Friday, November 25, 2022

Sears Vallonia in Easton, Pennsylvania

This week's example of the Sears Roebuck "Vallonia" is located in Easton, Pennsylvania. I located this house from a reference I found in an environmental assessment done for a nearby highway project. The assessment, which had been posted online, was from 1993! I went searching half expecting to find the house long-gone. Instead, it's still there in all its original "Vallonia" glory!

We love seeing examples of Vallonias with original details intact and at least on the outside, this house still has many of them. Those details were referenced in the environmental assessment report too. 

Regular readers may notice that this "Vallonia" appears to be taller than some others that I've shared. Having seen hundreds of  examples of the "Vallonia", this design change appears to be another "hidden" option that wasn't mentioned in the "Modern Homes" catalog but was shared with customers who were interested in having a taller second floor than offered in the standard design. Judith Chabot explored this design change in her post about another example of a "tall Vallonia" in Westerly, Rhode Island. Watch for another example of the "Vallonia" coming soon! 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Where are the Sears Houses - November 2022 Edition

Sears Tarryton - Nutley, New Jersey

What's this? Another update of "Where are the Sears Houses?" But it's been only two months since I posted the last one and that came just 7 weeks after an update in July! What can I say, our intrepid band of kit house researchers has been on a roll. In four months, we've added over 1,000 new houses to the National Database of Sears Homes. I can't promise we'll be able to keep up this pace going forward but it's been exciting for us to see so many new discoveries. All of these new houses has made for some fierce competition among the list of states where Sears houses can be found. Let's take a look! 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Sears Vallonia in Westfield Center, Ohio

This week's example of the Sears Roebuck "Vallonia", located in Westfield Center, Ohio, shows off one of the details you may see if the house still retains its original look. In the middle of the piece of trim that runs across the top of the front of the porch is what I call a "keystone". It kind of resembles the keystone in an arch, although it doesn't serve the same structural purpose. In the case of the "Vallonia", I believe it's both decorative and functional, providing support at a location where two trim boards meet. 

You can see the "keystone" better in this close-up of that portion of the porch below the front dormer. 

That detail is an original part of the "Vallonia" model as you can see from the catalog image. 

From this view from inside the porch, you can see how that piece functions. 

Although it's a small detail, spotting that on the front of a house that looks like the "Vallonia" can help you in confirming that you've found one. Here's one last view of the "Vallonia" in Westfield Center, Ohio. 

Watch for another example of the "Vallonia" coming soon! 

The Century Club - Communities with 100 Sears Homes (or more!)

As the national database of Sears homes has grown past 15,000 homes, I wanted to share a list of communities where we've identified 100 or more Sears houses, a group I've dubbed "The Century Club". The members of this club are part of a rarified group. Of the 2,600 plus named places where Sears houses have been identified, as of September 2022, only 17 of them can claim to be home to 100 or more Sears homes. As the national database continues to grow, I hope to see new members inducted into the club! Which communities made the cut? Let's take a look! 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Aladdin Colonial in Maysville, Kentucky

As regular readers know, I search Zillow almost every day looking for potential kit houses. One of the searches that I do is looking for houses that have "Sears" in the description. As I've shared, this isn't a very reliable method for identifying houses from Sears Roebuck. I would say that more than half the houses that claim to be from Sears are definitely not from Sears and are likely not kit houses at all. Of the rest, most of them actually are from Sears. But a small percentage of those are models from other kit house companies that are erroneously listed as being from Sears. Such is the case with this lovely example of a "Colonial" from the Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan. Let's take a look!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Testimonial House: Sears No. 306 in Griswold, Iowa

Recently, the group of kit house researchers I work with has been using Rebecca Hunter's "Putting Sears Homes on the Map" book as a reference to locate testimonial houses. Most of the locations listed in the book are for houses that were referenced in the "Modern Homes" catalog either tied to a specific owner or location in the United States. But some of testimonials listed by Rebecca come from a book that Sears put out around 1912 called "Successful Building". This book was filled with customer testimonials including photos of the houses that they built. While many of those testimonials also appeared elsewhere, some of them, as far as I know, didn't appear anywhere else in Sears advertising, either in the "Modern Homes" catalog or the General Merchandise catalog. I recently had the good fortune of tracking down one of those houses in Griswold, Iowa. Let's take a look!

