Saturday, August 21, 2021

Sears Kilbourne In Glenshaw, Pennsylvania

front color photo of Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania
Sears Kilbourne, 201 Iola Street, Glenshaw, Pennsylvania

catalog house image and price Sears Kilbourne 1923 sears modern homes catalog
Sears Kilbourne in the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Here's another Sears model that we really love running across: The Sears Kilbourne. This one in Glenshaw (a lovely suburb of Pittsburgh), was originally located by Karen DeJeet. She spotted this listing recently, too, and shared it with our group. I don't think that I've ever highlighted a Kilbourne here, so I thought I'd pop the real estate photos into a little blog post, to show off  this one's spacious and attractive interior. You can see the full listing here, on Realtor.com.

catalog layout and description, Sears Kilbourne 1923 sears modern homes catalog

The Kilbourne was offered from 1920-1931 (Houses By Mail says 1921-1929, but I always double check through catalogs). Oddly, in my 1922 catalog, it does not appear -- sometimes, catalogs in some areas of the country, omitted some models, in favor of another... at least, that's what we've noticed. It doesn't appear that the floor plan changed at all over the years, but one thing that did change, was the support of the roof. The early years (1920-1924) show chunky angle brackets, with a bit of a curved scroll to them. Beginning in 1925, however, straight purlins are shown supporting the roof. This house in Glenshaw has the angle brackets, but they are a bit thinner and straighter than what they look like in the early catalogs... I think that they are the original brackets, but that the catalog drawing just exaggerated the thickness a bit.

catalog image showing brackets and early porch style, Sears Kilbourne 1923 sears modern homes catalog
Here's the very Swiss cottage looking depiction of the Kilbourne, in 1923. Note the style of the brackets. In real life, the Kilbournes that we've found of this era look to have a slightly thinner bracket than what it looks like here.

catalog image showing purlins, Sears Kilbourne 1925 sears modern homes catalog
The 1925 catalog shows a change to straight purlins.

front porch closeup color photo of Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania
This house snagged a Historic Landmark plaque! We can't quite read what it says, though, unfortunately.

If you look closely at the porch, you'll notice another change: The earlier catalog image shows straight, stone porch piers (or maybe they are formed concrete block with a stone texture), and a wide lattice look to the porch rail. In 1925, though, we see slightly tapered porch piers, covered with wood siding, and a straight-up-and-down porch railing. Again, our house in Glenshaw differs in that it has brick porch piers (we very often see brick used on houses in the Pittsburgh area), and the porch railing is the simplest up-and-down railing with no other detailing... not really matching either year's catalog image, but still a porch railing design offered by Sears.

A friend of ours, who owns a beautiful, authenticated Sears Walton on Hilliard Road, in the McCandless area of Pittsburgh, stopped by the open house for this Kilbourne in Glenshaw, and was able to snap a photo for me, of the historic landmark plaque:
black and brass metal plaque on exterior of building, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks foundation historic landmarks plaque
We're thrilled to see this plaque be available! As it turns out, the Kilbourne was actually in the catalogs from 1920-1931, but Houses By Mail (our favorite Sears book!) does say 1921-29.



Here's a Kilbourne in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, that has a fully-brick porch:
front and right color image of Sears Kilbourne 20009 Gladstone Rd Warrensville Heights Ohio

front and left view of Sears Kilbourne 20009 Gladstone Rd Warrensville Heights Ohio
This photo of the side of the Warrensville Heights Kilbourne, shows the expected 3 windows on this side.

