Saturday, December 12, 2020

Sears Randolph And Friends At Christmastime

Sears Randolph with Christmas lights
Authenticated Sears Randolph, in Webster Groves, Missouri

 It's time for the Christmastime lights blog post!

I'm really excited that this year, one of my favorite, neighborhood Sears houses is sporting cheery Christmas lights. This Sears Randolph in Webster Groves, Missouri, is one that is within walking distance from my house, and one that I found totally by chance one day, and then was delighted to authenticate through mortgage records. Ever year, I drive by it at this time of year, hoping to find lights on it -- this year, it finally has them! You can read about this 1932 Sears Randolph, in this blog post of mine, from 2015.

Right around the corner, actually probably sitting on a lot backing to this one, is a Sears Clifton, and, next to it, a Sears Stanford, and I check them every year, too... no Christmas lights!

Several blocks to the west of this Webster Groves neighborhood, sit two historic districts in Kirkwood: The East Monroe National Register Historic district, and the Jefferson-Argonne Historic district (you can see maps, and read info, here). Lets take a look at some houses from these two areas:

McLagan-Black house Kirkwood MO
549 E. Argonne Drive, Kirkwood, Missouri • McLagan-Black House, 1863

The McLagan-Black House on East Argonne Drive, is the former site of the Kirkwood Historical Society, though it is now, once again, a private residence. Built in 1863, this beautiful house is on both the National Register of Historic Landmarks, and is a local landmark and listed on the local Register of Historic Landmarks. You can read a bit more about it here.

On the corner of E. Argonne and Mitchell, within the boundaries of the Jefferson-Argonne historic district, is this sweet little brick house, that has had some really nice updates in the past few years. The current owners have given it a nice new Craftsman style door, a white-wash effect paint job, and a facelift to the landscaping and yard. This year's Christmas lighting is a treat to drive by every morning:

Mitchell Place brick house with decorations for Christmas
101 Mitchell Place, Kirkwood, Missouri

Up on East Monroe, parallel to East Argonne, sits the wonderful Unsell-Cabell historic home, built in 1873, by Captain Elijah J. Unsell. This house was lovingly cared for, and lived in, by a private family that did their best to keep it in good condition, and retain its original historic elements... but, it was clear that it required maybe more upkeep than they were able to give it. You can see its photo from a few years ago,  and historic information, here, and see the streetview on Google maps, here, which shows that the landscaping was in real need of tending. In just the past year or two, it was sold, and a very respectful and high-quality renovation was done to the home, and to the landscaping and yard, including a beautiful, and thoughtfully crafted addition, designed by Blaes Design Architectural firm, which was awarded a certificate of recognition of distinction, for the quality and sensitivity of the recent renovation and addition on the home. award for Unsell-Cabell house

And, here it is, last week, in all of its Christmastime glory:
historic Unsell-Cabell house with Christmas decorations
The Unsell-Cabell House, 615 E. Monroe Avenue, Kirkwood, Missouri

Just within a block of the Unsell-Cabell House, at the corner of Clark and Scott, is a house that you don't see on Google Maps Streetview, because I guess that they haven't been by in years, oddly. The interesting, but little, bitty stucco bungalow that you see on Google maps, hidden behind lots of foliage, has been gone since at least 2016, replaced by one of my very favorite of the new builds in our area, this gorgeous home at the corner. I hate to see old houses torn down, but I had been inside that little bitty stucco bungalow, and it just felt tiny, cramped, old, and worn out. Someone could have saved it, and really fixed it up to make it a charming, but itty bitty, little delight, I'm sure, but you can't complain about the beautiful new home that sits on that lot, now. One thing I appreciate about it, is that they did not use vinyl siding. Here it is:
Kirkwood home with Christmas decorations
Beautiful new home on the corner of Scott and Clark Avenues, Kirkwood, Missouri. 
Its landscaping and decorations in every season, are just wonderful.

