Sunday, June 6, 2021

Philadelphia Inquirer: Sears Homes In the Philly Suburbs and Sears House Hunters

1926 newspaper Sears ad Philadelphia Inquirer
Part of a Sears Modern Homes ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 1926

I recently had a nice chat with Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, Kevin Riordan, as part of his research for an upcoming piece that he was doing on Sears Modern Homes in the Philadelphia suburbs (EDIT: published in the  June 9, 2021 edition -- here is a link... you only get one free article folks, so read it while you're there. It was re-published on Sunday, June 13, in the real estate section). He had contacted me to see if I could lead him to a few examples of Sears homes in the New Jersey and Philadelphia suburbs, so that he and a staff photographer could go by and grab some photos for his article. Did I have any leads for him? You bet! 

While I'm at it, I'll tell you a bit about our mission, as a research team. We loosely refer to ourselves by the name, Sears House Hunters. Together, we dig around, all over the U.S., looking for Sears houses. Some of us have blogs to showcase our finds, and educate the public about kit houses. Some of us do Walking Tours and presentations at libraries, local colleges, and historical societies (in person, or via Zoom). And, since the Philadelphia Inquirer article is featuring Philadelphia-area Sears homes, let me tell you that our research team especially loves searching Pennsylvania for Sears houses-- because there are so many there. Our national database of Sears houses in the U.S. has over 13,600 homes on it, and, after Ohio and Illinois, Pennsylvania is #3 in U.S. states with, at today's count, 1,963 Sears homes found. New York state is 4th, with 1,679 houses found.  Ohio and Illinois are still leading, though, with 2700+ and 2300+, respectively. New Jersey is currently sitting at 678 Sears houses found, but, remember, that's a pretty small state. Let me explain, as well, that our list is just made up of homes that we have found, or been led to -- this is not a list of houses provided by records from Sears, as no such records exist. Our list is the result of many hours of ongoing research. And, some areas lend themselves more easily to research, than do others. Please scroll down to the end of this blog post, for more locations of Sears houses in the U.S.


Who Are We and What Is This List?

We are a team of about 10 researchers who work together to hunt around the U.S. for Sears kit houses built during the era of the Sears Modern Homes program (1908-1942). We scour real estate listings, we "drive" around streets (using Google maps Streetview) in towns with a concentration of homes of the era, and we especially love researching, using primary sources such as historic newspapers and the old mortgage and deed resources held in each town's Register of Deeds office, looking for houses that were financed through Sears. Not all Sears houses were mortgaged through Sears, but many were, so it's a great help for us to be able to access those records. However, we are pretty much limited to counties which have online accessible historic records, and to counties which we are able to physically visit to search in person... this means that there are some counties out there with lots of undiscovered Sears houses, because we can't get to the records. This is the case for the southern New Jersey counties that are suburbs of Philadelphia. Camden County would be a great place to search, because we know that there are Sears houses in Collingswood, Haddon Township, Haddonfield, and Haddon Heights... but, how many? We just can't say, because we can't access those records. I'm currently working my way through the Burlington County records, but they are limited, and set up in a way that makes the process very time consuming. So... I didn't have very many leads for Kevin Riordan, for the NJ suburbs... but, for the PA side of the Philadelphia suburbs... that's a different matter, indeed!

Our list, by the way, began in the early years of our research group. Lara Solonickne, who writes the blog Sears Homes of Chicagoland, and researches and does classes and presentations largely in northern Illinois, explained how she came to start the list, in this blog post of hers from 2015, Where's the list?
5210 Grand Downers Grove IL Sears Elsmore photo by Chuck Holtzen
Chuck Holtzen has joined up with Lara to do research in Illinois, and has been helpful in adding a number of authenticated houses to our list.

