Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sears Houses In Morris County, New Jersey: Part I

Source: Morris County, NJ's Twitter page

For a good while, now, we researchers have known that there were Sears houses in Morris County, New Jersey. This summer, I made a trip to New Jersey, and spent a rewarding full afternoon visiting the Morris County Clerk's office, researching the old mortgage books, to track down mortgages that had come from Sears, in the hopes of then locating as many of these houses as possible (getting a list is only the very beginning of many, many, many hours of research to actually tie those mortgages to addresses). I hit quite a bonanza, with something like 115 mortgages found. I located a good portion of those, but not all, and we had a handful already on our National Database of Sears Homes In the U.S., so, at this point we have 77 Sears homes in Morris County, I believe, with almost all of them being documented.

One of the reasons that we already knew that there were Sears homes in Morris County, was thanks to an online exhibit offered on the Morris County Heritage Commission web site, giving good background on kit houses, in general, and then showing a few of the houses that they know of around the county. It's a very nicely done exhibit -- just follow along with the links at the top of their opening page, to see the several pages of information available. 
Go the exhibit, here

Secondly, we were aware that Dr. Frederick H. Lum the 3rd, had had a customized Sears Lexington built, in Chatham (a township in Morris County), because Dr. Lum had written what we call a testimonial letter to Sears, sending in a photo of his house, and telling about how happy he was with his Sears home. That photo was shown in the 1932 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Researcher Andrew Mutch located the house, on Washington Avenue, and wrote about it in a very interesting blog post on his blog, Kit House Hunters. As it turns out, I also ran across Dr. Lum's 1930 mortgages for that house, which totaled $17,000. Dr. Lum and his wife, Jean Watkins Lum, ended up with a very nice customized version of the Lexington.
Here is Andrew's comment in our research group, when he found Dr. Lum's Sears house.

Andrew also found, on the same street, another wonderful Sears model, the Martha Washington, as well as a favorite model of ours, the Gordon-Van Tine company's No. 535 model. He shows them in his blog post, so it's really worth a visit.

Recently, Andrew and I were discussing those houses, and I realized that, next door to the GVT No. 535, sitting at 144 Washington Avenue in Chatham, is another great model by Gordon-Van Tine: the No. 619:
Gordon-Van Tine model No. 619, at 144 Washington Avenue, Chatham, NJ
The Morris County Heritage Commission shows the catalog image of this house,
so we can assume that they are aware that it is another of the Morris County catalog homes.

You can learn more about this model, in this previous blog post of mine, about a GVT No. 619 in Washington, DC.
Additionally, Andrew had noticed, back in 2017, a real estate listing for what looks to be a Sears Sherwood, on Kings Road, again, in Chatham. He shows that house, and gives more information on the Sears Sherwood model, in this blog post of his. In fact, during my mortgage hunting in Morris County, I found two more examples of the Sherwood, in another town. I'll write about them another day. In the mean time, here is the Kings Road Sherwood:
Go here to read the blog post about this house.
Where Is Morris County, New Jersey?
If you're wondering where this part of New Jersey is, take a look at this map of NJ, showing all of the counties. Morris County is there where Parsippany is pinpointed:
I snagged this helpful image from Warshauer Electric Supply's website, here.
You may not realize it, but New Jersey has quite a bit of important history from its time as one of the original colonies. Growing up in New Jersey, I learned about the Leni Lenapi Indians, a Native American people who lived on these lands when the settlers arrived. There are many historic homes and historic parks and museums to visit in New Jersey, and many towns, including those in Morris County, have historic signs posted, such as this one:
This Morris County official page, where I found this image, has loads of good information.
As a child, I only paid attention to the little area around me, but now, as an adult, returning to New Jersey for another visit, I enjoyed tooling around some of the beautiful towns en route to the Morris County courthouse, and on other outings. Madison and Morristown, for instance, are lovely, as is Chatham. You know that term, leafy suburbs ? Yes, well... that's exactly what you would say about the towns in Morris County. So much so, that of the 77 houses on our list in Morris County, I was only able to get good photos of a portion of those... there are trees in the way everywhere you turn! But, here is the first small collection in this series that I'll be presenting about Morris County Sears houses.

1927 Sears Hathaway

Sears Hathaway, 218 Southern Boulevard, Chatham Township, New Jersey • 1927
Here is the Hathaway, as shown in the 1925 Sears Modern Homes catalog (click any image, to enlarge)

This is the only view of this Hathaway that I could get (thanks, Google maps, my source for all of these house images), and it shows, actually, the other side of what the catalog view shows. This, too, is the reverse floor plan from the standard one shown in the catalog. I'm pretty sure that this house is sitting at 218 Southern Boulevard, but it may be at #220. This house was bought by then bachelor Albert B. Bradshaw, in 1927, probably in anticipation of his upcoming marriage to Irene. The 1930 census shows the little Bradshaw family blossoming into a family of four, with little two-year old Albert Junior, and brand new baby girl, Madeline. Albert was a Florist, specializing in roses. Albert's family lived somewhere on Southern Boulevard, even in the 1920 census, before he branched out on his own, into his Sears Hathaway.
1930 U.S. Census, putting the Albert Bradshaw family on Southern Boulevard.
Unfortunately, no doubt due to the difficulties of the Great Depression, the Bradshaws were no longer living in their Hathaway by the 1940 census, and had been, since at least 1935, renting, at a different location.

