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Finding the CUSTOMIZED House That Sears Built, Part V

February 25th, 2016 Sears Homes No comments

Fellow Sears House Hunter Carey Haeufgloeckner found this one-of-a-kind customized Sears House in Canton, Ohio by doing a search at the local courthouse for mortgage records. It’s one of many ways to find Sears Homes, and one of the better ways to find a customized Sears kit house.

The grantee records will show a conveyance of the house to Sears (or one of their trustees) as security for the note (or loan). The grantor in this case is the homeowner, who’s conveying a security interest to the mortgage holder (Sears).

And this customized Sears House is less than four blocks from the Sears Magnolia in Canton!

Carey found a build date of 1924 for the customized house, and the Sears Magnolia was purchased sometime in 1922, so it raises the question: Was the homeowner awestruck by the magnificent Magnolia, and decided that he wanted his own glorious Sears House?

While I’m the one penning the words for this blog, it is in fact Carey Haeufgloeckner who has done all the legwork, research and photography. If you’re in Canton, and would like to know more about kit homes, Carey is an incredible resource!

Thanks so much to Carey for providing the material for this blog!

To read about the Magnolia in Canton, click here.

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When Carey first shared these photos, I wasnt sure what I was looking at. It has the dormer from a Sears Hamilton and a front porch reminiscent of the Sears Ardara, but other than that, it really isnt close to matching any of the 370 designs of Sears Homes.

When Carey first shared these photos, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. It has the dormer that's a bit like the Sears Hamilton and a front porch reminiscent of the Sears Ardara, but other than that, it really isn't close to matching any of the 370 designs of Sears Homes. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Its a fine-looking and spacious home

It's a fine-looking and spacious home and even looks good in snow! Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Carey got good shots from every angle! Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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The owners told Carey that it was modeled after the Sears Lexington. Shown here is a Sears Lexington in Glen Ellyn (near Chicago).

The owners told Carey that it was modeled after the Sears Lexington. Shown here is a Sears Lexington in Glen Ellyn (near Chicago).

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The Sears Lexington (shown here from the 1921 catalog) might not look like a good match to the house in Canton - at first glance, but...

The Sears Lexington (shown here from the 1921 catalog) might not look like a good match to the house in Canton - at first glance, but...

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I can see many similarities.

The Canton house is seven feet wider (43' wide per the auditor's website) and two feet less deep (22 feet), but the interior layout is apparently pretty close (but flipped in the Canton house).

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The second floor is also a good match.

This house (in Canton) was built with the rooms reversed!

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If you put

If you compare the home's rear with the floorplan and "reverse it," you can see the windows are all a good match. That small window next to the three living room windows is the half-bath. See those double windows next to the half bath? I suspect the homeowners chose not to go with the grade entry shown above. The next opening is the kitchen window.

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The second flloor

On the second floor, you can readily see those two small windows for the oversized landing.

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That dormer looks a lot like it came from the Hamilton or Starlight.

That dormer looks a lot like it came from the Hamilton or Starlight. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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See what I mean?

It's similar, not identical.

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And the front porch is impossible to peg, but its a bit reminiscent of the Sears Ardara.

And the front porch is impossible to peg, but it's a bit reminiscent of the Sears Ardara. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Kinda sorta, but the Canton house has a more dramatic flip!

Kinda sorta, but the Canton house has a more dramatic flip!

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When I was a child, Id ask my mother if I looked like my siblings and shed say, No I dont think so. You look just like YOU! This house doesnt really look like any of its siblings either!

When I was a child, I'd ask my mother if I looked like my siblings and she'd say, "No I don't think so. You look just like YOU!" This house doesn't really look like any of its siblings either! But it surely is a lovely home in its own right. Photo is copyright 2016 Carey Haeufgloeckner and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks so much to Carey for providing the material for this blog!

To read about the Magnolia in Canton, click here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part III

February 13th, 2016 Sears Homes 1 comment

Updated! We have some beautiful photos now!!

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Click here to see the new pictures!

