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Posts Tagged ‘chicago kit homes’

The Willard: A Two-Story English Cottage

December 5th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Neo-Tudors (also called Tudor Revivals) have always had a special place in my heart. They’re cute, practical and distinctive.

The Sears Willard was one of their most popular designs, and because of its many distinctive features, it’s easy to spot.

Scroll on down to see several real-life examples of The Willard.

The Sears Willard was the house featured in a promotion showcasing affordable monthly payments.

The Sears Willard was the house featured in a promotion showcasing affordable monthly payments. It's a darling house, and the payments aren't too bad either.

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The Sears Willard, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

The Sears Willard, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Think you may have a Willard? Wont be hard to figure out if you can get inside! Look at the many unique features on this floorplan!

Think you may have a Willard? Won't be hard to figure out if you can get inside! Look at the many unique features on this floorplan!

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It is a darling house!

It is a darling house!

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In all my house-hunting career, Ive never photographed a Sears Willard from the right angle. Something in my muscle memory demands that I take the photo from THIS angle.

In all my house-hunting career, I've never photographed a Sears Willard from the right angle. Something in my muscle memory demands that I take the photo from THIS angle. Nonetheless, you can see a few of those distinctive features from this angle. Notice the three windows in a row on the right side, and the dainty cornice return. Also notice the nine lites (windows) in the front door. This brick Willard is in Colonial Heights, VA.

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This house is photographed from the correct angle, but its not my photo.

This house is photographed from the correct angle, but it's not my photo. This Willard is in Bowling Green, Ohio and the photo was taken by Dale Patrick Wolicki (copyright 2010, and can not be reprinted or used without written permission).

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And heres another Willard

This Willard was not photographed by me, but you can see that Rebecca Hunter (the photographer) has the same problem with muscle memory that I do. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and can not be reprinted or used without written permission). We just yearn to photograph this house from the three-window side.

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Galax, Virginia is a fun little town with lots of rolling hills which makes photography a bit challenging.

Galax, Virginia is a fun little town with lots of rolling hills which makes photography a bit challenging. Lots of utility wires in this photo, but it's definitely a Willard (with a modified dormer) in Galax. Unfortunately, as built, that dormer (with a flat roof in front of the dormer window) leaks like a sieve, so people often build out the dormer to enclose that flat spot.

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One fine little Willard in Peoria, Illinois.

One fine little Willard in Peoria, Illinois. Again, from the wrong angle.

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Here's the lone Willard photo I have taken from the correct angle. It's in Crystal Lake, IL.

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And another fine Willard in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

And another fine Willard in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Look at the angle. Sigh.

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To visit Dale’s website, click here.

To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Interested in Wardway (Montgomery Ward) kit homes? Click here.

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The Sears 264P202! What a House!

December 1st, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Before 1918, Sears Homes were given numbers, not names. From a marketing perspective, it was brilliant to assign names to these models. After all, would you rather tell Mum and Dad that you’re buying “Sears Modern Home #2089″ or that you’ve just purchased The Magnolia?

Pre-1916, some of these houses had very long model numbers, such as the house shown here. It was apparently a fairly popular house for Sears, as I’ve got four real-life examples below, and yet it was offered only for a few short years, appearing last in the 1916 catalog.

Does this look like a Sears House to you? Didnt look like one to me, either, but it is! Its the venerable 264P202, and judging by the photos below, its a design that you should memorize, because it was apparently fairly common!

Does this look like a Sears House to you? Didn't look like one to me at first, but it sure is! It's the venerable 264P202, and judging by the photos below, it's a design that you should memorize, because it was apparently fairly common! This one is in Benld, IL.

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An interesting aaside: Do you know how Benld got its name? A fellow named Ben L. Dorsey purchased the land foor its rich mineral rights (coal, really) and it was developed into a tiny town. The name “Dorsey” was already taken, so Ben L. Dorsey chose the name “Benld,” a combination of his first name and subsequent initals.

For the flatlander tourist, it might help you to know that it’s pronounced, “Benn-ELD.”

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The original catalog page (1916) shows that this house sold for

The original catalog page (1916) shows that this house sold for $1,165 and by 1917, it was gone. In 1918, Sears Homes were given names instead of numbers. The 264P202 never had a name, so we know it was gone by 1918.

