Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sears Oakdale in Prairie Village, KS

7341 Belinder Ave - Prairie Village, KS
Sears Oakdale
Here in Michigan, we're a long way from Kansas. But sometimes an example of a kit house comes up that has to be shared. This Sears Oakdale in Prairie Village, Kansas is just one of those houses. It's a picture perfect example of the Oakdale on the outside with a gorgeous interior filled with original hardwood floors and unpainted millwork. The real estate listing from when the house was last sold in 2015 gives us the opportunity to take a "tour" of a well-kept Sears Oakdale inside and out. Let's take a look!

The Sears Oakdale was introduced by Sears Roebuck in 1923 (you can read more about the origin of the Sears Oakdale in a post I wrote about its predecessor, the Sears Cinderella). The Oakdale was a popular model for Sears evidenced by the fact that it appeared in most of the Modern Homes catalogs between 1923 and 1938. Over the years, the Oakdale's design was tweaked with minor changes to the exterior design and interior floorplan. I usually refer to examples of this model as either the "1920s Oakdale" or the "1930s Oakdale". While the change from one design to the other doesn't match up exactly with the decades, the "1920s" version, of which the house in Prairie Village is an example, has more of the Arts and Crafts details typical of Sears house designs from the 1920s. The "1930s" version has less exterior details, which is typical of Sears houses of the 1930s, and has a gable on the dining room bump out as you can see below.

Catalog image of Sears Oakdale (1925)
Image courtesy of Archive.org

Catalog image of Sears Oakdale (1932)
Image courtesy of Archive.org
What I love about the house in Prairie Village is that it still has all of the original details on the front of the house that makes this immediately identifiable as a Sears Oakdale - the exposed purlins on the front of the gables, the exposed rafter tails on the overhanging portions of the roof, the triple vents on the front gable and the reversed "L" shaped supports on the porch columns. Too often, these details have been lost to time so seeing all of them on this house is a treat. As you can see from the catalog image, the house in Prairie Village has a reversed floor plan. 

7341 Belinder Ave - Prairie Village, KS - Sears Oakdale
From this view of the front of the house, we can see another distinctive element of the Oakdale design that didn't change over the years - the arrangement of the front door flanked by a set of paired windows. We can better appreciate this view from the living room inside the house. 

Living Room - Sears Oakdale
The living room is almost 20' wide taking up most of the width of the house. In the Modern Homes catalog listing for the Oakdale, Sears highlighted the many windows and the opportunity they provided for air and light. In the days before modern lighting and air conditioning, natural light and cross ventilation was an important part of the design of homes. We can also see through the living room windows out to the generously sized front porch - 8' x 15' in size according the dimensions in the catalog.

Living Room - Sears Oakdale
From this view, we can see the full size windows that flank the fireplace. You can also see the tall ceilings that were typical of Sears houses of this era. In the case of the Oakdale, nine foot tall ceilings were specified in the plans. These tall ceilings helped make the Sears houses feel open and spacious in spite of their relatively modest size (especially by today's home standards).

Dining Room - Sears Oakdale
Moving into the dining room, we can look back into the living room through the cased opening that connects the two rooms. At this point, I'm sure you are noticing all of the original wood flooring and the original unpainted millwork throughout the house. I know that painting trim is the thing to do these days when "renovating" old houses. To me, two of the greatest crimes done to old homes is replacing original windows and painting the original wood trim. I'm delighted to see the original millwork unpainted throughout this house. If you want to paint trim, buy an old house where someone has already committed the crime. Leave the old houses with unpainted millwork for those who appreciate it.

Dining Room - Sears Oakdale
Although it's not super obvious from this view, the dining room windows are actually on a bump out that extends the full width of the room. As you can see, this provides for a generously sized room. In the next image, looking across the dining room from the bay windows, we can see into the kitchen.

