February 24, 2015

Where's the List?

One of the most common questions I am asked in classes is:

"Where can we find the list of Sears homes?"

You know, the master list of Sears house locations compiled by researchers for the last 30 years.

I asked the same question myself a few years ago.

A Frustrating Lack of Information
When my daughter was in third grade, she had to create an exhibit for the Chicago Metro History Fair. We decided to cover the topic of the ready-to-build kit houses that Sears, Roebuck sold through mail order.  I had read articles about Sears homes in our local newspaper, and I thought it was an understandable history topic for young kids.

My daughter wanted to include photos of actual Sears houses in our area.  I inquired at the nearby historical societies. They gave me a few leads, but I was surprised to learn there was no master list of Sears home locations.

As I helped my daughter do her research, I soon learned that most articles and websites simply mention the name of a town where a particular Sears house is located but do not mention street names or house numbers. When you're dealing with a dense, highly populated area like Chicago, a town name is essentially useless--a person could spend hours looking for a single house and not find it.

Sears, the company, had attempted to start a national list of Sears houses on its Sears Archives website (now abandoned). The meager list contained only one house from my immediate area and, as you might guess, the street address was not included so it didn't help me locate the house for my daughter's project. Frustrating.

February 17, 2015

Two Italian Families and their Neighboring Sears Houses

By the late 1920's 40 percent of first generation Italian immigrants were homeowners, and Sears Roebuck helped many of them realize the American dream. 

In the 1920's, mortgage loans were supplied by mortgage bankers and savings and loan companies. These lenders typically required 50% down and would provide a short-term interest-only loan of three to five years. When the loan matured, the borrower needed to pay the balance off in full or renegotiate another short-term loan. These second (or third or fourth) mortgages came with interest rates as high as 18%. 

The mortgage process was complicated and unpleasant, and it deterred many Americans from purchasing a home. Immigrants were particularly hard hit because they had to continually renegotiate their loans (often every year), and they experienced race and class discrimination from lenders.

Kit houses from Sears Roebuck already provided a big cost savings to consumers.  Around 1912 Sears began offering financing on their houses. They offered better interest rates, longer terms, and lower down payments than the traditional mortgage lenders. Sears normally required a down payment of about 33% and offered customers an amortized loan with 6 percent interest for five years or a higher interest rate for a loan up to 15 years. The loan application was submitted by mail and Sears did not ask for the applicant's race, ethnicity, or gender.

February 10, 2015

A Fresh Look at Sears Homes

Does the dreary, gloomy winter have you down? Brighten up your day with these cheery cottages from Sears. 

Image courtesy of Ray Witter.

Image courtesy of Ray Witter.

These are from a series of Sears home paintings created by artist Ray Witter. 

February 3, 2015

Let's Travel Back Through Time to See Some Sears Starlights

The Sears Starlight was sold for 21 years (1911-1932). The Starlight in 1911 was a small bungalow with no bathroom. Over the 21 years, the interior and exterior changed, but the nameplate remained the same. 

In 1933 the Starlight was renamed the Plymouth, and the same house under that name was sold for another five years.

Let's travel back and take a look at the Starlight over the years.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...