December 1, 2016

We've Come a Long Way, Baby

In a post from the beginning of the decade, author Rosemary Thornton (in a now-defunct blog) compiled a list of the Sears models that had never been seen anywhere before.

Six years later, many of those previously unseen models have been located. This vast progress in finding Sears homes can be attributed to one simple thing: Collaboration.

In the last few years, researchers nationwide have begun working together to share information, search mortgage records, and wade through hundreds of old news articles and classified ads. When Rosemary compiled her list years ago, some of those rare models had already been identified by other researchers, but she was not privy to that knowledge. Thankfully, the days of researchers working independently and in isolation are over.

Let's take a look at a couple of the previously unseen models in the Chicago area that have recently been added to the National Database of Sears Homes.  In the last year, we added over 3,000 homes to the database--maybe some are in your town!

Sears Auburn. 84 S. Caroline, Crystal Lake. Authenticated with a mortgage record.  The Auburn was sold for only one year, which is why none have been located to date except this one.
Sears Auburn.
Sears Oxford. 217 North Ave., Highwood. Authenticated with a mortgage record.  The Oxford was sold only during the Great Depression, which is why none have been located to date except this one.
Sears Oxford. Scan courtesy of Antique Home.

More New Discoveries (too many to list in entirety)
Sears Birmingham (two found by Andrew Mutch, mining mortgage records)
Sears Cambridge (three found by Andrew Mutch)
Sears Gateshead (two found by Andrew Mutch)
Sears Marquette (first one found in Wisconsin)
Sears Rockhurst (several in Ohio found by Cindy Catanzaro)

November 29, 2016

Long Live the Argyle!

The Sears Argyle was named after Argyle Street in Chicago, an east-west street that goes from the lake to Jefferson Park. 

Sears described the Argyle bungalow: "It is a neat, well arranged, solidly constructed home, pretty without being too showy, not too large or too small, but just suitable for the average family." If that's not a description of a top seller, I don't know what is!

Let's take a look at some Argyles and how they have changed over the decades.

206 Highwood Ave., Highwood.

Sears Argyle

November 15, 2016

Attack of the Clones

We are going to learn about clones today, but I'm not referring to a clone army. We're going to discuss clone houses.

Sears and Montgomery Ward sold some houses that were so similar it can be difficult to tell them apart without an interior inspection. The not-so-technical term I use for these lookalike houses is clones.

If a certain style was selling well for one company, the other rival would design their own version of the same house. This leads to all kinds of confusion today, when homeowners misidentify their houses as being from Sears and they are actually from Wards, and vice-versa. 

Here's an example of Sears and Wards lookalike models.

The Salem from Montgomery Ward. Scan from Antique Home.

The Puritan from Sears. Do you see how these houses could be confused? (Sears had their design out first and Wards cloned it.)

Distinguishing Between Clones--A Deep Dive
Let's take a look at a local example in Barrington. This house looks very much like a Sears model... and very much like a Wards model. Clones!

614 Division, Barrington.

November 1, 2016

Riverside Had Many Satisfied Customers

There are two "testimonial" homes in Riverside--one from Sears and one from Gordon-Van Tine. Both were featured in the 1921 catalogs of each respective company.

Sears Langston
181 Gage Road, Riverside.

Sears Langston.


Testimonial and photo in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. "Built by H. Clithero, Box 308, Riverside, Ill. He says: 'We feel we saved over $1000.00 and the material is excellent.' " That giant tree blocking the house is long gone today.  This photo shows that the decorative porch pillars shown in the catalog illustration were not put on this Langston.

The living room of the Langston, as illustrated in the catalog. Scan courtesy of Sears House Seeker.

Although the testimonial was in the 1921 Sears catalog, Henry and Minna Clithero built this Langston a few years earlier, in 1917. (Sears began selling the Langston in 1915.)

Minna owned the house until 1953, after her husband's death in 1945.
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