Friday, January 12, 2018

ID this House! Sears Brookwood

Catalog images of Sears Brookwood
Images courtesy of
The very first kit house that I identified by myself was a Sears Brookwood in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While the Brookwood was only sold for a few years, several dozen are listed on the national database of Sears homes, including a number of authenticated examples. One of the challenges of identifying the Brookwood is that it looks very similar to the larger and more popular Sears Barrington. But there are differences between the two models that can assist you in differentiating between the two models. Once you've learned the differences, you may find your own examples of the Sears Brookwood. Let's learn to ID this house!

The Sears Brookwood was only offered for a few years. It first appeared in the 1930 Modern Homes catalog and was discontinued after its last appearance in the 1933 Modern Homes catalog. Despite this short run in the catalog, over 30 examples of the Brookwood can be found on the national database of Sears homes. The Brookwood was clearly based on the popular Barrington model but offered most of the layout of the Barrington in a smaller, less expensive version which likely accounts for its relative popularity. 

While the two houses look very similar, there are some obvious and not so obvious between the two models. Once you learn what to look for, you should be able to quickly tell whether the house is possibly a Barrington, a Brookwood or neither!

The first clue that you have a Brookwood is the thing I noticed when I found my first Brookwood in Ann Arbor - there are only two windows on the first floor of the front of the house as compared to three for the Barrington. My fellow kit house researcher Judith Chabot created this image for a blog post she did about a Sears Brookwood in University City, Missouri, highlighting the windows in the blue square. The comparison image uses authenticated examples of the  Brookwood and Barrington that I had located in New York state to demonstrate that difference. 

Image courtesy of Judith Chabot
Pro Tip: The Brookwood is 2' wider than the Barrington  - 26' wide for the Brookwood versus 24' wide for the Barrington. This is information that may be available from the local or County Assessor who sometimes provide online databases of homes where you can view "sketches" that show the building dimensions. 

Once you've spotted a possible Brookwood, check out the side of the house adjacent to the front vestibule. On this side of the house, you are looking for a triple window on the first floor. In the Brookwood floor plan, this corresponds to the living room. This is another obvious difference from the Barrington. You can see those windows in this view of an authenticated Brookwood in Hartsdale, New York.

49 Shelley Ave - Hartsdale, NY - Sears Brookwood
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Pro Tip: The roofline of the vestibule of the Brookwood is inset from the side of the house. The roofline of the Barrington's vestibule extends beyond the side of the house. While it's a small difference, it's an easy one to spot if you know to look for it. I've circled it below. While there are clear differences in the window arrangements of the two houses, another difference to look for is that the Barrington is six feet deeper than the Brookwood as show with the red arrows below.

The right side of the Barrington is also a place where you'll see differences between the two models. The Brookwood has all single windows on the right side. On the Barrington, you'll see a paired window on the first floor towards the back of the house. You can see what a standard Brookwood looks like in this image.

3417 Ferry - Ann Arbor, Michigan - Sears Brookwood
Finally, if you're able to see the back of the house, more differences await. Unlike the Barrington, the Brookwood has neither a covered back porch nor a breakfast nook that extends off the back of the house. Instead, the Brookwood has a centered back door and a single window on the first floor, where the Barrington has another triple window. You can see that in the authenticated Brookwood in University City, Missouri.

7240 Cornell Avenue - University City, Missouri - Sears Brookwood
Image courtesy of Judith Chabot
One final point - while fidelity to the catalog plans is an important element of identifying and authenticating catalog houses, there are times when we come across houses missing a distinctive element. For example, this house is a really good match for the Brookwood but it's missing the squared-off dormer on the front of the house. It also has a small porch extension off the front of the entry vestibule that you wouldn't normally find on the Brookwood.

3302 Garden - Royal Oak, Michigan - Sears Brookwood
Image courtesy of Caitlin Scollin
But even though this isn't an exact match, we've been able to authenticate this house with a mortgage from Sears. Our best guess is that the dormer was either lost over time or that this house with its taller than normal second floor may not have had the dormer element originally. In either case, through the process of mortgage research, we're able to confirm the identification of this as a Sears Brookwood. This points out the importance of doing that additional research to rule in or out a possible Sears house.

I hope this review of the Sears Brookwood has provided you with enough details to be able to identify one on your own. By paying attention to those key elements, you'll be able to spot the Brookwood from among the the other models that look similar but not the same. If you think you've found an example of the Sears Brookwood (or any other kit house), share it with us in the comments!


  1. I am retired from Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. There is a Sears kit house on the main campus of the Observatory. The story is that Mrs. Lowell bought it as a place for Observatory staff to gather for lunch. The date of purchase must have been no later than 1916, when Percival Lowell died. Lowell has retained most records and I would be surprised if they cannot produce the paperwork for this one. -Rich Oliver