Dining Room - Sears Oakdale
The other opening from the dining room leads to a short hallway that provides access to a bathroom and two bedrooms. As is typical for a house this size, these are modest sized bedrooms by today's standards. But both bedrooms do include small closets and windows on two sides for cross-ventilation. Speaking of the windows, those look like the original Sears windows. Too often, homeowners replace these original windows instead of restoring them. Good luck finding replacement windows that will last 20 years much less the 90 - 100 years of service that original windows from Sears Roebuck have provided.

Bedroom - Sears Oakdale

Bedroom - Sears Oakdale
We'll make one last stop in the kitchen. As is typical of the times, space in the kitchen is at a premium as compared to what you would find in a modern home. But even today, the Oakdale's design provides enough room to fit all of the essentials.

Kitchen - Sears Oakdale

Kitchen - Sears Oakdale
The Oakdale did come with built-in cabinets so some of the cabinetry we can see may be original. In any case, it's very unusual to see unpainted trim in the kitchen. Even back in the 1920s, it was common to paint the millwork in the kitchen white.

I wanted to highlight a feature of Sears houses that you can see in the last view of the kitchen. See these blocks of wood trim I've circled in blue?

Plinth Blocks - Sears Oakdale
In the world of woodworking and architecture, these are known as "plinth blocks". If you've studied Sears houses at all, you've probably run across this term but in a different context. It's been popularized to describe a piece of vertical wood trim placed between two angled pieces of millwork on a stairway. Sears provided these blocks to help novice woodworkers - who may have been doing this complicated cutting of millwork for the first time - match up two pieces of trim, one angled and one horizontal. Here's an example of a couple of those.

"Plinth Blocks" in a Sears Verona
Image courtesy of Catarina Bannier
But "plinth blocks" more accurately describes the pieces of vertical trim at the base of a doorway that we see in the image from the kitchen.

While plinth blocks on door frames are not unique to Sears houses, what does stand out when they are used in Sears houses is the height of these blocks. In comparison to what I've typically seen in houses from this era, the plinth blocks on the door frames of Sears houses tend to be quite tall. In our Sears Hamilton, they are 10 inches tall and the ones we can see in the kitchen of this Oakdale appear to be at least that tall. When I have questions about whether a house is a Sears house or not, I look for these tall plinth blocks at the door frames to help me decide. It's a great interior clue to watch for when you are trying to identify and authenticate a house as being from Sears.

Our final stop on the tour of this Sears Oakdale is the backyard where we can see the rear of the house. Again, we are treated to some of the Arts and Crafts detailing of the exposed purlins on the rear of the house. This house has a garage-style door built into the basement. It's possible that the basement entrance is original to the house although it wouldn't have been part of the original floor plan as found in the catalog.

7341 Belinder Ave - Prairie Village, KS - Sears Oakdale
Thank you for joining us on this tour of this beautiful Sears Oakdale. If you want to see more photos of the house, you can check out the listing on Zillow. We should also give some credit to the photographer who took those involved in staging and photographing the house. They made it look its best! To close, I'll share this quote from the Sears Modern Homes catalog listing for the Oakdale. After visiting this house, I'm sure you'll agree with the sentiment!

While this wonderful example of the Sears Oakdale was the first Sears house I found in Prairie Village, it wasn't the only one. A couple of streets over, I found a nice example of a Sears Westly.

7426 Booth St - Prairie Village, KS - Sears Westly
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Do you know of any other Sears houses in Prairie Village or surrounding communities? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Good explanation, lovely photos :)

  2. Funny! These photos are from our house when we had it listed for sale. We put a lot of work into this old house (including the kitchen as you see, a little mud room as you go down the stairs and so much more) prior to selling about 5 years ago. Happy to fill in details as needed. The house was built as the owners "city" home as they ran a resort near the Lake of the Ozarks. The home was listed as built in 1929.

    1. Thank you for sharing those details! It really is one of the finest examples of the Sears Oakdale that we've seen. If you have more to share, feel free to e-mail us directly.