Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sears Jeanette Spawns The Parkside: A Sears House Mortgage in St. Louis, Missouri

sears parkside model
Sears Jeanette, floorplan A, later known as The Parkside • 8837 Blewett, Jennings, MO • 1931
What do Sears, St. Louis, the Olympics, and basketball history have in common? This little house in Jennings, Missouri, a suburb north of St. Louis.

On October 6, 1931, E. Harrison Powell (trustee for Sears), signed off on a $2,500 mortgage for Albert J. and Adele Kurland.  They had chosen to build the 2-bedroom Jeanette model, but that year, the Jeanette offered something new: an additional floor plan that included an entry vestibule, and that is what they chose. This was offered as Plan 3283-A.  Just two years later, in 1933, Sears discontinued the Jeanette, and replaced it with the vestibule version, renaming it The Parkside.

sears parkside floor plan
The vestibule-addition floor plan of the Jeanette, later marketed as The Parkside.
The Kurlands were a young couple, in their late 20s, with three little ones: their eldest, Robert, and his two little sisters, Mary Ellen and Delores.  Albert worked as a "furniture finisher" and furniture repairman for one of St. Louis' major department stores, Famous & Barr (which was owned by the May Company, which was bought out by Macy's in the 1990s), but by 1940, still living in the family's little Jeanette, he had moved on to Interior Decorator.

Famous & Barr's recognizable sign (to anyone from St. Louis!).
They had a fabulous, thick French Onion soup and everyone loved going to their restaurants for a cup, which was served simply with a big piece of French baguette, and creamy butter. Yummmmm.

kurland family jennings mo city directory 1932
The Kurlands, listed in the 1932 Saint Louis County city directory.  "Famous" is how everyone shortened "Famous-Barr".
The 1932 directory lists the Kurlands at 8840 Blewett, but their house was at 8837. I don't know if this was an error, or if there was a change in postal addresses for their block that year.
st louis childhood home of bob kurland
The 1943 city directory, listing by street name, shows the Kurlands still at 8837.

sears jeanette 1931 st louis jennings mo
Despite the tree in front, you can see that this is the Jeanette-A / Parkside, with a bit of an addition off to the right, over the carport. The Parkside can be seen in the 1936 catalog, here.
sears jeanette
8837 Blewett from the side.  Note the little window in the vestibule, which can be seen on the catalog floor plan.
The Jeanette, from the 1930 catalog.

sears jeanette with vestibule
The 1932 catalog listing, showing the original Jeanette, and its new option: adding a front vestibule.

In the 1930s and '40s, if Albert Kurland was working for Famous & Barr, he no doubt would have been going in every day to this wonderful location in downtown St. Louis, in the Railway Exchange Building.  Sadly, this location has now closed.

The Railway Exchange building in downtown St. Louis, was built in 1911, I believe. This was the location of Famous & Barr in the 1930s and '40s. Macy's eventually bought out the May Company, which owned "Famous", as we all called it. (Source:
A close-up of the entrance to Famous & Barr in the Railway Exchange Building. (source)
Other Jeanettes and Parksides
Fellow researcher Cindy Catanzaro ( Sears Houses In Ohio) is the one who clued me in about the evolution of the Jeanette.  I was perplexed as to how this mortgage that I had, for  a house built in 1931, could be for the Parkside (which it looked like to me), when the Parkside wasn't offered until 1933.  Cindy knows the Jeanette well, as she used to live in one, and I believe that is what sparked her interest in Sears homes.

sears jeanette springfield oh
A beautiful 1929 Jeanette at 803 Snowhill Blvd., Springfield, Ohio.
(Image courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro.)
This summer, Cindy did some traveling, and stopped along the way in Middletown, Rhode Island, to snap a photo of this beautiful Parkside:
43 beacon st middletown ri
Authenticated Sears Parkside at 43 Beacon Street, Middletown, RI. Notice the cute garage in back, and the original cedar shingle siding.  (Image courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro.)
I did a little checking, and found that the Beacon Street Parkside has recently been for sale. Let's take a look at a few of the inside photos (courtesy of the Zillow listing, found here.)