Lara was joined by researcher Cindy Catanzaro, who researches especially in Ohio, and writes the blog, Sears Houses In Ohio, focused largely on houses that she has been able to physically visit and photograph. However, just recently, she has branched out to researching in a few Pennsylvania counties, and she has added about 125 new houses to our list, just for Delaware County... folks, that's an impressive number, and that represents many, many hours of detailed work, with lots of digging through a maze of records. 
vintage door hardware sears mayfair brand
Cindy did a great blog post about an old Sears No. 171 that she visited, near Sidney, Ohio 

When we find a mortgage record, we're just given a buyer's name, and a legal description of a property. From that, we have to try to connect all of that to an existing street address. Sometimes the legal description is nice and straightforward, like, "lot 15, block C, Tanglewood Estates, in the town of Dunham". That, still, is only helpful if we can find a plat map online for a subdivision called Tanglewood Estates! Other times, the legal description refers to a house being on "a road leading from York to Millville", and maybe the lot bordering "the land of Joseph Craws"... usually, that road, if we can figure out which one it is, is miles and miles long, and there's no way to find "the land of Joseph Craws", so that's of no help at all. Then, we always get a chuckle when the legal description includes things like, "by a large Elm tree" or "100 feet past a stone marker". Ha! Those are ridiculously difficult to pin down. Thanks to Ancestry.com, we are often able to get a street name from a census record, but we run into problems there, when we find a town that has no street names (yes! small-town America, 1920!), or streets that have houses with no designated house number (yes, again! small-town America even into the 1940 census). We also find street names that have changed (without our knowing that), or, especially for folks who bought their house in 1930-32 (the waning years of the mortgage program), we find that folks lost their homes during the depression, so we can't pin them down using the 1930 or 1940 census records.  So, each house that we find through these records, represents a great deal of digging, and lots of amassed knowledge in how to attack the task... because each county's records system is a little different than others.

Trotwood Ohio Hartzell family's purchase of a Sears house in 1932--paperwork
This fantastic blog post by Cindy, Have I Told You About Winnie?, includes an amazing set of documents and family history about the 1932 purchase of a Sears Aurora model, by the Hartzell family, of Trotwood, Ohio

Lara and Cindy were joined by Andrew Mutch, who is based out of his own Sears house, in Novi, Michigan. Andrew is responsible for adding hundreds (and hundreds) of Sears houses to our database, especially in the Maryland suburbs of D.C., in numerous counties in Michigan, and a gold mine of houses in Westchester County, New York, especially in Yonkers. Andrew is our number-cruncher, and his blog, Kit House Hunters, provides meticulously researched posts about Sears houses built in neighborhoods like Poets' Corner, in Hartsdale, New York, or about the history of Sears' "Home of the Week" program, or his "numbers" updates, like November's "Where are the Sears houses?" posts. He and his wife, Wendy, also do presentations at historical societies and libraries around Michigan, and were interviewed for a great little 2017 story on the NBC Nightly News, about Sears houses, and our quest for them (which you can watch, here).
Sears Gateshead images from Kit House Hunters blog post about Sears houses in Poets Corner Hartsdale NY
A Sears Gateshead model that Andrew included in this blog post about Poets' Corner.


I joined the team shortly after Lara, Cindy and Andrew began, in earnest, to log the homes that they were finding. And, shortly after me, came Karen DeJeet, a Pittsburgh resident who learned of Sears houses when she found out that she lived in one (the Hamilton model, ironically, the same model that Andrew and Wendy Mutch live in!).  Karen doesn't get involved in mortgage research, because she finds her houses through Google Driving neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and surrounding towns. Karen has a great eye for noticing Sears houses, and has added hundreds and hundreds of Pennsylvania Sears houses to our database. This September 2017 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette showcased her Sears house searching, and introduced many readers to our quest. 

streetview photo of Sears Avalon at 346 Locust Rd Glenside PA
A 1924 Sears Avalon model, at 346 Locust Rd, Glenside, Pennsylvania,  found by Karen DeJeet, which I was later able to authenticate through mortgage records for Montgomery County, PA. We have about 40 Glenside Sears homes on our national database.

Along the way, we were joined by Nigel R. Tate, who was a teenager when he began his searching, but he has an incredible memory and an eye for catching Sears houses. Here's a rare find, a Sears Torrington, in the Berks County PA suburb of Wyomissing, that he found, and that Andrew Mutch later authenticated through a deed record tied to Sears.

