Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sears Americus: More Sears Houses in Pittsburgh

sears americus pittsburgh
312 Parklyn Street, in the Overbrook section of Pittsburgh • Authenticated 1923 Sears Americus
Earlier this year, I did a bit of research to find authenticated Sears houses in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.  Thanks to our researcher friend Karen DeJeet, who lives in a Sears Hamilton in Pittsburgh, we've seen that the greater Pittsburgh area is just dotted with Sears homes in many neighborhoods.  Previously, I've written about two authenticated Sears Bandon models, and a really cute Sears Windsor that Karen found in a Pittsburgh neighborhood. Today, let me show you two authenticated Americus models, both found through mortgage records.

Ira L. Spear: Sears Americus
First, we have a 1923 Sears Americus on Parklyn Street in the Overbrook section of Pittsburgh, shown above.  This house was bought by Ira L. Spear and his wife, Ivy, through a $4,300 mortgage signed-off on by Sears trustee William C. Reed. They lived here with their son, Robert.
From the Pittsburgh Gazette Times, June 12, 1923.
According to the census and to numerous newspaper articles through the 1940s, Ira Spear was a teacher, a counselor, and an administrator, who was also a very active leader in the Boy Scouts.  He worked for a long while at the Connelly School in Pittsburgh, a vocational school at that time.

sears americus 1923 pittsburgh
The stone finish on the porch is not standard to the catalog, but those are trademark Sears porch columns. These look to be original wood windows.  I'm not sure about the veneer that is there on the front of the porch level of the house.
sears americus 1921 catalog
Here is the Americus in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog,
available here on
It looks like our house on Parklyn Street is the reversed floor plan from
what is shown in the catalog, which Sears was more than happy to provide.
(click to enlarge)
And, here is the standard floor plan of the Americus.
When researching houses, it's always important to check side views to be sure that windows match up with the floor plan.  The Americus also has this sideways V shaped section to the side of the front porch roof, another good thing to look for.
Cover of the May, 1921 catalog.
George Buckingham: Sears Americus
Sitting at 557 Shelborne Avenue, in the Wilkinsburg area of Pittsburgh, is the Americus model that was bought by George Buckingham, and his wife Clara, in 1922. They, too, signed off on a $4,600 mortgage through Sears trustee William C. Reed. 

Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 31, 1922 
George Buckingham was 51, and Clara 43, when they bought their Americus.  Previously, they had been renting. They had three children, Clarice, Robert, and Grace, and George was a foreman at a cement plant.  Though Clara was born in Indiana, George was born in England, having immigrated to the U.S. in 1891.
From the 1930 U.S. census (source:
As with so many homes in Pittsburgh, the Buckingham's Americus is largely brick (veneer), and has the added change of an enclosed porch on one side of the first floor. The upper floor of the house appears to be wood shingle on all sides of the house. Sears did not ship the brick veneer to their clients, instead, they contacted a local supplier to have the brick made available through them.  Sears never sold their house kits with solid brick, but they did employ their own architects to help clients design homes made of solid brick, and arranged a local contractor to help with the construction.  In those cases, it seems that Sears acted more as an all-around contractor, designer, and supplier of the rest of the needs for construction of the house. (Source: Sears newspaper ads in the early 1930s).

sears americus brick and wood shingle siding

sears americus brick and wood shingle siding
sears americus eave brackets
This closeup of the Americus on Shelbourne Avenue, shows the original wood shingle siding on the upper level, as well as the wonderful eave brackets so prominent in the design of the Americus. (Source: Bing maps)
More blog posts about the Sears Americus:

• To read about another authenticated Sears Americus in Pittsburgh, see this previous blog post of mine; and this one about an Americus in Collingswood, N.J. (that also has the stone veneer on the porch).

• To read about a stucco Sears Americus in the Chicago area of Wheaton, Illinois, see this Sears Homes of Chicagoland blog post.

• To read about a thoroughly documented Sears Americus, in Lafayette, Indiana (blueprints and everything!), check out this blog post on Sears Homes of Chicagoland.

• To read about three Sears Americus models in various towns in and around Ohio, check out this blog post, about an Americus in Columbus, Ohio; this one about an Americus in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky; and this one, in Carthage, Ohio, on the blog, Sears Houses in Ohio.

