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!

The Lynn first appeared with 8 other models in an insert that was added to later editions of the 1938 "Modern Homes" catalog. These 9 models, along with the Croyden, would appear in the 1939 and 1940 editions of the "Modern Homes" catalog. 

When she first wrote about them in 2015, my fellow kit house researcher Lara Solonickne dubbed these models the "Rare 10" due to their late appearance in the "Modern Homes" catalog, the relatively short time they were for sale and the fact that only a handful had been identified at the time. Over the past few years, more examples of several of these models have been found including those of the Lynn. The examples of the Lynn on the National Database of Sears homes have come to light through a variety of ways - building permit records, newspaper articles and owners contacting kit house researchers. But I think the Lynn is also a model that you can spot on the street if you're looking for Sears houses and I'm going to show you why. 

For the most part, Sears house designs in the 1930s were far more modest and streamlined as compared to those offered in the 1920s. Some of the "Rare 10" are truly difficult to pick out from other non-kit houses built during the same time period. On first look, you might think the same is true of the Lynn, which isn't very large and doesn't have any immediately obvious ways to spot it. But there are a few that I think help it stand out from the rest. 

To get started, one important thing to know is that while the Lynn was only offered for a few years, it came in 2 different floor plans. I've mentioned before that some of the "Modern Homes" models had tweaks made to them between the 1939 and 1940 "Modern Homes" catalog. While some of those tweaks were fairly minor and only apparent in the interior floor plans, the Lynn's changes are apparent enough that you can date an example by the exterior design of the house. 

The major change between 1939 and 1940 is on the front of the house. In the 1939 plan, the front entry is on the side off the front porch, similar to the Ellsworth. Under the front facing gable are two single windows. 

Sears Lynn - 1939 version

In the 1940 plan, there's still a doorway off the porch. But a new front door replaces one of those single windows. Of the houses identified so far, I've seen both designs. 

Sears Lynn - 1940 version

Here's a couple real-world examples illustrating the difference:

Sears Lynn (1939 version) - 8 Bell Ave - Raritan, NJ

Sears Lynn (1940 version) - 731 Mulberry St - Montoursville, PA

This photo of the house in Montoursville illustrates the location of the side door relative to the porch wall. On both floor plans, this door is towards the back of the porch (which allows room for a closet inside the house). The presence of this side door (or its absence) will be one of the key elements that help you separate the real Lynns from the wanna-bes. 

Another element to look for on the front of the house are the porch columns. Although not every example has had them visible (when the porch gets enclosed), they can help in the identification process. 

On the left side of the house, both floor plans have a paired set of windows for the living room towards the front of the house as seen on the house in Montoursville. Spotting those windows will help you quickly separate out an actual Lynn from a look-a-like. There's also a single window on this side for a back bedroom. Take note how the angle of the roof changes on this side of the house to account for the covered porch. You won't see that change on the other side.  

You can also see a window upstairs in this example. I've seen several Lynns that have upstairs windows that correspond to finished space upstairs including the house in Raritan, New Jersey. Although it isn't shown in either floor plan, this kind of modification happened all the time with Sears houses. 

On the right side of the house, the arrangement of windows and a side door should again help you in quickly deciding whether the house that you have found is a Lynn or not. Here's the side of the Lynn in Raritan, New Jersey. 

Here's the same side as seen looking from the back yard towards the front of the Lynn in Montoursville. 

Although window sizes change over the years as original windows get replaced, the general arrangement of the windows and door should match what you are seeing with these examples. 

If you get a chance to see the back of the house and if it still matches the original floor plan, you should see 3 windows in this configuration. The middle window is for the bathroom and we typically would see a smaller window for that location.  

Inside the house, the 2 floor plans are very similar with just some small changes in the size and location of some of the closets. But before you ever get inside a house, you'll likely have ruled a house in or out of contention for a Lynn based on what you've seen on the outside. 

Sears Lynn as seen in May 1941 ad for Sears Modern Homes in Dixon, Illinois 

The Lynn's modest size made it one of the more affordable models available over the few years that it was sold by Sears. Historically, the smaller, more affordable models were popular with customers and so we would expect that relative to all the houses Sears sold in the final years of the "Modern Homes" program, there would be more than a handful of Lynns sold. But like many of the smaller houses sold by Sears, their size makes them more likely to be changed by expansion or lost to demolition. Hopefully, the information I've shared about how to identify the Lynn will help us find some more. If you think you've found a Sears Lynn (or any other kit house), share it with me in the comments!

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