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Posts Tagged ‘sears osborn’

Bedford, Pennsylvania, Part II

June 15th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Last week, I wrote about a customized Osborn in Bedford, Pennsylvania, hoping to get my hands on contemporary pictures! This weekend, Andrew and Wendy Mutch kindly sent me some wonderful pictures of this one-of-a-kind Osborn.

To learn more about this gorgeous house, visit the prior blog here. If you’re just here for the pictures, enjoy!  :D

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Bedford, and thanks to Andrew and Wendy for taking the time to photograph this old Sears house!

To visit Rachel’s website, click here.

Andrew and Wendy Mutch have a website, too!

To read more about the Sears Osborn, click here.

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Sears

About 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and this Osborn in Bedford is at the far end of the customization spectrum! It had so much customization (and was such a stunning example), that it was promoted in the 1931 “Homes of Today” Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Goodrich, huh? Wonder if hes any kin to THE Goodrich Tire folks?

Goodrich, huh? Wonder if he's any kin to THE Goodrich Tire folks?

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The tile roof makes me swoon. What a perfect choice.

The tile roof makes me swoon. What a perfect choice.

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Oh yeah, baby. There it is.

Oh yeah, baby. There it is. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Little side-by-side action here.

Little side-by-side action here. Stunning, isn't it?

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It appears our Customized Osborn is getting a little fixing-up. Lets all hope and pray that its a RESTORATION and not a remodel. Shudder.

It appears our Customized Osborn is getting a little "nip and tuck" work done. Let's all hope and pray that it's a RESTORATION and not a remodel. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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It is a beautiful house, and the stone work is breath-taking.

It is a beautiful house, and the stone work is breath-taking. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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A longer view of our gorgeous Osborn (born 1931).

A longer view of our gorgeous Osborn (born 1931). Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a house. You have to wonder if the home's owners wake up every morning and exclaim, "I own the prettiest house in all of Pennsylvania." If not, they should. The more I look at this house, the more I love it. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Close-up on some of the details.

Close-up on some of the details. I see they're between roofs right now. I wonder if they're going back with tile. Photo is copyright 2015 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a house!

What a house! Be still my quivering heart!

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Thanks again to Rachel Shoemaker for finding this house in Bedford and supplying the 1931 images.

Many thanks to Andrew and Wendy for taking the time to photograph this old Sears house!

To read about the proverbial Sears Homes in Firestone Park, click here!

To read more about the Sears Osborn, click here.

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Do You Live Near Bedford, Pennsylvania? If So, You Should See This House!

June 6th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

UPDATED! To see contemporary photos, click here!

In 2005, I drove the length of The Lincoln Highway and went right through Bedford, Pennsylvania, and yet I didn’t see this beautiful, customized Sears House.

Rachel Shoemaker discovered it recently, and it’s a real doozy, but we really need some good photos! If anyone within the sound of my voice is near Bedford and can get photos, that’d be swell.

Now, about that house.

At least 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and this Osborn in Bedford had so much customization (and was such a profound beauty), that it was promoted in the 1931 “Homes of Today” Sears Modern Homes catalog! Apparently, it was for sale recently, and that’s how Rachel found these interior photos.

Many thanks to Rachel for finding this house in Bedford!

To read about our other discoveries in Bedford, click here.

To read more about the Sears Osborn (and read my #1 favorite blog), click here.

To visit Rachel’s site, click here.

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The Sears Osborn (customized) in Bedford.

The Sears Osborn (customized) in Bedford.

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A little more info on its construction

A little more info on its construction. If I were the home's owner, I'd be most eager to learn more of its history. In fact, I'd be close to apoplectic if someone showed up and told me this.

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Gorgeous house, but not-so-gorgeous photo.

Gorgeous house, but not-so-gorgeous photo. Are you near Beford? If so, we'd love to get a picture! The house is on South Juliana Street in Bedford, Pennsylvania. Please send me a message if you want the precise address!

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Apparently, it was for sale recently, and these photos were shown with the listing.

Apparently, it was for sale recently, and these photos were shown with the listing. That stone work is breathtakingly beautiful, and a nice complement to the pine paneling.

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Another view of the interior

Another view of the interior. I'm loving that stone and pine. WOW!

