January 21, 2020

How is This Sears Corona Connected to Pee-wee's Playhouse?

2301 Jefferson, Gary. Capture from Google Streetview.

Sears Corona from the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Corona is a Craftsman bungalow that Sears sold in the early 1920's.

The left side of the house. Capture from Google Streetview.

Rear view. Is that an original Sears garage? Capture from Google Streetview.

This Sears Corona was built by contractors the in spring of 1920 for Dr. Vereen M. Marshall. The total cost of the house was $14,000--a large sum at the time. The Corona was a spacious 1.5 story house.

Vereen married Thelma Edwards in June of that year. Vereen was the only black dentist in Gary and Thelma was a public school teacher. In 1924, baby William was born.

Vereen's entry in Who's Who in Colored America.

The Marshalls divorced in 1934, but Thelma continued to live in the Corona. She went back to school and ultimately became a leading social worker in the area. After her retirement in 1970,  she sold the house and moved to California.

William Marshall became an acclaimed actor with a long career. You might be familiar with his work.

"The Ultimate Computer" episode from Star Trek (1968).

William played Thomas Bowers on Bonanza.

Blacula (1972).

He also played the King of Cartoons on Pee-wee's Playhouse. William said he took the role for his grandchildren.

William died in 2003 of Alzheimer's disease.

The House Today
After Thelma sold the Corona in 1970, the Midtown neighborhood, and Gary as a whole, continued to decline.  In 2017, the City of Gary Redevelopment Commission auctioned off the house for $330. The new owner replaced the roof and apparently is investing in the property.

There was another Sears Corona in Gary at 608 Buchanan St. It was torn down by the city around 2018.

608 Buchanan, Gary. Photo taken in June 1917 when the house was brand new. It is not very often we get to see a Sears model immediately after construction and seen "as delivered". Even the Sears flower box is new and unused. I wonder if Vereen and Thelma saw this house and wanted the same thing. Photo from the U.S. Steel Photograph Collection.

1 comment:

Architectural Observer said...

Given the overall decline of Gary and the immediate vicinity of this house, it's amazing that it has beaten the odds and survived. Its history is even more interesting than its overtly Craftsman good looks! A Google Street View capture from June of 2019 shows that the house directly across the street seems to be fairly well-maintained, but that the rest of the neighborhood consists of vacant lots or neglected houses. I'm so happy that someone values this house (and hopefully its history) enough to give it a new roof. Hopefully both this house and Gary will have better days ahead.

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