June 8, 2021

Got $223? You can stay in this Sears Hamilton.

506 W. Maple, Lombard.

Sears Hamilton.

This authenticated Sears Hamilton in Lombard is obscured by trees on a big lot. The Hamilton is a small cottage with jerkinhead (clipped) dormers, sold from 1922-1930. That distinguishing bumpout for the dining room is not visible in photos.

Sears Homes of Chicagoland reader (and Lombard Historical Society past president) Leslie Sulla recently emailed me to let me know that this Hamilton is an Airbnb. Let's go inside!

Photo from Airbnb.

Photo from Airbnb.

Windows flank the fireplace. Photo from Airbnb.

"Sunlight comes in the window during the day and in the evening the fireplace flickers on the hearth. There is an air of fellowship that makes this a real home."

Photo from Airbnb.

Photo from Airbnb.

"This dining room breathes an air of hospitality, so dear to the heart of every home lover."

Photo from Airbnb.

The Hamilton featured a teeny breakfast alcove. Photo from Airbnb.

"A spotless kitchen! There is a place for every kitchen need in these kitchen cabinets. Saves hundreds of steps in the daily preparation of meals."

"The colorful built-in breakfast room appeals to the family. Eating here in the morning adds zest to the meal."

Photo from Airbnb.

Photo from Airbnb.

Don Vandercook bought the Hamilton for $3,300, and got the financing from Sears Roebuck in November 1924. Don worked as a furniture designer for the Kroehler Furniture Manufacturing Company and also for the Chittenden and Eastman Company of Iowa.

Shipping label showing the materials to be sent to Don Vandercook. Photo courtesy of Jean Crockett of the Lombard Historical Society.

Detail on the front porch pillars. Photo courtesy of Jean Crockett of the Lombard Historical Society.

Old real estate listings. One mentions that the house is from Sears. Photo courtesy of Jean Crockett of the Lombard Historical Society.

May 25, 2021

Mundelein, We Have a Problem

It is difficult to identify Sears houses just by looking at the outside. 

The people who worked at Sears Roebuck were masters of marketing. They knew exactly what housing styles would appeal to the vast majority of customers. Sears Roebuck's best-selling models were replicated by other kit home manufacturers, plan book companies, and local builders. These imposters make it difficult for someone to discern which houses are Sears models merely based on visual inspections of the outsides.

We may have an imposter in Mundelein.

Possible Sears Alhambra in Mundelein @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
401 S. Lakeshore Dr., Mundelein. Photo from Lake County Assessor.

Sears Alhambra @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Sears Alhambra.

The house in the Diamond Lake subdivision looks like a Sears Alhambra. The Alhambra was a popular Spanish Colonial Revival.

The Spanish-styled parapets may have been replaced--we have seen that happen with other Alhambras in the U.S. The originals from Sears were prone to water damage due to inadequate flashing.

Possible Sears Alhambra in Mundelein @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland

The window and door placements on the front and sides match the catalog illustration, and the little terrace remains in the front.  The outside of the house is stucco, the way Sears delivered it. The porch has been enclosed.

The Mundelein house is two feet wider and two feet longer than the Alhambra. Sears would occasionally super-size their houses for customers, but this was an uncommon occurrence.  

The living room windows differ in size and shape from the illustration, but these could have been replaced over the years. The living room bumpout with the bay window looks much deeper than that of the Alhambra. The house is missing the decorative molds on the second story, but those also could have been removed at some point.

Sears Alhambra  @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland

The house hasn't come up for sale recently, so we cannot see the interior to look for standard Sears elements inside the house, such as door hardware and millwork.

The house has similarities to an Alhambra, but also many differences. "Close enough" is not good enough to definitively identify a house as being from Sears Roebuck.

Can the house history reveal whether the house is a Sears Alhambra or an imposter? 

Developers from Chicago, Vacek Bros., purchased 60 acres in Mundelein in the early 1920's and subdivided it. Unlike the surrounding area, the Vacek Bros. development, called Diamond Lake Lodge, would not consist of summer bungalows, but it would be a "high class property" with permanent residences. The development would feature a $20,000 community club house, 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, playgrounds, and lake rights. It does not appear that any of these amenities were ever built, and today there are no traces of them. 

Ad in the Chicago Tribune from June 1924. If you were a person of color, you were not welcome in the Diamond Lake subdivision. 

Diamond Lake in Mundelein @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The Diamond Lake area today. Photo from Realtor site.

Vacek Bros. sold the house in Diamond Lake to Jack and Treva McCarthy in November 1926 for $6,000.  Sears did sell the Alhambra during that time. We don't have any evidence that the Vaceks purchased a kit from Sears.

Jack McCarthy in 1918. Photo from the Chicago Tribune.

The McCarthys sold the house in 1932 and moved to Chicago. None of the McCarthy descendants know anything about the house in Mundelein.

This "Alhambra" has problems, and I'm not adding it to the national database of Sears homes just yet.  If you know anything about this house, please email me.

May 11, 2021

The Sears Elsmore: the Best House on the Street

730 S. Washington, Park Ridge. Photo from Realtor site.

The Sears Elsmore, as pictured on the front of the 1914 Modern Homes catalog. "Each time it is built its proud owner acclaims -- 'It's the best house on my street!' "

An older photo of the Elsmore in Park Ridge. There are triple windows in the living room, which is a variance from the standard floor plan. The house is also missing the two windows adjacent to the front door. This photo clearly shows the original porch railings. 

This house has some telltale signs that Sears house hunters should be looking for.

First, it has the distinctive pillars that are typically found with Sears homes.

Second, it has stick-design eaves brackets. This bracket style is commonly found on Sears houses.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.