Yes, that’s a true fact.
Back in the day, I actually kept track of such numbers, and back in the day, I found that about 80% of the people who thought they had a Sears kit home were wrong.
Typically, these folks did in fact have a kit home, but it turned out to be a kit home from another company.
I doubt that there’s an adult alive today that hasn’t heard of Sears and Roebuck, but how many people have heard of Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Sterling, Harris Brothers or Lewis Manufacturing? How many people know that Montgomery Ward sold kit homes in the early 1900s?
So while the legend of a “kit house” might survive through the generations, the facts of the story often get confused.
Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) actually sold more kit homes than Sears, and was in business far long than Sears, but still, when it comes to kit homes, people assume that all kit homes came from Sears. (Aladdin started selling mail-order kit homes in 1906 and stopped in 1981. Sears started in 1908 and stopped in 1940.)
Which leads me to the topic of today’s blog.
Last week, friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker discovered a blog about a “Sears House” in Melbourne, Florida. Rachel took one look at the house featured in the blog and realized, it was not a Sears House, but rather, a kit home sold by Gordon Van Tine.
To read the blog, click here.
In the blog, the house in Melbourne is misidentified as a Sears Gordon, but (thanks to researchers Mark Hardin and Rachel Shoemaker), we now know that this is a physical impossibility.
After doing some digging, Rachel and Mark found that the little Cape Cod style house was not only present, but occupied when the 1930 Census was conducted.
So this “Ready-Cut” house was already built and occupied in 1930. But the Sears Gordon did not appear in the Sears Modern Homes catalog until Spring 1931. And then there’s the fact that the Sears Gordon really doesn’t look much like the little house in Melbourne.
Again, this is a very common mistake.
And there’s another piece to this story. Rachel, who’s quite adept at finding kit homes via Google Maps, found that to the left of the little Cape Cod is another Gordon Van Tine house (Model #530). And to the right is a Gordon Van Tine Model #613, with a Gordon Van Tine garage!
There’s a story there, but what is it? How did three Gordon Van Tine homes end up in one cluster?
Based on my experience, it was probably a family enterprise. This was pretty common.
If you have any information to the back story of these three Gordon Van Tine houses, please oh please leave a comment below!
To read the original blog featuring this subject house, click here.
To visit Rachel’s blog, click here.
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The auditor's website has a photo showing the little Cape Cod in Melbourne, pre-restoration.
The catalog page for the GVT 620 (1927). Hmmm, it looks a lot like the house above!
The Sears Gordon (which is what the above house is claimed to be), was not offered until 1931, and yet the little Cape Cod (shown in the photograph above) was occupied during the 1930 Census!
A side by side comparison makes it clear! The house on the left is the Melbourne house and the house on the right is the Sears Gordon.
Ooh, now that's a nice match! Why, those two houses look just alike!
In 1927, Gordon Van Tine published a promotional catalog titled, "Proof of the Pudding," and in that catalog, it featured a Gordon Van Tine #620 (with the optional fireplace). If you compare this house with the house photos shown in the original blog link, you'll see it's a spot-on match!
And just a couple weeks ago, I spotted a GVT #620 on an episode of "Undercover Boss."
But wait, there's more! Rachel also found a GVT #530 next door to the GVT #620.
The double dormers make this house easy to spot. Gordon Van Tine Model #530 sits to the immediate left of the house featured in the blog (GVT #620). Photo is from auditor's website.
And she found a Gordon Van Tine #613 to the right of the GVT #620.
So how did Palmetto Street in Melbourne end up with a Gordon Van Tine #613 (shown above), a number #530 (with the double dormers) and a #620 (with the triple dormers)? And why isn't there a house in this cluster with just ONE dormer? Photo is from auditor's website.
As mentioned above, misidentifying Sears Homes is a very common mistake. Last month in Staunton, Virginia, the owners of the home above were quite certain this was a Sears kit home. In fact, it turned out to be a kit home from Gordon Van Tine. And a lovely match, at that!
The owners of that house in Staunton were THRILLED to learn the true facts about their house, and it’s my hope the owner of the GVT #620 will be equally thrilled to learn the true facts about her beloved home in Melbourne.
To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.
To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.
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