MLS photo of Sears Torrington model at 52 Grandview Blvd Wyomissing Hills Wyomissing PA
Here's Nigel's blog post about this Sears Torrington model, in Berks County, Pennsylvania

Early on, we were joined by Sarah Mullane, who lives in North Tonawanda, New York. Sarah is especially interested in searching the kit homes of Western New York State, and has found us some beautiful Sears houses, but she is especially revered by all of us for her extensive knowledge of kits from the Ray H. Bennett kit homes company, which was based out of North Tonawanda. 

photo by Sarah Mullane of Sears Sherburne model at 22 Taft Place Dunkirk NY
A beautiful Sears Sherburne model that Sarah Mullane included in this blog post of hers, on her blog, Catalog Homes of Western New York.

Ohio resident Marie Vore reached out to us one day, on our Sears Modern Homes Facebook page, with a question about a possible Sears house that she had run across in a real estate listing. We soon realized that she had a keen eye for Sears houses (and a keen love for them, as her great-grandfather had built a Sears Martha Washington in Oakwood, Ohio), and she joined our research group.

architect Freeman Pretzinger's Sears Martha Washington model in Oakwood Ohio
Marie's great-grandfather, Freeman Pretzinger, built this Sears Martha Washington model

One of the things that Marie has done for us, is to perfectly describe our search for Sears houses, as a "badass hobby" that is akin to a "huge historical treasure hunt". We love her for giving us this to quote over and over again... and for the many Sears houses that she has added to our list.
Marie gives the perfect explanation of our Sears House hunt, in this, her first blog post, on her blog, Sears Houses In The Midwest.

One of the early Sears House researchers that our group still relies on for her expertise in the D.C. housing market, is D.C. realtor Catarina Bannier (Bannier & Sandalow).  Washington D.C. and its nearby suburbs have an unusually rich cache of kit houses stashed away in some of the leafy, well-tended neighborhoods where 1920s houses still shine. Catarina is quite well informed about Sears houses in the D.C. area, but also has researched the origins of many of the Lewis Homes kit homes in the area.

color photo of front of Sears Winona model, showing front porch and 5-piece brackets
Sears Winona with characteristic 5-piece eave brackets, which we usually only see on Sears houses.
This house is located in Arlington, Virginia, and was identified by D.C. realtor Catarina Bannier.
You can see it, and other blog posts about kit houses, here, on Catarina's early blog.

Rebecca L. Hunter and Beatrice Lask

One final note about our list: as I've mentioned, our list includes, for the most part, homes that we have located, ourselves, but also those that we have learned about from other people. One key set of homes that we are fortunate to have on our list, comes from the research of noted Architectural Historian, Rebecca L. Hunter. Rebecca lives in Elgin, Illinois, and undertook a huge research project, to find, and document, kit houses in that town. We have just over 200 Sears houses on our list, that came from Rebecca's research project in Elgin (it also included kit houses from other companies, that she was able to identify -- we've added those to our lists for those companies, as well). The project is available here, and includes photographs, and whatever documentation and historic background that Rebecca was able to find, through her research, about the origins of each house. Though Rebecca is not one of the 10 researchers in our group, she has researched with some of our members, toured around kit-house-rich areas with a few of us, and graciously shared other research and lists of hers, with us (including travels and research done with researcher Dale Wolicki, who has also shared some of his finds with us). Rebecca has published books that are very helpful in providing background and information on kit houses, including kit barns, and where, around the U.S., to find "testimonial" Sears houses. Her website, KitHouse.org, has excellent basic information on the most well-known kit-house companies, and you can find out more about her books there, as well. Rebecca was also interviewed for this short video story by the Washington Post, on Sears kit houses. This short article put out by Sears, about a Sears Elmwood model, explains a bit more about Rebecca's work finding Sears houses... long before the rest of us began doing so the easier way, using online resources.

