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!