Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sears Yates in Boonton, New Jersey

Catalog Image of Sears Yates (1940)
Image courtesy of
The 1930s were a difficult time for the Sears Modern Homes division. The effects of the Great Depression led Sears to close the division for a short time in 1934. But as the decade wore on and the United States slowly emerged from the worst of the Depression, the sales of Sears kit house business started to improve. In 1939, despite gathering war clouds in Europe, Sears introduced a number of new home plans, including the Sears Yates. Recently, I came across a house in Boonton, New Jersey that may be an example of this rare model. Let's take a look!

Lara Solonickne of the Sears Homes of Chicagoland has referred to the Yates as one of the "Rare 10". The "Rare 10" are the 10 new models Sears introduced in 1939. Only a small number of these models have been identified, in part because of their fairly generic designs and the fact that 1940 was the last year that Sears offered their Modern Homes catalog to the public. While Sears continued to sell houses through sales offices for a couple more years, finding and authenticating houses from this time period is very challenging.

Of the 10 models from the "Rare 10" list, the Yates is the model that has been most frequently located. I'm sure that one reason for that is its distinctive design. Unlike some of the more generic models in the list, the Yates has a large front-facing gable that ends with a side "gate" and a prominent chimney on the front of the house. It's this design that I thought I spotted while looking at houses in Boonton, New Jersey.

As you'll see in the photos, the house in Boonton isn't an exact match for the catalog image of the Yates. It has a significant two story addition on the right side of the house and a smaller addition on the back of the house. Inside, the floor plan of the house has been significantly changed through the additions and the removal of walls to create an "open concept" layout. When I first spotted the house, I wasn't sure if it was the Yates. But after sharing it with my fellow kit house researchers including one who had grown up in a Sears Yates, I feel pretty confident that this is the real deal.

121 Kanouse - Boonton, New Jersey - Sears Yates
Image courtesy of Zillow
From this view, you can see the large addition with a garage on the right side of the house. While the addition changes the overall look of the house, you can still see the original rooflines and how those match the Yates. Also, note the slim chimney. It wasn't until I started studying the Yates closely that I noticed how this design differed from other Sears models of this time period, like the Dover and Ridgeland, that have a larger sized chimney on the front of the house.

Here's an authenticated example of a Sears Yates in Kankakee, Illinois, that was built in 1942(!). It still retains the original design of the Yates on the right side of the house all the way down to the entrance gate.
675 S McKinley Ave - Kankakee, Illinois - Sears Yates
Image courtesy of Sears Homes of Chicagoland
From the left hand side, you can see how the placement and number of windows match what we would expect to see for the Yates.

121 Kanouse - Boonton, New Jersey - Sears Yates
Image courtesy of Zillow
One element I see in this house but I don't see in the catalog image is the vent at the top of the gable on the left side of the house. But looking at other examples of Yates on the national database of Sears homes, I see that those too had a vent in that location, which makes sense for ventilating the attic space.

If you want to see more photos of the house, Zillow has a number of photos of the interior of the house. As I noted, the additions and removal of walls have changed much of the interior layout. Also, much of the house was renovated to a contemporary style and in the process, it appears that most of the detailing of a Sears house has been lost in the process. Because we don't have any information that definitively proves that this is a Sears Yates, this is a tentative ID based on the elements that remain.

Also noteworthy is the fact that next door to this house is a Sears Americus! The Americus was last offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog in 1931 and the local property record indicate that the house was built in 1925. I've found several examples of adjacent Sears kit houses built more than a decade apart. This doesn't mean that this is definitely a Sears Yates but it does give some credence to the idea that it may be.

123 Kanouse - Boonton, NJ - Sears Americus
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Hopefully someone locally can help us confirm the authenticity of this house as a Sears Yates. Know more about this house or any other local Sears houses? Let us know in the comments!

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