Another key figure in the original research into Sears kit houses, was a woman named Beatrice Lask. Our list, in fact, began with 345 Sears houses that Mrs. Lask had found in the Cincinnati area, as part of a Masters Degree thesis project at the University of Cincinnati. Mrs. Lask had been a well-respected and well-known docent at the Cincinnati Historical Society, who led interesting bus tours and lectures about Cincinnati architectural history, when she embarked on this project in the 1990s (which she did while in her 70s-- a testament to the concept of life-long learning). Researchers Cindy Catanzaro and Andrew Mutch, and the late Donna Bakke, put together a document explaining Bea's work, and listing 345 of the houses that she found, which you can see, here. Additionally, Cindy, and the late Laraine Shape, visited with Bea in 2014, and you can read about that visit, here, on Cindy's blog.

Where To Find Online Catalogs?

Our research would not be possible, without online resources for Sears Modern Homes catalogs, and the catalogs for other kit-house companies, such as Gordon-Van Tine, Wardway, Aladdin, Sterling, Lewis, and Bennett. Most of us have a small collection of physical catalogs, or PDF catalogs, but we rely heavily on resources provided, especially, by our friend at AntiqueHome.org, and Daily Bungalow. Through those two resources, we can see not only kit-house catalogs, but also lumber-yard plan books, which offered house plans to those who were building their homes, in the 19-teens through 1930s, in the traditional method, of hiring a contractor, and buying the building resources locally. 

At one point, I realized that I needed to organize a list of online catalog resources, so I put together this blog post, which has links to catalogs not only from Daily Bungalow and AntiqueHome, but to the many catalogs uploaded on another key resource, Archive.org (have you donated lately?). 

This is just the top of the blog page... you'll find dozens of links to online catalogs here, a link to the excellent Pinterest resource made for us by Sears-house owner Dale Haynes, and a list of hard-copy book resources that are both interesting and informative.

The best guidebook to the basic history of the Sears Modern Homes program, is the book, Houses By Mail, put out by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and written by Katherine Cole Stevenson and H. Ward Jandl. 

Katherine Cole Stevenson and H. Ward Jandl's book about Sears kit houses, Houses By Mail
Here's a link to it, on Amazon.

But, What Really Is A Sears House?

Finally, if you really want to understand the basics of what a Sears Modern Homes kit house is, and what it is not, you might find this blog post of mine to be helpful and informative. I now live in St. Louis, Missouri, and am sometimes asked if there are any Sears houses here. So, I put together a list, but I decided to provide some clarifying background information in that blog post, too-- it's especially intended to help those who might hear the term Craftsman, and think it means Sears House, or who see a 1920s bungalow and wonder if that means that the street is lined with Sears houses, or who find marked lumber in their house, but can't seem to find a match to a Sears model. Those kinds of topics are cleared up, in this blog post:

Link to blog post explaining what a Sears house is
Click here, to learn the full story!

So, Can We See Some Philly Suburbs Sears Houses?

When I chatted with Kevin Riordan, I also sent him a list of several nice Sears houses that he could consider photographing for his article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Knowing the limitations of a newspaper article, I know that he will only be able to show one or two house photos, so I thought that I would highlight a few that we have found, through our research. I considered putting a full chart here, but, honestly, we have found hundreds through searching the suburban PA counties outside of Philadelphia. Cindy's research in Delaware County, coupled with my research in Montgomery County, netted at least 200 hundred authenticated houses, but that research was preceded by many hours of searching the streets of Willow Grove, Glenside, and other suburbs, by Karen, Nigel, Sarah, Marie, and Andrew. So, I'll just post a nice selection here. Enjoy!

Sears Elsmore at 38 E Turnbull Avenue, Havertown, PA
Sears Elsmore, authenticated by Cindy Catanzaro, at 38 E Turnbull Avenue, Havertown, PA

621 Crescent Avenue, Glenside, PA Sears Gladstone
Sears Gladstone model, built in 1926, original owner: Benjamin Harvey. This house, at 621 Crescent Avenue, Glenside, PA, was found by Karen, and I later authenticated it through mortgage research.

