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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built!

January 26th, 2016 Sears Homes 12 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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Is That A Sears Kit Home? 9 Easy Ways to Tell

August 15th, 2010 Sears Homes 7 comments

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic. Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

Haa

Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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