Ha! Completely covered by a shrub though, in my two pictures (I took these two photos when I was visiting the Cleveland area with some of my Sears house friends -- here's a blog post about that meet up, on Sears Houses In Ohio). Fortunately, there is a real estate listing for this house, and the shrub has been removed, so we can see the brick wall of the porch-- and all photos show the early style brackets:
full on front color photo of Sears Kilbourne 20009 Gladstone Rd Warrensville Heights Ohio
Sears Kilbourne at 20009 Gladstone Rd, Warrensville Heights, Ohio


Inside The Kilbourne On Iola Street 
Let's take a look at the floor plans, upstairs and down, and then some of the really nice interior photos of our Kilbourne on Iola Street, in Glenshaw (note that this is not the only Kilbourne in Glenshaw! There is one at 2508 Hamilton Avenue, too, but it's pretty hidden by foliage. Thanks to Sara Fortnam for spotting that one).

catalog image of Sears Kilbourne first floor layout 1925 sears modern homes catalog
Here are the floor plans as shown in the 1925 Sears Modern Homes catalog, which you can see here. The Kilbourne is on page 69.

catalog image of Sears Kilbourne upstairs floor layout 1925 sears modern homes catalog
2nd floor layout, Sears Kilbourne, 1925 catalog

color photo of living room Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of living room with fireplace and three windows, Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of dining room of Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of kitchen Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of front bedroom with 3 windows, Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of upstairs hallway, looking into bedroom, Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of upstairs dormer bedroom, Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of upstairs side bedroom, Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

color photo of upstairs bedroom with two windows and beautiful hardwood floors, Sears Kilbourne 201 Iola Street Glenshaw Pennsylvania

Other Kilbournes
Here are a few other Kilbournes we've found:

This is one of the most beautiful Kilbournes that I've ever seen (though the one in Glenshaw is equally gorgeous inside). It's at 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland. The real estate listing has a great 3-D walkthrough -- definitely worth a click to visit this listing
color photo of front of Sears Kilbourne 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland
Sears Kilbourne at 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland

color photo closeup of front porch of Sears Kilbourne 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland
Here we can see that early look of the Kilbourne, in the style of the brackets, and the porch piers.

color photo of hallway and stairs of Sears Kilbourne 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland

color photo of hallway closet stairs Sears Kilbourne 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland

color photo of upstairs hallway looking into bedrooms Sears Kilbourne 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland

color photo of kitchen of Sears Kilbourne 4219 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland
I love what they've done with the kitchen!

This Kilbourne (authenticated by researcher Rebecca L. Hunter) in Elgin, Illinois, has had an addition put on, but it still has many lovely qualities inside:
color photo of front of Sears Kilbourne at 409 Wing Park Blvd, Elgin, Illinois with addition on side
Authenticated Sears Kilbourne at 409 Wing Park Blvd, Elgin, Illinois (owners have the blueprints!)

color photo of dining room with windows of Sears Kilbourne at 409 Wing Park Blvd, Elgin, Illinois

color photo of living room, with fireplace, Sears Kilbourne at 409 Wing Park Blvd, Elgin, Illinois


Here's a perfect example of the post-1924 version of the Kilbourne, with straight purlins and with the porch style that I described, above (note the tapered, wood-siding-covered porch piers and the style of the porch railing... exactly like the later look in the catalogs):
color front photo from Google streetview of Sears Kilbourne of later style, 504 Jackson Avenue St Charles Illinois
Sears Kilbourne all decorated for Halloween, 504 Jackson Avenue, St. Charles, Illinois. This home was also located by researcher Rebecca L. Hunter. 

So, that's the story on the Sears Kilbourne! I hope you can see why we are partial to it.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Sears Vallonia In Grafton, Illinois: Lightkeepers Coffee & Antiques Shop

front color photo of exterior of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
Sears Vallonia • 101 E. Main Street, Grafton, Illinois• Lightkeepers Coffee & Antiques Shop

color photo of sign in front of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
On FaceBook: Lightkeepers Coffee

Care for some Latte with your Sears house? 