Sears Vallonia in Scotia, New York

Staying in Scotia, New York, where I recently featured a Sears "Ardara", this week's example of the Sears Roebuck "Vallonia" is a good example of how you can still identify a "Vallonia" even if it doesn't retain all its original details. 

As you can see, this "Vallonia" had its front porch enclosed, hiding the original columns (if they are still there) and it has been given a modern treatment of "stone" bases where the original porch column bases were located. But even though the trim has been replaced with what appears to be aluminum siding and the purlins on the front dormer have been similarly wrapped, we can still see the original lines of the "Vallonia". 

On the left side of the house, we can see two distinct features of the "Vallonia" that help us differentiate it from the very similar looking Sears "Sheridan" and look-a-like houses. First,we can count the 7 purlins that, while wrapped, still extend from the side of the house, supporting the overhanging roof. To be honest, I don't know if the purlins on the "Vallonia" are structural or decorative. But we're always looking for 7. 

On the dining room dormer that bumps out from the side of the house, we want to see 2 single windows separated from each other. If you see 2 windows together on a house that looks a lot like a "Vallonia", it's probably a Sears "Sheridan". 

Even the back of the house can provide us clues about whether a house is a "Vallonia" or not. That tall  chimney for the furnace that's located in the middle of the roof? That's the correct location to find it on the "Vallonia". See you next week with another example of the "Vallonia"!

Monday, September 12, 2022

Sears Ardara in Scotia, New York

One of the more unique designs from Sears Roebuck was the Sears "Ardara". First introduced in the 1919 "Modern Homes" catalog, the "Aradara" is easily recognizable with its prominent curved porch roof. This model is best known for being the first Sears model to be offered with an attached garage, over a decade before that became common on some Sears models. A nice example of the "Ardara" is currently for sale in Scotia, New York, giving us a chance to see this model up close. 

Sears Ardara - 1921 "Modern Homes" catalog
Let's take a look! 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Sears Vallonia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The "Vallonia" was one of the most popular models sold by Sears Roebuck. Appearing in the "Modern Homes" catalog for 20 years, it's one of the most identifiable models. With loads of Arts-and-Crafts inspired details, it's an attractive bungalow-style house that still captures the eye of home buyers over 100 years after it was first introduced. 

To date, almost 600 examples of the "Vallonia" have been identified. Of those, I've been fortunate to see many nice examples of this design so I decided I wanted to share some of those with you. One of those is this "Vallonia" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

As you can see, this "Vallonia" retains many of the details of the original house design. 

I plan on sharing a new example each week so if you're a fan of the "Vallonia", keep watching for more of them! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Where are the Sears Houses - September 2022 Edition (15,000 houses!)

Sears Hathaway - Hempstead, NY
If you're a regular reader here, you're probably a bit surprised to see me posting a "Where are the Sears Houses" update. Didn't I just do one of those in July? Indeed, I did. But in just 7 weeks, the national database of Sears houses has grown by over 500 homes and it's time for another update. And not just any update - we've reached the 15,000 house mark! 

I'm just as surprised by the turn of events as you are. So I'm pleased to be able to share this news because it represents a ton of work by my fellow kit house researchers and yours truly too. Along with all those new homes discovered are some changes in the line up of states you see at each update. Let's take a look! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Testimonial House: Sears No. 168 in Little Silver, New Jersey

1919 "Modern Homes" catalog
When doing a kit house presentation or talking to reporters, I often equate the search to find and document kit houses with the hunt for buried treasure. While tracking down kit houses is not quite as lucrative, it can provide a similar experience of adventure and discovery. Amongst kit house researchers, many of us equate finding testimonial houses - examples of houses in kit house catalogs and other advertisements that were associated with a specific individual, builder or company - as the equivalent of finding a treasure chest with a stash of Spanish Doubloons. Even though they are often models we know well, the fact that we can connect them to specific individuals makes them a little extra special. I've had some luck finding a few testimonial houses and I want to share one for a Sears No. 168 that I recently tracked down in Little Silver, New Jersey. Let's take a look!

