Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sears No. 154 and Sears No. 167 In Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Sears No. 154 • 93 Livingston Avenue, Pittsfield, Massachusetts • 1914
Sears No. 154 in the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Well, now, I am pretty darn excited to present this one: another two-family building by Sears, a No. 154. This is only the second on our National Database of Sears Houses In The U. S., and the first I've ever seen. I've run across it in the catalog, and always noticed it, because there is a very similar house nearby where I live. I found this totally by accident, trying to track down the second house I'll be showing in this blog post: a testimonial No. 167, also in Pittsfield.

It appears that this No. 154 was built by Arthur W. Hunt, as he is listed as living here, in the 1915 Pittsfield City Directory, and is shown in an edition of the 1914 Berkshire Eagle newspaper as being granted a building permit in the "Double and 2 flat house" category.

1915 Pittsfield, Massachusetts City Directory (

And, in the 1920 census, we get to see the listing for the entire Hunt family, including Arthur's wife Mary, and their children, Webster, Hazel, and Carl:
1920 U.S. Census for Pittsfield, Massachusetts ( • click to enlarge

There appears to have been a G.E. (General Electric) plant in Pittsfield, or nearby, as I've noticed numerous city directories listing that as the place of employment for various residents. Arthur W. Hunt is listed in 1915 as being an employee of G.E., but in the 1920 census, he is shown to be a house painter.

Let's get a look again at the catalog listing for the No. 154:
Sears No. 154, a two-family structure, in the 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The house is set back nicely from the street, with other big houses around. It's a nice street, here in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Inside, the building is split into two households, with the same, spacious layout on each side, providing 3 bedrooms, a sewing room, and a bathroom upstairs; a parlor, a dining room, and a kitchen, downstairs:
Sears 2-family building, model No. 154

The catalog shows that this model sold for $2,701.00 in 1914, and that it could be built for a total of about $4,950.00, "including all material and labor". This model would not have been pre-cut, as it was offered before Sears began offering its kits that way, in 1916, 
Building cost for the Sears No. 154, in 1914
Further info followed the information on the basic price, and I see that "sliding doors" are mentioned as being between the stair hall and the parlor, as well as between the dining room and the parlor. I'm wondering if "sliding doors" means what we call "pocket doors"? I was just recently trying to pin down whether or not Sears ever offered pocket doors on any of their early models. I think they did!

Walter H. Smith's Testimonial No. 167
I ran across this house, because I was looking for another house in Pittsfield, an early Maytown... from back when it was listed as the No. 167. The 1913 catalog shows a little testimonial letter, from Walter H. Smith, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, saying that he could "safely say" that he had saved $250 by buying from Sears. His letter says that he was "now living in my new house built from your plan No. 167", but I'm not sure that he lived in the house for long, because it was hard to pin him down to an address. But, I did find that his father lived on the lot next to this white No. 167, at 54 Ontario Street, and also found newspaper mentions of Hazel Smith living at 54 Ontario Street, so I'm confident that this is Walter H. Smith's testimonial 167. It also appears to be modified to make it into a two-family building. It has a side door, which we have seen now and then on Maytowns, but it is not shown on the floor plan.

The No. 167 in the 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog, with Walter H. Smith's testimonial.

54 Ontario Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts-- testimonial house of Walter H. Smith

And, not far away...
I was born in Massachusetts, so I have heard of Pittsfield my whole life, but my first kit home experience with Pittsfield, was finding another testimonial kit house there, the Gordon-Van Tine No. 535 of Helen Hall-Mayberry and her husband, Dr. Frank Mayberry. I wrote about that one in 2015-- here it is:

There was a building boom around 1914-1916, in this neighborhood, I'd say. These three houses are only blocks apart, in fact, and all built in that time period:

That's it for Pittsfield tonight! We've got just two other Sears houses found in Pittsfield, both authenticated through mortgage records. There's a Berwyn on Burke Ave, and a Starlight, on Perrine Avenue, both built about 15 years after these other three. I'll bet there are more kit houses in Pittsfield... do you know of one? Leave me a message (and please provide contact information).

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