June 19, 2018

An Actual Sears Roebuck House in Morton Grove

There has been one key lesson I have learned since I started researching Sears houses. Local lore is almost always wrong. When the neighbors report that a house is from Sears, it almost invariably is not. There are several reasons why people get confused, and unfortunately, once misinformation about a house has been put out there, it's impossible to correct.

Many residents of Morton Grove believe that some houses on Callie Avenue are from Sears Roebuck. None of them match Sears models, but the story is that they have been "modified".

Ironically, if people looked a couple blocks away, they would see an actual Sears house--right off Dempster Street.

8737 Narragansett Ave., Morton Grove. Sorry, I couldn't navigate around that sign.

Sears Garfield from the 1929 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Garfield in Morton Grove has had its porch enclosed and an addition put on the back, but it is still a close match to the catalog illustration.

The Garfield is a two-flat. Sears offered a few multi-family houses for people who wanted rental income. There were two private entrances--one door on the right side of the house (the door you can see in the photo), and another door is likely hiding behind the enclosed porch.

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.

This was originally the door to the upstairs unit. I'm not sure whether this Garfield is a single-family home today.

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

The Sears Garfield was almost certainly named after Garfield Boulevard or Garfield Park. (Sears named the vast majority of their models after things in Chicago.) It is an uncommon model. Only three have been found in Illinois--this one in Morton Grove, one in Elgin, and one in Barrington.

The original owners were Anton and Elizabeth Schottluetner. They were immigrants from Vienna, who moved into the Garfield between 1926 and 1928. Anton was an automobile mechanic.

June 11, 2018

A Restored Sears Elsmore in Joliet

According to the National Database of Sears Homes, Joliet has 62 Sears houses--an impressive total! One of the nicest Sears houses in Joliet is an authenticated Elsmore model on Midland Avenue.

318 S. Midland Ave., Joliet. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Elsmore.

The window layout differs slightly from the floor plan. Photo from Realtor site.

The Elsmore had evenly spaced front windows as delivered. The Elsmore in Joliet has a double window to the right of the front door.

Let's go in! Photo from Realtor site.

The front door leads directly into the living room. Wood ceilings are not original. Photo from Realtor site.

The Elsmore originally had bookcases flanking the fireplace. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

A breakfast room was added off the kitchen. Photo from Realtor site.

The front bedroom is now an office. Photo from Realtor site.

The back bedroom. Photo from Realtor site.

The attic has been converted into a master suite. Photo from Realtor site.

Master bath. Photo from Realtor site.

The county says that the Elsmore was built in 1924, but the current owner was told it was built in 1926. Sears sold the house in both years.

The owner found shipping labels from Sears on the woodwork in the house.

For photos before and after the renovations, please check out Lou Lou's Attic.

May 29, 2018

A "Stepped-Up-Level House" in La Grange Park

If you're like most people, you probably think that the split-level house was invented in the 1950's.  It definitely started becoming popular around that time.

A typical 1950's split. No. E-605 from the 1955 catalog "Homes of Individuality" by National Plan Service.   Scan from Mid Century Home Style.

Actually, Sears Roebuck introduced what they called "stepped-up-level" houses in their 1933 catalog.  These houses are some of the first examples of split levels built in the United States. And these designs, although progressive for the time, were very big sellers in the Chicago area. 

Researcher Andrew Mutch located one of the Sears split-level houses in La Grange Park.

829 N. Kensington, La Grange Park. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Concord from the 1940 Modern Homes catalog. Earlier incarnations of the Concord had only one dormer.

A split-level is typically defined as a three-level house. There is the main level that contains the living room and kitchen space. There is a bedroom level a half flight up from the main level. Then there is a recreation room or a garage level a half flight down from the main level. 

The Sears Concord is actually a four-level house. There is a topmost level that houses the master bedroom (the room with the dormers over the living room level).

Each level is a half staircase up or down from the adjacent level.

The entry. That wooden sliding barn door at the top of the half flight of stairs is not original and goes over the bathroom doorway. This is level 1. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

The master bedroom. This is level 4. Photo from Realtor site.


The front-facing bedroom. This is level 3. Photo from Realtor site.

The Concord was built between 1940 and 1942. The original owners were Harry and Mildred Krummell. Harry was an engineer for the Socony Vacuum Oil Company (later known as Mobil Oil).  Mildred served as President of the La Grange Park Community Park District . The Krummells sold the house around 1964 and retired to Whittier, California. 

Harry Krummell.

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