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housse house

This wonderful example of a 264P202 is in Okawville, IL. Look at the detail on the columns! It's a real beauty in original condition, but...

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house house

A broader view shows that this old house has been converted into a Funeral Home, and that brick ranch globbed onto the side is actually a not-so-sensitive addition.

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This 264P202 is in West Chicago. Of the four examples shown on this page, three of these homes have porte cocheres.

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Close-up of the original catalog image (1916).

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House in Arkansas

Here's one in Searcy, Arkansas that is being offered for sale at $128,000. In the listing, this house is described as "One of the last Sears Roebuck houses left in White County."

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To learn more about “one of the last Sears Roebuck houses in White County,” click here.

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The house in Searcy has a bathroom thats in beautifully original condition.

The house in Searcy has a bathroom that's in beautifully original condition. Left is the 1916 Modern Homes catalog. Right side is the house in Searcy.

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house text

Nice floor plan.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see an abundance of awesome photos of the house in Searcy, click here.

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The Flossmoor: Good Dental Advice or a Sears House?

November 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Or maybe both?

Yes, the Flossmoor was a Sears House that was offered for a short time in the late 1910s. By 1923, it was gone.

The massive cornice returns make it easy to identify. Another eye-catching feature is the clipped gable and the grouping of three windows on the front.

The 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog promised, “You will like this.” Apparently, that statement was more hopeful than realistic. In my travels, I’ve only see a couple of these unique houses. Is there one in your neighborhood? If so, stop what you’re doing, get a photo and send it to me.  :)

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Flossmoor 1920

Massive cornice returns, clipped gables and the three windows on the home's front make the Flossmoor an easy house to identify (1920).

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This Flossmoor was built in Evansville, Indiana and was featured in the 1919 Modern Homes catalog. Is it still standing?

This Flossmoor was built in Evansville, Indiana and was featured in the 1919 Modern Homes catalog. Is it still standing? Do the owners know what they have?

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Should

Mr. F. M. Hills of Evansville, Indiana shouldn't be too hard to find! :)

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According to the text in the 1920 catalog,

According to the text in the 1920 catalog, The Flossmoor was also built in these cities. Notice there's supposedly one in New York City!

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House

Look at the size of that reception hall! Also, note the "good morning" stairs.

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The floorplan was quite simple.

The floorplan was quite simple. A small hallway makes maximum use of the small footprint. Squeezing four small bedrooms out of this floorplan is pretty impressive.

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Nice house, isn't it? Another feature is that unusually small attic window.

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And heres the real life example in Batavia, Illinois.

And here's the real life example in Batavia, Illinois. Be still my heart.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To see more photos of the Sears Homes of Northern Illinois, click here.

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The Martha Washington: A Vision of Hospitality

May 11th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

There’s something about a Dutch Colonial that just makes me swoon, and the Martha Washington is a fine example of the Dutch Colonial design.

And it was spacious, too. Sans optional sunporch, the Martha Washington was about 1,800 square feet, with four good-sized bedrooms upstairs. Unlike so many early 20th Century homes, the Martha Washington also had an abundance of closet space.

As the text in the catalog page said, “The view to the visitor or passerby presents a vision of hospitality.”

An interesting bit of trivia: The Martha Washington has the same floor plan as the Sears Alhambra, with two small differences. The Martha Washington doesn’t have the box window on the front (as does the Alhambra) and the Alhambra is smaller. The Martha Washington is 28′ by 32′ and the Alhambra is 28′ by 28′.

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

To see more pictures of pretty kit homes, click here.

Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Honor Bilt "Martha Washington," as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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This testimonial appeared in the 1924 Sears catalog.

Mr. Brewood was darn happy with his Sears House in DC! (1924 Sears catalog).

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A side view of the Martha Washington, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

As seen in the 1921 catalog.

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Houseie

This Martha Washington in Lombard, IL has its original windows and STORM windows!

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How appropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia!  (Bedford, to be precise.)

How apropos! A Martha Washington in Virginia! (Bedford, to be precise.)

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Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition.  And it looks happy, too!  Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reprorduced without written permission.

