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. 

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!