516 Grant Avenue, Willow Grove, PA Sears Walton model
Sears Walton, 516 Grant Avenue, Willow Grove, PA, located by Andrew.
Learn more about this model, here.

                      
210 Dallas Rd, Willow Grove, PA Sears Hathaway model front view
Sears Hathaway at 210 Dallas Rd, Willow Grove, PA (there are quite a few Sears houses on this road), located by Karen.

1509 Ashton Rd, Havertown, PA Sears Crescent model
Andrew found us this beautiful Sears Crescent, at 1509 Ashton Rd, Havertown, PA.
Cindy was able to authenticate it through mortgage research. It was ordered from Sears in 1927, by Edward W. March. (Learn more about the Crescent and its many lookalikes from other companies, here, and about its three different floorplans, here.)

1421 Lawndale Avenue, Havertown, PA Sears Argyle model front view
This is a really nice example of a Sears Argyle, at 1421 Lawndale Avenue, Havertown, PA. Andrew first found this for us, and Cindy authenticated it-- it was bought by Norman B. Rauch, in 1928.
(This photo is from a real estate listing, where you can also see more of the interior.)


213 Hastings Avenue, Havertown, PA front view Sears Martha Washington model
Sears Martha Washington, 213 Hastings Avenue, Havertown, PA, located by Cindy, through mortgage research. This house was ordered in 1923, by Robert Orr. 

Claremont Blvd, Havertown, PA front view Sears Honor model
A glorious Sears Honor, 1 Claremont Blvd, Havertown, PA. Cindy authenticated this house through mortgage research. The original owner, who ordered the house in 1923, was Joseph H. Mendenhall.

1223 Egypt Rd, Upper Providence, PA Sears Princeville model
I located this Sears Princeville at 1223 Egypt Rd, Upper Providence, PA (or Phoenixville?).

224 N. Jarrett Ave Rockledge, PA Sears Ardara
Sears Ardara, in Rockledge, PA, that I found through mortgage research. You can read the interesting story behind it, in this blog post of mine.

6332 Arlingham Rd, Flourtown, PA front view • Sears Columbine model
Sears Columbine, 6332 Arlingham Rd, Flourtown, PA. Andrew first found this house, and I later authenticated it, attaching it to a 1926 mortgage for William Crites. I found a second Columbine on Wissahickon Avenue in Flourtown. I show more about this model, in this blog post.

56 Weiss Avenue, Flourtown, PA front and side view Sears Vallonia model
Sears Vallonia, 56 Weiss Avenue, Flourtown, PA. Andrew first located this house, and I later tied it to a mortgage through Sears. It was ordered in 1923 by Forrest and Laura Jayne. You can see real estate photos of this house, here, where there is also a catalog image.


2151 Pleasant Avenue, Glenside, PA front view • Sears Belmont (brick version of the Sears Lynnhaven),
Sears Belmont (brick version of the Sears Lynnhaven), 2151 Pleasant Avenue, Glenside, PA.
I located and authenticated this through mortgage research. It was ordered in 1932 by James & Ella Smith. You can learn more about this model in this blog post of mine.


640 Edge Hill Rd, Glenside, PA front and side view Sears Conway model
Sears Conway, 640 Edge Hill Rd, Glenside, PA. This house was originally located by Karen, but I was able to tie it to a mortgage through Sears. It was ordered in 1927 by William & Josephine Reichert. 
This home is currently for sale: real estate listing.

2725 Laurel Lane, Glenside, PA Sears Elmwood model front view
Sears Elmwood, 2725 Laurel Lane, Glenside, PA. Karen originally located this house, and I connected it to a mortgage with Sears. It was ordered in 1921 by Olay & Edith Sands. You can learn more about this model, in this blog post of mine.

911 River Rd, Upper Black Eddy, PA, Bucks County Sears Wilmore model
Sears Wilmore, 911 River Rd, Upper Black Eddy, PA, Bucks County. Lara located this one through a real estate listing. We haven't authenticated this house, but it does have the Sears trademark curlicue decorative iron strapping on the front door. Read more about this model in this blog post by Lara, which showcases one in Lombard, Illinois.