• Check out these blog posts at the blog, Kit House Hunters, to see Americus models in Washington, D.C. ; Massapequa, NY; and another in Massapequa, N.Y.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Harris Homes No. 1007

harris homes no b 1007 no l 1007 no m 1007
537 Liberty Street, Grove City, Pennsylvania • Probable Harris Homes No. 1007
This sweet little hip-roof bungalow with an inset, gabled front porch and partially bay-shaped front rooms, is, I believe, a Harris Homes model No. 1007.  
gable roof style and hip roof style
Harris Homes was a kit-house company in the early 1900s, offering blueprints along with the option of pre-cut packages of all of the lumber and building needs for your house -- just like Sears and Gordon-Van Tine and Aladdin and Montgomery Ward's Wardway Homes. Harris Homes was based out of Chicago, and began their life in the late 1800s, as Chicago House Wrecking Company. According to noted researcher Rebecca L. Hunter, they began as a company that helped in dismantling the structures at the 1893 Chicago World's fair, as well as the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.  You can read a bit more about the company here, on the Arts & Crafts Society page about Harris Homes.

The earliest catalogs list the houses with just a model number, but then (probably beginning with when they transitioned to the name Harris Homes, after 1913) they seem to have begun adding a letter to start the model number.  It looks like the catalogs moved along alphabetically as the years went on, so, this house, in a very early Harris Homes catalog, is shown as No. B-1007, and I have photos for it listed, in 1918, as No. L-1007 and, in 1920, as M-1007... you get the idea :). 

harris homes no 1007
Here is the front, compared to the image found on Daily Bungalow's Flickr album, for the 1920 , M-year catalog.
In the early, B-year catalog (sorry, I don't know where I got this image), the page shows a small photo of an actual-build No. B-1007, and, when you put it next to this Grove City, PA house, you can see how similar they are.

harris homes 1007 floor plan
You can see that the original floor plan does not call for that right-elevation front window in the dining room, to be a door, but it looks like that's what the folks who built the house in the photo, changed it to. 

harris homes no 1007
And, here you can see the comparison of the views of the house, with the right elevation looking correct for this model.
harris homes no L 1007
For some reason, the 1918 L-year catalog shows this model with short little windows on either side of the front door, but our house in Grove City has full-length windows there -- and, that's how the model is shown in the B and M year catalogs.
harris homes no b 1007 no l 1007 no m 1007
Here, again, is our house in Grove City, comparing nicely to the catalog image above.
Apparently, this Harris model was shown at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines ("and other big expositions"), and I love the way they refer to its simplicity of style, by pointing out that it has "no freakish projections" --- haaaa haaaa! 
harris homes no b 1007 no l 1007 no m 1007
source on
Let's take a look at a few more views of our Liberty Street Harris No. 1007, in Grove City, PA (all views of this house are thanks to Google Maps street view):

harris homes no b 1007 no l 1007 no m 1007
Sadly, it looks like the re-siding job covered over the window in the bathroom, and the side window for the front bedroom on this side.
harris homes no b 1007 no l 1007 no m 1007

harris homes no b 1007 no l 1007 no m 1007

For more information:
harris homes of chicago
To see more Harris Homes catalogs,
including building materials catalogs,
go to 
this list of online catalogs,
and scroll down to the section listing
Harris Homes catalogs.
To see a blog post about a Harris Homes No. 1000,
go here, and scroll down a bit to near the end of the post.
To see a blog post about a Harris Homes No. 117, go here.
To see more about a similar-style bungalow by Sears,
in Webster Groves, Missouri, click here and scroll down.
To see another Sears model that looks, on the outside,
very similar to the Harris Homes No. 1007, click here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Is This Gordon-Van Tine's Lookalike to the Sears Hazelton: No. 573 / 517?

gordon van tine lookalike to sears hazelton
236 Spruce Street, Wyandotte, Michigan • 1920
(image source)
gordon van tine lookalike to sears hazelton
The GVT No. 573 (later No. 517 & 517B, with slight window changes).
From the Gordon-Van Tine 1919 catalog

Back in February (2016), fellow researcher Nigel T. brought to my attention this great house in Wyandotte, Michigan.  His first question: Is this a (Sears) Hazelton?

No, Nigel, but it sure looks like one on first glance!

