Friday, January 20, 2017

Sears Alhambra in North Muskegon, Michigan

Last fall, I went searching online for kit houses in the villages and cities that dot the west side of the state of Michigan. While the "west coast" of Michigan doesn't have the density of kit houses that we find on the east side of the state, we've found examples of catalog and kit houses along the rural roads and in the villages and cities of western Michigan. One of the places I searched was the City of North Muskegon, which lies just east of Lake Michigan along the shores of Muskegon Lake. My search through the City of North Muskegon turned up a couple of possibilities for Wendy and I to check out in person when we traveled west. Little did we know what else we would find!

The next day, Wendy and I found ourselves driving down Ruddiman Drive, the main drag through North Muskegon. Wendy was helping me navigate our way towards the potential kit houses when I slammed on the brakes and quickly pulled the car over to the side of the road as I yelled"Alhambra!" Having been through this experience before, Wendy calmly handed me the camera and watched for traffic while I snapped a few photos.

1629 Ruddiman Dr - North Muskegon, MI - Sears Alhambra
Once we had taken a few photos, we checked those closely to make sure it was an Alhambra. Yup, it was a real deal Sears Alhambra. But this wasn't just any Sears Alhambra. Unlike some of the other examples we've seen in Michigan, this Alhambra retained much of the original detail that makes the Alhambra so distinctive amongst all of the models offered by Sears over the years. You can see some of those details in the catalog photo below.

Catalog image of Sears Alhambra (1925)
Image courtesy of
One of the ironies of finding this Sears Alhambra is that we weren't even looking for Sears houses in this part of town. We just happened to stumble across it, which is why we're always scanning for houses even when we're not looking for something in particular. In this case, this Alhambra would have been hard to miss! With its Mission-style architectural elements, it probably gets a lot of second looks from people driving through North Muskegon. While we haven't authenticated this Sears Alhambra yet, with its distinctive features, I'm pretty confident that this is one. Perhaps someone in North Muskegon can help us confirm the identity.

1629 Ruddiman Dr - North Muskegon, MI - Sears Alhambra
When Wendy and I first started researching Sears houses, I have to admit that I kind of turned my nose up at the Alhambra. To me, it seemed like a silly attempt by Sears to capture the interest in Mission-style architecture that was popular for a period in the early 20th Century. After all, behind the stucco and the parapets is your basic foursquare-style house that you find all over the country. What's so special about that?

Catalog image of Sears Alhambra
Image courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro
But a funny thing happened along the way. Although we haven't found many Alhambras in Michigan, I've run across a number of them doing research in places like Washington DC and New York state. Through Lara Solonicke, we were able to see in person one of the nicest examples in Chicago.

5925 N Nina - Chicago, IL - Sears Alhambra
We saw several in person when we drove around Cincinnati looking at Sears houses. Over time, the Alhambra started to grow on me and where I had once seen it as a kind of a goofy house, the distinctive style and elements of the house became something to look forward to spotting. In fact, I've gotten quite good at spotting an Alhambra even when it has lost some of those Mission-style elements.

It turns out that the Sears Alhambra was popular model with customers of Sears. That popularity account for its long run in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. Almost 100 examples appear on the national database of Sears homes, placing it near the top of the list of models by number found. That may be partly due to the fact that it's often easier to spot an Alhambra than some of the smaller, more basic houses offered by Sears. But there still have to be quite a few of them out there for so many examples to have been located to date.

I'm sure we'll find more here in Michigan and elsewhere. Hopefully, they'll look as good as the one we saw on Ruddiman Drive in North Muskegon. As we discovered that day, North Muskegon is home to several nice examples of Sears kit houses. I'll be sharing some of those in future posts.  If you know of any other kit houses from the west side of Michigan (or anywhere else), share those with us in the comments!


  1. Ha! Fun story :)
    I, too, used to turn my nose up at the exterior of the Alhambra, but, after seeing several interiors, I would say that (except for the kitchen, sometimes), it has one of the nicest interiors, certainly of the four-squares.
    Good work, Kit House Hunters!

  2. That's a nice one. Alhambras are lovely inside and out...if only people could leave them untouched!!