Archive

Posts Tagged ‘chicago houses’

Richard Warren Sears: A Few Fun Facts!

November 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in my previous blog, Richard Warren Sears was my hero, and he really was a marketing genius.

Here’s my #1 favorite story that showcases his brilliance:

Knowing that many households would have both his catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, Sears purposefully designed his catalog a little shorter and narrower than the Ward catalog. He knew that when the housewife was tidying up the home, the Sears catalog, being smaller, would be stacked on top of the Wards catalog.

The book Sears Roebuck and Company: 100th Anniversary relates that a Sunday School pupil was asked,”Where did the Ten Commandments come from?” The child innocently replied, “From the Sears, Roebuck catalog.”

Local merchants and owners of general stores were up in arms at the low prices Sears offered in his catalog and the bold promises that buyers could save money by eliminating the middle man. Of course, the middle man that Sears wanted to eliminate was the owner of the general store! In more than a few towns, children were promised a free movie ticket for every Sears catalog they brought into the local store. The catalogs were then piled high and ceremoniously burned in a massive bonfire.

In 1896, the annual sales for the mail order firm of Sears and Roebuck were $1.2 million and by 1914 they hit $101 million. At its peak in 1915, the general merchandise catalog contained 100,000 items in 1200 pages and weighed four pounds.

During World War I, the Sears Roebuck catalog was the book most requested by American soldiers recovering in overseas hospitals. Julius Rosenwald sailed to France in the midst of the Great War (WWI) with four huge wooden crates, each filled with Sears catalogs, for distribution to the American boys lying in a hospital. (The Good Old Days; A History of American Morals and Manners as Seen Through the Sears Roebuck Catalogs.)

According to Sears, Roebuck, USA: The Great American Catalog Store and How It Grew a Sears customer wrote and asked to return several bottles of patent medicine shed purchased from Sears, explaining that the medicine had originally been intended for her husband and he’d since passed on. The clerk who received the inquiry responded by asking the woman if shed like to see a copy of Sears Tombstone Catalog.

The famous Chicago radio station, WLS, actually began as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. The station signed on in 1924 with farm reports and weather information. Sears sold the radio station in the fall of 1928.

In the 1930s, Sears sold live baby chicks through their mail order catalogs. The chicks cost ten cents each and safe, live delivery was promised.

In November 1952, Sears announced it would sell the Allstate - a small car with a 100-inch wheelbase, capable of 35 mpg. It was an incredibly “basic” ride, and the first models lacked trunk lids and glove compartments. The little car with a four or six cylinder engine cost $1395 - $1796. Two years later, Sears stopped selling the cars, having sold about 1500. The reason: Sears was ill-prepared to handle the problem of trade-ins.

To see several beautiful photos of this 1950s Dream Machine, click here.

To see a video of the Henry J (the Sears Allstate), click here.

*

house

For 76.99 pounds (British), you can have your own "Henry J" (Sears Allstate) auto. This is a miniature reproduction of the 1952 "Deluxe" Allstate, offered by minimodelshop.com.uk.

*

To order your own Henry J, click here.

*

WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.

WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for "World's Largest Store." Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.

*

Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named Sears and Roebuck Road, but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named Sears Road.

Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named "Sears and Roebuck Road," but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named "Sears Road."

*

And the other side was named Roebuck Road.

And the other side was named "Roebuck Road."

*

And Garmin never got the memo...

And Garmin never got the memo...

*

To read more about the mill in Cairo, click here.

To read the prior blog about Richard Sears, click here.

*   *   *

A Sears House Designed by “Uncle Sam”!

May 28th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The banner at the top of the catalog page identifies The Wabash as “Uncle Sam’s Idea.”

According to the accompanying text, this house was “planned and designed by United States Government architects.”

The house appeared in the Spring 1920 catalog, about two years after “The War to End All Wars” had finally ended (November 1917).

