Saturday, November 14, 2015

Blogs About Sears Homes and Other Kit Homes

sears houses in cincinnati
A beautiful, authenticated Sears Osborn, as shown in a post on the tribute blog, Sears Houses in Cincinnati
I love reading about, and researching, Sears kit houses. If you do, too, you might be interested in a few of the blogs I turn to regularly for well-presented and thoughtfully-researched information, along with wonderful photos of Sears houses, and homes by other kit companies and plan-book companies of the 19-teens through 1930s.

radford gordon van tine wardway sears modern homes lewis sterling

Along the way in my own readings and research, I learned that several other kit-house companies existed, too (some larger than Sears, and older), and some of the bloggers I read include excellent information about homes by those companies, too: among them Aladdin, Gordon-Van Tine, Wardway (by Montgomery Ward), Harris Brothers (and their earlier name, Chicago House Wrecking Company), Lewis (later Lewis-Liberty), Sterling, and Bennett Homes.  All of these companies sold houses through catalogs, selling house blueprints, and bundling them up with all of the needed pre-cut-and-labeled lumber, screws and nuts and bolts, windows and doors, framing wood and millwork, staircases and built-ins, and even paint, stain, flooring, shingles, light fixtures, bathtubs, sinks, faucets, and heating systems.

Other companies sold only the blueprints, requiring you to turn to your local lumber yard for all of the needed supplies. We call these, Plan Book companies, and their house plans were usually compiled in books available at local lumber yards (who were all in deep competition with the mail-order kit-house companies). Some of the big names you might read about are: Radford, C. L. Bowes, Standard Homes, and Home Builders Catalog. There are others, too.

Here's a list of a few blogs you might enjoy, given in no particular oder. They're all informative and well-done. They're not updated daily, because research takes time, but each post is worth the wait:

1. Sears Houses in Cincinnati
laraine shape blog
This blog is a tribute blog, re-creating the blog posts of Laraine Shape, a Cincinnati Realtor and Sears House enthusiast, who passed away in January of 2015.  Her good friend, Cindy Catanzaro (of Sears Houses in Ohio), collected all of the words and photos of Laraine's original blog, and, little by little, re-published her posts.  Cincinnati is, as Cindy has said, like Disneyland for Sears House enthusiasts, because there are hundreds (and hundreds?) of Sears houses there, thanks to the existence there of a company called Norwood Sash & Door, which was headquartered in Cincinnati. Sears bought the company, and used them for the fabrication of its millwork, doors, and windows. The image at the top of today's blog post, is of a beautiful, authenticated Sears Osborn, and comes from the November 14, 2015 blog post.  Since Laraine was a realtor, many of the posts she wrote included lots of great interior photos, which is rare.
Click here to read the informative post about that Osborn
Click here to get to the home page of Sears Houses in Cincinnati

2. Sears Homes of Chicagoland
sears-homes.com
Whenever I needed information and photos of houses, I found myself turning to this blog all of the time, before I even knew its author, researcher Lara Solonickne.  Lara began this blog several years ago, when she realized that there was a real dearth of information available to show Sears Homes in the greater Chicago area... another area of the country that is rife with Sears homes, because Sears was headquartered in Chicago. While the blog focuses on Sears homes in the Chicago area, Lara also occasionally includes Wardway or Gordon-Van Tine homes, or the occasional Harris or Home Builders plan-book home.  Her blog is informative, well-researched, and often includes some history about the original owners of the homes.  As Lara is an avid researcher, she also sometimes includes posts that provide background information on how Sears developed its Modern Homes division. Lara is responsible for beginning the National Database of Sears Homes.
Click here to go to the home page of Sears Homes of Chicagoland (www.sears-homes.com)

3.  Sears Houses In Ohio
blog on sears houses
Researcher and Sears house expert, Cindy Catanzaro, is based in Springfield, Ohio.  She became interested in Sears homes when she realized that she owned one, a Sears Jeanette model.  Since then, she has become a leading authority on Sears homes, and leads tours of Sears homes in Springfield, Ohio.  Her blog includes homes found throughout her state, and touches on research methods and other historic background on the houses she includes. A number of the homes that Cindy writes about, have been located and authenticated through meticulous research of mortgage records using Ohio's excellent on-site and on-line tax assessor and auditor resources.  But, she also has a great eye for spotting Sears models, as well as homes from other companies, and her Ohio Sears houses research has been the subject of more than one newspaper article and TV news segment.  Cindy is also the founding administrator behind the Facebook page, Sears Modern Homes, where you can see images of Sears homes, learn about the background of kit homes, and ask questions.
Click here to read Sears Houses in Ohio
Click here to go to the Facebook page, Sears Modern Homes

4.  Kit House Hunters
andrew and wendy mutch novi michigan
Researchers and kit-house enthusiasts Andrew and Wendy Mutch live in Michigan, in a wonderful 1926 Sears Hamilton model (see it, and them, here, in this 2017 segment on NBC Nightly news!).  Who knew there were so many kit houses in Michigan!? I didn't, but I've learned about tons of them, thanks to Andrew's input in our research-oriented Facebook group -- we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in the blog posts so far! Besides showing homes, Andrew's posts frequently highlight research that he has done authenticating Sears homes and Wardway homes, especially, and providing research-backed information on the development of kit-house companies in the U.S. He also loves to crunch the numbers, and periodically blogs about the data collected from our constantly-growing database of Sears Houses in the U.S.. Andrew has located hundreds of houses in communities in Michigan, New York State, D. C., Maryland, and elsewhere, through top-notch research of mortgages and historic publications, and has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, and numerous other national and local news outlets.  He and Wendy are both information professionals, and they share their research via the blog, but also through presentations in local communities in Michigan.  If you have the opportunity to attend one of their presentations, don't miss it!  
Click here to read Kit House Hunters