Located in Oakwood, Ohio, this Martha Washington is in beautiful condition. The red door and green roof are nice complements. And the house *looks* happy, too! Photo is copyright 2012 Mark W. Risley and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Cincinnatti

Every Martha should have a flag flying in front of it! This beauty is in Cincinnati Ohio.

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Martha meets Maggy!  The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington was BUILT with these super-sized columns.

Martha meets Maggy! The two-story columns are reminiscent of the Sears Magnolia, but I seriously doubt that this poor Martha Washington (in Chicago area) was BUILT with these super-sized columns. And look - another flag!

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Floorplan

The Martha Washington (shown here) and the Alhambra (shown below) had the same floor plan, with two minor differences: The Alhambra had a box window on the front and the Martha Washington was four feet wider than the Alhambra.

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floorplan

Alhambra's floor plan.

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The kitchen!

And the kitchen was "the last word in convenience and sanitary comfort"!!

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houseie

The Martha Washington.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

See more pictures of fine-looking old houses by clicking here.

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A Fascinating Little Tidbit about WLS and Sears

December 29th, 2011 Sears Homes 10 comments

“What does WLS stand for?” is a question I often ask lecture attendees.

After giving more than 200 lectures in 25 states, only two people have answered this question correctly.

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with Sears and Roebuck.

Thanks to eBay, I’ve located and purchased all manner of Sears Modern Homes ephemera, and one of my treasures is this employee newsletter. In fact, it was the very first edition of the “WLS” employee newsletter! Published in early 1925, it featured an interesting story titled, “The House The Kelly’s Built,” which told the story of a next-door neighbor  (Mr. Kelly) who’d hired “Jerry” (a 12-year-old boy) to help him build his newly purchased Sears kit home, The Clyde.

Jerry’s father (Mr. Thomas) was incredulous when he heard about this. After all, housebuilding is a difficult trade, for seasoned and experienced craftsman. When Jerry tries to explain that it’s a Sears kit house, with a 75-page instruction book, and numbered framing members (for easy assembly), his father chastises him for his impunity and reminds him that he is not to interrupt his elders.

It has a happy ending, as Mr. Kelly (the new Sears Homeowner) explains to Mr. Thomas (Jerry’s dad), that it is a very easy house to build, and when completed, it’ll be a real dandy of a home.

There are three important take-away lessons from this story.

1)  Building a kit home (12,000 easy pieces) was considered to be a simple task by the people who lived in the early 20th Century.

2) It was acceptable (and even common practice) to hire 12-year-olds for hard work.

3) Mr. Thomas was a horse’s ass.

To read another fascinating story about a murder in Lake Mills, click here.

Here

This short story appeared in the first edition of an employee newsletter issued for employees of Sears Roebuck. The name of the newsletter was "WLS."

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Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Framing members were marked with a three-digit number and a letter (D is for 2x8s, C for 2x6s, B for 2x4s). This mark, together with a 75-page instruction book, made assembly easy for even the novice homebuilder.

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The house that the Kellys are building (with young Jerrys help) is the Sears Clyde, a very modest and popular bungalow.

The house that the Kellys are building (with young Jerry's help) is the Sears Clyde, a very modest bungalow. Because it is such a modest house, it often gets severely remuddled through the passing decades. Identifying these simple houses is very difficult.

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Clyde

The Clyde, as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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At least 98.76% of the time, the bay window in a little bungalow such as this is used for the dining room. The Clyde is an odd exception. In this little house, that bay on the side is for a bedroom, and the bathroom is right behind it. This is a useful detail for identifying The Clyde, as you should expect to see a bathroom vent roof pipe behind the bay.

At least 98.76% of the time, the bay window in a little bungalow such as this is used for the dining room. The Clyde is an odd exception. In this little house, that bay on the side is for a bedroom, and the bathroom is right behind it. This is a useful detail for identifying The Clyde, as you should expect to see a bathroom vent roof pipe behind the bay.

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This little Clyde in Cairo, IL is not feeling very well, and yet - it is definitely a Sears Clyde. That lowered platform on the front porch is still in place, but obscured by this white sedan. The gable ornaments and porch details are gone, and someone thought itd be a swell idea to do a thatch effect roof (shudder), but its a Sears Clyde.