sears parkside interior
View from the living room, through the eating alcove, into the kitchen.
(click to enlarge)
sears parkside front door
A Sears front door!   Sears offered the option of choosing from
a variety of glass openings for their doors,
but many of the Jeanettes and Parksides seem to have this large, square opening.
Big beautiful windows in the living room, with that wonderful wood framing.
The owner of that cute little Parkside on Beacon Street contacted me. She loves her Sears Parkside! Here it is with a fresh new paint job:
43 beacon street middletown ri
43 Beacon Street, Middletown, RI, freshly painted, in 2016 (photo courtesy of K. Lombardi -- credit her website if you use the photo) 
The owner put together a great little website about the history of her Sears house. Take a look:
43 beacon street middletown ri
Click here to see the website about this cute Sears Parkside.
What Came With The Jeanette?
The Sears Modern Homes 1929 catalog shows us what came standard with the purchase price of the Jeanette:

... and what options you had for your "extras":

You can see that plumbing fixtures were not part of the standard price, as the customers had a few options to choose from, and that was an additional cost.  For the bathroom fixtures, they could choose from the Delmar, Corona, or Plymouth sets of tub, commode, and sink:

sears bathtub delmar corona

Financing Your Sears Home
Sears explained, in the 1929 catalog, that you had three options when buying your home from them. You could pay the full price up front; you could secure a mortgage through a bank, and have the bank send a special letter to Sears, showing that they would be paying Sears on behalf of the homeowner; or you could arrange a 5, 10, or 15-year mortgage directly through Sears, at 6% interest per annum. This was the option that the Kurlands chose, which is why I was able to authenticate this cute little home as a Sears home, by researching mortgage deeds for Saint Louis County.
You didn't have to finance through a mortgage with Sears.

But, if you did take a mortgage, you had 5, 10, or 15 years to pay!
Sears reminded you that your mortgage was about the same as rent payments,
but you were actually buying something with your payments.
And, Sears wanted the homeowners to know
that they were simply offering their mortgage options to facilitate their home sales. 
In order to help the homeowner feel comfortable with inquiring about the full cost they would end up paying if they bought their home from Sears, each catalog included a form that interested buyers could fill in, choosing various options, and send in for a full-price estimate. This one is from the 1930 catalog:

(Click to enlarge.)
Olympics? Basketball?
Do you follow basketball history? I don't, but, apparently, our little Blewett Avenue Sears Jeanette, is the childhood home of legendary olympic and college basketball player, Bob Kurland! I found this by Googling "Albert and Adele Kurland"... and, up came a bio about 7-foot-tall Bob Kurland, who seems to have pretty much invented the slam dunk.  In this little video clip, he is mentioned as one of the top 25 basketball players, and is said to have been the first player to have dunked in a game.

This is a snippet from a little video about Bob Kurland
Though Bob Kurland grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Jennings High School,  where he played basketball and ran track, he was lured away for college by Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State), and is considered one of the most important athletes in the history of their university's sports programs.

After college, Bob decided not to go professional, but this allowed him to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Basketball team (though it is not the case now, Olympic athletes used to be required to retain amateur status). He helped lead the U. S. team to two Gold Medal victories, in 1948 (London) and 1952 (Helsinki, Finland).  He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, in 1961.  

To learn more about Bob Kurland, consult these sources that I used for my information:
• Bob Kurland's biography on Wikipedia
• Bob Kurland's write-up on the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame page


  1. I love this blog. The Sears Parkside in Rhode Island is documented. It is listed on the short list of Sears Homes found on the Sears Archives Website. I made a special side trip to get photos of it when on vacation in that area this past summer. Thanks for finding those interior pictures of the house. The floor plan looks really familiar. :)

    1. I enjoyed writing it, and love those two photos you shared. Thanks for your help!

  2. Hello, I'm the owner of that Parkside and what a nice surprise to see it featured here! I have many other items that document the house, including the original bill of sale and materials list, along with some of the blueprints. I love this house, and it has never ever been for sale. I did rent it for a short period but will never part with it.

    1. How wonderful! I'm so glad that you enjoyed seeing this :) And, it's very exciting to me, as a Sears house researcher, to know that you have these other documenting items. Is there any chance that you would share photos of them with me? If so, please leave me a message using the "Contact me" form at the side of the blog. Thank you so much for contacting me!


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