November 12, 2019

The Real Deal in Highwood

I receive emails every day from people who insist their house is from Sears Roebuck but are unable to match the it to any of the kits sold in the Modern Homes catalogs.

If a house does not strongly resemble any of the known Sears models, I always tell people we need tangible proof that the house is from Sears or... it is not a Sears kit.  Tangible proof is incontrovertible evidence of the house's origin. Here is what is not considered tangible proof:
  • your neighbor telling you the house is from Sears
  • a previous owner telling you the house is from Sears
  • your house has the same general floor plan as a Sears model
  • you just think it must be a kit house because it was built in the 1920's

Here are some things that constitute tangible proof:

With all this in mind, let's examine a little cottage in Highwood, shall we?

220 Everts Place, Highwood. Capture from Google Streetview.

Larry Pasquesi sent me an email and said his father built this Sears house in Highwood. The dormers and the addition on the left side are not original, but, even so, the house does not match any of the Sears kit models. The closest match I could find was the Sears Aurora.

Sears Aurora from 1933.

Capture from Google Streetview.

The width looks about right. The side windows do not match the Aurora's layout. The front door is off center. The shape of the front vestibule does not match. The basement windows are not in the right places.

We have many problems here.

I asked Larry for tangible proof. Without it, we could not determine whether this house was a Sears kit and I could not add it to the national database of Sears homes.

Fortunately, Larry has the original blueprints!

Proof! Photo courtesy of Larry Pasquesi.

Elsewhere on the blueprints is the job number. 13352-A This corresponds to the model number of the Aurora. The house in Highwood is a customized version.  Photo courtesy of Larry Pasquesi.

13352-A floor plan is on the left. 

Larry also provided some photos of the house a few years after it was constructed.

Face brick was an option on the Sears houses. The chimney led to the boiler in the basement. Photo courtesy of Larry Pasquesi.

The Aurora in Highwood retains its original front door, railings and flagstone path even today. Photo courtesy of Larry Pasquesi.

As a child, Carl Pasquesi came to the United States from Pievepelago, Italy.  He built the customized Aurora in Highwood around 1933-1934. Luckily for Carl, his father worked as a carpenter. With a new house ready, Carl returned to Italy to find a bride in 1936. He returned with new wife Ida.

In 1947, Carl started the Pasquesi Electric Company, which is still in operation today run by a Pasquesi descendant.

The Aurora is still owned by the Pasquesi family.

October 29, 2019

A Collection of Conways

The Sears Conway was sold from 1926 to 1933. 

Sears Conway.

The Conway has a dominating gabled porch. The front door is flanked by two adjacent windows. There were decorative brackets on the exterior. Sears sold two versions of the Conway--one was two feet wider than the other and cost about $100 more. 

There are many to be found in the Chicago area. Here is a sampling.

193 May St., Bensenville.

36 N. Ahrens, Lombard. This Conway is authenticated. Franz O. Liming purchased the house in 1926 for $4,400. Photo from Realtor site.


5000 158th St., Oak Forest. Photo from Realtor site.

4812 Elm St., Downers Grove. I believe the house was built in 1926 and the original owner was Floyd C. Brink. Photo courtesy of Chuck Holtzen.

Interior shot of the front door and the adjacent windows. That is an original front door from Sears Roebuck with original door hardware. Photo from Realtor site.

October 15, 2019

An "Unusual Spanish Type Home" from Montgomery Ward

Around 1929, Montgomery Ward began offering custom home design services.

If you could not find a standardized kit design that you liked, you could bring your house ideas to the Wards staff architects and they could create the blueprints for a custom design. Wards would provide all the materials needed to build the house.

There is a Montgomery Ward custom house in Winfield that was built in 1930.  It's unconventional and clearly influenced by the Spanish Revival craze of that time.  

27W320 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. The tower over the entrance mimics a bell tower. Many Spanish style houses have flat roofs (typically tile). Photo from Realtor site.

Stucco exterior--another Spanish feature. Photo from Realtor site.

A wrought iron light fixture inexplicably mounted on a corner. I have no idea what that tree branch thing is hanging off the second story. 


Hidden by bushes on the side of the house is a slightly recessed arched window.   Photo from Realtor site.

There's the arched window in the living room.  Photo from Realtor site.

The house was constructed with a fireplace. I assume this is the original?  Photo from Realtor site.

Dining room.  Photo from Realtor site.

 Photo from Realtor site.

A library with knotty pine walls. Pine-walled rooms were in vogue in the 1930's.  Photo from Realtor site.

I assume this is a first floor hallway.  Photo from Realtor site.

A pine kids bed?  Photo from Realtor site.

The house was built with two bathrooms, four bedrooms, library, breakfast nook, and a two-car garage.

The original owner was Ralph G. Phillips. Ralph was the owner of the Action Film Company, based in Chicago. It appears that the house in Winfield was intended to be an investment for Ralph and not a residence. 

Ralph never paid taxes on the property and apparently stopped making mortgage payments to Montgomery Ward by 1933.  

In early 1934, Ralph rented the house to George Chapellier for $45 per month. George had worked as an art dealer in London, moved to California and declared bankruptcy. Somehow he ended up in Winfield. 

In November 1934, George decided to move to New York and get back into the art business.

George  had quite a moving sale.

George went on to own the Chapellier Galleries on Park Avenue and would be considered the most prominent art dealer in the world.

Meanwhile, back in Winfield, Montgomery Ward took over ownership of the house. They put the house up for sale in 1936.

J. Harold Slingerland purchased the house in September of that year. Slingerland worked for Wards in their advertising department.

The house recently came up for sale in 2018. It was purchased by a house flipping company. It appears that they are merely adding a second story addition over the garage and keeping the rest of the house intact.

The saga of the unusual home from Montgomery Ward will be continued...