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Thanks to a remarkable and rare document that came into my life, Rachel Shoemaker and I have been able to find several customized Sears Homes. One of these is in Glen Ellyn (a Chicago suburb) and it’s a real beauty.

Absent this document (which wholly authenticates this as a Sears House), I’d never have known that this was a “Sears kit home.”

As with the other customized Sears Home we found, this house in Glen Ellyn was also owned by a high-ranking Sears employee, who started at Sears in the 1910s and remained with the company for many years.

According to city records, it was built in 1930 (which is probably about right) and has almost 4,500 square feet. Apparently, it hasn’t been offered for sale in many years, for there is no record of recent sales.

The photos below aren’t very good quality, and if anyone in the Chicago area would like to snap some better images, I’d be grateful!

To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Yes, this is a Sears kit house.

This beautiful Colonial Revival is a Sears kit house, ordered by a long-time Sears employee. The bay window has a copper roof and the primary roof appears to be slate (although it is hard to be sure). Thanks to the county assessor for providing such a lovely photo!

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Located in Glen Ellyn.

It's hard to tell from these low-resolution images, but I suspect that those are copper gutters and it appears to be a solid-brick home. This was (and is) a very well-built home, and spacious, with almost 4,500 square feet.

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Front door is intriguing Jefferson

Shown here is a Sears Jefferson in Carbondale, Illinois. Take a look at that entrance. It is a match to the house in Glen Ellyn - right down to the details. The Jefferson in Carbondale was built in the late 1920s.

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Match front door

Here's a close-up of that front door on the Jefferson.

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Preston

The customized Sears House in Glen Ellyn is also a little reminiscent of the Sears Preston.

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Inside

The Preston was pretty fancy inside.

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Houses 1921

It's likely that the interior of the Glen Ellyn house has a few of these extra touches, too.

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Do they know

I'd love to get some bettter images of this house in Glen Ellyn, but for now, these will have to do! And it sure would be fun to know if the home's current owners know that they have a "Sears kit house"!

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To read about the other customized Sears Homes, click here.

Sometimes, Sears Homes look a lot like plan book homes.

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Why I Love Ferguson, Missouri

October 5th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

In Fall 2002, I was broke, depressed, lonely and very worried about the future. Months earlier, my beloved mother had died unexpectedly and my marriage of 24 years had ended in divorce.

Those were tough times.

I had one thing going for me: My newly published book, The Houses That Sears Built.

Working 100-hour weeks, I did nothing but promote that book and send out free copies to local media outlets. I slept and I worked. There wasn’t time or money for anything else.

If the book didn’t start selling fast, I’d have to do something I dreaded: Get a real job, and jobs in Alton, Illinois were tough to find.

Sometime in late 2002, I drove around Ferguson, Missouri and found a few Sears Homes. I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten how it unfolded from there, but I hooked up with a local architect and history lover named Alan. He put me in touch with a couple folks from the city of Ferguson. In time, I was hired to do a survey of the kit homes in the city of Ferguson.

Alan drove me around to the different neighborhoods and it was great fun. Most of what I knew about architecture came from reading books. Alan graciously answered my many simple questions about architecture. I will always remember his kindness and patience.

After I’d identified a few kit homes,  the city had a lovely ceremony, and each Sears Home owner was presented with a beautiful plaque. I was invited to be part of the presentation ceremony.

It was a lovely memory for so many different reasons.

First and foremost, the folks in Ferguson - homeowners, Alan the Architect, city officials and employees  - showed me so much kindness and respect.

Secondly, this was my rubicon.

My divorce had been heart-breaking, but this experience in Ferguson showed me that my work had value and my life had purpose, and that there were people in the world who shared my passion for these old houses.

Some time later, the kit homes in Ferguson were featured on “Show Me St. Louis” (a popular TV show),  and that also warmed the cockles of my heart, and gave me new hope that I could make a career out of this vocation.

In subsequent years, my book and I have been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, MSNBC, NPR, BBC Radio, and many more. I’ve traveled to 25 states doing surveys and giving talks.

But it all started with the grace and kindess of the many fine folks in Ferguson.

