Monday, September 21, 2015

Sears Olivia on Oleatha in Saint Louis

brown and white sears house olivia model saint louis
Authenticated Sears Olivia • 1925 • 7072 Oleatha, Saint Louis, Missouri
Sears homes in St. Louis are not as plentiful as you might think.

For one thing, the city of St. Louis has a huge number of homes that were built before the era of Sears homes.  For another, the great, great majority of houses in the city of St. Louis, are made of brick, because brick manufacturing was a major economic force in the city, for many decades.  A large portion of those old, brick homes, are solid brick... and Sears homes are never made of solid brick. But, they are sometimes made of face brick (brick veneer), and, I have discovered that many of the newer old homes in the city of St. Louis (1920s-40s) are actually brick veneer, not solid brick.

Because of all of this, I hadn't spent much time looking through the streets of the city, for kit homes. I have focused on areas of the nearby suburbs of St. Louis County.  But, this summer, around June 19 (2015), I decided to move my Sears mortgage-deed searching to the big, beautiful building that is our city's City Hall (for images from that visit to city hall, read my most recent post).  I netted about 18 names and locations related to mortgages from Sears: one signed by 1920s Sears trustee, Walker O. Lewis, in 1925, for a mortgage of $1, 800.  I put off looking for the house for that one, figuring, at such a low price, it was probably a mortgage for a garage, or some little fluff of a standard-bilt house that had fallen down by now.

June 20, 2015, in our Sears Homes and Plan Book Houses group,  on FaceBook.

So, I was really pleased to find that the mortgage that E. W. Boehme and his wife signed off on, on January 23, 1925 (listed in book 4184, on page 149!) turned out to be an Olivia model! My first ever!

catalog image of sears olivia 1925
From page 43 of my 1925 catalog.
brown and white sears olivia
The house matches nicely, pas vrai
According to tax records, our Olivia on Oleatha, is only about 664 square feet. Yikes. That's tiny. The floor plan shows 2 bedrooms on the right side of the house, and a living room on the left, with the kitchen behind it. That's about it, folks! A bathroom, and a short hall, and a few closets finish it off.

floor plan sears olivia 1925 catalog

That screened-in porch is a nice addition.
st louis sears house oleatha avenue
All of the house images were accessed through Google maps.
Who lived here?
Well, you would think that the easy answer would be: E. W. Boehme and his wife, the folks who signed the mortgage with Walker O. Lewis.

However, digging and searching on, did not net me anyone by that name, at this address, either through the 1930 census, or via St. Louis City directories from 1925 on. I found an Erwin Boehme, in St. Louis, who worked as a supervisor at Western Union, and his wife, Esther Boehme, who worked for Western Union, too (a company dear to my heart, because it's where my dad worked from age 16, through until his retirement many decades later.), but they weren't shown at this address. I think that I only found them through about 1920 at any address, anyway, so they're probably there somewhere, in some directory, but I didn't find them.  I'm going to a Genealogy workshop at the Missouri History Museum Library in a few weeks -- maybe I'll work on tracking them down to connect them to living in this house.

Here are the Hofers, Edward and Myra, both at 7072 Oleatha, and both working in the shoe-worker field, in 1929.
St. Louis was also home to several major shoe manufacturers. Elmer Hofer, by the way, was Edward's brother.
"Fredrk" (Fredrick), the tailor who lived at 6111 Hoffman, was surely Edward's German-born father, who would have been 65 at the time of this 1929 city directory.  
But, let me tell you about who lived here as early as 1929: Edward Hofer, and his wife Myra.  They seem to have been lovebirds... they married at ages 20 (he) and 15 (she)! Holy cow, that's young. Edward's parents, Fredrick and Bertha, had come to the United States from Germany, and began their lives in the United States, living in Syracuse, New York.  Edward and his siblings were born in New York.

1905 New York State census, showing the Hofer family.  Next to their ages, is the place of birth.
More legible summary of the Hofer family of Syracuse, NY, 1905.
Interestingly, about Edward and Myra Hofer, though they married quite young (as shown on the 1930 census, in the column "age at first marriage"), they don't show children in their home with them until the 1940 census... and then, it's a 7 year old and a 1 year old.  It seems unusual to marry at age 15, and not have children until about age 27 (especially in that era) which seems to be the case for Myra.
1930 census for 7072 Oleatha Avenue (misspelled as Olathe). (Click to enlarge)
Here is the little Hofer family in 1940.
Edward and Myra Hofer may well have lived in their little Sears Olivia until their deaths, he in 1977, and she in 1981, because their last residence is shown as still being at that zip code (63139).

The Origin of the Street Name, Oleatha
Today, in a group about Saint Louis history, a gentleman named Rick Murray told me that this street, Oleatha, was named after his great grandmother!  Her name was Oleatha Didawick Rathell.  Her husband, Mr. Murray's great grandfather, was a real-estate developer named Samuel T. Rathell.  Another of the streets in the neighborhood is Mardel, named by Mr. Rathell after a well-known street in another area of Saint Louis, Delmar. The Rathells lived on Cabanne, just north of there.  The neighborhood that Oleatha sits in is called Lindenwood Park -- named for the fact that Oleatha had attended Lindenwood College, in nearby St. Charles.

oleatha didawick rathell photo
Mr. Murray shared this photo of Oleatha Didawick Rathell, in the parlor at the Rathell home
at 5618 Cabanne in St. Louis.
Oleatha was born in 1856, and passed away in 1922

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  1. Replies
    1. Lots of small houses in that area of the city :) I'm just glad it seems to be well kept up.

  2. Sweet little house! About the size of a small city apartment, really. At least it has two bedrooms!

    1. It is a cutie! The others that we have on the list seem to be in rough condition, but this one looks great on the outside.


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