May 3, 2016

Sears Sherwood

The Sears Sherwood is an unusual-looking house that was sold only in 1929 and 1930. There had been two Sherwoods identified in the United States, and I authenticated a third in North Chicago.

1830 Elizabeth, North Chicago. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Sherwood from the 1930 Modern Homes catalog. The lower thin rectangular window is over the staircase the the upper one is in the bathroom.

The house was built in early 1930 by Allen and Irene Henry. He was a "pump man" at the Great Lakes Naval Base.  They took out a mortgage from Sears for $7350 in October 1929.

The Henrys sold the house in 1935 to the George Kapheim family.

Ad for the Sherwood in the Indianapolis Star, February 1929. Scan courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro.

April 26, 2016

When is a Sears House Not a Sears House?

A house owned by Bowling Green State University baffled Sears house researchers in 2012. It was a Sears model called the Colchester, but evidence in the house indicated it was actually from Montgomery Ward.

At the time, this house seemed an anomaly. But kit house research has come a long way since 2012 and several hundred houses have been discovered and authenticated since then. And we have learned that the Bowling Green case was not the only time a kit house company built another company's model. 

Let's take a closer look at some of these lookalike houses.

A Sears Maplewood From Montgomery Ward
935 S Fairfield, Lombard. Thanks to Jean Cooper of the Lombard Historical Society for the background on this house.

Sears Maplewood.

This house was identified in an architectural survey as a Sears Maplewood. Looks like a solid match, right? The house has two windows on the right side rather than one, but the proportions look right, and all the windows on the sides match the Sears illustration.

And herein lies the problem. The individual who did the survey didn't do an intensive survey, which is the typical way architectural surveys are conducted. They simply did a "windshield survey", or a quick reconnaissance of the area done from a car. The purpose of a windshield survey is for the researcher to gather information about the general distribution of housing styles and periods. It serves to identify properties that are worthy of more detailed research. A windshield survey is supposed to be the first step in a full survey--not the complete survey.

An interview with the homeowners would have led to this discovery: On a door casing was written: “A.C. Koller, 935 S Fairfield, Lombard ILL, Montgomery Wards Davenport Iowa”.

This Sears Maplewood is no Sears house. Like with the Bowling Green house, Montgomery Ward designed a lookalike Sears house for its customer, A.C. Koller.

The vast majority of Sears houses you will see on the Internet were identified using a windshield survey only. As you might imagine, this is where critical mistakes are made in the identification process--often a quick glance isn't good enough. How many purported Sears houses are not really Sears houses at all?

April 19, 2016

The Sears Westly, a Home Built Everywhere

The Westly was a bungalow sold by Sears from 1912 to 1930 and was one of their most popular models. Can you see why?

Sears Westly.

With its original detailing, the Westly looks like a Swiss chalet. It has grouped wooden pillars, decorative railings, a balcony on the front dormer, an asymmetrical roof line, and exposed rafter tails under wide eaves.

April 12, 2016

The Skywater Summer Cottage

Sears sold summer cottages that were typically under $700. The most popular of the cottage designs was the two-bedroom Skywater, which was sold from 1928 to 1938.

Sears Skywater from the 1928 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears said that "The Skywater summer cottage appeals to those who desire a distinctive style of English architecture."  The Skywater was designed to optimize indoor/outdoor living. There are four French doors in the front living room and two doors on the side that lead to the patio--one door from the living room and one from the kitchen.  Sears said that you could use the porch as a dining area or an extra living area that way.

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