Sears Homes in Tulsa?
That was my first thought when Rachel Shoemaker of Tulsa contacted me. She said that she thought there were several homes in her town.
Now if she’d been writing from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan or Ohio, I wouldn’t have been so surprised.
In the last 10 years, I’ve received probably 5,000 emails and I’ve never heard much from the folks in Oklahoma. In fact, Rebecca Hunter’s wonderful book, “Putting Sears Homes on the Map” lists states with known Sears Homes. Rebecca went through thousands of pages of old catalogs, noting all the testimonials from folks, and then compiled that info into one easy-to-use book. There are two states that have no kit homes listed: Oklahoma and Oregon.
Besides, Oklahoma didn’t become a state until 1907. They were still fighting off Injuns and would not have had time to read a 75-page instruction book on how to build a kit that contained 12,000 pieces of house. (I’ve watched 106 episodes of Gunsmoke. I know about this stuff.)
Rachel sent me a couple photos and I was impressed. And then Sunday night (July 3), I stayed up way too late driving the streets of Tulsa via Google Maps, and I found two more kit homes.
If you know the address of a kit home in Oklahoma, please leave a comment below!
Below is a compilation of what Rachel has found (with a little help from me). All photos of extant homes are copyright 2011 Rachel Shoemaker and can not be reproduced without written permission. Photo of Wardway Modern Home #105 is copyright 2010 Dale Wolicki.
And as an added note, if you enjoy these pictures, please leave a comment below for Rachel, as she has invested countless hours of her own time and money researching and photographing these houses.
This is an impressive array of kit homes, and this collection should be preserved and protected, and further research should be done. Don’t let this amazing chapter of Tulsa’s history fall back into the shadows of lost memories and forgotten treasures.
One of the distinctive features (inside) is that corner fireplace in the dining room! This is from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Unfortunately, it's had a lot of "improvements" but this Westly in Tulsa is still standing.
The Arlington was a beautiful and spacious bungalow. This image is from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Tulsa's Arlington is not a spot-on match, but it's pretty darn close. The front porch was truncated to allow for placement on a narrow lot. This was a very common "customization."
One distinguising feature of the Arlington is this crazy array of windows on the staircase side. There are a whole lot of windows going on here.
Room arrangement of the first floor shows what a grandiose house this was. Note the spacious rooms and the maid's quarters!
Detail of the Arlington's roof, which is also quite distinctive
And the house in Tulsa is a very good match. About 30-50% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and this Arlington has a few minor changes (such as the truncated porch) but those are fairly inconsequential. I'd say that this house is almost certainly a Sears Arlington.
Said to be the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, this Saratoga is in wonderful condition.
The Saratoga, as seen in the 1921 Sears catalog.
And from the 1916 catalog. Note the big price difference between 1921 and 1916. "The War to End All Wars" created a housing shortage and hyperinflation in the cost of building materials.
The Avondale was built at the Illinois State Fair (late 1910s) and furnished with items from the Sears Roebuck catalog. This post card shows the Avondale at the State Fair. Note the stained class windows on the front and flanking the fireplace. Nice house, and popular too.
Sears Avondale in Chelsea, OK. Was this the first Sears House in Oklahoma? It'll be fun to find out! This picture shows the mirror image of the house above. Landscaping prevented taking a shot from the same side (as shown above).
Woodland as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
This view of the Woodland shows those two windows flanking the front door, and it's also a good shot of that itty bitty window inside the dormer on the third floor. The closet window (small window between the two second floor windows) is gone, probably hidden underneath the 1940s shingle-type siding. It's very common to see these little closet windows covered over when the substitute sidings go up.
Sad little Woodland, all dressed down and waiting to die.
Close-up of porch column detail
Those unique porch columns, together with the windows flanking the front door suggest this is a Sears Woodland.
Aladdin was another kit home company, but they were actually bigger than Sears. Sears stopped selling kit homes in 1940, but Aladdin continued on until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 homes and Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) sold more than 75,000. The Aladdin Sunshine (shown above) was a fairly popular house for Aladdin.
A nice little Aladdin Sunshine in Tulsa.
One of the biggest and best Aladdin kit homes was the Shadowlawn.
Is it an Aladdin Shadowlawn? Tough to say without an interior inspection, but it sure is a nice match, and even has the porte cochere (carport). It's a real beauty.
The Shadowlawn's living room, as seen in the 1919 catalog.
This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business. Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa) probably sold about 50,000 kit homes. The "Roberts" (shown above) was a very popular house for GVT. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the numbers on Aladdin and GVT.
Although the front porch has been altered a bit and the side porches have been closed in, it's still likely that this is a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts."
Perhaps my favorite find in Tulsa was this GVT 712 (as seen in the 1921 catalog).
And here it is, in the flesh. A real live GVT #712 in Tulsa. This is not a very common house, and I've only seen one other (in Shipman, IL).
The Hudson was offered in the late 1920s and early 30s.
Rachel has spent some quality time sitting in front of this house and studying the details. She feels strongly that this is a GVT Hudson. I have a few niggling doubts, but it certainly bears further investigation. An interior inspection would settle the question once and for all. Either way, this house proves what makes identification challenging.
It's the details around the front porch that trouble me. The Hudson does not have a transom, while this house does. The Hudson does not have exterior lights flanking the door, and the ornamentation around the door is more grandiose on the Tulsa house (compared to the GVT).
Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes, but they can be tough to find, especially in land as far south as Tulsa! Based on some educated guessing, fewer than 25,000 Wardway Homes were built. In Tulsa, we found Modern Home #105. It’s a modest little house, but it’s also a distinctive house with several eye-catching features. And perhaps best of all, “Farmers all over the country are giving this comfortable home the preference.”
To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.
Notice the paired box windows on the right side of this floorplan. This is a very distinctive feature of #105. This catalog image shows a vestibule, but that feature disappeared in future catalogs.
Montgomery Ward kit house #105 in Tulsa. Note the pair of box windows and the steeply pitched roof.
Here's a #105 from the same side. This house (shown for comparison) is in North Belle Vernon, PA. Photo is courtesy of Dale Wolicki and can not be reproduced without written permission.
According to "Many More Historic Homes in Tulsa" (by John Brooks Walton - 2003), there was a Sears Corona in Tulsa which was torn down years ago. Walton states that this house was located at 618 S. Delaware in Tulsa. It's a real shame that this house was torn down, as this was one of Sears finest homes, and it was also one of their more spacious homes. As the heading states on this 1919 catalog page, it was a classic early 20th Century American bungalow. If the countless hours of work invested in this one single blog can accomplish ONE thing, perhaps it can be this: Maybe we can halt the destruction of any more irreplaceable, uniquely American and historically significant kit homes in Tulsa.
To buy Rose’s book, click here.
To read about the first Sears Home in Oklahoma, click here.
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