Friday, November 23, 2018

An Oysterman's Aladdin Yale In Norwalk, Connecticut

Authenticated Aladdin Yale •  21 Amundsen Street, East Norwalk, Connecticut • 1919

In 1919, Peter G. Larsen and his wife, Ella, purchased an Aladdin Homes kit to build themselves a house: the Aladdin Yale model. An Oysterman by trade, Peter had been born in Denmark, but arrived in the United States with his parents when he was just a baby, in 1884. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1891. Ella Larsen was born and raised in Connecticut, as were her parents. 

In 1919, when Peter and Ella built their Aladdin Yale, they were already well into their 30s, and had no children living at home. Peter's story is like so many of ours: his family sought a better life by coming to the United States of America, they settled here, worked hard, became citizens, and, along with their families, contributed to our society.

Peter and Ella Larsen in the 1920 U.S. census.
1930 Norwalk city directory, showing the Larsens on Amundsen. (EN=East Norwalk)
Schooners like this were part of the life of an oysterman in Connecticut.
Schooner in front of A. Radel Oyster Company, Southport, Connecticut
Image from Connecticut Digital Archive • Found at Connecticut 
Oystering was a very big business in Connecticut in the early 1900s, with Norwalk among the top cities for oyster production:
Source:, "Oystering in Connecticut from colonial times to the 21st century"

Peter was among the many oystermen who provided tasty oysters for restaurants like Honiss Oyster House, in Hartford, Connecticut. The truck in this photo has a sign on it, saying, "This truck contains one ton of Sunshine Oyster Crackers".
Photo retrieved from
Today, Peter and Ella's Aladdin Yale has had its front porch enclosed, and a stone veneer added to the front of that porch area, but it is certainly recognizable as a Yale, with that distinctive set of three windows up in the top of the front gable, one small window on either side of the larger window in the middle. The deep cornice returns of the front gable are also a common feature of these gabled homes by Aladdin.

Unfortunately, I don't have any interior photos of the house, just these images from Google Streetview, but, it's not often that we find an authenticated Yale, so I wanted to share it. (EDIT: The house has since gone up for sale, and we have interior views. See below.) It's a favorite model of mine. I was able to find this one through our Aladdin Sales Records, that were procured for us by Andrew and Wendy Mutch, and transcribed into a spreadsheet format for us, by Wendy. Aladdin was based in Bay City, Michigan, and Andrew and Wendy are owners of a Sears kit home in Novi, Michigan, so a day trip to see the sales records would have been right up their alley, as avid kit home enthusiasts, who also do presentations on kit homes, often at libraries or historical societies in Michigan.

In 1915, and earlier, Aladdin offered an almost identical model to the Yale, called the Portland. The only difference that I see, is that, while the front entry to the staircase was from the living room, the Portland's back staircase entry opened into the dining room, but that was changed for the Yale, with Aladdin moving that back access to the kitchen. This decreased the size of the pantry by quite a bit-- I wonder if the woman of the house (who surely was the cook, in that era) wouldn't have preferred that they leave the staircase where it was.
Comparison of the 1919 Yale model by Aladdin, with its earlier version, the Portland.

It looks like the porch piers on the earlier Portland may have been brick, whereas the later Yale model seems to have shaped concrete block for the piers and porch stair sides.
The Larsen's Yale matches up nicely with the catalog image that they would have seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog. Unlike Sears, Aladdin Homes did not have sales offices and dealers around the country. They explained, in the 1919 catalog, that one of the ways that the buyer of an Aladdin kit home would save money, is by eliminating the middle man-- you bought through the mail, sending your sales form to one of two main offices in the U.S. (Bay City, Michigan and Hattiesburg, Mississippi), after selecting  your home from the catalog.

These images are from the 1919 catalog, which the Larsens would have looked at, when they chose their home. 
The cover of the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.
You can see all of the catalogs, here.
Aladdin actually began its pre-cut kit homes business before Sears-- Aladdin was already selling homes in 1906, and already offering them with the pre-cut system, while Sears began offering home catalogs in 1908, and didn't pre-cut their home kits until 1916. As Sears did, in its catalogs, Aladdin likened the concept of pre-cutting the lumber for a house, to the method of pre-cutting steel for skyscrapers:
Taken from the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog.

The Aladdin catalog explained all kinds of things about how their system worked, how they saved you money, and what the quality was in the building supplies that you were buying from them.

