August 26, 2014

The Sears Ivanhoe

The Sears Ivanhoe, sold from 1911 to 1918, was a big, expensive house "designed by one of Chicago's leading architects", according to the catalog. Only a few Sears Ivanhoes have been identified nationwide.

Sears did not sell the Ivanhoe with lumber pre-cut at the factory. They often did this for the more elaborate homes in an effort to keep the prices down. 

In the early years, the Ivanhoe came with two exteriors, but the same interior floor plans. Model No. 264P230 had a two-story porch off the side and a simple shed dormer over the front door.

The Sears Ivanhoe Model No. 264P230 .

Model No. 264P200 had no side porch, but a full-width front porch.

The Sears Ivanhoe Model No. 264P200.
Apparently, Sears also offered a hybrid house that was never pictured in the catalogs. This version of the Ivanhoe had the side porch (often enclosed and used as living space today) and the full front porch.

440 S. Kenilworth, Elmhurst. Photo courtesy of Realtor site.

The Elmhurst Ivanhoe is the hybrid version of the Ivanhoe with both side and front porches. It is currently for sale for over $1M.

Photo courtesy of Realtor site.

Photo courtesy of Realtor site.

The county says the Ivanhoe was built in 1915. The original owners were Francis Oscar Stevens and his wife, Esther. Francis was a buyer and manager for the carpet and rug division of Marshall Field & Company. By 1922 the Stevens had sold the house.

Francis Oscar Stevens in January 1916.

Downers Grove
744 Maple, Downers Grove, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Sue Smith.


The authenticated Ivanhoe in Downers Grove is  a hybrid house, with the side porch (enclosed) and a partial front porch. The exterior is stucco and brick.

The house was built in 1915 by Frederick B. Towsley, and the current homeowners have the original Sears construction documents and receipts, which show that Frederick paid $2,756 for the house. Supposedly the blueprints still exist for this house, but I have yet to learn who the architect was.

Frederick was co-owner of the Owen & Towsley Co., a manufacturer of neckwear in Chicago.

Fred and May Towsley in 1920. That animal around your neck is just divine, Mrs. Towsley.

Fred died in 1957 and his wife died in 1974. The Towsley family owned the house until 1990.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
1028 Martin Place, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Andrew Mutch.

This is a "true" Ivanhoe Model No. 264P230 in Ann Arbor, with the side porch only. This house was built about 1915.

Oak Park and Glencoe?
The 1918 Modern Homes catalog included a blurb about where Ivanhoes were built.

At some point there were Sears Ivanhoes in Oak Park and Glencoe. I have not found these houses but maybe you can!

August 20, 2014

Come Join Me in September!

I'm going to be teaching a fun two-day class at College of DuPage this fall. Naturally, it's about the Sears Homes of Chicagoland!

September 29 at 10 a.m. is the classroom portion, which provides an overview of the history of Sears ready-cut houses and information on design characteristics that are used to identify these houses. You will see a wide variety of houses that came from mail-order catalogs--Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, Harris Homes, and others. A special focus will be on mail-order houses found in Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, and Lombard.

October 6 at 10 a two-mile walking tour in Glen Ellyn. (Rain date is October 13.)

The class size is limited so please sign up early. To register, go to, select Continuing Education Classes, then search for the course code HUMNT-0001-500. You may also call (630) 942-2208, email, or visit the College of DuPage offices on campus in Glen Ellyn.

August 19, 2014

A Tiny Cottage Purchased from the Gordon-Van Tine Catalog

340 Prospect Ave., Glen Ellyn. Photo courtesy of Realtor site.

No. 588 from Gordon-Van Tine.

The former owners believed this tiny bungalow is from Sears Roebuck. It is a kit house; however, it is from Gordon-Van Tine. The No. 588 was a small two-bedroom house, about 900 square feet. (Gordon-Van Tine produced an identical house for Montgomery Ward called the Claremont.)

The former homeowners put their front patio to use as additional living space. Photo courtesy of Realtor site.

Photo courtesy of Realtor site.

The homeowners knocked down the wall separating the dining room from the kitchen. Photo courtesy of Realtor site.

The house was completed in early 1924. The original owners were Fred Meyers, his wife, Ruth, and their newborn Charlotte. Fred was a salesman for a box company in Chicago. By 1930 the Meyers had moved to Indiana.

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