October 17, 2018

What's a Sears Home Anyway?

From 1915 to 1942, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold about 65,000 ready-to-build kit homes through mail order. Over the years, there were 370 different house designs to choose from in their Modern Homes catalogs — some houses could be purchased for as low as $20 per month over 15 years.  This price included the blueprints and most materials including the pre-cut lumber, paint, shingles, and nails.

Sears typically sent all the components to the customer by train, but they also shipped homes by barge and truck. Some buyers built the homes by themselves, and others paid contractors to do it.

Sears kit homes can be found all over the United States.  The states with the most Sears homes are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.  No one knows exactly where all the 65,000 homes were built since Sears destroyed their sales records in the early 1970's during the move to the Sears Tower. Most are still undiscovered. The largest known group of Sears homes in Illinois is in Elgin (213).

Even today, the charming Sears models are very popular with homebuyers. The homes were built with top quality components —many featured cypress wood siding, cedar shingles, and oak and maple floors.  Often they were built with extra care because the people constructing the houses were building them for their own families.

There is a veritable treasure trove of Sears homes still waiting to be discovered. 

More Information About Sears Houses

Why Did Sears Stop Selling Houses?

Why Are So Many People Wrong About Their "Sears" Houses?

Were Sears Kit Homes Prefabricated? (Spoiler alert: NO)

Where's the List?

Does Stamped Lumber Mean a House is a Sears House?

Come to my talk in Downers Grove November 17 to learn more!

October 9, 2018

A Cluster of Sears Houses in Crystal Lake

Sears houses often come in pairs. Why?
  • Sometimes a carpenter would purchase two nearby lots and put up two different Sears models.
  • Sometimes an individual would purchase a Sears house for their family and build another Sears house as an investment property.
  • Sometimes two different family members would build Sears houses next to one another.
  • Sometimes a recently platted neighborhood would have many houses built at the same time and coincidentally Sears houses would be built by separate individuals on the same block.

There is a cluster of six Sears houses on Glen Avenue in Crystal Lake that falls into the latter category.  They were purchased by different people in the 1926-27 timeframe as the area was quickly being developed.

Sears Ardara

160 Glen Avenue, Crystal Lake.


Sears Ardara.


This Sears Ardara is unmistakable, even 92 years later. There is an attached garage, but it is blocked from view.

This Ardara has been authenticated in two ways. 

The first is through a mortgage record. Owners Fred and Mabel Bristol took out a mortgage from Sears Roebuck in July 1926. 

The second way was through a published testimonial. Fred wrote a letter to Sears extolling the virtues of his Sears house and the furnace he also purchased from Sears.

That's a stock illustration of an Ardara, but it's not an actual illustration of Fred's house. Testimonial published by Sears Roebuck in 1928. Scan courtesy of Sears Houses in Ohio.


Sears Crescent

170 Glen Avenue. Crystal Lake.

Sears Crescent.


Almost a year later, a Sears Crescent was built next to the Sears Ardara.

Again, this Crescent has been authenticated in two ways. 

The first is through a mortgage record. Owners Henry B. and Eliza Hanson took out a mortgage from Sears Roebuck in May 1927. 

The second way the house is authenticated is by the presence of a shipping label from Sears. 

Henry's house was delivered via the B&O Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. Photo courtesy of Justine Neslund.

Sears Bedford

180 Glen Avenue, Crystal Lake.


Sears Bedford.


The dormer has been expanded on this Sears Bedford, but it is still recognizable. 

The house is authenticated by means of a mortgage record. Owners Fred J. and Mary C. Schroeder took out a mortgage from Sears in May 1927.

Sears Sunlight

185 Glen Avenue, Crystal Lake. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Sunlight.

This Sears Sunlight is authenticated by means of a mortgage record. Owners Lester and Alma Hapner took out a mortgage from Sears in September 1927.

Sears Manchester

202 Glen Avenue, Crystal Lake.

Sears Manchester. Scan courtesy of antiquehome.org.

The Sears Manchester was a two-family home.

This Manchester is authenticated by means of a mortgage record. Owners Frank E. and Frances Anderson took out a mortgage from Sears in May 1927. The owners also report marked lumber in the house.

Sears Crescent

There is also another Sears Crescent at 232 Glen Avenue, but I don't have a photo of that one. The house was built by Gabriel and Mary Cseh in the summer of 1927.

September 25, 2018

Soak Up Some Starlight

The Sears Starlight was a wildly popular, cozy bungalow. In its Modern Homes catalogs, Sears Roebuck described the Starlight as "a little home of which...any family can justly be proud." These days, unfortunately, it's difficult to find a Starlight that hasn't had:
  • its front porch enclosed.
  • a massive addition stuck on the rear or top of the house.
  • been demolished entirely.

There is a Sears Starlight in Westmont currently used as a rental that is largely original. Let's take a look at this rarity.

36 S. Lincoln, Westmont.

Sears Starlight. Sears sold hundreds of these models nationwide. 

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

This Starlight in Westmont, built about 1922, maintains its original charm.

There is also a Sears Starlight in Lombard that is completely unrecognizable. 

527 E. Washington, Lombard. This Starlight is changed beyond recognition, although at least the owners tried to make the house look like it was built in 1927. Screen capture from Google Streetview.

Sears Starlight. 

The same house looked like this in 1989. Look a little more familiar?

Yup, it is an authenticated Sears Starlight. The owners found a shipping label, the original Sears blueprints, and marked lumber in the house. Scan courtesy of the Lombard Historical Society.

The original owner of this Starlight in Lombard was Joseph A. Anderson, and the house was built around 1927.

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