Home > Uncategorized > Eighty Percent of the People Who Think They Have a Sears House Are Wrong.

Eighty Percent of the People Who Think They Have a Sears House Are Wrong.

Yes, that’s a true fact.

Back in the day, I actually kept track of such numbers, and back in the day, I found that about 80% of the people who thought they had a Sears kit home were wrong.

Eighty percent.

Typically, these folks did in fact have a kit home, but it turned out to be a kit home from another company.

I doubt that there’s an adult alive today that hasn’t heard of Sears and Roebuck, but how many people have heard of Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Sterling, Harris Brothers or Lewis Manufacturing? How many people know that Montgomery Ward sold kit homes in the early 1900s?

So while the legend of a “kit house” might survive through the generations, the facts of the story often get confused.

Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) actually sold more kit homes than Sears, and was in business far long than Sears, but still, when it comes to kit homes, people assume that all kit homes came from Sears. (Aladdin started selling mail-order kit homes in 1906 and stopped in 1981. Sears started in 1908 and stopped in 1940.)

Which leads me to the topic of today’s blog.

Last week, friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker discovered a blog about a “Sears House” in Melbourne, Florida. Rachel took one look at the house featured in the blog and realized, it was not a Sears House, but rather, a kit home sold by Gordon Van Tine.

To read the blog, click here.

In the blog, the house in Melbourne is misidentified as a Sears Gordon, but (thanks to researchers Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker), we now know that this is a physical impossibility.

After doing some digging, Rachel and Mark found that the little Cape Cod style house was not only present, but occupied when the 1930 Census was conducted.

So this “Ready-Cut” house was already built and occupied in 1930. But the Sears Gordon did not appear in the Sears Modern Homes catalog until Spring 1931. And then there’s the fact that the Sears Gordon really doesn’t look much like the little house in Melbourne.

Again, this is a very common mistake.

And there’s another piece to this story. Rachel, who’s quite adept at finding kit homes via Google Maps, found that to the left of the little Cape Cod is another Gordon Van Tine house (Model #530). And to the right is a Gordon Van Tine Model #613, with a Gordon Van Tine garage!

There’s a story there, but what is it? How did three Gordon Van Tine homes end up in one cluster?

Based on my experience, it was probably a family enterprise. This was pretty common.

If you have any information to the back story of these three Gordon Van Tine houses, please oh please leave a comment below!

To read the original blog featuring this subject house, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.

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The auditors website shows the little cape cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

The auditor's website has a photo showing the little Cape Cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.

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GVT 620

The catalog page for the GVT 620 (1927). Hmmm, it looks a lot like the house above!

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The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little cape cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little Cape Cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!

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A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the

A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the left is the Melbourne house and the house on the right is the Sears Gordon.

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Ooh, now thats a nice match!

Ooh, now that's a nice match! Why, those two houses look just alike!

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In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, Proof of the Pudding, and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, youll see its a spot-on match!

In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, "Proof of the Pudding," and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, you'll see it's a spot-on match!

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And just a couple weeks ago, I saw the GVT #620 on an episode of Undercover Boss.

And just a couple weeks ago, I spotted a GVT #620 on an episode of "Undercover Boss."

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But wait, theres more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

But wait, there's more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.

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Oh yeah!

The double dormers make this house easy to spot. Gordon Van Tine Model #530 sits to the immediate left of the house featured in the blog (GVT #620). Photo is from auditor's website.

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And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 next door to the #530!

And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 to the right of the GVT #620.

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Wow

So how did Palmetto Street in Melbourne end up with a Gordon Van Tine #613 (shown above), a number #530 (with the double dormers) and a #620 (with the triple dormers)? And why isn't there a house in this cluster with just ONE dormer? Photo is from auditor's website.

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house house

As mentioned above, misidentifying Sears Homes is a very common mistake. Last month in Staunton, Virginia, the owners of the home above were quite certain this was a Sears kit home. In fact, it turned out to be a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. And a lovely match, at that!

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The owners of that house in Staunton were THRILLED to learn the true facts about their house, and it’s my hope the owner of the GVT #620 will be equally thrilled to learn the true facts about her beloved home in Melbourne.