According to the original catalog page, The Wabash was built in Illinois (Hamlet, Ohio, Atlanta, Williamsfield, Farmer City, Cerro Gordo) and Indiana (Hoover and Indianapolis).

If any readers are near those towns, I’d love to get a photo!!  :)

To read about a Sears House at the other end of the price spectrum, click here.

To learn more, click here.

1920 catalog

The Wabash, as seen in the 1920 catalog. And only two columns!

*

house up close

Take a look at the columns, Instead of the typical grouping of three columns at the corners, this house has only TWO. I guess that's how they made the house so darn affordable.

*

text

Interesting text from the catalog page (1920).

*

catalog

They must have thought a lot of the house because it was "featured" in the 1920 catalog, and had a two-page spread with interior shots.

*

floorplan

This floorplan is a puzzle. No bathroom and yet there's an open space "cement floor" that appears to be a mud room of sorts. Seems like a waste of space in such a small house.

*

dust trap

This "dust trap" is really intriguing. I suspect it was a place to dispose of ashes and such.

*

house house

And what a fine kitchen it was! Did it really have subway-tile wainscoting? You can see the "dust trap" beside the wood box (beside the sink).

*

house text

A little more info on the "handy fuel box" and "dust trap."

*

house house

Spacious living room/dining room area.

*

house house house

Sure would be nice to have a photo of the Wabash. It was built in these cities.

*

To read the blog written one year ago today, click here.

“The Sears Home We Picked Out” (By Joseph Origer)

May 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The Sears Home we picked out - the Hammond - had a kitchen that was 8 x 10 feet so I asked the salesman (at the Sears Modern Homes Sales Center in Chicago) if we could make the kitchen bigger. He suggested that we make the back of the house two feet wider, so the kitchen, dining room and a back bedroom would all be two feet wider.

This of course changed all the precut lumber and the original plans. They had to make a new set of blueprints and specially cut all the material.

My dad, who had accompanied us to Chicago, asked the salesman how much these changes would cost. We all held our breath while the salesman did the figuring and it seemed like it took him forever. Finally, he told us that the extra square footage would cost an additional $67. We went with the extra two feet.

Reminiscence of Joseph Origer (builder/owner of “The Hammond”).

In 2002, after the publication of my first book, I had the good fortune to talk with many people who’d built their own Sears kit home. One of my favorites was the story of Joseph Origer, who’d built a Sears Hammond on the family farm in 1940.

Joseph Origer was born in 1914 in a Sears Home, on a farm near North Judson, Indiana. His father had built the two-story kit house (Modern Home #101) a year earlier, in 1913. Twenty-six years later,  in the summer of 1940, Joseph and his new wife traveled to a Sears Modern Homes Sales Center in nearby Chicago to pick out another Sears kit home to build on the same farm.

The young couple chose The Hammond -  a 1000-square foot, five-room Honor-Bilt bungalow with casement windows. On July 4th, 1940, two weeks after placing the order, their home arrived in one boxcar at the train depot. Joseph Origer shared some precious memories and wonderful details about the building of these two Sears homes.

My dad built a Sears kit silo in 1911 and he was so impressed with the quality of the lumber (all cypress) that he decided to buy and build Sears Modern Home #101.


Our farm adjoined the old Pennsylvania Railroad. Dad was working in the field when he saw a train pass by with building materials piled high on open flat cars and thought, ‘I bet that’s my house!’ Dad went into the barn and hitched up the horses and went down to the depot to pick up his house. The story is that while Dad was at the depot unloading the building materials, the depot agent looked at the indoor plumbing fixtures and asked, ‘What are those things?’


I remember my father telling me the kit home was all number one lumber and material. All the building materials cost $879 and the total expense, including all carpenter labor, was less than $1500.I still have the itemized list of materials for that house!


When I decided to marry and stay on the farm, my parents suggested we go to Chicago and pick out another Sears home. Dad said, “you know the material will be good.”


