July 7, 2020

The Disappearing Sears Dundees

The Sears Dundee was a small, affordable bungalow that was sold 1920-1930. As was the Sears approach, the architects tried to add style with an ornamental porch, decorative railings, and brick porch piers. The charming little trellis on the side was also included.

Sears Dundee from the 1928 Modern Homes catalog @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The Sears Dundee from the 1928 Modern Homes catalog. In the early years, the Dundee did not have a bathroom, but by 1928 it was included as more square footage was added to the house.


Floor plan of the Sears Dundee @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The later floor plan with the bathroom.


We don't have many Dundees in the Chicago area, and there are not many to be found nationwide either. Clearly the house was a strong seller since Sears offered it for 10 years. I suspect that the little bungalows are disappearing over time and are being replaced by larger homes.

Sears Dundee in Aurora @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
807 Iowa Ave., Aurora. This Dundee was built in the summer of 1926 and was financed by Sears Roebuck. The house still has the non-functional third brick pier. Another feature that indicates a Dundee is the horizontal attic windows on the sides of the house. Photo from Realtor site.


Property
Rear view of the Dundee. If the house has not been added onto, this is another unique identifier. Photo from Realtor site.




Sears Dundee in Oak Forest @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
5109 W. 155th St., Oak Forest. This Dundee still has the ornamental porch.



Sears Dundee in Elgin @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
631 Keep, Elgin. This Dundee was built in 1927 and was financed by Sears Roebuck. Photo from Realtor site.



631 Keep Ave, ELGIN, IL 60120
Photo from Realtor site.





Sears Dundee in Glenview @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
657 Harmony Lane, Glenview.  Ouch!  Photo from Realtor site.




Sears Dundee in Glenview @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Google Streetview shows the Dundee in Glenview a few years ago when it had the original scalloping detail on the porch.










June 23, 2020

A Sears House You've Never Seen--the Amhurst

Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
739 S. Lincoln, Hinsdale. Photo from Realtor site.


Sears Amhurst  @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The Sears Amhurst from the 1926 Modern Homes catalog.


Sears sold the Amhurst from 1926 to 1928. Only a handful have been located nationwide, and there are two authenticated Amhursts in the Chicago area--this one in Hinsdale and another in Glen Ellyn.

See how the center window on the side doesn't go down to the trim level as shown on the illustration? That is the case on every known Amhurst. Sometimes Sears got the catalog illustrations wrong.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Another angle. Photo from Realtor site.

One of the stylistic selling points of the Amhurst was that the second story was wood siding and the first story was brick veneer.  Sears said the house had "picturesque and distinctive beauty". Our Amhurst in Hinsdale has had the brick veneer removed so that both stories match.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
That is a modern "Craftsman" newel post. Photo from Realtor site.



Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Photo from Realtor site.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Photo from Realtor site.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Photo from Realtor site.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
There wasn't a half bath on the original floor plan.  Photo from Realtor site.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Photo from Realtor site.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
There wasn't an open concept kitchen and family room on the original floor plan. Photo from Realtor site.


Sears Amhurst in Hinsdale, built 1928 @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Photo from Realtor site.


The Amhurst was purchased by Alfonso G. Mesenbrink for $8,000 in February 1928. Alfonso got his financing from Sears Roebuck.  He was a carpenter, and built the house for his family.

The Amhurst last sold for $1.24M. 


June 9, 2020

The Houses That Macy's Sold

Leisurama logo @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland


We all know about Sears Roebuck houses and Montgomery Ward houses.

But what about Macy's houses?

In 1963, Macy's, along with builder All-State Properties, introduced the Leisurama summer homes.


Leisurama ad @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland



The Leisurama homes were to be built in Montauk, New York and Lauderhill, Florida. The concept was that these would be fully equipped, "all-in one" vacation houses. For one price, customers would get a 7,500 square foot lot, the house, all furnishings (including sofas, beds, lamps, pots, dishes, towels, toothbrushes), General Electric appliances (refrigerator, range, washer/dryer combo unit, dishwasher), and central air conditioning.

"All you have to do is turn the key in the lock and start living," said Macy's at the time.

Macy's would supply the interior furnishings, and All-State Properties would supply everything else.

Leisurama Convertible model @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
This was the Convertible model, the most affordable option. Triple windows, low-pitched roof, a recessed door, and a carport. It was for sale for $13,490 ($590 down, about $73 per month).


Leisurama Expanded COnvertible model @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
This illustration shows the Expanded Convertible model. It was for sale for $16,490 ($990 down and $90.90 per month).


Leisurama checklist @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
A list of what was included with a Leisurama house. Scan from Designcommunity.com.


The whole concept of an all-in-one beach house was cool, but what took it next-level was that Macy's built Leisurama houses at two of their stores and customers could buy one on the spot.

Leisurama Macy's ad @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Two Macy's stores had Leisurama homes available to tour: Macy's  flagship Herald Square in downtown NYC and Macy's Roosevelt Field on Long Island. The Herald Square store built the house on the ninth floor; the Roosevelt Field store built the house in the parking lot. 


Leisurama Macy's ad @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland




Leisurama house at Macy's @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The Leisurama Convertible built inside Macy's Herald Square. 1964 photo from Leisurama Now by Paul Sahre.


Would people actually impulse buy a vacation home? Oh, yes, they did. Here's the story of one shopper, quoted from a 2003 New York Times article.
For this reason, an entire Leisurama house was built in 1964 on the ninth floor of Macy's department store in Manhattan. Shoppers, mostly women, could tour the house and test-drive the state-of-the-art appliances. Laura Goodman, a librarian and mother of two, was one of the wives who did. 
''She went to Macy's to buy a bra,'' her husband, Roger, deadpans for the camera.
''Not true,'' Mrs. Goodman insists, laughing. ''He's so full of it.'' 
Her husband continues without pause: ''And she came home and she said: 'I bought a house. We're going out to Montauk. We're buying a house in Montauk.' And I put up my usual resistance. I said, 'O.K., dear.'''

Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Laura Goodman in front of her Leisurama house. Photo from the defunct website leisurama.info.



From 1963-1965, about 200 Leisurama homes were built in the Montauk area, according to author Paul Sahre. The Leisurama homes business was not profitable--the developer underestimated the costs to construct the homes.

Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
An Expanded Convertible model in Montauk today. Photo from Wikipedia.


Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The interior of a Leisurama house in Montauk, with some of the original furniture and decor from Macy's. Photo from The Corcoran Group.



In Lauderhill, only a handful of homes were built. They had different Leisurama models than the ones in the Montauk area.
Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Leisurama home at 1166 NW 42nd Way, Lauderhill, FL. Photo from Realtor site.



Leisurama brochure @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland