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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built!

January 26th, 2016 Sears Homes 10 comments

For years, I’ve quoted the stat that “at least 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built.” That observation comes from years of studying Sears Homes “in the flesh.”

But what about customized Sears Homes - that bear no resemblance to any of the 370 known models that Sears offered?

It’s been 15+ years since I did the research for my book, “The Houses That Sears Built,” and I’ve learned so much in those intervening years.

This morning, through a lovely set of surprises, a rare one-of-kind document came into my life providing specific addresses of custom-built Sears Homes throughout the country. None of these houses bear any resemblance to a Sears House, but we now have incontrovertible proof that they are “The Houses That Sears Built - Custom Editions.”

This document provides the addresses of more than a dozen custom designs; houses whose addresses were almost lost to history, but now those addresses have been found, after being tucked away in a history lover’s attic.

Pretty exciting stuff.

The first house on this delightful list was owned by a long-time Sears employee and manager, Arthur Hoch.

Arthur was a veteran of The Great War, and according to his draft card, he was working as a buyer for Sears and Roebuck in 1918. Arthur survived the trenches, the war, the Spanish Flu and the long ride home from France, and when he returned home, he went back to work at Sears in Chicago.

Two years later, Arthur was assistant manager in some capacity at Sears, and living in his uncle’s home in Oak Park (near Chicago). By the 1940 Census, Arthur’s life had changed dramatically, and he was living in a shiny new home in River Forest, with a 1940 value of $20,000.

In 1945, he moved to Elyria, Ohio to manage a retail store there, and in 1954, he retired from Sears. Arthur was 59 years old.

In early December 1968, Arthur Hoch suffered a heart attack while driving, and was rushed to the hospital. He died a short time later.

He left behind a wife and three daughters, and one heck of a house.

Enjoy the photos below.

To learn more about identifying traditional Sears Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with this blog!

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When many folks think of Sears Homes, they think of very modest designs, just like this.

When many folks think of Sears Homes, they think of very modest designs, just like this.

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Starting in the 1920s, Sears started promoting the customization of their own designs.

In the 1920s, Sears started promoting the customization of their own designs (1930).

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House

"Complete Home Building Service"! (1930 catalog).

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Arthurs
Arthur’s favorite store built him one fine house. Built in 1934, Arthur put its value at $20,000 in 1940. Nine years ago, this property sold for $1.2 million. Zillow says the house has 6,900 square feet.  Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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It's had a sizable addition added to the rear, but it was beautifully done (and in keeping with the home's age and style). Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And
I can’t resist asking - do the homeowners know they have a Sears House? Does anyone in town know this is a Sears kit house?  Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres a customized design that Rebecca Hunter found through grantor records. The house is in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Here's a customized design that Rebecca Hunter found through grantor records. The house is in Elmhurst, Illinois. It doesn't match any of the 370 known designs of Sears Homes - not even in a little itty bitty way!

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To learn more about identifying traditional Sears Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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What Do George Bailey and Sears Roebuck Have in Common?

July 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Many folks think it’s a movie about one man’s life making a difference in this world, but I saw it a different way. I saw it as a movie that explained why homeownership is so important.

In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day declared that Americans had a patriotic duty to be homeowners. It was well-understood that home ownership was a boon to individuals and their families, but the “patriotic” angle made the point that homeownership also benefited neighborhoods and communities, and by extension, it benefited cities and even the country, as a whole.

To put a contemporary spin on this, what better modern-day model do we have than Detroit? How much of Detroit is now rental (non-owner occupied)? Despite 30 minutes of searching, I wasn’t able to find an answer, but I’d guess it’s a lot. (Heck, how much of Detroit’s housing is just not occupied by anyone?)

The early Sears Modern Homes catalogs made this point in a variety of ways, but in short it said this: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of prosperity, stability and peace.

In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees what Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born. Without George’s positive influence and his ever-fledgling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and many residents would have remained renters, rather than homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties.

And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family, and in a broader context, there is less stability in the community as well.

Look at Bert (the cop) and Ernie (the cab driver).

In this alternate “George-less” world, Ernie does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, he lives is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is largely to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

I’m of the opinion that Sears was, to small communities in the Midwest, what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls.

Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?

How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville, thanks to these little kit homes? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout the Midwest.

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In the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

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In the end, George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many peoples lives, enabling them to become homeowners. He saw that his town would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.

George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many people's lives, enabling them to become homeowners. The angel ("Clarence") showed George that Bedford Falls would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brother's Building and Loan.

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The value of homeownenrship was also touted in

The value of homeownership was also touted in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1921).

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Father is throwing out rent receipts - because theyre worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

Father is throwing out rent receipts - because they're worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

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Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway.

Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway. Even the little girl is lost in bliss! Is there a Hathaway in Lima, Ohio? It'd be fun to know!

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A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Learn more about the biggest and best Sears Home by clicking here!

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Two of My Favorite Things: Sears Homes and the Blue Ridge Mountains

January 25th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

For most of my years, I’ve dreamt of living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And I will get there one day. In the meantime, I’ll spend my spare time driving around in the hills, looking for Sears Homes. Do you know what a Sears Home is? These were true kits, 12,000 pieces of house, sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have one of these kits built in 90 days. Click here for more info on Sears kit homes.

Here are a few of the Sears kit homes I’ve found in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. First, my favorite find in Shenandoah, Virginia.

To read more about how to identify Sears kit homes, click here.

Original image from 1916 catalog

Original image from 1916 catalog

Sears Maytown - original catalog image

Sears Maytown - original catalog image

Sears Home in Shenandoah, Virginia

Sears Home in Shenandoah, Virginia

This next house is currently in use as a B&B. It’s the only Sears Milton I’ve ever seen, and it’s in Stanley, Virginia. It’s quite a magnificent house! Note the tall columns and flanking pergola on the front porch. The Milton was one of Sears’ biggest and best homes. Probably the only house that was fancier was the Sears Magnolia.

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Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

Sears Vallonia, from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This was a very popular house.

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

A beautiful Sears Vallonia in Lewisburg, WV

The Sears Altona, as shown in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

The Sears Altona, as shown in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte.

Sears Altona in the tiny town of Ronceverte, West Virginia.

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1929 catalog

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Lynnhaven in Rainelle, WV

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024

Although significantly remodeled, this is clearly a Sears Marina, #2024. This house is in Lewisburg, WV. Note how the shed dormer still retains its three little windows.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too.

Aladdin was another prominent kit home company, with a large lumberyard and mill in Greensboro, NC. There were many Aladdin Kit Homes in WV, too. Here, you can see the Aladdin Genie going back into his bottle (presumably on the back porch) after building a house for his master in a day (I'm guessing here).

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdins most popular homes.

The Aladdin Pasadena was one of Aladdin's most popular homes.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

As a point of comparison, this is a PERFECT Pasadena in Lynchburg, Virginia. Note, the side porch is still in original condition.

An Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. Sometimes, its hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it.  :)

Here's a nice Aladdin Pasadena in a small town just outside of Rainelle, WV. To the uninformed, this may look like a grove of trees, but there is an Aladdin House there. Sometimes, it's hard to identify these kit homes because of surrounding landscaping. This house called my name from the highway, and once you hear the sound of an Aladdin Pasadena, you never forget it. :)

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

An Aladdin Virginian in White Sulphur Springs, not too far from the famous hotel, The Greenbriar.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Heres the GVT Durant, a fairly popular little bungalow.

Gordon Van Tine was yet another popular kit home company of the early 1900s. Here's the GVT "Durant," a fairly popular little bungalow.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.

The Durant, in Lewisburg, WV.

To buy Rose’s book on Sears Homes, click here.

To read another article on Sears Homes, click here.

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