Then, I've got just the place for you! This cute little Sears Vallonia, along the River Road on E. Main Street, in Grafton, Illinois, has recently been bought, spruced up (it had been through yet another Mississippi River flood), and opened for business as Lightkeeper's Coffee, Antiques & Arts, a nice little shop that sells pastries, doughnuts, and lots of fresh-brewed hot and cold coffee and tea choices (lattes, mochas, chais, frozen "Grafuccinos", espresso, drip coffee, and more), while providing a delightful assortment of antiques and artwork, all in the original setting of this early 1920s Sears house. Original Craftsman woodwork abounds... it is a delight!

color photo of exterior of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
Lightkeepers Coffee, Antiques & Art • 101 E Main St, Grafton Illinois

black and white catalog image Sears Vallonia 1923
Sears Vallonia in the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the first year that it is shown with three windows in the dormer... yet still only one upstairs windows on the sides. This is the ONLY year that this combo is shown... which is why I think that this Grafton Vallonia is probably from 1923.

The house was held by the same family for decades... the previous owner was born in the house, and lived there for 60 years, but finally sold in December of 2020. I'm not sure at what point her family bought the house, but my educated guess is that it was originally built around 1923. The Vallonia was in the catalogues for twenty years--first offered in 1920, and included in the last catalog in 1940. Through those years, the Vallonia model had only a few small changes made:
  • A slightly-changed floor plan appeared in 1923, and along with that floor plan came the addition of a bumped-out dining room on the left side of the house. 
  • 3 windows in the front dormer, instead of two, beginning in 1923
  • 2 windows in the upstairs bedrooms, on the sides of the house, instead of one, beginning in 1924
  • OPTIONAL: Some Vallonias have the front bedroom absorbed into the living room, making that front room span the width of the house. Whenever we see that floor plan, we also see two pairs of double front windows there at the porch level, instead of a double and a single... and we sometimes also see a fireplace on a side wall of the living room. This modification was not presented in any catalogs, but we have noticed it as we've analyzed the 537 Vallonias (so far) on our national database.
The first year that we see the Vallonia with the larger dormer windows and a second upstairs side window, was in 1924... and, the Vallonia was given the honor of gracing the cover of the catalog that year!

color image of cover of Sears 1924 catalog with Vallonia on the cover
Cover of the 1924 Sears Modern Homes catalog, showcasing the Vallonia

Here's a comparison of the exterior elements that were changed on the Vallonia, comparing the 1921 look, versus the first year that the bumped-out dining room was offered, in 1923:

side-by-side comparison of differences in Sears Vallonia 1921 and 1923
You can click or pinch out, to enlarge (this is from an earlier blog post that I did, showing a customized Vallonia in Rhode Island, which you can see here. )

The final year of the Vallonia, was 1940, and here it is that year, in the catalog, now with two full-size windows in the dormer:

black and white image from 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog of Sears Vallonia
Sears Vallonia in 1940 -- only two windows in the dormer, but they are full-size windows.

color exterior and interior photos of Sears Vallonia in Cincinnati Ohio showing living room and dining room and front
This compilation shows a Vallonia in Cincinnati, that has the modification of the enlarged living room across the front of the house, and the pairs of double windows in the front. You can also see, here, the usual entrance to the stairs going to the upstairs bedrooms, and the entry into the hall (this is the arrangement we expect to see from 1923 on). This is a really charming Vallonia-- you can see interior photos in this real estate listing.

The floor plan change that was made beginning in 1923, bumped out the dining room wall, and re-arranged the hallway a bit, while also moving the location where the stairs leading upstairs, were entered. The earliest floor plan has the stairway entrance in the kitchen, but the newer plan has that entrance in the dining room. 

side by side comparison of early Sears Vallonia floor plan vs later Sears Vallonia floor plan
You can click or pinch out, to enlarge. If you know how to read floor plans, you'll also notice that the location of the furnace vent chimney, was moved from the side wall of the kitchen, to the center of the back half of the house.

