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! 

August 2022 by the Numbers

If you're a regular reader, you know that I like to crunch numbers. So let's start off by looking at some of the numbers for August 2022. 

Total houses located: 77

This isn't the highest number of houses that I've found in a month but it was up there. Normally, the summer months tend to be on the low side when it comes to finding houses. I tend to be busy with other activities, leaving less free time to search. But this month, I dedicated quite a bit of time for looking for houses using a variety of different resources to find them. 

Sears "Betsy Ross"
293 Parkside Dr - Warwick, Rhode Island

Number of states: 15

This was a broad range of states as you can see by the map. It included houses in New England, the Midwest and continuing into the upper Midwest with a couple of solo entries from Kansas and Mississippi. The list included a number of states that I don't typically "visit" including Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Top 3 states for houses:
- Indiana: 22
- New York: 10
- South Dakota: 9

One of the reasons that August 2022 was noteworthy for me is that this top three list doesn't include some of my favorite states for finding houses like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Instead, I had good luck finding houses in states where I don't typically look very often, like South Dakota, and finding quite a few houses in states like Indiana and New York. 

Models by Kit House Company:
- Sears: 66
- Aladdin: 9
- Wardway: 2

This mix of manufacturers is pretty typical for me. I know the Sears models the best and they typically make up the majority of the houses that I find from month to month. But August 2022 was a good month for finding Aladdin homes too! 

Top 3 Sears models:
- Whitehall: 5
- Vallonia: 4
- No. 103/Lucerne: 3 (tied)
- Walton: 3 (tied)

It was a good month for the bottom of the alphabet! In addition to the models listed here, I found quite a few of the models from Sears that were primarily or exclusively named with a number in the "Modern Homes" catalog. Sears only started giving their house models names like "Avoca" or "Verona" starting with the 1918 "Modern Homes" catalog. Prior to that, houses were identified by a number, like the No. 112 or No. 187. 

While I was familiar with some of these models, particularly the ones that continued to be offered from 1918 on, many of the others were unfamiliar to me. This past month, I was fortunate to see a lot of examples of these early models that were located by my fellow kit house researchers. That pushed me to spend some more time learning to identify these early models. It paid off as I actually located some of them myself! 

Sears No. 225
1021 W Maple St - Kokomo, Indiana

Revisiting Sioux Falls, South Dakota

One of the places where I was able to see and locate a number of early examples of Sears catalog houses was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Relatively speaking, South Dakota accounts for a small percentage of the total number of Sears houses in the national database of Sears homes with just over 40 Sears houses identified to date. But Sioux Falls is home to a relatively large number of models that were referenced in the "Modern Homes" catalogs as locations where examples of those models were built. 

A few years ago, I spent some time virtually "driving" around Sioux Falls and had success finding some examples of early Sears models. But I hadn't been back to look again. This past month, the group of kit house researchers I work with spent some time focused on finding houses listed in the Rebecca Hunter book, "Putting Sears Homes on the Map". That effort led me back to Sioux Falls. 

"Putting Sears Homes on the Map" represents Rebecca's effort to capture all the references made in the decades of "Modern Homes" catalogs to places where Sears houses were built. In some cases, the references are fairly generic, simply listing the city and state where a specific model was built. In other cases, it gets as specific as listing an owner's name and home address (which sometimes has changed over the years!) There are over 1,300 references in the book for houses in almost every state. 

Testimonial from 1912 Sears Roebuck General Merchandise catalog

Sioux Falls is listed for at least 10 different models, some of which are still waiting for be found. I had some success in finding some of the outstanding models on the list and in a future post, I'll share a more in depth look at my latest finds as part of a more comprehensive review of the Sears houses in Sioux Falls.  

In my most recent "visit", I was aided by a recent update to the Google Streetview. The Google car(s) had been through much of Sioux Falls in January of this year. In addition to giving me up-to-date views of the houses in Sioux Falls, it allowed me to view them in a landscape free of trees with leaves! Houses that I had previously missed on past "drive throughs" of Sioux Falls were now visible. 

Sears "Elmwood"
1315 E 8th St - Sioux Falls, South Dakota

One model that I found in Sioux Falls that doesn't appear in "Putting Sears Homes on the Map" is this lovely example of the Sears "Lorain". While most of the houses found in Sioux Falls date back to the early years of the "Modern Homes" program, the Lorain first appeared in the the 1929 "Modern Homes" catalog. 

Sears "Lorain"
1505 S 5th Ave - Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Midwest Discoveries

In addition to the houses that I found in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I found some houses in a few other Midwestern states where I don't normally look. These included Iowa (3 houses), Kansas (1 house) and Nebraska (2 houses). Here's an example from each of those states. 

Sears No. 144
312 E Iowa Ave - George, Iowa

Catalog image of Sears No. 144

Sears "Altona"
201 Maple St - Minneola, Kansas

Catalog image of Sears No. 121 ("Altona")

Sears "Westly"
321 Logan St - Wayne, Nebraska

Catalog image of Sears "Westly"

Thanks for joining me on this review of some of the houses that I found this past month. I couldn't show off all 77 but I'll be featuring some more of the unique examples in future posts. See you then! 

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