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An original kitchen

That kitchen just slays me. Just gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous.

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Oh man, what a house. WHAT a house!!*

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So, who loves in Bedford and wants to get a photo?  :D

So, who loves in Bedford and wants to get a photo? :D

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And just down the road, Bedford also has this beautiful Alhambra!

And just down the road, Bedford also has this beautiful Alhambra (another Sears House)!

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To read more about the Sears Osborn (and read my #1 favorite blog), click here.

To visit Rachel’s site, click here.

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Four Sweet Things in a Row in Chambersburg

November 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In late 2005, a friend and I followed the Lincoln Highway from New Jersey (near Fort Lee) to central Illinois. Along the way, I found these four beauties in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

The first house (far left) is a Sears Osborn, followed by a Sears Fullerton, and then a Sears Americus and finally a Sears Winona (far right).

I’d love to know how these four popular models of Sears Homes came to be built alongside the Lincoln Highway!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

Three

Four Sears Homes in a row!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Story of a Life, and a Sears Home

May 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Some stories are so compelling and inspiring that they stay with you for a lifetime.

The story of Henry and Ethel Mohr is one such story.

In 1928, 12-year-old Muriel Mohr returned home from school to find the charred remnants of the Mohr family homestead. It must have been devastating. However, I suspect that Muriel - like most young people - was watching her parents to see how they responded to such an unthinkable tragedy. And I suspect that Henry and Ethel Mohr knew that this experience was a teachable moment. They were teaching their young daughter - by their own example - how to keep going forward when life deals you an unfair blow.

Despite the fact that they lost their house and most of its furnishings, Henry and Ethel did not throw in the towel and give up on their piece of the American dream. These second-generation Americans were not about to walk away from the plot of ground they’d spent years nurturing and cultivating and farming. They weren’t about to give up on the 160-acre Illinois homestead that Henry’s parents - Frederick and Wilhelmina Mohr - had homesteaded when they immigrated from Germany. By 1928, Henry and Ethel and Frederick and Wilhelmina had 74 years invested in this patch of fertile Midwestern farmland.

In 1928, the Henry Mohrs turned to Sears Roebuck to transform their burden into a blessing, and that blessing took the shape of a beautiful little red and white bungalow that’d endure for generations to come.

Building that house for his family, I’m confident that Henry and his brother-in-law Frank paid close attention to each and every detail in that 75-page instruction book, and the accompanying blueprints. I’d bet money that when the Mohrs built their Sears Obsorn, they knew it’d be a house that’d outlive them, and their children.

When Muriel Mohr married Dean Riggs in 1939, they took their vows in the Osborn’s living room. After the war, Muriel and Dean moved into a little house on the edge of the Mohr’s farmstead. Muriel and Dean’s two children (Dennis and Linda) grew up in that little house. Dennis and Linda had only to scurry through a grove of fruit trees to visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house. In 1975, Ethel passed on and exactly two months later, Henry followed her. Muriel inherited The Osborn, and in 1978, she and her husband moved into the house her father built.

The architectural historian in me thinks back to 1928, where I can imagine Muriel’s father putting the finishing touches on their fine, new modern home. I can picture Henry Mohr pausing from his work to explain the import of this house to his little girl. Maybe he took her 12-year-old hands in his wizened, calloused hands, looked into her eyes and said, “I built this house for you, and for your children, and for their children. Always remember, if you could see a father’s love, it’d look like just this house: Strong, true and enduring.”

Since 2002, I’ve been interviewed hundreds of times by hundreds of reporters in too many cities to count. After the story appears in print or on television, reporters consistently tell me that their piece on Sears homes generated more viewer/reader response than any story they’ve ever done. There’s a reason for that, and the Riggs’ story helped me better understand the reason.

There’s so much more to this story than kit homes sold out of a mail-order catalog. Each and every home is a piece of the tapestry that is the fabric of America and her people and her success. Homesteaders and city dwellers alike worked and struggled and strived to improve their lot in life and to create a better life for themselves and their children and their children’s children. They were willing to give up a year’s wages to secure a piece of land, and they were willing to place an order for 12,000 pieces of building material from a large mail-order company in Chicago, Illinois, and then - working nights and weekends - assemble those pieces into something that resembled a house.