What's interesting about this Vallonia, is that it has the new-in-1923 floor plan, but it does not have the dining room bumpout that was part of that new floor plan. As I was chatting with the charming baristas at Lightkeepers, I explained to them that this lack of bumpout meant that we could date the house to earlier than 1923. However, the rest of the floorplan follows the 1923 version, and the window arrangements (including dormer and upper side windows) follow what was shown in 1923-- and 1923 was the last year that the upper side windows for those upstairs bedrooms, were singles, instead of doubles (as this house has). I had considered that maybe the house was widened across the whole left side, to just incorporate the extra foot or so of the bumpout, but the property records for the house show the width of the house to be 26 feet, which is the standard width of the Vallonia, not counting the bumpout. So, I'm guesstimating 1923 as the build year (not sure if the Jersey County assessor gives a build date, but those are notoriously erroneous, anyway).

color exterior photo of silver grey Sears Vallonia 1316 W Main St Grafton Illinois
A second Sears Vallonia in Grafton, just up the road from Lightkeepers, at 1316 W Main Street.
See those trademark Sears porch pillars? Those are still visible inside the front porch of the Lightkeepers Vallonia.

As I was writing, here, I kept wanting to refer to this as "the Grafton Vallonia", but... wait! There's another Vallonia in Grafton, right up Main Street, at 1316 W Main Street! The one at 1316 is silver and white, and does not have the front porch enclosed, which is nice. It's a cute house... and... it has the same floor plan and window issues as the 101 E Main Street Vallonia. Plus, inside, both houses have an open staircase (others have the staircase inside the wall, with just a doorway in the dining room), and both have the same staircase newel design and staircase balusters design. Given all of this, I am betting that these two houses were built by the same person, originally... maybe a speculator who built them both, and sold (or rented) them, or maybe by two members of the same family. It's just a guess, though.

Here are the two staircases:

staircase photo Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
My photo of the staircase inside Lightkeepers, at 101 E Main Street

color interior photo of dining room and staircase Sears Vallonia 1316 W Main St Grafton IL
The staircase inside the Vallonia at 1316 W Main Street, in Grafton (photo from this real estate listing)

Inside Lightkeepers Coffee, Antiques & Art Shop

I was pretty excited to learn that this Vallonia at 101 E. Main Street, had opened as a shop, because that meant that I would be able to GO INSIDE! It's funny that, despite the hundreds of Sears houses that I have found and added to our national database, and the thousands of Sears houses that I have seen the outside and inside of (through real estate photos), I have only actually ever been inside THREE of them-- the Silverdale that my mom grew up in; a 1930 Sears Winona in Affton, Missouri; and a gorgeous Sears Ashmore in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. So, this was just the fourth Sears house that I have actually been inside... my first time seeing Stratford door handle hardware in person, my first time seeing doors with "the" Sears hinge (more on that in a minute). So, this was great fun for me. When I saw the 2020 real estate photos of the house, I was thrilled to see that there was so much original still inside the house... it's still filled with Craftsman window and door trim, craftsman colonnades with bookcases, original five-panel doors (and all of this in original oak, with a lovely patina), original staircase, original flooring upstairs (sadly, the oak flooring on the first floor was ruined by flooding), and even original siding on the bit of the original front of the house, that you can still see inside the now-enclosed front porch. I have always been dismayed that this house was covered over in vinyl or aluminum siding, and especially sad that the trademark Sears porch pillars that we see on the Sears Vallonia were also just encased inside a swath of brown vinyl or aluminum siding, but... inside the porch, you can still see the original wood porch pillars! What a treat! It's the first time that I've ever seen those in person, too. I just loved this visit!

Sears porch pillars Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
Sears porch pillars -- along with cute little things for sale -- inside the front porch of Lightkeepers (original tongue-in-groove wood ceiling inside the porch, too).

porch displays inside Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
Photo from the FaceBook page of Lightkeepers, showing the white, original wood siding (this is the original front wall of the house, and we're inside the enclosed front porch here, looking in the front door and front windows).