Switching neighborhoods to East Jefferson Avenue, probably still sitting in the Jefferson-Argonne Historic neighborhood, are these two beauties (complete with a very well-behaved dog, who didn't bat an eye when I moved around, taking photos):
Christmas on East Jefferson

East Jefferson Ave in Kirkwood MO
A late-1800s home in the 200-block of East Jefferson, Kirkwood, Missouri

Zooming back a couple of miles east, back into one of the many gorgeous, historic neighborhoods of Webster Groves, we find these sweetly decorated homes:
Webster Groves house with Christmas lights

109 Plant Ave Webster Groves MO with Christmas decorations
109 Plant Avenue, Webster Groves, Missouri

The entry to the walkway up to the house, at 109 Plant Avenue

But, I promised that I had a few Sears houses to show this year, so let me get back to those!

Here's a Sears Fullerton, all dressed up for Christmas. I have no recollection where this house is! I remember noticing it on Google Maps, with its Christmas decorations, and I saved it to show in the post this year.
Sears Fullerton with Christmas decorations

My thanks to Krissa, in Medina, Ohio, for allowing me to use this great photo of her Sears Whitehall:

Sears Whitehall in Medina OH dressed for Noel
Sears Whitehall in Medina, Ohio

Andrew and Wendy Mutch shared their Novi, Michigan Sears Hamilton bungalow, built in 1926, with its Christmas tree shining through the window:
Christmas tree in the window Sears Hamilton
Andrew is a respected Sears house researcher I've mentioned many times in my blog posts.

Emily, at #mySearsHome on Instagram, has a great 1923 Sears Vallonia, in Cincinnati, Ohio, that she decorates beautifully for every season -- it's a treat to come across the photos she posts of her house! Here it is, this holiday season:
Emily's Sears Vallonia

Emily's dining room decorated for Christmas
Thanks, Emily! I may have forgotten to ask... may I?

Jim, in South Portland, Maine, recently shared this snowy photo of his pristine Sears Vallonia:

snow scene South Portland Maine Sears Vallonia

And, in Galesburg, Illinois, sits Tony M.'s Sears model No. 126. This home has the front gable addition similar to the design of the Sears Elsmore -- it's the only one we've seen like this, but it makes sense, as the Elsmore was a model that grew from the design of the No. 126, and was, initially, offered in the corner of the same page as the No. 126, in the catalogs. 
Galesburg IL Sears No 126 with Christmas lights
Tony's Sears No. 126 model was identified by researcher Rebecca L. Hunter

I hope you've had a chance to visit the latest blog post of Sears Homes of Chicagoland, where Lara lists her top three posts of 2020, and features this beautiful winter scene of a Sears Uriel, in Downers Grove, Illinois:
Sears Uriel at Christmas
Shared in this blog post of Sears Homes of Chicagoland

And, to close out this year's post, many thanks to Priscilla, who lives on Main Street in a small town in Wisconsin, and who loves to delight the neighborhood with amazing decorations for the holidays, on her wonderful Sears Crescent, which may be the only Sears house in her town. Priscilla was quick to reply with a "You know the answer to that!" when I asked if I could include her house in this year's blog post. 
Sears Crescent dining room at Christmastime
Inside a Wisconsin Sears Crescent, at Christmastime

Priscilla's Sears Crescent decorated for Christmas

Priscilla's Sears Crescent decorated for Christmas
Thanks, again, Priscilla! 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Sears Wayne In South Plainfield, New Jersey


Sears Wayne model
Sears Wayne • 2234 Murray Avenue, South Plainfield, New Jersey

sepia toned 1928 catalog image of Sears Wayne model
Sears Wayne in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Here's a great example of a Sears bungalow that we don't show that often: the Sears Wayne model. The Wayne was first offered in 1925, replacing its almost-a-twin (at least from the outside), the Delmar, which was only offered in 1924 (researcher Andrew Mutch did an informative blog post about the differences, here). We find the Wayne in the catalogs through 1931.  I found this Wayne just through a real estate listing, a few years ago. I'm always hoping to find Sears houses in Middlesex County, New Jersey, because I've done research in the historic mortgage archives there... but, the searching is slow-going, because there is only access to the mortgage books listed by buyer... whereas we usually look through the books that are alphabetized by the mortgage lender. That helps narrow the search, because we can just look under the names of the Sears trustees. Having to look through the buyer books, means turning every single page of the dozen or so books, from this densely populated county, through about 15 years, just hoping to find a listing of William C. Reed or Edwards D. Ford. So far, in one outing, helped out by my sister, we got through the books for the last names starting with E, I think --ha! Lots more visits will be required. So... we don't know if this house had a mortgage through Sears (as many Sears houses of this era, did), but we are confident that it is a Sears house, because we found a few indicators: Sears Stratford model door handle hardware; a plinth block on the staircase, connecting two sizes of baseboards, which is not a usual use for a plinth block (they are more normally found at the base of door trim), but which Sears seems to have offered as a solution for the difficult carpentry task of connecting baseboards at different angles; and the floor plan follows along perfectly. Here... I'll show you:

Sears Wayne kit house
We always look closely at the layout of all doors and windows... good match, here.

Here's the first-floor layout that we're looking for. Notice the staircase off to the side... that is one glaring difference between the 1924 Delmar and the 1925-31 Wayne... the location of the staircase. We're not sure of the build date of this Wayne, because Trulia says 1924, and Zillow says 1940... and it can't be either of those, since this floor plan was not offered in 1924, and the Wayne was no longer available, in 1940. Probably, one of those build years comes from the Middlesex County assessor's office, but, as I've mentioned many times before, those build-year records for houses, in many county assessor's offices, are usually off by some, or many, years. This house was probably built some time in the 1920s, because the Stratford design door handle hardware it has, is not shown in the 1930 building supplies catalog.

first floor layout Sears Wayne 1928 Sears building supplies catalog
Floor plan of the Sears Wayne model

Here's the living room, looking down from the staircase, toward the two small windows of the left-side wall of the house. The front door, front window, and entry into the dining room, are just where we expect them:
Sears Wayne living room
Sears Wayne: living room

Here's that front door, in the 1929 Sears Building Supplies catalog:
Sears entry door options, 1929 Sears Building Supplies catalog

This house had a small addition put on to the back, and, probably at that time, the kitchen was re-configured a bit. It looks, from the style of the cabinets, to have been done probably in the 1960s. Here's the normal rear view of a Wayne--this one is in Willowick, Ohio. As you can see, there is a big dormer on the rear roof, as well. The rear window of the dining room, has been changed into a set of sliding glass doors, to access the back deck that was added on:
That smaller window indicates that there is a bathroom there.
(Real estate photos source)

And, here is our South Plainfield Wayne, from the rear:

Sears Wayne with addition

...and, from the front, where you can see that addition:
Sears Wayne side view with addition

And, while we're at it, this photo shows this side's windows, against the floor plan:
Sears Wayne against catalog layout
Side view of windows on the South Plainfield, New Jersey Sears Wayne, on Murray Avenue

You can see, from the window and door trim in this added-on area of the house, that it was added on -- the rest of the house has wide, craftsman, back band trim, as you see in the 1930 catalog, here:
1930 catalog image Sears back band craftsman trim
1930 Sears Honor Bilt Building Materials catalog, here, on
The dining room has the original, Craftsman trim on the windows, but, on the original back wall of the dining room, we see an entry door added on, and it has a much skinnier, different style trim, which is what you see in the addition, and in the re-done kitchen:
Sears Wayne dining room

The kitchen, then, does not follow the floor plan correctly, because it was re-organized. The area indicated here, in yellow, was all changed up, changing the access to the basement staircase and side entry door, and opening up access to the living room, so you can now see the front window, and the staircase, from the kitchen, whereas we normally can't see that from the kitchen. The blue arrow points to the all-important furnace vent chimney, which we also see on the floor plan, indicated in blue.  I say, "all important", because it's one thing that you will almost never see changed, on a house... unless a major re-haul of the entire layout has been done... and this is something that I am frequently reminded of by my research buddies (I'm lookin' at you, Karen ;) ).  This helps us when we find a possible match for a Sears house, but it has some discrepancies. To rule it out as just a "lookalike", the placement of the vent chimney is something we look at.

Sears Wayne remodeled and reorganized kitchen
You can tell that the kitchen window and the door ways we see here, are not original, because they have that skinnier trim. 