Though we don't have any interior photos of the Larsen's 1919 Aladdin Yale, here is a 1915 Aladdin Portland that sold this year, in New Britain, Connecticut. Though it has been rehabbed, there are lots of original elements inside.
147 Stratford Road, New Britain, Connecticut (photo source: Real Estate listing)

Here's that front entry to the staircase, entered from the living room, in both versions of this model. 

We can tell that this is the Portland, and not the Yale, because here is the doorway to the back entry of the staircase... off of the dining room, instead of off of the kitchen. Obviously, though, the kitchen area has been re-done to create an open feel.

Here's the bedroom behind that cool trio of windows in the upper front of the house.
EDIT: The Yale at 21 Amundsen Street, has gone up for sale since I wrote this blog post. Here are a few interior photos. It has been tastefully updated, and is in beautiful condition:
living room fireplace and staircase of Aladdin Yale kit house  •21 Amundsen St Norwalk CT

Aladdin Yale kit house  • living room • 21 Amundsen St Norwalk CT

Aladdin Yale kit house  • dining room and kitchen • 21 Amundsen St Norwalk CT

Here is the bedroom that is up in the front gable with the three different-size windows:
Aladdin Yale kit house  • bedroom • 21 Amundsen St Norwalk CT

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the real estate listing gives 1880 as the build year. We often find the town or county records to be off--sometimes wildly so. There can be nothing more definite than the original purchase record for the kit, so we know without any doubt whatsoever, that this house dates from 1919, not from 1880.

To see the full real estate listing, you can click here to go to the listing on We find that photos stay up the longest on Trulia and, so I like to put links to one of those, but you can currently see the house on Zillow and Coldwell Banker, as well.

To see more Aladdin homes, you can read my earlier blog post about the homes built in Bristol, Connecticut, in 1916, by the Bristol Brass Company. There were two or three Yales in that neighborhood of homes. Another blog post of mine, from September 2016, tells a bit more about the history of Aladdin homes, and shows three Aladdin homes in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Indianapolis Brick Dover In The 1930 Sears Catalog

brick veneer Sears Dover 1930 in Indianapolis, Indiana
Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover • 3130 Chamberlin Drive, Indianapolis, Indiana
Yes, yes, this is THAT brick Dover
page of 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog showing a brick Dover built in Indianapolis
Mitch's house, in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog was the first regular-issue catalog to begin featuring more than just a few brick veneer homes. Previous to that, only the Bedford, Rockford, and Pittsburgh were offered* with brick veneer. But, in 1929, a special "Brick Veneer" supplement was issued offering eleven models with a brick veneer option. That supplement had been the first one to offer the collection of homes that Sears had decided to market with the option of a face-brick exterior, instead of only wood options. They gave many of the brick-veneer versions their own names, and the brick version of the Dover was called the Mansfield.

green Sears Modern Homes catalog cover from 1929 for brick veneer homes
The 1929 special supplement from Sears
See it here, on Daily Bungalow's page

Honor Bilt Modern Homes by Sears Roebuck 1930 catalog
The cover of the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog
But, in 1928, when there was not yet a Mansfield, a family in Indiana requested that the Dover model that they wanted, be built with a brick veneer exterior. And, in the 1930 catalog--right, the one featuring all of the just-released eleven new models with brick veneer exterior--on the first interior page, Sears offered a full page spread showing off five of their new brick-veneer options. Here it is:
Mitch Mowrer's brick Dover among selection of five brick veneer houses in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Page 1 of the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

But, instead of showing a Mansfield, one of those five was actually a "Special Brick Veneer Dover", built in Indiana. It differed a bit from the Mansfield

Well, that brick-veneer Dover was built, more specifically, in Indianapolis, Indiana. And, in January of 2017,  that very house was brought to my attention via a message on our Sears Modern Homes Facebook page... although I didn't realize it, at first. 

The new owner, Mitch Mowrer, was excited about his new purchase. He had watched the house sit empty for five years, and had been waiting for it to come up for sale. When he bought it, he messaged us:
front view of 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis Indiana
Well, at first, I was doubtful. To begin with, I noticed the iron strapping on the door. No, no, no... that is not Sears iron strapping. As I mentioned just recently, in a blog post, Sears had a very distinctive curlycue end on the hinge end of their iron strapping.
colorful page of four door options from Sears 1930
Sears door options, shown in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
rounded top 1928 door
The front door on Mitch's Indianapolis house.
He thinks it may have been replaced over the years, but it looks like a Sears door.. just not Sears iron strapping.
The old strapping may have been removed for a paint job, and replaced with what we see here.
So, I was doubtful about the house being a Sears house. 

