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Wood River, Illinois and “The Chilton”

September 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

For about a dozen years, I lived in Alton, Illinois. In fact, that’s where I researched and wrote The Houses That Sears Built.

Last week, I returned to Alton to visit family.

Of course, I couldn’t resist driving around my old stomping grounds a bit and looking at the old houses. I left the area in Spring 2006. Since then, I’ve acquired many “new” old catalogs and learned a great deal. While in the Riverbend area last week, I made many “fresh” discoveries.

One of the more interesting finds was this Sterling “Chilton” in nearby Wood River, Illinois

Sterling was based in Bay City, Michigan, and was one of six national companies that sold kit homes in the early 20th Century through mail-order catalogs.

They started out life as International Mill and Timber Company, and in 1915, they launched their own line of pre-cut kit homes, and re-named their company, “Sterling Homes.”

Sterling Homes offered construction services for developers and one of their largest clients turned out to be General Motors, which paid for 1,000 houses to be built in Flint Michigan (for GM workers). Their last catalog was printed in 1974. Total sales during their 59 years in business were about 45,000 homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats and facts on Sterling!)

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing me with the scanned images from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog!

Learn more about the history of Sterling Homes by clicking here.

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The Sterling Chilton, from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog.

The Sterling Chilton, from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog.

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Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan, and while they were a national company, they were probably one of the smallest companies selling kit homes through mail order.

Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. During their 59 years in business, they sold about 45,000 pre-cut kit homes. Shown here is the cover of the 1916 Sterling Homes catalog.

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I just love these graphics.

I just love these graphics. And notice the political commentary that was written in by some anonymous soul. Charles Evans Hughes ran against Woodrow Wilson in 1916. He put in a good showing and lost by a mere 594,000 votes. If Hughes had won California, we wouldn't have nearly so many high schools named after Woodrow Wilson.

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The Chiltons

The Chilton had an oversized living room and dining room, and two small bedrooms, one of which had a cedar closet. Notice the "Jack and Jill" bathroom.

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house house

The base of the columns on that Chilton are what make it really stand out! There's been some debate in our Facebook group as to the purpose of those projections on those stuccoed columns. Rachel suggested it was to have a safe place for your beer while you were out mowing the yard. Sounds pretty smart to me.

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Close

While not a spot-on match to the catalog image, I am confident that this house in Wood River is a Sterling Chilton. The front door is easy enough to move, and this is a common alteration. Plus, the house has replacement windows, aluminum siding (ick) and aluminum trim (sigh), so it's possible that it's been subjected to many "improvements."

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View from the other side.

View from the other side. Three windows have been added to the front gable, but the rest of the details on the home's front are very good, including the five brackets and their placement, the broad piece of fascia across the front and the size and shape of the porch wall.

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House

While the house in Wood River has a few details that are a bit off, this column is a spot-on match, and it's such a unique architectural feature, that I'm willing to bet money that this is indeed the Sterling Chilton.

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The reason for my return to the St. Louis area: My daughter will soon be married to this fine gent. Theyre sitting in front of the gazebo where their wedding will take place.

The reason for my return to the St. Louis area: My daughter will soon be married to this fine gent. They're sitting in front of the gazebo, gazing at the very spot where their wedding will take place.

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As a final note, sometime in 1999 or 2000, my (then) husband and I went to an open house in Alton, IL where we saw this house for sale. Its an Aladdin Magnolia. I drove more than 80 miles, criss-crossing every street in Alton looking for this house but could not find it. If you know where this house is, please leave a comment below. Ill be returning to Alton later for my daughters wedding and would love to get a photo of this house.

As a final note, sometime in 1999, my (then) husband and I went to an open house in Upper Alton, IL (near Edwards Street) where we saw this house for sale. Last month, I was looking through the 1953 Aladdin catalog and re-discovered this house. It's an Aladdin Magnolia, and as soon as I saw the image, I remembered seeing this very same house in 1999. When I was in Alton last week, I drove more than 80 miles, criss-crossing every street in the city, looking for this house but could not find it. If you know where this house is, please leave a comment below. I'll be returning to Alton later for my daughter's wedding and would love to get a photo of this house. Thanks!!

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To join our “Sears Homes” group on Facebook, click here.

To read more about the Aladdin Magnolia, click here.

If you know where that Aladdin Magnolia is, please leave a comment below! And please share this link with your Riverbend Friends!

