September 21, 2021

An Independent Builds a Sears House in Zion City

43346 N. Kenosha Rd., Zion. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Columbine.

The pergolas are gone, and now the house has only four columns instead of six. Flanking the front door are two triple windows. 

This authenticated Sears Columbine was built in the summer of 1927. It is just steps from the Wisconsin border. Al and Olga Larsen purchased the house (with financing from Sears Roebuck) for $2,700.

In 1927, Zion City (as it was known then), was a religious utopia and planned community. Founded in 1902, the town had (and still has) biblical street names, such as Gilead, Elim, and Hebron. Zion City also had many interesting rules. The "overseer" of the theocracy in 1927, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, was a fan of billboards that broadcast those rules to the townspeople and passers-by.

Voliva instituted many rules in Zion City. I am on board with the "no oysters" mandate.

Overseer Voliva was also a flat-earther, even in an era when planes had travelled around the globe. 

Overseer Voliva and what I think of when I hear the word "overseer".

In 1926, Voliva started selling off land outside the corporate limits of Zion to the west. As the overseer, Voliva pocketed the proceeds himself. The Larsen property on Kenosha Road (then called Route 1) was one of the parcels that were sold to outsiders during that time.

The newcomers who moved onto these properties were part of the Independent faction of Zion, as opposed to the followers, the Zionites, who lived in the city proper. 

Over time, Zion City obtained democratic governance as the Independents gradually outnumbered the Zionites. 

The Larsens lived in the Sears Columbine until November 1942.

The church of the Zionites, now called the Christ Community Church, is still active today.

September 7, 2021

The Gordon-Van Tine No. 605 is Worthy of the Attention

88 W. Franklin, Crystal Lake.


The No. 605 from Gordon-Van Tine (also known as the No. 703 in later years). Gordon-Van Tine was a kit house company based in Davenport, IA.

A view of the side dormer that houses the large master bedroom. On the first floor is the enclosed side porch. Gordon-Van Tine said it offers more privacy than a standard front porch. Screen capture from Google Streetview.



From the outside, the No. 605 in Crystal Lake seems to be a perfect match to the floor plan. 


Gordon-Van Tine said in its catalogs: "...the entire house has been so well planned that it is worthy of the attention it has attracted, and the praise bestowed upon it by those who call it home."

The No. 605 in Crystal Lake was purchased by Martin and Lena Brown. Martin bought the lot in 1922, and built the house in 1924.

Here's a photo of the house around 1927.  It never had the stucco and panels in the front gable.  Martin Brown sent a letter to Gordon-Van Tine that the company reprinted in its marketing materials. This testimonial authenticates the house as being a true No. 605. The current owners also have the original blueprints from Gordon-Van Tine. 


Martin worked as a passenger conductor for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. He retired at age 71 after more than 50 years of service.

Some of Martin's hobbies during retirement were newsworthy... for sleepy Crystal Lake.

The Browns lived in the house until 1946. 


A Sims modeler envisioned what the interior of the Gordon-Van Tine No. 605 would look like.

August 24, 2021

The Sears Somers--an Attractive and Inexpensive Bungalow

1050 Chestnut, Deerfield.

The Sears Somers from the 1926 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Somers was sold from 1926-1931. This Somers in Deerfield was built in the summer of 1926. 

The Somers can normally be identified by the triple window in front, the stickwork in both gables (removed on the Deerfield house), and a bay window in the dining room.

The bay window on the Somers is not the one shown in the catalog illustration, but a squared-off one. This alternate design was an option. Capture from Google Streetview.

The porch pillars have a rectangular inset. Photo from Realtor site.

Closeup of the porch pillars.

Photo from Realtor site.

The Somers was a five-room bungalow (plus a bathroom).

The living room in the Somers is just over 17 feet wide. The triple windows provide good light. The house has an original Sears front door, and there is a coat closet across from the front door. Photo from Realtor site.

A clear view of the dining room bumpout. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

The galley kitchen has not been expanded. The sink was on the inner wall originally. Photo from Realtor site.

The back door is original. Photo from Realtor site.

The Somers has two bedrooms. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

The Somers in Deerfield has had no additions. Photo from Realtor site.

Cora M. Benz received financing for $5,100 from Sears Roebuck in May 1926 to build the Somers. The Benz family never lived in the house, and it was built as an investment.