Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sears Arlington: Three In A Row in Detroit, Michigan

sears arlington color catalog sears 145
This color catalog image is a treat -- normally they are in black & white. This one is from the Sears Archives page.
The Sears Arlington model began its life in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs, as the No. 145, making its first appearance in 1911.  It was offered in the catalogs through 1922.  The Arlington was never sold as a pre-cut kit -- it was only offered as a "not cut or fitted" package, meaning that the lumber that came with the bundle was cut to standard lengths, and your builder (or you) would still have to measure and cut to the lengths you needed for each spot. The package you bought and had delivered, nonetheless, contained all of the screws and bolts and nails and hinges and door hardware and paint and varnish and stain and exterior cedar shingles (or whatever siding you chose), and flooring and windows and stairs, balusters, newels, porch railings and columns -- just about everything.  As part of your order, for a fee on top of the base fee, you could choose the bathroom fixtures, the light fixtures, the heating system, and the electrical system components, and have all of that bundled up and sent along, too. The only things you couldn't get delivered in your package, were plaster, brick facing, or cinder blocks... but, Sears would hook you up with a local supplier of those items, and facilitate that order for you (according to a letter I've read, written by the son of man who ordered his Sears house as a kit, describing how the whole process took place for their family).

This is the base-package price as offered in the 1914 catalog. As you can see,
Sears estimated that the final construction cost would be about $3,150.00.
The three Arlingtons we have in Detroit, Michigan, are all in a row, on Chalmers Street, in the Jefferson Chalmers district of Detroit, sitting at numbers 605, 621, and 635.  All three were likely built in 1915 (though tax records show the middle house, #621, to have been built in 1921-- that is probably not accurate). In 1921, Detroit radically changed its street address system (thanks to Benjamin Gravel, for the link to this handy document about that), so, despite an enormous amount of digging done by Lara Solonickne (Sears Homes of Chicagoland) and me, we never did figure out what the original addresses were for these houses, in 1915.

Now, I am not the researcher who found these houses (and, we don't have authenticating documents of any kind, so we are declaring these as "probable" Sears Arlington models)-- that was young Nigel T., a very bright teenage member of our Face Book Sears homes research group.  Nigel is a whiz with searching real estate listings and Google maps, and has come across dozens of Sears and Wardway homes, especially in Michigan.  Lately, he has been on a roll with finding houses in Detroit and Flint, and, on January 12, 2016, he posted this in our group:

The actual house numbers are 605, 621, and 635.
Usually, several of us weigh in on Nigel's finds, comparing catalog images, floor plans, and images of authenticated homes we've got on our National Database of Sears Houses, to the images Nigel puts in front of us. Now, not every "find" is a match -- that's natural for this process -- but, as you can see from the 10 comments under Nigel's post ("3 J'aime  10 commentaires" -- I use my Face Book in French), we were all excited about this find.  The consensus was: yes! It looked like Nigel had found a batch of three Sears No. 145 houses in Detroit!

sears no 145
We Sears-house lovers especially like the tracery elements on the Arlington, that you see circled here. Many times, this tracery is gone on houses we find standing today, especially if new siding was added. Our stucco gems here still have theirs!
Benjamin Gravel, who runs the Facebook group, Historical Detroit Area Architecture, lives not too far from the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, and offered, despite the cold and snow, to run over to Chalmers Street and get photos for us. Let's take a look (and, remember, these images are the personal photos of Benjamin Gravel, and should not be taken and posted elsewhere without a direct link to this blog post, and credit to him as the photographer) :

sears arlington
605 Chalmers Street, Detroit, Michigan • 1915 • probable Sears No. 145 -- the Arlington model
(photo by Benjamin Gravel -- link to this blog post and cite him)
sears arlington
621 Chalmers Street, Detroit, Michigan • c. 1915 • probable Sears No. 145 -- the Arlington model(photo by Benjamin Gravel -- link to this blog post and cite him)
sears arlington
635 Chalmers Street, Detroit, Michigan • 1915 • probable Sears No. 145 -- the Arlington model
(photo by Benjamin Gravel -- link to this blog post and cite him)