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Sears Modern Home #138 in Somerville, NJ

July 7th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

There are several dozen Sears Homes that I have never seen “in the flesh,” but thanks to the kindness of fellow kit house aficionados, I’m “discovering” more of these rare houses. Hopefully by sharing these photos here, more and more of these rare Sears Kit Homes will be discovered.

Some years ago, the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee discovered that they had a Sears Modern Home #138 in their city. The house had been moved years ago (to prevent its being demolished) and yet even now, it’s still in delightfully original condition and even retains its original cobblestone chimney.

Many thanks to Marge Sullivan and the Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) for sending these photos to me, and granting permission to publish them here.

Somerville has an abundance of kit homes. To see the Sears Milton in Somerville, click here!

SMH 128

Sears Modern Home #138 was offered only in the 1913 catalog, according to "Houses by Mail" (a field guide to Sears Homes published in 1985).

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First floor of the Sears Modern Home #138. Nice-size pantry!

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Three bedrooms AND a bathroom!

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Sears #138 in Somerville, NJ. Photo is copyright 2010, Somerville Historic Advisory Committee (Somerville, NJ) and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. This house was moved from another location (in Somerville) and during the move, the cobblestone columns and cheeks were lost, but the fireplace survived the move!

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Nice match!

Nice match to the #138 in Somerville!

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To read about the Sears Milton in Somerville, click here.

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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An Entire Neighborhood of Sears Homes Near Philadelphia!

October 15th, 2010 Sears Homes 4 comments

UPDATED!  Thanks to a reader, I’ve found that this blog has some errors. I’ve since re-written it and corrected it. Please read the updated version (with better pictures) HERE.

Less than 30 miles from our nation’s first capital (Philadelphia) there’s an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes. Yes, an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes in Chester, PA. Recently, I was looking through a 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog when I found this promotion in its front pages. (See photos below.)

This is quite remarkable, for there are not that many known “Sears House Communities” and finding these homes today could be a real tourism bonanza. In short, this is a real find, but where is it? And does it still exist?

The houses were built by a company known as “Sun Ship Company.”

It’s possible that this entire neighborhood was demolished and no longer exists, but if it does, I sure would like to find it. If you know the area or even a few addresses, please contact me by leaving a comment below. And if you’d like to read more about how to identify Sears Homes, please click here.

UPDATED!  Thanks to a reader, I’ve found that this blog has some errors. I’ve since re-written it and corrected it. Please read the updated version (with better pictures) HERE.

Sears Homes in Chester, PA

Sears Homes in Chester, PA

Featured in the above photos are several sytles of Sear Homes, including the Sears Gladstone

Featured in the above photos are several sytles of Sear Homes, including the Sears Gladstone

The Sears Whitehall was another house featured in Chester, PA.

The Sears Whitehall was another house featured in Chester, PA.

If you look at the vintage photo (above), youll see a little Carlin tucked in among the foursquares.

If you look at the vintage photo (above), you'll see a little Carlin tucked in among the foursquares.

Again, if you know where these homes are, please leave a comment below, or you can write me directly at thorntonrose@hotmail.com. Please put “Chester PA” in the subject line.

A Very Nice House on a Champaign Budget

August 5th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

Sears Homes were real kit homes, ordered right out of the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. The 12,000-piece kits came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days.

One of my favorite Sears kit homes is the Sears Dover. This little neo-Tudor is adorable, thoughtfully designed, well-laid out, relatively spacious and just as cute as a button. On the back of the house is a large shed dormer, creating plenty of room on the second floor for an additional two bedrooms and a full bath, giving the house a total of four bedrooms, two baths, large living room, dining room and kitchen.

For the late 1920s/early 30s, that was a good-size house.

Here’s a cutie-pie in Champaign, Illinois. This particular catalog page does not show price, but generally the Dover sold for under $3000. Pretty good deal.

This photo (and the one below) was taken in late February 2010, when I visited my daughter and her family.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here or  click here.

The Sears Dover as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Sears Dover as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Sears Dover in Champaign, IL

The Sears Dover in Champaign, IL

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Pictured below is another beautiful Sears Home, The Americus. This house is in Urbana, Illinois. So I guess we’d call it, a fine little Sears House on an Urbana budget?

Sears Modern Home, The Americus

Sears Modern Home, The Americus

The Sears Americus in Urbana.

The Sears Americus in Urbana.

To see more pictures of Sears Homes, click here.