The Riggs’ family story, multiplied thousands of times, gives a thumbnail sketch of the story of Illinois and the story of our country. In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day consistently promoted this message: It’s your patriotic duty to become a homeowner. The early Sears Modern Homes catalogues stated this basic philosophy in different ways, but there was an elementary core truth therein: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of  prosperity, stability and peace.

In one of my favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey gets to see what his town, Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born.  Without George’s positive influence and his struggling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and countless citizens would never have had the opportunity to become homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties. And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family structure and in a broader context, there is less stability in the whole community.  In this alternate sans-George world, Ernie the cab driver does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, his home is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is partly to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

Perhaps Sears was to Illinois what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls. Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?  How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout Illinois and the Midwest. I’m sure of that.  (The story above and photos are an excerpt from The Sears Homes of Illinois The History Press, 2010), and may not be reprinted or reproduced without written permission. To buy a copy of that book, click here.

And did you know that the best (and most wholesome) ice cream in America is located within minutes of this Osborn? Learn more about the Dairy Barn in Sidney, IL by clicking here. It really is the World’s Best Ice cream!

Catalog page

In 2002, Muriel Mohr Riggs (the 12-year-old girl mentioned above) came to a lecture I gave in Champaign, IL, and she brought this catalog with her. This was *THE* catalog from which her parents ordered their Osborn. She explained that "Mama tore out the price on this page" because she didn't want anyone knowing what they'd paid for their Osborn.

house page

You'll notice it was first smudged with dark ink, and THEN torn out!

The Osborn

The Osborn from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

And the creme de la creme, my #1 favorite, is this Sears Osborn in Sidney, Illinois. This house sits on a Centennial Farm (100 years in the same family), and was built in 1926 by Harry Mohr and his wife, Ethel. Its one of the finest Sears Homes Ive ever had the pleasure to see.

This Sears Osborn - built by the Mohrs in 1928 - sits on a Centennial Farm (100 years in the same family). It's one of the finest Sears Homes I've ever had the pleasure to see. It's just a beauty in every way. The Osborn was built to replace an old family home that burned down.

farm

Something even more rare than a perfect Sears Osborn is a Centennial, family-owned farm.

Close-up

Close-up of the Illinois Centennial Farm sign.

A beautiful home in an equally beautiful setting

A beautiful home in an equally beautiful setting

More beauty

The side yard of the Mohr's Osborn.

Front yard views

Front yard views

photo from the family album

Muriel Mohr (Riggs) with her father, the home's original owner and builder. (Photo is courtesy of the Riggs' family and may not be reproduced without permission.)

family photo

A page from the family photo album, showing Muriel Mohr Riggs and her husband, seated outside their Sears Osborn. (Photo is courtesy of the Riggs' family and may not be reproduced without permission.)

family photo

Black and white photo of the Sears Osborn. (Photo is courtesy of the Riggs' family and may not be reproduced without permission.)

These houses were shipped in wooden crates, marked with the owners name and destination (train station). The shipping crates were often salvaged and the wood was reused to build coal bins or basement shelving. Heres one such remnant found in the basement of the Osborn.

These houses were shipped in wooden crates, marked with the owner's name and destination (train station). The shipping crates were often salvaged and the wood was reused to build coal bins or basement shelving. Here's one such remnant found in the basement of the Osborn.

guarantee

This certificate of deposit provided an promise that if the quality of the building materials was in any way inferior, the buyer would receive a full refund of his money, plus 6% annual interest. Pretty good deal.

close up

Close up of the dollar amount remitted for the Sears Osborn.

Close-up of the unique columns on the Mohrs Osborn.

Close-up of the unique columns on the Mohr's Osborn.

To learn more about the Sears Homes of Illinois, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article at this site, click here.

If you’ve enjoyed the photos, please forward this link to everyone on your email list! Or post it on your facebook page!

Atlanta’s Amazing Abundance of Sears Homes

February 16th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

For 12 years, I lived in Illinois and I spent many happy years seeking and finding kit homes throughout the Midwest. In 2006, I moved back “home” to Virginia, and I’ve spent subsequent years looking for kit homes in the south.