That’s why I love Ferguson so much.

BTW, if you know the addresses of these homes or even street names, please send me a note or leave a comment.  When I did this survey, I didn’t know much about the other kit home companies. I’d love to come back and do a more thorough survey.

Lastly, these images are from 12-year-old slides. The colors are off and the images are grainy.

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One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in St. Louis is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country, and these were only placed in areas where sales had been strong. And once a Modern Homes sales center opened, sales were even stronger!

One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in the St. Louis area is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country.

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And in the early 30s,

Sears only placed these "Sales Centers" in communities where sales were strong.

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Ferguson

Sears Walton as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Ferguson

I remember the homeowner here was just THRILLED to learn she had a Sears House!

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Leanon

The Lebanon was a popular house for Sears (1921 catalog).

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Lebanon

Lovely Lebanon in Ferguson. Notice the placement of the door next to the one window.

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Marina

Sears Marina (1916)

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Marina

A perfect Marina in Ferguson.

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Lex

The Sears Lexington was one of their biggest and most expensive homes.

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Lexington

Initially, I'd missed this stately Lexington hiding behind the hedge, but this IS a Lexington!

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compare

Nice comparison of the Lexington entryway. Although it's somewhat obscured, you can see the fan light in the 1928 image. The details on the porch are spot on!

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Ferguson

Sears Barrington (1928).

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Pattern book

Although I initially identified this as a Barrington, I'm starting to wonder if it is a pattern book house. These many years later, I do not remember if we went inside this house.

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Gordon Van Tine

In addition to Sears Homes, I also found a Gordon Van Tine home in Ferguson.

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GVT

Very distinctive house!

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Ferguson House

The porch has been enclosed, but this is a lovely GVT #605 in Ferguson.

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Spent years

I have spent many years trying to identify this house. I've yet to find it in any pattern books, kit house catalogs or magazines. But hey - it's only been 12 years. I'm still looking!

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To read about the kit homes I found in Kirkwood, click here.

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

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 7)

April 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The driving-tour brochure offered by the tourism office in Hopewell, VA is called, “The Sears Roebuck Houses by Mail Neighborhood.”

Not everyone would agree that eight Sears Homes within a six-block area represents a “neighborhood.” But then again, sometimes people get a little confused about what constitutes a Sears Home. As the author of several books on this topic, I feel confident in saying that a true Sears House must have both building materials and blueprints from Sears.

From 1908-1940, Sears offered a specialty catalog promoting and selling their “Sears Modern Homes.” Today these old catalogs fetch $50 - $200 at online auction sites.

catalog

In the 1920s, the "Modern Homes" catalogs had 100-140 pages, and offered 80-100 designs. This is the 1922 catalog, and the Sears Lexington is on its cover.

Prospective homeowners would choose from several designs and pick a house that fit their budget and their needs. Next, they’d send in a $1 good faith deposit to Sears Roebuck, and Sears would send them blueprints, and a complete list of everything they’d need to build their home. If the homeowner liked what he saw, he’d send in the balance of his money and Sears sent him (typically by rail), 12,000 pieces of house, together with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.

Hopewell’s Crescent Hills’ neighborhood has eight of these Sears Homes. Click here to see photos of those eight Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, this brochure also shows many houses - identified as Sears Homes - that clearly are not Sears Homes.

The first house listed on this brochure is at 211 Oakwood Avenue, and it’s identified as a Sears Lexington and that is an error.

Some people have an eye for detail, and some people don’t, but the Sears Lexington and the house at 211 Oakwood are radically different in every conceivable way.

Lex

This house (211 Oakwood) is listed in the city's well-promoted brochure as a Sears Lexington. Hmmm. Let's see. What does it have in common with the Sears Lexington? They both have windows and doors. That's about it. The home's "footprint" is something that must be considered. In this case, the two homes are not even close. The Lexington is 34' wide. The house above is several feet wider. That's one of about 3,197 reasons that this house (above) does not match the Sears Lexington (below).

Sears Lexington

Sears Lexington from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog.

