July 19, 2022

A Sears No. 109 Hidden in a Bridgeview Park

7300 W. 79th St., Bridgeview. 

 


There is an authenticated Sears Modern Home No. 109 hidden in Wierzba Memorial Park in Bridgeview. The house is owned by the park district and has been landmarked. 

The No. 109 has not changed much since construction. The living room still has the original crystal leaded glass window. The bay window still has the chamfered edge. The back porch has been enclosed. 
 


 
Sears Roebuck sold this window style around 1910.


 







I could not find any interior photos, and currently the park district does not allow visitors inside the house.

The 1913 Sears Modern Homes catalog listed towns where the No. 109 had been built. One of those was Oak Lawn. This house in Bridgeview was likely that house. Sears Roebuck knew that they shipped a No. 109 to the Oak Lawn depot, but not exactly where the house was eventually constructed.




An undated photo of the house. It looks the same today, except for the mature trees. Photo from Village of Bridgeview website.



The standard floor plan for Modern Home No. 109 did not include a bathroom. A reception hall was popular in late 1800's houses, but Sears continued to offer one with the No. 109. According to authors Robert Schweitzer and Michael W.R. Davis, some of the early Sears models (1908-1914) were "holdover(s) from the 19th century". The No. 109 did have some more modern additions, such as closets in every bedroom and a large kitchen with a pantry.



The park district calls the No. 109 the historic "Belke House". August "Gus" Boelke, a German immigrant, and his wife Florentina owned the property in 1910. 

According to the village of Bridgeview, the original farmhouse burned in 1911, and the Boelkes built the Sears No. 109 soon afterwards. This build date would be consistent with the time that Sears sold the No. 109, and the fact that the testimonial was first published in a catalog that was issued in fall 1912.

The Boelke/Belke descendants owned the property after Gus and Florentina died. The park district ultimately purchased the property in the late 1990's. 

Sears later renamed the No. 109 the Avoca.  Besides this house in Bridgeview, you can find the No. 109/Avoca in Woodstock .




 

June 28, 2022

Sears Homes of Chicagoland Turns 10!

I just realized I started this blog in January 2012, making Sears Homes of Chicagoland over 10 years old!

To those of you who have been reading this site since the early days, thank you for your comments, encouragement and support. 

My Favorite Posts from 10 Years of Blogging

These are not the most popular posts or the posts that drive the most traffic. However, they are the posts that make me smile, or the posts that I am most proud of because of the research involved. Here they are, in no particular order.












Thank you for being here, and I look forward to another 10 years!







May 31, 2022

A Storybook Cottage in an English Village

Imagine an idyllic suburb based on a traditional English village. A $90M (in 1925 dollars!) model community planned for 40,000 residents. Street names like Canterbury, Downing, Buckingham, and Kensington. It was marketed as a "dream city".

The developers christened the 2,600-acre suburb "Westchester" in 1925. 

Ad in the Chicago Tribune from February 1926. 

 Unfortunately, this vision of Westchester never manifested due to the Great Depression. 

The infrastructure was built--71 miles of storm/sanitary sewer system, 41 miles of water mains, 40 miles of sidewalks, 20 miles of paved streets, a street lighting system with 40 miles of underground cable, and 15,000 tree saplings planted.

But time had run out for Westchester. Only 121 single-family homes were built before the economy tanked. The 1930 population totaled 358. 

A couple of the OG English houses built by developers in Westchester prior to the crash of the housing market. 825 Portsmouth (top) and 1653 Stratford (bottom). 


As residential building in the Chicago area slowed beginning in 1930, the real estate companies abandoned the plan of building English Tudor houses in Westchester and started selling off their lots to anyone who would buy them. Over 5,000 parcels were available, but buyers were scarce.

One of those buyers was Frank Simek. He and his wife Libbie constructed a lovely Gordon-Van Tine English cottage that is one of the few relics of Westchester's origin that remain today. (All photos courtesy of Maureen Woods.)

1608 Stratford Avenue, Westchester.


Gordon-Van Tine Harmony.

The Harmony was built between 1930 and 1935. Clearly the Simeks wanted their kit house to blend in with the other Tudors in the community. At the time the house was built, there were only three other houses on Stratford Avenue (Stratford-Upon-Avon was Shakespeare's birthplace), so there was a lot of open space.

The second story addition was added sometime after 1957. Gordon-Van Tine did offer another design of the Harmony that had a finished second floor but the Simeks did not avail themselves of that option.


The arched garden entrance.


Some old flagstones in the front of the house. I wonder if there was originally a flagstone patio.


Half-timbered entrance with a batten door.


 


The door hardware is the original Monarch-Beverly style sold by Gordon-Van Tine.

 
A super-detailed floor plan of the Harmony (later called the Vernon) from the 1936 Gordon-Van Tine catalog of homes.








The dining room faces the front of the house.






The house still has its original interior doors.


Besides this Harmony in Westchester, only one other example of this model has been identified in the U.S.

The Simeks lived in the house until late 1949.

Westchester did rebound after World War II, and building continued, but the idea of the English village was gone. Most houses that were built during this time were ranches and split levels. All fairytales come to an end.