I’m surprised at how many I’ve found in this part of the country. An even bigger surprise was the abundance of kit homes I found during a brief trip to Atlanta. The houses pictured below are the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure. There just wasn’t time to cover the whole of Atlanta.

Take a look at the photos below and enjoy the many pretties of Atlanta!

Btw, if you know of a historical society and/or civic group that’d be interested in sponsoring my return to Atlanta, please leave a comment below.

Enjoy the photos!

And if you’d like to learn more about the kit homes in the south, click here.

Beautiful brick Alhambra in the heart of Atlanta!

This lovely brick Alhambra is located in the heart of Atlanta!

This was Aladdins fanciest home: The Villa

This was Aladdin's fanciest home: The Villa. This image is from the 1916 Aladdin catalog. Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears) also sold kit homes out of mail-order catalog. In Atlanta, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears kit homes. Not surprising, as Aladdin had a massive mill in North Carolina.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! This may be the prettiest Aladdin Villa that I have ever seen.

The Aladdin Villa in Atlanta! And it's surely one of the prettiest Aladdin Villas that I have ever seen. It is perfect in every way, and a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

The Aladdin Pasadena was a very popular house

And heres the Aladdin Pasadena we found in Atlanta!

An Aladdin Pasadena on a main drag in Atlanta!

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona, from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta

Aladdin Pomona in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta. This Pomona is in beautifully original condition! Note the details around the porch gable, and the flared columns and the original siding. It's a real beauty. Unfortunately, I shot the photo when the sun was low in the sky. Hence, the long shadows.

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

The Sears Osborn from the 1921 Sears catalog

One of our most interesting finds was the modern Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but its too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, designed by someone who loves Sears Homes!

One of the most interesting finds was this contemporary Sears Osborn. It looks like an Osborn - kind of - but it's too new and modern. And look at the cornice returns. Most likely, this Sears Osborn is a reproduction, built by a real fan of Sears Homes!

One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border!

One of my favorite photos is this Sears Magnolia in Alabama, just a few miles from the Georgia border. Apart from the slightly different dormer up top, this house is a good match to the catalog picture. No, it's not Atlanta, but it's pretty close! And there are only six known Magnolias in the whole country!

If you know anything more about these houses, please leave a comment below. Or if you’d like to contact Rose Thornton, please leave a comment.

If you’d like to keep reading about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Sears Modern Homes - With Indoor Plumbing - Usually!

October 24th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

From 1908-1940, Sears sold houses by mail order. These 12,000-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book that told the wanna-be homeowner how to put it all together. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have it 100% complete in 90 days. Sears offered 370 designs, including foursquares, cape cods, neo-tudors, trailing edge Victorians, Colonials and more.

The specialty catalogs - devoted to “Modern Homes” - averaged about 100 pages with the peak being 1924, when the catalog hit 140 pages, with 100 designs. These “Sears Modern Homes” catalogs can now be found on eBay for a variety of prices.

And these really were modern homes. Think about this. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her “Little House” books describing life on the plains in the 1870s and 1880s. She talked about living in a soddie - a house made with dirt blocks - and waking up to find frost on her comforter.

At the turn of the 20th Century, American architecture evolved very quickly. We went from living in tiny cabins and soddies (sans lights, central heat and indoor plumbing) to these sweet little bungalows with three bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a kitchen - wired for electricity!

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Osborne, catalog image from 1924

Sears Osborne, catalog image from 1924

In fact, sometimes these mail-order homes were more modern than the communities in which they were sold.

And that’s why the plumbing and electrical fixtures were NOT part of the kit home, but were purchased separately. If electrical service and municipal water systems were not available in your community, you wouldn’t need to spend money on the plumbing and electrical supplies!

In the back pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs, this little jewel was offered:

And it has two seats - for more family fun in the outhouse!!

And it has two seats - for more family fun in the outhouse!!

The Sears Modern Homes department closed their doors in 1940. During a corporate house-cleaning after WW2, all sales records, blueprints, ephemera and other items were destroyed. The only way to find these 75,000 kit homes today is literally, one by one.

To learn more, buy Rose’s book, The Houses That Sears Built.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.


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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