It’s People Like John P. Waters That Confuse Us Historians 100 Years Later.
Until I started scanning a 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog, I’d never heard of Sears Modern Home 264P165.
Prior to 1918, Sears Homes were given names rather than numbers, so we know that this unusual-looking home never made it to the 1918 catalog. In fact, it’s not in my 1912 catalog or my 1916 catalog, so it was short lived (to say the least).
And yet, by 1914, this house had been sold in New Braunfels, TX and Lansdowne, MD and New Orleans, Louisiana.
And it might have been sold to John P. Waters of Massena, Iowa.
Reading these testimonials can be a little tricky, and this testimonial written by John of Massena is also a little vague. Did he buy millwork? Or did he buy this house? The way this testimonial is positioned, one would surely think he bought Modern Home 264P165, and yet if you read it carefully, it seems more likely that John just purchased some millwork from Sears Roebuck sometime around 1914.
Too many times to count, people will approach me and insist that they have a Sears kit home. Despite my best efforts, I’m often unable to match their “alleged Sears House” to the 370 designs that Sears offered in the early 1900s.
When I ask these folks, “What makes you think it’s a Sears House?” they often have the same story: “My grandfather said his dad ordered it from Sears.”
Now I’ll know to ask these people, “Was your great-grandfather’s name John P. Waters?”
Because in the early 1900s, it was not unusual for people like John P. Waters to order lumber from Sears.
In 1895, Sears started offering building materials (lumber, millwork, windows, doors, sheathing, etc) through a specialty catalog. That was 13 years before the “Sears Modern Homes” program was even a glimmer in Richard Sears’ eye.
And it was in 1895 that the stories probably began: “See that house on the corner? Old John bought every stick of lumber for his house from Sears.”
Forty years later it’s, “Grandpa John ordered his house from Sears!”
And after a full century has elapsed, someone sends me an email that says, “My great grandfather John built a Sears House!”
Maybe he did.
Or maybe he pulled a “John P. Waters” and just ordered the building materials from Sears.
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An additional note: Apparently, Lansdowne is next door to Baltimore!
Have you seen a 264P165? Please leave a comment for Rose!
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