Because I have done several blog posts about probable Hazeltons, Nigel knows that I have spent some time looking at the details that separate the Hazelton from its several lookalike models by other companies.  Gordon-Van Tine is one of those companies that made a house that is quite similar to the Sears Hazelton.  The biggest difference between the GVT model and the Sears model, is the footprint. The GVT model is two feet less wide, and three feet less deep. And, this great 1920 bungalow at 236 Spruce Street, fits the size of the Gordon-Van Tine model exactly:

sears hazelton footprint compared to gordon van tine 573 517
Source for footprint of 236 Spruce Street
The Gordon-Van Tine model was first shown in the 1916 pre-cut homes catalog, as model No. 573. The 1919 catalog listed it as No. 2573 for pre-cut (though it was also available not pre-cut).  Both catalogs offered the house as a 2-bedroom model, with the upstairs attic space as unfinished, and pointed that out in the descriptions of the house:

From my 1919 Gordon-Van Tine homes catalog.
However, by the time of the 1920 catalog, the model received a new number: No. 517 ... or, No. 517B, if you opted for the finished upper floor, with two extra bedrooms, and a storage room behind that three-window dormer. Another important change: the front now has double windows flanking the front door, instead of triples (edit/update, January 2022):
This is from my own 1920 GVT catalog, but you can see it online at Daily Bungalow, here.
If the town assessor's records are correct, this house was built in 1920.   A recent real estate listing for this house, shows the upper floor attic area as unfinished, just as the earliest version of this model was shown:
attic area of 236 spruce street wyandotte michigan gordon van tine 573 517
You can see the windows of the dormer, there in the back of the photo of the attic.
Source: Zillow listing
Before I Go Any Further...
Let's take a look at a few more views of the exterior and interior of 236 Spruce Street. Because... after closer inspection of interior photos, and the rear of the house, I have come to the conclusion that this is not a GVT, after all.  It is too small for a Sears Hazelton, but one key photo shows that it does not follow the layout of the GVT: the hallway photo.

gordon van tine 573 517 sears hazelton lookalike
gordon van tine 573 517 sears hazelton lookalike

gordon van tine 573 517 floor plan sears hazelton lookalike
This is the floor plan of the No 573.
The No 517 from 1920+, has only double windows flanking the front door, not triples.
(edit/update, January 2022)

gordon van tine 573 517 sears hazelton lookalike

gordon van tine 573 517 sears hazelton lookalike

gordon van tine 573 517 sears hazelton lookalike

gordon van tine 573 517 sears hazelton lookalike

But, now.... here is the hallway photo:
gordon van tine 573 517 sears hazelton lookalike
Here it is! The photo that shows us that this house does not match the layout of the GVT 573/517.
Look closely at where the doors lead off of this hallway.  Now, compare that to the GVT layout, and to the Hazelton layout. The GVT hallway has a turn, and just doesn't have doorway openings like this. It does look right for the Hazelton... but, the house is too small to be a Sears Hazelton

On the GVT model, there is a staircase to the right of this hallway, so we couldn't have a doorway leading into a room.
Also, the doorway that I have indicated in yellow... I can't tell if that is perpendicular to the hall (indicating the turn in the hall, to make that the door to the staircase), or if it is flush with the wall.  The little bit of floor moulding you see makes it look like it is not turned.
Another photo that shows us a discrepancy, is the one of the back porch.  Look at the GVT's layout. The back porch is much less than half the width of the house. But, even if the porch had been enlarged, notice where the back door and windows are.  This house has a door, and then a window, and another window. The GVT model has a door or window, a cellar door, and then another window. And, the spacing is not like the GVT.  However, it's not like the Hazelton, either.

And, finally, note where the short side windows are in this front bedroom.  They should be much further back on the wall, if it were the GVT model:

So... what is the point of this blog post?

It's a reminder that we can never be certain about a house whose interior we can not see.  Drive-by "windshield surveys" are unreliable.  We researchers have only been aware of four lookalikes to the Hazelton (read about them here, in a previous blog post), but, apparently, there is at least one other. This one, for example!

gordon van tine 573 517 1920 catalog sears hazelton lookalike
236 Spruce Street sure looks like this, on the outside...doesn't it?
Note the double windows flanking the front door, in this No 517 version -- the earlier, No 573 model, had triples there, like the Sears Hazelton. (edit/update, January 2022)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sears No. 264P182 and Sears Starlight In Chaffee, Missouri

sears model 182
321 W. Yoakum Avenue, Chaffee, Missouri • Probable Sears 264P182 (second version of No. 182)
On the Sears Modern Homes page on Facebook, run by Cindy Catanzaro, we recently had a message from Jordan Stone, a resident of south eastern Missouri, who follows the Sears page.  He let us know that his great-grandparents had lived for many years in a Sears house, in Chaffee, Missouri.  

As I tooled around West Yoakum Avenue, looking for which house it might be, I first ran across this house, and asked Jordan if this was his great-grandparents' house. Nope. It's across the street, and up the road a bit.
But... what a find this one is! This looks to be a very old Sears No. 182, also known as the 264P182. The model was listed as the No. 182 in my 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog's index, but shown on page 20 of that catalog, as No. 264P182. (Note that, according to Houses By Mail, the 1913 catalog had a model No. 182, that is different from this model.)

sears 264p182 1914 sears modern homes catalog
This is from my 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
One feature to note, for this model, is the deeply-inset entry door, on the right-side portion of the front porch, which enters into a nice little vestibule area.  Just behind that, we see a peaked-gable roof crossing the main roofline.  Within the upper portion of that gable section, is a small window, and just below it, a full-size window, with another full-size window just behind it, still under the deep eave of the gable-- this area is the dining room of the 264P182. Sears five-piece brackets support the front and side gables, and a nice, simple section of tracery hangs from the center of the front gable.  All of this is visible in the catalog image, and also on the house on West Yoakum Avenue. There is also a vent chimney in the very back of the house.  Notice the grouping of three straight-edge porch columns on either side of the front porch, with the typical flared top we so often see on Sears porch columns, along with a little nob on the upper portion of the column.  Our Yoakum Avenue house has this, just as shown in the catalog image.

sears 264p182 recessed front entry
Here you can see the recessed entry on the right side of the porch, and the two windows into the living room. 
sears five-piece brackets and tracery
Five-piece Sears brackets and tracery, just as shown on the catalog image. 
sears 264p182
The porch railings look like the catalog image, as do the three chunky supports, painted red here, on the house.
This home on West Yoakum Avenue does not show the fireplace that the catalog image showed, but sometimes folks chose to cut costs by eliminating the fireplace. 
In 1914, the 264P182 bundle was listed at $752.  We won't call it a kit, because in 1914, the lumber and door trim and moldings would not have been pre-cut.  The owner would have received just about every bit of material needed for the house, just not pre-cut, all packaged and shipped to the nearest railway depot, for the owner to pick up himself, and haul to the build site.  Sears estimated that it would cost just about $1,000 more to have a finished product, once labor was factored in, along with the costs for the few additional materials not shipped by Sears (cement, brick, and plaster).

Already in 1914, Sears had competition in the mail-order homes business, and the local lumber companies, of course, also vied for the business of Americans wanting to build their own small home.  They made a point of noting the quality of their supplies, and the fact that their houses came standard with a sub-floor, as well as a finish floor over that.

sears 264p182 floor plan
The 2-bedroom floor plan of the Sears 264P182.
You can find the Sears 264P182 on page 67 of Houses By Mail, or see it yourself online, in the 1915 catalog shown on the Arts & Crafts Society's website.  This model was offered in the 1914 catalog, and continued to be offered through 1916.

Thanks to fellow researcher Andrew Mutch (Kit House Hunters), for his help in identifying this model.

A Very Early Sears Starlight
But, back to Jordan Stone's great-grandparents' Sears house.  Their house sits at 424 West Yoakum Avenue, in Chaffee, Missouri, and looks to be a very early version of the Sears Starlight! The model evolved a bit over its years in the catalog, with its earliest versions being listed as the C2009, C2038, C217, C217A, and the 264P217.  The earliest version had no indoor bathroom (!!), but, by around 1916, a second floor plan was made available, which did have an indoor bathroom.  I learned all about the history of the Starlight model, in this very informative blog post by fellow researcher Lara Solonickne, of Sears Homes of Chicagoland (check out her most recent blog post, which explains a bit about how it so often happens that a home thought to be a Sears kit house, is not actually a Sears house at all .)
early sears starlight
This earliest version of the model later known as the Starlight, had a small, flat-roof dormer, whereas later versions have a hip-roof dormer, with a distinctive window pattern.
Source: Sears Homes of Chicagoland
early sears starlight two floor plans
Source: Sears Homes of Chicagoland
And, here is the actual house in question:
early sears starlight
424 W. Yoakam Avenue (State Highway EE), Chaffee, Missouri
early sears starlight

Thanks to Jordan Stone for pointing our collective researcher noses in the direction of Yoakam Avenue, in Chaffee, Missouri! If you know of a mail-order home, please leave a comment with contact information, or use my "Contact Me" form. We love to find these houses!