June 9, 2020

The Houses That Macy's Sold

Leisurama logo @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland

We all know about Sears Roebuck houses and Montgomery Ward houses.

But what about Macy's houses?

In 1963, Macy's, along with builder All-State Properties, introduced the Leisurama summer homes.

Leisurama ad @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland

The Leisurama homes were to be built in Montauk, New York and Lauderhill, Florida. The concept was that these would be fully equipped, "all-in one" vacation houses. For one price, customers would get a 7,500 square foot lot, the house, all furnishings (including sofas, beds, lamps, pots, dishes, towels, toothbrushes), General Electric appliances (refrigerator, range, washer/dryer combo unit, dishwasher), and central air conditioning.

"All you have to do is turn the key in the lock and start living," said Macy's at the time.

Macy's would supply the interior furnishings, and All-State Properties would supply everything else.

Leisurama Convertible model @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
This was the Convertible model, the most affordable option. Triple windows, low-pitched roof, a recessed door, and a carport. It was for sale for $13,490 ($590 down, about $73 per month).

Leisurama Expanded COnvertible model @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
This illustration shows the Expanded Convertible model. It was for sale for $16,490 ($990 down and $90.90 per month).

Leisurama checklist @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
A list of what was included with a Leisurama house. Scan from Designcommunity.com.

The whole concept of an all-in-one beach house was cool, but what took it next-level was that Macy's built Leisurama houses at two of their stores and customers could buy one on the spot.

Leisurama Macy's ad @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Two Macy's stores had Leisurama homes available to tour: Macy's  flagship Herald Square in downtown NYC and Macy's Roosevelt Field on Long Island. The Herald Square store built the house on the ninth floor; the Roosevelt Field store built the house in the parking lot. 

Leisurama Macy's ad @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland

Leisurama house at Macy's @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The Leisurama Convertible built inside Macy's Herald Square. 1964 photo from Leisurama Now by Paul Sahre.

Would people actually impulse buy a vacation home? Oh, yes, they did. Here's the story of one shopper, quoted from a 2003 New York Times article.
For this reason, an entire Leisurama house was built in 1964 on the ninth floor of Macy's department store in Manhattan. Shoppers, mostly women, could tour the house and test-drive the state-of-the-art appliances. Laura Goodman, a librarian and mother of two, was one of the wives who did. 
''She went to Macy's to buy a bra,'' her husband, Roger, deadpans for the camera.
''Not true,'' Mrs. Goodman insists, laughing. ''He's so full of it.'' 
Her husband continues without pause: ''And she came home and she said: 'I bought a house. We're going out to Montauk. We're buying a house in Montauk.' And I put up my usual resistance. I said, 'O.K., dear.'''

Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Laura Goodman in front of her Leisurama house. Photo from the defunct website leisurama.info.

From 1963-1965, about 200 Leisurama homes were built in the Montauk area, according to author Paul Sahre. The Leisurama homes business was not profitable--the developer underestimated the costs to construct the homes.

Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
An Expanded Convertible model in Montauk today. Photo from Wikipedia.

Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
The interior of a Leisurama house in Montauk, with some of the original furniture and decor from Macy's. Photo from The Corcoran Group.

In Lauderhill, only a handful of homes were built. They had different Leisurama models than the ones in the Montauk area.
Leisurama house @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland
Leisurama home at 1166 NW 42nd Way, Lauderhill, FL. Photo from Realtor site.

Leisurama brochure @ Sears Homes of Chicagoland


Seine Judeet (Judith) said...

Whoa, that is nuts!

Sears Homes of Chicagoland said...

I think I would be one of those people who bought one at the store!

Seth said...

Wow, that is fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

Architectural Observer said...

Who knew?! This is incredibly fun! Seems like a great idea... marketing to a an audience already by their very presence susceptible to impulse buying. However, the marketing strategy obviously didn't last long, despite the brilliant name "Leisurama". The decorative block wall of the house in Florida is quite fetching. Awesome post!

Russ Manley said...

Interesting that the house was designed by the famous Raymond Loewy, who also designed the Sears Coldspot refrigerator, the Shell, Exxon, and BP logos, and everything else from vacuum cleaners to streamlined trains to Greyhound buses to Air Force One to Skylab.

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