11 Locust St, West Chester, PA Sears No. 167 (Maytown) model front view
Sears No. 167 (Maytown), 11 Locust St, West Chester, PA

419 Beechwood Ave, Collingdale, PA Sears Americus model
Sears Americus, 419 Beechwood Ave, Collingdale, PA. This house was located and authenticated by Cindy. It was ordered in 1925 by Walter C. Timm.

172 Charles St, King of Prussia, PA Sears Avondale model front view
Sears Avondale, 172 Charles St, King of Prussia, PA. I located and authenticated this house through mortgage research.  It was ordered in 1923 by John & Clementina Davies. This is an interesting model, that needs to be seen from several sides, so visit it on Google streetview, here.


101 E 3rd St, Essington, PA Sears Kilbourne model front view from Google streetview
Sears Kilbourne, 101 E 3rd St, Essington, PA. This house was located and authenticated by Cindy, tying it to a 1925 mortgage with Sears. It was ordered by Charles L. Devroude.

1517 Ashton Rd, Havertown, PA Sears Alhambra model front view from Google streetview
Sears Alhambra, 1517 Ashton Rd, Havertown, PA. This house was originally found by Andrew, and then authenticated through mortgage records, by Cindy. It was ordered in 1928 by Marie & William Horvay. You can learn more about this model, in this blog post about an Alhambra in Hopewell, New Jersey.

123 Holme Ave, Elkins Park, PA Sears Westly model front view from Google streetview
Sears Westly, 123 Holme Ave, Elkins Park, PA. This house was authenticated through a deed tied to Sears.

And, in New Jersey:
818 Ohio Avenue, Absecon, New Jersey Sears Osborn model real estate photo of front and side
Sears Osborn, 818 Ohio Avenue, Absecon, New Jersey
This photo comes from a 2017 real estate listing, where you can see gorgeous interior shots of this Osborn, which still retains many of the original details of the house. The Osborn was shown with a color page, in the 1918 catalog, which you can see here.

229 Creek Rd, Delran, NJ, Burlington County Sears Avalon model Google streetview
Sears Avalon, 229 Creek Rd, Delran, NJ, Burlington County.

418 Woodlawn Ave, Collingswood, NJ Sears Americus • Testimonial house of Charles F. Kurtz •  Google streetview front view
Sears Americus • Testimonial house of Charles F. Kurtz • 418 Woodlawn Ave, Collingswood, NJ, Camden County. I located this house through a testimonial letter sent in to Sears by the original owner. You can read all about it, in this blog post of mine (showing the house before this nice makeover!). The house was also for sale in 2016, so you can see (old) interior photos, here, in this real estate listing. Ironically, my blog post is the reason that the current owners of this house knew that their house was a Sears house, as they mentioned in this online article from the 08108 area -- It's cute that they referred to my heavily-researched and documented blog post as being written by "just a guy who likes Sears kit homes" :) . I'm a woman, by the way. Ha! 


262 Creek Rd, Delran, NJ, Burlington County Sears Maywood model Googe streetview front view
Sears Maywood, 262 Creek Rd, Delran, NJ, Burlington County. I located this house through mortgage research. It was ordered in 1928 by Edith & Horace Caldwell.


319 Windsor Avenue, Haddonfield, NJ Sears Barrington model Bing maps front view shaded by trees
Sears Barrington, 319 Windsor Avenue, Haddonfield, NJ. You can read all about this model, and its many lookalikes by other companies, in this blog post of mine.


1505 Sycamore St, Haddon Heights, NJ Sears Berwyn model Google streetview front view with side
Sears Berwyn, 1505 Sycamore St, Haddon Heights, NJ

Inside Philadelphia Proper

The suburbs of Philadelphia are not the only places where we find Sears houses, by the way. Our team did some traveling around streets inside Philadelphia, in neighborhoods like Oxford Circle, Rhawnhurst, and Roxborough, to name a few, and added about 43 houses to our list, from these neighborhoods. None of these houses are authenticated through mortgage or deed research, but they are spot-on matches for the models, and we feel certain enough of their origin, to add them to our database. Here are a few:

1300 Brighton St, Philadelphia, PA (Oxford Circle) Sears Kilbourne, model Google streetview front view
Sears Kilbourne, 1300 Brighton St, Philadelphia, PA (Oxford Circle), located by Marie.