Construction Elements
Most often, when a buyer chose a Sears model, the norm would be to go with the construction and interior elements that Sears normally shipped with that model, so most of the time, especially on the exterior, any build of that Sears model would have the same kinds of porch columns or porch rails, for example, as any other. But, you could certainly make changes to some of those elements (sometimes a small extra fee was required), and opt for a different porch column design, for example, or a different interior lighting package, or different door hardware.

sears no 145 1914 catalog
The 1914 showed these prices for the heating and lighting options of the No. 145 model house.
In the case of these three Chalmers Street houses, they look to have chosen the standard "Square Porch Columns" that the catalog image shows. I just recently edited a November 2015 blog post of mine, to show a probable Saratoga model Sears house in New Bern, North Carolina, that sports these same square porch columns (available in different lengths), even though the standard Saratoga came with a somewhat chunky, boxy porch column, more appropriate for a "wild west" kind of setting, but out of place in elegant colonial New Bern, North Carolina. (You can read that post here -- it shows a wonderful Sears Milton and Sears No. 178 on Spencer Avenue in New Bern, NC, as written about in the 1988 book by Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County North Carolina-- surely a must-read for any lovers of old homes who choose New Bern for a weekend B&B getaway! )

sears building materials catalog porch columns
You can see that all three houses were built with the Sears Square Porch Columns.

Unfortunately, we have no interior shots of our three probable Sears Arlingtons on Chalmers Street, but the 1912 Sears Building Materials catalog gives us some good views of elements the buyer could choose from:

sears 1912 building materials
There were a variety of staircase designs one could choose, mixing and matching
stair newels and balusters.  The New Bern Saratoga, for example,
has the stair newel design shown on the right here,
even though the standard choice was the one shown in the center of the picture here.
(click any image to enlarge)
sears 1912 building materials
A closeup of stair newels shown in the 1912 building materials catalog.
1912 sears building material
There were various  door hardware packages from which to choose...
1912 sears building materials
... and a nice variety of gas and electric lighting fixtures, too.
Floor Plan
The No. 145 / Arlington model was a two-floor, 35' X 26' home with 3 bedrooms upstairs, and a maid's room on the first floor, a nice wrap-around porch, a big pantry off of the kitchen, and a spacious dining room and living room:

sears no 145 floor plan
From my 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
sears no 145 floor plan
From my 1918 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
More Views of The Three Chalmers Street Houses
Google maps street view provides some pretty good quality screen shots these days, so here are a few more shots of our Detroit houses, with a little bit of information about early residents of the houses:

605 Chalmers Street:
The window pattern on the left side of an Arlington is pretty busy!
Because of the street-address changes in 1921 in Detroit, it was pretty difficult to trace the original residents of these three homes. In any case, since three were built in a row, they were most probably built as either rental properties, or as spec homes for immediate sale, and weren't actually originally ordered by their first residents. I can tell you that in 1940, the residents were William and Anna Gabriel, who were in their late 60s, and had lived in the house at least since 1935.  William was a life insurance salesman, and they owned their home.

621 Chalmers Street:
sears arlington
Notice the triple windows above the dining room "bump-out", just as you'd expect on the No. 145/Arlington.
The catalog shows a peaked roof over the bump-out, but all three of our houses here sport the shed-roof style.
The catalog also shows a stone chimney, with a slightly different style, but I imagine that this simple stucco chimney was less costly.
Nice comparison to the catalog image.
The 1940 residents of this house were Frank and Isabelle Babcock, who were in their early 40s, and owned their home.  Frank was an electric welder for the automobile manufacturing industry.

635 Chalmers Street:
sears arlington sears no 145
Proud No. 635 Chalmers Street looks to have but one of its four original upper dormer windows.
Here's that same stucco chimney style, and the bump-out with the flat, sloped roof, like the other two houses.
The 1940 residents of this house were 43-year old Elmer Williams and his wife and three children. Elmer worked as a newspaper copy reader (hmm.... did he edit the copy?), and the Elmers were renting their home.

Some Other Possible Sears Arlingtons Around the Country
Our National Database of Sears Houses has a number of Sears Arlingtons listed, but none are authenticated.  It's pretty hard to authenticate the houses that were not pre-cut-and-fitted, and, therefore, labeled on joists and under stairs.  I'm not sure which researcher found that last house, the one in Wisconsin, so apologies up front for not giving credit. Feel free to message me if you are the one who found the Lancaster home shown here. (Click any image to enlarge it.)

