November 15, 2016

Attack of the Clones

We are going to learn about clones today, but I'm not referring to a clone army. We're going to discuss clone houses.

Sears and Montgomery Ward sold some houses that were so similar it can be difficult to tell them apart without an interior inspection. The not-so-technical term I use for these lookalike houses is clones.

If a certain style was selling well for one company, the other rival would design their own version of the same house. This leads to all kinds of confusion today, when homeowners misidentify their houses as being from Sears and they are actually from Wards, and vice-versa. 

Here's an example of Sears and Wards lookalike models.

The Salem from Montgomery Ward. Scan from Antique Home.

The Puritan from Sears. Do you see how these houses could be confused? (Sears had their design out first and Wards cloned it.)

Distinguishing Between Clones--A Deep Dive
Let's take a look at a local example in Barrington. This house looks very much like a Sears model... and very much like a Wards model. Clones!

614 Division, Barrington.

Sears Barrington.

Montgomery Ward Maywood.

There are some exterior differences between the Sears Barrington and the Montgomery Ward Maywood. 

The most notable difference is the dormer shape over the second floor bedroom. As delivered, the Sears version had a shed dormer and the Wards version had a hipped dormer. However, that was customizable by the buyer and so there wasn't a standard shape to that dormer from either company.

Sears on the left; Wards on the right.

The window locations slightly differ, and the shapes of the front vestibules slightly differ. When you're dealing with very subtle structural differences like you have with the clones, photos and Google Streetview may not provide an accurate perspective from the street (Google Streetview is notorious for distorting visuals so much it is very difficult to make any positive ID of clone models based on "Google driving", despite what certain bloggers will claim.)

So where does that leave us? How can we tell what company manufactured our yellow cottage? 

Oral History
We could ask the homeowners. For decades, the house's owners have said it was a Sears house.

The description from the current Zillow listing.

Real estate ad from 1996 declaring it to be a "Sears mail order home". 

If you've read anything on this site before, or been to one of my classes, you know that homeowners are wrong most of the time about the origins of their houses. Therefore, this isn't concrete evidence we have a Sears house, but interesting nonetheless.

Interior Layouts
There are a couple differences in the interior floor plans between the Sears Barrington and the Montgomery Ward Maywood.


Sears Barrington floor plan.

Montgomery Ward Maywood floor plan.

There are some significant differences in the floor plans, although the overall dimensions are identical.

The first is that the Wards version has a hallway and a sight line that runs straight through from the vestibule to the kitchen door. The Sears version does not have a hallway off the living room at that location.

The second difference is that the Sears version came with a breakfast nook as standard. It sits where the kitchen door is in the Wards version.

With those points in mind, let's look at the inside of our yellow cottage.

Bingo.  On the right is the hallway that leads to the kitchen. Just like on the Wards floor plan. Photo from Realtor site.

There's the continuous sight line from the front door to the kitchen. A wall would be blocking this in the Sears version. Photo from Realtor site.

In the Sears version, there is a breakfast nook where that back door is. Photo from Realtor site.

Folks, we have ourselves a Montgomery Ward Maywood. Mic drop.

Research on the Original Owners
If we had conducted this piece of the research first, we could have gotten a quick answer.

The house was built in late 1929. The original owners were Donald and Edna Titterton. Donald was a furniture buyer for... you guessed it... Montgomery Ward

The Tittertons owned the house until at least 1970.

Front entry. Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

The front bedroom. Photo from Realtor site.


Cindy Catanzaro said...

Loved this one!

SearsHouseSeeker said...

This is excellent!

Shari D said...

Ta Dahhhh!!!! πŸ‘ πŸ™Œ How quick, easy and clean was that!!?? No crawling around in musty, dusty attics or basements,😱 no sweeping cobwebs and dust balls away from stairwell underboards,πŸ”¦πŸ”Ž or tiptoing across unfinished attics to try and locate coded roof board markings.
No digging through volumes of mortgage records, leaving your fingers dry from turning numerous pages,πŸ“–πŸ“š and covered with little paper-thin papercuts, that sting like the dickens. Or semi blinded from hours πŸ•›πŸ•” of scrolling through old style microfilm, or microfiche records,πŸ’»πŸ’ΎπŸ’½ so that you can barely find your way out of the building! πŸ˜‰ Just a few photographs, followed up by two floorplans and the cherry on the whipped cream on the icing on the cake 🍰- employment history of the original builder/owner! Excellent!!

Now - the hard part comes in convincing the current owner that their home is not the coveted Sears Modern Homes model they just KNEW they had, but the seemingly somewhat less desirable (although I'm not sure why) Montgomery Ward's Wardway kit home design. It's a "Bad News - Good News" scenario, if you will. At least it could be presented that way!

Sears Homes of Chicagoland said...

LOL Shari!

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