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Kit House Hunting - August 2022

The past couple years, I've been keeping my own list of the kit houses that I've located. This helps me see my progress in adding homes to the various national databases of kit homes. Some months, I'm fortunate and find a lot of homes. Other months, I only find a few. 

Sears No. 181/"Whitehall"
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

August 2022 was the one of the former when I was fortunate enough to find over 75 houses. I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some examples of some houses I rarely see and to talk about some of the ways that I find houses. Let's take a look! 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Sears Houses of Markbreit Avenue

Recently, I was able to help one of my fellow kit house researchers, Cindy Catanzaro, who runs the "Sears Houses in Ohio" site, discover and identify some very early examples of Sears "Modern Homes" in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cindy did a nice write-up about what we found and how we found them. It's yet another example of how the "Great Sears Paper Trail" can lead us to Sears houses. In this case, the paper trail wasn't from mortgages or deeds, as I've written about in the past. This time, Cindy was able to use newspaper posts that referenced Sears Roebuck as the architect on the house plans for the houses we located. Cindy and I were then able to match up the houses to examples from the early years of the "Modern Homes" catalog. But go read the post "On the south side of Markbreit Ave. (Cincinnati)" for the rest of the story!

Sears Houses on Markbreit Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio
Photo shall not be reproduced without permission

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Where are the Sears Houses - July 2022 Edition

Sears Mitchell - Bedford, Ohio

We're halfway through 2022 and thanks to a lot of hard work by kit house researchers across the US, the National Database of Sears Homes has passed 14,500 documented homes. We picked up the pace of locating houses since the last update, adding 500 new homes in less than 7 months (as compared to 9 months at the previous update). With that mark reached, it's time to post another update of "Where are the Sears Houses?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Why You Should Be Authenticating Sears Roebuck Houses with Mortgages and Deeds

Regular readers know that I've spent a lot of time locating, documenting and authenticating houses from Sears Roebuck (and McClure and Montgomery Ward) using mortgages and deeds. To date, I've documented over 4,000 Sears Roebuck homes for the National Database of Sears Homes and a significant percentage of those were located by researching mortgage records. It's a method frequently used by myself and my fellow contributors to the National Database of Sears Homes and it's a big reason why we've been able to locate and authenticate so many homes. Because it's such an important part of the work that I do, I want to explain why I consider it the gold standard for authenticating houses from Sears Roebuck. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Washington DC Area Sears Houses by the Numbers

One of the most researched areas of the country for Sears houses is in and around Washington DC. That research took another big step forward this week with the completion of a comprehensive survey of Sears Roebuck mortgages in the City of Alexandria and adjacent Arlington County, Virginia. My fellow kit house researcher Judith Chabot spent about 3 months researching over 200 mortgages from Sears Roebuck (and a couple dozen from other kit house companies). That work fills in a big gap in our knowledge of how many Sears houses were sold in the Washington DC region. Although not every Sears house was financed through Sears Roebuck, where we've been able to do comprehensive surveys, like Arlington County and Washington DC, we've found that they represent a significant number of the Sears houses built. With Judith's work completed, I wanted to share some numbers. Let's take a look! 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Sears Houses of Northern Kentucky

The state of Kentucky probably isn't on most people's radar as a hotbed of Sears houses. In the ranking of states with the most Sears houses, Kentucky sits at #11 with over 250 houses. It's a respectable number but pales in comparison to neighboring states like Indiana, with over 700, and the number one state in the country, Ohio, with over 3,000 documented Sears houses (as of February 2022). 

