Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sears Ivanhoe With Front Porch: The Sears No. 200

Sears Ivanhoe version 200
Sears Model No. 200 • circa 1916 • 705 N. School Street, Normal, Illinois
Sears 1914 catalog image of Sears model No. 200
Sears No. 200 in my 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Mike and Emily Nord love their beautiful home. And, I'm so glad they do, because it prompted Mike to visit our Sears Modern Homes page on Facebook, and leave us this beautiful Christmas-time photo of their Sears home in Normal, Illinois.  We were showcasing a fabulous Sears Ivanhoe in Batavia, Ohio, and so Mike wanted to share their home: a Sears model No. 200, which is a version of the Sears Ivanhoe.  The Ivanhoe has a two-story side porch, which, in the No. 200, is replaced with a one-story porch stretching across the front of the house.  Other than that, they share the same floor plan.  In the 1916 catalog, the two houses are shown together on the same page, and we see that the Ivanhoe is still known as the No. 230 (well, in 1916, many of the homes were given a prefix of 264P, so it was listed as No. 264P230).  The name was later changed to Ivanhoe

Daily Bungalow's 1916 catalog page of Sears Ivanhoe and No. 200
From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog (image courtesy of the Daily Bungalow/Antique Home Flickr album).

We were all very excited to see Mike and Emily's No. 200! We have a list of kit homes in the Bloomington / Normal area, but no one was aware of the existence of this stunning example by Sears. So, of course, we asked for information... and... photos? Mike assured us that he has carefully checked the layout of his house against the floor plan of the No. 200, and measured the dimensions of rooms, and everything checks out. We're very comfortable calling this a Sears home, but, technically, we have not authenticated it with paperwork, a mortgage, or shipping labels (and it was not a model that was sold as a pre-cut house, so there wouldn't be any markings on lumber).  Mike was just as excited as we, to talk about their home, so he sent me a few great photos.... and, then, as we got into more discussions, and I prepared to blog about their home, he sent many more photos, and we delved a good bit into the history of the house, too. So, I've got a good number of photos to show. Let's take a look.

Inside 705 N. School Street, Normal, Illinois
The style of the Ivanhoe pair of Sears models, is beautifully Craftsman.  Lots of linear, simple, chunky, sturdy, and beautiful dark woodwork.  I'll start off by showing you an array of exterior and interior shots. Then, I'll show you how a few areas of the house compare to items shown in the Sears building materials catalog, and then I'd like to compare this house, a bit, to the beautiful Ivanhoe in Batavia. As you look through these photos, remember that you can click on any, to enlarge them. Here we go:

On the floor plans, this area is labeled as "balcony".  Clearly, in the Nords' home, it was enclosed at some point. 
What an inviting and spacious front porch!
This is the main entry door, with sidelights.
The screen door looks to be a Duodor, by Nuss. We're not familiar with that make.
If you are, or if you know of another Sears house with this make of screen door,
 please leave a comment with information.
EDIT: Researcher Andrew Mutch located a bit of information about the Nuss corporation.  It was considered a "young company" in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, as it was mentioned in a 1919 issue of American Lumberman, as expanding.  Sears didn't use third-party providers for their screen doors, so this was probably a purchase made later in the life of the house:
Sears stairway newel.
Spacious entry way, with French doors leading into the living room on one side, and the dining room on the other.  In the Batavia, Ohio Ivanhoe, they opted for colonnade entry ways here, instead of French doors.
This is the same area, seen from the living room, in the Batavia, Ohio Ivanhoe... colonnades, instead of French doors.
Living room fireplace and built-in cabinets with Sears leaded-glass panels.
We'll see the same fireplace area in the Batavia, Ohio Ivanhoe.
Closeup of the run of short windows in the dining room.