4000 White Avenue, Baltimore, MD (available at this Zillow listing)
Thanks to Nigel, once again, we were able to add the address for this house to our National Database of Sears Houses.  He tracked it down after knowing only the town where one might be located.
sears arlington

sears altona

seras arlington

1004 Farnsworth, Waterville, Ohio • 1916
This beauty was found by top researcher, Cindy Catanzaro, who writes the blog Sears Houses in Ohio. She is also busy re-creating the blog of Laraine Shape (Sears Houses of Cincinnati), who was from Waterville.
sears arlington

1004 farnsworth waterville oh

134 N. Tyler Street, Lancaster Wisconsin
134 n tyler st lancaster wi

134 n tyler st lancaster wi

77 Wabash Avenue, Kenmore, New York • 1925 (Buffalo area)
Found by researcher Sarah Mullane, who lives in the Buffalo area.
sears arlington

77 wabash avenue kenmore new york buffalo new york

Thanks to Nigel T. for finding us these three Sears No. 145 / Arlington probabilities in Detroit, Michigan!


  1. This certainly was a team effort to research these homes... You, Benjamin.... And Nigel with the fun discovery! I'd love to see inside one of these--the Arlington had a great floor plan. Good job, everyone!


    1. I was really hoping to find a real estate listing for one of these. Darn it!

  2. Another great group effort! Thanks to our persistent Nigel, we have so many more Sears Houses on the Master List. Wonderful photos and research, too!

  3. This was a fun little experience. It is not everyday that own finds an entire row of the same model, is it? :)

  4. Is this master list online? If do, please respond with link. Thanks!

    1. Yes, look for the link on the right side of my blog, under "More Information" (National Database: Sears Homes in the US). That will take you to a log-in spot where you can request access to the list. Consider leaving a comment about who you are, and what your interest is in accessing the list :)

    2. I lived in 605 Chalmers from 1962-1970 and can probably find some interior pictures if you would like them. Upstairs also had a small room between the staircase and the bathroom that my Mom used to store stuff. The upstairs bathroom had a claw bathtub. Thanks for taking me down memory lane! Those 8 years are great memories. I was 4 when we moved there from Taylor, Mi. At it's peak that one city block had roughly 70 kids under 18!! Never a problem for outside games, kick the can, hind and seek, etc We were allowed to stay outside until the street lights came on. Feel free to contact me with any additional info needed. Bob Dickerson

    3. Bob, thanks so much for your comment! I also heard from another Dickerson, and asked her to let you know that I could not contact you directly, because I do not have your email address :) I would love to see interior photos :) Please leave me another comment with your email address (it will not be published for others to see:) )

  5. There is another known Sears house in the Detroit area--3517 Rochester Road in Royal Oak. This house was built in 1913, though some of the original structure is no longer visible because the building was expanded in the 2000s.

    1. Wow, we've taken a look, and can't figure out what model might be hiding under all of that :) Perhaps the original owners got their building supplies (and not blueprints) from Sears. Is there anything in addition to word-of-mouth to lead us to knowing why this is thought of as a Sears house?

  6. I also know the names of the families that lived in the other two homes on Chalmers in the 60's

  7. Very enjoyable to see more of the East Side history. Drove past those homes many times. Nice research & photography!

  8. Hi there! A friend sent me this link and I the soon to be owner of one of the Chalmers houses. I would love to know more about the history of these homes and I would gladly let someone interested take a look inside once the sale is closed which is sometime in April. It may be beneficial to do so before it becomes cluttered with furniture. Thank you for a great article about my new home! :)

    1. Hi there! Congratulations on purchasing the house on Chalmers! Would that be No. 605? We saw that it was up for sale. I'm afraid that I don't know anything more about the history of the houses, other than what I put in the blog post. A family that lived in 605 emailed me, but there's nothing much to tell you from that. And, I can't reach you directly, because you didn't provide an email address. If you'd like to discuss this further, please email me directly at


Please include your contact information if you have a question or are offering information!
Your comment will appear after it has been previewed and approved by the blog author. Thanks for your interest!