This little Clyde in Cairo, IL is not feeling very well, and yet - it is definitely a Sears Clyde. That lowered platform on the front porch is still in place, but obscured by this white sedan. The gable ornaments and porch details are gone, and someone thought it'd be a swell idea to do a "thatch effect roof" (shudder), but it's a Sears Clyde.

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WLS

WLS stood for "World's Largest Store." The famous Chicago radio station, WLS, actually began as a promotional tool for Sears. The station signed on in 1924 with farm reports and weather information. Sears sold the radio station in the fall of 1928. Back in the day, call signs had meanings. Here in Norfolk, we had WGH which stood for "World's Greatest Harbor."

To read Part II, click here.

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

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Harris Brothers, alias, The Chicago House-Wrecking Company

February 10th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

Based in Chicago, Harris Brothers got their start tearing down things. In 1893, they started business as The Chicago House-Wrecking Company. According to Dr. Rebecca Hunter (fellow researcher and author), they became “Harris Brothers’ Homes” in 1913.

Of the six national companies, selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, Harris Brothers was probably the least-well known.

Their catalogs are certainly quite interesting, with lots of vintage photos and loquacious copy.  Below are some images from the Harris Brothers’ catalogs, together with a living example of a Harris Brothers’ kit home, The La Grange.

Front

Thanks to Harris Brothers' "Wonderful Offer," this young couple can build their dream home economically, but judging by those blueprints, that's a pretty simple house. This logo appeared on the cover of the 1915 and 1917 Harris Brothers' catalogs.

Harris Brothers

Testimonial from the 1915 Harris Brothers' catalog. Mr. Dunn apparently didn't get the memo that their name was changed in 1913. Either that or, this was a really old letter.

Harris

If someone knew how to look, it'd be fun to find this house in Kansas. Mr Ketcham owned it in the 1910s. It's a real beauty, too. Classic prairie style.

harris

Did Mr. Elliot build two HB homes in a row?

La Grange from the 1917 Harris Brothers catalog

La Grange from the 1917 Harris Brothers catalog. Note the rounded porch on the home's left front (in floorplan).

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Floorplan, up close

Floorplan, up close. Note the rounded "Varanda" (sp). This is an unusual feature and is always the first thing that catches my eye on this model.

LaGrange - close up.

LaGrange - close up.

LaGrange in Ocean View section of Norfolk, VA

LaGrange in Ocean View section of Norfolk, VA. That rounded porch has been enclosed.

To learn how to identify kit homes, click here.

To learn more about Harris Brothers, click here.

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Those Darn House-Wreckers: Harris Brothers

February 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Harris Brothers was a small Chicago-based kit home company that started out life as a house-wrecking company. Today, we use another name to describe this line of work; something a little more delicate and environmentally friendly, like “Architectural Salvage.”

Of the six national companies, selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, Harris Brothers was probably the least-well known.

According to fellow researcher Rebecca Hunter, Harris Brothers got their start when they were awarded contracts to demolish exhibitions at the 1893 World’s Fair (also known as The Chicago World’s Fair). That same year, they were first incorporated as The Chicago House Wrecking Company. In 1913, they changed their name and their image: Harris Brothers.

Rebecca’s research shows that their last mail-order pre-cut house catalog was issued in 1931. From then until 1958, the company remained in business, selling millwork and building materials through mail order catalogs.

Identifying Harris Brothers’ homes is especially difficult because so many of these designs were also offered in popular building magazines and also in planbooks. Outside of the Midwest, one has to be especially careful because it’s virtually impossible to tell - from the exterior - if a house is a Harris Brothers’ kit home, or a house ordered from another source.

Harris Brothers catalog from 1915

Harris Brothers' catalog from 1915

Harris Brothers

It's 1917 and the happy couple on the cover are still reviewing the paperwork, trying to decide on their new home.

A letter explains

This letter (reprinted here in original colors) accompanied the Harris Brothers' catalog and extolled the many salutary benefits of owning a Harris Brothers' home. Those tilting houses in the left margin make me a little nervous. Kind of a "wizard of oz spinning house" thing.

