So, let me be clear: I am completely a novice at kit-home and plan-book searching.
But, I have learned a thing or two.
The first thing I learned, was that Sears is not the only kit-home company. I learned of Wardway (homes marketed by Montgomery Ward) early on, when I went to the library to get a self-published Rose Thornton Sears book, and found that she and Dale Wolicki also had a book on Wardway homes. Turns out there are many companies... Sears was a big one, though.
|EDIT 2017: Please note that self-published books tend to include some inaccuracies. |
There are mistaken IDs of homes included in these books.
The second thing I learned, was that Sears and Wardway (and all of the others) marketed homes that looked just like each other's (sometimes REALLY just like, and sometimes just similar), and just like all of the other homes from the 1920s and 30s. I learned this by thinking that every house in this town where I live must be a Sears home-- and finding out that they're not. Not at all. Almost none of them. Really. But they sure are darn close. Sometimes maddeningly so.
|The definitive book on Sears houses, and the first one I read, put out in 1986 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation:|
Houses By Mail. This is the go-to book for serious researchers, and an excellent start for new enthusiasts (see more info on Google Books).
How do you know it's not? Well, usually, an established researcher will point out something to you that is really stupidly obvious... to them (and then to you)... since they look at these houses all the time, and they realize there are not-quite-the-same lookalikes out there everywhere. When you're new to the game, you think something that "pretty much looks like" the catalogue image, just MIGHT be ... but, the experienced researchers see right away that it's not. The door is in the wrong spot. The width of the front gable is way off. The windows are in totally different spots. The slant of the roof is completely different. The footprint of the house is completely wrong. The house is from 20 years before Sears started marketing that house. That kind of thing.
Here's a house that is right around the corner from me-- I was SO excited when I realized that it was the spitting image of the Lewiston that everyone in the Sears Homes FaceBook group was talking about! So, I walked over, took a bunch of photos (with too many damned trees in the way), and proudly posted my photos:
|I was immediately informed that something was wrong about this nearby house, |
and it's not a Sears Lewiston.
I think the pointy part is too high. Or too skinny. I don't know.
But... I was immediately informed that this wasn't a Sears Lewiston. There are many other kit-home companies and plan-book companies with SIMILAR designs. Some companies (like Standard Homes, have about 5 different size floor plans).
|Here's the "Standard Homes" Holbrooke. See? Just like the Lewiston.|
But not quite! (I got this photo from a friend.)
|But, wait! Here's the "Standard Homes" Cromwell!|
Wait, now... look closely at the big picture window,
that's NOT there on the Holbrooke. Or the Lewiston.
|And... hold on! Here's the "Standard Homes" CARLTON.|
One obvious difference between this and the
Cromwell, is the brick veneer and half-timbered look, but it's also smaller.
These last two are from the 1948 catalogue, found on
I found that some folks in that FaceBook group were patient and supportive. But, not everyone. Sometimes, talented, knowledgeable folks, with tons of experience, a great eye, and miles and miles of pages of catalogues in their possession (all super-efficiently organized by house-style theme), just don't know how to be diplomatic. Or polite. Or gracious. Or, they just don't want to be. When you come across one of those people, and your house IS a Sears house, they're excited as heck to be the one to "authenticate" it for you (I guess they like giving off that, "see what I know that you didn't really know for sure!" vibe). But, if you're wrong... whoooooaaa Nelly, watch out! You'll be corrected. Bluntly. Every time. Right away. And your pictures will get mysteriously deleted. Before anyone else can answer your questions. Yes, it's a hobby. Yes, there's no need for this kind of impatience. But, it's there with some people, that's for sure.
|Another view of the house I had no business calling a Sears Lewiston|
(now with a fresh, new, bigger window up top in front).
Truly, it's understandable that folks would get a bit tired of the same thing happening over and over again. And having to tell yet another new "enthusiast" that she or he is not looking at all of the details. But, everyone started off at the same point. Some folks just forget that they were there at one point, too. Some folks can handle these repetitious errors from newcomers with unending patience and kindness, and really enjoy helping you come to figure this out on your own. It's probably a special gift to be one of those kinds of people. And-- they're out there! So, don't despair! (I've found another great FaceBook group, by the way-- where I feel at home, and I learn something every day.) Just today, with the incredible patience and guidance of two of my house-seeking buddies (both incredibly knowledgeable and well-versed in researching techniques), I found my first house via a foreclosure deed (a deed or a mortgage record is undeniable proof that the house came from Sears-- or whomever). It was such fun. It was a dinky little old bungalow, but some family loved it back in 1927, and lost it in 1928, so, as I was excited about my find, I knew to keep in mind that there are real people attached to these homes we seek.
|This 1930 Sears catalogue image is from an interesting 2011 blog post by Rose Thornton|
(you'll notice that Lara commented that the "real" Lewiston Rose showed in that blog post
might actually be the Standard Homes Holbrooke).
With that, I'll leave you with photos of the sale listing (from CircaProperties -- they specialize in historic homes) of the real Lewiston house I showed at the beginning of this blog. It's just gone under contract! A new family will be adding to its interesting history.
|The house number actually goes to the busy side street of this house, |
but it sits facing a nice, quiet street.
2019 EDIT: Address has now been changed to 976 Greeley Avenue
|Closeup views of several original door handle hardware examples in this house.|
|EDIT, May 30, 2017: Oh, wait! Here is a much better photo of La Tosca, from the newer Real Estate listing.|
These two La Tosca images are straight from another informative and interesting
blog post by the (also always gracious!) author of Sears Homes of Chicagoland.
The February 2014 post (about a Sears Woodland model -- lots of information
about identifying features of this Sears home, and others) can be found at this link.
|This photo is from an article from OldHouseJournal, by|
Shirley Maxwell and James C. Massey, entitled, "Inside The Sears House", which refers to
a Sears Cedars that I have written a post about.
|I love these wood floors. |
This shows a first-floor bedroom, and the bathroom entry.
|Looks like they've renovated the bathroom, |
while keeping a lovely, vintage feel to it.
|Tell-tale signs of a vintage house second-floor bedroom -- the funky sloped ceiling!|
|Ahh... how I wish I had a screened-in porch like this one.|
|This is the 1st-level floor plan as shown by real-estate listing.|
This house has now been authenticated. I located the 1929 Sears deed, signed by Walker O. Lewis, in my research in June of 2015.
Other Authenticated Kit Houses in Webster Groves, Missouri
• Sears Clifton, right next door to the Sears Stanford
• A custom-design Sears home on Westborough Place
• A wonderful Gordon-Van Tine Company's Model No. 535, on Oakwood Avenue
• A beautiful Lewis Homes' Marlboro on W. Lockwood
For other authenticated Sears homes in the surrounding towns of Kirkwood, Glendale, and other areas of St. Louis City and County, please use the SEARCH function on the right-hand side of my blog.