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To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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  1. Jan
    June 2nd, 2013 at 19:12 | #1

    So has anyone informed the lady in Florida that her home is not a “Sears” home”?

    I could not determine if that has happened or not. I am not even sure how they came up with the idea that it was a Sears Gordon. Honestly even an untrained eye should be able to see the differences.

  2. June 3rd, 2013 at 06:17 | #2

    Hi Jan.

    Rachel and I have both sent numerous messages via email and Facebook, and I suspect by now that she has been informed.

    It is kind of a surprise that the house was misidentified. However, I suffer from a touch of prosopagnosia (the inability to remember faces) and it can be pretty embarrassing.

    What’s so interesting is that my friend Rebecca, who has also memorized hundreds of house pictures, suffers from the same malady.

    We can remember the intricate details on hundreds of houses, but we can’t remember what people look like.

    So, I’m coming to understand that maybe there are people who struggle with houses like I struggle with faces. :)

  3. June 3rd, 2013 at 13:53 | #3

    @Jan
    I mailed copies of the catalog images of all three houses and the garage to the home owner and the Florida Historical Society last Thursday, I believe.

    So, if nothing else they will receive xeroxed copies very soon!

    I’m really puzzled how they decided it was a Sears Gordon. It doesn’t look anything like the image and the measurements aren’t even close. I checked all three houses’ measurements against those on the assessor records and they match. Surprise surprise.

    If you read the blog and see the photos of those door knobs that were sawed off during the “restoration” they happen to match GVT door hardware. Sears basic door hardware was different.

    Someone will come across Gordon Van Tine stenciling in those houses someday and In would love to know if they were all ordered by the same person, which is what I think.

    Hopefully she will be happy! And how exciting that there are two others and at least one garage. I couldn’t see any other garages although I know the #530 also has a garage.

  4. June 12th, 2013 at 08:27 | #4

    Can you help me identify the builder of this house?

    It’s dated 1925, but the inside has been totally gutted so there’s no way to even tell room sizes, dimensions, etc.

    Thanks, R

    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/522-6th-St-N-Saint-Petersburg-FL-33701/89747941_zpid/

  5. June 24th, 2013 at 14:30 | #5

    Hi -

    Here’s my GVT house: http://www.magpiemusing.com/2013/06/unusually-handsome.html

    I have a couple of other pictures of the outside if you’re interested.

    Could I ask where you got that copy of Proof of the Pudding?

  6. Eddie Browder
    August 9th, 2013 at 15:27 | #6

    YIKES! Gas and water lines have already been located in preparation for the DEMOLITION of the Gordon Van Tine kit house and garage at 501 Palmetto Avenue. This is the model #613 shown above and one of the three GVTs in a row. The man who owns it has dementia. His daughter who has power-of-attorney is concerned about liability issues if one of the many area homeless people is injured while in the house. I don’t know why they cant secure it and offer it for sale. Someone will see the value of owning a GVT w/ matching garage. Any ideas on how to save this home? It is not protected by the City’s historic ordinance. Thank you!

  7. Eddie Browder
    August 22nd, 2013 at 14:24 | #7

    Sadly the Gordon Van Tine kit home #613 and garage at 501 Palmetto Ave. was demolished this morning by the family.

    They own the residential lot next door and a commercial lot behind the house. This corner lot will probably become a parking lot one day. The famous 3 GVTs in a row (4 counting the garage) is down to 2 homes.

    What a loss for this neighborhood, Melbourne and all interested in kit homes!

  8. August 24th, 2013 at 14:19 | #8

    From past experience, the Sears/Wardway Colchester in Bowling Green on the campus for example, once the people catch wind that the house is “valuable” to someone or maybe has historical value, and they fear that they will not be able to continue with their future plans they act really REALLY fast to get the building razed.

    The PopC house could have easily been relocated as this GVT house and garage could have been relocated.

    Some people have no respect or care to preserve history…they would rather destroy it. Once these home are gone they are gone, there will never be anymore like them.

    Sad day indeed :(

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