Exquisite built-in buffet in the dining room. Unfortunately, we don't find a match to the leaded-glass pattern, in any of the building materials catalogs. If you know of a house with this same leaded-glass design, please contact me by leaving a comment, or using the "Contact Me" form on the right side of the blog. 
The area to the left of the stairs, is not original to the house-- but. the doors are. Explanation in a bit.
This hallway area from the dining room into the kitchen,
used to be the butler's pantry.
Lovely kitchen! I didn't ask if any of the cabinetry is original, but it certainly is in keeping with the style of the house. 
This was the original kitchen sink. 
The back door has a built-in turn-to-ring old fashioned door bell.

In the Building Materials Catalog

The Nords' home is thought to be built in 1916.  I've got a 1915 Sears Building Materials catalog, so I went through that to see if any of the components of the Nords' No. 200 were found there:

Back Door
The back door, from the kitchen area, looks to be this 3-panel door with glass insert.  It was offered in a variety of woods, and with veneer panels, or solid wood.

As you can see in this closer view, the decorative dentil-look strip shown in the catalog, is present on the Nords' door.
This door hardware style, however, is not in the Sears catalogs, to my knowledge.
The door also has a great, old turn-to-ring doorbell. 
I didn't find this exact doorbell shown in the catalog,
but there were in-the-door doorbells offered
with each of the door hardware packages.
Chicago Design Door Hardware
The Nords' No. 200 does sport, on several doors, the Sears "Chicago Design" hardware.  The description in the catalog mentions that this hardware is solid bronze, offered with either a "lemon brass" finish, or the "old copper" finish.  Bathroom doors were provided with a nickel plated finish, as you see here in the Nords' bathroom.
Starting Stair Newel
The stair newel in the Nords' house is exactly like one offered in the 1915 Sears building materials catalog. Though most companies of the era offered similar Craftsman-style chunky stair newels, there were usually subtle differences between companies.  This is definitely a Sears newel.
Leaded-Glass Cabinet Insert
The leaded-glass pattern shown in the Nords' built-in cabinets in the living room, is of a pattern offered by Sears in the building materials catalog.  I recently found a probable Sears Arlington in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the same leaded-glass pattern.
Interior Door
I'm sure that all of the companies offered something like this, but... still... here it is in the Sears building materials catalog. This style door was offered in a variety of woods, and with either veneer or solid-wood inserts.
 Dining Room Built-In Buffet
Now... this gorgeous built-in buffet... is it this model, offered by Sears? Could be. But, there are a few issues.
The built-in buffet shown above is very close to the one shown in the 1915 catalog.  I looked through several years of catalogs, and this same Craftsman buffet appeared every year. It may be the one in the Nords' home, but let's look at what is different about theirs:

  • 1) We've seen this in another Sears house, and it was not counter sunk into the wall like this... it was built out from the wall, as it looks in the catalog.
  • 2) The leaded glass is not of a verifiable Sears design, and there is leaded glass in the inside of the side panels, and that is not shown on the catalog image.
  • 3) The bottom drawer is one wide drawer with two knobs, not two separate drawers, as seems to be the case with the catalog buffet.

Built-In Ironing Board
The Sears Modern Homes catalogs show a two-part built-in ironing board, in a built-in cabinet. This one in the Nords' home may be a Sears model, but it is different from this one.  It's longer, it's tapered differently at the end, and there is a big notch in the wall-side of the smaller board. Who knows! 

Comparing 705 N. School Street to the Batavia, Ohio Ivanhoe

It is rare for us to see the interior of a Sears Ivanhoe or No. 200. But, we had just been treated, this month, to a blog post done by Sears-house specialist Cindy Catanzaro (Sears Houses in Ohio), after her trip to see an Ivanhoe in Batavia, Ohio.  Because that house now serves as the Batavia County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Cindy was able to go inside for a tour, and then share photos with us. Take a look here!

In comparing the Nords' home against photos of the Ivanhoe, I found a few discrepancies, and some striking similarities. Not to worry! The discrepancies were quickly explained by Mike, and, through some of the photos from the Batavia house, he was able to learn the answer to a few little mysteries in his own house. Let's take one more look, and I'll share what I learned:

Closet and Half Bath Added
The first thing that gave me pause, was when I compared the look of the staircase, at the second-floor landing.  The Batavia, Ohio house has a turned staircase continuing up, at that point... but, the Nords' house had a solid wall at the top of the stairs, and no more balustrade. I was concerned.... what if this meant that this perfect house did not actually follow the floor plan!?

Here is the floor plan:
Sears Ivanhoe Sears no 200 floor plan
Floor plan from my 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
And, here is a comparison of what the second-floor landing looks like in the two houses:

So, I swallowed hard, and asked Mike, "Can you explain this difference?"

Well, sure he could!  Previous owners, the Eatons, apparently had that area walled in because they installed a front closet, in the front entry area, next to the base of the staircase, and a half-bath behind it.  They used what used to be the pantry doors (they opened up the pantry, and it became just a hall), as the doors on the front entry closet.  For the door of the half-bath, Mike now realizes that they used the mirror-panel door that used to be at the back of the downstairs hallway that had been next to the staircase... take a look here, and you'll see what I mean:

Mike sent this photo, with an arrow pointing out the closet that was added, causing the original hallway at the side of the staircase, to be enclosed. 
And, here are the closet doors, that were originally doors to the pantry.

So, here, below, you can see the staircase area of each of the two houses, side by side.  The Batavia, Ohio Ivanhoe has a full hallway alongside the staircase, and you can see that I've circled the mirror-paneled door at the end of the hall.  On the Nords' house, that doorway was re-used, for the entry door of the newly-created  half bath.

Another concern of mine, was where the stairs ended.  The Batavia Ivanhoe seems to have about a foot of space from the base of the stairs to the start of the entry way of the dining room. Well... lo and behold! Mike pointed out to me (see yellow arrow on floor plan, below) that the floor plan actually shows that their house is just like the floor plan... it's the Batavia house that looks to have been altered a bit at that spot.  Perhaps, since this was not a pre-cut kit, the builders had the liberty of extending that area just a bit. 

Here in these two photos, you can see the re-purposed mirror-panel door, used now for the entry door of the half bath.  Mike also sent the photo above, where he circled the area where there is a mark left over from the original placement of a door hinge.  The mirror-panel door looks perhaps to have been flipped when it was moved from the original hallway, to take its new job as the half-bath door.

Now, let's look again at the floor plan section that Mike sent:

Notice where the pink arrow is pointing? That's the base of the bottom tread on the stairs. See how it should curve all the way around to the back? Well, it does do that on the Batavia house, but on the Nords' house, you can see, in the photo below (left side), that the base of the added closet was placed right on top of that section of the stair tread:

Here, in the photo to the right (taken, basically, at floor level), you can see the curved part of the back of the base tread of the staircase.  It's encased in the new base for for the added closet, creating an open space there (though it is covered over in the front, so you can only see this from a hole that Mike found in the baseboard).  By doing this, they were able to avoid dealing with the baseboard... they just built the closet's floor above the baseboard.

The Living Room Fireplace Wall

No surprises or concerns here: these photos show the Batavaia, Ohio Ivanhoe's fireplace wall, flanked by built-in bookcases, with those topped by short windows, just like the Nords' living room wall. The Batavia house has cabinets with 3-part doors, whereas the Nords' house has double doors. Another interesting feature, is that, in an article about the Batavia house's fireplace, the tile surrounding the fireplace is referred to as Rookwood tile.  I have found that Rookwood pottery and Rookwood tiles, are from a well-known, award-winning, and historic Cincinnati pottery firm (more info here). It looks like the Nords' fireplace surround is of similar tile, but I don't really know anything about this (again, if anyone out there does know if this is, for example, a standard component offered with the Ivanhoe, please let me know).

Remember, you can better see the Batavia Ivanhoe's living room photo in the original post on Sears Homes in Ohio.

Who Lived Here?

Mike and Emily had already learned that the original residents of their home, were George D. Robertson and his wife, Martha Catherine (in some directories and census reports, she is listed as Catherine, or as Kathryn), along with their daughter, Fannie.  The numbering on their block changed after the early 1920s, and the house, which now sits at No. 705, was originally assigned the street address of 605 N. School Road. I did a little further digging, and we discovered that, though the house is thought to have been built in 1916, the Robertsons were shown in the 1919 directory as living at an address on Vine Street, in Bloomington. And, in 1917, they were not shown at all in the Bloomington-Normal city directory.

