July 17, 2018

Montgomery Ward Homes: As Welcoming Today As 88 Years Ago

As much as the public obsesses over Sears kit houses, there are thousands of Montgomery Ward houses all over the country that are overlooked. Montgomery Ward sold high-quality homes that are still as welcoming today as they were 88 years ago.

Today we feature two Wardway models in the Northern suburbs.

Wardway Kenwood in Northfield

1549 Winnetka Rd., Northfield. Photo from Realtor site.

Montgomery Ward Kenwood.

This house in Northfield is a perfect match to the Montgomery Ward Kenwood, except it is lacking a clipped gable roof (a design option). The original front door and screen door remain.  The double window in the front has been replaced by a bay window, likely after initial construction.

The Kenwood has a triple window in the living room. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Wardway Drexel in Deerfield

1044 Chestnut, Deerfield. Photo from Realtor site.

Wardway Drexel.

There have been many changes to the exterior of the house, but, believe it or not, this is an authenticated Wardway Drexel.

We see the original Montgomery Ward front door, but the vestibule has been streamlined. I think I prefer the new version.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Dante Mitrovi took out a mortgage for $5050 from Wards in November 1930 to build the Drexel. Dante was a Yugoslavian immigrant.

I'm not clear whether Dante ever lived in the house or whether he built it as an investment. Either way, by 1940, Dante and his family were living in Chicago.

Dante at age 72, volunteering as a coal miner at the Museum of Science and Industry. He was never a miner in real life; he worked for the railroad.

July 2, 2018

A Brand New Sears Lorain in Oregon

I am often asked whether anyone is building Sears houses today. The answer is yes! Developers often use the old Sears models as inspiration for new construction. 

I recently came across another example in Oregon--a Sears Lorain built in 2007.

540 NW Forest St., Hillsboro, OR. Photo from Realtor site. 

Sears Lorain from the 1930 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Lorain is a Colonial that is easily recognizable with its arched dormer and arched portico. 

In the 1930 Modern Homes catalog, the writers introduced the Lorain with an incomprehensible run-on sentence. If anyone can explain what this means in English, please leave a comment.

Ad for the Sears Lorain in the Sears 1930 merchandise catalog. $35 per month! I suspect the new Lorain in Oregon was slightly more expensive.

The new house does not follow the Lorain's floor plan. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

There's the arched window in the dormer. The light fixture mimics the ones produced in the 1930's. Photo from Realtor site.

The builder added some olde tyme design elements to the bathroom. Photo from Realtor site.

June 19, 2018

An Actual Sears Roebuck House in Morton Grove

There has been one key lesson I have learned since I started researching Sears houses. Local lore is almost always wrong. When the neighbors report that a house is from Sears, it almost invariably is not. There are several reasons why people get confused, and unfortunately, once misinformation about a house has been put out there, it's impossible to correct.

Many residents of Morton Grove believe that some houses on Callie Avenue are from Sears Roebuck. None of them match Sears models, but the story is that they have been "modified".

Ironically, if people looked a couple blocks away, they would see an actual Sears house--right off Dempster Street.

8737 Narragansett Ave., Morton Grove. Sorry, I couldn't navigate around that sign.

Sears Garfield from the 1929 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Garfield in Morton Grove has had its porch enclosed and an addition put on the back, but it is still a close match to the catalog illustration.

The Garfield is a two-flat. Sears offered a few multi-family houses for people who wanted rental income. There were two private entrances--one door on the right side of the house (the door you can see in the photo), and another door is likely hiding behind the enclosed porch.

The entrance to the first floor unit is in the middle of the building, and the entrance to the second floor unit is on the right side.

This was originally the door to the upstairs unit. 

The second floor unit. Both the upstairs and downstairs units had five rooms. There was also a rear staircase that led to both kitchens.

The Sears Garfield was almost certainly named after Garfield Boulevard or Garfield Park. (Sears named the vast majority of their models after things in Chicago.) It is an uncommon model. Only three have been found in Illinois--this one in Morton Grove, one in Elgin, and one in Barrington.

The original owners were Anton and Elizabeth Schottluetner. They were immigrants from Grabow, Germany, who moved into the Garfield between 1926 and 1928. Anton was an automobile mechanic.

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