Home > Uncategorized > It’s People Like John P. Waters That Confuse Us Historians 100 Years Later.

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.

Maybe.

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.

JUST lumber.

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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To learn how to “read” lumber markings on old kit homes, click here.

To read about the wonderful kit homes of Charlottesville, click here.

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Sears Home

This house apparently was offered for only a couple years. And yet, there's one in Braunfels, Texas, Lansdown, Maryland and New Orleans, Louisiana (1914).

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tricky testimonial

John P. Waters testimonial was for lumber, PROBABLY, and yet it appears on the page next to the picture of the 264P165.

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house house

The 264P165 was a very unique house, which makes it easy to identify.

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house house house

Here are the cities where three 264P165s were built.

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house house hosue

Whoa, check out this floorplan! Look at the bathroom! I suppose the occupants were profoundly grateful that this 1914-era kit home even *had* a bathroom, as many of these early 20th Century kit homes did not have "indoor plumbing." And check out the "living hall." It has a fireplace!

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house details

Have you seen this house? The details around the front porch should make it easy to identify, especially if you're in New Braunfels TX, Lansdowne MD or New Orleans.

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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!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. Pat
    April 8th, 2013 at 16:29 | #1

    This posting made me smile because it sounds just like my dad. He always said the small bungalow on our farm was a kit home. Only he was right.

    He produced the very catalog, with notes in the margins, from which my great-grandmother bought it in 1924.

    A Gordon-Van Tine Model 595. I’m nearly done fixing up the inside and hope to start working on the outside this year. I found crating materials from GVT in the attic. And on the back of some of the trim is the GVT stamp along with great-grandma’s stenciled name and address.

    Quite a legacy.

  2. August 19th, 2014 at 11:17 | #2

    Hi Rose,

    I am the home and garden editor for The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans. I’ve read your blog with interest, and was curious about Sears Kit homes in Louisiana.

    Do you know of any that still exist. I’d love to do a story, featuring your book and talking about the Sears Kit homes here.

    Thank you!

    Susan Langenhennig

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