The catalog was also filled with happy testimonials from happy buyers.

The catalog was also filled with happy testimonials from happy buyers.

Nice

"Cheap" is such a harsh sounding word.

Boxcar being loaded

Where's OSHA when you need them? This picture is from 1915.

Harris Brothers

Harris Brothers J-161, as seen in the 1917 catalog.

And here it is, in living color. Nice match, too.

And here it is, in living color. Nice match, too. This house is in Richmond, VA.

Harris Brothers

Harris Brothers

Sears Modern Home #190.

Sears Modern Home #190 or Harris Brothers J-84? It's impossible to know without inspecting the interior and comparing the precise room measurements of the two floorplans. From the exterior, these two homes are identical.This house is also in Richmond.

Harris Brothers

This is the Harris Brothers Ardmore, and it's not hard to spot this house with that unusual second floor poking up out of that roofline! (Vintage catalog image supplied by Dan Becker.)

Harris Brothers Ardmore in Suffolk, VA

Is it an Harris Brother's Ardmore ? Physically, it's a good match from the outside. This house is in Suffolk, VA. Darn tree wouldn't get out of the way, despite repeated warnings from a certain author. Even making chain-saw noises didn't help. The tree remained perfectly still, unfazed and unimpressed.

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This Ardmore is in Vinton, Virginia, a small town just outside of Roanoke.

Here it is: THe Harris Brothers kit home, the Ardmore. Id bet money that the owners have no idea that they have a kit home from a small, Chicago-based company.

Harris Brothers' Ardmore in Raleigh, NC.

And they sold pre-cut kit barns, too.

And they sold pre-cut kit barns, too.

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

To learn more about Rose, click here.

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A Dazzling Collection of Sears Homes in Northern Illinois

August 23rd, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Not surprisingly, there’s an abundance of Sears kit home in Northern Illinois.

In fact, Elgin, Illinois has the largest known collection of Sears Homes in the country! This southwestern Chicago suburb has more than 210 Sears Homes!

To learn more about the houses in Elgin, visit the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, and check out The Elgin Illinois Sears House Research Project (by Rebecca Hunter).

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

A bungalow from the Golden West the Osborn was another very popular house. This one is on a corner lot in Annapolis.

A "bungalow from the Golden West" the Osborn was another very popular house. This picture from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog also shows interior views of The Osborn.

Sears Osborn in St. Charles, Illinois

Sears Osborn in St. Charles, Illinois

The Sears Newcastle was a Colonial Revival and a popular design

The Sears Newcastle was a Colonial Revival and a popular design

Sears Newcastle in northern Illinois

Sears Newcastle in Geneva, Illinois

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka, another popular Sears Homes

Sears Matoka in St. Charles

Sears Matoka in St. Charles

Sears Fullerton

Sears Fullerton

Sears Fullerton in Aurora, Illinois

Sears Fullerton in Aurora, Illinois

Sears Fullerton in Elgin, Illinois

Sears Fullerton in Elgin, Illinois

Sears Del Rey

Sears Del Rey

Sears Del Rey in Wheaton, Illinois

Sears Del Rey in Wheaton, Illinois

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina, Model #2024

Sears Marina (2024) in West Chicago

Sears Marina (2024) in Geneva, Illinois

The Sears Hamilton was a modest, but a big seller for Sears.

The Sears Hamilton was a modest, but a big seller for Sears.

Sears Hamilton in Elgin, IL

Sears Hamilton in Elgin, IL

Perhaps one of their top ten most popular designs, the Sears Crescent was offered in two floor plans, with an expandable attic option in both plans.

Perhaps one of their top ten most popular designs, the Sears Crescent was offered in two floor plans, with an expandable attic option in both plans.

Crescent in Elmhurst, IL

Significantly remodeled Crescent in Elmhurst, IL

The most notable feature on the Americus (shown here from the 1925 catalog) was the oversized front porch roof, unique front columns and the second floor front wall that juts out a little from the first.

The most notable feature on the Americus (shown here from the 1925 catalog) was the oversized front porch roof, unique front columns and the second floor front wall that juts out a little from the first.

Sears Americus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Sears Americus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois

To read the next blog, click here.

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