Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sears Silverdale in Charleston, West Virginia

 Sears Silverdale --Authenticated with shipping labels
307 Dayton Drive • Charleston, West Virginia
(photos from Google maps)

The Sears Silverdale, as shown in the 1921 catalogue.
(retrieved from, here )

Well... the things you find when you least expect it, eh?

One way to look for Sears houses, is to use Trulia or Zillow, to look for homes in the 1908-1940 build era, in any town of your choice.  You might end up recognizing one of the homes listed for sale, as a kit home or plan-book design you're familiar with.  If nothing else, this kind of searching will give you a street address that you can plug into Google maps, and you can "drive" around the area, seeing if there are any homes that you might recognize as Sears homes. This probable Silverdale just appeared, as one of the first few homes listed for sale in the area I chose to search in today. 

I just popped in Charleston, West Virginia, as my Trulia search town, simply because I was trying to think of a somewhat rural town that I hadn't seen other folks posting about.  I went to Charleston once, as a little girl. We were visiting a girl named Sharon, who was a friend of my sisters. She had moved away from our town in New Jersey, after her father died, and my sisters were going to stay with her for a week or so, one summer. So, we all piled in the car and drove to West Virginia.  I don't know about it being "almost heaven".  Charleston smelled pretty awful.  There was some kind of nasty-smelling sulfur-producing factory near by, and the air was acrid with the smell of it.  And, the twisty, turn-y, mountain hairpin curves we drove on en route were super scary.  Maybe some of this accounts for why this once-fine, 4-bedroom Sears Silverdale is empty, and for sale for only $51,000.  And why the Trulia map shows more red-dot homes (meaning they're for sale) than anything else, for blocks and blocks around this one. And they're all in this kind of price range (or lower).  I guess this neighborhood is struggling. 

The back and front porch configuration, and the placement of the windows on all sides of this house,
really match the catalogue image.
Those are good indications that we have a  Silverdale here.

Since my mom grew up in a 1911 Sears No. 110 (the early name for the Silverdale), I'm pretty familiar with it, inside and out (here's my earlier blog post about it, and the GVT No. 167, mentioned below).  As I've been perusing kit-home and plan-book catalogues these past months, I've been really keeping an eye out for any lookalikes. Despite the fact that this kind of house (known as a "gabled ell") is a pretty common style for old farmhouses, I haven't run across a real clone to this one -- except an almost exact lookalike from the Gordon-Van Tine company (their No. 167) [UPDATE MARCH 28 2015: I've found another lookalike from another company.... click HERE to read about it].  There are plans out there for similar styles, but they usually lack the back section, of the house, or the doors and windows are very different. Or the porch is very different.  Or the size is pretty different.  This house matches the Silverdale design exactly.  I think it's a good bet that we've got one here.

This is the almost-exactly-the-same lookalike by Gordon-Van Tine, the No. 167.
The much-smaller window of the entry vestibule, and a slight change to the design of the front porch roof,
are about the only differences in design from the Silverdale.
(You can see this catalogue page at, here.)

Here is the other side of our Dayton Drive Silverdale:

The windows on this side are placed just as they should be, to match the catalogue floorplan.
The front porch roof has four little sections... this shows the last two.

Since this house is for sale at the time of this post, there are a few photos available of the interior of the house.  It's not in great shape -- dirty carpeting, an updated-but-out-dated kitchen and bath -- though, still, the house has its big, craftsman-style moldings in place, around the doors and windows, and along the floor.  Despite the blurry photo, you can appreciate those moldings.

This is the dining room, and we're looking toward the back end of the house here.
The living room is behind us.
This door to the kitchen, and the window to the left of it that looks out onto the back porch,
are correct for the floor plan of the Silverdale.

This is the living room, so you're looking at the big front windows that look out onto the front porch.

The sale listing for the house tells us that it is from 1928--but, that is an error, because 1924 was the last year that the Silverdale was offered --and gives a few of the room sizes:
The room sizes for the Living Room and Master Bedroom are just right for the Silverdale floor plan.

Note the Living Room is almost exactly what the sale listing gives.
The Dining Room is off by an inch or two.  The kitchen is off by a foot,
but that may have happened when it was updated. 

The size of the Master Bedroom here in the front of the house, matches the sale listing description.

I think it's pretty clear that we have a Sears Silverdale here! Of course, we can never say that it is definitely a Sears model, unless we have marked lumber, blueprints, or mortgage or deed paperwork. So, this falls into the "not authenticated" category... but, process of elimination makes it a good bet to be the Sears Silverdale. UPDATE May 2018: The current owners have found shipping labels on the back of trim inside the house, and we are now marking this as an AUTHENTICATED Sears Silverdale!
Shipping label from Sears, found by the new owners of the house.
You can see, on the shipping label, that the address, 925 Homan Ave Chicago, is given in the top left corner. That was the address of Sears headquarters in Chicago. But, also on the shipping label, there is mention that the shipment has come "direct from our factory at Norwood, Ohio". That would be the Norwood Sash & Door company, that Sears bought in 1912, where all of their doors, windows, and trim were manufactured (and shipped from).

As I mentioned, the Gordon-Van Tine No. 167 is the only real "clone" to the Silverdale, that I've come across (if someone knows of another, please let me know in the comments section!). However, I recently ran across a very similar plan-book home design by Radford American Homes (of Riverside, Illinois), in their 1903 catalogue -- their No. 554 (see it here on UPDATE: The Chicago Millwork Supply Company also had an almost exact lookalike to the Sears Silverdale model. You can read about how all three companies' models compare, in this blog post of mine.

Radford American Homes No. 554 is really similar to the Sears Silverdale and the GVT 167... except that the porch and front entry are on the other side of the house.

The windows and layout and front porch look, and the size of the house, are all very similar to the Sears Silverdale and the GVT No. 167.  However, the Radford has a big bay window on the first floor side, and the back porch area is enclosed.  Also, there is no entry vestibule leading into the house from the front porch.  Everything else -- including layout of the rooms inside-- is very similar. However, the big difference that lets us know for certain that our Dayton Drive house is not a Radford No. 554, is the fact that the front porch of the Radford house is on the right side of the house... and Radford did not reverse plans for its customers, as Sears would.

No reversing of plans! So, if this were a Radford 554, the front porch would be on the other side of the house.
This is the floor plan of the Radford No. 554. Not exactly the same as the Silverdale, but very similar.
Some rooms are labeled to be intended as different rooms than the same spots in the Silverdale or GVT 167,
but the spatial layout is really similar. Note the upstairs bathroom on this 1903 design, though. Wow!
The earliest Silverdales (when it was still the No. 110) didn't even have a bathroom as part of the standard plans.

I wonder who had this great old house built ... and in what year it actually was built? And how they'd feel about the aluminum siding and stone veneer changes.  I wonder what it looked like back then, and how many kids grew up here. I wonder if there are generations down the line, like me, who know about their parents or grandparents or great-grandparents having once built and lived in a Sears catalogue home.  No way to know.  And the future doesn't look bright for this neighborhood, or this house. But, it's still standing strong... if, perhaps, a little less proud.

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