To cheer up the exterior, the new owners did this cute paint job on one set of the covered-over front porch pillars:

exterior photo of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
It's like... a lighthouse! Lightkeeper... get it? ;) • Lightkeepers Coffee, Antiques & Art • 101 E Main St Grafton IL

colorful closeup photo of red and white striped sears porch pillars Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
Now, it even has yellow dots!
Look closely at the photo below. This is the setting of the house. Right behind it, just down the little side street a bit, is the Mississippi River! And, you see, at the end of the road, a red-and-white striped lighthouse! A lightkeeper is a person who tends to, or runs, a lighthouse... hence, the name of this excellent little Vallonia coffee shop/Antiques shop! Lightkeeper's Coffee, Antiques & Art.
street view of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
There's our Vallonia, right here at Vine Street and Main Street

lighthouse at Port of Grafton color photo
I snagged this photo of the Port of Grafton lighthouse, uploaded onto Google maps by Jeffrey... clicked on Port of Grafton
Back to the interior:
Original oak colonnades separate the living room and the dining room. These were available from Sears in customizable heights for the colonnades.
dining room bookcase colonnades Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

bookcase colonnade Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
The patina on the original wood was really just gorgeous.

bookcase colonnade Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
The very bottoms of these bookcases were damaged by the flooding, and so the glass-front doors were not salvageable, but they would have looked like what you see below, in the 1931 catalog image.

 
catalog page showing bookcase colonnades from Sears
From the 1931 Sears Modern Homes building supplies catalog

All of the doorways and windows were framed in with oak craftsman style wide trim, and it is still in wonderful condition. 

front double windows of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

closeup of oak grain on window trim of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

front bedroom as display room of antiques Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

craftsman style door trim Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

I was very intrigued by the staircase, for some reason. I just haven't seen a Sears staircase before! This one had these added, individual wedge supports under each tread. I don't know if that was standard, or something the carpenter added, or what, but each tread had one. The newel and the balusters were a simple, straight, craftsman style.

craftsman style oak newel and staircase Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

craftsman style oak newel and staircase Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

craftsman style oak staircase Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

oak craftsman stairs with support under treads Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

The catalogs showed illustrations of how items would come to the buyer, already measured and cut. Sears explained how these kinds of cuts -- like mitered corners, notched boards, and stair stringers -- are detailed, time-consuming issues to produce, and that, of course, their system of providing these for the buyer, already measured and cut, provided a high-quality product, and saved the homeowner labor costs. These images are from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog (their system was called "Honor Bilt"):


black and white photo focusing on showing pre-cut stairs and pre-cut window trim 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog page explaining pre-cut system

black and white image focusing on mitered joints 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog page explaining pre-cut system

black and white image focusing on cut and fitted benefits 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog page explaining pre-cut system

That last catalog image (bottom of page 11), zooms in on the ends of pieces of framing lumber, to show you how they would be numbered. Notice that the stamping includes numbers, or a letter with a number. You would also see these stamps on the face of the boards. This number helped indicate what dimension lumber the piece was (2X4, 4X6, etc.). Here are two examples found inside the walls of a Sears Hamilton bungalow, in Novi, Michigan, owned by Andrew and Wendy Mutch:

sears letter number combo mark on framing lumber of Sears Hamilton in Novi Michigan

sears letter number combo mark on framing lumber of Sears Hamilton in Novi Michigan

sears letter number combo mark on framing lumber of Sears Hamilton in Novi Michigan

Every room of this house, is used for the shop. Upstairs, the two bedrooms on each side of the hall, and the small bedroom in the dormer, were used to attractively display antiques and art and hand-made items for sale:



upstairs rooms with craftsman oak trim Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

display of antiques in upstairs rooms with craftsman oak trim Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

sears 5 panel door with stratford hardware and sears hinge Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

dormer room windows color photo Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
Inside the dormer bedroom, lovely display of antiques and pretty things for sale

I did a couple of 30-second videos of the dormer room and one of the other upstairs rooms:


As you can see in the video, I point out the doors -- which are the Sears 5-panel doors -- and the Sears hinge and Sears Stratford door handle hardware:
page from Sears building materials catalog

Sears building supplies catalog showing Chicago Design and Stratford Design door handle hardware

sears 5 panel door with stratford hardware and sears hinge Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

sears 5 panel door with stratford hardware and sears hinge Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

close up of sears hinge Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
This hinge was only sold by Sears

close up of sears stratford hardware inside Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

Why go to Grafton, Illinois?
If you're asking that question, then let me explain.

