December 3, 2013

Ooh La La! A Sears Normandy in Winnetka

1520 Tower Road, Winnetka. Photo courtesy of the Winnetka Historical Society. It is literally impossible to get a photo of the house without trespassing. The back of the house faces Tower Road and you'd have to walk across the entire property to see the front. Sorry, this is the best I got!


Sears Normandy from the 1935 catalog.


The Sears Normandy is an uncommon model. It was only offered 1933-1935, and Sears sold very few houses in those years.

The French Normandy housing style came into popularity in the 1920's. These houses feature a small round tower topped by a conical roof. The tower usually contains the front door and serves as the vestibule. French Normandy houses often have decorative half-timbering (like in the catalog illustration above).


A shot of the house today.

Every Normandy I have seen has a living room fireplace, although the catalog illustration does not show one. Here's a Sears Normandy in Elmhurst with a fireplace. The chimney is positioned in exactly the same way as in the Winnetka Normandy.

421 S. Washington, Elmhurst. Photo courtesy of the Melrose Park Public Library.



Same chimneys.


If you look reeaallly closely, you'll see the houses in Winnetka and Elmhurst had the original antique-style weather vane from Sears.

Looks like a guy riding a huge fish skeleton.

Looks like another guy riding a huge fish skeleton.


Believe it or not, the Sears Normandy is a very early example of a split-level house.

In a split-level home, the floor levels are staggered, so that the "main" level of the house (that is, the level that contains the front entry), is halfway between the upper and lower floors. In the catalog, Sears referred to the Normandy as having a "stepped-up floor plan", since the term "split level" had not yet been coined in 1933.

Cutaway of the Sears Normandy.

In the Normandy, the main level contains the living room, kitchen and dining room. There are two short sets of stairs, one running upward to a bedroom level, and one going downward toward the game room and laundry/utility area.  

In the Winnetka Normandy, we can see the brief set of steps going up to the bedroom level.


There was an optional fourth level over the living room that a customer could also finish. Sears claimed that some customers fully excavated the basement on the left side of the house to accommodate a maid's suite. The Normandy was a deceptively spacious house.

According to the building permit, the house in Winnetka was built in summer of 1933 by the Blume Brothers. The total cost was $6,900. (The house is listed for $599,000 today.)

The building permit for 1520 Tower Road. Special thanks to the Village of Winnetka for digging this up. Most village governments cannot be bothered.


The original owners were Ayres Boal, Jr. and his wife Frances. Ayres Boal Sr. owned a big parcel of land off of Tower Road and this house was built on that land.

The Boals were still in the house in 1946. I'm not sure when they sold it.






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