Additionally, the style of chimney was not at all the brickwork style/shape that we usually see on a front-of-the-house chimney on a Sears house. We usually see one straight line on the right side, and then one change in width on the left side, about 2/3 of the way up... like this, on the Lewiston:
catalog view of Sears Lewiston above authenticated Sears Lewiston
A Lewiston in North Plainfield, New Jersey.
Or, sometimes, this style, where this is a width change on both sides, at different spots, with a sort of peaked cap over those spots... but, it's very symmetrical:
black & white photo from 1930 catalog of Sears Dover
Sears Dover in the 1932 catalog (same image is in the 1931 catalog)
The Mansfield shows this chimney, in the catalog, which is similar to the Dover's chimney, but with the first width change much earlier in the height of the chimney:
closeup of brick chimney on Sears Mansfield model
Sears Mansfield's chimney, 1930 catalog.
But, here is the chimney on Mitch Mowrer's house:
closeup of brick chimney 3130 Chamberlin Drive, Indianapolis, Indiana
Well, now... no. Not a Sears front chimney. Very strange shape, and one I've never seen before on a Sears house. 

On top of all of that, the Sears Dover (or its brick twin, the Mansfield ) is a model with clipped side gables--you know, instead of being pointy all the way up to the top, the point of the gable is cut off, like this:
Sears Dover with straight slope on entry gable in 1929 catalog
1929 image of the Sears Dover (same image is in the 1930 catalog)
But, Mitch's house didn't have clipped gables:
front view of brick Sears Dover
Though there is a model (the Maplewood ) that has no clipped gables, and has a front gable and chimney like this, the Maplewood is not quite as wide, and its front gable is definitely smaller, with a pronounced dip (other years, the Dover, too, has a very pronounced "swoopy" curve, but much more so than the Maplewood ):
front view of brick Sears Maplewood
Brick Sears Maplewood, Glendale, Missouri
Here is the pronounced swoop that we had come to associate with the Dover... but, actually, this look wasn't introduced until 1931 or 1932 (coincidentally, after the Mansfield was introduced, with this same pronounced, graceful curve):
black & white catalog image of Sears Dover in 1932 Sears Modern Homes catalog
The Dover had three looks to its front gable, throughout its tenure in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.
Antique Home/Daily Bungalow shows the final look, here.

Mitch had already done his homework, and measured his house, and checked out the floor plans of the two models, and knew that his house was just like the Dover, and not like the Maplewood.

catalog image of layout of first floor of Sears Dover 1930
The Sears Dover's first floor plan, as shown in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

catalog image of layout of second floor of Sears Dover 1930
The Sears Dover's second floor plan, as shown in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Finally, I happened to open my 1930 catalog, and there, on the first page, was that spread of brick-veneer homes. Holy cow! There was an exact match to Mitch's house, and it was not quite like other Dovers or Mansfields we had seen. The house was brick, but clearly didn't match the look of the 1929 Mansfield. The 1929+ Mansfield has clipped gables, and does not have the distinctive decorative white stone accents, plus, Mitch's house had two extra small windows on the left side, had the same chimney as the one in this catalog image, and also has two decorative strips of brickwork along the lower portion of the house, as well as a double window on the living room wall (again, left side of the house), whereas the standard Dover or Mansfield has a triple there.. Clearly, Mitch's house is a customized Dover, done in brick veneer before the Mansfield was "a thing", and is the house that Sears showcased on page one of the 1930 catalog. Here is Mitch's house against both the brick Mansfield, and the showcased brick Dover in the 1930 catalog:
1929 Sears Mansfield on left • 1928 brick Sears Dover on right
Clearly, it's not a Mansfield.

on left, 1930 catalog image of Mitch Mowrer's 1929 brick Dover • on right, real photo of same house
But, it's a perfect match for the customized "Special Brick Veneer DOVER" shown in the 1930 catalog.
This brick Dover in Indianapolis was even used in newspaper advertising:
Sears newspaper ad showing brick houses, including Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis Indiana
Sears advertisement in The Richmond Item, April 19, 1930, page 6

closeup of Sears newspaper ad showing Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis Indiana
There it is! Note that irregular chimney, and the white stone accents.