Sears Wayne re-organized kitchen

Second Floor, Sears Wayne
Upstairs, the floor plan looks like this:
Sears Wayne upstairs catalog floor plan image 1928
Sears Wayne, second-floor layout

Here's the staircase, with its closet door at the top, and plinth block as it joins the landing:
Sears Wayne staircase with plinth block

Here's the plinth block, and you can see how it's connecting two different sizes of base board trim:
Sears Wayne upper hallway top of staircase plinth block

And this photo shows how all of the expected doors in this upper hallway, are in the correct spots:
Sears Wayne upstairs hallway
Second-floor layout of the Sears Wayne -- the floor plan image isn't shown with the same orientation of the hall photo, but I've numbered the pertinent spots. #1 is the side window at the top of the stairs.

This photo of the closet corner of the big, front bedroom, shows the double doors of the closet, with Sears Stratford design door handle hardware:

Sears Wayne bedroom Stratford hardware on door

Sears Stratford hardware 1929 catalog
Sears Stratford design door handle hardware, in the 1929 Sears building supplies catalog.

As you can see in the write up for the Wayne, in the 1928 catalog, Stratford door hardware is mentioned as coming standard with this model:
Sears Wayne 1928 catalog write up
Sears Wayne in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Bungalows came in all kinds of designs and sizes and styles, by every possible housing company, in the 1920s. It was a hugely popular style, in general. Two things that help us spot a Sears Wayne, are the distinctive lines of the front porch roof, and the chunky style of the outer columns on the porch. It's also unusual to find no porch railings, and no concrete or brick piers in the front... the columns just go from the ground to porch roof... two slim columns in the center, and two chunky columns, on the outer edges:
Sears Wayne front porch

Sears Wayne chunky front porch columns

Most bungalow porch roofs follow down from the peak of the roof, in one straight, or slightly bent line, like these two Sears models, the Lakecrest, and the Vallonia:
Sears bungalow roof lines compared
The Lakecrest, as shown by Daily Bungalow, in the 1932 catalog, and a Sears Vallonia in Springdale, Ohio, as shown in this blog post of Sears Houses In Ohio, by Cindy Catanzaro.

The Wayne, however, has a pretty steep pitch to the main roof, and the porch roof is set in with a triangular section on each side of the porch roof:

Sears Wayne porch roof

You can see that pronounced angle well, on the Sears Wayne in Willowick, Ohio:
color streetview photo of sears wayne
This example is unusual in that it has a side fireplace, but yet also has a side staircase, on the other side of the house. The Delmar's staircase is in the center of the house, whereas the Wayne's staircase is on the side entry door side. If you see a side fireplace, you have to check which side of the house it is on.

Staircase Location Sears Delmar vs Sears Wayne
The Sears Delmar was only offered in 1924. When we put the Delmar and Wayne floor plans side by side, we notice that the furnace vent chimney is a little further back, on the Delmar (cutting into the kitchen space), and that the staircase is in the center of the house, on the Delmar... whereas it is on the side-entry-door side wall of the Wayne. Therefore, if you see a fireplace chimney on THAT side of the house, you must be looking at a Delmar, since the Wayne has its staircase at that side wall of the house.
side by side comparison of floorplans of Sears Delmar vs Sears Wayne

We have interior views of only one Delmar on our list, this one at 360 High Street, Highspire, Pennsylvania:
Sears Delmar 360 High Street, Highspire, Pennsylvania
Sears Delmar -- Note the fireplace chimney on the side wall where the side entry door is located. This is only possible on the Delmar, not the Wayne.
360 High Street, Highspire, Pennsylvania (real estate images)

Two views of the centrally located staircase of the Delmar:
living room and central staircase with fireplace on side wall, Sears Delmar 360 High Street, Highspire, Pennsylvania
360 High Street, Highspire, Pennsylvania (real estate images)

living room and central staircase with fireplace on side wall, Sears Delmar 360 High Street, Highspire, Pennsylvania
360 High Street, Highspire, Pennsylvania (real estate images)
That is Sears Stratford door handle hardware.

This is a great example of the Sears Wayne, and just one of the many Sears houses that I'm sure are dotting the landscape of Middlesex County, New Jersey. If you'd like to see the rest of the photos of the house, here is the listing, from 2017. Let's finish with the full-on front view of this very nice house:
Sears Wayne front view

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