November 20, 2023

A Sears Solace No Matter How You Look at It

113 S. Hudson, Westmont. Photo courtesy of Bettiann Gillis.

Sears Solace.

The Sears Solace is an American cottage, according to Sears Roebuck.  It is 1.5 stories with clipped gables. Sears sold the Solace from 1924-1932, and it was a popular low-cost model.

Although this authenticated Solace in Westmont has retained its original footprint, the original owners chose to add a dormer to allow extra light in the upstairs. The original pergola and the distinctive columns were lost over the years.

Another angle of the front. Photo courtesy of Bettiann Gillis.

What makes the Solace unique among the Sears models is that many people liked the back elevation more, and often built the house with the rear facing the street. This was such a popular option that Sears included a rear-view illustration in the catalog.

The rear view of the Solace. Wait a minute... this looks like the front of the Westmont Solace! Could it have been reversed on the lot?

Here is the rear view, and nope it was not reversed. We can determine this from the interior layout, the chimney placement, and the side window placement. Photo courtesy of Bettiann Gillis.

The floor plan for the Solace. The interior photos show it is unchanged from the original design.

The front door appears to be original and opens directly into the living room. A bedroom is on the other side of the wall. Photo from Realtor site.

The living room is connected to the dining room.Photo from Realtor site.

The kitchen windows are where they should be. Next to the back window is the door that leads out to the backyard. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

A well-placed window provides light to the second story. This is housed in the rear dormer. Photo from Realtor site.

Many Sears houses have marked lumber--a black stenciled alphanumeric code that designated where the piece was supposed to go. This piece is downstairs in the Westmont Solace. Photo courtesy of Bettiann Gillis.

Joseph and Sophia Blaida obtained financing from Sears Roebuck in 1928 to build their Sears Solace. The mortgage amount was $4,000. Joseph was a carpenter for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy railroad and likely built the house himself.

The Blaidas. Publicly available photo from

Sophia wrote a letter to Sears after they had moved in.

It is unusual to find a Sears home that is authenticated in three different ways: marked lumber, mortgage record, and a catalog testimonial!

The Blaidas owned the house until at least 1972.

October 24, 2023

A Sears Conway Transforms for Halloween

A mild-mannered Sears Conway in Lombard is transformed for Halloween!

All photos courtesy of Kristin Ruane unless identified otherwise.

Before: at 36 N. Ahrens, Lombard, a homey bungalow complete with a porch swing. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Conway.

After: a spooky transformation starring Indiana Bones, the giant skeleton on the left.

Owner Kristin Ruane says that she wanted a vintage Halloween theme for her Sears house.

There is a bubbling cauldron on the right, a sign for "flying lessons", and a creepy clown hiding behind the porch. Kristin said that she made many of the decorations, including the cauldron and the chandeliers.

The wicked witch theme continues inside.

This Sears Conway is authenticated and was built in 1926. Original owner Franz O. Liming got a $4,400 mortgage from Sears Roebuck.

September 26, 2023

A Sears No. 121 in Roseland

Sears Roebuck offered the No. 121 house in the first Modern Homes catalog in 1908. They sold it for a decade, so it was a strong seller. In 1918, Sears renamed the house the Altona.

Despite its popularity, only two No. 121's stand in the Chicago area today. One of them is in Roseland, discovered by researcher Nigel Tate.

11228 S. Eggleston Ave., Chicago. Photo from Realtor site.

The Sears No. 121. The house is notable for its large hipped dormer and small shed dormer. The No. 121 was geared for a "family of moderate means", according to Sears.

The No. 121 in West Roseland still looks very much like the catalog illustration over 100 years later. The house has a small front porch, a balcony off one of the bedrooms, and a tiny window with a shed dormer. It still has the porch pillars in their original configuration, and the original porch railing on the left side. Even the chimney appears to be original.

The No. 121 is a six-room house.  The first floor has a parlor, dining room, and kitchen. The second floor has three bedrooms and two closets. 

The building permit was issued in August 1914, and the house cost $2,300. The original owner was Jacob Henry Le Noble, an immigrant from the Netherlands. (Interestingly, many other Dutch people lived on the same block.) Jacob was a letter carrier for the post office. 

James Severa, Jacob and Nettie's grandson, reports that Jacob and his brother John assembled the house after horse-drawn wagons delivered the materials to the site.  Fortunately, John was a carpenter!

Jacob married his wife Nettie in 1917 and they started their family.

Nettie (right) standing on the porch of the house in 1919 with her infant daughter, Eleanor, and her mother Nellie Stegenga VerHaar. Photo courtesy of James Severa.

By 1925-26, the Le Nobles had screened in the front porch. There appears to be a stained glass window that is not there today. From left to right, John Le Noble, Lucille Le Noble, Eleanor Le Noble, and unknown friend. Photo courtesy of James and Deb Severa.

The Le Noble's living room in the 1920's. Photo courtesy of James and Deb Severa.

The Le Noble's dining room in the 1920's. Photo courtesy of Deb Severa.

Nettie (left) and her daughter Lucille playing a board game in the early 1940's. According to James, the bookcase is filled with Book of Knowledge volumes that were similar to encyclopedias but contained wide-ranging articles about history and science. Photo courtesy of James Severa.

Jacob died in 1971, and Nettie, in her 70's, moved out shortly afterwards. James notes that the house served "roughly 55 years as family headquarters".

Deb Severa, Jacob and Nettie's granddaughter, wrote that: "That house... is almost like another member of the family when we get together to share family stories."

Thanks to James and Deb for contributing the photos and letting us share their family memories!