If you’ve read my books, you’d know that interior floorplan is a key in determining if your subject house is (or is not) a Sears House.  Room measurements are important, too! If your purported Lexington has a bedroom that’s 10′3 by 14′5, your subject house should have a bedroom that is 10′3 by 14′5!  After you’ve seen (and measured) a few Sears Homes, you’ll find that this is an accurate way of authenticating Sears Homes.

In 2003, I was invited to inspect the interior of the house at 211 Oakwood and the floorplan is completely different from the Lexington. The floorplan, room arrangement, room size, ceiling height - every single architectural element is different.  The only common ground is that both houses have bedrooms and bathrooms and a living room, dining room and a kitchen.

That’s it.

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. Youre NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. You're NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

This is my 7th blog on this topic - of the not-even-close non-Sears-Homes in Hopewell, but of all the houses I’ve discussed here, this “Lexington” at 211 Oakwood is far and away the most glaring example. In other articles, I’ve delineated, point by point, why the subject house is not a match to the Sears House. But if I started that with this house at 211 Oakwood, it’d fill way too much bandwidth and the entire internet system might go down.

In short, I’m confident that the house on 211 Oakwood is neither a Lexington, nor is it a Sears Home of any kind.

Cmon, really?

C'mon, really?

And on a more serious note, it saddens me to see history misrepresented. It saddens me greatly.

By the way, this is what a Sears Lexington looks like “in the flesh.” You’ll notice, it looks a lot like the catalog picture.

Sears

Sears Lexington in Northern Illinois.

Lex

You might notice that the house (in Northern Illinois) looks a whole lot like this catalog picture.

To read about the other houses in Hopewell, click here.

To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read about happy, happy Sears homes, click here.

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The Sears Lexington: A Real Class Act

March 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

I’m a real sucker for a good-looking Colonial Revival, and the Sears Lexington is a perfect example. It’s both good looking, and it’s one of my favorite Sears Homes. For reasons I can’t begin to understand, they had two Lexington models, both of which were offered in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. Occasionally the names of Sears homes did get recycled and reused, but typically the houses were quite different.

For instance, there’s a Sears Hawthorne that’s a 1910s one-story prairie style house with a low-slung hip roof. There’s a Sears Hawthorne (1930s) that’s a two-story Dutch Colonial.
Pictured below are the two variants of the Sears Lexington. As you’ll see, they are radically different and the floor plans are worlds apart.

Looking for Rose’s books? Click here.

Sears Lexington from a late 1920s Sears catalog.

Sears Lexington from a late 1920s Sears catalog.

Floor plan from the Lexington

Floor plan from the Lexington. Fancy house!

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Sears Lexington in Glen Ellyn, IL

Sears Lexington in Glen Ellyn, IL. Notice the oversized cornice returns, and also that goofy placement of the window/door on the second floor balcony. Very unusual feature.

The OTHER Sears Lexington

The OTHER Sears Lexington. This was has dignity and grace!

Note how wildly different this floor plan is (from the Lex above).

Note how wildly different this floor plan is (from the Lex above).

Sears Lexington in Charleston, WV.

Sears Lexington in Charleston, WV. And Rose Thornton slept here! :)

Doesnt look much like the house above, does it?

Doesn't look much like the house above, does it?

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Sears Home in Lexington, Virginia: Where am I?

August 28th, 2010 Sears Homes 2 comments

About three years ago, my husband and I revisited his old Alma Mater (Washington and Lee). We also drove around town and found this Sears Alhambra (see photo below) in a quiet residential area in Lexington. I’ll be retuning to Lexington in a few days and would love to get the address for this house, so that I can re-visit it, and also scope out the neighborhood for other Sears Homes. If you know the address of this house or its street name, please leave a comment below!

Do you know what a Sears Home is? These were true kits, 12,000 pieces of house, sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have one of these kits built in 90 days. Click here for more info on Sears kit homes.

To see more pictures of Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Alhambra, as shown in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Alhambra, as shown in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Alhambra in Lexington, but where?

Sears Alhambra in Lexington, but where?