631 Summit Ave, Philadelphia, PA (Roxborough) Sears Cornell model, Google maps Streetview front and side view
Sears Cornell model, 631 Summit Ave, Philadelphia, PA (Roxborough). Andrew located this one. 
The Cornell is extremely popular in the Pittsburgh area, and a common find for us. This blog post of mine discusses the differences between the Cornell, and its earlier version, the Haven.

4526 Convent Lane, Philadelphia, PA (Torresdale) Sears Vallonia  model
Sears Vallonia (another hugely popular model), at 4526 Convent Lane, Philadelphia, PA (Torresdale).
Lara located this one through a real estate listing (which you can access here, with some great photos).


509 Solly Avenue, Philadelphia, PA Sears Woodland model front and side view
Sears Woodland, 509 Solly Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, found by Lara through this real estate listing, which has wonderful photos.

Here's a pair of Sears Westly examples (#3085 floor plan) , across the street from each other, located by Marie (I think this is Oxford Circle?):
1405 Disston St, Philadelphia, PA Sears Westly with enclosed sleeping porch
Sears Westly with enclosed sleeping porch, 1405 Disston St, Philadelphia, PA

1404 Disston St Philadelphia PA Sears Westly with enclosed front porch, sporting the Sears 5-piece brackets
Sears Westly with enclosed front porch, sporting the Sears 5-piece brackets,
1404 Disston St Philadelphia PA


1232-1234 Disston St Philadelphia PA Sears Hamilton model
Sears Hamilton at 1232-1234 Disston St (now a 2-family home, I guess?), found by Marie.
Here's a real estate listing, which shows a fireplace with the classic brick pattern we often see on brick fireplace surrounds in the Hamilton.

Sears Starlight model 7201 Montour St Philadelphia PA Oxford Circle neighborhood
Similar to the styling of the Hamilton, is the Sears Starlight. This model has been around since the very early days of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs, and has gone through a few design changes over the years, which you can read about in this blog post by Lara. Marie located this one, at 7201 Montour St, in the Oxford Circle neighborhood.

Andrew just today noticed this brick house with the Sears curlicue decorative iron strapping (only offered by Sears, and the only style of iron strapping ever offered by Sears). It looks almost like a Sears Stratford, which is the brick version of the Sears Mitchell, but this one looks to be a bit customized:

decorative iron strapping with Sears curlicues on vintage Sears door
See that curled element at the hinge edge? That is unique to Sears. The iron strapping itself can be strait or curved, but the curlicue is always there, if it's iron strapping from Sears.

1227 Disston St, Oxford Circle neighborhood of Philadelphia Sears customized brick house
1227 Disston St, Oxford Circle neighborhood of Philadelphia

The Stratford was on the cover of the 1929 special supplement of the Sears Modern Homes catalog, which featured all brick-veneer versions of many of the models. You can see the full catalog here, on the Daily Bungalow Flickr site.  I did a blog post about the special brick models, and how Sears handled brick for their homes, which you can read, here, and you can read about the Sears Mitchell, and its many "lookalikes" by other companies, in this blog post.

And, finally, we have this pretty rare model, the Sears Bandon, which Andrew located through a real estate listing, and I then showcased in a blog post:
800 Crestview Rd, Philadelphia PA Upper Roxborough neighborhood Sears Bandon model
Rare find: Sears Bandon, at 800 Crestview Rd, in the Upper Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. Here's my blog post about it.

I hope you found this informative, and learned that Sears houses come in lots of shapes, sizes, and styles. Keep in mind, however, that even though we have found well over 200 Sears houses in the PA and NJ suburbs of Philadelphia, those are densely populated areas. Despite this large number, Sears houses are still, actually, rare, and only make up about 2% of the houses built in their era. That's why we love seeking them out!

Where Are The Rest Of The Sears Houses In The U.S.?

Our national database of Sears houses in the U.S., is constantly growing, with over 13,600 homes currently listed. But, as of this date in 2021, here are leading areas in the U.S. with high numbers of Sears houses. You'll notice that most are in states east of the Mississippi River, with highest overall state totals in Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York. Michigan, Indiana, and New Jersey have large overall numbers, as well. :
  • Aurora, Illinois: 117
  • Carlinville, Illinois: 149 in the Standard Addition, bought by Standard Oil, in 1918 (the highest number in one contiguous neighborhood, in the U.S., though not the highest number in one town)
  • Cincinnati, Ohio and surrounding communities in southern Ohio and Northern, Kentucky: over 700 just in Cincinnati proper-- Ohio is the state with the largest number of located Sears houses in the U.S., with 2,888 as of today.
  • Downers Grove, Illinois: 67 -- Another comparatively small town, with an unusually-high concentration of Sears houses.
  • Elgin, Illinois: 213. Elgin is the town with the highest percentage of Sears houses. Other large cities, like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, have higher numbers, but Elgin is a relatively small town. See Rebecca L. Hunter's research project, here.
  • State of Illinois: Across the state, we've found over 2,400 Sears houses, putting Illinois second to Ohio in number of Sears houses located in the state.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh is a large city, but we have found many Sears homes there, with 540 found in Pittsburgh proper, but at least 1,000 found, if you consider the surrounding areas as well. More information, in this blog post of mine.
  • Pennsylvania is the third- highest-ranking state with almost 2,000 Sears homes located there, to date. 
  • Rockford, Illinois: 166
  • Massapequa Park, New York: Several dozen --Andrew Mutch has located many Sears houses built here in the 1920s and 1930s, with the largest number being on Grand Boulevard. (read more here)
  • Prince George's County, MD & Montgomery County, MD: Over 225. For a small state, Maryland has hundreds of Sears houses, most located in these two counties, and most documented through historic mortgage research, by Andrew Mutch
  • Washington, D.C.: over 300, and numerous additional kit houses from other companies such as Lewis Homes, Gordon-Van Tine, Aladdin, and Montgomery Ward. More details here.
  • Yonkers, NY: 111 (120 if you count kit houses from other companies). More details here.


Historical Society Plaques

If you are a Historical Society interested in awarding plaques for specific homes understood to be Sears houses, please feel free to contact us to verify for you that the house does match a model offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. In many cases, we may be able to tell you of homes in your town, that have actually been authenticated as Sears homes, and, in some cases, we may be able to tell you that the house in question is a kit house from another company (consider the case of the Anstett family of Torrington, Connecticut, who always thought that their family home was a Sears kit house... but, we were able to show them the purchase records verifying it to be from the Aladdin kit homes company!). We offer this service free of charge, because we are interested in promoting knowledge of Sears Modern Homes houses, and we are all about accuracy. We do not, however, offer full-town surveys, looking for Sears (or other company) kit homes (that is a lengthy task, requiring sometimes weeks of work, and access to online databases for research). We are happy to share the research that we have already done, or verify a specific house or two, though... and we'd love to do it!


4 comments:

  1. I have a Walton in Glenside Pa :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Lauren! We just love the Walton model! We have three on our list in Glenside -- one on Cedar, one on Tyson, and one on Edge Hill Rd. If yours is not one of those, please let us know :) We are confident about all three being Sears houses, but have not been able to authenticate any of them (with mortgage or deed records, blueprints, shipping labels, letters from Sears, or marked lumber). If you have any authenticating source for us, we'd love to hear about it (you can email me directly at SearsHouseSeeker@gmail.com). Thanks!

      Delete
  2. I have one in East Greenville!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful, Malissa! Would you mind messaging me with an address, so that we can add your Sears house to our (private) national database? Or, perhaps we have background information about it to share with you!
      Judith

      Delete

Your comment will appear after it has been previewed and approved by the blog author. Thanks for your interest!