November 26, 2019

The Sears Ridgeland That Asbestos Built

905 Woodland Ave., Waukegan. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Ridgeland from the 1936 Modern Homes catalog.

The Ridgeland is an English cottage that Sears Roebuck sold from 1933-1940.  This one in Waukegan was built 1935-1936.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

Photo from Realtor site.

The back of the Ridgeland has an off-center dormer to accommodate the stairs and a landing. Photo from Realtor site.

The original owners were Francis and Clara Gray. Francis was a foreman for the Johns-Manville Products Corp. in Waukegan and worked there his entire career.

Johns-Manville opened the Waukegan plant in 1928. The company manufactured asbestos products such as roofing, insulation and gaskets. Johns-Manville is notorious for hiding asbestos dangers from its employees and the public.

 As early as 1929, the company was served with writs by 11 asbestos victims. The claims were settled with a secrecy order. 

A physician at Metropolitan Life Insurance company found  that after five to 10 years of exposure, half of asbestos textile workers showed asbestosis on X-rays. After 15 years, 87% suffered from lung disease.  In 1943 Johns-Manville suppressed this report.

Beginning in the 1960's, Johns-Manville faced thousands of individual and class action lawsuits based on asbestos-related injuries.  Johns-Manville filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1982.  The bankruptcy was resolved by the formation of the Manville Trust to pay asbestos tort claimants.  Many claimants died before they were paid.The company and the trust are still in operation today.

In one final "screw you" to the public, Johns-Manville deposited asbestos-containing waste at the Waukegan site from 1928 until the late 1980s. Today the 150 acres are a contaminated Superfund site.

Francis Gray, just a guy trying to provide for his family, died at age 64 in 1966 of a "short illness". Was it asbestosis, lung cancer or malignant mesothelioma?  

The sun sets on the Ridgeland. Photo from Realtor site.


Architectural Observer said...

Another fascinating post which not only highlights an interesting Sears product, but further examines this product as an actual home rather than a mere house -- thank you for continually fleshing these places out. Backstories such as this one add so much depth to individual houses and allow a greater understanding and appreciation for them.

Architecturally, the design must have been quite popular as I have run across countless variations built or sold by others; none have turned out to be an actual Sears Ridgeland.

It's tragic that Francis Gray never got to enjoy his retirement despite giving his all to Johns-Manville. Even more sadly, the impunity with which big business continues to operate around the globe does not appear to have changed much since that time.

Sears Homes of Chicagoland said...

Thank you for reading!

Unknown said...

So we are renting a beautiful 1933 Sears home and they are putting a new bathroom in but the ceiling in the kitchen has dust and chunks of plaster falling thru the places where ceiling tiles were removed. I have been having breathing/lung issues now. Is there any chance that with this model home there could be asbestos?
Just curious if I should get an x-ray of my lungs now?

Sears Homes of Chicagoland said...

They used asbestos into the 1970's. So you should probably call an asbestos inspector to see if you need abatement.

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