Grafton is a river town in Illinois, along the Mississippi River, right in the area where the Mississippi and the Illinois River, come together (the confluence of the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers). As St. Louisans, we travel to Grafton by crossing the Mississippi River on the beautiful Clark Bridge, which leads us right into Alton, Illinois. 
color photo from wikipedia of new Clark bridge over Mississippi River in Alton

wikipedia info box new Clark bridge over Mississippi River in Alton
From the Wikipedia page about the Clark Bridge.
You can see that the town of Wood River is shown here. That's the location of a number of Sears houses, ordered by Standard Oil Company, around 1918, as part of the large purchase of kits that they had built for employees. The greater part of that purchase, went to Carlinville, Illinois. You can see information about the Wood River Sears houses, here.

The "new" Clark Bridge was built in 1994, and it replaced the "Old" Clark Bridge, which I hated crossing over. The old bridge was built in 1927, and was only 20 feet wide. I cringed every time I had to cross it. The new Clark Bridge is a beautiful, wide, state-of-the-art structure that is so revered, that it had a 2-hour PBS Nova special, Super Bridge, made about it, in 1997 (narrated by Hal Holbrook, if you're old enough to know who he is). It was an amazing project, and the bridge is quite impressive. Thanks to the NOVA Wikipedia page, I found a link to the complete video!
video snippet image from Super Bridge PBS NOVA special about the building of the new Clark bridge in Alton Illinois over the Mississippi River
Watch the 2-hour NOVA special, right here, on Archive.org

We love heading over the Mississippi River here, not so much because we're heading to Alton (though there are Sears houses, and Gordon-Van Tine and Wardway houses there!), but because it leads us onto The Great River Road -- the stretch of Illinois Route 100 that runs along the Mississippi River, heading right into Main Street Grafton (and continuing beyond). On one side, you have tall bluffs, where bald eagles perch, in the winter months, and on the other, the Mississippi River. We always see tug boats and barges and speed boats and pontoon boats... it's beautifully scenic.
wikipedia color image of bluffs, road, and Mississippi River view on rte 100 great river road alton grafton illinois
This is the view heading away from Grafton, back toward Alton. Image from Wikipedia.

The Main Street that you drive down, where Lightkeeper's is located, is a busy little stretch of road on weekends in the summer and fall, and a not-so-busy destination the rest of the time. Lightkeepers is currently only open on Saturday and Sunday (8-4).  After stopping at Lightkeepers , you can continue on to have something to eat at one of the unassuming outside fish stands, like Beasleys or O'Jan Fish.
google map photos of ojans fish stand grafton illinois
Click here, and scroll through the photos on the left side, of O'Jan's Fish Stand

Beasley's Fish market and stand is open year round, and sells Mississippi River fish, like catfish and buffalo fish. 
Google image photos of Beasley fish stand grafton illinois
More images snagged from Google maps-- click here and scroll through the photos on the left side, of Beasley Fish.
Or, you might head up the road another block or so, across the street, and go to the relatively-new Grafton Winery... wine, specialty beers, interesting food options, music sometimes, and lots of patio seating that looks right out over Main Street, onto the Mississippi River.
color photo from Google maps of Grafton Winery Grafton Illinois Mississippi River winery
More photos from Google maps uploads, here.

Another option right on the river, before you actually get to Lightkeepers, is The Loading Dock... a sort of outdoor bikers destination, right on the river, where there is a large outdoor area, music on weekends, hamburgers and fries (etc.) at the take-out window, lots of beer and drinking, and even a flea market.
color photos from Google maps of The Loading Dock Grafton Illinois Mississippi River
Images from Google maps, here .

There's also the historic Ruebel Hotel, and old, historic brick storefront building right there on Main Street, that has rooms, and a bar, and a restaurant.

color photos from Google maps of Ruebel Hotel Grafton Illinois Mississippi River historic hotel
Images from Google maps, here .

google maps street images main street grafton illinois showing where Lightkeepers Coffee Antiques shop is
Click to enlarge. There is Lightkeepers, right there at Vine Street (101 E. Main St).

