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.

November 13, 2018

The Odd Ones Out

There are 99 Sears models that have never been found. Some of these models are unusual looking--unusual enough that if you ever came across one you would likely remember seeing it.

Here are six of the most distinctive undiscovered Sears models. Have you seen any of these? Email me!

1. No. 264P158

No. 264P158.  Customers built this house in New York, NY and Terre Haute, IN. Were those the only two built?

No. 264P158 was a sizable house--24' x 44'. It featured a huge reception hall, large living room and dining room. It had an extremely large kitchen for the time and also an attached pantry. It had a servant's room on the first floor, and four bedrooms upstairs--one being exceptionally large for the era at 12' x 18'. No. 264P158 was not a house for just anyone, which certainly accounts for its rarity.

2.  No. 138

No. 138. The porch roof is oddly shaped, with a cut-out. There is a teeny dormer in one of the upstairs bedrooms that originally had colored art glass.  This house was sold for only one year, and then Sears designed a completely different No. 138. Scan courtesy of Dale Haynes.

3. The Edgemere

The Edgemere (also known as No. 199) was sold between 1911 and 1918. It is a small two-bedroom house with ornamental detail like exposed rafter tails, eaves brackets, and decorative flower boxes. The front door is covered by an overhang, and then there is an unnecessary sloped roof over the porch. According to Sears Roebuck, customers built this model in Northwood, IA, La Porte, IN, Osgood, IN, Havre de Grace MD, Ann Arbor, MI, and Massillon, OH. None of these houses have been located.

4. No. 204

No. 204 was sold 1911-1913. It almost looks like a house from today that has had an awkward second story added. The square windows on the second story are an enclosed sun porch.

5. The Vinita

The Vinita from the 1921 Modern Homes catalog. The Vinita was sold 1920-1922. It was part of the Sears "Econo-Bilt" line of homes, which was a cheaper quality product than the "Honor Bilt" homes we typically see.  What I find interesting about the Vinita is the busyness of the paneled walls. Today, those walls are likely sided over and the trellised entrance may be removed as well.

6. The Millerton
The Millerton was sold for only two years--1931 and 1932. One of the odd features of the Millerton is that the front door and a rear door are both housed on that projection. The dormer seems crammed in too close to the roofline of the front entrance. I will bet that this model is hiding in the Chicago area somewhere.

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