It was 1940 when we bought the house. I think that was the last year they sold these homes. I had a 1939 Modern Homes catalog, so I sent for a 1940 catalog and found there had been a slight price increase. This was the time when Hitler was invading Poland and prices had gone up a little. I was excited about getting a house, but a friend of mine said, “Joe, you should wait a couple years until prices come down.” I’m glad I didn’t wait. It would have been a long wait.


We went to Chicago to look at Sears’ housing displays and get a little more definite information. The Sales Center had samples of inside doors and millwork that we could look at. They had different samples of the inside fixtures and millwork.


The home we picked out - the Hammond - had a kitchen that was 8 x 10 feet so I asked the salesman (at the Sears Modern Homes Sales Center in Chicago) if we could make the kitchen bigger. He suggested that we make the back of the house two feet wider, so the kitchen, dining room and a back bedroom would all be two feet wider.


This of course changed all the precut lumber and the original plans. They had to make a new set of blueprints and specially cut all the material. My dad asked how much these changes would cost. We all held our breath while the salesman did the figuring and it seemed like it took him forever. Finally, he told us that the extra square footage would cost an additional $67. We went with the extra two feet.


The salesman said if we had it all sent in one shipment, it’d be cheaper then having it sent in several shipments, which was another option. The second option was for people who didn’t have a place to store all the building materials. We went with one shipment to save a little money.


The house arrived about two weeks after we ordered it. The station agent called and said we had a carload of building material. We hauled it home on a truck and that took quite a few trips. Fortunately, we only had to travel 2 ½ miles. It all fit in one boxcar, but it was pretty tightly packed.


The plaster (for the walls) and cement (for the foundation) was included in the price that we paid. Sears placed the orders for those materials with a local lumber yard. I remember someone from the yard called me and asked, “when do you want your plaster and cement delivered?” I hadn’t been aware that Sears did it that way.


We built The Hammond  400 feet away from Modern Home #101. We hired a retired carpenter that lived in town to help us build it. He charged us 50 cents an hour. He said the material was excellent quality and that you could pick up any 2 x 4 and use it as a straight edge.


The house arrived on July 4th and we were living in it by winter. When the house was completed, the total cost of my house, including everything -  bathroom fixtures, plumbing, wiring, paint and varnish - was about $2,700. These 60-plus years The Hammond has been a wonderful house. I am glad I built it. This house has been well maintained inside and out, and it is still just as good as new.

Joseph Origer was born in 1914 in the Sears Modern Home #101. When I spoke with Mr. Origer in 2003, the original house was in very poor condition, due to its having been rental property for a very short period of time.

Joseph Origer was born in 1914 in the Sears Modern Home #101. When I spoke with Mr. Origer in 2003, the original house was in very poor condition, due to its having been rental property for a very short period of time. I'd love to know if this house is still standing.

*

The Sears Hammond, as shown in the 1940 catalog.

The Sears Hammond, as shown in the 1940 catalog. The 1940 was the last catalog that was issued by the Sears Modern Homes department. It was a reprint of the 1939 catalog, and the entire Sears Modern Homes department was permanently shut down in 1940.

*

The

The Hammond, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

*

A Hammond in Sterling, Illinois. Unfortunately, I dont have a picture of Mr. Origers Hammond. In my many travels, Ive only seen this one Hammond.

And it's all brick! This Sears Hammond is in Sterling, Illinois (northern Illinois). Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of Mr. Origer's Hammond in Indiana. In my many travels, I've only seen this one Hammond. A very distinctive feature of the Sears Hammond is the flared flooples on both sides of the front gable.

*

Flared

It was Dale Wolicki who first taught me about Flared Flooples, and he pointed out that even more rare than "Flared Flooples" are the Flying French Flared Flooples. I'm still waiting for Dale to send me a picture of a house that's sporting the Flying French Flared Flooples. The red arrows above highlight this distinctive feature on the Sears Hammond.

*

To learn more about Dale Wolicki, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Homes of Illinois, lookie here.

*   *   *