But in one part of Kentucky, you can find Sears houses in just about every town. In fact, over 80% of the Sears houses documented in Kentucky can be found in just 3 counties - Boone, Campbell and Kenton. In cities like Covington, Dayton, and Florence, you'll find examples of Sears houses of all sizes over the range of years that Sears sold homes. What makes that part of Kentucky the home to that many Sears houses? It's all in the geography. Let's take a look! 

Friday, February 4, 2022

Making Lists - January 2022

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my kit house-related projects is contributing to a national database of Sears catalog and kit houses. As I shared in 2016, the database grew out of the need to have a centralized listing of Sears houses. Started nine years ago in January 2013, the Sears database has grown to over 14,000 documented homes with over 40 percent of those authenticated through various methods. 

While the Sears database is the largest in number of homes, it's not the only database we're working on. Just as there was a need to document houses from Sears, the same is true for homes from the other major kit house manufacturers. We now have databases for 9 regional and national kit house companies. Let's take a look!

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Solving the Mystery of the Sears Houses of Southbridge, Massachusetts?

A number of years ago, I came across a 1939 newspaper article with a reference to a new 200 home Sears development in Southbridge, Massachusetts. 200 homes! Wow! At the time, I hadn't learned to be skeptical of such reports. But after doing some searching online, I didn't have any luck finding any information about this development. A quick look on Zillow and some searching around town didn't turn up anything that looked like Sears houses circa 1939. The article had implied that the homes were one of Sears new "Home Club" developments but like a couple of the other "Home Club" developments, I couldn't find any other information about it. 

Fast forward to this past fall and while searching Zillow for Sears houses, I came across a possible 1930s era Sears house in Southbridge. As I like to do when I find one Sears house, I started looking around the neighborhood and to my surprise, within a block of this house, I found another half dozen Sears houses from the same era including a couple rare examples. Was this the missing 200 home Sears development that had been mentioned in that newspaper article way back when? Let take a look!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Biggest Little Sears House Communities

Certain communities are well known for the large number of Sears homes that can be found within their borders. Those places, like Carlinville and Elgin, Illinois, Washington DC and Cincinnati, Ohio, offer ample opportunities to see many Sears houses in person. Less well-known but just as worth the attention of kit house hunters are several communities that are smaller in size but just as chock-full of Sears houses. Some of these communities have far more Sears houses per square mile than their better known counterparts. So whether you're a resident looking to learn more about the Sears houses in your community or looking to take a road trip to view Sears houses, these communities should be on your kit house hunting radar. Let's take a look!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Where are the Sears Houses - January 2022 Edition

Sears Woodland - Albany, NY

Happy 2022! We're less than a month into the New Year and the National Database of Sears Homes has passed 14,000 documented homes. It took about nine months to go from 13,500 to 14,000 homes. But many of those 500 new homes added to the list were the result of a lot of hard work as my fellow kit house researchers did a lot of heavy lifting through mortgage records, some dating back more than 100 years, connecting those records to Sears houses. With that mark reached, it's time to post another update of "Where are the Sears Houses?"

Friday, January 7, 2022

ID this House! Sears Lynn

First appearing in late 1938, the Sears Lynn was one of the last new models added to the pages of the "Modern Homes" catalog. A modest house at less than 1,000 square feet in size, the Lynn's fairly plain design would - on first appearance - make it a difficult one to identify. To date, only a handful of examples of this house have been identified. But I'm going to show you that the Lynn's design includes some unique elements that will make it easy for you to identify once you know what to look for when searching for Sears houses. I also think that this model is much more common than the handful of examples would indicate which means there's likely more examples to be found. Let's learn to ID this house!

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Sears Parkside in Ferndale, Michigan

I've had the good fortune to be able to document hundreds of Sears houses in southeast Michigan. But most of those houses date from the 1920s and 1930s. Even though we know that Sears was actively selling houses in the Detroit area through at least 1941, I've only been able to document a handful of houses from the final years of the Modern Homes program. Recently, I had a chance to get some photos of one of those houses - a Sears Parkside in Ferndale, Michigan. This example of the Parkside gives us a chance to review that model and some of the changes made over the years that can help us date when the house was built. Let's take a look!