May 28, 2013

The Accidental Discovery of a Sears Custom Home

Beginning in 1930, Sears began heavily promoting their custom home design and construction services. Rather than using the Sears standard house plans, the customer could create a custom plan. According to the Modern Homes catalog: "If you have been unable to select a design from our Modern Home Catalog that meets your requirements, you should not fail to take advantage of this special plan service, our experienced organization and low prices on high quality material."

These custom Sears houses are nearly impossible to identify since they are one-of-a-kind.

I recently saw a house in Glenview that vaguely resembled a custom Sears house I had seen featured in the 1938 Modern Homes catalog.

The buyer of the custom Sears house was the pastor at the First Moravian Church in Riverside, NJ.  The catalog did not say where the house was built, but I believe it was in Merchantville, NJ.

1044 Golfview Road, Glenview. The houses really aren't that similar (and the Glenview house is much larger), but I wondered if the same architect designed both. To me, this house had the "Sears look".

Intrigued, I searched the Chicago Tribune archives for the address. I found a 1936 article that stated the owner of the house was General William H. Rose. 


Rose was the General Supervisor of the Sears Modern Homes Department. I knew this house was a Sears custom house; now I just needed some proof.

Fortunately, the current homeowner had the scoop. She already knew that the house was built by Sears. And she had a copy of the original blueprints!

The blueprints clearly state that the client was General and Mrs. W.H. Rose, and that the plans were from the Home Construction Division of Sears, Roebuck & Co. The date is 11/13/1933. Photo courtesy of Jurdis Walton.

On the blueprints, there is a "Drawn By" field and the initials "BTL". I believe these initials stand for B.T. Lourim, an architect who was working for Sears at the time.
I wonder how many people already know their houses are Sears houses but have never mentioned it.

Presenting... the General W.H. Rose house.

East side of the house. Photo courtesy of Nina Yoo.
West side of the house.

This house was built in 1934 or 1935, and originally sat on 2.25 acres.

The house is largely original. According to the homeowner, only the kitchen was expanded and a bathroom added to one of the bedrooms.

The interior walls are made of plywood. This was not typical of Sears houses, although plywood was gaining popularity in the 1930's so maybe the Roses wanted to jump on that trend.

William H. Rose retired from the Army
 in 1919 with rank of Brigadier General. He was one of the engineers who worked on the Panama Canal, and a couple of his children were born in Panama.

General Robert E. Wood, who led Sears, Roebuck for many years, served with Rose in World War I. Wood joined Sears in 1924 and Rose joined sometime after. By 1930 Rose was working for Sears and his family was living in Chicago.

The Roses moved to Bradenton, Florida in 1940 and General Rose
became the special assistant to the Deputy Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army.

By 1943, Edward P. Byrnes and his family were living the house. He was the owner of a trucking business--North Shore and Central Illinois Freight. He also was a member of the Glenview village board in the mid-1960's. Mrs. Byrnes served as a trustee for the Glenview Public Library.

The current homeowners bought the house in 1986 from the Byrnes family. 

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