January 8, 2019

Wave Your Flag for the Sears Betsy Ross

Sears sold the Betsy Ross for 10 years. At around 700 square feet, the house was simply adorable with pretty accoutrements. 

As Sears said: "When painted white with green shutters and window boxes and set off with the red and white of the brickwork, what could be more delightful?"

The Sears Betsy Ross. I told you it was adorable. 

The Betsy Ross, at about 700 square feet, has a nice size living room and two bedrooms. A fireplace came standard as well as a breakfast nook with a coffered ceiling.

A 1921 newspaper ad featuring the Betsy Ross.

Let's take a look at some Betsy Ross houses in the western suburbs.

Downers Grove

1416 Warren, Downers Grove. There's the "sunshine" detail above the front door. Photo courtesy of Chuck Holtzen.

Side angle.

From this angle, we see that this house is a super-close match to the Betsy Ross illustration. Photo courtesy of Sue Smith.

This house is not an authenticated Betsy Ross, but I would say with 99% certainty that it is one.

The comfortable living room. According to Sears, you could fit all your furniture and a piano. That's the original fireplace mantel from Sears Roebuck. The Betsy Ross is a sunny house! Photo from Realtor site.


345 Hamilton, Elgin. I took this photo right after a snowstorm.

According to research conducted by author Rebecca Hunter, this Betsy Ross was built in 1927, and it is authenticated by stamped lumber in the attic. Elgin has eight Betsy Ross houses.

This undated old photo (courtesy of Elgin Bungalows) shows the chimney flower box!! It's more of a flower shelf on this house, but it's still awesome.  You can also see the original shutter with the clovers.

North Aurora

325 N. Lincolnway, North Aurora. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Closeup of the casement windows. Photo from Realtor site.

This original Sears door also has the original Stratford door hardware. Photo from Realtor site.

This Betsy Ross backs up to the Fox River. I will guarantee that Sears delivered this house by barge. They often did that since it was more affordable than rail. Photo from Realtor site.

December 11, 2018

The Top Five Articles of 2018

Once again the holiday season is approaching and with it, the end of another year. It's time to reveal our top five most popular articles of 2018 and what you, the readers, enjoyed most.

Five Most Viewed Articles

1    The Sears Home Leaderboard -- This article has the most views by far. What communities in Illinois have the most Sears houses... and why?

2    A Neglected Sears Verona -- A dilapidated Sears Verona in Lombard is saved by a new owner. This house will be a showplace after it's restored.

3    This is How You Get it Done -- A Downers Grove resident takes charge and develops an accurate list of Sears homes in town. We'll take a closer look at a Sears Aurora in Downers Grove--a rare model never seen on the internet before.

4    A Montgomery Ward Not-a-Kit House -- Glen Ellyn has many lovely kit houses, but one of the well-known houses in town was built using materials from Montgomery Ward. Do the owners know?

5   What Else is Hiding in Rockford? -- A Rockford resident devises a new way to find Sears houses and discovers two previously unknown models.

We invite you to join us in 2019 and see even more Sears homes in Chicagoland. Happy Holidays!

The Sears Christmas Book from 1937. Scan from Wishbookweb.

For the Sears house connection to "A Christmas Story", click here!

November 27, 2018

Sears Arrow in Kankakee

Beginning in the late 1930's, Sears Roebuck introduced several new house designs that were never included in the Modern Homes catalogs. Only if customers went into a local Sears Modern Homes sales office could they see the new "bonus" houses. One of these models is the Sears Arrow, designed by Chicago architect A.H. Bacci.

1989 W. Calista St., Kankakee. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Arrow.

This Sears Arrow in Kankakee is authenticated. It was one of 53 houses built by Sears Roebuck for employees of the Florence Stove Company in 1937 and 1938. There were eight new models created for the Florence Stove project--the Arrow being one of them.

The Florence Stove employees lived in terrible conditions before the Sears houses were built. 

The idea for the housing development came from Robert Fowler, president of the Florence Stove Company. He brought the workers' living conditions to the attention of General Robert E. Wood, president of Sears Roebuck. (Sears partially owned Florence Stove.) Wood and his team believed that they could build affordable houses (between $3200 and $3800) for the employees in a new subdivision. Employees would receive financing through FHA or local banks, and their house payments would be the same as what they were paying to rent the crummy shacks. Sears did not make any profit on the development.

The eight new models were added to the existing lineup of 63 Sears Modern Homes and sold throughout the country.

Roland and Helen Legg bought the Arrow on Calista Street. It was one of the more expensive Sears models in the development. Roland was a mounter at the stove company.

Mary Judith Legg was four when this photo was taken. She died in 1988.

Living roomPhoto from Realtor site.

Those are the original kitchen cabinets, except those found under the sink. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Roebuck and Florence Stove had a business relationship for many decades. In 1957, the Florence Stove Company acquired Roper Corp. and changed its name to that of Roper.
By 1974, Sears owned 41.4% of Roper and the retailer accounted for 71 percent of Roper's $336 million in sales.

Roper closed all Kankakee area operations in 1982. About 2,500 workers lost their jobs. The local economy was devastated because of this and nine other plant closings. Kankakee became a national news story, with headlines like: "The New Poor".

The 35-acre Florence Stove plant was demolished in 2016 after being unused for over 30 years. However, the Sears Arrow is still standing in Kankakee in tribute to the Florence Stove Company and its president's concern for the workers.

The Florence Stove factory in the 1930's--now gone.

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