But, we usually continue on further up the way on Route 100, to the historic Pere Marquette Lodge and park (it's an Illinois State Park).  This lodge was built by workers from the CCC (Civil Conservation Corps), during the depression. It's an amazing limestone and log construction... whole logs are all over the place in the interior ceiling. It was expanded a bit back in the 1980s, I'd say, to add a pool and newer lodge rooms, but we especially like the rooms up the log-lined stairs in the old section of the lodge. 
color photo of main room and fireplace of Pere Marquette lodge Grafton Illinois
See the staircase up to the right of the huge fireplace? And, the restaurant is behind the French doors.
(source)
These are photos that I took, on our visit last week (I don't know who the people are LOL):
color photo of main room, log beams, lifesize chess set Pere Marquette lodge Grafton Illinois
main room of Pere Marquette lodge

color photo of log beams inside main room of Pere Marquette lodge Grafton Illinois

color photo of limestone and log beams and supports inside Pere Marquette lodge Grafton Illinois
Pere Marquette lodge dining room is behind these French doors

Pere Marquette lodge Grafton Illinois view from windows out to river
Looking out from the lodge, to the Mississippi River

The restaurant is pretty darn good... they have a good French Onion Soup, and a really yummy family-style fried chicken meal. This photo is from their website:
color photo of restaurant dining room Pere Marquette lodge Grafton Illinois
From the Pere Marquette Lodge website, here . That's the restaurant side of the huge limestone fireplace you see in the great hall.

At Christmas time, it's a delight, and in the fall, there are nice hikes up into the park.
color photo of Christmas tree inside main room of Pere Marquette lodge Grafton Illinois
From the Pere Marquette Lodge photo gallery, on their website... lots of good photos there

So... Grafton is a nice little river town (a really pretty small stretch), that is worth a visit. And, before now, there was no cool little spot to just stop and get an interesting coffee! Instead of having a darn Starbucks move in, the Roundcount family bought the historic Sears Vallonia, and filled it with a really cute selection of items for sale, and three interesting and experienced baristas:
color photo of the baristas at Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
I know that I chatted with Jessie! and... another fabulous barista... but was she one of you other two, ladies?
This is from the Lightkeepers website.
These ladies are experienced, and you can get some great coffee drinks -- hot or cold!

color photo of coffee making at Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

color photo of coffee window inside Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

hot coffee and tea beverages menu for Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

cold coffee and tea drinks menu at Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
From the Lightkeepers FaceBook page (under menu )

color outside photo of new Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia


color night-time view of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia with 4th of July fireworks
4th of July fun! (From the gallery of photos on the Lightkeepers FaceBook page)

If you're a real Sears-house fan, you may recognize that there is another Sears house right next door to Lightkeepers, at 105 E. Main Street. It's a Sears Langston. It's now an inn, called End Of The Trail Inn. I've never been inside. They've completely renovated it for their purposes, and covered every surface with wood planks, to give every room a sort of cabin-in-the-woods feel, I guess. As a Sears house historian, I can say that I'm glad that the Sears house still stands, but I'm not interested in going inside that one. One thing we can tell, though, is that the Langston was built before 1920 -- that little rectangular window was last seen on the Langston in 1919. So, this also helps us date the Lightkeepers Vallonia to closer to 1920, I would imagine.
google maps streetview image of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia next to Sears Langston End Of Trail Inn
The large white house, is a Sears Langston, followed by Lightkeepers.

You can read all about the history of this model, in this blog post of mine. 

I hope you'll head over to Lightkeepers one of these upcoming weekends, if you're in the area!
color photo of Minas Espresso coffee Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

color photo of array of donuts and pastries Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

informational page of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia

logo from website of Grafton Illinois coffee antiques shop Lightkeepers Coffee 101 E Main St Sears Vallonia
Here's the Lightkeepers website • Here's the Lightkeepers Facebook page