April 12, 2016

The Skywater Summer Cottage

Sears sold summer cottages that were typically under $700. The most popular of the cottage designs was the two-bedroom Skywater, which was sold from 1928 to 1938.

Sears Skywater from the 1928 Modern Homes catalog.


Sears said that "The Skywater summer cottage appeals to those who desire a distinctive style of English architecture."  The Skywater was designed to optimize indoor/outdoor living. There are four French doors in the front living room and two doors on the side that lead to the patio--one door from the living room and one from the kitchen.  Sears said that you could use the porch as a dining area or an extra living area that way.



A view of the Skywater living room.


The Skywater had a large living room (about 13'x17') and a fireplace was a standard feature. The catalog said that the living room was reminiscent of a "California studio" with the high ceilings. Actually, in every room of the cottage the ceilings were open to the rafters in order to insure sufficient air circulation (and also to keep the cost down!).

The one big downside to the design is that the bathroom is outside the main house and located on the back patio. Doesn't look like there's room for a tub or a sink in there. Again, this is a cost-savings measure.



Some Skywaters are still around today and have been upgraded and expanded to serve as year-round residences. I know of five Skywaters, and four are in the Chicago area.

Crystal Lake 
103 Rose Avenue, Crystal Lake. 





This house in Crystal Lake is a few blocks away from West Beach and was originally built as a vacation house. At a recent talk, I met the daughter of the original owner who brought old photos of the house. She said she remembered her father putting the house together.

Her father was James F. Mares and her mother was Marie. They lived on the west side of Chicago, but bought the lot in Crystal Lake in June 1928. There is no mortgage record because the Mares family paid Sears in cash--around $690 in 1928.

James was the owner of Justrite Box & Label Company in Chicago. The Mares family owned the vacation house until 1946.


Burlington
Burlington is a tiny village in Kane County, northeast of DeKalb. Its latest population count was 618. And it is also home to a rare Skywater cottage.
 

154 N. Main St., Burlington. It looks like the side porch might have been enclosed originally. This one might be missing the fireplace. Photo from Realtor site. 

 
Lake Zurich

23319 W North Lakewood Ln., Lake Zurich. Thanks to researcher Nigel Tate for finding this house.


What was once the view from the Skywater in Lake Zurich (now blocked by a house). It's a perfect location for a summer cottage! There might be more Sears cottages in the area. Photo courtesy of Realtor site.



Warrenville 
28W505 Main St., Warrenville. Photo from Realtor site.
 
The more I look at the Skywater, the more I like it. If I were building a summer house today, I definitely would use it as an inspiration.








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