5. Sears House Seeker
My own blog, here, is my ongoing effort to document the American kit-house phenomenon. An educator by profession, I enjoy delving into the history of the families who bought these kit houses, while also explaining how we identify and locate Sears houses around the country. And, I love the houses, themselves, so it is a joy for me to show off the finds of our kit-house researching community! I began my blog with an in-depth presentation of the Sears No. 110 (Silverdale) that my mother grew up in, built by my Polish immigrant great-grandparents, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the blog grew from there. I've been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Atlas Obscura,  and a few other news resources, and my research was the focus of a "St. Louis Character" piece by the St. Louis Business Journal, in 2017 (which led to never-ending references to me, by my husband, as "quite a St. Louis character"--ha!). These days, I'm usually the admin you see presenting the latest Sears House on our informational Sears Modern Homes Facebook page.
Click here to read Sears House Seeker
Click here to find links to many online catalogs for Sears houses and other kit-house companies

6. Catalog Homes Of Western New York
If you're hungry to see what Western New York State has to offer, in the world of kit homes, Sarah Mullane's blog, Catalog Homes Of Western New York, is the place for you. Sarah is our group's specialist in the homes of New York State kit-house company, Ray H. Bennett. But, she is an enthusiastic researcher of Sears houses, as well, and you'll find a number of well-researched, informative blog posts here, with quality photographs of houses that Sarah documents.
Click here to read Catalog Homes Of Western New York

7. Sears Houses In The Midwest
Marie Vore has an eagle eye for identifying Sears houses, and she is the one who coined the phrase, referring to our shared enthusiasm for searching for kit houses around the country, as a "huge historical treasure hunt!". And, just like that, she summed up for us why this searching and documenting is so interesting to us. Her first blog post explained it this way: "This is a badass hobby! Can you imagine ordering a house from a catalog, having it arrive in thousands of pieces in a boxcar, and then having to build it yourself? And then 70,000 other people, all over the United States, do the exact same thing, only with different houses? Then in 1945, during a house cleaning, Sears Roebuck decides to throw out any and all records to do with their catalog homes. This isn't a weird hobby, this is a huge historical treasure hunt." 
Well, that's it in a nutshell!
Click here to read Sears Houses In The Midwest 

8. DC House Cat
D.C. area Realtor, and former news reporter for Der Tagesspiegel, Catarina Bannier, with her partner, Marcie Sandalow, is a specialist in working with buyers and sellers in the D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia real estate market... but, also a specialist in identifying and documenting kit houses. Catarina's blog, DC House Cat Chiming In, is her presentation of kit houses she has identified around the D.C. area, and includes some beautiful exterior and interior photos (it's great to be a Realtor, in this field!). Catarina has also led a presentation or two about kit houses in her area.
Click here to read DC House Cat Chiming In
Click here to read DC House Smarts, Catarina's professional blog about D.C. real estate, and kit houses
Click Here to go to the Bannier & Sandalow FaceBook page 
Click Here to read Catarina's professional bio

9. American Kit Homes
Realtor Nigel R. Tate, while still a high-school student, took a keen interest in kit houses, and joined our private research group. After a bit, he began a blog about some of the houses he had identified, and this is it! You'll find some well-documented research, on several interesting kit houses, here, in his blog, American Kit Homes.

Other Resources
If your blog reading has given you a taste for further research on your own, I've provided a list of a few great resources in the side column on the right of my blog (Don't miss Daily Bungalow's kit-company albums on Flickr, the resources found at Antique Home, online original catalogs you can find via this link., and Dale Haynes' Pinterest version of Houses By Mail. ) Happy hunting! This is an enjoyable hobby, but also an important bit of research into an unusual phenomenon in American History.

5 comments:

  1. Wow. Great! Thanks for having all these in one place for those who are interested. I always look forward to new information from you, and learn something regularly from your in depth research about the slight differences in the Sears models. We all have different methods and research resources, and being able to share information has brought so much new knowledge to light. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, everyone has their own writing and research styles. Some styles will resonate with readers more than others!

      Delete
  2. Awww thanks Judith! XX

    Laraine of Cincinnati is the queen, in my opinion. No kit house website has the photos and content that she has. You can't get that content by just grabbing Google Streetview shots. I bow down! (And much thanks to Cindy for salvaging Laraine's material before it was deleted!)

    Lara
    Sears Homes of Chicagoland
    sears-homes.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks...I just made a file for all the sears blogs you mentioned and a few extras!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I found this site through Atlas Obscura, and what a surprise to find this delightful place!
    My "Aunt" Carol lived in a nondescript rancher in Southampton PA, when she had an issue with termites. The house had a renovated garage that was now the family room. I had to replace about 20 feet of wall with two windows. Now, this is work that I had been doing for a few years, and I had dozens of repairs under my belt. But, this one was way different. Geez, the walls were pressboard type 2x3's, sideways, with metal cleats on top and bottom. The top of course held the roof rafters, while the bottom one tied the wall to the slab. No sole plate!!! What a fiasco! Then I noticed the labels, labels and stamps everywhere, like a piece from Ikea. Funny thing is, I said I'd do the repair for the cost of the materials. I never saw a dime. Sometimes you bite the bullet. RIP Aunt Carol.

    ReplyDelete

Your comment will appear after it has been previewed and approved by the blog author. Thanks for your interest!