May 30, 2017

Secret Rooms Did Not Come Standard

Be honest. As a kid, you always longed for a secret room in your house.

Sears didn't offer secret rooms as an option on their kit houses, but during the last 80-90 years, most of their cottages have had their attics finished to be used as extra living space. Often the unusable space under the rafters can be closed off into a secret room.

Take this authenticated Sears Mitchell in Elmhurst for example.

343 Oaklawn, Elmhurst.

Sears Mitchell.

May 16, 2017

There's a First Time for Everything

I started this website in January 2012, and have featured hundreds of kit houses in the Chicago area. The original owners of those houses had one thing in common. According to census records, every one of them was white.

There always has been a racial gap when it comes to home ownership and it persists to this day. According to Robert A. Margo, professor of economics and history at Vanderbilt University:
"African-Americans emerged from slavery with little or no physical wealth but, by 1900, nearly 22 percent of African-American male household heads owned their homes. Considering the initial condition -- near zero wealth in 1870 -- this is an impressive accomplishment. But the rate of black home ownership fell far below that of white household heads at the time -- 46 percent -- implying a racial gap of 24 percentage points.
 "Over the next 40 years there was little overall change in either the black or white homeownership rate and, consequently, in the racial gap."
So black homeowners were out there (in smaller numbers than white homeowners) but I just hadn't come across any. Until now.

1822 Dodge, Evanston.

Aladdin Liberty from the 1924 catalog.

This is an authenticated Aladdin Liberty in Evanston. Some of the sales records for the Aladdin Company still exist and are housed at the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University. Researchers Andrew and Wendy Mutch transcribed many of those records and from those, I was able to find the original order for this Liberty model.

In 1924, order number 26844 was placed by Joe Lyde of Evanston, Illinois for a Liberty model with a Plan J floor plan. Aladdin required cash upfront for their houses and did not offer financing. The sales record did not include the purchase price.

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