September 27, 2022

Was the Real Estate Listing Possibly Right?

I get many emails from readers who send me real estate listings in which the realtors identify houses as being from Sears Roebuck.

Invariably, most of these descriptions are incorrect and the houses are not Sears kit houses at all. (Why are so many people wrong about their "Sears" houses?) Therefore, I usually just glance over the listings because it's not worth the time investment.

And then a listing came up for a house in Glencoe that made me pause.

345 Jefferson, Glencoe. Photo from Realtor site.

 

This house has clearly been expanded multiple times. Photo from Realtor site.

 
 

 
The listing read: "Built in 1913 as a Sears home, there is so much character throughout including the additions that were made over the years." I took a closer look. 

This looks like the original structure to me. The window on the far left seems off from the others. The large addition on the left also does not appear to be original. The railings are replacement. The columns appear to be old, possibly original. The windows are new.


Does this farmhouse, purportedly from 1913, loosely match any of the farmhouses Sears sold in that time? Yes.




The Sears Rossville a.k.a. No. 171, from the 1914 Modern Homes catalog.


Could it be a Sears Rossville? 

The left front window could have been brought forward as part of an addition for a new dining room. The addition off the left side could have been an extension of the original structure. The porch could have been rebuilt as well.

Were the original columns from Sears used in the porch redesign?  Photo from Realtor site.

 

These colonial porch columns sure look like a match, from the 1912 Sears Building Materials catalog. And check out those prices!


Let's examine the floor plans for the Rossville and the Glencoe house. You'll need to remember that the house in Glencoe was reversed from the Rossville standard floor plan. Reversed plans were common for Sears houses.


Here's the Rossville. Note the staircase with a landing that is adjacent to the front door. The Glencoe house still has the parlor and bedroom intact, although they have been combined into one den.

 

The parlor and bedroom are on the right side of the Glencoe house. The dining room is new, and you can see that the wall is flush with the front door now. The kitchen is in the same general area, and a living room was added next to the kitchen. That constitutes the large addition on the left of the house.


We have the front door adjacent to the landing of the staircase. The new hallway leads to the dining room. Photo from Realtor site.

 
This is the combined parlor and bedroom to make the den. The kitchen is on the left and a family room addition is in the back of the house. Photo from Realtor site.


The new dining room with a window facing the front porch. Photo from Realtor site.


The Rossville has two bedrooms on the left. The front bedroom has a closet at the front of the house.

 
The Glencoe house is reversed, so the two bedrooms are on the right of the house. The front bedroom closet faces the front of the house. The hallway at the top of the stairs has been reconfigured. The two bedroom closets were combined into a bathroom (more or less).

 
Here's that narrow bathroom on the second floor. The door looks original, and was likely the one of the closet doors. Photo from Realtor site.



Although the owners believe the house was built in 1913, it was not in the 1914 Glencoe city directory. The original owners were Henry J. and Clara Egan. They were married in May 1915, and I suspect the house was built that spring or summer. The 1917 directory shows the Egans in the house.

Sears sold the Rossville from 1911 to 1918, so a 1915 build date would be in that range.

By 1920, the Egans moved elsewhere in Glencoe and sold to the Pieroni family.







August 30, 2022

The Importance of Build Dates

Witness if you will a bungalow in Des Plaines. It had been identified as a Sears Hazelton in an architectural survey.

1405 Walnut, Des Plaines.


Sears Hazelton.


Let's check the other side.


The house looks very much like a Sears Hazelton. The windows match for the most part (including the basement windows), the back porch has been enclosed, the exterior dimensions look right.

Case closed? Not so fast.

The leaded glass is still intact.


Since we don't have any hard proof that the house is from Sears, we must consider the clones.

Kit house companies often sold houses that were so similar it can be difficult to tell them apart without an interior inspection. If a certain style was selling well for one company, a rival would design their own version of the same house. This leads to all kinds of confusion today, because today's homeowners can misidentify their houses as being from Sears. 

There were two clones of the Sears Hazelton.

The No. 573 from Gordon-Van Tine. Look familiar?


The design A118 from Chicago Millwork Supply Company. It's a close match to our house in Des Plaines, but it is missing the double window next to the back porch. 


Each of these houses is a close visual match to the Sears Hazelton. Their dimensions vary slightly. The interior floor plans also differ, but unfortunately we do not have any interior photos of the house in Des Plaines.

So... where do we go from here? 

One way to narrow down the possibilities is a firm build date. I am not talking about the build date estimate provided by the county, but an actual time range in which a house was constructed. We can obtain this from a mortgage record, from a building permit, or, in the case of our purported Sears Hazelton, another source.

The Sears Hazelton was first sold in 1911. The Gordon-Van Tine clone was first sold in 1914. The Chicago Millwork clone was first sold in 1912. A build date for the house in Des Plaines might help us determine exactly which model it is.

It is a Sears Hazelton, with a very high probability.

The house was owned by the Stellman family for decades. It was constructed in the spring of 1911 by John P. Stellman.  We know this from a blurb in the May 26, 1911 edition of the Daily Herald.

"John Stellman is building a house on the corner of Walnut and May streets. When completed he will have a fine residence." That's the house! 

Only the Sears Hazelton was sold in spring 1911. Is this concrete proof the house is from Sears? No, but we can be confident the house is not from Gordon-Van Tine or Chicago Millwork Supply.

John and his wife Gustie were the original owners. John worked at an enamel factory as a carpenter, so he had the skills to build a house. John died in 1930 and Gustie continued to live in the house until her death in 1942.





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 .