1930 Sears Starlight
1930 Sears Starlight • 20 Greenwood Road, Pequannock Township, New Jersey

Note the way that the dormer attaches smoothly to the upper roof line. In earlier versions of the Starlight, the dormer sat on the front portion of the roof, not connected to the peak of the roof, and it had a different look to the windows. You can read about the development over the years of this very popular Sears model, in this informative blog post written by Lara Solonickne, of Sears Homes Of Chicagoland
This is the Starlight, as shown in my 1930 catalog. The left side of the house should have two sets of double windows, after that first single, so I think that this house may have a reverse floor plan.
This home was built by William MacMillan and his wife, Mary G. MacMillan, in 1930. They had a $4,300 mortgage, which no doubt included construction costs. I can't pin down any further information on them, because the 1940 census gives me two William MacMillans, both with a wife named Mary, in two different towns, neither being Pequannock Township. They, too, may have lost their house during the depression, or may possibly have built this as a second home or spec house.

1930 Sears Claremont
7 Bridge Street, Chatham, New Jersey • Sears Claremont

The Claremont in my 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
This Sears Claremont was built in 1930, with a $4,700 mortgage (again, probably including construction costs). The mortgage was taken out by Gudrun A. Brown, and her husband Stephen R. Brown. The legal description definitely fits the location of this house ("SE side of Bridge St, 130 ft southwesterly from Raymond St"), but, the Browns lived a mile away, on Inwood Road, according to both the 1930 and 1940 census, and owned their home. He ran a concrete block manufacturing company, and newspaper accounts show that Gudrun (who was born in Denmark), was a grade school teacher in the Chatham Borough school district (at least in the late 1930s, and 1940s). Perhaps they built this for a relative, or as an investment, somehow.

1929 Sears Barrington & 1927 Sears Van Dorn 
Sears Barrington, on the left, at 43 Center Avenue, and Sears Van Dorn, on the right, at 39 Center Avenue, Morristown, NJ
Side by side, but built two years apart, are two homes on Center Avenue, in Morristown, New Jersey. Let's begin with the earlier build: the white dutch colonial, on the right in the photo above. That is a Sears Van Dorn, with an addition added on to the left.
39 Center Avenue, Morristown, New Jersey • 1927 Sears Van Dorn (with a two-story addition on the left side)

This image of the Van Dorn is from the 1925 catalog, but, by 1926, the price had gone up to $2,249.
The owners of this Sears Van Dorn model, were G. Elbridge Kronenberg, and his wife, Helen. He was listed on the census, and in city directories, as being a Physical Director at a school.

Next door, is this beautiful Sears Barrington, a very popular Sears model (so popular, that it also had "lookalike" models from most kit companies and plan-book companies... the differences can be subtle, from the outside).  Bachelor Julian C. Potts took out a $4,600 mortgage to build this house in 1929, but soon married, and brought his new wife, Gertrude, to their new Sears home. Julian was an electrical engineer.
1929 Sears Barrington • 43 Center Avenue, Morristown, New Jersey

The Sears Barrington, as marketed in the 1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
For this house, we have access to a recent real estate listing, so we can take a glimpse inside:

Obviously, the kitchen has been updated
Our research team has been hard at work this past year, documenting homes through mortgage and newspaper research. For example:

  • Cindy Catanzaro has been working on mortgages in the Columbus area of Ohio, in Franklin County. Check out this recent update on her blog, Sears Houses In Ohio, as well as earlier recent blog posts showing houses in Cincinnati and in the Dayton, Ohio area
  • Andrew Mutch has done a series of blog posts about Sears homes in Yonkers, NY, beginning in 2016, and continued again recently. Here is the latest installment, on his blog, Kit House Hunters.
  • Sarah Mullane did a series not long ago, on some great old Sears models in Dunkirk, New York (you'll notice, along the left side of her blog, a Barrington "lookalike" put out by the New York state kit company, Bennett Homes (theirs is called the Somerset ). Here's the last installment.
  • Marie Vore, who writes the blog, Sears Houses In the Midwest, recently wrote about the exciting find of a Sears Newberry model, on a recent Sears-house-hunting excursion in Cincinnati, Ohio

I'll be continuing this series with a few more Morris County houses, in another blog post. 

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