Mike showed me this page from their copy of the 1920 City Directory for Bloomington and Normal. 

This snippet from the 1917 Bloomington and Normal city directory, shows no George Robertson family in the area:

And, here, this snippet from the 1919 Bloomington and Normal city directory, shows the Robertsons at 517 Vale.  It also shows us that Miss Fannie Robertson was a teacher, and George Robertson was involved in real estate.  

Here, we see some markings I made on a snippet from the 1922 city directory, for their block of N. School Street. I was trying to verify when the street numbers changed, and if perhaps the street had had a different name in 1916. But, no, we found that many neighbors of other blocks on N. School Street, were, indeed, at the same address in 1917.  Of note, here, is that, at Number 608, was a doctor by the name of W. B. Eaton.  Beginning in 1923, we see that Dr. W. B. Eaton becomes the resident of the Robertsons' home at 605 N. School Street... and, then, later on, we see that the address for the Eatons is given as 705, the current street number of the Nords' Sears No. 200.
The 1922 Bloomington and Normal City Directory
Mike is quite certain that the first residents of their home were the Robertsons, and feels sure that the house was built in 1916. In fact, the Sears No. 200 model was last offered that year, and its sister, the Ivanhoe, was only offered until 1918.  We are surmising that, perhaps because George Robertson was involved in Real Estate, he may have had the house built on spec, around 1916, and then, failing to sell it, moved in late in 1919 (or so), living there until 1922. I found an advertisement for the sale of the house (urging a quick sale), in the December 28, 1922 edition of the Bloomington Pantagraph:

And, sure enough, here are the Robertsons in 1923, no longer at the house on N. School Street, but moved to 703 S. Main Street, and I believe this is in Bloomington:
In 1923, the Robertsons were no longer on N. School Street.
We may never know for certain when the house was built.  We researchers have found that city records are, unfortunately, only sometimes correct. It seems to depend on the community. We've found New York State records to be off by 3 years, 5 years, 15 years, and 20 years or more.  We've found that many Pittsburgh-area build dates end in either "0" or "5", and often don't jive with other concrete information we've found about when a house was built. So, we don't take those city records as written in stone, and we rely more heavily on authentic resources, such as city directories, the census, and newspaper articles.

But, when or why the Robertsons built or moved into the Sears No. 200 house on N. School Street, aside, we know for certain that long-time residents after them, were Dr. W. B. Eaton, and his family.
As it turns out, Dr. W. B. Eaton was a dentist, and he regularly advertised in the Pantagraph, Bloomington's daily newspaper.

 In 1918, before the Eatons moved to the Sears No. 200, they had a son, as was announced in the April 30th paper. What's interesting here, is that we learn what Mrs. Eaton's name was, before she married.

It looks like, in 1933, Dr. W. B. Eaton ran for City Council... lucky for us, because it means that we are treated to a nice little article about him, including a photo.  We learn his history of growing up in the Normal area, after being born in nearby Tremont (about 30 miles away), and we learn that his wife, the former Miss Ethel Barnard, was from Towanda.

And, thanks to this snippet from the July 9, 1934  edition of the Pantagraph, we learn that the Eatons hosted the Sunshine Club picnic... on the beautiful grounds of their home, at 705 North School Street.

That brings us full circle, back to the wonderful home of Emily and Mike Nord, a gorgeous Sears No. 200.  I thank them enormously for sharing their home with us!


  1. Wonderful house, fantastic research! Such a joy to see so much original material still in the house, and to have a clear record of what was changed, with physical evidence proving it all. I love that the changes made over the years actually reused original elements in different places, instead of inserting new pieces that jar. How nice to make contact with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable owner!

    1. I was thinking that same thing about the care taken during the renovations. So nicely done.
      And, yes, great homeowner to work with!


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