The Indianapolis Brick-Veneer Dover, Today
I asked Mitch, in 2017, if I might blog about his cool house. But, he had just taken possession of the house, and intended to do some major renovating, to bring it back to its original glory. We agreed to wait until that happened. As 2017 and then most of 2018 went on, I figured that maybe Mitch had decided against having his house showcased in a blog post, but, I noticed that he had "liked" a posting of the Mansfield on our Sears FB page. So, I contacted him, and he said that, at long last, the house was beautifully refreshed, and that he'd be delighted to share photos. So, here we go:

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana
The stairs were all refinished, and all of the wood in the house was refreshed. It's beautiful!

staircase of Sears Mansfield as shown in Sears Modern Homes catalog
Here is that same view, shown in the catalogs, of this area of the Dover and Mansfield
(the two models are the exact same floor plan, and only differ in the exterior siding).
An interesting aspect of the Dover/Mansfield floor plan, is that the front staircase is accessible from the entry way (seen here), but also from the kitchen... off to the right. Here it is, in Mitch's house:
interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

The interior doors (you can see this one, to a closet, peeking out in the left corner of the photo) in Mitch's house, are a style that Sears offered over the years, shown here in the 1930 Building materials catalog:
page of 1930 Sears building supplies catalog showing interior doors
These doors were offered in both oak and birch, and you could also choose to hang the two-panel door with either the larger section at the bottom, or at the top. This image is from the 1930 Building Supplies catalog.
Here is that same door, nicely stained, shown in an early page of the 1929 Building Supplies catalog:
page from 1929 Sears Building Materials catalog showing 2 panel door
1929 Building materials catalog
And, here are images of that door style, inside Mitch's house:
interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana
Here is that closet door.

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana
...and, one of the bathroom doors. Beautiful patina!
While we're at it, let's point out that door handle hardware: That's the Sears LaTosca door hardware, offered only by Sears!

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana
Look at that beautiful glass door knob, too!
The living room area where the fireplace is, was also highlighted in the catalog images about the Mansfield (note that the Mansfield placed a French-door to the left of the fireplace, whereas the Dover does not):
view of living room fireplace area of Sears Mansfield as shown in catalog

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana
By the way, Mitch mentioned that the original windows had to be replaced, but they honored the original structure of the house, by using quality wood windows for their replacements.
The front door, dining room, and bathrooms have also been brought back to their original glory:
interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana
interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

cat in Sears clawfoot tub
Even the staircase and the upstairs have polish and patina to show off:
interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

interior of Mitch Mowrer's 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

We don't often get to see the back of our Sears houses, but here is this brick Dover, from the rear:
view of rear of 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

As we enter the snowy season, this view seems appropriate to show!:
snowy front view of 1928 brick Dover in Indianapolis, Indiana

Thanks so much to Mitch, for sharing this great house with us. We join him in appreciating the quality of these homes, and applaud him for this sensitive, beautiful renovation!

* Regarding brick-veneer Sears homes prior to 1929: Sears does seem to have obliged people who requested that their house be made of brick veneer, during the 1920s, at least in certain areas of the country where brick was the predominant exterior product for houses. In Pittsburgh, for example, the majority of the many, many Sears homes there -- most built in the 19-teens and 1920s -- are made of brick veneer. Here, for example, is a brick Sears Americus, in Pittsburgh, built in 1926. We don't know the definite reason for the abundance of brick veneer homes in Pittsburgh, but Karen DeJeet has pointed out to us that the greater Pittsburgh area was home to more than one brick-making facility, and so brick was a very cost-efficient commodity there. There may also have been a regulation in effect, requiring brick housing, to ward against spreading fires, as there was in the city of St. Louis (Missouri). However, the catalogs previous to 1929 did not market brick as an option. It was not mentioned, except for the Bedford, Pittsburgh, and Rockford models.

Post 1930 use of brick veneer:
Once the 1929 brick-veneer supplement was published, the catalogs began offering brick veneer as a regular option. In 1936, for example, there is a full-page mention of brick veneer as an option (thanks Andrew Mutch):
brick veneer option discussed in 1936 Sears catalog
1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog
And, by the 1940 catalog, even stone veneer was offered:
brick veneer or stone veneer as options in 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog
From a final page of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog.