January 30, 2023

A Vibrant Sears Americus in South Holland

14956 Riverside Dr., South Holland. Photo from Realtor site.


The Sears Americus.


The Americus is one of the most distinctive models that Sears ever sold, which makes it easy to identify "out in the wild". The house, with low-pitched hipped roofs and an asymmetrical facade, is loaded with Craftsman details. Sears sold the Americus for more than a decade--from 1920 to 1931.

The vibrant green Americus in South Holland has the original pillar supports and decorative railing, but is missing the eaves brackets.  

The Americus is 26 feet wide and 26 feet long. Photo from Realtor site. 


A swing is almost mandatory on a front porch like this. Photo from Realtor site.


Photo from Realtor site.


The illustration of the living room from the 1923 Modern Homes catalog is not an accurate depiction of the dimensions in the South Holland house. The closet "mirror door" is not that far to the left, and there isn't enough room to put a sofa on that wall. Additionally, the dining room opening has been shifted. I have seen other Americus houses that do accurately match the illustration and others that look like the South Holland house.  I haven't done enough research to confirm this, but I suspect Sears slightly altered the floor plan sometime after 1923. (Cook County says this house was built in 1927.)


Photo from Realtor site.


Photo from Realtor site.


Photo from Realtor site.


Photo from Realtor site.


The Americus sits very close to the Little Calumet River. I bet the building materials were delivered affordably by barge

A stretch of the Little Calumet by the house.


Update!

The Americus is less vibrant these days. The kitchen and bathroom were remodeled.
 
Photo from Realtor site.
 

Goodbye pink tile. Photo from Realtor site.




 


December 20, 2022

The Top Three Articles of 2022

Once again the holiday season is approaching and with it, the end of another year. It's time to reveal our top three most popular articles of 2022 and what you, the readers, enjoyed most.

1    Were All Sears Houses Delivered by Train?  Short answer: nope--this is a unsubstantiated claim and we delve into the facts.

2    A Sears No. 109 Hidden in a Bridgeview Park  There's a lonely Sears No. 109 behind a old Pizza Hut and cars just speed by it on 79th Street.

3    Did Sears Houses Come with Plaques?  Many people insist Sears houses came with plaques and they have seen these plaques. What is going on? 


I wish you the happiest of holidays and an auspicious New Year.  Thank you for reading; it really means so much. See you in 2023!

A (modified) Sears No. 126 in Galesburg on a snowy night. Public photo from Facebook.



For the Sears house connection to "A Christmas Story", click here!



November 29, 2022

The Unpopular Multi-Family Houses Sold by Sears Roebuck

Sears Roebuck sold multi-family houses. 

In the 11 years of writing this blog, I have featured Sears multi-family models only three times. They are uncommon in the Chicago area, and, honestly, they are uncommon everywhere. The multi-family units never sold well for Sears.

Beginning in 1909, Sears sold two-family houses and four-family houses. More two-family houses were sold than the "apartment houses" with more units. Throughout the decades that Sears sold houses, about 15 multi-family models were offered, the majority of these before 1920. 

It almost seems counter-intuitive that middle-class buyers would prefer to buy a single family home rather than an income property that did not cost much more. However, there was a stigma against multi-family housing, and buyers pursuing the American dream certainly wanted a home of their own.

1926 advertisement for Sears Modern Homes.


Ad in the Chicago Tribune from 1937 that explicitly states nobody wants to live in a multi-family dwelling.


Additionally, there were nationwide changes to zoning laws starting in the 1920's where city planners encouraged the construction of single-family homes and would not allow multi-family housing in many areas. In 1926, the Supreme Court's landmark Euclid v. Ambler decision upheld single family-only zoning. Because of this, by the 1920's, Sears had phased out most of their multi-family offerings.

After 1932 Sears never offered a multi-family model again. One reason for that is that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), established in 1934,  favored single-family projects. The FHA discouraged multifamily units by offering unfavorable loan terms for that type of housing. 

There are a few rare Sears multi-family houses in the Chicago area. Here are some examples.

Sears Garfield

The Sears Garfield was likely the biggest multi-family seller for Sears, and it was featured in the Modern Homes catalogs for the most years. Researchers have located more Garfields than any of the other Sears apartment houses.

390 Prairie, Elgin. Built 1927. Capture from Google Streetview.

Sears Garfield from the 1929 Modern Homes catalog.


The Garfield is a two-flat. There were two private entrances.

The entrance to the first floor unit is in the middle of the building, and the entrance to the second floor unit is on the right side.

The second floor unit. Both the upstairs and downstairs units had five rooms. There was also a rear staircase that led to both kitchens.



Only three Sears Garfields have been found in Illinois--this one in Elgin, one in Morton Grove, and one in Barrington.

Sears Manchester

1503 Hamilton Court, Waukegan. Capture from Google Streetview.


Sears Manchester. Scan courtesy of antiquehome.org.


The Sears Manchester was a two-family home. Sears called it an "income bungalow". It was sold from 1926-1929. There are five in Illinois, including this one in Waukegan.

There is one front door on the right side of the building. Inside, a door on the left leads to the first-floor unit, and stairs lead to the second-floor unit.

This Manchester in Waukegan is authenticated. The owners got their financing from Sears Roebuck in 1926.

Sears Calumet

312 E. Locust, Bloomington. Capture from Google Streetview. 


Sears Calumet from 1918.


The four-apartment Sears Calumet was sold only in 1918, and only this one in Bloomington has been identified to date.   I wonder why nobody wanted this model? Let's look at the floor plan.

Sears recommended that the customer use wall beds to transform the living and dining rooms into comfortable bedrooms.  And Sears didn't sell the wall beds--the customer would have to source those on their own. Sure, OK. 


Sears Oakdale 

528 S. Prospect, Park Ridge.


Sears Oakdale, from the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.





The Sears Oakdale (also known as Modern Home No. 149) is a Colonial style two-family house that was offered from 1909-1918.

The house in Park Ridge was demolished in 2013. It was the only Oakdale in Illinois, and, as of this date, there are only four standing nationwide.

Sears La Salle

1912 Elim, Zion. Photo from Realtor site.

The Sears La Salle from the 1930 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears La Salle two-flat was the last multifamily unit Sears sold (along with the Sears Dexter which no one has ever seen in real life). The other models were phased out years earlier. The La Salle did not sell well, as you might suspect, and there is only one in Illinois. Sears sold the La Salle from 1926-1932.

This La Salle in Zion is authenticated. The owner got financing from Sears Roebuck in 1928.