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Inside The Sears Elmhurst (St. Louis)

Several weeks ago, a reader of this blog told me that he owned a Sears Elmhurst in St. Louis, and he was kind enough to send me a few photos. To my surprise and delight, he was right!  It really was an Elmhurst.

Last month, I visited the Elmhurst “in person” and my oh my, what a treat!

The home’s current owners have a deep abiding respect and appreciation for the unique origins of their historic home. In other words, they really love their old Sears House, and have been faithfully researching the history of this beautiful old house, and restoring it, inch by inch.

Thanks so much to the home’s owners who were gracious enough to let me take a tour of their home and share a few photos of its interior!

Elmhurst first appeared in the 1928

The Sears Elmhurst was a classic (and classy) Tudor Revival with a "half-timber effect" on the second story. Inside, it had three bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths. The house in St. Louis is in mostly original condition.

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house floorplan

The living room and dining room were spacious. The kitchen and lavatory were not.

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Cover of the 1932

The cover of the 1932 "Homes of Today" showed this fetching entryway, which is from the Elmhurst. It's kind of a "Twilight Zone" doorway, out of the hubbub of busy city living and into another dimension of peace and joy and "the satisfaction that comes from building your own home" (as Sears promised in their literature).

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house 1930 catalog

In the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the Elmhurst was given a two-page spread.

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house 1930

Even in the simplified line drawings (from the 1930 catalog) the Elmhurst looks quite elegant.

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house house house

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is a perfect match to the catalog image. Just perfect.

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house gerst

The St. Louis house is being faithfully restored by its current owners, and it's a real beauty.

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Elmhurst compare

Close-up of that entryway shown on the front cover of the 1932 catalog.

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Mike gerst elmhurst

And a fine side-by-side contrast of the St. Louis Elmhurst (left) and the entryway shown in the catalog.

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house ricin

The 1932 "Homes of Today" Sears Modern Homes catalog showed this view of the Elmhurst built in Ohio.

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house stairs

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is a good match to the black/white image above.

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house house stairs

The "Elmhurst built in Ohio" is shown here on the right, and the Elmhurst in St. Louis in on the left. The details are perfect with two lone exceptions: The front door is hinged different in the St. Louis house, and that decorative "S" is missing from the base of the wrought-iron staircase railing (which looks like it'd be a knee-buster anyway). The flip-flops are missing from the Elmhurst in Ohio.

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house la tosca

La Tosca door hardware was a very popular choice in Sears Homes.

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house house la tosca

The LaTosca door hardware, as seen in the Elmhurst and as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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phone niche

The moldings and trim in this Elmhurst are birch, according to the owner. Based on the research he's done, I'd say he's probably right. The owner is doing a remarkable job of restoring the inherent beauty of all the original wood trim throughout the house. The patina and beauty of the natural wood finish on this phone niche isn't accurately represented by this dark photo. While walking through the house, I couldn't help but to "reach out and touch" the beautiful wood trim. It really is that beautiful.

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house house door

The 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed this view of the front door (interior). Note that the stylistic "S" is missing from the wrought-iron railing in this picture.

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front door stuff

There was a wall that blocked my shooting the door and staircase from the same angle as shown above, but I got pretty close. This house was a one-hour trip from my brother's home in Elsah, IL (where I was staying), but once I saw the inside of this house, I was mighty glad I'd made the effort. In every way that an old house can be truly stunning, this house *was* stunning. It's a real gem in the heart of St. Louis.

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comparison

Comparison showing the 1930 catalog image and the real live house in St. Louis.

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Wall

From this view (near the landing), you get a better idea of the size of the hallway.

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kitchen 1932

The kitchen of the Elmhurst (as shown in the 1932 catalog). This appears to be a photo, and the picture was taken by someone standing with their backside leaning hard against the right rear corner of the house, looking toward the door that opens into the dining room. Notice the La Tosca hardware on the door.

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kitchen today

The Elmhurst's kitchen today, from that dining room door, looking toward the right rear corner. While I'm a big fan of all things old, even I'd agree that the kitchen needed a little bit of updating for the 21st Century.

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Most Sears kit homes had maple floors in the kitchen and bath (underneath tile and other floor coverings). The owners of the Elmhurst tried to restored the maple floor in their kitchen but it was too far gone.

Most Sears kit homes had maple floors in the kitchen and bath (underneath the floor coverings). The owners of the Elmhurst tried to restored the maple floor in their kitchen but these floors were really intended to be used as a subfloor, not a primary floor.

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house inside

The fireplace in the living room has the same square slate tiles as seen on the front porch.

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house hallway upstairs

This over-sized landing window was another lovely feature of the Elmhurst. As seen from the outside, this is the tall dormer window just to the right of the front porch (as seen from the street).

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window staircase

Downstairs looking up at the staircase window.

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house elmhurst

A distinctive feature found in two-story Sears kit homes are these plinth blocks. These square blocks were used to help the novice homebuilder cope with complex joints. The landing of the Elmhurst had three of these plinth blocks on one landing. I do believe that that's the most plinth blocks I've ever seen in one kit house.

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house plinth block

The plinth block at this juncture is actually two-steps tall.

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business card

While doing some work on the home, the owner found this business card inside a wall. I've seen a lot of very cool ephemera in my fun career, but this is one of the best. There were only 40 Sears Modern Homes "Sales Centers" in the country and there was one in St. Louis. Folks could stroll into these storefronts and get a first-hand look at the quality of framing members, millwork, heating equipment and plumbing fixtures. Apparently Miss Manning visited the Sears Modern Homes Sales Center and had some discussion with Marcelle Elton about her new Elmhurst.

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pipe tag pipe tag

The home's current owners found this tag attached to a cast-iron pipe inside the kitchen wall. It shows that the home's purchaser was a "Miss Margaret Manning" of Clayton, Missouri. For those interested in genealogy, I would LOVE to know where Miss Manning lived before she purchased the house in St. Louis and what she did for a living. Lastly, I'd also be interested in knowing how long she lived in this house.

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house pipe tag pipe tag

Close-up of the tab shows a return address of 925 Homan Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois.

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houe exterior house

From all angles, the Elmhurst is quite stunning.

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On the inside, those dormers look like this.

On the inside, those dormers look like this.

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house solid brick

The Elmhurst in St. Louis is an enigma for several reasons. One, this is not a frame house with brick veneer (like every other "brick" Sears kit house I've ever seen). This house is solid brick, and when the owner remodeled the kitchen, he said the exterior walls had furring strips (typical of a solid brick house). And the flashing and original gutters were copper. When built, the house had a tile roof. These are all significant upgrades and probably cost the home's first owner quite a bit extra.

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gerst home

This photo was taken by the home's current owner. You can see a remnant of the tile roof on the ridge of the house. And if you look closely, you can see the copper flashing around the chimney.

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Elmhurst in Chitown

There's another Elmhurst in a Chicago suburb that Rebecca Hunter found. This Elmhurst has concrete sills (as you'd expect to see on a kit house, because it's simpler than laying brick), but the house in St. Louis had *brick* sills.

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house 1930

The Elmhurst was beautiful, but not very popular. It was offered from 1929 to 1932.

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And look what my buddy Rachel found in her 1929 Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes catalog! Its an Elmhurst that was built in Long Island, NY. And Rachel even found the house - as it stands today - in New York!

And look what my buddy Rachel found in her 1929 "Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes" catalog! It's an Elmhurst that was built in Long Island, NY. And Rachel even found the house - as it stands today - in New York! Who wants to get a photo of this house? :)

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Thanks again to the home’s current owners for sharing their Elmhurst with me (and the readers of this blog!). It’s a real treasure.

To read more about Rachel’s discovery in New York, click here.

To join our group of Facebook (”Sears Homes”), click here.

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  1. October 7th, 2013 at 17:32 | #1

    It’s a very beautiful house Rosemary. Thank you, and thanks to the owners for sharing a house that’s had a more faithful restoration than most people would bother doing with a piece of history.

  2. Angela
    October 7th, 2013 at 19:20 | #2

    What a great house! Truly a treasure.

  3. Laura (So Ca)
    October 7th, 2013 at 22:14 | #3

    Thank you Rose, and THANK YOU to the fabulous owners of this piece of Americana.

    You’ve done a great job restoring this beautiful home. Did you know the history of your home at the time of purchase? Just curious.

  4. Shari D.
    October 7th, 2013 at 22:49 | #4

    Rose - These are wonderful pictures of a marvelous home! It’s obviously being beautifully restored and maintained, and it’s certainly a privilege being allowed “in” by viewing the photos.

    I have a question about that business card. By reading it straight across at the lower portion, from left to right, it seems that St. Louis might have had two Sears Home Planning Service offices run by Marcelle Elton, or at least employing this individual.

    It looks like the Kings Highway location is open Mondays and Wednesdays, and is available by phone at Forest 1000, and also at a location on South Grand on Tuesdays and Fridays, at Prospect 8600, between the hours of 1:30 and 5:30 PM.

    Otherwise, why break up the days the way they are and list two totally different phone numbers at different exchanges, if the houses are the same? (”Forest” and “Prospect” like in the old days of identifying different phone locations.)

  5. Mike
    October 8th, 2013 at 10:46 | #5

    Honestly had no idea until I found Marcelle Elton’s business card behind some baseboard in the hall closet.@Laura (So Ca)

  6. Mike
    October 8th, 2013 at 11:13 | #6

    I am curious about this also - and as a side note I believe the phone line at this house was Chestnut 38179 - at least ‘CH 38179′ is scribbled on the back of our phone nook.@Shari D.

  7. October 8th, 2013 at 12:29 | #7

    @Mike
    Mike is the owner of this wonderful old manse, and has done a first-class restoration. I was so impressed with his attention to detail in the little things (and the big things, too!).

  8. Laura (So Ca)
    October 8th, 2013 at 14:21 | #8

    Mike,

    Thank you for the reply. I absolutely LOVE your home.
    The kitchen is pretty and you didn’t over do the remodel.

    Oh, I am so green. Maybe one day we’ll chuck this
    “toe tag” rancher (bought in 2012 for cash and tossed $125K
    in for a badly needed roof to floor remodel and fix) and buy
    a cool home like yours.

    Thank you for restoring it to its lovely charm. You help the rest
    of us dream. Should I send you a bucket or box of cash? lol

  9. Mike
    October 8th, 2013 at 20:35 | #9

    A dump truck please :) @Laura (So Ca)

  10. October 9th, 2013 at 00:07 | #10

    Love to see the inside!
    Let’s see, you have three Elmhursts, right?

    I found an Elmhurst from a 1930 testimonial in Long Island NY. Four total unless someone has another? How exciting!

  11. Mike
    October 10th, 2013 at 21:40 | #11

    And just in case anyone in St. Louis or the St. Louis area is restoring a Sears Home, Rock Hill Woodworking has all the blades and jigs to recreate the original backbands, doorframes, crowns, and baseboards.

  12. Laura (So Ca)
    November 2nd, 2013 at 17:48 | #12

    @Mike
    Mike,
    I finally saw your reply (Nov 2nd). Your money is well spent. You have a SPECIAL place to call home.

    Happy Holiday Season to you and your loved ones.

  13. November 3rd, 2013 at 22:41 | #13

    @Rachel Shoemaker
    Make that FIVE, there is one in Indianapolis Indiana too! It happens to be the house that was used on the 1932 cover (check out the view through the open door).

    It was built in all brick veneer (in 1929).

  14. Mike
    May 15th, 2015 at 21:55 | #14

    So, I know the excitement has tapered, but as to the size of kitchen for the home.

    I found that ours had a socket inset the dining room floor.

    Traced the wiring into the kitchen near the old exhaust fan.

    I’m thinking a foot switch for ringing the help. Ideas?

  15. Kathy T.
    January 8th, 2016 at 17:26 | #15

    With regard to the article on the Elmhurst in St. Louis and the Elmhurst built in Ohio that is mentioned, can you tell me if the Ohio house is in Cincinnati?

    If so, I think I might be living in it. My husband and I have the exact same entryway–front door, light, wrought-iron railing, etc. Would appreciate your input.

  16. March 11th, 2017 at 23:50 | #16

    Hey there - after loving our home we have decided to sell. If anyone is interested in owning this gorgeous piece of Americana, we are placing it on the market March 17th, 2017.

  17. John Dzenitis
    March 18th, 2017 at 10:22 | #17

    Wow. Just got this forwarded from a friend, Patrick Reilly, in Saint Louis.

    We owned and lived in the Saint Louis house from about 1997 to 2001.

    Now we are living in the San Francisco Bay Area (East) and wishing we could still order this house from the Sears catalog.

    Thanks for sharing all of this!

  18. Jessica
    March 19th, 2017 at 19:14 | #18

    Mike, I went through your house today and made an offer - it is stunning!

    Admittedly, I have been obsessed with its rich history and have been reading everything I can find, hence stumbling upon this post and your comments.

    I am an excited prospective owner but, regardless of the outcome, hope you find someone to love and care for it as you have.

    All the best, Jessica

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