivia - 1
Plymouth - 1
Puritan - 3
Rochelle - 1
Starlight - 2
Sunlight - 1
Vallonia - 1
Walton - 1
Wayne - 1
Westly - 1
Wexford - 1
Winthrop - 2

The numbers shared here reflect Sears houses that have mortgages and have been matched to a specific property or owner or both. We know there are more Sears houses in the Town. For example, there's at least 4 houses in Croton-on-Hudson that we've identified that haven't been matched to a specific mortgage or owner. Those eventually may turn out to be houses that have mortgages. Or they may be examples of homes that were purchased without financing through Sears. In any case, I'll continue to work on matching up houses to mortgages and post updates as additional houses are located.

Know of any Sears houses or any other kit houses in Cortlandt? Let us know in the comments!


  1. Oh, that red Barrington looks great!
    Great job adding so many authenticated houses to our National Database of Sears Houses :)

  2. I love the two you featured above. Great work, as usual!

  3. I grew up in a Sears Vallonia in the Harmon section of Croton-on-Hudson. As our family grew, my parents enclosed the front porch and added a family room and attached garage hiding its original bungalow facade. But the sides and back remain and provide clues to its roots. I found the original mortgage notice in the Sept 8 1926 Peekskill Evening Star (Dillion Eliz to Wm C Reed).

    1. Thank you for confirming that's a Sears Vallonia! I had found the house through the mortgage record but couldn't get a good view from Google Streetview to help me determine which model it might be. I'll make sure to add it to our list!